…220m doses first tranche, with 180m order later
…Afreximbank acts as transaction advisers, guarantors, instalment payment advisers, payment agents
…Deal sealed by UNECA, UNICEF
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Ben Eguzozie, with wire copy
Nigeria and all other member-states of the African Union will have access to total 400 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson (J & J) single-shot COVID-19 vaccine. Initial 220 million doses would be delivered, with the potential to order an additional 180 million doses. This is the outcome of a historic COVID-19 vaccine procurement agreement signed on Sunday, 28 March by the African Union and the giant pharmaceutical company, through the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT).
AVAT was set up in November 2020 under the African Union chairmanship of President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa.
Most of the supplies will be produced at the giant pharmaceutical manufacturing plant in South Africa operated by Aspen Pharma. The vaccines will be made available to African countries through the African Medical Supplies Platform (AMSP), over a period of 18 months.
Meanwhile, Ramaphosa on Monday toured the facilities of Aspen Pharma in Port Elizabeth with J&J executives, to inspect preparations for production of the vaccines. The vaccines production at the facility will be a massive boost for jobs in the rainbow country.
The transaction was made possible through the US$2 billion facility approved by the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), which also acted as financial and transaction advisers, guarantors, instalment payment advisers and payment agents.
According to the pan-African financial institution, the successful conclusion of the agreement was made possible by the support of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF), who supported the negotiation process with Johnson & Johnson.
UNICEF is also acting as procurement and logistics agent. The African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT) was supported in terms of advice on various aspects by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Prior to the conclusion of the agreement with J&J, African member states were asked to make pre-orders for the vaccines; and many countries showed strong preference for this particular vaccine.
The countries will be able to purchase the vaccines either using cash, or a facility from Afreximbank. Most countries have already completed their pre-orders.
The direct acquisition of vaccines by the African countries through the AVATT initiative was part of the continental objective to achieve a minimum of 60 per cent immunization of the African population, in order to eliminate COVID-19. This target is in line with targets set in other regions such as Europe and the United States.
The international donor community has pledged to provide 27 per cent through the COVAX initiative (which is coordinated by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the WHO), while Africa must find the rest. AVATT and COVAX are working together.
Ramaphosa, the AU champion for the COVID-19 vaccine strategy and acquisition and chairman of AVATT, welcomed the agreement, which he personally initiated directly with the company during his tenure as Chair of the AU.
“This Agreement is a significant milestone in protecting the health of all Africans. It is also a powerful demonstration of African unity and of what we can achieve through partnership between the state sector, the private sector and international institutions that puts people first,” he said.
Benedict Oramah, president of Afreximbank, said the bank was proud to be associated with the historic and collective effort. “In the midst of a very tight COVID-19 vaccine market, we are highly honoured to have been given the opportunity by the African Union to facilitate this impactful transaction under the auspices of the AVATT,” he said.
Oramah said, Afreximbank acting as financial and transaction advisors, guarantors, installment payment facility arrangers and payment agents, it looks forward to beginning the deployment of the US$2 billion vaccine procurement facility approved by the Bank’s board of directors towards assisting the continent to begin to rid itself of the pandemic, and rebuild its economy.
“This financing will support Intra-African Trade, and we have already commenced engagement with our financial partners to secure the additional funding that would support procurement if Africa decides to procure the additional 180 million doses” the Afreximbank boss said.
John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), said the agency had recommended to the African Union that a minimum of 750 million Africans (60 per cent) must be immunized if the continent is to contain the spread of COVID-19.
“This transaction enables Africa to meet almost 50 per cent of that target. The key to this particular vaccine is that it is a single-shot vaccine which makes it easier to roll out quickly and effectively, thus saving lives,” Nkengasong said.
Strive Masiyiwa, African Union special envoy signed for AVAT, while Jaak Peeters, J&J special envoy for COVID-19 vaccine, signed on behalf of the pharmaceutical manufacturing company.