The African Union (AU) will mark its 20th anniversary in 2022, and as pressure to perform better increases, the upcoming heads of state summit from 5-6 February will be crucial. Following the election of two commissioners in October 2021, the new AU Commission is now fully operational and must show progress on implementing long-running reforms.
The AU’s leadership in addressing COVID-19 came into focus again at the end of 2021. After the Omicron variant’s discovery, travel restrictions inflicted on several Southern African countries saw African governments, activists and citizens looking to the AU for a response. The continent was being punished for transparency, while Omicron rapidly spread worldwide.
The Africa Centres for Disease Control (Africa CDC), the AU vaccine acquisition task team led by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, and the AU’s vaccine delivery task team have been applauded for their work. Yet the continent still isn’t sufficiently vocal and united to speak with one voice against unfair treatment.
Apart from in a select few countries, far too few vaccines are available for Africa. By 5 January only 9.5% of Africans had been vaccinated, according to the Africa CDC. This is expected to be a major theme of the February summit.