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Vaccine Inequity; Interview With Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo; Meghan Markle Speaks Out. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired March 8, 2021 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR.
Here's what's coming up.
MEGHAN MARKLE, DUCHESS OF SUSSEX: I just didn't want to be alive anymore.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): The duchess of Sussex shares her pain. I talk to Sir Peter Westmacott, former royal insider and former ambassador to the
United States, about what Meghan and Harry's story reveals about the royal family.
Also joining me, British American writer Bonnie Greer.
ALEXANDER DE CROO, BELGIAN PRIME MINISTER: The`his is a moment to not talk about trust, but to show that we can be trustworthy.
AMANPOUR: This Belgian prime minister is a feminist. on International Women's Day, we talk to Alexander De Croo, a male ally who means it.
Then: the glaring inequalities of the global vaccine rollout from Dr. Ayoade Alakija, tasked with getting every African a shot in the arm.
HAYLEY ARCENEAUX, INSPIRATION4 HOPE SEAT CREW MEMBER: They told me about this mission. And then they asked if I wanted to go to space. And,
immediately, I said yes. It was a no-brainer.
AMANPOUR: A billionaire invites a cancer survivor to see stars. Entrepreneur Jared Isaacman and physician assistant Hayley Arceneaux tell
Walter Isaacson about the charitable civilian mission to space.
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London, where the British royal family is dealing with the shockwaves from
Meghan and Harry's interview with Oprah.
In her first public comments since taking a step back from official duties, the duchess of Sussex gave a glimpse into what it was really like for her
after marrying Prince Harry. She says she was so isolated and unsupported that she thought about taking her own life. And she told Prince Harry about
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARKLE: I knew that if I didn't say it, that I would do it. And I just didn't -- I just didn't want to be alive anymore. And that was a very clear
and real and frightening constant thought.
And I remember -- I remember how he just cradled me. And I was -- I went to the institution. And I said that I needed to go somewhere to get help, said
that I have never felt this way before and I need to go somewhere. And I was told that I couldn't, that it wouldn't be good for the institution.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Now, among many shocking revelations, Meghan also claimed unnamed members of the royal household had very troubling conversations
with Harry while she was pregnant about what the color of their son's skin would be.
Today, Oprah said that it was not the queen or Prince Philip.
Sir Peter Westmacott served as deputy private secretary to Prince Charles, Harry's father, of course. Later, he was British ambassador to the United
More than 17 million Americans watched last night, and millions more will watch around the world tonight.
Ambassador Westmacott is joining me now.
And thanks for being with us.
I want to know, from your gut reaction and from your perspective, having been on the inside in the royal household as private secretary, how big a
drama, how much of a shockwave is this for the institution, as Meghan calls it, the firm, as many other others call it, just basically the royal
PETER WESTMACOTT, FORMER BRITISH AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: Well, thank you, Christiane, for having me on.
Of course, we don't yet know quite what the impact will be. But we do recall that some of the very big interviews that Prince Charles gave and
Princess Diana did make an impact and there were shockwaves for some time.
And it's obviously clear from the reactions that there have been to this two-hour program that there will be reverberations. I think, how will the
family react? I suspect many members won't actually watch this. That's quite often what happens in the royal family. My guess is, there will be a
degree of hurt that there is a personal nature to some of these criticisms.
And, of course, let's remember that in most families the opportunity to work out your personal difficulties is there in private. And here we have a
lot of this laid bare, one side of a story. And that's always a painful thing to do. And it's a particularly painful thing to do when you are the
most public family in the country, if not in the world, and where you have a very strong sense of your own duty and responsibility to discharge your
public duties, and, hopefully not normally, to have all your private affairs made public.
So, obviously, there will be an impact. But I think also that the inclination, especially for the monarch who has been on the throne as long
as she has to see it all, will be just to get on with life.
AMANPOUR: OK, that's interesting. I wondered whether you thought maybe, given the nature of the allegations, for instance, about racism, that they
might be forced to put out some kind of statement to address some of those.
Let me just play this sound bite, which by now everybody has seen and people are digesting. And it was pretty shocking when it landed on Oprah's
lap. Let's just play this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARKLE: In those months when I was pregnant, all around this same time, so we have, in tandem, the conversation of, he won't be given security, he's
not going to be given a title, and also concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he's born.
OPRAH WINFREY, PRODUCER/PHILANTHROPIST: What? There's a conversation with you?
MARKLE: With Harry.
WINFREY: About how dark your baby is going to be?
MARKLE: Potentially, and what that would mean or look like.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Well, I mean, you can see the visible shot from Oprah, who's pretty much seen and heard it all. What did you feel when you just listen
WESTMACOTT: A couple of points, Christiane.
The first thing I would say is that, thinking back to the wedding not a little bit less than three years ago, I saw the way the prince of Wales
walked Meghan down the aisle, so to speak, at Windsor Castle, because her own father wasn't there, was a splendid gesture of welcome.
And I sensed at the time -- in fact, I know at the time, he could not have been happier for them, and delighted to see the royal family, if you like,
as inclusively modernizing -- terrible words, but I used them anyway -- in the way that it was. It was a wonderful occasion.
And I think the royal family were quite delighted. And we saw that in a pleasure on the queen's face and the other members of the family. So I
think that was utterly genuine. I'm surprised by some of the things that have been said. The business of whether or not he's going to be called a
prince, of course, there's a protocol about that it is the grandson of grandchildren of reigning monarchs are given the title prince, is the
And so I'm not sure that it's totally surprising that that wasn't the case for Archie, but, of course, I don't know the full background. And the other
comment, it's deeply wounding, and I can sense the pain that Meghan, the duchess, must have felt.
But, sometimes, there are moments when we're all guilty of a kind of unconscious bias. We say something. We don't realize the unintended
consequences of it and how painful those things can be, when they're actually sometimes said innocently, naively, stupidly.
So, I don't know the background, but I'm just thinking that all of us are sometimes said stuff which afterwards we saw was crass or insensitive,
possibly racist, in my judgment, anyway, usually not intended to be.
So, I don't know the background. It's distressing the way it was told. And I totally understand the shock that Oprah Winfrey felt, but I think people
might want to know the full story.
AMANPOUR: Yes, I mean, is the shock that's actually being heard around the world.
And both Harry and Meghan were very, very clear in their interview that none of this feeling of hurt or being targeted did they lay at the feet of
the queen or Prince Philip. They were very clear about that. In fact, Meghan said over and over again that she felt very welcomed by the queen
and very comfortable in the queen's presence.
But, as someone, for instance, who was around when the Princess Diana drama was happening -- and we know that Prince Harry has said over and again, and
not for the first time last night, that he didn't want to see history repeat itself, with the press hounding his wife like they did his mother.
We know how traumatic and how much PTSD he has about the death of his mother, which he lays at the feet of the press, essentially.
You also had to deal with that. I mean, talk honestly about what many believe is a fairly rabid nature of the British royal and tabloid press.
WESTMACOTT: I think, Christiane, the first thing to say is that it's hard to imagine or to explain the degree of stress that comes from the exposure
that you get once you marry into the most famous family in the world. You may think you're prepared for it, but it is incredibly difficult.
And the duchess of York found it very painful. The princess of Wales found it at times extraordinarily painful. So it's the level of scrutiny in everything you do, do or don't do. Some of the stories that are told are
true. Some are not. If they couldn't get the principals, then they will sometimes have a go at the courtiers, the people that were trying to advise
them, like me.
So, that's -- the first thing is, it's really very, very hard. So, I think it's not totally surprising that that should be how -- there is a sense of
concern. But I was very distressed to hear that she was even contemplating suicide.
But it is a very difficult process. And that's why I think members who -- of the public or members who are not from a royal background need as much
help as they possibly can to adapt to such an existence.
AMANPOUR: I think almost that's kind of the message here, that, no matter how much outsiders think they know what they're going into, they really
don't. And the sense of duty that the actual royal family feel and have been trained from childhood, presumably, to try to follow is very difficult
for outsiders to understand.
WESTMACOTT: I think that's right.
AMANPOUR: I want to ask you, because him so well -- yes. Yes, go ahead.
WESTMACOTT: I was just going to say, very briefly, I think you have touched on a very important point there.
I do -- and I'm sense speaking for myself -- that, from the point of view of the royal family, the counterpart to the privileges that come from being
born by birth, by an accident of birth, into this extraordinary position is a very strong sense of duty and responsibility. And that is felt throughout
the royal family.
And, of course, it is therefore transmitted on to people who come from the outside. And adapting to that when you haven't been born to it is really
very difficult sometimes.
I'm sorry. I interrupted.
AMANPOUR: No, no, that's OK.
Before I move on, because I want to talk to Bonnie Greer in a second, but, very quickly, I mean, look, Prince Andrew is an active member of the royal
family. And he's had some pretty -- pretty difficult and serious allegations leveled at him. And he did an interview that did not turn out
very well for him.
And yet it seems that Meghan is -- seems to be hounded more by the press than Prince Andrew was. Can you see that sort of disconnect between a woman
of color who's an outsider, and an actual one of them, one of us, son Prince Andrew?
WESTMACOTT: I don't see that.
I recall that she got a fantastically positive, enthusiastic, happy press at the beginning. And then things went a bit difficult afterwards, and
there was some stories about behavior and activity or private flights, or shower parties, whatever it was, nasty stuff that was written about her.
And what we do have to remember -- I remember saying this at the time of the wedding -- it's wonderful now, but the way the media operate is that
they build somebody up high in order to watch them fall, crashing down, when they decide that the tide has changed or something happens.
It's a it's a very difficult thing.
AMANPOUR: Right. Right.
WESTMACOTT: But I don't see this as being linked in any sense to an issue of race. I simply never detected that. And I have never sensed any sense of
racist prejudice within members of the royal family, who are, by the way, deeply attached to the commonwealth and to people of, I would say, all
races and faiths in this country.
AMANPOUR: All right, Sir Peter Westmacott, thank you for joining us tonight.
And listening to that is author, playwright, and also columnist for "The New European" newspaper Bonnie Greer. She, of course, grew up in Chicago,
but she's lived in the U.K. for the past several decades. And she's joining me now from London.
Bonnie Greer, what do you make of the fact that some of what I was asking Sir Peter Westmacott as an insider, how do you see the disconnect between
how well Meghan was welcomed and how incredibly positive it all was at the beginning, which is true, to how it all went crashing down to where we are
BONNIE GREER, COLUMNIST, "THE NEW EUROPEAN": First of all, Christiane, thank you for having me. It's good to see you again.
It's a very complex situation here. And I think a lot of British people don't realize the complexity of it because they're born in it, they're
raised in it. I have been in my time a deputy chair of the British Museum. I have served on a board of one Prince Charles' charities.
I have an honor from the queen, so I have met her. I have been in the palaces several times and watched people swarm around these royals. And
it's a very, very symbiotic -- I don't want to use the word schizophrenic, because that's absolutely incorrect -- but it's a situation in which
there's a deep love, hate, envy kind of thing here.
And the royal family, particularly those who marry into it, are very cognizant of the it can flip on a dime attitude that people have about this
family. On one hand, they love them, they're proud of them, they stand with their flags, they're there for the weddings, they're there for the
funerals, but they own them.
And I think what you -- what they must find out, at the end of the day, when the lights are down, and the curtains are drawn, someone turns around
and tells you, your life is not yours, it belongs to them.
And, right now, what's going on in the country, as some of us are talking about a kind of split in the character of the British. People are just
really pushing back. They don't want to know. They have become very bunkered, in the sense that they don't -- they think the whole thing is
But that, Christiane, is so interesting, because that's a generational thing. Younger people, millennials up, they're not there. And particularly
the ethnic minority community, particularly the black British community, who were very proud of this moment, very proud of Harry, very proud of
Harry, that he did -- that he married Meghan and that they came together, this is a real blow. It is a real blow.
AMANPOUR: Let me ask you, because I asked to Sir Peter Westmacott, because he knew it from a different side of the coin, really, how one deals with
the British press, and the tabloid press and the royal correspondents.
There's been so much written about it. And you can see it. You can see how different stories are written about different members of the family. But I
want to play this bit from LBC, one of the radio stations here, and it's now quite well known because many in the black community have pointed it
out as a very either conscious or unconscious bias towards racism.
Let's just play this.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right, you may not agree, but I believe that Meghan Markle has never been fully accepted because of her skin color. Let's be
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, God, that one again, that one again.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you look at her -- Michael, do you look at her and see a black woman? Because I don't. I see a very attractive -- I see a very
attractive woman. It has never occurred to me that -- I never look at her and think, gosh, she's black, in the way you look at Oprah Winfrey, you
would be in no doubt.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, Bonnie, break that down for us.
GREER: Please let me.
First of all, that's a well-known commentator here. It sounds like Andrew Pierce. And there's a couple of things going on there. First of all,
of course she's not black because she's attractive. He doesn't think that's racist
And then the other one is talking about, well, she's not accepted. And he says -- there's so many tropes floating past, and they're unconscious,
they're deeply unconscious, and it's harming the country's standing, and it's harming the black community here very, very deeply.
It's almost like one of these movies where you're beating your hand against this wall while you're being driven away in a truck. They're not listening
to you. They don't hear you. And in listening to Sir Peter, who is a very fine guy, that's an example of it. They can't hear it.
And partly it's because of the royal family is, by one stretch, powerful, and they're also, as Harry said last time or implied, they're prisoners.
They're prisoners are the feeling of this country about this royal family and all royal families, because there's a deep resentment as well.
And they're also prisoners of the tabloid press, who basically decree they are what they are. We talking about "The Daily Mail" and MailOnline. Piers
Morgan on his breakfast television show at 6:30 in the morning is a real Meghan hater.
So, it sort of envelops this country, while at the same time they love and respect their royal family. I mean, there was a rumor last night that
Meghan and Harry had said something horrible about the queen. Well, they didn't do that.
But people were suddenly screaming. And then you have got the other side want the monarchy to go, just completely go. So, abolish the monarchy was
And it's a deep emotional -- deep emotional fight and struggle in -- deep inside the British. And it's very hard to explain to people outside, but
it's very deep.
AMANPOUR: Yes, it's really amazing to see how this has impacted so far and wide. And we will watch to see how it impacts the institution and what
comes out of
Bonnie Greer, thank you so much for being with us again.
And, of course, if you know someone who's in need of help, reach out to the International Association for Suicide Prevention or Befrienders Worldwide.
If you're in the U.S. reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can call them at 1-800-273-8255.
It is, of course, International Women's Day, a time not only to celebrate the extraordinary achievements of women, but also to reflect on the long
road ahead to full equality.
This year, the global pandemic has hit women the hardest, especially in the work force. The leader of the World Trade Organization, Ngozi Okonjo-
Iweala, told me that, in order to make change, women need male allies.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NGOZI OKONJO-IWEALA, DIRECTOR-GENERAL, WORLD TRADE ORGANIZATION: Women don't have access to the same means of production, if you want to put it
that way, access to credit, access to means to empower themselves. And that holds them back.
And, Christiane, I want to say something. We need to talk to men in order to change things. It's not good enough to just talk to ourselves as women.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Indeed, and that was Ngozi talking to me on the eve of becoming the first female head of the World Trade Organization.
Now, one man who talks the talk and walks the walk is the Belgian prime minister, Alexander De Croo. He's put gender equality at the center of his
post-COVID build back plan. And he's also the author of the book "The Age of Women: Why Feminism Also Liberates Men."
Prime Minister De Croo is joining me now from Brussels.
And, Prime Minister, welcome to the program.
I really was interested to have you on this program, because you have written a book about feminism. And you pretty much have validated what the
head of the WTO has said, that male allies are needed and that equality is good for men as well.
How did you come to that point of view? What made you actually put this down in a book?
DE CROO: Well, first of all, thank you for having me to talk about a topic which I have always been very interested in since a young age. I had a mom
who was a very active feminist and who talked to me a lot about it.
But I really rediscovered it as a minister for development corporation, where I saw, throughout the world, when there is misery throughout the
world, it is women and girls who take the heavy burden.
But I also saw that when countries develop and when countries developed well, the more gender equality you have, the more inclusive your growth is,
the better it actually works.
And we see that on a country level. But we also see this in our own environments. If you have, let's say, the council of your kids, school, the
parents council, or you have a sports club in which you are in management, and if you have a decision table with only men with gray hair and blue
suits, or you have a diverse decision table, I think everyone knows, in these turbulent times, which decision table is going to take the best
AMANPOUR: The diverse one, of course.
So, let me ask you, because you have made this a point. Your government is evenly split, 10 women and 10 men, but the top eight roles, just two of
them are filled by women. And your predecessor as prime minister, who was a woman, she lasted actually only a year.
What are you doing to try to balance those scales and make it more female- friendly, because it's more efficient and effective, and it delivers better, as you have just said? And just to add, you also have the first
trans female member of government in your in your government as well.
DE CROO: Yes, we do.
And, actually, on the Belgian level, no one really talked about the fact that she was trans. Everyone praise her for the fact that she's a very
Now, the key point is, if you look at it, the economic case for gender equality is clear-cut. It's extremely sound. And if you look at the world
today -- and this is also the case in Belgium -- what a waste of talent.
I mean, we have a great education system. If you look at the end of higher education, you see that, in general, women have better scores, have better
grades men. And then we all go into labor force. And 10 years down the road, the question is, what happens to all those women?
Now, what we see is that there is one very decisive moment. That is when we start to have families and so on. And, there, we do make choices. And we
think that those are choices we take in free will. But, by accident, it seems that everything which is more domestic tasks ends up with women, and
the men feel that they are pushed into a direction of being the one providing mostly for the -- for the household.
And that moment, you really need to take some measures. We have doubled the paternity leave in Belgium, because we have seen that if fathers take up
their father role at a very young age, that actually helps in equally distributing the tasks at home.
We have also seen that, in an intelligent way, if you use quota in an intelligent way, it works. And, for example, we see it in politics. You
have talked about our gender parity government. We also see that, in our Parliament, which is the result of pure democracy, we have today now the
Parliament with the third highest share of female members of Parliament. And that's a good thing.
Why would you not use all the talent and all the possibilities of half of your population? Women are not the minority? They're actually a majority.
AMANPOUR: Precisely, and it's great to hear you say that loud and clear.
So I want to ask you, then, there's a problem all over the world, certainly in Europe. Women in the work force have been disproportionately hit by this
pandemic. Let's just read some of the stats.
The Eurostat figures show women's unemployment in the E.U. has grown faster to 7.9 percent compared to 7.1 percent for men. We know, as you just said,
that, under COVID, there's been so much domestic and gender- based violence. It's increased during the lockdowns.
And, today, you visited a center for sexual assault and domestic abuse. Again, what can you do? Because you have just said women are half the
world. They produce so much talent and actual real-life GDP, and yet they're being laid off.
DE CROO: Well, as I said at the beginning of the interview, when there is trouble in the world, it's often women and girls who are disproportionately
more affected. We see that in civil war.
We have also seen in this pandemic. It is very often women in the work force who have to take the very heavy tasks. And when there was a balancing
to be done with taking care of families, it was again women who had to combine -- combine everything.
But interesting that you relate it to a pandemic. I think, today, everyone knows the concept of a pandemic and what the impact of a pandemic is, and
we know it now with COVID. But if you talk about domestic violence, if you talk about sexual violence, this has been a pandemic against women that has
been going on for decades.
I mean, the human and the economic costs of sexual violence and of gender- based violence is a gigantic one. And so centers like the one I visited this morning are extremely important to open up the debate, but also to
better take care of victims who often are in a situation where they are not able to file complaints and to make sure that wrongdoers are being pursued.
AMANPOUR: Prime Minister De Croo, thank you so much for joining us on this International Women's Day. Thank you for your perspective.
And now another area of inequality is on COVID vaccines, not necessarily gender-based, though. Millions of Europeans and Americans are already
vaccinated. But there are some countries in Africa where not one person has been vaccinated, not a single one.
Ayoade Alakija is co-chair of the African Union Vaccine Delivery Alliance. And she's helping secure vaccines for the continent. And she's joining me
now from Abuja in Nigeria.
Welcome. Welcome to the program.
You just heard my conversation with the Prime Minister of Belgium about trying to get equality and parity on a gender-based issue. What is it like
for you in Africa on this vaccine issue? What is lacking? Why -- why are you not getting what you need in Africa right now?
AYOADE ALAKIJA, CO-CHAIR, AFRICAN VACCINE DELIVERY ALLIANCE: Well, thank you very much for having me, Christiane. And happy International Women's
Gender parity, you've just talked about, and gender equity but now, today, we have vaccine equity as the main issue of the moment.
In Africa, we are seeing in the European countries and in America, for instance, 3 million people are being vaccinated a day, an amazing feat of
logistics and delivery. And yet, in Africa, the country that have received the most vaccines to date is Nigeria that I'm sitting in today and we have
only received 3.9 million vaccines for over 210 million people.
So, there is the issue, very clear issue of a total disparity in the haves and the have nots in this world. The vaccine equity issue means that if we
have mutants and variants growing in different countries around the world, whilst you'd race off to them in the western world in, you know, Europe or
America and try to shut our countries out, say, Africa or South America, we're in a race against time, we're in a race against the virus, and there
is no way that we can win this race unless we have equity, unless everybody has a chance to get a vaccine.
AMANPOUR: And yet, the resources are not equally disbursed as we've been saying. This is what the head of W.H.O., Dr. Tedros said, about this issue.
Let's just take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, DIRECTOR-GENERAL, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: It's encouraging to see health workers in lower income
countries starting to be vaccinated, but it is regrettable that this comes almost three months after some of the wealthiest countries started their
vaccination campaigns, and it's regrettable that some countries continue to prioritize vaccinating younger, healthier adults at low risk of disease in
their own populations ahead of health workers and older people elsewhere.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, Dr. Alakija, do you feel that African nations have a seat at this table about vaccinations and do you feel that western countries, if
they didn't before, are beginning to understand that actually everybody needs to be vaccinated and that they have the -- either the will and the
resources to direct in that direction -- to put in that direction?
ALAKIJA: Great question, Christiane. Thanks. The fast one about the seat at the table, I sort of chuckled a little because I have just done a
lecture at the London School of Hygiene where I've talked to young women about grabbing a seat at the table, and it is very much the issue with
So, if you -- if they don't give you a seat at the table, you grab a chair, and if they don't give you a chair, get on the table. And I think that very
much is what the Africa Union Vaccine Acquisition task team has done. At the very beginning, you know, we were left behind, there's no doubt about
it. We were left behind. There was a race for vaccines. And I mean, absolute credit to the scientific and research community and the production
and pharma companies that created and made these vaccines in record time. I think that has been one of the challenges, because everyone was not quite
expecting to us have vaccines so soon.
So, the minute they came, they were bought up. And in getting ourselves a seat at the table, Africa, you know, led by the -- President Ramaphosa of
South Africa, decided themselves to go look for vaccines, search the world for vaccines, which has been done. But the issue is, the western nations,
to the other part of your question, not just the west or let's call it the global north, have bought up every available vaccine. Production lags mean
the vaccines cannot be made quick enough for the -- you know, there's a scarcity in the production.
And so, as Dr. Tedros just said very rightly, countries are vaccinating everybody. You know, there's some countries who would have -- I mean, I
know that U.K. now is down to 50-year-olds and would have vaccinated everybody perhaps by June or July. And yet, African nation still haven't --
some of them, I think only 10 African nations to date have received vaccines through the COVAX, the vaccine alliance, which is a brilliant
initiative, but it is not enough.
COVAX is looking at 2020 plus percent of vaccines for an entire population of people. And as we know, to reach the herd immunity we need to go higher
AMANPOUR: Dr. Alakija, some people are very concerned -- well, I am very curious about the graphs that we are seeing and the charts, which show that
the caseload and the death load in many African countries is really, really low, and it's sounds to us very counter intuitive, because at the beginning
of this, we were told that, you know, countries with, you know, less sophisticated public health structures, more developing countries with less
resources would be very badly infected.
First of all, are those correct statistics? And if they are, what do you attribute them to?
ALAKIJA: Thanks, Christiane. There are two things going on there. Number one, no. The statistics are not correct. We don't have adequate data,
unfortunately. We don't have the diagnostics. In Abuja, that I'm sitting in today, a private test will cost you upwards of $100 plus, maybe almost
$200. Not everybody -- I mean, very few people can afford that. And not only that, you have tests in capital cities of some countries, not even all
countries. So, our diagnostic capacity is very, very limited. So, what we're seeing in terms of numbers of both sick and deaths from COVID are
nowhere near the true picture.
Having said that, you know, we were expecting a deluge, we were expecting, you know, an absolute catastrophe on the continent. And I think what we
have done is that we have dealt with epidemics before, we've dealt with the HIV/Aids, we've dealt with Ebola, we've dealt with yellow fever, with
cholera on the continent. So, our public health systems in dealing with these things responded very quickly, and that is a capacity we have on the
We have people, we have capacity, we have know-how, we have knowledge, but we don't have the financial resources. And this is where the issue of
equity comes in, that we have a place at the table that you referred to earlier where we can assist the western nations, the global north,
whichever, the U.S., the U.K. who are not so able to deal with these shots because they don't have the experience. But in turn, we need to be equal
partners at that table. We're not out with a begging bowl, we're saying, look, we are the same global community, we have to work hand in hand
together to ensure that we end this pandemic and as quickly as possible.
AMANPOUR: Right. So, a personal question, because it is International Women's Day, I want to ask you from your perspective how it was for you to
rise to where you are right now. But also, I wanted to ask the Belgian prime minister, and I ran out of time, you know, is he is impressed by his
neighboring female prime ministers and as far afield as New Zealand and elsewhere who really, you know, got a grip on the COVID crisis from the
ALAKIJA: Well, first of all, let me say that Jacinda Ardern is my total hero. I -- my second is Fiji. I live in Fiji most of the time and, you
know, I would say that she is absolutely just an incredible woman. What she has done has been amazing and has really given us pride.
For me, how I got to where I am, I just I think told that story, it took about an hour, but it has been hard work, grit and determination. You know,
just never giving up, just, you know, looking up to other women of substance around the world. You know, Dr. Ngozi, as you've just referred to
earlier on, is just an amazing woman, and having people like that that one can look up to.
I would also say, people like yourself, Christiane, because I have been watching you for years. You're an international woman phenomenon. So, we
should be celebrating you as well on this day. And we all know what it has taken to get here, and it's now up to us to make sure that the next
generation and those after them can go far better and can have far less challenges than we have had along our journeys.
AMANPOUR: You are too kind, Dr. Akijia, but as they say, if you can see it, you can be it. And you definitely proved that. Thank you so much for
being with us today.
And now, from the challenges here in on earth to a potential future written in the stars. Billionaire entrepreneur, Jared Isaacman is funding the
world's first all civilian space mission, that's with SpaceX, and it's call Inspiration4. He's using the event to raise money for St. Jude Children's
Research Hospital, which fights cancer and other diseases.
Hayley Arceneaux has been chosen as the first crew member on this the flight. She's a 29-year-old cancer survivor and a physician assistant as
St. Jude. They're joining our Walter Isaacson to discuss why space travel should be open to all.
WALTER ISAACSON, CNNI HOST: Thank you, Christian. And Jared and Haley, welcome to the show.
HAYLEY ARCENEAUX, INSPIRATION4 HOPE SEAT CREW MEMBER: Thanks for having us.
ISAACSON: So, Jared, tell me about this. Why did you decide to commission or to charter, in a way, to be the first all civilian mission into space?
JARED ISAACMAN, INSPIRATION4 COMMANDER: Well, I mean, I feel like at some point this was just going to be, you know, an eventuality that space was
going to be opened up to everyday people. And, you know, you just don't have to be, you know, lucky enough to be selected as a NASA astronaut.
So, I've been kind of knocking on the door of the commercial space industry for 12 or 13 years saying, whenever this day comes, you know, please keep
me in mind. And then just recently, like really only like three and a half months ago, I was on a call and reiterated my commitment to commercial
exploration and they said it's going to happen sooner than you think and it might even happen in like the next year. But I had no idea it would happen
that fast and I had no idea we would have the opportunity to do the first all civilian mission to space.
ISAACSON: Well, you didn't want to make this just a billionaire's hobby or something. So, you reserved a couple of the seats for special purposes.
Explain that, and we have Haley here, explain how you decided to pick Haley to be one of the seats?
ISAACMAN: Sure. So, first of all, I don't think there's anything wrong, you know, whether it's a year from now or 10 years from now or 50 years
from now, I hope like, you know, fishing buddies can go to space together. Like that's what we're trying to work towards is to make this like really
accessible and affordable for everyone because the world is more interesting when people can go and dance among the stars and such.
But Inspiration4 is the first. And the first is always significant and it comes with great responsibility. And that's why we wanted to be incredibly
thoughtful about, you know, the organization that stands to benefit, which is St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital, because they have absolutely
nothing to do with space or rockets, but they do have an important mission right here on earth, which is fighting childhood cancer.
And if we are going to have the right to go to go and exploring the worlds beyond ours, then we have a responsibility to take care of some of the
significant problems that we have on earth, and that's where St. Jude's comes into it.
And then the second component is, is that crew selection process. I wanted every single one of the crew members to be able to deliver a very powerful
and inspiring message in their own right. And that's where the mission pillars came up of leadership, hope, generosity and prosperity, because I
believe everyone in the crew members that we're going to bring on this mission and the process we went about to finding them will deliver a very
powerful and inspiring story to a lot of people, many of which may never want to be astronauts, they're going to space, but just believe that, you
know, in the case of Haley, that you can run into really difficult challenges in life and face, you know, challenges and adversities and
overcome them and still live out your dreams. And that may never be as an astronaut.
ISAACSON: Haley, I mean, that's amazing and you have overcome a lot, you're a cancer survivor, you'd be the youngest person ever to go into
space and you're involved with St. Jude's. So, tell me, how did you decide to put your hand up? How were you chosen? And what do you hope you're
ARCENEAUX: Well, I was not part of the selection process. I hadn't even heard about this mission. St. Jude called me in early January and they said
they had something to talk to me about. And they told me about this mission and then they asked if I wanted to go to space, and immediately I said yes.
It was a no-brainer. I mean, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity and it's incredible for St. Jude with how much money that we are going to raise
for this hospital and the research that's going to come out of this and the awareness of the hospital.
But I am just so excited to represent childhood cancer survivors everywhere. It is an incredible honor. And you know, I'm a P.A. at St.
Jude's now. I work with these kids every day. I know how hard they fight. And I think this is really good to give them something to look forward to.
ISAACSON: Well, St. Jude's an absolutely wonderful place. And you, too, as you've said, were a cancer survivor. Tell me about that journey. You have a
prosthetic limb. Tell me how -- what you overcame and why this space flight might be so important.
ARCENEAUX: I was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, which is bone cancer, at age 10. And when I got that diagnosis I just fell apart. At age 10, everyone I
had known with cancer had died and I thought this was a death sentence. And it wasn't until I got to St. Jude a few days later that I felt hope
immediately from when I walked in the doors. And I felt like I was going to be OK.
And so, I spent a year there undergoing intensive chemo and then I had surgery that was actually able to save my leg. They replaced the bone that
was affected by the tumor with a rod that could be expanded without surgery, because I was still growing at the time. And it just gave me so
much quality of life. And I had such an incredible experience at St. Jude that all I ever wanted to do was to work there. And now, I have my dream
job and it is incredible.
ISAACSON: Tell me about the kids that you are working at St. Jude and how they are reacting to this fact that you, a survivor, will be flying into
ARCENEAUX: I have to say they are so excited. And the first day I got back after the announcement, I was walking through the halls and I got stopped
by a couple of different families, they were just so excited to get to talk to a survivor going to space. But one that really stood out was this mom
and daughter came up to me, I had never met before, and they started to tell me about their journey and how much this meant to them and how it was
giving them hope. And it really meant the whole world to me.
ISAACSON: So, tell me the process, Jared. What happens going forward now? How do you choose the rest of the crew? How do you train?
ISAACMAN: Sure. So -- well, 50 percent of the crew is now identified. The Dragon spacecraft will go and fit four people, and that's your mission
pillars of leadership, hope, generosity and prosperity. So, Hayley represents our mission pillar of hope, and now we have the other two. And
the mission pillar, generosity, is basically a -- random selection is part of our fund-raising effort for St. Jude.
So, from the beginning of February to the end of February, if you went to the mission website, you made a donation to a great cause, then you are in
the running right now as a part of that random selection process. And we should know who that person is, like really soon, in the next couple of
days. And then the final crew member seat which represents the mission spirit of prosperity, well, that was an entrepreneur selection process.
And basically, a lot of people created an ecommerce website and then made a video about their business and they told the world about it on Twitter and
basically shared their idea and why should be elevated to the stars. And then through an independent judging process, which is just wrapping up now
through four independent judges, we'll select our fourth and final crew member of Inspiration4, which represents that mission's spirit of
prosperity. And then we go right into training. So, from now on, really, until the launch.
ISAACSON: So, you are already a pilot or a trained, you know, pilot for airplanes. What will your training be like and do you worry a little bit
that a -- this is a first time like you've had a crew with no professional astronauts.
ISAACMAN: Well, that is for sure that today, it is a crew with no professional astronauts, but by the time we get to launch and the strap
into Dragon, the F.A. said that we will be commercial astronauts. And the whole training program that NASA and SpaceX and the F.A. have come up with
is exactly the journey we're going to go on in just a couple of weeks from now.
ISAACSON: So, tell me exactly, what do they do to train you?
ISAACMAN: It's a lot of simulator time. I mean, that's the heart of it. So, there's academics on the systems that we're going to be operating and
some orbital mechanics so that we know exactly what's happening when we flip a switch or push a button. And then everything else is just repetition
in the simulator of all the things that are supposed to go right and, you know, what are the procedures and events if certain things go wrong.
And when we're comfortable in the simulators, we're also going to have a lot of time at the Kennedy Space Center where we're going to be doing some
zip lining off of Pad 39A, which is pad safety training. So, that sounds pretty exciting actually. And then we're going to do some water survival
training, some centrifuge training. So, we'll be well-prepared before we ever strap into the spacecraft.
ISAACSON: I've heard Elon Musk and, of course, Jeff Bezos also talk about ending the government's monopolization, it's hold on space and space
travel. Is this a good thing? Is this something you feel should be democratized?
ISAACMAN: Absolutely. I mean, right now, you have a better chance of getting struck by lightning than becoming a NASA astronaut. And I think the
world is like very interesting out in space and it should be available and accessible to everyone.
You know, the FAA, for example, does not build the aircraft. The FAA does not fly people from one city to the next. You know, the FAA, a government
agency, is a regulatory, you know, organization. It's designed to certify and regulate and develop procedures for, say, you know, commercial flight
in the United States and around the world.
I think that, you know, NASA, in all that they have accumulated in terms of their knowledge and expertise on the space exploration will wind up, you
know, being in a very similar role where they're going to make sure that organizations like SpaceX and Boeing and many of the other commercial, you
know, space exploration businesses to follow are adhering to the best standards of safety and such, but it will be commercial industry that's
going to open up and make space accessible to everyone. I don't think it will be the government in the long run.
ISAACSON: So, Hayley, tell me about what your training is going to be, when does it start? Is there anything special that you're going to have to
do given the fact that you're young and a cancer survivor?
ARCENEAUX: So, we'll all be starting space training at the end of this month as a crew. We will have some additional training on top of that
because I'll be the medical officer of this flight. My background as a physician assistant, I was chosen to be the medical officer. And so, we'll
just get a little bit of extra training because of that.
ISAACSON: And is this something, you know, that you've always had in the back of your mind going up, that you'd love to be an astronaut?
ARCENEAUX: Well, I visited NASA actually a few months before I was diagnosed with cancer and I went to the -- in Houston and back to see where
the astronauts trained. And after seeing that, of course, I wanted to be an astronaut. I think all kids and adults that see that want to be astronauts.
But then a few months later, I was diagnosed with cancer and my whole world changed and all I ever wanted to do since then is work at St. Jude.
But also, really until this mission would not have been possible for me to go to space. I've got, you know, artificial body part. And, you know, until
now, you've really had to be physical perfect. But this mission is changing things in a really powerful way.
ISAACSON: A lot of us remember the Challenger explosion in 1986 with Christa McAuliffe, a civilian, a teacher, a board. What are you doing about
the safety? How are you assuring yourself and going to the process that this is as safe as it could be?
ISAACMAN: Well, I think it's in two parts. And one of it is, is in my control and the other is the -- you know, the very capable hands of SpaceX.
So, you know, SpaceX has built a fantastic rocket with amazing technology. We've all been wowed by it, seeing their rockets, you know, come back to
earth and land on spaceships.
When you human rate a rocket, and let's keep in mind, there is only one, you know, human rated rocket in the United States right now and it's
SpaceX's. But there's a lot of other companies making rockets right now. So, what does that mean? It means SpaceX had to, you know, go through a
very lengthy certification process with NASA who draws on 60 years of lessons learned to say that the Falcon 9 system is very safe and reliable
system to take human beings into orbit.
And if you look at the track record of Falcon 9, its performance is better than any other, you know, rocket system, let alone a reusable one, you
know, in the history of space travel. So, it's starts, you know, with a lot of confidence and some great technology.
And then second, I think it comes down to training, too, and taking this whole thing very seriously. And I really said that from the start is that,
you know, we do believe in a world where, you know, families are living on lunar and Martian colonies at some point in time and everyone is jumping in
their X wings and we're living this very cool "Star War," "Star Trek" life. Well, we got to start somewhere. And getting it right to where we choose to
start is so important to make sure everything else that we want to happen follows.
So, we're going to take it really seriously on training to make sure we're well-prepared.
ISAACSON: Hayley, it takes a bit of courage to do this, just like it takes a lot of courage to face childhood cancer. You know, what message are you
sending about the fact, yes, this isn't totally safe, nothing in life is, we have to have some courage if we're going to pursue our dreams.
ARCENEAUX: Absolutely. And I do think that my journey with childhood cancer made me tough. It definitely made me who I am. And, you know, with
everything in life, there are risks, and I feel fully confident in this mission but also, I just really hope to show people just embrace life. You
know, when opportunities come your way, especially that excite you and that can challenge you, go for it. And that's why I had no hesitation when I
ISAACSON: OK. Jared, tell me exactly how the mission is going to proceed. How do you blast off? What do you do? What happens?
ISAACMAN: Sure. So, there's a lot of work from now until we get to that date where we strap into Dragon. So, it's all the training, things we
talked about before. But then there's additional things too like payload and experiments.
Our entire day up there will be pretty well scheduled from the time that you wake up and all the experiments that you are doing along the way until
you go back to sleep again. So, we have the figure out -- because there's a lot of demand for payload and experiments right now, it costs an awful lot
of money to put things in orbit and get the results from it. So, right now, we're going through that kind of a selection process, too.
But once we get ready and the training is complete and payload is finally selected and we're trained on all the experiments we tend to do, well, then
we're going to launch into lower orbit. And this is going to be a very cool process and it's going to go onto Falcon 9 rocket, which is a two-stage
rocket's orbit. And when we get to orbit, we're going to be going 17,500 miles an hour. And we're going -- it's going to be a rather interesting
And, you know, up -- for the last really 20 years, everything has kind of been direct to the space station. But we're not going to the space station.
So, we're going to get some -- a little bit of additional freedom to go out and, you know, kind of -- you know, I would say make some symbolic moves, a
little bit farther out from space station to signify where everything is going to going next, which is, you know, to new worlds ideally, back to the
moon, Mars and beyond. And we'll spend a couple of days in orbit and then we come back and re-enter the earth's atmosphere, and we splashdown in the
water and we have our big splash down party, probably somewhere near Florida.
ISAACSON: Great. And tell me about those experiments that take us to the next world and beyond. Give me an example.
ISAACMAN: Sure. So, one of them actually relates to the impact of radiation on cells. So, there is radiation in space. You don't have the
same protections of an atmosphere. And we know an awful lot about the impacts of the radiation on the human body at the international space
station, because we've literally just literally been there for 20 years and there's more modern technologically advanced world where we can measure
this type of things.
Now, we're going to go out a little bit farther than that, and the radiation level, which will be very safe for sure, it will be different
than what's been studied for the last two decades. And it's important to get data on this because if we are going to journey out again and go back
to the moon or Mars and beyond, like we're going to have to know the impacts of whether there's a long duration element it to, but also the
radiation exposure that comes from being in space and the impact it has on human physiology.
So, that will be one component of the experiments that we're pretty sure is going to be play a role in this mission.
ISAACSON: And what about you, Hayley, what are the scientific mission, the medical missions that excite you?
ARCENEAUX: Well, I think we're all going to be working on the same projects together. But what I'm actually looking forward to the most while
we are in space is we're figuring out how we're going to video chat with the St. Jude patients.
And you know, kids are so visual, and I think actually getting to show them what their future can look like is going to be so impactful and they're
going to have so much fun with it.
ISAACSON: That's an amazing journey you talked about, about having dreamed, you know, when you were 10 years old, and going down and watching
space launch and stuff like that, and then realizing that you could not be an astronaut, because you've just got cancer. And now, it is all turned
around. Tell me, how are you processing this?
ARCENEAUX: I think that I have been processing it slowly. This call came completely out of nowhere and I could have never guessed that this is
something that St. Jude was going to offer and this will be part of my future, but it's becoming more and more real each time I go to SpaceX.
The last time Jared and I were there, we actually got to put on astronaut suits. And it was amazing. But, you know, I think that's part of the beauty
of life is you don't know what's around the corner and there can be some really beautiful things that come your way that you never expected. And so,
just -- I'm along for this ride and I couldn't be more excited.
ISAACSON: Wow, Hayley and Jared, so amazing, so cool and thank you so much for joining us.
ISAACMAN: Thank you. Thanks for having us.
ARCENEAUX: Yes, we appreciate your time. Thank you so much.
AMANPOUR: And that's it. Thanks for watching this International Woman's Day. Goodbye from London.