'Our lives are just as important': Ramaphosa criticises Western nations' handling of Covid-19

Amanda Khoza Presidency reporter
President Cyril Ramaphosa speaks during the Dakar International Forum in Senegal on Tuesday.
President Cyril Ramaphosa speaks during the Dakar International Forum in Senegal on Tuesday.
Image: GCIS

President Cyril Ramaphosa has used his four-nation visit to West Africa to criticise Western nations for “ignoring science” and looking out for their “own selfish interests” in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic.

Over the past few days on his trip to Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Ghana and Senegal, Ramaphosa has accused powerful nations of hoarding vaccines and a knee-jerk response to the Omicron variant by imposing travel restrictions on Southern African nations.

“They ordered more vaccines than their populations required and when we wanted vaccines, they kept giving us the crumbs from their tables,” Ramaphosa said as a special guest at the Dakar International Forum on Peace and Security.

“The greed they demonstrated is quite disappointing, particularly when they say they are our partners, because our lives in Africa are just as important as their lives in Europe, North America and all over.”

Ramaphosa arrived in Dakar on Sunday night accompanied by ministers Naledi Pandor, Mondli Gungubele, Thoko Didiza and Barbara Creecy on the last leg of his visit.

“The task facing us, as African nations, is to drive the recovery, but a recovery that is sustainable, inclusive and leaves no-one and no country behind. This is our bulwark against Covid-19 having negative long-term implications for peace and security in our continent.

“This is the one time that our continent approached a pandemic united, properly integrated and committed to dealing with it. It was Africa’s time of great unity.”

Ramaphosa said SA and India had proposed a waiver of the WTO's Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (Trips) agreement, which would essentially facilitate access to a vaccines blueprint.

“This will allow countries with the capability to manufacture vaccines in the African continent to do so, and up until now they are refusing.

“When SA scientists discovered Omicron, they immediately took on the responsibility of informing the world about it. And what is the result? The northern countries impose a ban to punish the excellence that comes from Africa.

“They are basically saying we are not going to allow you to travel, but lo and behold, Omicron is spreading all over the world, including in their own countries. Now you ask yourself, where is science? They always said to us, base your decisions on science, and when the moment calls for them to be more scientific, they are not.

“They resort to their own selfish interests and ban travel from Southern African countries, and we say the bans must be removed with immediate effect so that our people can travel around the world.”

Manufacturing vaccines locally is not just the safest and fastest way to access lifesaving medication, it is also a critical component for economic recovery, he said.

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