ISTANBUL – Turkey will send 15 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to Africa, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced on Saturday at a major summit of the continent's leaders, adding that the low vaccination rates there were a blot on humanity.
Ankara has invested heavily in developing trade and diplomatic ties with the world's poorest continent during Erdogan's rule as prime minister and then president since 2003.
Speaking to dozens of attending leaders and ministers, Erdogan said Turkey would ship 15 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to Africa, where cases are rapidly rising and vaccination rates are low.
"We are aware of the global injustice in accessing the COVID-19 vaccine and Africa's unjust treatment," Erdogan said.
"It is disgraceful for humanity that only six percent of Africa's population has been vaccinated."
Turkey is developing its own vaccine, known as Turkovac, which is in the process of receiving emergency use approval.
Following any authorisation, it will be shared with Africa, Erdogan said.
It was not immediately clear from his remarks whether Turkey would first send some doses of the internationally approved vaccines it was currently using, including those developed by Pfizer-BioNTech.
"In order to contribute to the resolution of this issue, within our means, we plan to share 15 million vaccine doses in the period ahead," he said.
SOARING INFECTION RATES
The number of new infections in Africa has shot up by 57% in the past week, according to AFP calculations based on official figures.
South Africa is the hardest-hit country, and the first country to identify the new Omicron variant, which is believed to be even more contagious than past coronavirus strains.
Erdogan said Turkey wanted to strengthen relations with Africa in a wide range of areas including health, defence, energy, agriculture and technology.
"The real potential between us goes far beyond the targets we have," he said.
In a final declaration, Turkey and African countries agreed to strengthen cooperation in several fields, including health "through further health sector investments".
"With the declaration we have accepted at this summit and the joint action plan, we agreed on a road map to deepen our relations," Erdogan told a closing media event.
FOCUS ON TRADE
Trade between Turkey and Africa has grown in the past 20 years from $5.4 billion to $25.3 billion last year.
And in the first 11 months of 2021, it had reached $30 billion, Erdogan said.
Turkey has set an even higher target of trade volume for the future: $75 billion.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the third Turkish-African summit – by far the largest to date – was being attended by 16 African heads of state and 102 ministers, including 26 top diplomats.
Erdogan also held one-on-one meetings with African heads of state, including Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, who have both expressed an interest in Turkey's defence industry.
The next Turkey-Africa summit will be held in 2026 in an unspecified African country.