Pandemic treaty must evolve into international technology accord – Kojo Annan

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Proposals for an international pandemic treaty have been welcomed by an African entrepreneur and social reformer, but its spirit needs to go further.

“We must spread vaccination across the world quickly and follow-up with technology equality in healthcare and the Climate Change battle,” urged Kojo Annan, who developed the Africa10 youth enterprise and recently co-founded a $300 million healthtech fund for pandemic protection and preparedness.

Mr Annan spoke after Europe’s vaccine supply row appeared to die down, with the pandemic co-operation treaty call by 24 world leaders and the United Nations (UN) and their comment that COVID-19 was “a stark and painful reminder that nobody is safe until everyone is safe”.

But Mr Annan, original co-founder of Africa’s $10 billion innovative smart port at Tema in Ghana – now employing thousands – a keynote speaker at the World Economic Forum (Davos), UN General Assembly, Caux Peace and Leadership Forum to build a just, peaceful and sustainable world, and also son of late UN Secretary-General (1997-2006) Kofi Annan, said:

“It’s unfortunate that this key message has only struck home now, after the European squabble, when the World Health Organisation (WHO) has been pressing for global vaccination for much longer.

“A month ago, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus highlighted how just two nations accounted for half the 210 million vaccine doses given globally at that point, while 200-plus countries had yet to administer a single dose!

“But as Europe has belatedly realised, vaccine inequality is doubly dangerous because it risks COVID-19 mutating in non-vaccinated regions of the world to create more aggressive variants, not only making current vaccines redundant but possibly spreading to infect the world’s vaccinated population.

“Our Pandemic Protection team (see below) is also concerned by a new Royal Society of Chemistry report (https://rsc.li/3cyN0Oq) warning that the world has clinically approved antiviral drugs for just 10 of more than 220 viruses known to infect humans.

“This shows that our defences against another pandemic are ridiculously over-stretched and that’s just for known viruses. What else might be out there, especially as mankind continually encroaches on natural habitats?”

Mr Annan also referenced the Luxembourg-based Vector Innovation Fund and its $300 million Pandemic Protection Fund founded on principles of ESG (environmental, social and corporate governance) and the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals of 2017 – inspired by Millennium Goals instigated by Mr Annan’s father:

“Apart from vaccines, we must invest in new sustainable healthcare technologies that promotes well-being for all mankind, making it accessible and delivered at the point of care.

“Unfortunately, as Shamika Sirimanne, a leader at the UN’s trade and development division (UNCTAD) has suggested, just a few countries create the technologies driving this revolution and will be the main beneficiaries, thereby widening the gap in technological progress between developed and developing nations.

“But if leading nations don’t encourage widespread adoption of technological improvements, we simply won’t get the potential boost from global productivity and profitability.

“As Ms Sirimanne said, ‘With an estimated market value of $350 billion today, the array of emerging digital solutions for life after COVID is likely to be worth over $3 trillion by 2025.”

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