18 February 2022

The European Union has pledged 150 billion euros ($170 billion) for investment in Africa as it seeks to gain influence on the continent and become its partner of choice.

But the continent’s leaders were hoping for more, including vaccine patent waivers and the redirecting of billions of dollars of potential International Monetary Fund reserves from richer nations to more vulnerable ones to aid their recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

Most of the 150 billion euros will go to the Global Gateway, Europe’s initiative to rival China’s massive investment plan in the continent and will support health, infrastructure and the fight against climate change over the next seven years.

“As Africa sets sail on the future, the European Union wants to be Africa’s partner of choice,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at the EU-Africa Summit in Brussels. “It means remaining an economic partner you can trust and the European Union is the first trading partner and the first investor in Africa.”

But with 12% of Africa’s 1.3 billion people fully inoculated so far, the bloc failed to agree to calls to waive patents to allow for the generic production of vaccines and treatments.

The issue, under discussion since 2020, may now only be resolved in the next few months, said Senegal President and African Union Chairperson Macky Sall.

Though Von der Leyen did concede it may be necessary to compel drugmakers to share their mRNA technology if Africa is ever to reduce its heavy reliance on the West for life-saving vaccines.

Photographer: Dursun Aydemir/Bloomberg

By Samuel Gebre

Emmanuel Macron, France’s president, from left, Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, and Charles Michel, president of the European Council, at the European Union-Africa Union Summit in Brussels, Belgium.

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