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Is the Lack of Vaccine Rollout Fuelling Terrorism in Africa?

Friday, 11 June 2021 -

A Call for Wealthy Economies to Start Sharing If Africa Is to Enjoy Some Stability

Representatives from the west and northern Africa convened in Paris, France earlier this month to table some of the most pressing issues on the continent; namely the post-pandemic recovery and the slowdown in vaccine rollouts.

But amidst the obvious economic and the unprecedented health crises, there were recurring themes in that convention:

  • Economic depression stemming from the pandemic.

  • The negligible rollout of vaccines

  • Lockdowns

The challenges above are thought to be leading to a resurgence in Islamist terrorism. West Africa has been especially hit by the militants. In Northern Burkina Faso, for instance, last week saw a terror attack on a rural village that left over 132 civilians dead and thousands displaced. World leaders and the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights condemned the attacks even as calls for civilian protection heightened in the wake of one of the country's deadliest civilian massacres.

Terrorism Has Become A Daily Reality

Last week’s attack on Burkina Faso is simply the gist of it. Attacks, security incidents involving government troops and militants, and kidnapping for ransom demands have become a daily reality for millions of Africans. Moreover, militants hold scores of villages hostage, which becomes a humanitarian crisis when the said villagers get caught between armed factions, and the subsequent government crackdowns limit community access to basic social services.

The Vaccine Scarcity

The rate of vaccination in Africa is extremely low. Today, less than 1.9% of globally administered doses so far have been in Africa. This is considerably low given the continent is home to over 1.4 billion people. This has resulted in calls for wealthy nations to share their vaccine stocks because Africa has zero vaccine manufacturing centres, and instead depends on the rest of the world for supplies.

The low vaccine rollout, if not addressed with more urgency, is expected to heighten economic stagnation and its ills such as the emergence of armed groups. International vaccine initiatives such as COVAX (Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access) had seemed to move smoothly until they hit a snag. The initiative was established to help low-income nations get access to vaccine doses, but it hasn't come without its problems. COVAX supplies have gradually dried out for most African states, with the principal challenge being that low-income countries rely on high-income counterparts for subsidies.

Resurgence of Conflict

Meanwhile, the past few months have seen a rise in conflict for many communities. Most states on the continent have limited resources, of which a large chunk is used in the pandemic response, which has created a favourable atmosphere for terrorist groups to wreak havoc. Some governments have underfunded and understaffed troops, which has fuelled the revival of armed groups like Boko Haram in West Africa. Such groups thrive on economic hardships, and unless the vaccine access is sufficient, African states' economic recovery will remain stagnant and the instability will only get worse.

(Written and edited by: Richard Oyamo for The Decision Maker)

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