Africa: Collision of Failures - How Biovac and a 'Lack of Vision' Got South Africa Into a Vaccine Mess


Inclusive growth during a pandemic looks as elusive as ever, but it's less about economics and more about politics. A Wits webinar session Professor Imraan Valodia and Judge Dennis Davis dived into the quagmire.

It was pouring with rain when Cyril Ramaphosa and a clot of politicians stood on the airport tarmac in late January to welcome the first batch of Covid-19 vaccines.

That soggy image got economist Professor Imraan Valodia wondering just how South Africa got to the point of having to import vaccines in the first place. What happened to its vaccine production capability?

His questions led to bigger questions: what's happened to South Africa's inclusive economic growth plan? What happened to the promise of a better life for all?

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The answers, the dean in the Wits Faculty of Commerce, Law and Management says, include the tale of South Africa's vaccine institute, Biovac, formed 17 years ago according to public-private partnership principles. Until June 2020, it was split into 52.5% private consortium and 47.5% government.

"In the last 20 years Biovac has produced one vaccine in the country [the last being the BCG tuberculosis shot that ceased production in 2001]," said Valodia, who...

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