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Imaging the Future: A Post-Mugabe Zimbabwe

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In August 2016, amidst anti-government protest, President Robert Gabriel Mugabe made it inescapably clear that there will be no Arab Spring in Zimbabwe. The 92-year-old president has ruled Zimbabwe since its independence in 1980, a time when he was told he had “ the jewel of Africa” in his hands by Presidents Machel and Nyerere of Mozambique, and Tanzania, respectively.

Thirty-six years later, Zimbabwe now resembles an ordinary rock rather than the much-coveted jewel it once was. There is no denying it, for better or worse, Zimbabwe’s politico-economic sphere has been dominated by Mugabe’s ZANU-PF (Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front) since independence. The party has led the country down the path of hyperinflation, laughable corruption and political insecurity due to a lack of good economic and political reforms.

Only after the sharp economic decline from 2000-08 did a strong opposition; The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) emerge. Consequently, the emergence of a strong opposition resulted in the country’s first-ever coalition government in 2009. And due to the coalition government, from 2009-13, there were improved economic policies resulting in a healthy growth for the country. Sadly and predictably, this was short-lived. The MDC were once again in opposition after the highly controversial elections of 2013 that saw ZANU increase its margins. With increased civil unrest, and protests, by any forecast, it would now seem that Zimbabwe is steering full steam ahead towards an iceberg with no signs of stopping, and at the helm is Mugabe. Compounded by internal power struggles within the party, the uncertain leadership succession is likely to result in an unpredictable and violent political transition. The question many political pundits are now asking is what Zimbabwe will look like during, and after this impending interregnum.

Mugabenomics

Much of the protest in Zimbabwe is against the bad economic policies of the regime which have resulted in egregiously high unemployment, unpaid civil and public servants, put simply, the government has no money. The portmanteau word: Mugabenomics, is not a celebration of his economic astuteness, but rather a clear warning against poor economic planning, corruption and over zealous monetary easing. Unlike Abenomics, which sought to stimulate the stagnant Japanese economy through fiscal stimulus, monetary easing (QE) and structural reform; Mugabenomics only had one policy, Quantitative Easing, which inevitably led to devaluation and hyperinflation. Controversially, the cash-strapped government is now in a process of printing yet again more money, but this time a surrogate currency: Bond Notes. These notes are said to hold a 1:1 value as the US dollar, however, this move has been unwelcomed by many zimbabweans as the Bond Notes are practically worthless outside Zimbabwe. Economics Professor, Steve Hanke (Johns Hopkins University) warned the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, explaining that “…bond notes would create chaos”.

We must note that Zimbabwe was not always in this economic state. After gaining independence, the Zimbabwe dollar was more valuable than the US dollar at the exchange rates. Throughout the 1980s, Zimbabwe enjoyed the positive economic growth of 5% GDP growth per year, in the 90s, 4.3%, however, the new millennium saw a decline in GDP. In 2000, there was a sharp decline of 5% in GDP, then 8% in 2001, 12% in 2002 and 18% in 2003. The Mugabe administration continued its policy of printing money in an attempt to revive the dying economy resulting in hyperinflation and mass unemployment. At the height of inflation (2008-09), the inflation rate was an estimated at 79.6 billion% in November, 2008. By 2009, the Zimbabwean dollar was quickly abandoned, and replaced by the US dollar. As a result of hyperinflation, there has not been any substantial Foreign Direct investment (FDI) in the country, only receiving $ 2billionin FDI, barely doing better than war-torn Somalia’s $1.7billion.

The causes of such economic degradation can be traced to three main factors; namely war, land reform and corruption. Firstly, in 1997, in an effort to buy political support from the Independence war veterans, the government announced that it would pay bonuses to the veterans equivalent to 3% of the GDP. This, of course, translated into an electoral victory in 2000 where Mugabe won with 48.6% of the votes, compared to MDCs 47%. Moreover, Zimbabwe’s unnecessary involvement in the Second Congo War from 1998 to 2002 badly drained the economy, further weakening an economy that was going through a drought. As a result, Zimbabwe could not pay off its debt to the IMF, World Bank, African Development Bank and other Western states, and thus defaulted on its debts. Secondly, Land Reform policy played a major role in destabilising Zimbabwe. In short, it was the effort to equality redistribute land between black farmers and white Zimbabweans, who at that time made up 5% of the population but owned 70% of the most fertile land. It’s crucial to note that the Land reform was part of the Lancaster House Agreement 1979 and that white farmers were being compensated for their land. The agreement stipulated a 10-year wait before Mugabe’s government could institute land reform, which it did. From 1979-1997 the principle of “willing buyer, willing seller” was applied with Britain providing £44 million to the government for land reform. However, Blair’s Minister for International Development, Ms Clare Short, stated that the “UK did not accept that Britain had a special responsibility to meet the costs of land purchase in Zimbabwe” thus the Blair administration ended all payments.

What followed next was a reaction to the failures to uphold the commitments of Lancaster House, which was the introduction of the “Fast-track Land Reform Programme 2000”; a programme that gained notoriety due to the violent evictions of white Zimbabwean farmers. A referendum held in 2000 denied Mugabe increased powers to confiscate white-owned land, without compensation, by 54.7%, however, the Mugabe administration went on with the programme regardless. Instead of redistributing the land into the hands of black farmers, Mugabe gave most of the land to the top echelons of his government, top generals and war veterans, with some receiving as much as 5-10 farms. The international community (IMF, EU, US and the UK) responded with heavy sanctions on Mugabe’s government which had adverse consequences on the economic. The situation was further exacerbated due to the fact that these new “farmers” had no business or farming experience, thus leading to a sharp fall in food production (-45%) and manufacturing (-29%) resulting in price increase, and mass unemployment (-90%). Now these farms are once again being used as political tools to control those whose have fallen out of favour with the party, like Mr Temba Mliswa, whose farm is being confiscated by the state.

To continue, corruption played a huge role in Zimbabwe’s economic state. Like all African states, Zimbabwe is very resource rich i.e., resources like gold, platinum and diamonds are amongst its main exports. However, the revenues from most of those resources are unaccounted for. The Marange diamond fields produced 13% of the world’s rough diamond, an estimated £15 billion in revenues, however, these revenues never made it back to the exchequer instead lined the pockets of Mugabe and his cronies. The sad thing about this situation is that with this one haul alone, Zimbabwe could have paid off its foreign debt worth £6-8 billion, created jobs, reducing unemployment instead of adding to it by cutting a further 25 000 civil service jobs. Sadly enough, with one of the highest literacy rates, both in the world and in Africa, at 90%, the population is one of Zimbabweans greatest assets. However years of corruption and poor economic planning has seen scores of unemployed graduates and profession, further damaging the economy, and the upcoming leadership succession is unlikely to resolve this issue.

House of cards

The party’s dictatorial behaviour stems from its dominance in the political field, aided by the weaknesses of the opposition parties. However, with the vast majority of the public demanding a regime change, the impending interregnum will be the opportune time for Mugabe’s house of cards to fall. An interregnum is generally described as a period where leadership is either unclear or influx leaving the future unknown. In political terms, Mugabe will leave a massive power vacuum with various factions vying for power and control which, if we look at history, tends to end up violent. In a thinly veiled threat Mugabe warned that “our patience has limits” in reference to the dissatisfied protesters who took to the streets to protest, brandishing the Zimbabwean flag, against Mugabe’s failed economic policies, corruption and wanted a regime change. The Zimbabwe Flag Act has made it illegal for the citizenry to produce, sale and use of the national flag without official permission after activists from the #Thisflag movement turned it into a symbol of anti-government protests. In every sense of the word, Zimbabwe is becoming an Orwellian state.

Article 59 of the Zimbabwean Constitution explicitly states that “[E]very person has the right to demonstrate and to present petitions, but these rights must be exercised peacefully”, the government has met the peaceful protesters with brutality, arbitrary imprisonment and fines of up to $200 (when most people live on $2 per day). To make matters worse, when Mugabe recently opened parliament, he introduced a new cybersecurity bill designed to monitor the internet and social media in order to find and arrest “dissidents”, violating the Article 61 of the Constitution (freedom of expression). In an ironic twist and a bid to control the citizenry, Mugabe is both, constraining the freedoms he and the early ZANU-PF so valiantly fought for, and setting up the regime for a violent overthrow.

Robert Mugabe is most likely to hand-pick his next successor to continue his policies, though, admittedly, none will have his political astuteness. During this uncertain time, one of five events may happen;

1. Business as usual. ZANU-PF has been the only dominant political force in Zimbabwe for decades, winning elections by hook or crook. Also, in rural areas, there is still strong support for ZANU-PF, and considering the president’s age, people may prefer the devil they know as he is entering his twilight. Furthermore, factions within ZANU-PF (Generation 40) are attempting to make Mugabe president-for-life. This scenario will be much welcomed by Mugabe as it will save him from being called up to the Hague for the egregious human rights violations.

2.Infighting. The warring factions of ZANU-PF are sharpening their swords for battle. Already we have seen those who no longer agree with the party, like Mr Agrippah Mutambara, have his farms confiscated. Furthermore, the fiercely loyal War veterans have abandoned Mugabe accusing him of being a dictator, already setting the stage for messy leadership succession. On the other hand, The Zanu-PF Generation 40, (G40) are working hard to ensure Mugabe should be made President for life, and/or that dynastic politics continue with Grace Mugabe taking up the mantle. In direct competition with them, is the so-called Lacoste Faction (due to the T-shirts they wore to an event) whose goal is to crown the VP, Emmerson Mnangagwa, President as he is seen to be a stabilising figure and favourable to the Chinese. The infighting will serve one of two ends, the first being the disbandment of the party as opined by the political scientist, Ibbo Mandaza. The downside to this is that these factions were contained within the party, now have free, political violence is likely to ensue across the country. Second, it will serve to consolidate and concentrate power in the hands of ZANU-PF which will lead to a one party state, in all but name leading to further constraints on civil liberties and violent crackdowns on any opposition.

3.Civil War. Due to Southern Africa, as a whole, being relatively peaceful in comparison to its North or Western counterparts, this is highly unlikely to occur. Furthermore, Zimbabwe’s neighbours and trading partners in Southern African Development Community (SADC) will push for a peaceful political transition as, (a) the civil war will be bad for business for the whole region, (b) the resulting displacement of people will put major economic strains and increase xenophobic attacks as seen in South Africa , and (c) the spill from the civil war will result in neighbouring states being inadvertently dragged into the war and used as proxy bases. However, if we look at the Gukurahundi operation (1983-87) in which the army’s Fifth Brigade (answerable to the president only) identified and eliminated suspected anti-government elements among the Ndebele community resulting in up to 80 000 deaths, something like this is plausible.

4.Opposition landslide. The upcoming election of 2018, in which the ageing president is standing in, will allow the electorate to vent their frustration against the ruling party. This, in turn, will result in the lifting of some sanctions by the West and the IMF, perhaps debt forgiveness, allowing Zimbabwe to rebuild itself economically and politically. However, if history is anything but a teacher, Mugabe will employ the same tricks he used to win previous elections such as intimidation, electoral fraud and having the dead vote for him. Though this will be the most peaceful event, the election will be highly contested.

A mixture of poor economic planning, corruption and overzealous monetary easing has eroded trust in Zimbabwe’s political and financial systems, at this stage, people just want something new. Consequently, this internal power struggle will end up eating the country exposing deadly fissures, ostracizing old faithful retainers and dividing allegiances. If anything is to be taken way from this, dear reader, is that ZANU-PF is Robert Mugabe and Robert Mugabe is ZANU-PF. In his 36 years in power, he has not received any credible challenge from within the party proving that either (a), as long as the upper echelons of the party receive their cut, they will be quite and obedient, (b) none of them have the political astuteness to overthrow him and successfully run the country, and (c) if they do, they are too scared to challenge someone with seemingly endless power. Despite efforts by the opposition and the protesters, I have a feeling that the upcoming election in 2018 is most likely going to be rigged leading yet to another ZANU victory. Regardless of people’s own personal feeling towards Mr Mugabe, he has come to define and shape Zimbabwean politics for generations to come. The sad conclusion is that history will not absolve Mr Mugabe. History will remember him as a great liberator of a by-gone era, who, like many in his era, stayed in power for too long. An authoritarian dictator who drove the economy and the country into the ground, violated many human rights, and a leader who often mistook his own personal interest to that of the country. His song will not be that of a glorious revolutionary legacy but rather, one of absolute power corrupting, absolutely.

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Africa

Walking On A Tightrope Of Rights And COVID

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At the outset let me say this: It is an inherent human right to protest and express one’s views and political belief without being subjected to suppression or harassment. However, with freedom comes responsibility. In this time of the deadly pandemic, common sense dictates that public gatherings of protest must be COVID-compliant. 

As a human rights activist and someone who worked in Somalia in recent years and has been in constant communication with health care workers and members of the civil societies there, I can affirm that the Somali people are struggling to manage the resurgence of the deadly second wave of COVID-19. This, unfortunately, came at an election year and at the peak of Somalia political dispute between the Central government and two of the federal states on one hand, and the Central government and the opposition on the other hand. It is the season when resources of the government and the opposition are routinely and exclusively allocated for political contention instead of putting the pandemic on top priority.

Sadly, the deadly COVID-19 is becoming a political football between people who see it as an opportunity for one end or another. Other than issuing artificial statements of concern, none of these political contenders has forged a serious strategy to fight this deadly disease. In a country where an estimate of 70 percent of the population is jobless and over one million people are internally displaced people (IDPs), poverty is a glaring reality, and drought and famine are looming in some regions, the situation is very desperate, to say the least. 

The Federal government, regional states, and the opposition groups must collectively and urgently prioritize the protection of civilians who are desperately struggling to survive the second wave of this pandemic. This deadly virus coupled with an already crippled health care system, paves the way for a fatal consequence not only upon the Somali citizen but also on the Somali nation.

Going back to the core contentious, we have two competing issues:  the first and most immediate contentious issue is whether or not a peaceful demonstration against the current government could take place in Mogadishu. As I expressed in the opening lines, the answer is yes. But that yes must be handled responsibly. 

The second and the long-standing issue is the deadlock over the election process. This protracted deadlock is related to who wheels the power of the selection process. More specifically, the competing sides quarrel over who manages the processes of the election in the Gedo region and the Somaliland future parliamentarians and, more critically, the legitimacy of the electoral model and members of the electoral commission. Despite the September 17, 2020 election agreement signed by all sides, the Jubaland and Puntland leadership have consistently refused its implementation. On their part, the Federal government which considered the said agreement favored the federal states, has been giving it lip service, at best.  

With the foregoing and as someone dedicated to fairness and the cause of saving Somalia and her citizens, I strongly encourage the contending parties to exercise restraint and give wisdom and the love of the country the chance to prevail. Further, I appeal to the Central government, federal states, and the members of the opposition to consider the following:

 With regard to the demonstrations in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic 

1.      There has to be a mechanism in place to safeguard the safety and security of the protesters

2.      Spoilers, both domestic and foreign actors, must not be allowed to take advantage of the prevailing disagreement and exploit the demonstrations as a venue and as a platform to implement evil destructive intentions

3.      The government’s security forces must not intervene, in any way, in a peaceful demonstration.  If any such intervention is warranted, it has to be only to stop violent groups from taking advantage of this civic engagement

4.      To pursue the above, it is important to form a committee comprising relevant government institutions, opposition, civil society, AMISOM to oversee peaceful demonstrations to happen

5.      In addition, protesters have to be educated on the precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the COVID-19.  FM radios, TVs & social media can be used to inform and encourage protesters to practice safety measures and to encourage anyone with signs of infection to stay home. 

6.      Arrangements must be made to provide masks, hand sanitizers to the protesters and to encourage social distancing. 

With regard to resolving the existing dispute and conducting free and fair elections:

There is a need for a political continuity to avoid political vacuum and safeguard stability. Constitutional bodies 

(the executive and the legislative) need to remain until elections take place and new leadership is elected. 

To break the deadlock and as a compromise, an inclusive and independent body may be instituted to guide the process around the elections, including validation of the electoral commission and setting an election timetable and resolving other outstanding disagreements. The formation and composition of this body have to be done consultatively. 

Last but not the least, individuals seeking presidential election including the incumbent and other candidates, will have to stay away from direct involvement in decisions affecting the outcome of the elections. 

The critical situation at hand tests the leadership capacity of all sides. At the end of the day what would matter is not who won or who lost, but how many lives were saved by their compromise.

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South Sudan’s transition from conflict to recovery ‘inching forward’

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South Sudan’s transformation from conflict to recovery is underway, but much needs to be done before securing “a peaceful and prosperous future”, the UN Special Representative to the country told the Security Council on Tuesday. 

“Because of the collective efforts of so many…South Sudan is in a better state”, the head of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), David Shearer, said in his last briefing, after serving as Special Representative for four years. 

However, he stated that “it is inching forward – frustratingly slowly – with still so much to do”. 

Despite recently marking the one-year anniversary of the transitional government, progress is lagging – including in reconstituting a Transitional National Legislature, constitution-making, transitional justice, and economic reform, according to Mr. Shearer, who also pointed out that troops that have yet to be unified. 

“Slow implementation comes at a cost. The power vacuum at a local level has opened opportunities for spoilers and national actors who have exploited local tensions and fueled violence”, he said. 

The UNMISS head also noted “a worrying surge in violence” between various heavily armed community militia in Warrap, in the Bahr el Ghazal region, while highlighting that despite the deaths of nine aid workers last year, humanitarian agencies continue to provide “critical assistance”. 

Four years later 

Reflecting on how far the nascent State has come since 2018, Mr. Shearer spotlighted a ceasefire, a peace deal, improved political security, a transitional government, a presidency, council of ministers, governors and local leadership, which is “slowly being installed”.  

Moreover, political violence had reduced “by a power of 10” compared to those who were dying or displaced from widespread conflict in 2016, he informed the Ambassadors. 

UNMISS: ‘Stabilizing force’  

“A caveat is our concern about the upsurge in armed community militia seemingly in open defiance of state forces”, said the UN official, adding that UNMISS is making “a real difference in lowering the level of this kind of violence and bringing diverse communities together”.  

He called the mission “a stabilizing force that extends well beyond our physical presence – and which is welcomed by nearly 80 percent of South Sudanese who we have independently surveyed”.  

Mr. Shearer updated the Council that UNMISS continues to push the peace process forward by working closely with all political parties, in coordination with regional and international partners. 

‘Extremely fragile’ peace 

However, he underscored that “the peace process remains extremely fragile”, noting that many citizens question the political will and fear the collapse of progress.  

“It is for those people that we, the international community, must remain united and committed to pushing the peace process forward”, said the Special Representative. 

“We can’t sit on the sidelines as spectators…That’s what failure looks like”, he spelled out. 

Challenges ahead 

The UNMISS head highlighted the need for a financial system that works for the South Sudanese. 

“The wealth of this country – from oil and elsewhere – bypasses its people, siphoned off in secrecy with no public accountability for how it is spent”, he said, posing the “obvious question: Why would key decision-makers benefiting from their current positions hold an election that could put their access to power and resources at risk?”. 

Struck by the “immense pride” of the South Sudanese in their country, Mr. Shearer explained that “true sovereignty” means being responsible and genuinely caring for the nation’s 12 million citizens.  

“It also means independence”, he said.  

Yet the UN envoy referred to the country as “perhaps one of the most dependent nations in history”, drawing attention to education and health systems, roads and infrastructure “provided by outsiders”.  

“We have too eagerly stepped in…[and] added to their dependency – and, in doing so, undermined their dignity”, he said.  

Mr. Shearer maintained that the Government must also step up, saying, “State-building is a finely tuned endeavour that constantly needs to be re-evaluated and questioned”.  

Fond farewell 

The Special Representative praised the South Sudanese as “without doubt, the toughest, most resilient people I’ve ever met”.  

Despite hardship, he said “they can sit, discuss, and…laugh in the face of huge adversity”. 

Mr. Shearer expressed admiration for their “seemingly endless patience and hope as they fight against huge odds to achieve the much brighter future they deserve”. 

“I will miss this young country and I wish it well from the bottom of my heart”, concluded the outgoing UN envoy. 

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China’s vaccine diplomacy in Africa

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China appears moving steadily to deliver on its pledge by offering manufactured vaccines aim at eradicating the coronavirus in Africa. Simultaneously, China is strengthening its health diplomacy with Africa, and experts describe it as an additional step to reassert further its geopolitical influence in the continent.

Undoubtedly, the Chinese Sinopharm vaccines are increasingly becoming popular among African countries. Deliveries have already been made in Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Namibia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

Chinese Foreign Ministry has indicated that China would help 19 African countries as part of its commitment to making vaccines global public goods. Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Wang Wenbin, said on February 22 that China would also support enterprises to export Covid-19 vaccines to African nations that urgently need, recognize, and have authorized the emergency use of Chinese vaccines.

The aid is a clear manifestation of the China-Africa traditional friendship, Wang Wenbin said, adding assertively “China will continue to provide support and assistance within its capacity and in accordance with the needs of Africa.” Further to that, China welcomes and supports France and other European and American nations in providing vaccines to help Africa fight the pandemic.

In West African region, Sierra Leone became the latest African country to receive 200,000 coronavirus vaccine donation, and 201,600 pieces of disposable needles and syringes from the Chinese government. According to reports, the consignment arrived at the Lungi Airport on February 25, and was received by a high-powered government delegation.

Down in Southern Africa, Zimbabwe will buy an additional 1.2 million vaccine doses from China at a preferential price, President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s spokesman said, after Beijing agreed to give more free doses to the southern African country. Zimbabwe has already begun vaccinations after receiving a donation of 200,000 doses from the China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm).

Chinese Ambassador Guo Shaochun said in a statement that his country had decided to double its donation of vaccines to 400,000 as part of its “solidarity and action” with Zimbabwe.

Mnangagwa’s spokesman George Charamba said the government, which had already bought 600,000 doses from Sinopharm and would increase its purchases from China. “Zimbabwe is also procuring more vaccines from China at a preferential price. Zimbabwe is set to purchase another 1.2 million doses from China,” Charamba wrote on Twitter.

It targets 10 million vaccinations as the country has been hit with increasing infections.  More than two thirds of Zimbabwe’s 35,910 coronavirus infections and 1,448 deaths have been recorded this year, according to a Reuters tally.

Separately, on February 24, neighboring Mozambique also received 200,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccine donated by China. The delivery of the first consignment, ferried to Mozambique by an aircraft of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, was witnessed by Prime Minister, Carlos Agostinho do Rosário, Minister of Health, Armindo Tiago, Chinese Ambassador Wang Hejun and other senior government officials.

Speaking at the delivery ceremony, held at the Maputo Air Base, Agostinho do Rosario thanked the government and the people of China for the donation of the first batch consists of 200,000 doses and the same number of syringes. “The swift delivery of the vaccine mirrors the determination and commitment of the leaders of both countries to ensure the well-being of the Mozambican people,” the Prime Minister said, stressing that the government has adopted a vaccination strategy that attaches priority to high risk groups particularly health professionals on the front-line of the fight against Covid-19.

Chinese Ambassador Wang Hejun, however pledged to strengthen the cooperation between the two countries in the health field and reaffirmed his country’s openness to assist Mozambique in acquiring more vaccines.

He said the Mozambican health system is currently under increasing pressure, but believed the first batch of the vaccine will certainly make an enormous difference. Mozambique is among the first African countries to receive the Chinese vaccines. Vaccines are currently available from two Chinese companies, Sinopharm and Sinovac Biotech.

The vaccine that arrived in Maputo was from Sinopharm. A major advantage of the Sinopharm vaccine is that it does not need to be stored at ultra-low temperatures. It can be kept at normal refrigeration temperatures of two to eight degrees Celsius.

Indeed, Indians are also speeding with donations to the African continent. The Indian government has promised to send Mozambique 100,000 doses of the vaccine developed by the Indian pharmaceutical industry. Still in the southern Africa, Namibian officials said Beijing would donate 100,000 doses vaccine while India promised a donation of 30,000 shots to Windhoek.

In order to sustain relations and as part of a “bilateral cooperation” efforts, Portugal plans to donate 5% its excess to a group of Portuguese-speaking African countries. With a population of just over 10 million people, Portugal is entitled to 35 million vaccine doses this year under an EU-coordinated purchasing scheme, mostly for double-dose inoculation, leaving it with millions of extra shots.

The 5% share would make up 1.75 million doses. The group of countries is comprised of Portugal’s former African colonies of Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, and Sao Tome and Principe.

Besides getting vaccines through the African Union, a number of African countries by bilateral agreements will purchase vaccines directly from China, Russia and India. For example, five (5) African countries (Algeria, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea and Tunisia) have registered the Sputnik V, which was developed by Russia’s Gamaleya National Research Center for Epidemiology and Microbiology.

The African Union and Africa CDC for its ongoing vaccine readiness work through the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team. The AU has secured vaccines through the COVAX facility for Africa. WHO has listed three (3) vaccines for emergency use, giving the green light for these vaccines to be rolled out through COVAX. The Group of Seven (7) leaders have committed US$4.3 billion to fund the equitable distribution of vaccines, diagnostics and treatments. European Union has also contributed an additional 500 million euros to COVAX.

The COVAX vaccine facility – which pools financial resources and spreads its bets across vaccine candidates – has handed over the first of 337 million doses it has allocated to around 130 countries for the first half of the year. COVAX receives around 90 percent of its funds from G-7 countries and the EU, but none from China, India or Russia.

By March 2, as reported by the GhanaWeb, the number of African countries to have received vaccine doses are the following:

  • South Africa – Johnson and Johnson (J&J)
  • Rwanda – Pfizer and Moderna (reportedly)
  • Egypt – Sinopharm
  • Morocco – AstraZeneca/Sinopharm
  • Seychelles – AstraZeneca/Sinopharm
  • Mauritius – AstraZeneca
  • Algeria – Sputnik V
  • Zimbabwe – Sinopharm
  • Sierra Leone – Sinopharm
  • Equatorial Guinea – Sinopharm
  • Senegal – Sinopharm
  • Ghana – AstraZeneca/Serum Institute of India (COVAX)
  • Ivory Coast – AstraZeneca (COVAX)
  • Guinea – Sputnik V (Experimental basis)
  • Mozambique – Sinopharm.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization has acknowledged that the pandemic has struck at a time of rapid transformation for Africa. “We cannot and must not see health as a cost to be contained. Quite the opposite: health is an investment to be nurtured – an investment in productive population, and in sustainable and inclusive development,” he explained.

According to Adhanom Ghebreyesus, it takes a whole-of-government, whole-of-society approach, and added that “many African countries have low levels of coverage of health services, and when health is at risk, everything is at risk.”

Since April last year, World Health Organization and its partners have been working through the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator for the equitable distribution of vaccines as global public goods. As already known, so far around 200 million doses of vaccine have been administered, but unfortunately most of them in the world’s richest countries.

WHO declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic in March 2020. Since then, more than 110 million cases have now been reported to this organization, and almost 2.5 million people have lost their lives. The overall number of Covid-19 cases in Africa currently stands more than 3.8 million late February, according to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Regional Office for Africa.

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