By Prince Kurupati
The Covid-19 pandemic and the salient issues surrounding it are the major highlights for Africa in 2021 – well, if truth be said, the same can be said for all other continents as the Covid pandemic is the main talking point. For Africa in particular, 2021 has been a year in which the continent from Cape Town to Cairo has fought gallantly to address the issue of vaccine inequity. African leaders and regional bodies have and are still fighting to address vaccine inequality as the rich nations are hoarding vaccines condemning the continent to the prospect of a protracted Covid pandemic. Despite these challenges however, the continent has witnessed major developmental wins both related to and unrelated to Covid issues. In this article, we are going to expose and explore the major developmental milestone wins that the continent can look at and appreciate as it closes the year.
Health is wealth. As such, its important that we first take a look at Africa’s health status for 2021. Like most other continents, Africa in 2021 has battled with the Covid-19 pandemic. As the year comes to a close, the fight against the pandemic is still raging on as a new and potentially serious variant has just been discovered in Botswana and believed to already have spread around the continent and the globe, the fight is likely to carry on in the new year. Despite the challenges faced during the year, the continent can be proud of its efforts in acquiring vaccines.
Spearheading the vaccine acquisition process is the African Union through the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) and the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT). The efforts of these bodies have enabled the continent to receive millions of vaccines doses which have been distributed across the continent. The efforts of the African Union have been aided by other private institutions and organisations on the continent and below. Some nations have also leveraged their friendship with rich nations to source for vaccine doses. All these efforts have really helped in Africa’s fight against Covid-19.
Launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA)
Africa started the year 2021 on a positive note as on 1 January, 2021, the African Continental Free Trade Area was officially launched. At the time of AfCFTA’s launch, the African continent accounted for just 2% of global trade. In terms of continental intra trade, Africa ranked poorly with just 17% of its trade being intra trade. Asia’s intra trade on the other hand accounts for 59% of the continent’s trade while Europe’s intra trade accounts for 68% of the region’s trade. These numbers together with the need and aspiration to leverage the continent’s 1.3 billion population and the continent’s combined gross domestic product (GDP) valued at $3.4 trillion necessitated the authorities to launch the free trade area.
Though still in its infancy, the outlook certainly is positive when it comes to the free trade area. Specifically, on the trade issue, the AfCFTA aims at integrating Africa further into global supply chains, eliminating 90% of tariffs, dealing and possibly eliminating non-tariff barriers, cutting and removing red tape, simplifying customs procedures and creating a single market with free movement of goods and services. Trade however isn’t the only focus of the AfCFTA, beyond trade, the pact also aims at addressing issues surrounding intellectual property, investment, competition, labour and the movement of persons.
Kazungula Bridge Project
The Kazungula Bridge Project was officially commissioned earlier this year, 10 May, 2021 by the presidents of Botswana and Zambia. The project which was funded by the African Development Bank is a significant developmental win for the continent as it contributes to integration in the southern Africa region. The bridge as according to the African Development Bank “will support trade and transport along the North-South Corridor, and indeed the Trans-African Highway on the Cape to Cairo route. The Bridge also provides impetus to the recently launched African Continental Free Trade Area.”
The African Development Bank gave the Zambian government a $76.5 million loan to finance the project. The project was also co-financed by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency and the EU-Africa Infrastructure Trust Fund. The bridge was also equipped with one-stop border posts, one on each side of the Zambia/Botswana border. According to the Kazungula Bridge Project manager Godfrey Songeya, “Under the One-Stop Border Post concept, there will be no need to stop twice, as is happening at the moment. Commuters will only stop at the facility of the exit country… We want to ensure that the transit time that is being spent by traders who are using this road is reduced tremendously.”
Marine Drive Project
The Marine Drive Project is one of Ghana’s several ambitious projects meant at transforming the country into a middle-income country. The project is wholly funded by the Ghanaian government and it aims at developing sections of the Accra coastline into a state-of-the-art tourism destination. Though not yet officially commissioned, structures are already up as facilities such as hotels, shopping malls, casinos, water theme parks, floor office complexes, conference and exhibition centres and sports pitches are in place. The project covers over 240 acres of land stretching from the Christianborg Castle in Osu through the Independence Square to Baiden Powell near the Arts Centre in downtown Accra.
Nigeria Launches The eNaira
Packaged as a Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC), the eNaira is built on the same block chain supporting technology but unlike Bitcoins which the bank continues to hold at arm’s length, it essentially operates as a CBN-guaranteed legal tender which is issued, regulated and controlled by the apex monetary authority of Africa’s most populous nation. Speaking at an event to flag-off its adoption in Abuja, President Muhammadu Buhari outlined that the e-Naira had the prospect of helping to increase the country’s GDP by $29 billion across the next 10 years.
According to the President, the scheme had not come without a careful consideration of its pros and cons: ‹In recent times, the use of physical cash in conducting business and making payments has been on the decline. This trend has been exacerbated by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resurgence of a new digital economy. ‹›The absence of a swift and effective solution to these requirements, as well as fears that central banks’ actions sometimes lead to hyperinflation created the space for non-government entities to establish new forms of “private currencies” that seemed to have gained popularity and acceptance across the world, including here in Nigeria.”
‹›Needless to add, close monitoring and close supervision will be necessary in the early stages of implementation to study the effect of eNaira on the economy as a whole.
“It is on the basis of this that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) sought and received my approval to explore issuing Nigeria’s own Central Bank Digital Currency, named the eNaira,’’ the President explained.
African Energy Week 2021
“Cape Town, South Africa, has always been the welcoming home of the African energy industry. They said it was not possible, and it could not be done in Africa, that it was not the right time to meet together and talk about the issues we face as Africans. At the end of the day, it is about people, and this is why we are hosting the event in Cape Town. We are going to have an energy transition, there is no question about that, but it has to be just, and we are not going to apologize for that. While some people believe we should give up our natural resources, at this time, Africa is going to be the voice of humanity. As we hold various dialogues in Cape Town, it is time for us to stand together. We have to take some responsibility to do better, drive better,” said NJ Ayuk at the opening ceremony of the maiden edition of the African Energy Week.
At a time when fair weather friends of Africa in the energy sector deserted the continent in its hour of need, the African Energy Week went a long way to restore the wounded pride of the continent. Buoyed by the resounding success and reverberating echoes of AEW 2021, the African Energy Chamber has already announced that the 2022 edition will run from October 31 – November 4 in Cape Town, South Africa.
Considering the immense challenges that Africa is still grappling with ,there were plenty of positives that the continent should be able to build on in anticipation of better prospects for 2022.