Please stay out of Africa, Tony Blair
This continent has bigger problems than Covid
In the past two weeks, Africa has once again come under attack from global public health policy. First, numerous countries barred travel from Southern Africa because of the Omicron variant — even though this was only discovered through South Africa’s outstanding epidemiological expertise and was already present elsewhere. And now Tony Blair has launched his own fusillade, demanding a new Africa policy to ensure the “ability to get Covid vaccines into people’s arms”.
Why does Blair think we need his leadership? Africa is made up of sovereign states. Nevertheless, the former PM is constantly popping up to “advise” countries that he feels are not following “correct Covid plans”, most recently as a “special Covid emissary” to Tanzania. It should be up to African countries to determine their own public health goals, and Covid-19 is far from the most serious public health concern in Africa today.
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In his article Blair states that without full vaccination “[in] the poorly vaccinated parts of the world the virus will continue to mutate, eventually spreading beyond a country’s borders”. Which begs the question: do Western countries fear that Africans will die of Covid, or rather that they will infect them with Covid? It seems more about the latter.
The former Labour leader’s intervention doesn’t seem to have much to do with African public health. The predicament of several African countries including my own, Ghana, is not primarily about Covid. Studies suggest that existing Covid antibody levels (natural immunity) on the continent, which were 22% by May 2021, are probably by now at least 40%. Meanwhile, non-communicable diseases are increasing and causing a lot of deaths, which has been exacerbated since the Covid-19 crisis. According to one recent study, “in Ghana, the burden and mortality from CNCDs [chronic non-communicable diseases] have achieved epidemic proportions” and “has been estimated that CNCDs are responsible for about 43% of deaths in the country”. Such diseases continue to destroy countless lives on the continent with no special interventions from world leaders like Mr. Blair.
I welcome Covid vaccines, but these vaccines will not address Africa’s health infrastructure fragility, nor the increasing death and declining life-expectancy that have resulted from the Covid crisis. The West should be interested in an equitable partnership that will support Africa to name their own public health goals. The sort of medical neo-colonialism displayed by Blair will always weaken the continent’s prospects.
Former leaders from the West should not only be interested in vaccinating Africans, but also in supporting Africans to fix their economies and health systems. This should include related indigenous approaches that will serve specific countries in Africa, but not the big brush that hastily defaces the entire continent. Look at country-by-country Covid death rates in Africa and compare the rate of mortality caused by Covid compared to other diseases: you will soon see that the Covid vaccine agenda is only a drop in the ocean of African public health challenges.
Africa does not need Blair’s efforts on the vaccine front: it needs an autonomous public health system.
Whilst he’s at it, he can stay out the UK as well.
He went to school less than a mile from my house in Edinburgh (we’re the same age). If only I’d known I could have taken preventative action.
He of Babylon whose haunting vanity and stained-glass self-regard requires flying buttresses of B-S to avoid collapse. His policies and opinons continue to compound the disinterest of UK voters, while confounding those he would next Save.
Great article, thank you. Such good points! I’m continually horrified by the hubris of Blair, Gates, WHO, trying to force western style models of public “health” policies on countries which, as the article points out, have different health priorities, different economic realities. The catastrophic effects of enforced lockdown policies on people who don’t eat if they don’t go out to work are worse than the effects of covid for the poor. Toby Green explains this in detail in “The Covid Consensus”. No amount of vaccination will overcome the problems of poverty, lack of adequate nutrition, clean water supplies, insanitary housing conditions and pollution.
There does seem to be a bleak humour in Western governments wringing their hands over whether or not they’re doing enough to help Africa deal with a disease that overwhelmingly kills… (checks notes) the old, the overweight and the chronically ill. I hadn’t realised high life expectancy, surplus nutrition and lack of physical activity were among Africa’s problems! The place just can’t catch a break.
Thank goodness our (old, overweight, chronically ill) politicians are on hand to take the problem seriously for them.
The people it kills tend to be those suffering from existing conditions, under nourished, chronically sick, very weak. That is why it is a threat to Africa
… or ‘over nourished’ obese people with chronic co-morbidities like hypertension, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and cvd who are only kept alive in the longer term by expensive pharmaceutical intervention because they refuse to change their self-destructive habits, as in ‘first world’ countries. Maybe Africans could teach these slothful wobblers a thing or two about real life.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/COVID-19_pandemic_death_rates_by_country has no African country in the top 50. Obviously many deaths in Africa will be going unrecorded due to a lack of state capacity, but note that it’s South Africa (probably among the sub-saharan countries with the most competent states) that’s 51st on the list, with c.1,500 deaths per million. The UK and US have around 2,100 and 2,300 per million respectively.
It also states “This (sic) data is for entire populations, and does not reflect the differences in rates relative to different age groups. For example, in the United States as of 27 April 2021, the reported case fatality ratios are 0.015%, 0.15%, 2.3%, and 17% for the age groups 0–17, 18–49, 50–74, and 75 or over, respectively,” citing the US CDC.
The UK Health Security Agency’s vaccine surveillance reports at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-vaccine-weekly-surveillance-reports contain info on deaths by age group and https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/populationandmigration/populationestimates/articles/overviewoftheukpopulation/january2021 has interactive estimates of the UK population by age in 2019: of deaths within 60 days of a positive test between the 1st and 28th of Nov, 45.8% were among over-80s (5.0% of 2019 pop), and 72.9% among over-70s (13.5% of 2019 pop). Fewer than 5% of deaths were among under-50s (62.3% of 2019 pop). I.e. [Edit: assuming constant infection rates across age groups, although I believe the highest rates are found in school-age children as they’re the population most tested when asymptomatic] the over-70s are almost 80 times more likely to die of Covid than the under-50s, and the over-80s are fully 130 times more likely to die of Covid than the under-50s (and vaccination rates are highest in the old).
The people Covid kills tend to be old. There is no factor as significant to Covid risk as age. Of those who aren’t, they tend to be overweight or have significant underlying health conditions (of the sort that would leave you vulnerable to plenty of other maladies endemic in Africa long before your 70th birthday).
https://www.indexmundi.com/map/?v=30&r=af&l=en and https://www.statista.com/statistics/1218173/life-expectancy-in-african-countries/ both suggest that the only African countries with life expectancies greater than 70 are in north Africa or small island nations (Mauritius, Seychelles), collectively accounting for well below 10% of the African population according to https://www.worldometers.info/population/countries-in-africa-by-population/. To put it bluntly, the average African simply doesn’t live long enough that Covid should be high up on his list of health concerns.
[Edit: this was of note in https://unherd.com/2021/12/south-africas-looming-vaccine-revolt/ – “Take-up of the crucial HIV-Aids retroviral dropped from 95% to 30%; malaria medication showed the same path. Attendances for tuberculosis screenings dropped by two-thirds, while consultations with GPs were down 60% and tens of thousands of urgent surgery procedures were postponed for the coronavirus patients who never arrived.”]
Thank you Tom. A most excellent response. I’ve been saying for almost 2 years: any “mortality rate”- whatever measure you want to use -based on the total population is practically useless for any decision making. Correction: it IS USELESS for any decision making by government, health or individual. Unless these statistics (and there are a number of measures that are useful) are reported at more granular levels, e.g. by age, by gender, by co-morbitity, by vaccination status, by X, by Y, etc. they tend to primarily engender uncertainty and fear.
To add insult to injury, the use of any single statistic as the basis for a one-size-fits-all mandates seems ludicrous, if the results, intended or otherwise, were not so harmful.
The URL references are especially helpful.
In fact no-one needs Blair or his advice on anything at all.
No one sane likes Tony Blair, but whether or not he makes a nuisance of himself in Africa has no effect on politicians stealing money from their citizens to fund their private lifestyles.
I think your efforts would be better spent focusing on that, rather than a man who is inconsequential.
Hayden – Well said!. I was going to make a similar point. For the past 60+ years Africa has received vast billions of dollars in foreign aid payments, much, if not most of which has swelled private bank accounts in Switzerland and elsewhere. Corruption, appalling governance and violent autocratic rule kill far more people than ever will Covid-19 and its variants. And the uncontrolled birth and fertility rates don’t help either.
Politicians from Western democracies should stop wringing their hands about the need to support Africa and start telling Africa to get a grip of their own destiny. However, for as long as the West throws money at Africa why should they change? The torrent of dollars into private bank accounts would dry up otherwise!
They don’t need a “vaccine” that does more harm than good, for a problem that the body can handle without intervention for 99% of the population.
Africa has by far the lowest infection and mortality rate per capita from covid in the world. By far. This is despite having poor vaccination coverage. We also know that vaccines don’t prevent people from getting infected and spreading covid. Vaccines don’t prevent mutations. Why is Africa so important in terms of covid vaccinations ,again??!?
Hear hear (from Cape Town).
If you study the data, particularly the rates per 1000, for African countries and compare that to G7 countries, for example, it makes for some eye-popping observations.
Going on those statistics alone (it is far more complex I agree) one would have to deduce that African nations are doing something right in comparison to their ‘first world’ (I hate that term) counterparts.
Maybe it is less obese people, younger ages, healthier lifestyles, sunshine, fresh air, or maybe even the far lower vaccine rate or the use of Ivermectin and HCQ.
Whatever the cause, it is worth doing some serious research. At the same time a cost-benefit is urgently needed to find out if covid measures are damaging to African nations, on both a continental level and as individual nations.
In the meantime I think Tony Blair and his cronies like Bill Gates are two of the last people you want anywhere near this beautiful continent.
He just wants to get his hands on some of their mineral wealth – Like Hunter Biden, get a percent of all the ore leaving, in exchange for making important introductions. He needs to keep in the high circles – in his case the Vultures circling high over Africa (where China takes the biggest circle) he has to be high in the flock to get the best bits.
So many contradictions, on the one hand we shouldn’t be medaling in foreign affairs and on the other hand we should be medaling in them. Is it help or just simple self interest? That so many poor countries have problems with corruption gives is the right to judge and yet we might be at fault or not for their situation. Give that these are sovereign nations maybe we should mind our own business. Or do we have some moral high ground that gives western nations the right to nose in? Whatever, it will never be right and we ourselves aren’t setting the best example either! So maybe we should clean up our own act before medaling in other peoples business.
This seems a rather hard commentary on a man who more than most politicians does think deeply and make sensible suggestions. And cares a great deal for the world I think. He is only making some sensible suggestions, and you seem to agree with him.
Why so against him?
Because he is a thoroughly dodgy character and is probably in the pockets of big pharma.
If even the Guardian can be alarmed, then anyone can https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2009/dec/01/mystery-tony-blair-finances
Anyway, even if his finances are in order, he needs to stay the hell away from Africa for the reason outlined in this article.
I don’t know the man who wrote this article, thus these antagonistic responses to his knowledgeable account of the health problems in African countries has surprised me.
It is donkeys’ years since I lived and worked in Nigeria but what he says rings true with me – besides typhoid and cholera, there is malaria which accounts for an enormous amount of deaths, suffering, and long-term illness; a water-borne disease in areas with no tap waster which causes blindness (can’t remember the name); Ebola (which only came to the notice of the West when it occurred in Sierra Leone where there were foreign nationals) but this horrifying disease has been endemic in remote areas for ever; HIV (and thus Aids) as it goes untreated amongst the poor who can’t afford the expensive palliatives, No doubt there are other diseases to which African nationals have more knowledge than me..
However when you weigh these diseases against Covid 19 where only a tiny proportion of our total population have died, I understand why it is of low priority in most African countries.
There can be no argument as to the appalling problems which Africa faces, especially in health. The West really needs to do a lot more to assist the people of that continent. That is what T Blair is suggesting, albeit with Covid at this point, which as we know is not that a major a problem – except to people who have underlying health conditions. Which is particularly so in parts of Africa.
Nor should we politically interfere, though we should be supporting those national governments which promote democracy, liberty, education, peace, and enterprise.
The West should do nothing of the sort–it can only end badly: Iraq, Afghanistan. Africa, writ large, needs to solve it’s own problems, starting with corruption.
Enough with the white saviors. Let Africa sink or swim on its own.
Is he? And is he? Any proof that you would care to show us?
That article is over 12 years old!
So? Pretty unlikely he’s changed for the better….
Where to begin?
Somewhere, would be a start!
I’d start with Iraq, there’s enough there to last a while. Cares a great deal about the world indeed – pity for the world!
I was going to give it a thumbs down and then I realised Peter was being facetious.
A serious question, if that is what it is, deserves a serious answer. In no particular order – his betrayal of Gordon Brown, his relationship with Bill Clinton and then George Bush. His relationship with Kazakstan, Rupert Murdoch, the devaluing of UK politics by his presidential style and the promotion of Peter Mandelson and Alistair Campbell, his friendship with Gadaffi, abolishing the Primary Purpose Rule, the Dodgy Dossier (the general term encompassing the allegation that he is a War Criminal), the self-referential and now ignominious Faith Foundation. Replaced, as his attention turns to Africa, by another foundation, his promiscuity with divinity (to paraphrase Giles Fraser’s description of Boris Johnson). The list could go on. There is a deep-rooted perception that this is a man who will do or say anything he thinks will bring him personal kudos. That, combined with a genuine and righteous drive to opinionate on everything leads others to consider him a dangerous kinda guy.
Yes, personal kudos and meanwhile lining his pockets.
Because he has a white savior complex. I’m from the government and I’m here to help…..
Tony can LET’S GO BRANDON!
Give us a break. Blair is an agent of the dark side everyone knows that. Have a look and see how many millions the Blair Foundation received from the Gates Foundation.
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