Nigerian business steps in to buy vaccines while government dithers

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SOME of Nigeria’s biggest companies plan to raise as much as $100 million to purchase coronavirus vaccines as the government of Africa’s most populous nation is facing increasing criticism for not having secured deals with drugmakers.

The Coalition Against Covid-19, led by top executives including Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man, and Herbert Wigwe, chief executive officer of Access Bank, aims to purchase the 42 million doses allocated to Nigeria by the African Union’s vaccine procurement program, according to a statement Tuesday. It will start with a first tranche of 1 million doses worth $3.45 million, which should be ready for shipment within two weeks once a deposit is paid, the group said in the statement.

The African Union has secured about 670 million doses from manufacturers for its member states, with Afreximbank providing advance procurement commitment guarantees of as much as $2bn to manufacturers including Pfizer Inc., Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca Plc.

Even though the government has pledged to vaccinate 40 percent of the population this year and reach 70 percent in 2022, it’s so far procured only 16 million doses of AstraZeneca’s shot under the Covax facility. A state governor and several experts have said Nigeria lacks sufficient resources and adequate infrastructure to reach those targets.

Food distribution

Last year, Africa’s largest economy plunged into recession after the pandemic hit, causing the second contraction in four years. A slow roll out of vaccination campaigns could derail an economy forecast to expand by 1.5 percent this year, the International Monetary Fund has warned.

Some of Nigeria’s most prominent businesspeople have joined the Coalition Against Covid-19, which last year raised about 30 billion naira ($75 million) to add beds to health facilities across the country and distribute food to poor people. Central bank Governor Godwin Emefiele, billionaire entrepreneur Femi Otedola and Zenith Bank Chairman Jim Ovia are among those who support the group.

Nigeria’s second-largest cement maker, BUA Group, said in a statement Monday that it has paid for 1 million vaccines and is committed to buying 5 million additional doses.

 

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