Erdogan promises 15 mn Covid vaccine doses for Africa
Turkey will send 15 million Covid-19 vaccine doses to Africa, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced on Saturday at a major summit of the continent's leaders, adding that the low vaccination rates there were a blot on humanity.
Ankara has invested heavily in developing trade and diplomatic ties with the world's poorest continent during Erdogan's rule as prime minister and then president since 2003.
In opening remarks to dozens of African leaders and ministers, Erdogan said Turkey would ship 15 million Covid-19 vaccine doses to Africa, where cases are rapidly rising and vaccination rates are low.
"We are aware of the global injustice in accessing the Covid-19 vaccine and Africa's unjust treatment," Erdogan said.
"It is disgraceful for humanity that only six percent of Africa's population has been vaccinated."
Turkey is developing its own vaccine, known as Turkovac, which is in the process of receiving emergency use approval.
Following any authorisation, it will be shared with Africa, Erdogan said.
It was not immediately clear from his remarks whether Turkey would first send some doses of the internationally approved vaccines it was currently using, including those developed by Pfizer-BioNTech.
"In order to contribute to the resolution of this issue, within our means, we plan to share 15 million vaccine doses in the period ahead," he said.
Soaring infection rates
The number of new infections in Africa has shot up by 57 percent in the past week, according to AFP calculations based on official figures.
South Africa is the hardest-hit country on the continent, where infections are soaring because of the new Omicron variant.
The highly mutated strain was first detected in South Africa and Botswana last month, and is believed to be more contagious than other variants.
Erdogan said Turkey wished to strengthen relations with Africa in a wide range of areas including health, defence, energy, agriculture and technology.
"The real potential between us goes far beyond the targets we have," he said.
Trade between Turkey and Africa has grown in the past 20 years from from $5.4 billion to $25.3 billion (4.8 billion euros to 22.5 billion euros) last year.
And in the first 11 months of 2021, it had reached $30 billion, Erdogan said.
Turkey has set an even higher target of trade volume for the future: $75 billion.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Friday 16 African heads of state were attending the summit as well as 102 ministers including 26 top diplomats.
The Turkish leader has also held one-on-one meetings with African heads of state including Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari.