Statement by President von der Leyen at the ‘Vaccine Equity for Africa’ launch event, co-organised by BioNTech SE and the kENUP Foundation

Dear Dr. Şahin,

Thank you for hosting this Vaccine Equity for Africa event.

President Sall,
President Akufo-Addo,
President Kagame,

And leaders from the WHO – Dr Tedros –, the Africa CDC, European Investment Bank, and biotech institutes.

It has only been nine months since we first proposed, in Paris, the idea to bring vaccine production to Africa. Today, that simple but ground-breaking idea is seeing the light in the form of this state-of-the-art BioNTech container factory, like the one on display today.

This year already, at least two of these container factories will move to Africa. To Rwanda and to Senegal, where I visited last week the Institut Pasteur de Dakar. Close cooperation is ongoing with South Africa’s Biovac Institute. And with our partners in Ghana. We are advancing in record time. Commercial production is set to begin in 2023.

The ‘Vaccine Equity for Africa’ project is only possible thanks to teamwork. Starting with Africa’s declared ambition to build its own vaccine production capacity. Teaming up with a European innovation champion such as BioNTech. Supported by the European Union and the African Union. Governments in Europe and Africa. And the UN system. This is how we emerge from the pandemic and build a stronger future for Africa and Europe.

The initiative is first and foremost about vaccine equity. Vaccines from the new factories will be sold at not-for-profit prices, exclusively to African countries. They will be made in Africa, for Africa, with world-class technology.

At the same time, this initiative can advance public health and industry, well beyond the pandemic. We know the mRNA technology is revolutionary. It holds promises for the fight against other diseases, like malaria and tuberculosis. BioNTech factories can be adjusted within weeks to make different vaccines. It could thus be an African-made solution to diseases that currently kill millions.

This project is part of a larger ambition. By 2040, the African Union wants that 60% of the vaccines used on the continent are manufactured on the continent. The European Union fully supports that goal. Together with our Member States and financial institutions, we have committed over one billion euros in financing. To strengthen regulatory frameworks, and transfer skills and know-how. Because regional capacities are the cornerstone of global public health.

And the project goes even beyond public health. Building this technological capacity in Ghana, Rwanda, Senegal and South Africa – countries that are regional leaders in innovation – will strengthen the innovation ecosystem on the entire continent.

Distinguished guests,

There could be no better way to prepare for the EU-Africa Summit tomorrow. This initiative shows the power of our cooperation. It is a great example of our new Global Gateway investment package. And it represents the immense potential of our partnership, as equals. It’s a partnership that benefits both Africa and Europe. It creates new links between us.

Welcome to the future of EU-Africa cooperation.

Thank you.