A global competition for Corona vaccines, and China is exploiting Africa’s need! | Politics and Economy | In-depth analyzes with a broader perspective from DW | DW


There is no demand for something in the world like the demand for a Corona vaccine. Vaccine companies like Pfizer, Biontec, Moderna and AstraZanica have one thing in common: they provide a little bit of the vaccine. And the available doses reach the richest countries with funds.

And the People´s Vaccine Alliance reports that wealthy-country populations represent only 14 percent of the world’s population, and these countries have acquired more than half of the promising vaccines. And Africa is at the back of the queue: According to reports, vaccines will be available in most African countries in April 2022 at the earliest.

Frustration from the west

Africa has so far requested about 900 million doses. The African Epidemic Protection Foundation expects that the continent will need at least 1.5 billion doses to vaccinate 60 percent of the total population. Securing the vaccine and setting up distribution systems could cost up to $ 10 billion. This causes great frustration. “We, as a continent and a country, must be independent in terms of vaccines and pharmaceutical products,” Kenyan Health Minister Motahi Kaughsi tells DW. He describes that “it is absurd regarding medical issues to rely on Western countries. We do not want to be always the last ones who are thought of.” And the former Rwandan Minister of Health sent a similar message to the West and said in an interview with DW, addressing her words to Western countries, “Be frank and say, first of all, my people. Do not lie to us and say we are equal.”

Workers unload the first shipment of Corona vaccine that arrived in South Africa

The first shipment of the vaccine arrived in South Africa, which was severely affected by the pandemic, and the situation worsened with the mutated version of the virus

The first doses arrive

South Africa recently received 1 million doses of Astzanica vaccine from India. Rwanda has requested one million doses from the US company Pfizer and from Moderna, and the first shipment will arrive in February. Uganda is waiting for the first doses of Moderna, Pfizer and Astzanica next April. By the end of the year, the Kovacs program hopes to provide 1.3 billion doses to 92 low-income countries. The Global Health Initiative works for a fair distribution of Covid-19 vaccines to poor countries. However, the initiative can only purchase vaccines licensed from the World Health Organization, and so far only includes the Bionic-Pfizer vaccine.

Pay attention to the east

Therefore, some African countries are looking for alternatives. And the Seychelles offer the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine, and Guinea is using the Russian Sputnik vaccine. Even Kenya is interested in the Chinese vaccine. “We are in contact with Astzanica, Cinopharm and Pfizer,” the Kenyan Minister of Health declared, “But the question is who has a vaccine for sale in the first place? Europe has exhausted everything.”

The largest part of Africa does not use the Sinopharm vaccine, but rather whatever can be obtained from a vaccine, whatever its source, says Eric Olander, founder of the China Africa Project platform. Even if Pfizer suddenly had enough vaccine, that would not solve Africa’s problems, because “these vaccines were not produced for the benefit of developing countries, as they should be frozen,” Olander says critically. He adds that “these vaccines are often not suitable for the majority of developing countries, because the infrastructure for storing them is not available.” China and Russia, on the other hand, assure that their vaccines are available and can be stored in refrigerators. The Chinese President promised to put the Chinese Corona vaccines at the disposal of southern countries, that is, Africa.

“Europe and America are focusing on themselves, and China has advanced and invested a lot to enter the African vaccine market,” said Robert Kappel of the German University of Leipzig to DW. The European Union provided a lot of money to the WHO to secure vaccines for African countries, but China was ready to distribute.

Chinese President Xi Jinping during his speech at the 2021 Davos Economic Conference via video link

The Chinese president promised to provide the vaccine to African countries, and Beijing is using the vaccine in its competition with Europe and America for influence in the continent.

Lifeguard when needed

And through that, the influence and influence of China could increase in Africa. For years, China and the Western countries entered a race to exert greater political and economic influence in Africa. And China has funded infrastructure projects in many African countries. Western countries accuse it of laying its eyes on the natural resources of the brown continent. Even in some African countries, disappointment with Chinese influence has increased in recent years. This may change now. If “China can deliver vaccines and save a large part of the Africans, do you think that these people will view China negatively?” Asks the former Rwandan Minister of Health.

Political accounts

Eric Olander of the “China-Africa Project” believes that behind the Chinese vaccination campaign is purely political calculations: “It is an opportunity to pull the rug from under the feet of the American and European opponent. Why should not China take advantage of this?”

The fact is that China, India, and even Russia, unlike the Europeans, is ready to produce vaccines in unrivaled quantities. But so far, the effectiveness of the Chinese vaccine has not been confirmed through independent studies. According to Chinese government data, the efficacy is 79 percent.

And Africa will remember in the future the Corona pandemic for the benefit of China, according to Olander. “And the Europeans will one day return to Africa and say: We are a better partner than the Chinese, and the Africans will say: Where were you when we needed you?”

Celia Froelich / M.A.M.


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