“Angola and Portugal are condemned to live eternally embraced. Nothing can shake the relations that we always want to be good between our two countries,” Angolan President João Lourenço (known as JLo) said yesterday in a conversation with his Portuguese counterpart, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa at the EurAfrican Forum. “There are excellent relations between the States, which have only improved over the last few years,” Marcelo said for his part at the event where the pandemic and economic recovery were discussed, drawing attention to the good personal relationship between them.
“We have the same understanding about the urgency of overcoming the pandemic and we have the same understanding about the urgency of economic and social recovery”, said Marcelo, explaining that we are facing a “unique opportunity to take qualitative leaps” in the post-pandemic scenario. “If we can take qualitative leaps together, this is formidable,” added the Head of State, who called João Lourenço “my president”, as Angola assumed in September the leadership of the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP).
The debate between the two, by videoconference, took place at the end of the 4th EurAfrican Forum, an initiative of the Portuguese Diaspora Council. The focus of the conversation, mediated by journalist Cristina Esteves, was, however, covid-19. “There is a fundamental prior issue when it comes to economic and social development and economic recovery. Much of the world is in a pandemic,” said Marcelo. Although we are moving from “pandemic to endemic”, this is still present and leaves marks, he warned: “The pandemic exists and conditions the economic and social start, facing the coming years.”
Despite reminding that the vaccine “does not solve the problem like a magic bullet”, the Portuguese President recalled that it is “the possible solution to control the pandemic”. And he considers that the international effort to share vaccines, whether through bilateral cooperation mechanisms or the global COVAX mechanism, “is still insufficient” and must accelerate. Portugal has already promised three million doses, having already sent at least half – the majority to CPLP partner countries.
On the other side of the debate, as the leader of a country that has output like donated vaccines, João Lourenço publicly thanked the international solidarity. But he argued that more needs to be done. “The solidarity shown so far has been limited only to the donation of vaccines. It is insufficient. Another form of expression of solidarity would be to open up the capacity to our countries to acquire, with our resources, the vaccines we need,” he said, speaking about “immense difficulties” in gaining access to the vaccine market.
The president of the EurAfrican Forum, Durão Barroso, is also the president of the Global Alliance for Vaccines, one of the axes behind the COVAX mechanism. At the end of the forum, the former Portuguese prime minister also drew attention to the “shameful inequality” that still exists in access to vaccines. In the developed world, he said, 70% of citizens are vaccinated, while in Africa this figure is only 8% with one dose, compared to 5.2% with the full regimen.
Both presidents recalled that the pandemic can only be overcome at the global level. “Since today we live in a globalized world, the pandemic is global and the solution for this pandemic and others to come must also be global”, indicated João Lourenço. “The world economy will not recover so easily if there are countries that cannot overcome the problem of this pandemic. We need to worry about a global solution, that we all get out of this crisis, because otherwise the recovery of the global economy will be very difficult “, he said.
Marcelo recalled that “it is necessary to overcome the pandemic well”, warning that “we cannot have relapses” and stressing the importance of starting to plan for the next one that will appear. In this regard, he indicated that a global treaty in this area is already being prepared. “We have to be ready for the next pandemic”, defended Durão Barroso, warning that covid-19 served as an example of the consequences of the possible use of infectious diseases as a weapon.
The former president of the European Commission claimed, in another axis of his closing speech, that Africa is crucial for global challenges, such as a transition to a green and digital economy. And defend that at the next European Union-Africa summit, scheduled for February 2022, the two regions should take “a leap forward” and “seal a new partnership”. Also the head of Portuguese diplomacy, Augusto Santos, Silva, spoke of the importance of this “partnership between equals” which has become an objective, which goes beyond the idea of development aid or humanitarian aid.