African leaders will open a two-day virtual summit Saturday to discuss the continent’s COVID-19 response as well as security issues that have been overlooked during the pandemic.
The African Union summit comes almost exactly one year after Egypt recorded the first case of COVID-19 in Africa, prompting widespread fears that member states’ weak health systems would quickly be overwhelmed.
But despite early doomsday predictions, the continent has so far been hit less hard than other regions, recording 3.5 per cent of global virus cases and 4 per cent of global deaths, according to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC).
Today, though, many African countries are battling damaging second waves while straining to procure sufficient vaccine doses.
African leaders are speaking out against hoarding by rich countries at the expense of poorer ones.
“There is a vaccine nationalism on the rise, with other rich countries jumping the queue, some even pre-ordering more than they require,” said Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairman of the AU’s executive body, the African Union Commission, in a recent interview the AU posted online.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa will deliver a pandemic response update during the closed portion of the summit Saturday, according to a draft programme seen by AFP.
Vaccine financing is also expected to be discussed, Africa CDC director John Nkengasong told a press conference this week.