Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT & URN | President Yoweri Museveni has said the pathetic situation in which Africa finds itself looking to their ‘friends’ in the developed world for COVID-19 vaccines, is a timely reminder that the continent should find solutions to its own problems.
He told delegates at the World Health Summit Regional Meeting in Kampala and others following virtually including WHO head Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus that the vaccine shortage crisis has exposed the Western World that is hoarding them, and is a blessing as Africa will now be forced to seek internal solutions.
“This unfortunate phenomenon where people have vaccines, and say ‘no, we must first vaccinate our own people’. It is unfortunate, but I like it. It wakes you, Africans,” Museveni said.
“Africans are a disgrace to ourselves. Why do we have to depend on the outside for everything. This is a big shame for Africa,” he remarked.
Museveni told the opening of the World Health Summit Regional Meeting in Munyonyo that the current global rush to acquire vaccines by the rich at the expense of poor countries also referred to as vaccine nationalism is a good lesson for African Countries that don’t want to innovate.
“This selfishness in the world is bad, but is good. I like it because it wakes up Africans. It a shame the whole of the African continent is just asleep, waiting to be saved by others like it happened during the slave trade,” Museveni said.
He said Uganda is progressing in the search for cures and vaccines, which he says will be achieved in the next two years.
“We are developing our own vaccine. We must develop, with our own Ugandan government funding, a pathogenic industry, to make even business out of our own diseases as we also provide a cure,” he said.
He said unlike many countries in Africa, Uganda’s only urgent need now is to acquire raw materials for the vaccine under development by researchers at Makerere University.
“The only help we need are the raw materials for the vaccines. If you want to help us, give us these materials” Museveni said.
“We don’t need vaccine donations. We only need raw materials. Don’t worry we shall buy them. We don’t need donations”, Museveni scoffed at the global leaders attending the annual meeting, which Uganda is hosting for the first time.
He spoke after the World Health Organization Director General Dr. Tedros pointed out in his opening remarks that Africa has only contributed 1.6 percent to the people vaccinated so far globally. Tedros said that in just the last one week, infections in Africa had increased by 40percent and made fresh appeals for vaccine equity noting that the COVAX facility needs an additional 200million doses for poor countries by September.
Uganda is one of the COVAX facility beneficiaries and the country has not yet purchased its own vaccines but Museveni says his research team is on track to deliver the much needed drug at least for just the country in the next one and half years.
“My people needed cells from green monkeys to grow the virus but they found problems accessing the raw material. Clever outsiders got the cells and multiplied them”, he said, adding that while they finally got these raw materials there some others that they need and are ready to pay for.
However, in his remarks, the Germany Ambassador to Uganda Matthias Schauer said his country which houses the summit secretariat plans to donate 30million doses of the vaccine to developing countries.