Macron in South Africa for COVID vaccine talks | Voice of America
PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA – French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in South Africa on Friday for a whirlwind trip to discuss access to the COVID vaccine for Africa, assistants said.
Macron arrived from a historic visit to Rwanda where he acknowledged France’s responsibility for the 1994 genocide.
Landing in Johannesburg, he heads for the capital Pretoria where he will be greeted by Cyril Ramaphosa at Union Buildings, seat of government.
The couple will launch a program at the University of Pretoria to support the production of African vaccines, a project supported by the European Union, the United States and the World Bank.
Executives, according to Ramaphosa’s office, are also expected to discuss a temporary waiver of World Trade Organization (WTO) property rights over the coronavirus vaccine.
The idea is being pushed by South Africa and India, who say the waiver will boost vaccine production in developing countries.
Sub-Saharan Africa has lagged behind the rest of the world in immunization – less than 2% of its population has been vaccinated six months after the start of the campaign.
Ramaphosa this month sounded the alarm on what he called “vaccine apartheid” between rich and poor countries.
Pharmaceutical companies oppose the waiver, saying it could undermine incentives for future research and development.
They also point out that making a vaccine requires know-how and technical resources – something that cannot be learned in a flash.
Macron’s approach is to push for a transfer of technology to enable production sites in poorer countries.
The industry “is heavily concentrated in the United States, Europe, Asia, and a bit of Latin America,” a Macron aide said.
“Africa today produces very little anti-COVID production, and especially no vaccine at present.”
South Africa is the most industrialized economy on the continent, but also the most affected by COVID.
The country has recorded more than 1.6 million cases of 4.7 million infections in Africa and accounts for more than 40 percent of its nearly 130,000 deaths.
But only one percent of its population of 59 million has been vaccinated – most of them health workers and people aged 60 or older.
The vaccination effort got off to a stutter when South Africa bought AstraZeneca vaccines earlier this year and then sold them to other African countries, fearing they might be less effective.
Then, after starting to vaccinate health workers, using the Johnson & Johnson injections, he had to take a two-week break in mid-April to control the risks of blood clots reported in the United States.
Macron’s trip was supposed to take place over a year ago, but was postponed as the pandemic shifted into high gear.
Her impetus for the visit stems from the fact that South Africa “is a major partner of the continent, a member of the G20, it is regularly invited to the G-7 – this is essential in the approach to multilateralism,” said the one of his collaborators. Before the journey.
Macron will also be pitching for French companies in South Africa, particularly in climate-friendly sectors.
The two will also discuss the security crisis in northern Mozambique, where a bloody jihadist insurgency is now in its fourth year.
French energy giant Total last month suspended work on a massive $ 20 billion gas project in the province of Cabo Delgado after jihadists attacked the nearby city of Palma.
Before returning home on Saturday, Macron will meet with members of the French community and, like many VIPs before him, will visit the Nelson Mandela Foundation.