Bangkok Post

Biden vows more Covid aid for Africa


WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden on Thursday announced a major new Covid vaccine donation for Africa and promised greater commitment to the continent as he welcomed his first African leader, Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta.

Meeting at the White House, Mr Biden and the Kenyan president promised to work together on climate change and ending violence on the Horn of Africa, although there appeared to be no headway on Kenya’s hopes on a trade deal.

Mr Biden announced that the United States would immediatel­y donate another 17 million doses of the singleshot Johnson & Johnson vaccine to the African Union, on top of 50 million doses already sent.

“As a continent we are lagging well behind the rest of the world in terms of being able to vaccinate our people,” Mr Kenyatta told Mr Biden in the Oval Office. “So any additional support like the president just mentioned is greatly welcomed and we look forward to that continued partnershi­p,” he said.

Mr Biden has vowed a leadership role for Washington on vaccines at a time that infections remain stubbornly high in parts of the United States where people refuse widely available shots. Most of sub-Saharan Africa has vaccinatio­n rates in the single digits, at the mercy of foreign donations due to the lack of indigenous production and prohibitiv­e costs of mass purchases.

Mr Kenyatta is the first African leader to visit Mr Biden’s White House amid a slowdown of travel and summits as a Covid-19 precaution.

“I’m committed to further elevating our ties with Kenya and nations across Africa as a whole. But Kenya is the key,” Mr Biden said.

Mr Biden has promised a new focus on democracy after the courting of autocratic leaders by his predecesso­r Donald Trump who also made no secret of his lack of interest in Africa.

Long seen as a pillar of stability, Kenya was wracked by political violence including after 2017 elections but Mr Kenyatta has since made peace with his once-bitter rival Raila Odinga.

Mr Kenyatta, who has vowed to fight corruption, came days after the Pandora Papers investigat­ion which found that Mr Kenyatta, together with six family members, owned a network of 11 offshore companies, one valued at $30 million (nearly 100 million baht).

Mr Biden did not address the allegation­s during the brief appearance before reporters but called for “strengthen­ing financial transparen­cy” and praised Mr Kenyatta’s record.

“I want to thank you for your leadership in defending the peace, security and democratic instincts of the region and your country,” Mr Biden said. “You’re doing a good job.”

Kenya is the current president of the UN Security Council and in that capacity has pushed to end fighting in neighbouri­ng Ethiopia.

 ?? AFP ?? Crowds cheer as Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta attends the inaugurati­on of a hospital in a Nairobi slum.
AFP Crowds cheer as Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta attends the inaugurati­on of a hospital in a Nairobi slum.

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