By Victor C. Ariole
Humanity is facing the challenge of an asymmetric war with virus as it brings to fore the Darwin’s theory of survival of species and its neo-phase of the “weakest in the chain” could break-up and create a greater disaster for all the chain if not strengthened. The biggest factory of vaccine production is in India and it was anticipated for it to serve the developing world but it is not even in the mood to satisfy the over 1billion population of Indians and, of course, part of the components of the vaccine production – over 40 components – comes from there; a threat to the strong chain of the production line. And who says that all the components could not be found in Africa deemed to be the weakest by mere conjecture of combined forces of the exploiters of Africa.
President Biden seems to be extending hands of fellowship to the so-called weakest as patent waiver is initiated for countries like Nigeria with its great human resource to wake up and take up the challenge to help the rest of Africa. Building a vaccine factory could not be said to be a rocket science venture, and it must be seen as Schlumberger’s type of oil and gas rig “turn-key” projects’ installation which is done quite easily in Nigeria for the exploitation of oil and gas. It is estimated that between $220 to $650 million is what it takes for Schlumberger to plant oil rig in Nigeria and within months profits are declared as Government waive enormous tax for the exploiters – local or foreign.
President Biden expects such attitude to reign now as he waives patent right which is always waived when USA is in any emergency situation as witnessed in the second world war as well as during the period people like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs needed to propagate USA military inventions for greater use of the world as Technology patent hacking had to be deliberately allowed, and today the internet and computer are everywhere as against being hoarded. It is stated thus by O’Mara (2020, 163) …the USA economy to boost itself, in early 1976, Ford’s Commerce Department released a study championing technical enterprises as powerful job creators, finding that young high-tech firms had job growth rates that were nearly forty times that of mature companies.
Such waiver seems to be what humanity is seeing in Biden’s proposal as danger of extinction lurks in the air against the entire humanity. However, it must not be turned to trade war as China faces the USA in proposing the production of vaccines all over the world picking on Egypt first and looking forward to reaping in profit even when its own brand is 79% efficient as against USA’s own at 94 or 97% efficient. Both USA and China had reached herd’s immunization of their populations with no fewer than 257 million people and 1.28 billion people respectively. Europe expects to reach by July leaving the rest of over 5 billion human beings including Africa, India, South America and South Asia to their fates.
Nigeria must hasten up to come to the rescue of Africa which is over 1 billion human beings. So, implanting factory or factories in Africa should be done the way oil and gas rigs are implanted in Africa for the exploitation of oil and gas. And, according to reliable sources the components of vaccine production are available in Africa, though they have been purchased in advance by either USA, Europe or China in anticipation of the current crisis, and possibly since 2012 at the time the World Bank veto countries appointed Jim Yong Kim to head the World Bank as physician and anthropologists, capable of knowing how best to develop vaccines as well as allowing his competitor Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to head the Vaccines Alliance Group. In effect, they knew what challenges the world could be facing at the time. They are both Harvard trained.
They have planned to purchase in advance what it takes to prepare components like filters, bio-reactor bags, tubing, cell-culturing materials, disposable bags, cell sequencing items, serum production, etc; basically packaging and syringe components. It does not mean that Nigeria’s latent or regressive vaccine production knowledge cannot be re-awaken to take-up the challenge.
It was once said that cholera vaccine was developed in UNN by a Professor there. Reading Prof. Wole Soyinka’s current book, 2020, he mentioned that Prof. Tam David West, then, in Ibadan, was about attaining such feat but was abruptly stopped as his sponsors from USA came to his office and packed all his efforts and materials into a refrigerated container and asked him to choose between staying in Ibadan or following them to USA to continue his research; that was on vaccine for Lassa fever. And he rejected following them to USA as all parameters to continue his work were erased.
In effect, the know-how is there to take on President Biden’s challenge and all it requires is cargoing a turn-key vaccine factory into Nigeria with 24 hours non-stop electricity, available to such site; and like EU claimed that 1billion vaccines could be produced in 1 year with India’s type of factory and it will as well be done in Nigeria; estimated cost of the factory being 12billion euro; and, of course, the raw materials could be found in Africa. However, let it not be trade war issues as profit tends to be the rule now in capitalist and communist – claimed countries. So between saving humanity and searching for profit, Africans ought to know who could be a better ally. Pretensions are hypocritical. Africa has so much given to the world that it could decide to make life difficult in the chain, if pushed to the wall.
Nigeria’s policy makers and scientists are now set-up to perform by President Biden and they must not fail. New deal, the USA spirit, beckons. From Europe let it flow to Africa to contain the virus war.
Ariole, is Professor of French and Francophone Studies, University of Lagos