Africa: The Terrible Cost of Vaccine Inequality by Prinesha Naidoo

A crippling shortage of coronavirus vaccines in sub-Saharan Africa isn’t just a health risk, it’s having a major impact on economic growth.

While richer countries roll out booster shots from their abundant supplies, only 3% of people in the region are fully inoculated. That risks the emergence of new, more virulent strains of Covid-19 that could become a permanent problem, the International Monetary Fund said this week.

That may weigh on investor confidence, restrict growth and widen the rift in incomes between advanced and developing economies. It could also reverse decades of progress in the continent’s fight against destitution. The pandemic plunged 30 million people into extreme poverty in 2020, meaning they live on less than $1.90 a day.

Playing Catch-Up

Sub-Saharan Africa’s economic recovery is seen lagging behind other areas

Source: International Monetary Fund

Only a handful of sub-Saharan African countries are likely to achieve widespread vaccine availability before 2023 and their prospects are at the mercy of the international community. Should rich countries continue to look inward for ways to end the pandemic, the virus will most likely thrive elsewhere.

Sub-Saharan Africa needs $425 billion in additional financing over the next five years to secure a robust recovery and regain lost ground, according to the IMF. The lender is exploring options to redirect new reserves to members in need from those that won’t use them.

With the Group of 20 developed economies’ pandemic debt plan set to expire in December, the World Bank has called on rich nations to continue supporting African countries struggling with huge debt burdens.

The question is: Will they step up or persist with vaccine and resource hoarding?

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