THE European Union has pledged 150bn euros ($170bn) for investment in Africa as it seeks to gain influence on the continent and become its partner of choice.
But the continent’s leaders were hoping for more, including vaccine patent waivers and the redirecting of billions of dollars of potential International Monetary Fund reserves from richer nations to more vulnerable ones to aid their recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
Most of the money will go to the Global Gateway, Europe’s initiative to rival China’s massive investment plan in the continent and will support health, infrastructure and the fight against climate change over the next seven years.
‘As Africa sets sail on the future, the European Union wants to be Africa’s partner of choice,’ said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at the EU-Africa Summit in Brussels. ‘It means remaining an economic partner you can trust and the European Union is the first trading partner and the first investor in Africa.’
But with 12 percent of Africa’s 1.3 billion people fully inoculated so far, the bloc failed to agree to calls to waive patents to allow for the generic production of vaccines and treatments.
The issue, under discussion since 2020, may now only be resolved in the next few months, said Senegal President and African Union Chairperson Macky Sall.
Though Von der Leyen did concede it may be necessary to compel drugmakers to share their mRNA technology if Africa is ever to reduce its heavy reliance on the West for life-saving vaccines.
The summit also fell short on a request from African nations to provide them with a bigger slice of reserve assets, called special drawing rights, from the IMF to add to funds worth some $13bn already pledged by EU member states to help emerging and low-income nations deal with mounting debt and Covid-19.
‘We have to mobilise the means needed to meet our commitments, especially on the allocation of the special drawing rights,’ Sall added.