President Cyril Ramaphosa says that the coronavirus pandemic has caused great devastation in Africa.

The continent has reported over 3.4 million cases and more than 87 000 deaths. The African Union Chair was speaking during the Africa COVID-19 Vaccine Financing and Deployment Webinar.

“For the past year, efforts have been under way to find vaccines that are both safe and effective. We finally have achieved the goal, with a number of vaccines having undergone clinical trials and passed stringent safety tests. Now they are being produced. The task before us is to step up global solidarity to ensure equitable access to the vaccines. All countries must get vaccines and must get them speedily,” he said.

Ramaphosa expressed concern over the affordability of the vaccines.

“I am therefore pleased that we have both the President of the World Bank and the CEO of GAVI present. We know that there are ways of reducing the costs of vaccine production. Together with India, South Africa has proposed a TRIPS waiver in response to the pandemic. We are calling on the World Trade Organization to waive specific TRIPS obligations related to the prevention and treatment of COVID-19 for a defined period. We need more countries to support this initiative,” he said.

It is estimated that Africa will only be able to access around 20% of vaccines needed through the COVAX facility.

Ramaphosa says the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team has secured a provisional 270 million more vaccine doses for African countries.

“At least 50 million will be available from April to June 2021. These doses are from three major suppliers: Pfizer, AstraZeneca through the Serum Institute of India and Johnson & Johnson. Because of the high cost of vaccines, the Task Team has arranged with Afreximbank to support member states who want to access these vaccines based on a whole-of-Africa approach,” he says.

The AU team and the World Bank are working together to secure further funding for member states collaborating to ensure that member states can have access to further funding.

“We appreciate the offer of MTN to donate $25 million to the vaccine programme of the Africa CDC to immunise health workers in Africa. This is solidarity in action. We call upon other companies, both of African origin and offshore companies that do business in Africa, to do what MTN has done to contribute financially to enable African countries to immunise their target groups,” Ramaphosa urged.