Uhuru roots for Africa's capacity to produce Covid-19 vaccine

President Uhuru Kenyatta with the President of the European Council Charles Michel in Brussels.[PSCU]

President Uhuru Kenyatta has stressed the need to build Africa's capacity to manufacture vaccines to arrest emerging pandemics.

The president spoke at the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) Secretariat in Brussels, Belgium, yesterday, and underscored the importance of member states' 1.1 billion population getting the Covid-19 jab, to mitigate a negative socio-economic impact.

He also took issue with the sanctions imposed by the European Union targeted at the multilateral institution's member nations as they seek to ratify the post-Cotonus Agreement set to expire by November 2021.

“We should strive to have enough vaccines and it’s a world concern. There is a global vaccine inequality and I am happy that Kenya through its partners have received donations like what Denmark did with extra 858,700 doses,” said the president.

Kenyatta called on other developed countries to extend their support to Kenya.

On Monday, Kenya received AstraZeneca vaccines from Denmark.

“For long term solution, the specific countries or regions should strive to produce own vaccines. It’s unfortunate that the same cannot apply for Covid-19 now but it should be a future prospect,” he said.

He disclosed that he met with the European Council President Charles Michel to deliberate on the production of vaccines.

“Building capacity of states should be mid-term going into the future,” said Kenyatta.

Presently, Kenya only produces vaccines for animals.

So far, more than one million Kenyans have received the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The OACPS Secretary-General, Georges Rebelo Pinto Chikoti concurred with President Kenyatta, that building capacity is the way forward.

“Vaccination is important in the fight against Covid-19. In the last intra-summit meeting, we committed Sh32 billion (€250 million) to the OACPS members for emergency projects,” he said.

The president recounted that in June last year during the Extraordinary Inter-Sessional Summit of OACPS Heads of State and Government, they deliberated on the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic to members and regions and paid attention to identifying opportunities for global solidarity and action.

"There is need for a follow-up summit whose focus should be on post-Covid-19 recovery strategy to tackle effects of the pandemic and reposition our countries towards the path for sustainable socio-economic development," he urged.

Kenyatta said a follow-up summit should aim at securing more Covid-19 vaccines for OACPS nations.

The President who is on a two-day official visit of Belgium addressed a meeting of the OACPS Committee of Ambassadors, also attended by National Assembly Deputy Speaker Moses Cheboi, where he outlined the measures OACPS was taking in the fight against Covid-19.

He rallied OACPS nations to continue advocating for multilateralism and solidarity despite the changing geopolitical realities fueled by new global challenges such as climate change and Covid-19.

"The world is witnessing a new cycle of geopolitical realities, an emerging multi-polar world and global challenges such as the Covid-19 pandemic, biodiversity loss and effects of climate change, which is an existential threat to OACPS members," Kenyatta said.

"Despite these challenges, we must continue being advocates for multilateralism, promoters of global solidarity and remain reliable, respected and engaging partners on the global scene," he added.

Kenyatta, who is the President-in-Office of the Summit of the 79-member institution since 2019, regretted that the EU doesn't sufficiently engage the OACPS before taking some of its decisions, contrary to the provisions of the Cotonou agreement.

“We are also concerned that the EU side does not always engage OACPS ministers at a sufficiently high level to allow for conclusive decisions,” he said.

“The revised Cotonou agreement maintains the scope of the groups’ engagement with the EU to include conflict prevention and good governance under political dialogue. However, the unilateral application of measures, including sanctions, by the EU as imposed on Eritrea and Burundi, has created sensitivities and concerns within our Group,” Kenyatta added.

He said together with the SG they have written to the EU, regarding the blacklisting of OACPS countries with Strategic Deficiencies in Anti-Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) regimes.

The President welcomed the Committee of Ambassador's consultations and diplomatic engagements with relevant EU Institutions

“However, despite high-level intervention including by my Office, the list was adopted by the EU in May, 2020. I share the concern of affected OACPS that the unilateral approach adopted by the EU is against the spirit of the post Cotonou Partnership Agreement. I have raised our concerns with high-level EU interlocutors in our meetings, including with the Presidents of the EU Council and Commission and the European Parliament,” he said.

He urged OACPS nations to participate in the Global Partnership for Education, an initiative through which Kenya and the United Kingdom seek to raise USD 5 billion to support an estimated 1.3 billion children whose education was interrupted by Covid-19 to resume schooling.

"In a bid to address these challenges, the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) is holding a 4th replenishment campaign, which aims to raise at least USD$ 5 Billion for the 2021-2025 cycle," he said.

The GPE is a multi-stakeholder funding platform that was established in 2002 to mobilize additional resources for education.

"The process will culminate in a High-Level Summit that will be co-hosted by the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and I on July 28 and 29 in London," the President said.

The president was accompanied by Cabinet Secretaries Raychelle Omamo (Foreign Affairs), Adan Mohammed (EAC) and Betty Maina (Trade).

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