Virus diplomacy is definitely escalating as developed countries compete for vaccine hegemony. The intricate battle for dominance and superiority, at this point in time, seems to be in favour of China. The furore brought about by the failed AstraZeneca experiment in South Africa has got dire ramifications going forward.
Besides damaging confidence about these vaccines, the gaffe exposed the UK company for at least not being circamspect enough to have a cure that can deal aggressively with any strain of the novel coronavirus. It got so diplomatically embarrassing that even Boris Johnson, the UK Prime Minister, was forced to come out guns blazing in defence of AstraZeneca, a British company. Talk of vaccine nationalism.
Zimbabwe surprised even itself and many sceptics across the region when it announced delivery of 200 000 doses of Sinopharm coronavirus vaccine. The news was well received locally whilst citizens of other countries in the region, primarily South Africa, were livid as to how on earth Zimbabwe was able to fly its flagship airline, AirZimbabwe, to China to collect the vaccine at a time South African Airlines was struggling and the South Africans having been forced to use a foreign airline to ship in the doomed vaccines.
Talk of instruments of national power.
Zimbabwe must not sit on its laurels, waiting for China to give us more vaccines. Itis high time investment in research must be given the due impetus it deserves. As the global vaccination drive gathers momentum, these vaccines are going to be weaponised against ideological foes. The race to acquire a vaccine reminds one of the arms race witnessed during the Cold War. No wonder it is not surprising that the Russians named their vaccine Sputnik V after that space shuttle that heralded technological superiority of the Russians and ultimately ushered in the arms race.
We cannot afford to depend on the benevolence of these superpowers who are actively using the coronavirus pandemic to realign their strategic interests. Zimbabwe must take advantage of the head start thus far accrued to harness a home grown robust national countermeasure to the pandemic before the generated comparative advantage gets lost. This means besides depending on beaming headlines of officials taking delivery of vaccines acquired and donated from China, we must be seeking to have an arrangement where knowledge is transferred to Zimbabwe and maybe vaccines produced locally under some kind of franchising arrangement.
This is the time for pragmatic diplomacy. By donating vaccines to Zimbabwe, China has shown beyond any reasonable doubt that indeed it can assist the country as and when there is the need. We must now begin to harvest positive dividends out of that trust, loyalty and support. Let’s seek empowerment so as to ensure that we are able to make our own vaccines before they are weaponised by those who have developed theirs. Besides, the economic advantages to be derived from manufacturing these vaccines is extremely fundamental
Sapien Sapien Business and Security Analyst