Summit urges lifting patents for Africa COVID-19 vaccines: Macron

French President Emmanuel Macron warned that failing to vaccinate Africans risked allowing potentially dangerous COVID-19 variants to emerge on the continent that then could spread around the world.

(From left) President of Congo Democratic Republic Felix Tshisekedi, French President Emmanuel Macron, Ethiopia's President Sahle-Work Zewde, Senegal's President Macky Sall and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, attend the opening session of the Summit on the Financing of African Economies on 18 May 2021 in Paris. Picture: Ludovic Marin/AFP

PARIS - A Paris summit seeking to boost financing in Africa amid the COVID-19 pandemic on Tuesday called for the lifting of vaccine patents to allow their manufacture on the continent, French President Emmanuel Macron said.

"We are asking the WHO, the WTO and the Medicines Patent Pool to remove all these constraints in terms of intellectual property which blocks the production of certain types of vaccines," Macron said at the end of the summit attended by African leaders and officials from global financial institutions.

Citing the slow pace of vaccination as a major problem for the continent, Macron staked out an aim of vaccinating 40% of people in Africa by the end of 2021.

"The current situation is not sustainable, it is both unfair and inefficient," said Macron.

Macron warned that failing to vaccinate Africans risked allowing potentially dangerous COVID-19 variants to emerge on the continent that then could spread around the world.

Africa has so far been less badly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic than other global regions - with a total of 130,000 dead across the continent - although the human catastrophe in India shows it is way too early to sound the all clear.

"Failing to protect Africa from the variants that will reappear on African soil will hit the Africans themselves and then perpetually condemn us to chase" these variants, said Macron.

Senegal President Macky Sall praised what he described as a "change of mentality" in the approach, with G20 nations realising their own wellbeing depended on vaccine progress in Africa.

"We have a common responsibility; vaccinating one's own populations does not guarantee health security," he said, pointing to the risk of variants emerging in Africa that could evade vaccines.

IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva warned that failure to accelerate the vaccine rollout in Africa would also have economic consequences.

"It is clear that there is no durable exit from the economic crisis unless we exit the health crisis," she said.

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