Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Gordon Brown and Senior Director of the African Investment Forum, African Development Bank’s flagship investment platform, Chinelo Anohu, have identified tokenism and nationalism as the banes of investments and Covid-19 vaccination in Africa.

They bared their minds at the “Edinburgh Futures Conversations: The Future Economy”, a virtual conference organised by the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, UK.

Brown, who said that poor vaccination against Covid-19 in Africa had gravely affected the continent’s economy, said there were “four powers that are holding the vaccines at the moment – Britain, Canada, America, and the European Union”, and urged them to “get round the table, and agree that they are going to airlift the vaccines very quickly month by month”.

What they are saying

Anohu explained that while it would be good for Africa to be given vaccines, the continent needed more of partnerships and investments to stand on its feet. She noted that it would be far more beneficial for the people of the continent to take their future into their own hands.

She said, “I think there needs to be a paradigm shift from the way we look at collaboration. Africa is increasingly getting tired of asking for aid when in all honesty we can trade. And that is what we’re now looking to provide at the African Investment Forum, a flagship initiative of the Africa Development Bank, where both domestic and international investors who are looking to invest for profit while fulfilling a need are mobilized to finance projects.

“Yes, there is a moral obligation to be our brother’s keeper, but whether we are doing that or not is playing out in this matter of vaccine equity. So, what you’re seeing now on the continent is a realisation that you have an option not to wait to be given”.

Anohu said Africa should be supported in its plan for the future.

“A couple of years ago, it was Ebola ravaging the continent. Now it is Covid-19. There may be something else in the future. How do we then position Africa to very clearly respond to their own needs without a dependence on aid?

“So, rather than looking to be given vaccines developed in those labs outside Africa by people, some of whom are of African descent, who did not have infrastructure to do it on the continent, we should be looking at setting up these vaccine plants on the continent,” she added.

On how vaccine hoarding and nationalism impact negatively on investments and global economies, Brown said: “Nationalism is the dominant ideology of the age. It means there is a distinction between patriotism, which is love of your country and nationalism, which is an ‘us versus them’ ideology.

“So, nationalism as it is experienced across the world, not patriotism, is actually a danger to the economic growth of the world and of course its very opposite of what we need, which is cooperation to deal with the issues in hand.

“The IMF (International Monetary Fund) is now ineffective, the World Bank is now ineffective, the World Trade Organisation is neutered, and the World Health Organisation is blamed rather than supported when it does things that are necessary. The international institutions lose that focus and coordination of economic policy is impossible.

“And I think we have got to be more aware that whether it is Russia first or America first or China first or Japan first or Hungary first or Turkey first or even Britain first or Scotland first, that these are movements affecting public policy at the moment.

“If you are going to have the economic cooperation based on the interdependence that we are talking about, you are going to take nationalism head on”.

The former Prime Minister regretted that as a consequence of vaccine stockpiling and hoarding by the developed world, Africa was witnessing poor growth rate, debt rise, migration increase, little social protection, while divergence between rich and poor had replaced convergence as the main theme of this decade.

“Let’s be clear, this divide between the vaccine rich and the vaccine poor today arise not because of a shortage of supply. We are producing one and half a billion vaccines. It’s a failure to distribute vaccines equitably even when we know that there are 240 million vaccines currently stockpiled in the West and not being used.

“In four-month time, there will be 1.1 billion vaccines we do not need, which would have been delivered to European and North American governments, which should have been airlifted to Africa and low-income countries.

“How will we ever be able to cooperate to deal even bigger global problems that require global solutions?” he queried.

In concluding their remarks, Brown and Anohu reiterated Africa’s investment opportunities, calling on the rest of the world to join Africa as investment partners to chart the course for the future.