October 28, 2021

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Buhari,  Okonjo-Iweala meet in New York, discuss efforts to mobilizes vaccines manufacturers to Nigeria 

From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, New York

President Muhammadu Buhari and the Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala met Monday night, with the later briefing him on the her efforts to mobilize COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers to Nigeria. 

Speaking to correspondents after the meeting at Millennium Plaza, Manhattan, New York, the DG WTO said at the meeting she requested for the President’s support for some ongoing initiatives of the world body.

Okonjo-Iweala again expressed displeasure over the lopsidedness in COVID-19 vaccine distribution, noting  that even the vaccinated are unsafe where most of the population is not vaccinated.

Speaking more on the purpose of the visit, the former Nigerian Minister for Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy  said: “It’s been a wonderful engagement.  I  came to brief His Excellency on the WTO and the work that it is ongoing and to talk about how the WTO may be supportive to the continent and so, to ask His Excellency to support some of the work we are doing on some of the negotiations, like fisheries, what we’re doing on health, on COVID, trying to get manufacturers of vaccines to come into the country and into the continent. So, these are some of the things we talked about.”

On the push for the manufacturers, she said: “Well, what we’re trying to do, you know, there’s this UNGA conference, and then President Biden has just called a conference on COVID. On the 22nd in Washington in which we’ve also been invited to.

“What we’re trying to say is that the inequity in access to vaccines is not acceptable. The fact that on the African continent, less than 4% of us have been vaccinated, whereas in the rich countries, you know, close to 50% have been vaccinated, it’s not something that really is good for the world. Why? Because we have all these variants that are circulating. And if you don’t vaccinate people, they will just migrate from unvaccinated to the vaccinated.

“So, what we’re saying is, in order to solve this problem, we have to produce more vaccines. And then we have to distribute them equitably, to parts of the world that don’t have. And that’s the narrative.

“At the WTO, what we’re doing is actually working directly with the manufacturers. We’re helping them monitor their supply chains, which are very complicated, to see what are the bottlenecks they have, what are the regulatory issues they face, how can we facilitate trade? Because moving supplies from one place to the other for the manufacturer is straight. How can we facilitate this for them?

“In return, by asking them to deconcentrate production and go to those parts of the world where they have can invest. For example, on the African continent, we don’t want to continue importing 99% of vaccines that we use, or 90% of our pharmaceutical.

“So, they should invest, and I think it’s working. Pfizer announced $100 million investment in South Africa recently. We’re also looking at Nigeria, we’re the largest country and His Excellency Mr. president also wants to develop manufacturing. So we want to support that.

“We’ve been working with the honorable Minister of Health, to see what we can attract, the investment we can attract to Nigeria.”

On the kind of support she needed, she stated: “Oh, first on the vaccine, it’s just for the government to be able to work well with the private sector.

“You know, vaccines are like a public good. So, they also need investment from the government, too match part of what the private sector is doing. We need demand.

“Vaccine producers will not produce unless they know that the vaccines are going to be purchased. And so you know, the fact that if Nigeria can aggregate demand, then that will help to persuade them to invest and I think the honorable Minister of Health is leading a task force of which are my member. The Deputy Secretary General (UN) Amina Mohammed is a member, Akin Adesina and Mohammed Pate.  We all trying to help from from the outside to see how we can move this investment.”

On the timeline to realize the objective, Okonjo-Iweala further said: “Investing in vaccines takes time. So, it’s not right away, in two to three years. Hopefully, we will see the fruits of some of this.

“Nigeria already had already plan to have a plant with bio vaccines. It is working with some other investors and we’re trying to help push that as well.

“So, in two to three years, hopefully we’ll be able to see the fruits of this labour.”

The post Buhari,  Okonjo-Iweala meet in New York, discuss efforts to mobilizes vaccines manufacturers to Nigeria  appeared first on The Sun Nigeria.

Source: news