JOHANNESBURG, May 28 (Reuters) – President Emmanuel Macron said on Friday France would invest in boosting the production of COVID-19 vaccines in Africa, to help close a gap in the availability of the shots between African and Western nations.
Speaking at a joint news conference with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa in Pretoria, Macron said Africa made up around 20% of the world’s need for vaccines but only 1% of vaccine production.
“How do we boost the production of vaccines on the African continent?” he said. “On this, we will this afternoon have an investment strategy to help these industrials produce more, and quite quickly.”
He said France already had a partnership with South Africa’s Biovac Institute and would soon launch a project with South African pharmaceutical company Aspen.
“We need to vaccinate as quickly as possible the maximum number of people … all over the world,” Macron said. “It is our moral duty; it is also in everyone’s interests.”
Macron is on the second and final leg of an Africa trip that included Rwanda.
He reiterated support for waiving intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines, a move also supported by U.S. President Joe Biden but opposed by Germany.
Ramaphosa said earlier this month that if wealthy nations hogged COVID-19 shots while millions in poor countries died waiting for them it would amount to vaccine apartheid.
He also said that rich countries with an excess of vaccines should not stockpile them but ship them as quickly as possible to countries that need them.
France plans to deliver 30 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to Africa by year-end, part of a total of more than 100 million doses that the European Union plans to deliver to Africa this year. (Reporting by Tim Cocks, Editing by Timothy Heritage)
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