We are witnessing a contemporary tale of Euro-American racism keeping Africa and other parts of the suppressed world short of life-saving anti-COVID-19 vaccines.
Strive Masiyiwa, Special Envoy to the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT) tells the compelling story of the “deliberate, not incidental architecture of unfairness.” This he says is effectively depriving Africa of adequate supplies of anti-COVID-19 vaccines.
Masiyiwa is a London-based Zimbabwean billionaire businessman. Interviewed on US CNBC television, the envoy says the COVAX facility, which is an effort of the World Health Organization and other agencies to secure vaccines for the non-vaccine producing countries of the world, would be found culpable if ever there was an inquiry “because we were misled.”
“We got to December of 2020 believing the whole world was coming together to purchase vaccines, not knowing we were corralled whilst others ran off and secured the supplies. That is what COVAX was supposed to do,” exclaims Masiyiwa. After that disappointment he said AVATT approached the manufacturers of the developed world “to purchase, with cash in hand, vaccines. We were not asking for a gift. We were told that all capacity for 2021 had already been sold. Needless to say, African countries were not included in that arrangement: “How can that be,” the leader of AVATT is horrified by such exclusionist policies. He said though, they offered 500,000 doses: “How can that be fair for a continent with 1.3 billion people,” asked the African envoy noting the disrespect.
In January of 2021, COVAX promised to deliver 20 per cent of the needs of Africa and other parts of the non-European world. He said Africa protested pointing out that the Euro-America combine was assured of achieving a 70 per cent vaccination. After the team made arguments to support the need for Africa to be assured of adequate supplies of vaccines, they were promised 30 per cent of what was required. On that basis, they were scheduled to receive 700 million doses. Instead, they received a mere 30 million, says the sadly disappointed leader of the African team.
All the while Africa was in its third wave of infection, Masiyiwa observes. He identifies the deprivation of Africa and other dependent countries “as no moral failure, it was deliberate. Those with the production assets pushed their way to the front of the que and took control of the vaccines.”
The fundamental development problem reaches into the structure of dependence. To explain and illustrate his contention of the relationship of dependence, Masiyiwa cites the banning by the US and Europe of exports of the vital ingredients necessary to produce the vaccines, effectively determining which countries can produce the vaccines.
Without seeking to give a good name to Johnson and Johnson, which is now producing vaccines in South Africa for African usage, the Zimbabwean business executive notes that Nigeria, Egypt, Dakar–Senegal also have the capacity to produce the vaccines for Africa’s needs.
That exclusion from production is the source of the continuing under-development of two-thirds of the world population.
The fundamental intention of the originators and leaders of the contemporary world with its origins in the Age of Discovery of 500 years ago is to continue its domination with little concern for the rest of humanity.
Any notion that the sidelined majority can get a better deal without fundamental transformation from the dependence model of the contemporary political and economic dispensation is pipe dreaming. The philosophical thinking of the 16th century that blacks and other non-white peoples were not fully human continues.
Those philosophical positions are fully discernible in the management of the COVID-19 pandemic.
If there were any doubts about the underlying discrimination practiced by European countries, the recent issuing of a “Green Vaccine Passport” (Certificate) for travel to and within Europe is the evidence. To acquire the certificate, people vaccinated with the AstraZeneca (and three other select vaccines) must have got them from European manufacturers. So all of us in T&T, the Caribbean and elsewhere who received the AZ from India do not qualify to travel to Europe.
What is amazing about the continuing racism (and we have to say what it is) is the shortsightedness of the perpetrators. A bigot so engulfed in hate cannot see how his racist beliefs and practices will ultimately negatively impact his own life.
The US-Europe combine cannot build a wall around itself and expect to survive and prosper without the rest of the non-European world. For instance, will Europeans be able to travel to countries whose citizens/residents have not had the European manufactured AZ vaccine?
Will Europe be able to trade effectively with third country peoples without European made AZs? When country leaders take decisions so obviously based on historical racist ideology notwithstanding the negative impact it has on their own countries, that is indicative of the overpowering effect that racist ideology has on them.
The African envoy has called on the US to lead the way out of entrenched racism. Does Biden have what is required to take up the challenge to make one step towards the transformation of the existing world order? A decision and action on the same can mark his government’s foreign policy: progressive or traditional?