IThere is a boulevard for vaccine diplomacy: it is in Africa. China identified it right away and rushed on it. The United States did not even seek it. Europe spotted it but lacked the means to take a stand. It is in the process, belatedly, to remedy it. This is one of the lessons of the Covid-19 pandemic.
This Europe which wants to be “geopolitical” did not, it seems, immediately grasp the geopolitical nature of the vaccine challenge. She first saw the health dimension: in a global epidemic, no one is protected until everyone is protected.
Armed with their unwavering faith in multilateralism, Europeans committed in 2020 to Covax, an international vaccine distribution mechanism. A virtuous mechanism – on condition of being able to supply it and guaranteeing equitable access, which was not the case.
China, for its part, got involved in Covax lip service, while organizing parallel, bilateral, distribution and sale circuits of its own vaccines with countries that did not have any. This is how in Africa it emerged as the safest supplier. “For China, aid is investment. For Europe, it’s charity ”, summarized in January Theodore Murphy, expert on Africa for the think tank European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR).
Things have changed since. Once its own vaccination difficulties were overcome, the European Union (EU) embarked on a campaign for poor countries to access anti-Covid-19 doses, to the point of bringing the Biden administration, until there passive, to outbid. She is now going further: she pleads for Africans to be able to produce their own vaccines, and she defends a “New Deal” for Africa, likely to counter the economic shock inflicted by the pandemic on a continent which has not. not the means to produce massive stimulus packages like the advanced economies did.
Turning a crisis into an opportunity
At the G7 summit in the United Kingdom on June 13, French President Emmanuel Macron won the support of rich countries so that $ 100 billion of their special drawing rights at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) be reallocated to Africa and its financing needs.
In realpolitik, this is called turning a crisis into an opportunity. For Europe and Africa, the issue goes further. The pandemic and its emergencies put a stop to the African momentum of the European Commission chaired by Ursula von der Leyen who had demonstrated on her arrival in 2019, by going to Addis Ababa, seat of the African Union (AU), her desire to forge new links between the two continents.
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