Heads of state have gathered at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to kick off a two-day summit as the continent reels from a spate of military coups and the coronavirus pandemic.
The summit which started yesterday also comes as the 55-member bloc faces pressure to push for a ceasefire in host country Ethiopia, where a 15-month war has killed thousands of people and the United Nations said had driven hundreds of thousands to the brink of starvation.
The bloc, formed 20 years ago to promote international cooperation and harmonise member states’ policies, has struggled to address six coups or attempted coups in Africa over the past 18 months, and the power grabs are high on the summit agenda.
Four member states have been suspended by the AU’s Peace and Security Council since mid-2021 because of unconstitutional changes of government, most recently Burkina Faso where soldiers overthrew President Roch Marc Christian Kabore last month.
Yesterday, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa was expected to provide an update on Africa’s response to the pandemic, nearly two years after the continent’s first COVID-19 case was detected in Egypt.
As of January 26, only 11 percent of Africa’s more than one billion people had been fully vaccinated, according to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
A source said despite a significant rise in the number of vaccines being donated to the continent, one of the main problems is with the rollout scheme.
“There are more and more donors bringing in the vaccines, but there is no rollout,” the source said.
“There’s also a pushback from some parts of countries where people feel like they do not need these vaccines. A lot of education is needed, to counter the desensitisation of people on the benefits of the vaccines,” it added.
There are calls from some of the countries to try to peg vaccinations to government subsidiaries, he added