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Covid 19: Ghana announces social welfare reliefs for affected areas
April 6, 2020 | 0 Comments

Ahedor Jessica 

President Nana Akufo Addo and his government have been proactive in measures to mitigate the ravages of the pandemic

The President of Ghana Nana Akufo Addo has announced the first set of broad social welfare reliefs intended to cushion the affected areas of the country’s lockdown in the wake of covid 19 pandemics.

The president through the finance ministry has directed parliament to initiate the coronavirus Alleviation Program to facilitate, accelerate and reduce the impact of the covid 19 on the ordinary Ghanaian.

‘’We are in difficult times, I directed the Minister for Finance to send to Parliament the Coronavirus Alleviation Program (CAP), whose objective is to protect households and livelihoods, support micro, small, and medium-sized businesses, minimize job losses’’.

He added that the decision is to source additional funding for promotion of industries to shore up and expand industrial output for domestic consumption and exports’’.

The President intimated, the Program through the Ministries of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Local Government and Rural Development, and the National Disaster Management Organization (NADMO) are working with Metropolitan, municipal district chief executives MMDCEs and the faith-based organizations, to provide food for up to four hundred thousand (400,000) individuals and homes in the affected areas of the restriction.

The distribution which begun in Accra yesterday saw a replica in Kumasi in the Ashanti region today. Deliverables including dry food packages and hot meals, to the selected locations in Accra, Tema, Kumasi and Kasoa.

Government is also set to absorb water bills for all Ghanaians for the next three months, from April to June. According to the president all water tankers, publicly and privately-owned, are also going to be mobilised to ensure the supply of water to all vulnerable communities. Ghana Water Company Ltd and the Electricity Company of Ghana have also been directed to ensure a stable supply of water and electricity during this period.

As at, Sunday, 5th April 2020, Ghana’s current situation stood at two hundred and fourteen (214) cases. The Greater Accra Region has one hundred and eighty-nine (189) cases, followed by the Ashanti Region with twelve (12), Northern Region ten (10), Upper West Region one (1), Eastern Region one (1), and Upper East Region one (1). The ten from the Northern Region are the West African nationals who entered our country illegally, after the closure of the borders.

In total, three (3) persons have fully recovered from the disease, forty-nine (49) persons have been discharged from treatment facilities, and are being managed from home, and the remaining one hundred and fifty-five (155) are responding to treatment. Two (2) persons are moderately ill, and five (5) persons, have lost their lives.  

Of the one thousand and thirty (1,030) travellers, who were mandatorily quarantined and tested on their arrival in Ghana on the 21st and 22nd of March, seventy-nine (79) was initially found to be positive, and appropriate arrangements were made for their isolation and treatment. Subsequently, after twelve (12) further days of quarantine, twenty-six (26) other persons were found to be positive as a result of their second test, bringing the total number of those found to be positive to one hundred and five (105), all of whom have been isolated for treatment.

Of the remaining nine hundred and twenty-five (925) persons, who have undergone two tests and found to be negative, eight hundred and four (804) have been released from quarantine to join their families. The remaining one hundred and twenty-one (121) are, in the process of being released.


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Merck Foundation joins hands with First Ladies of Africa to raise awareness about Coronavirus and how to stay safe and healthy
April 6, 2020 | 0 Comments

Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation with H.E. CONDÉ DJENE, The First Lady of Guinea Conakry; H.E FATIMA MAADA, The First Lady of Sierra Leone; H.E. PROFESSOR GERTRUDE MUTHARIKA, The First Lady of Malawi; H.E. FATOUMATTA BAH-BARROW, The First Lady of The Gambia; H.E DENISE NKURUNZIZA, The First Lady of Burundi; H.E AÏSSATA ISSOUFOU MAHAMADO, The First Lady of Niger; H.E. BRIGITTE TOUADERA, The First Lady of Central African Republic; H.E. REBECCA AKUFO-ADDO, The First Lady of Ghana; H.E. CLAR WEAH, The First Lady of Republic of Liberia; H.E. ANTOINETTE SASSOU-NGUESSO, The First Lady of Congo Brazzaville; H.E. MONICA GEINGOS, The First Lady of Namibia; H.E. AUXILLIA MNANGAGW, The First Lady of Zimbabwe; H.E. NEO JANE MASISI, The First Lady of Botswana; H.E. DR. ISAURA FERRÃO NYUSI, The First Lady of Mozambique and Former First Lady of Mauritania
Merck Foundation announces special awards during Coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown and movement restriction, “Stay at Home” Media Recognition Awards for African Countries to encourage media to be creative and effective in raising awareness and sensitizing Communities on how to stay safe and keep physically and mentally healthy during Coronavirus lockdown

ACCRA, Ghana, April 6, 2020/ — Merck Foundation (www.Merck-Foundation.com), the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany together with African First Ladies of Ghana, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Malawi, Namibia, Niger, Guinea Conakry, Burundi, Central African Republic (C.A.R.), Chad, Zimbabwe, Zambia, The Gambia, Liberia and Congo Brazzaville, announced the call for applications for their ‘Stay at Home” Media Recognition Awards for African countries. The theme of the awards is ‘Raising Awareness on how to Stay Safe and keep Physically and Mentally Healthy during Coronavirus Lockdown’.

Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation explains, “This unsettling period due to the coronavirus scare is difficult for everyone – both physically and mentally. While most countries are under complete lockdown or restricted movement, people do not know how to handle this situation. Social Distancing is our Social Responsibility and the only way to kill Coronavirus, however, it will take a lot of courage and discipline to practice it. Taking good care of your mental and physical health is important during this period. So, we decided to initiate these awards in order to reward the journalists who are raising awareness in most effective and creative way on how to keep safe and keep physically & mentally healthy during this phase”.

All the journalists from Print, Online, Radio and Multimedia Platforms from English speaking, French speaking, Arabic speaking and Portuguese speaking African countries are invited to send their entries for the awards. The most creative and influential media work aiming to raise awareness and sensitizing communities about this alarming topic at a regular basis will be eligible to win these awards.

“We have created four categories for Africa; English, French, Portuguese and Arabic speaking countries”, Dr Kelej added.

Merck Foundation will extend the awards to include Middle Eastern, Latin American and Asian Countries in the next few days to involve all media across the global South. 

“Since most of the people are confined to their homes, they are spending a lot of time reading and listening to news through different platforms. Media professionals, it is your time to help the people to take care good care of their mental & physical health during these disturbing times, through your creative, informational and motivational work. You can guide them to adjust to their new and different routine & rhythm of life”, emphasized Dr. Rasha Kelej.

Details of the Merck Foundation “Stay at Home” Media Recognition Awards

Who can Apply:

Journalists from Print, Online, Radio and Multimedia Platforms from English speaking, French speaking, Arabic speaking and Portuguese speaking African countries

Last date of submission:

Entries can be submitted till 30th June 2020

How to apply?

Entries can be submitted via Email to info@merck-foundation.com along with your details (including Name, Gender, Country, Media house, Email address & Mobile Number) and entry as an attachment

Categories and Prize Money:
Category
TV USD 500
Radio USD 500
Print USD 500
Online USD 500
Prize Money USD 500

*Merck Foundation


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COVID-19:Nigeria Open to Evacuating citizens from USA
April 6, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Amos Fofung

President Muhammadu Buhari

The federal government of Nigeria is preparing to evacuate it citizens from the United States as the country now tops the world in coronavirus infections.

By the time of this report, the United States had a record total of 304,826 positive cases and had already counted 7,616 deaths.

In a public notice dubbed “Evacuation of Nigerians from the USA” the Consulate General of Nigeria in New York called on Nigerians in the US to get ready, saying plans were well afoot to “rescue” them from the health pandemic raving thousands in the across the United States.

“The Consulate General of Nigeria is compiling names of Nigerian Nations requiring emergency evacuation during this challenging period of the covid-19 pandemic. The purpose of the exercise is to enable the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria provide the necessary assistance nationals in the united states of America,’ a section of the noticed signed by Ninkanwa O. Okey Uche, Information and Community Relations officer at the New York Consulate reads.

The administration of Muhammadu Buhari via its consulate urged all citizens in need of evacuation to follow through with necessary modalities adding that as soon as arrangements are finalized, all those who wishes to be evacuated will be informed accordingly.

Nigeria is the first country to call it citizens back from the US as the world super power crumble to it knees after been hit hardest by the pandemic which started in Wuhan China earlier this year.

With just 232 confirmed cases, 5 deaths and 33 recoveries, Nigeria just like most African states still has lower casualty rates from the ravaging pandemic which now counts 1,274,543 confirmed cases worldwide with over 69,487 deaths.

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The AFDB is a model of governance-President Akinwumi Adesina in reply to Le Monde Article
April 6, 2020 | 0 Comments
The African Development Bank has a very high reputation of good governance says AFDB President Akinwumi Adesina

PRESS STATEMENT BY DR. AKINWUMI ADESINA, PRESIDENT, AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT BANK April 6, 2020, ABIDJAN, COTE D’IVOIRE

An article in Le Monde has come to my attention. Following its publication, I have been overwhelmed by the tremendous show of support and solidarity I have continued to receive.

The African Development Bank has a very high reputation of good governance. The Bank was rated as the 4th most transparent institution in the world by Publish What You Fund. I have strong confidence in the governance systems of the Bank put in place by the Board of Governors of the Bank.

The Ethics Committee of the Board of Directors is following its internal review systems and should be allowed to complete its review and work without interference from anyone or the media.

I am 100% confident that due process and transparency, based on facts and evidence, will indicate that these are all nothing more than spurious and unfounded allegations.

I would like all our highly dedicated Bank staff, shareholders and partners not to be moved or shaken by any of these blatantly false allegations.

I will stay calm and resolute. I will not be distracted. No amount of lies can ever cover up the truth. Soon the truth will come out. 

I will continue to discharge my duties and responsibilities as President, with the highest level of professionalism, dedication and unshaken resolve, to lead and support the Bank’s bold mission for Africa’s accelerated development, and to help protect the continent at this time of the COVID19 pandemic.“

Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina

President, African Development Bank

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COVID-19: SLFA Donates LE 656 Million Solidarity Boost for Clubs and Players
April 3, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Boris Esono Nwenfor

Isha Johansen is the second current female football association President in the world along with Lydia Nsekera of Burundi
Isha Johansen is the second current female football association President in the world along with Lydia Nsekera of Burundi

The President of the Sierra Leone Football Association, SLFA Isha Tejan-Cole Johansen has confirmed that six hundred and fifty-six million Leones (Le 656,000,000) has been donated to Premier, First, and Second Division clubs in the country as a solidarity contribution by SLFA, as per the SLFA Media Department.

Four hundred and six million Leones (Le 406,000,000) will be distributed to 14 Premier clubs and Two hundred and Fifty Million Leones (Le 250,000,000) contribution goes to the Five Regional football Associations to be spread out and allocated to the respective lower division clubs (Division One and Two).

The novel coronavirus outbreak has had a major impact in the sporting domain as leagues across Africa, and many parts of the world have been put on hold. Football in Sierra Leone has equally been affected.

“These are abnormal and truly worrying times, and the only instinctive reaction these days are how to protect and be protected. As a parent football body in Sierrra Leone, we have a duty to support and protect each other,” Isha Johansen remarked.

Financial donations are not the only gesture from SLFA. In addition to financial boost, several hundreds of face masks will be distributed to SLFA staff and clubs.

All football activities in the nation has been put on hold until further notice as a part of the precautions against the spread of the coronavirus.

A statement by SLFA signed by General Secretary Chris Kamara explained that it was taking the decision following the world football governing body’s recommendations while tasking all clubs and football connected bodies to conform to the instructions.

“In line with the government’s effort in preventing the coronavirus, and in compliance with the FIFA recommendations to its member associations for general precaution, the Sierra Leone Football Association has suspended all football related activities across the country effective today, Tuesday 17th March 2020,” the communiqué read in part.

“SLFA is encouraging all Clubs, Regional and District Football Association and its affiliates including but not limited to Mini Leagues and officials to comply with the directives to protect fans, players, coaches, and everyone involved in the beautiful game of football, and most importantly to prevent the virus from entering in Sierra Leone.”

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Cameroon: Buea Council Distributes FCFA 4.5 Million to 33 Vulnerable Persons
April 3, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Boris Esono Nwenfor

1st Deputy Mayor of Buea Akawoh Minerva epse Molinge hands a cheque to a Displaced person residing in Buea
1st Deputy Mayor of Buea Akawoh Minerva epse Molinge hands a cheque to a Displaced person residing in Buea

33 vulnerable persons comprising physically challenged, those in great financial difficulty, IDPs have benefited from grants worth 4.5 Million FCFA from the Buea Council in collaboration with the Ministry of Social Affairs.

Distributing the grants Tuesday, March 31, the 1st Deputy Mayor Akawoh Minerva epse Molinge enjoined the beneficiaries to make proper use of the gift, using it to carry out the project they want to with the money.

“It is a project that is ongoing within the municipality that those who need assistance write to the Council and when it is available it is given to them,” Akawoh Minerva epse Molinge said.

“This is a follow-up programme as each year it (aid) is giving out. When they are found capable of receiving it, they grant will be giving to them.” “If someone says he is disabled and need a tricycle, the person present his/herself, and we see that the person needs a tricycle the social service will evaluate, and the grant will be made available.”

She added: “… Our beneficiaries are very faithful. Some are already in their tricycle, and if they come for some financial assistance it is different from the first application that they did. So what the beneficiaries ask for is usually provided.”

Follow-ups will be carried out to ensure that the beneficiaries do not misuse the money but used it in carrying out various businesses. “In the next two months, a team will be on the field to inspect, and make sure the aid was used judiciously,” Mbeng Marie Laure, Chief of Social Centre Buea said.

She further stressed on the fact that these grants are not ordinary gifts, but geared towards improving on the socioeconomic status of vulnerable persons in the society. 

Akoh Caroline, displaced person, former Head Teacher, and a mother of five children has been badly affected by the ongoing Anglophone crisis in Cameroon’s North West and South West Regions. She was kidnapped, giving multiple wounds while her right wrist was cut off, and her three fingers in her left hand also chopped off.

“This grant will help me a lot as I intend to open a small business while hoping to apply for more funds next time. Before I used to do farm work, but now I cannot even do that due to my present situation.”

“The FCFA 200,000 that has been given to me I will start with a table, so that when the coronavirus is over I can add other things to open a store. The only thing in can do is to take something and give to somebody with my two fingers,” She added.

She has called on the government to continue with such gesture which goes a long way in assisting the physically challenge persons in the society.

The Buea council grant is meant for physically challenged, those in great financial difficulty, Internally Displaced Persons in Buea
The Buea council grant is meant for physically challenged, those in great financial difficulty, Internally Displaced Persons in Buea

For one to benefit from the Buea council’s grants to vulnerable persons, he or she must be vulnerable which implies being physically challenged; those in great financial difficulty, Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, and residing within the Buea municipality.

The 2020 Buea council grants for vulnerable persons have been opened and those in need of such gesture have been urged to massively apply.

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Development bank for Central African States disburse 90 Billion FCFA to circumvent economic impact of Coronavirus
April 2, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Amos Fofung

CEMAC Leaders at a 2019 Summit in Yaounde ,Cameroon.Photo credit PRC.

The Development Bank of Central African States, BDEAC is finalizing plans to doll out cira 90 billion francs CFA to governments of the six member states of the Central African Economic and Monetary Community, CEMAC, to enable them cushion the negative economic impact caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

This was the major decision reached when Finance Ministers of CEMAC met in Brazzaville, the Congolese capital on March 29, to ponder on the economic slum looming within the sub region, nay the world, because of the economic slowdown caused by the coronavirus outbreak worldwide.

During what they categorized as an extraordinary meeting, Finance Ministers from Cameroon, Chad Republic, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Central African Republic and Congo Brazzaville took much time in analyzing the impact of this pandemic on the economic fabric of their nations and the sub region in general.

They noted that with the drastic fall in price of a barrel of oil and the drop in trade deals across the sub region, Africa and the world, there was a need for such a subsidy to enable CEMAC member states face the crisis situation.

In a press release issued by the Permanent Secretary of the CEMAC Economic and Financial Reform Programme, PREFCEMAC, the Bank of Central African States, BEAC will make this money available to the sub region’s development bank. PREFCEMAC specified that the money will be channeled to finance public projects relating to the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and the strengthening of health systems within member states.

Before this decision emanated from the extraordinary meeting of CEMAC Finance Ministers, the sub regional development bank had already dished out 500 million francs CFA to each member state to enable governments take precautionary measures as the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic was announced.

Development and Central Bank officials also announced that BEAC will double the weekly credits it normally gives to credit banks. This will rise from 250 billion francs CFA to 500 billion francs per week.

This is also in line with the statutes of the monetary policy committee which met a few days before the Finance Ministers’ met and deliberated by videoconference.

The sub region’s monetary officials also assured that all interest rates normally attributed to calls for tender will be lowered by 25 basis points, as well as the revised marginal loan facility rate by 100 points.

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Paradigm Initiative Releases Digital Rights in Africa Report 2019
April 2, 2020 | 0 Comments

Accra, March 23, 2020 – Paradigm Initiative, a pan-African social enterprise working to advance digital rights and inclusion in Africa, has released the 2019 Digital Rights in Africa Report.

Building on previous reports published since 2016, the Digital Rights in Africa Report 2019 gives an in-depth analysis of the state of digital rights in Africa, and examines violations such as Internet disruptions, illegal surveillance, arrest of bloggers and the passage of hurtful legislation, amongst others.

According to Babatunde Okunoye, Research Officer at Paradigm Initiative, “the 2019 Digital Rights in Africa Report, titled, ‘Violations Reloaded: Government Overreach Persists Despite Increased Civil Society Advocacy’ takes a critical look at the state of digital rights in 13 African countries – Benin, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Malawi, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. 

Speaking about the findings of the  report, Emmanuel Vitus, Communications Officer at  Paradigm Initiative said, “African countries are now adopting repressive models of Informational controls borrowed from authoritarian regimes such as Russia and China — a worrying signal which forebodes ill for the future of open and inclusive societies in Africa.” He continued: “This happens through a motley of targeted shutdowns, surveillance, arbitrary legislation to silence digital users. African nations are  becoming adept at controlling information both inside and outside their borders”.

“In addition to the publication of the 2019 Digital Rights in Africa Report, we are currently working with a media company to convert the report into a short movie. This will be followed by regional media briefings that will discuss our findings from the report, across Paradigm Initiative’s offices in Accra, Abuja, Arusha, Lagos, Lusaka  and Yaoundé, later in the year. The report is available for download, via Paradigm Initiative’s website, in English and French,” said Adeboye Adegoke, Digital Rights Program Manager at  Paradigm Initiative.

Bulanda Nkhowani, Paradigm Initiative’s Digital Rights Program Officer for Southern Africa, and a report contributor, stated, “Digital rights have become increasingly contested in Africa, with rights-limiting legislation, Internet shutdowns and other violations regularly headlining international media reporting. The 2019 Digital Rights in Africa Report investigates and documents these violations, serving as a body of evidence for advocacy for greater digital rights. In the fight against digital rights violations in Africa, civil society must persevere and use all the tools at their disposal, including research, to ensure that digital rights become respected and upheld.’’

Paradigm Initiative wishes to express a profound appreciation to the Netherlands Embassy, Ford Foundation and OSIWA for their support in producing this report. Their continued support for digital rights programs in Nigeria, and the rest of Africa, has been pivotal to ensuring that human rights in the digital age remains a priority. 

*Download the Report Here

*Source Paradigm Initiative

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African Development Bank approves $2 million emergency assistance for WHO-led measures to curb COVID-19 in Africa
April 1, 2020 | 0 Comments

The Board of Directors of the African Development Bank on Tuesday approved  $2 million in emergency assistance for the World Health Organization (WHO) to reinforce its capacity to help African countries contain the COVID-19 pandemic and mitigate its impacts.

The grant, which is in response to an international appeal by the WHO, will be used by the world body to equip Regional Member Countries to prevent, rapidly detect, investigate, contain and manage detected cases of COVID-19.

It is one part of several Bank interventions  to help member countries address the pandemic which, while slow to arrive in Africa, is spreading quickly and is  straining already fragile health systems.

Specifically, the WHO Africa region will use the funds to bolster the capacity of 41 African countries on infection prevention, testing and case management. WHO Africa will also boost surveillance systems, procure and distribute laboratory test kits and reagents, and support coordination mechanisms at national and regional levels.

This grant “ will enable Regional Member Countries to put in place robust containment measures within 48 hours of COVID-19 case confirmation and also support the WHO Africa Region to disseminate information and increase public awareness in communities,” said the Bank’s Human Capital Youth and Skills Development Department.

The grant will contribute toward a $50 million WHO Preparedness and Response Plan,  which other partners including the United Nations system, are also supporting.

It is estimated that Africa will require billions of dollars to cushion the impact of the disease as many countries scramble together contingency measures, including commercial lockdowns, in desperate efforts to contain it. Globally, factories have been closed and workers sent home, disrupting supply chains, trade, travel, and driving many economies toward recession.

The Bank Group is expected to unveil a financial assistance package that will enable governments and businesses to undertake flexible responses to lessen the economic and social impact of this pandemic.

Last Thursday, the Bank raised an exceptional $3 billion in a three-year social bond, the proceeds from which will go to help alleviate the economic and social effects of the pandemic. It is the largest dollar-denominated social bond launched in international capital markets to date.

*AFDB

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African governments and the judiciary must protect workers and oil companies from ill-intent legal actions due to COVID-19
April 1, 2020 | 0 Comments

sea oil platform with a drilling rig in the area of Congo
African energy companies and services companies operating onshore and offshore need to be given protection from unnecessary litigation

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, April 1, 2020/ — The African Energy Chamber (www.EnergyChamber.org) is calling on African governments and the judiciary to take actions to shield oil & gas companies and their workers from lawyers trying to take advantage of the Coronavirus pandemic to create instability in the workplace.

While most Africans are trying to cope with the uncertainty and issues of Covid 19 and low oil prices, the Chamber is concerned about trial lawyers that are hungry for big checks at the expenses of oil companies and their workers. In this context, it is critical that the judiciary does its best to limit frivolous labor claims to ensuring the stability and continuity of petroleum operations during these difficult times.

“African oil & gas companies have enough to worry about at the moment, and frivolous lawsuits should not be one of them. This is not the time for lawyers to see our industry as a dairy cow and try to get a big payday at the expense of companies and their workers,” stated NJ Ayuk, Executive Chairman of the African Energy Chamber.

“We cannot love jobs and hate those who create jobs. Protecting jobs and fighting this virus should be our greatest priority. Governments have to send a message that investors and their investments will not be put at risk by greedy lawyers and bureaucrats. For Africa to come out of the twin crisis of low oil prices and the coronavirus stronger than before, we need everyone to show some common sense,” added Ayuk.

African energy companies and services companies operating onshore and offshore need to be given protection from unnecessary litigation. Most companies at the moment are focused on keeping operations intact with the right HSE processes, and ensuring that they can generate revenue for governments and protect the jobs they have created for every day Africans. This should remain a priority.

The Chamber is pleased with the support that is being provided across Africa by oil and gas companies working together with governments across a range of support measures, and it is important to keep resources focused on fighting COVID-19, not lawsuits. The oil sector will remain a pillar in the fight against COVID-19. BP has made a significant financial contribution to the WHO’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for example, and Dangote Industries has done the same with the Nigerian Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19. NNPC on its sides has already donated six brand new ventilators to the University of Abudja Teaching Hospital.

Shall the situation on our continent worsen, we will be very relieved to have companies with the ability to provide such support the same way Total supports France and Eni supports Italy as thousands of lives are lost. During these times of uncertainty, frivolous lawsuits against petroleum operators and their associates could disrupt the essential role businesses must play in overcoming the crisis and in the recovery.

Consequently, the Chamber calls on governments of oil and gas nations like Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Angola, Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Cameroon, South Sudan, Libya, Senegal or Algeria to extend liability protections to medical professionals assisting workers on oil fields, protection from frivolous labour claims, and also assist oil companies with issues arousing out of their inability to honor rotation of employees due to lockdowns.

*African Energy Chamber
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Africa’s COVID-19 solution lies in information and not isolation-A look at Hubei vs New York
March 31, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Ben Kazora*

  • The black death pandemic is estimated to have killed up to 60% of Europe which was an estimate of 450 million people in the 14th century.
  • Today a virus can travel first class on KLM to Africa and infect millions
  • In Taiwan, when an infected person leaves their home or turns the phone off the police and local authority will be alerted and the person will be visited within 15 minutes
  • The Co-100 app shares when the person tested positive, their nationality, gender and age.

Africa’s Advantage in the war with COVID-19

Interesting to note how the richer nations have been first to succumb to COVID-19 scourge. I believe this is primarily owed to the business and tourism between China and the west. Africa is benefited from late infections and has the advantage of lessons learned from the earlier victims and how the nations have dealt with it. Examining the Asian and European reactions to this pandemic Africa is primed to implement the best of both worlds. To this end, I firmly believe the critical soldiers in this unique battle against the pathogens, are the data scientists in concert with the healthcare workers armed with data. This approach in my view will save the continent millions of lives, jobs and the continents vulnerable economy.

Tale of two localities: Hubei & New York

With only 404 COVID-19 (0.07% of the population) cases Singapore has proven more adept at handling this pandemic than New York. Despite a greater distance from the epicenter (Hubei Province), New York has 2.3 times more cases compared to Singapore, relative to the population. With 81,281 cases out of 1.4 billion people it’s hard to deny that China got it right.
Hubei province with 60M people had 67,801 cases. This infection rate of 0.1% remain less than New York. Wuhan, the COVID-19 epicenter had about two-thirds of all China’s cases is about to lift the lead and resume life as normal. While the western world is grappling with this pandemic, it seems there are many lessons to learn from the east. Given the technological advancements of the west and advances in medicine I couldn’t help but wonder. First off let’s examine previous pandemics.

We have been down this road before

During the 14th to 19th century the world was dealt with the Black Death. This disease that was spread by body lice started in Italy and spread across Europe to France, Spain, Portugal, Scotland, and Scandinavia among others. This pandemic is estimated to have killed up to 60% of Europe which was an estimate of 450 million people in the 14th century.

Like COVID-19 today, the smallpox pandemic was equally class-blind killing the rich and poor alike. This plague is estimated to have decimated close to 30 million Mexicans by 1568 which was way before the arrival of Hernan Cortes. Despite the Spaniards having a superior army, the microscopic ally (smallpox) that Cortes army unwillingly brought from Europe helped take down the Aztec empire. This disease spread along trade routes in Asia, Africa, and Europe, eventually reaching the Americas. Smallpox is estimated to have killed 300 million people in the 20th century alone. It’s also estimate that fatality rate was 30% of those infected.

Wherever it began, the 1918 flu pandemic lasted just 15 months but was the deadliest disease outbreak in human history, killing between 50 million and 100 million people worldwide, according to the most widely cited analysis. The effect of the flu pandemic was so severe that the average life span in the US was depressed by 10 years.

It’s information not isolation

Clearly, without airplanes or cruise ships we have seen diseases spreading from east to west Europe and across continents. This means that closing our boarders isn’t the permanent solution. Germany took in about 50 Italian COVID-19 patients to help with the treatment. German’s gesture speaks to the power of collaboration and sharing of information that has proven to be the best weapon against these pathogen. Sweden has not closed its borders or its schools. Neither has it closed non-essential businesses or banned gatherings of more than two people, like the U.K. and Germany. Sweden has taken the unorthodox approach of simply informing and trusting the citizens.
Sweden’s 10 million strong population has reported 3,700 cases and only 110 deaths, while New York reports about ten times the rates of death and infections while population difference is only double. This phenomenon further shows that isolation isn’t the true solution.

Over the years we have seen doctors win the battle against the pathogens one time too many. The secret lies in the fact that while pathogens rely on blind mutations, the doctors have been armed with the powerful scientific analysis born of information. Third world countries have always struggled to deal with the likes of Ebola due to the non-data driven approach. This present danger posed by COVID-19 presents the third world a chance to examine novel ways of fighting pandemics and epidemics. I will term the information driven approach as the Asia approach.
We have seen time and again that the Asian nations of China, Singapore and Taiwan and others have proven more efficient at handling the pandemic. Africa political philosophies happen to be more aligned with those of Asia than those of the west. In a world where a virus can travel first class on KLM to Africa and infect millions, information becomes the only tool available to combat this. The US strongly adheres to privacy laws and that makes collection of pertinent data much more difficult. Perhaps, it’s time to examine the modification of these laws during such gruesome times. I imagine people are willing to temporarily trade privacy for life.

Data is the most lethal ammunition in this war

In Beijing, “Beijing Cares” app has been integrated into the permeating WeChat app. People under quarantine are made to input their daily temperature and health status into the app. When the isolation period is over, a “healthy status” page is generated, which users can flash at buildings and malls to gain entry. The Chinese government also releases details about patients’ travel history – via text messages on the mobile phone and state-managed websites – so the public can avoid places where the virus was once active.
South Korea took more aggressive steps by deploying a innovative system using data such as surveillance camera footage and credit card transactions of confirmed COVID-19 patients to recreate their movements. Max Kim of the MIT Technology review reported that the Ministry of the Interior and Safety using their Corona-100m (Co100) app, that allows those who have been ordered not to leave home to stay in contact with case workers and report on their progress. The app will also use GPS to keep track of their location to make sure they are not breaking their quarantine. Additionally, the app allows users to see how close they are to places that COVID-19 patients have visited before testing positive. As if that’s not enough, the app also shares when the person tested positive, their nationality, gender and age.

Taiwan went further to implement mobile phone electronic fencing. This location tracking platform ensures that those quarantined remain at home. The primary intent here is to ensure those infected aren’t running around spreading the virus. When one leaves their home or turns the phone off the police and local authority will be alerted and the person will be visited within 15 minutes. Officials also call twice a day to ensure the phone isn’t left at home by the infected person. Fact remains that the virus doesn’t travel from place to place but humans take the virus from one place to another.

Can we sacrifice our privacy to save our lives?

I know the mentioned slants would run afoul of privacy laws in the west. However, this is perhaps the most ideal time for African countries to come up with the Infection Protection Act akin to the German version being modified to deal with COVID-19. MTN group has close to 244 million subscribers while Vodacom has over 110 million. All together close to 750 million people in Africa have cellphones. The solution to the war with COVID-19 and future pandemics hinges on leveraging data and technology to complement the doctor’s efforts. The World Health Organization (WHO), Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus said “the steps China took to fight the virus at its epicenter were a good way of stopping its spread.” African must act fast and swiftly. This is ultimately a sprint and not a marathon.

Remember that worry is like a rocking chair: It gives you something to do but never gets you anywhere. Instead adhere to the known protocols such as social distancing, washing hands often, cough into your elbows,stay home

* *The author is  co-founder of Limitless Software Solutions and can be reached via emails ben.kazora@limitlesssoftwares.com and bkazora@alumni.purdue.edu.


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Smart Africa Launches Africa Wide Coordinated Response to the Coronavirus Pandemic
March 31, 2020 | 0 Comments

Smart Africa, a bold and innovative commitment from African Heads of State and Government to accelerate sustainable socioeconomic development , has launched a continent-wide technology based coordinated impact response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic for Africa.

Kigali,Rwanda., March 27, 2020 – Smart Africa has launched a continent-wide technology based coordinated impact response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic for Africa. This response is aimed at bringing together the 30 member states under the Smart Africa Alliance and the 40 private sector members of the Alliance to coordinate efforts to stem the pandemic in Africa.

In order to tackle this unprecedented crisis, by its magnitude and its impact on society, the Smart Africa Secretariat seeks to support digital health services projects that aim at improving and accelerating the African governments response to the challenges of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The projects under the initiative are aimed at assisting African countries to:

  • Assess individual risk and guide decision making;
  • Assist African populations in finding nearby testing sites;
  • Provide reliable updates and alerts from public health authorities;
  • Report on community status;
  • Track and report transmissions.

Moreover, to ensure that the efforts are relevant to the African context, critical technological parameters are considered as below:

  • A solution available via web, application (iOS, Android, Windows), SMS, USSD, and other messaging platforms;
  • Data collection from diverse points such as individual smartphones or terminals at public facilities (e.g. testing terminals at border controls, testing terminals by medical authorities, etc.);
  • A reporting dashboard accessible to the admin with relevant data – specific rights depending on the status of the admin (e.g. public authorities, medical authorities) will be established;
  • Anonymized data (no personal information including name, ID, address recorded on the system) generated by use of the solution can be published in real-time through a database accessible with an API and map interface on a public website for public health authorities to monitor;
  • Reliably informative content available in local languages in various formats (written – vocal with Interactive Voice Recognition technology) – e.g. prevention practices, isolation practices, closest health facilities, additional one-on-on support, etc.;
  • Assessment and guidance compliance to the World Health Organization (“WHO”), national and local public health guidelines and include exposures, symptoms of illness, and underlying health status.

“There are numerous international interventions to the coronavirus pandemic but so far very few that are relevant to the immediate African context. We are bringing a credible and coordinated technology based African response which must go beyond our 30 member countries to the entirety of the African continent. The aim is to save lives and we must all do our part,” said Mr. Lacina Koné, Director General of Smart Africa.

The response will be initiated through a call for proposals which will involve numerous stakeholders across Africa. Once initiated the response by governments to the pandemic is expected to be coordinated, efficient and to save lives.

About Smart Africa

SMART Africa is a bold and innovative commitment from African Heads of State and Government to accelerate sustainable socioeconomic development on the continent, ushering Africa into a knowledge economy through affordable access to Broadband and usage of Information and Communications Technologies.

The Transform Africa Summit held in Kigali, Rwanda on 28th-31st October 2013 culminated in the adoption of the Smart Africa Manifesto document by seven (7) African Heads of States (Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan, Mali, Gabon, Burkina Faso) in which they committed to provide leadership in accelerating socio-economic development through ICT’s.

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