Alagi Yorro Jallow.
Fatoumatta: Currently, there are 203 vaccine development projects for Covid-19, according to the Milken Institute. None of these efforts are domiciled or led by African institutions. It could be argued that this is a reflection of the fact that vaccine development is expensive, and Africa is a resource “poor.” African countries are only mentioned by way of passing, as candidates for Phase 2 and 3 trials.
This data set is a Covid-19 vaccine currently under development by Cuba’s Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology. The brainchild of the late Fidel Castro, the center, is a leading biotech institution known for groundbreaking solutions, including Cimavax-EGF, which is the first worldwide registered therapeutic vaccine for non-small lung cancer. Cuba’s Covid-19 vaccine effort is primarily funded by internal resources.
Fatoumatta: For comparison purposes, Cuba has a GDP of US$100 billion, almost at per with an African nation. Read the GDP figures against Cuba’s throttled economic potential on the back of historical US sanctions. So Cuba’s success in the area of healthcare and biomedical research is more than just a “resources” argument. Cuba sends more doctors to assist in developing countries than the entire G8 combined— 20 percent of its 68600 physicians.
Africa import doctors from Cuba, but Africans are unwilling to learn lessons from its healthcare system. Why is a resource-starved country playing a leading role in medical research, including drug development and vaccine discovery?
However, Africa’s scientists are gifted at describing the virus. They can sit the whole day and listen to public lectures on “protein hooks,” “RNA,” and even the vaccine development process itself. Unfortunately, they are not doing science.
Everything in the Covid-19 war chest is imported; testing kits, reagents, medical devices, etc., such that our existence is dependent on the goodwill of third parties elsewhere. African countries are busy crunching infection numbers and curves, without commensurate efforts towards a scientific method of stopping the pandemic.
However, Africans are collectively hoping that someone, somewhere, will come with a solution, this time a vaccine, test it on us, and such a solution will be in our best interest. If Cuba is doing it, amidst acute difficulties, it then becomes complicated to justify the lackluster approach to vaccine development on the continent. One can only conclude, and justifiably so, that as Africans, we mostly suffer a MINDSET problem.
Fatoumatta: Africans have become experts at explaining this mediocrity away, mostly using the “resources” argument. The familiar chorus being, “Afrika Kai Nai Faai Leempo see Toubab.”
Alagi Yorro Jallow.