“I am a firm believer in the statement that ‘no one is safe until everyone is safe’. Let us help make vaccines available to all parts of the world, encourage our citizens to take the jab, and we would win the fight against COVID faster and together.”
These were the words of the President of the Republic, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, on Tuesday, 14th December 2021, when he delivered an address to the European Union Parliament in Strasbourg, France.
Delivering his speech, President Akufo-Addo stated that COVID-19 has posed the greatest test to humanity in the initial decades of the 21st century, in light of the ravages of the pandemic, which have affected all countries, rich or small.
According to President Akufo-Addo, the predictions of Africa going to be hit dramatically because of her relatively weak public health systems, with streets being littered with dead bodies, when the virus reached the continent, have not come to pass.
“We were not given credit for quickly following the science as recommended, when many leaders in Europe were still fighting ideological battles, and seeking to lay blame on the source of the virus, rather than uniting to fight it,” he said.
The President continued, “At every stage, we in Africa, have been dismayed to discover that every attempt was being made to make COVID-19 also an African disease. Thus, the narrative emerged that it was not really that Africans were not dying from the pandemic, we had to be covering up the true level of infections”.
With Africa caught up in the “vicious vaccine politics that engulfed the world”, he expressed gratitude “for the donations of vaccines through platforms such as COVAX, which was good enough to send its first consignment, anywhere in the world, to Ghana.”
The unsavoury politics of vaccine nationalism the world is witnessing, President Akufo-Addo reiterated, could, however, potentially derail global efforts made at containing the pandemic.
“Till date, less than ten percent (10%) of Africa has been vaccinated, in comparison to the EU, for example, which, as at August, had vaccinated seventy percent (70%) of its population. With countries on the continent still not being able to have sufficient access to vaccines in the requisite numbers, we, like the World Health Organisation, are worried that the phenomenon of hoarding vaccines will worsen even further, as countries begin to administer booster shots in response to the threat posed by the omicron variant of the virus,” the President said.
He used the opportunity of the platform to reiterate the strong opposition of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), of which he is Chairperson, to the decision taken by countries, including those in the EU, to single out African countries for the imposition of travel bans.
Omicron, according to the President, has been discovered in over forty countries, with reports indicating that this variant was present in the Netherlands way before it was discovered in South Africa.
“The world should be grateful to the South African scientists, whose knowledge and expertise in genomic sequencing enabled them identify the new variant. Plaudits, not the condemnation of their peoples, should have been their portion. Why is there not a travel ban imposed on the Netherlands, but against South Africa, one might ask?” the President Akufo-Addo asked.
Whilst acknowledging the importance of Africa building up her health delivery systems to enable the continent withstand future crises, he told the EU Parliament that his government has launched Agenda 111, which seeks to build district hospitals in each district of Ghana where there is none, so that ordinary people can have ready access to medical care.
In addition to this, he stated that Ghana has decided to set up a National Vaccine Institute, which will supervise the domestic production of vaccines across several sectors, including anti-COVID-19 ones, led by the private sector and business community.
“We need to be self-reliant, and shed the image of beggars living on charity, aid and handouts, and make better and more intelligent use of our abundant natural resources, in order to pull ourselves out of poverty to prosperity. These are not new aspirations; they have simply been reinforced by the lessons of the pandemic,” he added.