South Africa’s Ramaphosa calls for African-made vaccines

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA DECEMBER 08, 2017: (SOUTH AFRICA OUT) Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa during an interview in his home in Hyde Park on December 08, 2017 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Ramaphosa shot down President Jacob Zumas proposal to have the loser candidate automatically be made the deputy president with the election only days away. (Photo by Gallo Images / Rapport / Deon Raath)
A South African health worker is inoculated with a dose of Covid-19 vaccine at the Khayelitsha Hospital in Cape Town on February 17, 2021. /Gianluigi Guercia/VCG

Africa needs the skills and capacity to manufacture its own vaccines, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said Monday, as the continent lags other global regions in inoculating against COVID-19.

With only around two percent of the world’s total number of shots so far administered, “Africa needs to harness its own continental capabilities and identify opportunities for collaboration across… countries,” Ramaphosa told a conference on vaccine production organized by the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC).

He said other countries outside the continent “could offer technological expertise, financing and investment”, suggesting India and Brazil could help with guidance on how they have developed their own generic pharmaceutical industries.

“We will also need capacity-building in the form of skills and knowledge transfer to ensure we can sustain local manufacturing,” Ramaphosa added.

Africa has been the region least affected by the pandemic, with 4.35 million cases and 115,000 deaths among an overall population of 1.2 billion, according to the latest figures from Africa CDC.

But its slow pace of vaccinations has been blamed on inadequate supplies, lack of financing and logistical problems.

Ramaphosa, whose country is Africa’s worst hit by the pandemic, recently criticized developed countries for hogging vaccines, warning “vaccine apartheid must come to an end”.

Also speaking at Monday’s conference, Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame said that “vaccine equity” could not be guaranteed by “goodwill alone”.

“Africa needs to and should be capable of producing its own vaccines and medical products,” Kagame told attendees.