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Commemoration Of The Eradication Of Smallpox – A Legacy Of Hope For Covid-19
May 10, 2020 | 0 Comments


By Uzman Unis Bah

On 8 May 1980, the 33rd World Health Assembly officially declared the world and all its peoples free from smallpox.  According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “The declaration marked the end of a disease that had plagued humanity for at least 3 000 years, killing 300 million people in the 20th century alone.”

According to the WHO, this was achieved through a 10-year global effort, organized by the World Health Organization, with the effort of thousands of health workers around the world that administered half a billion immunizations to eradicate the disease.

Speaking at a virtual event hosted in Geneva, the WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus straighten out the need for solidarity, “As the world confronts the COVID-19 pandemic, humanity’s victory over smallpox is a reminder of what is possible when nations come together to fight a common health threat.”

“The world got rid of smallpox thanks to an incredible demonstration of global solidarity, and because it had a safe and effective vaccine. Solidarity plus science equalled solution!” Tedros States.

Dr Tedros emphasized, smallpox eradication offers confidence for the drive of eliminating other communicable ailments, including polio, which is currently prevalent in just two countries. “To date, 187 countries, territories and areas have been certified free of Guinea worm disease, with seven more to go.” He states.

According to the director, 38 countries and territories have achieved the fight to eliminate malaria; and for Tuberculosis (TB), Tedros states, 57 countries, and territories with low-slungTB prevalence are on the trajectory to reach the complete elimination of the disease.

WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.Photo credit REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.Photo credit REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

At the event in Switzerland, Dr Tedros unveiled a memorial mail stamp to recognize the global unity that drove the initiative and highly praised the efforts of health workers who ensured its success.

The stamp is developed by the United Nations Postal Administration (UNPA), in collaboration with WHO, in a bid to highlight the achievement of global solidary, which could be purchase at unstamps.org . “Numerous countries, such as Guinea, India, Nigeria, Philippines, Togo and others issued smallpox stamps to show support for, and raise awareness about WHO’s Intensified Smallpox Eradication Programme launched in 1967.” A news release by WHO states.

David Heymann, Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and Distinguished Fellow, Global Health Security at Chatham House, London, explicates the lessons gained from smallpox has been used today in tackling the world’s disease outbreaks. 

According to David “… house-to-house active case-finding underpins the polio eradication programme, and ring vaccination of contacts is helping to combat the spread of the Ebola virus disease. Similarly, surveillance, case-finding, testing, contact-tracing, quarantine, and communication campaigns to dispel misinformation are central to controlling COVID-19.”

“Following smallpox eradication, WHO and UNICEF launched the Expanded Programme on Immunization, under which 85% of the world’s children are vaccinated and protected from debilitating diseases.”  The release states.

The novel coronavirus outbreak has landed a blow in the world’s development, with the potential of a COVID-19 vaccine ahead, returning to normalcy might take a long time. WHO strives for the development of a safe vaccine, which could be accessed by all, and providing public health information and education to ensure that the world remains a safe place.

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Malawi: Mutharika picks former president’s son as running mate
May 7, 2020 | 0 Comments

By James Mwala

President Mutharika has settled on Atupele Austin Muluzi as his running mate
President Mutharika has settled on Atupele Austin Muluzi as his running mate

Incumbent President Peter Mutharika has settled for Atupele Muluzi, son to former president Bakili Muluzi as runningmate in the fresh presidential election slated for this July.

Bakili Muluzi was Malawi’s President from 1994 to 2004.

Mutharika’s party entered into an alliance that the young Muluzi heads, the United Democratic Front.

The young Muluzi is also the current Energy Minister in the Mutharika administration.

In making the announcement in Blantyre when submitting nomination papers, the 79 year old Mutharika said trusts Muluzi because of his demonstrated leadership skills in ministerial posts he had held.

Mutharika then moved to describe the order for the fresh presidential poll as meant to disturb progress of the developing the economy.

He faces a fierce rival under the MCP-UTM alliance, a partnership that has nine parties including former President Joyce Banda’s People’s Party.

The MCP-UTM alliance will be led by Lazarus Chakwera of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) with the incumbent vice President Saulos Chilima as runningmate.

Analysts have described the current status and the looming elections as the tightest the nation will ever witness.

The elections will have three contestants with Mbakuwaku Movement Development led by Peter Kuwani and Archbald Kalawang’oma finalising the list.

Up to six candidates did not successfully present their papers due to among other things failure to meet requirements and eventual withdrawal from the race.

The order for the fresh poll followed a  case that Chakwera and Chilima lodged against the Malawi Electoral Commission over the administration of the 2019 poll.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court will at the end of week give a ruling on the plea by the electoral commission to quash the order made by the Constitutional Court. 

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Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed: Debt Cancellation for the World to Survive
May 6, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Lawrence Freeman *

Coronavirus testing supplies being unloaded at the Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in March.Credit…Tiksa Negeri/Reuters

Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, has made an audacious salient call for debt cancellation for low income countries. It was published in the Opinion section of the April 30, New York Times, Why the Global Debt of Poor Nations Must Be Canceled, (printed in full below). PM Abiy is correct, debt cancellation is absolutely necessary to save lives and for developing nations to survive the COVID-19 pandemic. To compel a nation like Ethiopia to spend almost half of its revenue on debt service, while its people are suffering from a perfect storm of Desert Locust swarms, food insufficiency, and a weak healthcare infrastructure, is immoral if not criminal. PM Abiy wrote:

“At the very least, the suspension of debt payments should last not just until the end of 2020 but rather until well after the pandemic is truly over. It should involve not just debt suspension but debt cancellation…

“These steps need to be taken with a sense of urgency. The resources freed up will save lives and livelihoods in the short term, bring back hope and dynamism to low-income economies in the medium term and enable them to continue as the engines of sustainable global prosperity in the long term.

“In 2019, 64 countries, nearly half of them in sub-Saharan Africa, spent more on servicing external debt than on health. Ethiopia spends twice as much on paying off external debt as on health. We spend 47 percent of our merchandise export revenue on debt servicing…

“The dilemma Ethiopia faces is stark: Do we continue to pay toward debt or redirect resources to save lives and livelihoods?”

PM Abiy’s analysis of the urgent need for the cancellation of debt service is relevant to the exacerbating effect of COVID-19 in Africa’s rising food insecurity.

Smoked fish produced in Ghana is sold all over the country and in neighboring Togo – as long as transport routes and borders can remain open for the movement of food to markets. Credit Jane Hahn/Oxfam America

COVID-19 Worsens Food Crisis

In the month from March 30 to April 30, COVID-19 cases in Africa rose from 4,760 to 37,296-800% increase, and the total of deaths from 146 to 1,619-1,100% increase.  Experts are legitimately concerned, that millions more may die from hunger and poverty as a result of the needed efforts to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Closing borders, stay at home orders, loss of income, interruption of supply chains, and disruption of traditional animal migration cycles inauspiciously contribute to amplifying food insecurity.

“If the pandemic worsens, as many as 50 million more people could face a food crisis in the [Sahel} region,” according to Coumba Sow, Food and Agricultural Organization Resilience Coordinator for West Africa in her interview: FAO: COVID19: 50 Million in Sahel Could Face Food Crisis. Coumba Sow reports that across West Africa, 11 million people need immediate food assistance and that this number could rise to 17 million in the period from June to August. She says that it is “crucial to anticipate COVID-19’s impacts on agriculture, food security and the lives of vulnerable women and children. Ensuring that food systems and food supply chains are maintained is one of the most important action to take at national and regional levels.”

The World Food Programme (WFP) projects that the number of people facing acute food insecurity could rise from 135 million to 265 million in 2020 as a result of COVID-19.  According to the WFP, five of the countries that had the worst food crisis in 2019 were located in Africa; Nigeria, Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Arif Husain, economist for the WFP said: “COVID-19 is potentially catastrophic for millions who are hanging by a thread. It is a hammer blow for millions more who can only eat it they earn a wage. Lockdowns and global economic recession have already decimated their nest eggs. It only takes one more shock—like COVID-19 to push them over the edge.”

A New Financial Architecture Required

While debt cancellation is essential, international and federal mechanisms are required to issue i.e. create new lines of credit to build up nation-wide advanced healthcare infrastructure, which all African nations lack. This endeavor should be part of a much larger undertaking to place African nations on a path to become developed industrialized economies.  I discuss the importance of emerging nations  to generate physical economic wealth in my earlier article: World Needs New Economic Platform to Fight COVID-19Trillions of dollars of new credit must become accessible for African nations to address the dearth of infrastructure in energy, roads, railroads, and healthcare, that is literally killing Africans, every day. Successful transformation of African nations requires an urgent focus on nurturing combined manufacturing-agricultural processing industries. Speaking at a Johns Hopkins webinar on April 22, Gyude Moore, former Liberian Minster of Public Works (2014-2018) emphasized that creating manufacturing jobs is essential to transitioning to a more developed economy.

What has been glaringly brought to the surface by the combined COVID-19 pandemic and the malnourishment of Africa’s population is; that the global economic-political system of the last five decades has failed. A new financial architecture is compulsory to save lives and put civilization on the trajectory of progress. This new financial architecture should encompass the following essential missions in Africa:

  • Cancellation of debt
  • New credit generation for physical economic growth
  • Massive investment in hard infrastructure
  • Urgent mobilization to establish modern health infrastructure
  • Significant upgrading of manufacturing and agricultural sectors

It is unacceptable in the twenty-first century for every nation not to be equipped with advanced modern healthcare infrastructure.  One of the most egregious defects of globalization is that nations have become dependent on imported food from thousands of miles away because it is somehow construed to be cheaper than producing food at home.

Nations exist to foster the continuation of a human culture moored to the conception that human life is sacred. There is no equivalency between servicing debt and safeguarding human life.  Money really has no intrinsic value. Banks are mere servicing bureaus of an economy.  Governments legitimately create credit to generate future physical wealth to benefit their citizens. When borrowing or lending arrangements fail to benefit society then they should be restructured or cancelled. Such financial reorganizations have been achieved many times throughout history.

PM Abiy has brought to the attention of the world, a profound underlying principle that should govern all national and international policy: the promotion of human life is supreme, monetary instruments are not.

Mauritanian herders (Courtesy of UN-FAO)
Delaying the repayments to the Group of 20 is not enough.

By Abiy Ahmed, Prime Minister of Ethiopia. Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, 2019

April 30, 2020, New York Times

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — On April 15, Group of 20 countries offered temporary relief to some of the world’s lowest-income countries by suspending debt repayments until the end of the year. It is a step in the right direction and provides an opportunity to redirect financial resources toward dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

But if the world is to survive the punishing fallout of the pandemic and ensure that the economies of countries like mine bounce back, this initiative needs to be even more ambitious.

At the very least, the suspension of debt payments should last not just until the end of 2020 but rather until well after the pandemic is truly over. It should involve not just debt suspension but debt cancellation. Global creditors need to waive both official bilateral and commercial debt for low-income countries.

These steps need to be taken with a sense of urgency. The resources freed up will save lives and livelihoods in the short term, bring back hope and dynamism to low-income economies in the medium term and enable them to continue as the engines of sustainable global prosperity in the long term.

In 2019, 64 countries, nearly half of them in sub-Saharan Africa, spent more on servicing external debt than on health. Ethiopia spends twice as much on paying off external debt as on health. We spend 47 percent of our merchandise export revenue on debt servicing. The International Monetary Fund described Ethiopia as being at high risk of external debt distress.

The dilemma Ethiopia faces is stark: Do we continue to pay toward debt or redirect resources to save lives and livelihoods? Lives lost during the pandemic cannot be recovered; imperiled livelihoods cost more and take longer to recover.

Immediate and forceful action on debt will prevent a humanitarian disaster today and shore up our economy for tomorrow. We need to immediately divert resources from servicing debt toward responding adequately to the pandemic. We need to impede a temporary health crisis from turning into a chronic financial meltdown that could last for years, even decades.

Ethiopia must spend an extra $3 billion by the end of 2020 to address the consequences of the pandemic, while our balance of payments is set to deteriorate. Increasing health care spending is essential, irrespective of debt levels, but we have less money on hand, and much of it is due to creditors.

A moratorium on bilateral and commercial debt payments for the rest of this year will save Ethiopia $1.7 billion. Extending the moratorium till the end of 2022 would save an additional $3.5 billion.

Low income countries can use the financial resources freed up by cancellation or further deferment of debt repayments to invest in our battle against the pandemic, from providing necessary medical care to our citizens to ameliorating our financial difficulties.

In October, the I.M.F. reported that the five fastest-growing economies in the world were in sub-Saharan Africa, which includes Ethiopia. In early April, the World Bank reported that sub-Saharan Africa would face its first region wide recession in over 25 years and the region’s economy could shrink by as much as 5.1 percent.

This is not a result of bad policies, mismanagement or any other ill typically associated with developing economies. The recession will be the product of the coronavirus outbreak.

Preventing or at least minimizing the recession is critical to maintaining years of hard-won economic gains across the continent. The current moratorium in bilateral debt collection until the end of the year will help, but it won’t be enough, given the gravity of the challenge we face.

The moratorium must be extended until the coronavirus health emergency is over or canceled altogether. The creditors need to do this unconditionally.

Official bilateral creditors are no longer the principal source of external debt financing for many developing countries. Private-sector creditors, including investment banks and sovereign funds, are. They should play their part in the effort to rescue African economies from permanent paralysis with a sense of solidarity and shared responsibility. It would help avoid widespread sovereign defaults and chaos in the market.

And it would be morally indefensible if resources freed up from a moratorium in bilateral debt collections were to be used to pay private creditors instead of saving lives.

Most of our countries managed to borrow funds on the back of solid economic performance and highly promising and evidence-based development programs and trajectories. Nobody foresaw this promise being derailed by a once-in-a-century event such as the coronavirus pandemic.

Under these circumstances, there is no room for traditional arguments such as moral hazard. Low-income countries are seeking relief not because we squandered the money but because we need the resources to save lives and livelihoods.

It is in everybody’s enlightened self-interest that the borrowers be allowed breathing space to get back to relative health. The benefits of rehabilitation of the economies of the hardest-hit countries will be shared by all of us, just as the consequences of neglect will harm all of us.

Read: New Economic Order Required to Combat COVID-19 in Africa

*Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in the economic development policy of Africa for 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com

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COVID19: African Union in Discussions with Madagascar over herbal remedy
May 5, 2020 | 0 Comments

The African Union is in discussion with the Republic of Madagascar, through its embassy in Addis Ababa, with a view to obtain technical data regarding the safety and efficiency of a herbal remedy, recently announced by Madagascar for the reported prevention and treatment of COVID19.

In this regard, the AU Commissioner for Social Affairs H.E Amira ElFadil convened a meeting with the Chargé d’Affaires of the Republic of Madagascar Mr. Eric Randrianantoandro on 30th April at which it was agreed that the member state would furnish the African Union with necessary details regarding the herbal remedy.

Once furnished with the details, the Union, through the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), will review the scientific data gathered so far on the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 Organics. This review will be based on global technical and ethical norms to garner the necessary scientific evidence regarding the performance of the tonic.

These developments follow the participation of Madagascar’s President H.E. Andry Rajoelina in a teleconference Meeting of the Bureau of the Assembly of AU Heads of State and Government with the Chairpersons of the AU Regional Economic Communities (RECs) on 29 April 2020, in which he participated as Chairperson of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), and where he made a presentation to his peers regarding the herbal remedy.

The teleconference was convened by H.E. President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa of the Republic of South Africa, and Chairperson of the African Union (AU), and had the aim of apprising the Chairpersons of the RECs about the actions and initiatives undertaken by the African Union in response to the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on the continent. The meeting also provided a platform for the Chairpersons of the RECs to brief the Bureau about regional measures taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

About Africa CDC
Africa CDC is a specialized technical institution of the African Union which supports Member States in their efforts to strengthen health systems and improve surveillance, emergency response, prevention and control of diseases.

*Source AU

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IMF should issue special drawing rights as grants to Africa
May 4, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Thomas Boni Yayi*

*Dr Yayi is former President of the Republic of Benin .Photo Credit Paul J. Richards/AFP via Getty Images

Since the start of the Covid-19 health crisis, the global economy has been grounded in one quarter with a likely annual growth forecast of -3% in 2020, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

In Europe, taboos are falling. On March 20, 2020, the European Commission announced an unprecedented suspension of budgetary discipline rules. Ongoing negotiations between heads of state and government over a new stimulus package to prevent economic disaster is estimated to be around €$1 trillion. The European Central Bank (ECB), for its part, in its will to do “everything necessary within the framework of its mandate to help the eurozone to overcome this crisis”, announced €$1 billion in massive assets buyouts in the financial markets throughout 2020.

The United States has responded to the economic devastation caused by the coronavirus with the largest economic relief programme in its history, at $3 trillion. At the same time, the US Federal Reserve (The Fed) has indicated its willingness to buy an essentially unlimited amount of public debt – a very aggressive programme of financial instruments buybacks by the end of 2020 of nearly $3 billion.

With regards to economic solutions adapted to Africa, I think there are essentially two challenges which need to be separated: first, that of mobilizing new resources to finance the response to the virus crisis; then the cancellation of Africa’s debt as part of a strategic partnership without undermining the attractiveness of the continent.

Consequently, I suggest that the IMF, in addition to the first aid package already distributed to some African states, should issue Special Drawing Rights (SDRs), to the tune of  €114 billion, which corresponds to the needs of the African continent according to indications provided by the Managing Director of the IMF, Kristalina Georgieva, to enable Africa – whose central banks do not have the same capacity to respond as those of China, the United States or the euro zone – address the negative impact of this health crisis as quickly as possible.

We will either triumph, or perish, together. Therefore, Africa cannot and should not be left on the margins of the various measures supported by central banks in Europe, the Americas or Asia. This IMF assistance, through the issuance of SDRs will be convertible with central banks such as the Fed, the ECB, the Central Bank of Japan and the Central Bank of China, determined to support African states to tackle this COVID-19 crisis.  This support will allow the strengthening of the external assets of African central banks whose capacity in relation to their long-term commitment does not cover more than 4 to 5 months of imports.

The overall needs of the African continent can be assessed on the basis of regional economic communities  and  the  use  of  resources  must  be  done  in  strict  compliance  with  the  good governance prescribed by the African Peer Review Mechanism (MAEP).

These investment requirements relate to the modernisation of hospital infrastructure, precautionary measures, treatment, education and skills’ training of hospital staff, not to mention social protection for citizens, economic recovery, price stability and the reduction of unemployment.

With regards to the cancellation of Africa’s debt, the speed required to manage the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus cannot be hampered by issues that have always aroused the hesitation of the creditor states. While recognizing the correctness of this request and referring to the reluctance of the G20 to stick to the one-year moratoriums on the payment of debt service, I welcome the initiative of the African Union to set up a committee which, in addition to the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, would give impetus to Africa’s request for debt cancellation.

In  the  1990s,  Africa  already  benefited  from  the  HIPC  (Heavily  Indebted  Poor  Countries) initiative with the cancellation of bilateral and multilateral debt. This initiative cast doubt on the solvency  of  the  continent.  This  second  request  for  cancellation  would  probably  merit negotiations at three levels: at the level of multilateral institutions, at the level of States and at the level of the private sector.

If this request were to be taken into account, would it not raise some questions at the level of multilateral banks? A cancellation of their receivables will have an impact on their creditworthiness. At the state level, negotiations are possible but it is the same creditors who feed multilateral institutions. The question is whether a country like China, a member of the G20, is prepared to cancel its debt on the continent, which is 40% of Africa’s debt – and about $360 billion. Finally, in the private sector, there is the question of who will reimburse them?

These are obstacles that will take a long time while the treatment of this virus requires speedy action to be taken to contain the human and economic devastation. We will certainly end up with treatment on a case-by-case basis.

In conclusion, I suggest an emergency issuance of Special Drawing Rights for Africa by the IMF, which already involves the main contributors to IMF resources. Only genuinely united and globally coordinated management of this health crisis can save humanity. We are no longer at the stage of making promises. We must stop the mass deaths we witness on a daily basis and revive economic activities.

*Courtesy of Daily Trust.Dr Yayi is former President of the Republic of Benin, former Chairman in Office of West African Economic and Monetary Union, and former President of the African Union-AU

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The Way Forward: How Africa Can Make a Comeback from the Oil & Gas Downturn
May 4, 2020 | 0 Comments
NJ Ayuk is Executive Chairman of the African Energy Chamber, CEO of pan-African corporate law conglomerate Centurion Law Group, and the author of several books about the oil and gas industry in Africa, including Billions at Play: The Future of African Energy and Doing Deals.
NJ Ayuk is Executive Chairman of the African Energy Chamber, CEO of pan-African corporate law conglomerate Centurion Law Group, and the author of several books about the oil and gas industry in Africa, including Billions at Play: The Future of African Energy and Doing Deals.

By NJ Ayuk *

There has been a ray of hope: a landmark production-cut agreement among OPEC, OPEC+ and G20 stakeholders on April 12 put an end to the oil price war

Stunning drops in crude oil prices—the result of COVID-19-related declines in demand and an oil price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia—have been taking their toll around the globe this spring. For Africa’s oil-producing countries, where crude oil exports make up a large portion of their revenue, the situation is especially dire.

In Nigeria, for example, Finance Minister Zainab Ahmed recently warned of an imminent recession and requested billions of dollars in international emergency funding. As of the second week of April, national oil production in Angola was expected to fall from 1.8 million to 1.36 million barrels per day as the government prepared to freeze 30% of its goods and services budget. And Ghana, according to the Africa Centre for Energy Policy, stands to see a 53% shortfall this year in projected revenue from crude oil sales. There are similar difficulties across the continent.

There has been a ray of hope: a landmark production-cut agreement among OPEC, OPEC+ and G20 stakeholders on April 12 put an end to the oil price war. Shortly after that historical agreement, the African Petroleum Producers Organization (APPO) committed to significant crude production cuts of its own, effective May 1. While demand remains a concern, the production cuts will help lower oil inventories and should bring some stability to the oil market.

I am not saying we can expect smooth sailing from this point on. There’s no denying that the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to test African countries on multiple fronts, from the health and safety dangers it poses to our people to the economic devastation and low demand for crude. The situation is painful, but it’s not permanent. And when this chapter is over, African countries will recover.

This is the time to lay the framework for that recovery. When demand for crude oil increases again, and it will, Africa will need exploration and production activities to resume. That means oil and gas ministries should be working now on regulations that foster a more enabling environment for investors and businesses. We should be fine-tuning our local content policies and exploring technologies that can contribute to a leaner, more profitable petroleum sector. Last October, I released a book that explains how we can accomplish these things, along with other measures that will help Africa better capitalize on its oil and gas resources. The ideas and examples it provides remain on point. We can still do this.

Exploring Solutions

With demand for oil at a historic low, it may seem odd to talk about E&P activity. But, as I have said, the situation we find ourselves in now is temporary. After we get through the current crisis, production will play a critical role in our economic recovery. We need indigenous companies involved so employees, business partners, and suppliers can benefit from these activities. We also need foreign companies that are willing to share knowledge and technology—and to create economic opportunities in the communities where they operate. That’s why it’s vital that government leaders take steps now to remove obstacles to launching production, from red tape and lengthy delays to excessive taxes. Governments also need to support smaller independent companies by breaking exploration maps into smaller sections. And we need better fiscal terms for companies like breaks on import duties.

This isn’t my first time to call for these things, I cover them in-depth in my book, Billions at Play: The Future of African Energy and Doing Deals. But in the COVID-19 era, they’ve become more important than ever.

Local Content: Striking a Balance

African countries need to develop fair, balanced local content policies that create economic and educational opportunities for Africans without overly burdening foreign investors and discouraging them from operating here. A shining example of this kind of balance can be found in Equatorial Guinea, which I wrote about in Billions at Play. “The government enacted requirements for international companies to hire Equatoguineans, contribute to training programs, and work with local subcontractors. They were careful to balance the need to boost local industry, however, with the limitations of the current local industry. They understood how unrealistic it was to require 100 percent local content until more training, education, and local capacity in that field is created.”

I’d like to see more African countries consider the example of Equatorial Guinea, along with successful local content policies in Nigeria and Angola, also covered in my book. Effective local content is key to helping everyday Africans realize the benefits of Africa’s oil and gas resources. This is a good time for leaders to look at what works and what doesn’t in their own policies and make the necessary adjustments.

It’s Time for More Tech

COVID-19 has forced companies around the globe to rely on technology to function, whether they’re using it to hold virtual meetings or monitor vital assets. I’m confident that technological solutions will play an important role in the comeback of Africa’s oil & gas industry, too. In my book, I described technology’s potential to help indigenous African oil & gas companies operate more efficiently and boost profits, which in turn, benefits their communities and promotes economic growth. “Innovations such as the development of new ways to drill wells and handle equipment, the design of new seismic data collection programs, the management of petroleum data systems, and the monitoring and protection of internet-connected equipment have the potential to redefine how business is done in this sector.”

Now, with economic difficulties and low oil prices, benefits like these could be more valuable than ever. I encourage African oil and gas companies to work with one another, and with local tech firms, to augment their technological capacities. African companies also should be pursuing partnerships with foreign investors that are open to technical knowledge and skills transfers. Billions at Play describes the successes that Angola-based Friburge Oil & Gas has had partnering with international technology providers to drive efficiency and environmentally friendly production methods. We need to see more companies doing the same. Governments can support these efforts through local content policies that call for knowledge sharing, along with the creation of educational initiatives and public-private partnerships.

Long before the unthinkable happened, and COVID-19 changed our world, I made a case for strategically harnessing Africa’s oil and gas resources to create stability and economic growth. Now, because of the pandemic, we find ourselves in a difficult place with extremely low oil prices and faltering economies. As a result, some of those strategies I’ve recommended may have to go on hold. Nevertheless, the steps I’ve put forth to help us reap the full benefits of our petroleum resources will still have merit when we emerge from this trial. If we start preparing now to set them in place, they’re even more likely to be successful.

*NJ Ayuk is Executive Chairman of the African Energy Chamber, CEO of pan-African corporate law conglomerate Centurion Law Group, and the author of several books about the oil and gas industry in Africa, including Billions at Play: The Future of African Energy and Doing Deals.

The Book Can Be Found Here: https://amzn.to/3b2Szk9

*Source Africa Energy Chamber
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Kenyans laud Uhuru’s appointee to lead military
May 2, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Samuel Ouma

President Uhuru Kenyatta with Lieutenant General Robert Kibochi
President Uhuru Kenyatta with Lieutenant General Robert Kibochi

President Uhuru Kenyatta on Thursday, April 30 appointed Lieutenant General Robert Kibochi as the new Chief of Kenya Defence Forces.

Gen. Kibochi, who has been in the military for 39 years, is the successor of the outgoing Gen. Samson Jefwa Mwathethe.

“Further to these promotions and in line with the recommendation by the Defence Council, I have today made the following appointments; Gen Robert Kibochi to Chief of Defence Forces,” read the statement released by the State House.

Kibochi is a master hold in International Studies and is currently pursuing a PhD in conflict management. He previously served as commander of the Kenya Army and the Assistant Chief of Defence Forces in charge of Operations, Plans, Doctrine and Training.

He also led the Kenyan group in the UN mission in Sierra Leone from 2000 to 2001.

The Chief of Defence Forces serves one term of four years but the President can decide to extend his stay in the office by one year. Retiring Gen. Mwathethe has been at the helm of the Kenya Defence Forces since 2015. He was set to retire in 2019 but the Head of the State extended his stay for a year.

President Kenyatta praised the departing General for his exemplary services he offered to the country during his tenure.

“We have seen significant expansion in our military and enviable improvement in the defence capability of our forces; thus giving Kenyans confidence that their borders are well protected from any external aggression. During your tenure, we detected and expunge early enough a number of plans by those who do not mean well for our country, in good time,” said the President.

Gen. Mwathethe helped the country realized her economic growth while serving as chair Blue Economy Implementation Standing Committee.

“The Committee has made substantive progress in re-establishing the Kenya National Shipping Line, as part of the Blue Economy Programme. Once fully completed and operational, this will, indeed, enable us, as a country, exploit the potential we have in the blue economy, and consequently create thousands of jobs for our young men and women. It is my hope that you and I will continue collaborate in this effort,” he added.

President Kenyatta also appointed Lieutenant Gen. Levi Mghalu as the Vice Chair of Defence Forces and Major General Jimson the new Commander of Kenya Navy.

They will take over on May 11.

After the announcement, delighted Kenyans took it to the social media showering the President, the incoming and the outgoing Chiefs of the Kenya Defence Forces with praises.

“The Commander In Chief of all the Armed Forces of Kenya His Excellency Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta has spoken. We are listening to you Sir,” said Arap Mugo James.

“Unsung heroes, Silent Heroes being rewarded, Congratulations to all that have been appointed,” reiterated Immaculate Wa Harrier.

Francis Mwenja posted, “I am very proud with how you steered very well the “Blue Economy Implementation Standing Committee”. … leadership from services.”

“Brilliant soldiers give us hope for a better tomorrow, each day,” noted Festus Njau.

“I saw alot of respect, humility, hardwork and tolerance in General mathethe. I’ll miss his humility. GOD bless him in his other assignments,” said Makenzy Koech.

Shebby Adhiambo said, “Thank you commander in chief of the defence forces. Bravo the appointees!”

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Africa cannot afford LOCUST-19
May 1, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Akinwumi A. Adesina *

 President Akinwumi A. Adesina
President Akinwumi A. Adesina

We are in a battle against time to curb the COVID-19 pandemic. While tackling the Coronavirus pandemic has grabbed global attention, a new crisis that could claim a lot more lives is brewing in Africa: massive locust invasions.

Billions of desert locusts are ravaging countries all across East Africa, including Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan, Uganda, and Djibouti. It has been reported that their numbers are likely to increase by up to 400 times by June 2020, reaching crisis levels.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has estimated that unless quickly controlled, 5 million additional people in East Africa will be hungry by June.

An unprecedented race against time has begun to urgently stop the progression and potentially devastating impact of the deadly twins: COVID-19 and the locusts for millions in Africa.

We all know that rains are good for crops. But then when good rains also caused favorable breeding environments for locusts, the joy of rains has suddenly turned hopes of expected plenty into glooms of hunger.  Is the best of times becoming the worst of times?

Locust breeding populations have increased massively. The locust plague moves with devastating effects: imagine a carpet of locusts of up to 150 million locusts covering a square kilometer. And think about it, that they can consume crops in one day that can feed approximately 35,000 people. In East Africa, where FAO estimates that some 20 million people are already food insecure, the effects will be devastating.

The locust crisis emerges as the continent is dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. These are tough odds to face.

Today, distressfully, choices for millions of the poor are oddly similar: to stay in confinement and escape dying from Coronavirus or dying from hunger staying at home.

It is already playing out. Food riots broke out a few days ago in Kibera, the largest slum in Kenya, as people trampled over each other, defying social distancing – prescribed to stem the spread of the Coronavirus – to get food. Coronavirus could kill, but hunger kills many more people.

With the lockdowns for the COVID-19 pandemic, pest control workers are largely unable to go out to spray. While restrictions have been lifted to allow aircrafts used to spray to operate, they can do little as they are largely unable to get access to the chemicals, due to disruption of supply chains.

It appears that those who escape the COVID-19 will soon face LOCUST-19. In East Africa alone, the number of hungry people could jump to 30 million people.

There are several lifesaving recommendations we can act on now. These include one, the creation of a “green channel” for the free flow of food and agricultural inputs and pesticides to control pest attacks. Two, putting in place measures to prevent food price hikes by releasing food from government grain reserves and implementing anti-hoarding policies. Three, rapidly scaling up food production technologies, including high-yielding, early-maturing, drought-tolerant, disease- and pest-resistant staple crops, and programs such as the African Development Bank’s flagship program, the Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) initiative.

The good news is that the African Development Bank has joined the FAO as the frontrunners in this unprecedented race against time. The Bank has just approved a $1.5 million grant to the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the FAO to support efforts to spray against the locusts and safeguard livelihoods in the East and the Horn of Africa. More help will be needed.

The last thing Africa needs now, as we are battling with the COVID-19 pandemic, is a hunger pandemic.

COVID-19 has taken the international community on an unpredictable journey. Thankfully, we can preclude and halt the locust crisis. For that to happen, we all must rally around the FAO to provide the $153 million needed.

COVID-19 cannot be followed by LOCUST-19.

* Dr Akinwumi A. Adesina is President of the African Development Bank

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Gambia:TRRC submits Interim Report to Government
April 29, 2020 | 0 Comments

The Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) on Wednesday, April 29 submitted its interim report to the Government. At a small ceremony held at the Ministry of Justice, TRRC Chair Dr. Lamin Sise handed over copies of the report to Justice Minister Abubacarr Tambadou for onward transmission to President Barrow.

Handing over the report, Dr. Sise apologized for the slight delay in submission but expressed delight that the Commission has now finished work on the interim report and will now focus on completing its mandate and working on the final report. He reminded the Minister that as per the provisions of the TRRC Act, the Interim Report just covers the Commission’s activities during its first year of existence and does not contain any recommendations. The recommendations will be part of the final report of the Commission.

Receiving the Interim Report on behalf of President Barrow, Minister Tambadou thanked Chairman Sise and all the Commissioners and staff of the TRRC for what he called the wonderful job they have done so far. The TRRC he said, “has set the bar so high as far as transitional justice and truth commissions are concerned around the world.” Minister Tambadou assured the TRRC team that he would duly transmit the report to the President and would do all he can to continue supporting the important work the Commission is doing.

In brief remarks, TRRC Executive Secretary Baba Galleh Jallow said the Commission is grateful for the continued support of the Gambia Government and the Justice Minister in particular, and especially for their non-interference in the work of the Commission. He said the fact that there is no government interference in the Commission’s work is particularly important because it safeguards the integrity of the TRRC process.

The brief handing over ceremony was attended by Mr. Hussein Thomasi, Special Adviser to the Justice Minster and TRRC Deputy Executive Secretary Musu Bakoto Sawo.

The Interim Report is available on the TRRC website (http://www.trrc.gm/…/…/04/TRRC-INTERIM-REPORT-Logo-Final.pdf) and Facebook page.

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Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the SDGs are even more relevant today than ever before
April 29, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo & Erna Solberg*

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg and President Akufo Addo are Co-Chairs of the UN Secretary-General’s Eminent Group of Advocates for the SDGs

Our world today is dealing with a crisis of monumental proportions. The vicious, novel coronavirus is wreaking havoc across the globe, destroying lives and ruining livelihoods.  The primary cost of the pandemic as seen in the loss of human lives is distressing, but the secondary effects on the global economy, on livelihoods and on sustainable development prospects are even more alarming. The International Monetary Fund estimates that our world has entered into a recession, and while the full economic impact of the crisis is difficult to predict, the costs of the pandemic will no doubt be astronomical, with preliminary estimates placing it at a whopping US$2 trillion.

The pandemic has utterly exposed fundamental weaknesses in our global system. It has shown beyond doubt how the prevalence of poverty, weak health systems, lack of education, and above all sub-optimal global cooperation, is exacerbating the crisis.

If there was ever any doubt that our world faces common challenges, this pandemic should categorically put to rest that doubt. The on-going crisis has re-enforced the interdependence of our world. It has brought to the fore the urgent need for global action to meet people’s basic needs, to save our planet and to build a fairer and more secure world.  We are faced with common, global challenges that can only be solved through common, global solutions. After all, in a crisis like this we are only as strong as the weakest link. This is what the SDGs, the global blueprint to end poverty, protect our planet and ensure prosperity, are all about.

Sadly, this ferocious, sudden on-set pandemic has come at a time when the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were getting good traction and a significant number of countries were making good progress in their implementation.  As the world is seized with containing the spread of the virus and addressing its negative and debilitating impacts, the reality is that countries are resetting their priorities, and reallocating resources to deal with the pandemic. This certainly is the right thing to do because the priority now is to save lives, and we must do so at all costs.  

That is why we must all support the call by the United Nations for scaling up the immediate health response to suppress the transmission of the virus, to end the pandemic and to focus on people particularly, women, youth, low-wage workers, small and medium enterprises, the informal sector and vulnerable groups who are already at risk. Working together we can save lives, restore livelihood and bring the global economy back on track.

But what we cannot afford to do even at these crucial times is to shift resources away from priority SDGs actions. The response to the pandemic cannot be de-linked from actions on the SDGs. Indeed, achieving the SDGs will put us on a solid foundation and a firm path to dealing with global health risks and emerging infectious diseases. Achieving SDGs Goal 3 will mean strengthening the capacity of countries for early warning, risk reduction and management of national and global health risks.

This pandemic has manifestly exposed the crisis in global health systems. And while it is severely undermining prospects for achieving global health by 2030, critically it is having direct far-reaching effects on all the other SDGs.

The emerging evidence of the broader impact of the crisis on our quest to achieve the SDGs must be troubling for all.  UNESCO estimates that some 1.25 billion students are affected by this pandemic, posing a serious challenge to the attainment of SDGs Goal 4; and according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) some 25 million people could lose their jobs with those in informal employment suffering most from lack of social protection during this pandemic. Unfortunately, these might just be the tip of the iceberg.

Crucially, in many parts of the world, the pandemic and its effects are being exacerbated by the crisis in delivering on clean water and sanitation targets (SDG Goal 6), weak economic growth and the absence of decent work (SDGs Goal 8), pervasive inequalities (SDGs Goal 10), and above all, a crisis in poverty (SDGs Goal 1) and food security (Goal 2). The World Bank estimates that the crisis will push some 11 million people into poverty.

Even at this stage in this deadly pandemic, we cannot deny the fact that the crisis is fast teaching us, as global citizens, the utmost value in being each other’s keeper, in working to leave no one behind, and in prioritising the needs of the most vulnerable in society.

As our world strives to deal with the challenges posed by the pandemic, we ultimately must seek to turn the crisis into an opportunity and ramp up actions necessary to achieve the SDGs. The spirit of solidarity, quick and robust action to defeat the virus that we are witnessing must be brought to bear on the implementation of the Goals. The quantum of stimulus and pecuniary compensation packages that is being made available to deal with the pandemic make it clear that, when it truly matters, the world has the resources to deal with pressing and existential challenges. The SDGs are one such challenge.

What is acutely needed is enhanced political will and commitment. Our world has the knowledge, capacity and innovation, and if we are ambitious enough, we can muster the full complement of resources needed to implement successfully the Goals. Buoyed by the spirit of solidarity, Governments, businesses, multi-lateral organisations and civil society have in the shortest possible time been able to raise billions, and in some cases, trillions to support efforts to combat this pandemic. If we attach the same level of importance and urgency to the fight against poverty, hunger, climate change and towards all the other goals, we will be well poised for success in this Decade of Action on the SDGs.

As the world responds to the effects of this brutal pandemic, and seeks to restore global prosperity, we must focus on addressing underlying factors in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals.  We must not, and cannot relent in our efforts, even amid this painful pandemic. While some of the gains on the SDGs have been eroded, this should not deflate our efforts. They should rather spur us to accelerate and deepen our efforts during this Decade of Action to ‘recover better’, and build a healthier, safer, fairer and a more prosperous world, so necessary in avoiding future pandemics

* Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo is President of the Republic of Ghana and Co-chair of the UN Secretary-General’s Eminent Group of Advocates for the SDGs and Erna Solberg is Prime Minister of Norway and Co-chair of the UN Secretary-General’s Eminent Group of Advocates for the SDGs

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COVID-19 Cure Found Claims Madagascar President
April 27, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Prince Kurupati

Madagascar President Andry Rajoelina claims that his country has found the cure for COVID-19

Madagascar President Andry Rajoelina claims that his country has found the cure for COVID-19. President Rajoelina’s claims come at a time when various medical bodies are working day and night to find a cure for the devastating corona virus.

The cure which is known as Covid-Organics is a herbal remedy that’s produced from a combination of the Artemisia plant and other Malagasy plants. The Artemisia plant is the same plant whose ingredient is used in a malaria treatment.

President Rajoelina made the remarks while speaking at the launch of Covid-Organics at the Malagasy Institute of Applied Research (Imra).

The president said that people need not be worried when it comes to using Covid-Organics as tests have already been carried out to determine the effectiveness of the herbal remedy. President Rajoelina’s remarks were also echoed by his chief of staff Lova Hasinirina who in an interview with the BBC said that the herbal remedy had been tested on fewer than 20 people over a period of three weeks.

To ensure that everyone who is in need of the cure gets it readily, President Rajoelina said that the herbal remedy is to be given free of charge to the vulnerable.

The herbal remedy according to President Rajoelina works in just seven days and can also be used as a preventative measure. “This herbal tea gives results in seven days…and schoolchildren should be given this to drink…little by little throughout the day.”

Imra’s Director General Dr Charles Andrianjara supported the president’s sentiments saying the herbal remedy should be used for prevention. He also weighed in saying the results of the clinical observations they did showed “a trend towards its effectiveness as a curative remedy.”

Madagascar’s medical academy (Anamem) however was skeptical about the effectiveness of the herbal remedy saying the remedy had the potential to cause damage to people’s health as its “scientific evidence had not been established.”

World Health Organization (WHO) however said that there are no short cuts when it comes to finding cures for COVID-19. The health body said that it does not recommend “self medication with any medicines…as a prevention or cure for COVID-19.” WHO said international trials are still under way to find an effective treatment.

Several health experts including Professor Brian Klaas at University College London said President Rajoelina may put the lives of his people at risk owing to his remarks. Professor Brian Klaas said President Rajoelina’s remarks are dangerous for two reasons, “one is that some people will be taking it who should not be taking it…And secondly, that it will give people a false sense of security, so they’ll end up doing things that they would not otherwise have done and put themselves and others at greater risk.”

Madagascar currently has 121 positive cases of COVID-19 with zero deaths.

A few African countries including Senegal have shown interest in Covid-Organics. The Senegalese government spokesperson Abdou Latif Coulibaly while speaking to the country’s public broadcaster said Senegal is ready to give the ‘miracle’ drug a try.  

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COVID-19:Africa Must Review Health Care Systems To Avoid Donor Dependence- AU Rep Raila Odinga.
April 26, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Samuel Ouma

African Union High Representative for Infrastructure Development Raila Odinga says review its healthcare systems in order to evade over dependence on donor funds.Photo Credit Nation Media Group

Kenyan opposition Chief Raila Odinga on Sunday, April 26 said that the outbreak of Covid-19 has revealed how healthcare systems in Kenya and Africa at large are deficient. Overhauling systems to avoid over dependence on foreign donors is one of the lessons that must be drawn , says Mr Odinga.

In a series of tweets, the African Union High Representative for Infrastructure development noted that the country is not doing well when it comes to innovation in the healthcare. He called for strengthening of Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) to match the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Covid-19 has badly exposed our deficient healthcare infrastructure, indicating that we have only concentrated on prevention and cure. With covid-19, one person left to own devices is too much for everyone,” said Odinga.

“Let us question the dominance of US CDC (Centre for Disease Control) over KEMRI and its equivalents in Africa and seek ways to make these institutions independent, more attuned to Africa’s needs,” he posted.

The former Prime Minister reiterated that National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) needs strongest backup to provide quality medical cover to Kenyans.

“How to ensure everyone is able to pay for healthcare in a situation where one mismanaged infection can bring down a nation is a matter Africa must confront with urgency,” he insisted.

The ODM party leader asserted that Africa must review its healthcare system in order to evade over dependence on donor funds.

“When donors are overwhelmed in their own countries as is the case now, we are left badly exposed. Kenyatta University students have challenged us that with encouragement from government and private sector, innovation for healthcare can be done here, by us,” he said

A group of students at the university developed ventilators to help in the fight against covid-19. President Uhuru Kenyatta commended their efforts.

“Kenyans are showing they can invent and innovate… knowing our character is key to building our confidence to solve even more challenges that face our people,” said the President.

The invention was done by 16 students in less than one week. They said the idea came when they realized there are shortages in the country and the government could not import due lockdown imposed by several countries.

As of April 26, Kenya’s confirmed cases stood at 355.

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