Africa: The World Needs the G7 to Invest In All Our Futures

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization and The Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC, Secretary General of the Commonwealth.
10 June 2021
guest column

As we look around the globe at the impact of the pandemic, one thing is clear: we are all in the same storm, even if we aren't all in the same boat.

While more affluent nations are now rolling out second vaccine doses, health workers across the world, from the Pacific to Africa, and the Caribbean and Latin America to Asia, are still awaiting their first doses, have inadequate testing capacity, are juggling erratic oxygen supplies and are still forced to customise out-of-date PPE.

Yet the painful truth is that despite these inequalities, we all face the same threat from COVID-19, and constantly evolving new variants.

While the high-income economies of the world have had the money to protect workers and invest in their recovery, less affluent economies are struggling to cope with the economic impact of the pandemic while the debts they have accrued through the crisis threaten their financial futures.

No country's economy exists in a vacuum and it is nonsensical to assume that growth and prosperity will return to the world, including to G7 nations, while over half the globe's population still lives in fear of Covid-19 and economies teeter from one lockdown to the next.

Meanwhile as we struggle to find solutions to the crisis and its short term impact, the devastating impact of climate change hangs over all our lives.

The perfect storm of these huge issues is why it is in the self-interest of the G7 and other affluent nations to use the next few weeks to reach an agreement that takes a lead globally.

To help achieve this the WHO is urging countries to vaccinate at least 10 percent of the population of every country by September, and a "drive to December" to achieve the goal of vaccinating at least 30 percent by the end of 2021.

Similar proposals from the IMF estimate that by investing to ensure 60% global vaccination coverage by 2022, the world economy would secure a 35 fold return on investment. That is a staggering return in any market - jobs preserved, lives saved, health costs averted all just by frontloading vaccinations now that will have to be delivered anyway.

And the recent call by the UK to vaccinate the world against COVID-19 by 2022 is a welcome development. Indeed, vaccinating the world not only makes sense, it is the soundest financial investment any government could make.

The rapid spread of new variants is a wake-up call for us all and we must help ensure vaccines are available in countries currently under pressure.

But we must also ensure they are available for vulnerable people right across Africa and the developing world. If we want to end this pandemic and protect ourselves from endless new variants washing onto our shores from under-vaccinated regions, there is only one way forward: we must make vaccines available and invest in vaccinating the world.

This global investment has three key dimensions. Firstly, ensuring that everyone everywhere has access to vaccines well before the end of 2022 so that, second, the world can get on with the economic recovery that will underpin all our prosperity; and third, if we are to tackle the long-term challenges to our survival, we must ensure a green job-rich recovery for all so we can confront the climate crisis together.

When G7 leaders meet this weekend, they do so with the knowledge that they are the ones with the necessary economic and manufacturing clout to turn things around for the world and bring about vaccine equity. Their support for global initiatives, particularly  the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator and its COVAX global equitable vaccine sharing pillar, are key.

As the G7 meets, the rest of the world looks on in the certain knowledge that it is within the power of these leaders not only to invest in their own country's protection, but also the protection and future flourishing and prosperity of the whole world.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is Director-General of the World Health Organization. The Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QCis Secretary General of the Commonwealth.

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