The imperialist intellectual property monopoly governing pharmaceuticals, in this case Covid-19 vaccines, is an injustice. Will this vaccine apartheid mark Africa forever?
Africa is now becoming more and more normalized with the inability of the majority of its states to challenge the “sacrosanct” World Trade Organization (WTO). So much so that the only way, or almost, for Africans to get vaccines against Covid-19, is the Covax initiative. Gold, from the very words of the UN, this initiative is “a two-tier system”. In particular, deep inequalities govern it, and this will worsen as the “vaccination passport” is put into effect.
Indeed, Covax is no longer sufficient to ensure collective immunity in Africa. The few vaccine manufacturing initiatives in Africa will be insufficient. Because each type of vaccine which is the subject of an agreement with an African State is systematically removed from the list of the “European vaccine passport”. And this, although the said vaccine is approved by the World Health Organization (WHO).
For nationals of African countries, the freedom to travel or trade abroad, among others, is doomed. This ping pong game between the world institutions, namely the WHO, the WTO, the European Union and the diplomacy of the world powers, is not temporary. And from the point of view of the African citizen, the purchase of vaccines against the Covid-19, or the Western donations, begin to appear as a compensation which does not speak its name. But compensation for what wrong?
Ethics in the Age of Vaccine Apartheid
The ethical goodwill demonstrated by rich states towards so-called “developing” countries - that is, all African countries in particular - cannot be without counterpart. Joe Biden's moralistic speech vis-à-vis the WTO, for the lifting of patents, has had an effect. Certainly, other leaders have expressed the same will, or constraint. Like French President Emmanuel Macron or British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
As long as it is a question of giving the "crumbs", that is to say the vaccines which are not administered in Washington, London, Paris, Toronto or Berlin, these heads of state have no objection. that they are distributed in Africa. And the Western media make sure that the scene is well put together. So that Africa knows that its "international partners" have granted it an incredible favor.
Nevertheless, it is an active erasure of real and recent history. The one where the representatives of these states to the WTO voted against Africa's right to manufacture vaccines. Then, in order to legitimize this purist measure, unjust and clear above all doubt on the intentions of decision-makers; the latter "elected" a familiar face, an African woman, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, in order to drive the fiasco. Or, in order to take the blame. It would be a matter of perspective.
Why is this "apartheid"?
The manifestation of the WTO as the spearhead of vaccine apartheid has several goals. The most obvious is respect for institutions. Yet the part of the world that imposes this respect, flouts it when it comes to the WHO. Because the first is an economic institution, and the second is a politicized institution.
Essays from the apartheid era of South Africa, including the “Guerilla Radios in Southern Africa” collection, recounts this paradigm. And the average reader will have no difficulty in making the parallel between the two apartheids. The depoliticization of all that was African went a long way in easing resistance to segregationist crimes. And the depoliticization of everything health, since the advent of the coronavirus, has had the same effect.
Just as companies have emptied African music, literature, philosophy and history of their soul. The "international community" has emptied the health sector of humanity. It is clear that the facts of the fight against Covid-19 contrast with the history that will be retained.
Vaccine apartheid is not a political issue. It is not a debate, nor a vote for or against. It is a question of human decency. Because the death of human beings is not political, except in an apartheid regime. There is no apartheid where the arguments of both camps are valid. And believing the opposite is the very essence of supremacist thought. When the fear of alienating the strong party exceeds that of the massive death of human beings, it would not be pragmatic thinking. It is an unconditional followingism, imposed by voracity or cowardice.
It's easy to ignore what you can't understand
Manufacturing and distributing vaccines according to Western standards marginalizes Africa. It's not just a story repeating itself. It is a generous rubbing of salt in the wounds of a marginalized world. Africa's weight, at present, is not sufficient to fuel global action against the deliberate indecision of the WTO.
Here again, even the public outrage, centered in each African country and directed towards its state, is insufficient. It cannot compete with Western rejections of patent waivers for vaccines, treatments and medical technology. It would not be just a question of African unity. It is the silence which imposes, before any other factor, this treatment which Africa undergoes.
Currently, 22% of the world's population has received a dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. Against 0,8% in low income countries. In Western countries, vaccination is opened to children. Africa obtained 1% of the vaccines administered in the world for 18% of the world population. This lack is not only due to the weakness of governments. It is not recognized as a relationship between producer and consumer, between colonist and native, or between vaccinated and sick.
When the vaccine passport becomes an inevitable global reality, Africa would be even more isolated. Because of Africa's economic liabilities, and its dependence on trade and human resources for development, the daily grind of the world economy would be conditioned. However, no one can deny that the availability of vaccines portends a tyrannical relationship in the future, the dominant and dominated part of which are the same as yesterday.