JOHANNESBURG — The billionaire tasked with speeding up Africa’s access to critical medical supplies in the COVID-19 pandemic says he turned to China for testing kits after manufacturers in the West said the continent would have to wait months.
Strive Masiyiwa tells an African vaccine conference that testing kits “were available but only to the Western countries. … Abbott and them were saying, ‘You wait until September, wait until October.’ So I didn’t waste any time with them. I spent my time talking to the suppliers in China who were willing to supply immediately.”
Africa faces widespread shortages of medical supplies in the competition with richer countries. The pandemic on the continent is growing rapidly, with more than 335,000 cases.
The CEO of vaccines alliance GAVI, Seth Berkley, says “vaccine nationalism” is real. Initiatives in high-income countries are “essentially trying to corner the market in those countries.”