Speech by Foreign Minister Baerbock at the opening ceremony of the mRNA vaccine plant in Rwanda

18.12.2023 - Speech


That was the name of Professor Sahin‘s and Professor Türeci‘s 10-month-project to develop an mRNA-based Covid vaccine.

It had never been done before. But it worked.

It was a remarkable achievement.

As is the place we are in today.

Producing vaccines in modular containers. Setting up a production site in under two years.

The pandemic brought to light the power of global innovation.

But the pandemic also taught us another lesson. A lesson about the harm of inequity.

Researchers from South Africa and Botswana were the first to analyse an important strain of the virus.

But despite the research push during the pandemic being so global, the world didn’t succeed in rolling out vaccines quickly and fairly to all people around our globe.

We cannot undo past failures.

But together, we can learn – and build a better future.

And that’s why today is such an important day. Also for us.

As Professor Sahin mentioned, this is more than a production site. Especially in these brutal global times.

The BioNTainer production site we are opening today will be the nucleus of a Rwandan pharmaceutical sector and ecosystem. A sector that in the future will supply the African medical market at affordable prices. That will employ scientists from Rwanda and other African countries.

And that will make us all safer.

As Team Europe, this is exactly the kind of partnership we are seeking under the Global Gateway initiative.

Partnerships that build resilience, not dependence.

Partnerships in which we learn from each other and with each other.

Through Global Gateway, the EU and its member states, inspired by an African Union project, have committed to invest more than 1.2 billion euro – half of the total coming from my country, Germany – to spur vaccine production in Rwanda, Senegal, Ghana, South Africa and Nigeria.

And we are delivering on that commitment.

I convey the best wishes of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

I am proud that Germany helped to create a sustainable business environment for BioNTech’s investment here in Rwanda.

Thanks to a partnership between the German Vaccine Authority and its Rwandan counterpart, the RFDA will soon be able to put African-made vaccines on the market.

And by co-creating a new pharmaceutical Master’s programme at Kigali university, where students started classes just last month – to fight the pandemics of the future and to study together.

Project lightspeed showed what is possible when we understand the urgency of our task.

And today marks a milestone in applying that insight to our global partnerships.

At a time when many are talking about deepening divisions in global politics, we have shown you here today that it’s not only a production site. But that in times of deepening divisions, we are showing what African-European cooperation can achieve.

We are showing that together, we are building a stronger global health system.

That together, we will achieve something that will help us tackle global crises.

Maybe not always at the speed of light. But that’s what we’re aiming for!


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