Team Europe delivers Covid-19 vaccines in Africa

By Johan Borgstam – Team Europe delivering on its promise of Covid-19 Vaccines as a global public good; underlining EU-Africa partnership 2,184,000 vaccines arrived in Ethiopia today. To date and in one week, COVAX delivered vaccines in 19 African countries. Launch of a continent-wide and global vaccine strategy.

We welcome the arrival of the first batch of vaccines in Ethiopia today – over 2 million doses. This complements support by the EU and Member States as #Team Europe effort with a contribution to date of EUR 487 million to Ethiopia’s COVID19 response notably in support to the Government’s Health Preparedness and Response Plan to the coronavirus outbreak. This support has helped Ethiopia amongst other to increase the number of diagnostic laboratories with COVID-19 diagnostic equipment and test kits, as well as the number of treatment centres.

Solidarity is at the heart of the #Team Europe global response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which is primarily channelled through the COVAX facility . Team Europe is one its lead supporters with over €2.2 billion funding to date, including € 1 billion from the EU (€400 million in grants and €600 million in loans from the European Investment Bank), and €900 million from Germany. This contribution will help secure 1.3 billion doses of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines free of charge for 92 low and middle-income countries (47 of which will be from Africa) by the end of the year.

The pandemic will not end until everyone is protected. We welcome the arrival of the first batch of vaccines in nineteen countries in Africa in less than a week. This is a key milestone on a pathway to ending the acute phase of the pandemic.

Global cooperation and solidarity will be our only chance to defeat the virus, but also to start global recovery (“Building Back Better Together”). #Team Europe is playing its full part. It has been leading the multilateral response to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and to ensure global and equitable access to vaccines, tests and treatments.

As more doses continue to be delivered the crucial task will be to ensure the rapid deployment of vaccines and associated supplies/equipment in the right condition, the right quantities at the right place. In this regard, the EU has announced €100 million in humanitarian assistance to support the roll-out of vaccination campaigns in Africa. The ultimate goals is to contribute to the target set by the Africa Centres for Disease Control of vaccinating 60% of the population on the continent.

It is our great hope that the vaccines will save lives and restore livelihoods. But as European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Vice President Josep Borrell has highlighted, this hope can only be delivered upon if the whole world is vaccinated rapidly. We cannot say “we are safe” until everybody is safe.

The coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated the need for a strong #Team Europe-Africa partnership to tackle the global threats that both our continents face. Since the onset of the pandemic, Team Europe have stood by the side of our partners in Africa, mobilising more than €8 billion to date.

This package combines resources from the EU, its Member States, the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development; it supports emergency needs linked to the pandemic, crucial health services, economic recovery and social support measures. Also, between May and October 2020, 67 EU Humanitarian Air Bridge (HAB) operations were completed to 20 countries in Africa and beyond, transporting 1,150 tonnes of essential medical and humanitarian cargo.

Symbolising the effectiveness of Europe-Africa partnership, as #Team Europe, the EU and its Member States have engaged with the African Union, its Member States and the African Centresfor Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) to support the continental response to the pandemic. €26.7 million direct support to the AU/Africa CDC has been mobilised to implement the Africa Joint Continental Strategy for COVID-19 Outbreak.

Under the #Team Europe approach, at the outset of the pandemic the European Union, Germany, Austria, Spain and Sweden provided support enabling the deployment of rapid responders and community health workers; the provision of in-country and virtual trainings on surveillance and disease intelligence; the coordination of the continental task force; as well as preventive measures and surveillance capacities in IDP and refugee camps.
In the meantime, the EU and its Member States, in the spirit of #Team Europe, have integrated in their development and health sector support programmes, policies and actions aiming at strengthening African partner countries and institutions’ response and recovery capacity.

Team Europe is also a leading player with regard to research and development of medicines and plays an important role in the production chain of Covid-19 vaccines. #Team Europe acts as well as an important hub for distribution and logistics, with the support of air companies such as Ethiopian Airlines.

Looking ahead, #Team Europe will also work with vaccine developers to ramp up their manufacturing capacities in Africa. In addition, efforts will be made to support local production under licensing arrangements as a means to boost vaccines production. This will help address the current needs and help turn the continent self-sufficient and resilient when faced by future pandemics.

The battle is not over. In the coming weeks and months the African and European leaders will continue working, also together, to ensure global solidarity as well as a multilateral approach to vaccine distribution in order to defeat the virus; but also to build back better together and have a recovery that is green, digital and inclusive, with women and young people in the driving seat.

EDITOR’S NOTE – The writer Johan Borgstam is Ambassadors of the European Union (EU) to Ethiopia and to the African Union. On behalf of 21 Member State Ambassadors and the Head of the European Investment Bank resident in Addis Ababa.