The summit between the European Union and the African Union meant two days of intense discussions that strengthened the partnership between both organisations in several areas. But major differences remain when it comes to tackling one of the world’s most pressing issues. With only 11% of its population fully vaccinated against COVID-19, Africa is lagging behind in the fight against the pandemic.
African leaders have accused Europeans of hoarding vaccine doses. But the main point of contention is the EU’s refusal to lift intellectual property rights on vaccines and other products.
For the Democratic Republic of Congo, priority should be given to strengthening local health systems. "The pandemic requires international solidarity, which implies assistance, collaboration in the fields of testing and medication and especially the production of vaccines", says Christophe Lutundula, DRC Minister of foreign affairs
Despite European investments in Africa to face covid-19, as well as jab donations, some analysts say the pandemic revealed another side of the relationship between both continents. "__In the very beginning it seemed to be a commission that was very keen to talk to Africa, explains Frank Mattheis, Researcher at the United Nations University, But then the pandemic hit, and this changed a lot of the assumpions that we had on the talk about partnerships, on about equals".
Civil society organisations are urgently calling for a better partnership between Africa and Europe when it comes to health.
"The African health system must be supported if we want to prevent this kind of pandemic from escalating to the rest of the world. So if we don’t get the partnership that is needed, when there is a disease anywhere it can get to everywhere", insists Edwin Ikhuoria, Africa executive director at ONE, an NGO that combats extreme poverty across the continent.
According to the World Health Organisation, Africa needs to ramp-up covid vaccinations six-fold in order to meet its 70 percent target by the middle of the year.