Russia is back to Africa. This is a fait accompli, a new and significant trend of Russia’s foreign policy over the past 20 years. Russia has much to offer this dynamically developing continent, primarily in the form of political cooperation and diplomatic ties, as well as supporting Africa’s positions at multilateral forums. And there is huge potential here for developing economic ties.
Russia provides invaluable peacekeeping and security assistance to Africa. Moreover, Moscow is traditionally friendly towards its African partners and strives to develop intercultural humanitarian ties with African countries.
Modern Africa truly is a continent of new opportunities. In economic terms, several African countries are developing quite successfully, with the economies of a number of countries in the Sub-Saharan region demonstrating average GDP growth of 5.2 percent over the period 2000–2013. Some African countries have even been called “African lions,” similar to the highly developed “Asian tiger” economies. There is a rapidly growing middle class on the African continent, which means rising consumption and increased demand, including for Russian goods and services. Russia is also interested in those minerals that play a crucial role in the development of industry and innovative technologies which it lacks. It would be economically viable to mine these resources in Africa.
While Russian diplomacy in Africa focuses on the entire continent, there are countries with which it is developing cooperation particularly vigorously.
It is important to note here that Russia mostly interacts with its African partners on a bilateral basis, although it does maintain contacts with regional integration associations and the African Union, which spans the entire continent.
Trade, economics and investments
Russia’s trade with African nations has demonstrated positive dynamics in recent years. According to the Federal Customs Service of Russia, trade between Russia and Africa totaled $17.4 billion in 2017 and $20.4 billion in 2018. While Russia’s trade and economic relations are more highly developed with the countries of North Africa, trade with countries south of the Sahara has also been growing in recent years. Russia’s main trade partners in Africa are Egypt, Algeria, Morocco and South Africa. Trade with Algeria is growing at a particularly rapid pace.
However, in recent years, Russia has demonstrated positive trade dynamics with at least half of the countries in Africa, in particular with Ethiopia, Cameroon, Angola, Sudan and Zimbabwe. Namibia, Nigeria, Angola, Mozambique, Rwanda and Guinea are also important partners.
The Russian Federation supplies a wide range of goods to African countries, including oil products, chemicals, fertilizers, engineering products and machine tools.
Agricultural products occupy an important place in mutual trade. Russia supplies large volumes of wheat to Morocco, South Africa, Libya, Kenya, Sudan, Nigeria and Egypt. A number of African countries (Egypt, Cote d’Ivoire, Benin, Nigeria, Guinea-Bissau, the Central African Republic, Guinea, Burkina Faso and Mali) have increased the volume of fruit and vegetables they sell to Russia. This is helped by the fact that the Russian Federation has introduced countersanctions on several products made in the European Union.
Africa is becoming a kind of “market of the future” for Russian grain and agricultural equipment. This is a very promising area, given the desire of African countries to eradicate the hunger issue (“zero hunger”) and make more productive use of many of the large areas of undeveloped land that still exist on the continent.
The global farming industry is interested in all the key agricultural equipment manufactured in Russia, and exports are growing. This is due to the fact that entirely new and unique technologies and products have appeared in Russia, and the quality of Russian agricultural equipment has reached new heights. Russian manufacturers of farming equipment see North Africa, the Middle East and South America as promising new markets.
Major Russian companies actively invest in Africa. Priority sectors for investment include energy and mining (for example, Russia is involved in the development of the world’s second largest platinum deposit, Darwendale in Zimbabwe, which could turn the country into a leader on the global platinum market), as well as infrastructure, transport, manufacturing and agriculture.
The State Atomic Energy Corporation ROSATOM has signed cooperation agreements on the development of nuclear energy with a number of African countries (Egypt, Sudan, Zambia, Morocco, South Africa and the Republic of the Congo, and others). Some countries (Sudan and Senegal) have expressed interest in developing joint oil and gas projects with Russia. In 2018, President of Senegal Macky Sall noted at a meeting with Vladimir Putin that his country possessed large reserves of oil and gas. He went on to express his hope that Russia would assist in assessing these resources and help workers in the Senegalese oil and gas sector get to grips with the equipment needed for the development of these deposits.
Russian medium-sized businesses have also found niches on the African markets. For example, the company Lisma, which is located in the Republic of Mordovia, set up a joint venture in Burundi to manufacture lamps and streetlights for the entire East African market. In 2015, the Atlantic fish processing plant opened in Senegal. The project, which is the largest of its kind in West Africa, was financed by private Russian investors.
It is important that Russia not only seeks to develop mineral resources in African countries, but it also contributes to the development of domestic industry and infrastructure in Africa and helps create jobs.
The Russian Industrial Zone (RIZ) in Egypt – the first infrastructure project of its kind implemented by the Russian Export Center – is a perfect example of this approach. The plan is for the RIZ to become a vanguard for the promotion of Russian goods and services in Africa. Its activities should contribute to the growth of the Russian and Egyptian economies.
What is more, Russian companies take on social responsibilities by supporting development projects in the African countries where they operate. For example, thanks to the ongoing support of Russia and United Company RUSAL in the fight against Ebola in Guinea, significant progress has been made in the prevention of the spread of this disease in the country since 2014. At the height of the Ebola epidemic, RUSAL built a special medical center in the country, the only one of its kind in West Africa in terms of the technologies and equipment at its disposal. The center helped vaccinate and treat locals. In addition, it became a platform for the study and prevention of communicable diseases in Guinea and a training center for future epidemiologists.
However, despite the obvious successes in the development of trade with Africa and the increased investments into the continent, much still needs to be done. Russia lags far behind China and the West in terms of its economic penetration into Africa. It will take at least a decade of diligent work on the development of trade and economic ties with African countries – not to “catch up” with these other countries, but to at least slightly reduce the trade volume gap. An important part of this work is to create new intergovernmental commissions and business councils with those African countries that do not currently have such cooperation formats and to step up work with those countries that do.
Military and Technical Cooperation
In recent years, Russia has signed agreements on military and technical cooperation, security cooperation and fighting terrorism with a number of African countries.
At the Russia–Africa Economic Forum in June 2019, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov noted that “Russia, both through bilateral channels and as part of the UN Security Council, continues to support its African friends in the fight against terrorism, crime and other cross-border threats. We are making a contribution to the efforts to resolve crises and conflicts on the African continent on the basis of the principle of ‘African solutions to African problems’ formulated by the African Union.”
Russia also provides humanitarian assistance to those African countries that have been affected by crises or military conflicts, or which have suffered natural disasters or pandemics. African personnel undergo training at Russian educational institutions under the umbrella of the Ministry of Defence, the law enforcement agencies and the security services, and as part of peacekeeping missions. The training programs are fully paid by the Russian budget.
Russia has traditionally played an important role in the African arms market. Russian arms shipments to Africa have increased in recent years, despite fierce competition from other external players and western sanctions. This is largely due to the successes of the Russian Aerospace Forces’ operations in Syria, as well as the numerous joint military exercises and Moscow’s large expositions at international military forums, where it typically unveils its new products.
The 2019 edition of the annual International Military and Technical Forum “ARMY” was held in June of this year. One of the main tasks of the Forum is to expand Russia’s military and technical cooperation with other countries. The number of delegations from Africa attending the Forum every year keeps rising. This is where new contracts for the supply of Russian weapons and agreements on the military, technical and security cooperation are often signed. Russia signed military cooperation agreements with Burundi, Burkina Faso, and Botswana at the ARMY 2018 Forum.
In September 2018, Director of the Federal Service for Military and Technical Cooperation Dmitry Shugaev noted that Russia cooperates in the military and technical sphere with over 40 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Africa is a priority for Russia in this area, as the Soviet Union delivered a significant number of weapons and military equipment to the continent in the 1960s to the 1980s, much of which remains to this day. Many specialists trained in the Soviet Union and Russia are still serving in the armies of African countries. Because of this, many African countries are interested in renovating and upgrading existing Russian- and Soviet-made military equipment. Russia provides all kinds of assistance in this area, and also helps training personnel to operate the equipment. However, Russia’s African partners are also interested in new models of Russian military equipment and weapons.
According to Rosoboronexport, Russia is the leading arms supplier of sub-Saharan countries (30 percent of all arms supplies in 2011–2015).
In early 2019, Rosoboronexport announced that Russian enterprises that are involved in military and technical cooperation had planned a number of important projects with African countries for a year in advance, which is why the year earned the title “the year of Africa.”
In January 2019, for example, Rosoboronexport took part in the Shield Africa International Security and Defence exhibition in Cote d’Ivoire. The company introduced a wide range of weapons and military equipment for counterterrorism and police special operations.
Russia mainly supplies missile and artillery weapons, small arms and automotive equipment to African countries. The most in-demand military equipment in sub-Saharan Africa includes Mi helicopters; Sukhoi and MiG planes; and Pantsir-C1, Kornet-E and Tor-M2E missile defense systems; as well as tanks, armored personnel carriers and small arms.
Russia also offers its African partners a wide range of surveillance and monitoring equipment, including unmanned aerial vehicles and radar locators used primarily to protect borders and critical facilities.
Russian Know-How and “Soft Power”
For Africa, it is important to develop cooperation with foreign partners who are willing to share new technologies, as well as to deliver these technologies and implement them on the African continent, thus promoting industrial and human development. Russia, of course, has the know-how and is ready to share this knowledge with its African partners, if they are interested (for example, peaceful atom technologies, medical technologies, etc.).
The most important event in this respect was the presentation delivered by Russian scientists at an international conference (July 2019) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo of the latest vaccine against the Ebola virus, which “differs significantly from its current western alternatives thanks to its safety, the absence of side effects, and the ease of storage, transportation and use. And, most importantly, it provides effective immunity against this deadly infection.”
Russia can offer to its African partners such services as expert reviews during the construction of nuclear power plants and other infrastructural facilities (hydroelectric power stations, light industry facilities, agricultural raw materials processing factories), oil refining and pipeline construction technologies, and the development of the space industry (in particular, launching satellites in African countries).
The Russian side held negotiations with Sudan when it was still under the rule of President Omar al-Bashir on the construction of a desalination plant at the site of a nuclear facility (know-how that only Russia possesses). The project may be of interest to other African nations.
Russia seeks to share its scientific and cultural achievements with the African people and boost the prestige of the Russian language on the continent. In September 2018, the Federal Agency for the Commonwealth of Independent States, Compatriots Living Abroad, and International Humanitarian Cooperation (Rossotrudnichestvo) unveiled plans to open new Russian Science and Culture Centres (RSCC) in Africa. Rossotrudnichestvo currently has cultural centres in Egypt, Zambia, the Republic of the Congo, Morocco, Tanzania, Tunisia and Ethiopia, as well as a representative working in the Russian Embassy in South Africa. Deputy Head of Rossotrudnichestvo Alexander Radkov pointed out that the African people are showing an increasing interest in receiving an education in Russia and learning the Russian language. In 2019, Russian universities received almost 30,000 applications from citizens of African countries, even though the quota for free places is just 1819.
Interparliamentary ties between Russia and Africa are developing, as the Russia–Africa parliamentary conference in July 2019 proved.
Russia seeks to build active and fruitful cooperation with African countries in a multilateral format. What this means, first and foremost, is strengthening interaction with the African Union and other regional integration associations on the continent.
In June 2018, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov announced during his visit to Rwanda that Russia and the African Union were working on a political framework document that would lay the conceptual foundations for cooperation in the coming years.
One of the tasks is to deepen trade and economic cooperation between the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and African Union countries. It is known that the President of the Russian Federation has invited the Eurasian Economic Commission to take part in the Russia–Africa Summit in Sochi this coming October and has voiced his support for the planned signing of a memorandum of cooperation between the Eurasian Economic Commission and the African Union.
It is also important to strengthen cooperation with African countries at the United Nations, as African countries make up a significant and influential part of that organization. This could help garner support for Russia’s stance on various issues on the international agenda.
Russia is also strengthening its political interaction with African countries in the BRICS format. Even though South Africa is currently the only African country in this association, representatives from several African nations regularly attend the group’s summits as guests and observers. The possibility of including other African countries in the association are being discussed.
The upcoming inaugural Russia–Africa Summit in Sochi should play a significant role in strengthening multilateral cooperation between Russia and various African countries. Leaders of all African countries, as well as the heads of major sub-regional associations and organizations have been invited to the event. Russia and the African Union countries are expected to sign a political declaration on Russia–Africa cooperation after the Summit is over.
Russia and other external players on the African continent: the prospects for competition and cooperation
Russian and Western experts agree that a new “battle for Africa” is currently unfolding, with the main participants being the United States, China and the European Union (both as a bloc of states and as individual countries). Secondary players in this battle include Brazil, India, Turkey, Iran, South Korea and the Persian Gulf states
It would seem that Russia, which has repeatedly emphasized its willingness to work with its partners in Africa, has no interest in taking part in any kind of “battle.” Unfortunately, the reality is that, at the current stage of history, there is serious competition in many areas among external players on the African continent.
Africa’s partners in the west are concerned about the increased interaction between the continent’s countries and Russia, even though Russia is far behind almost all of the above-mentioned countries in terms of trade and economic cooperation with Africa. What is more, Russia does not have the same financial and economic capabilities as China, for instance, when it comes to implementing its policies on the African continent.
Three key points should be kept in mind here:
— Almost all African countries try to pursue a multi-vector foreign policy, one that allows them to be flexible in their interactions with those external players which provide the most attractive conditions for cooperation.
— Russia has exactly the same right as other international actors to develop relations with African partners. Unfortunately, far from everyone outside of Russia agrees.
— African countries have the sovereign right to offer cooperation to, and develop cooperation with, Russia, regardless of what their other foreign economic partners think about it.
I believe that Russia could cooperate with other African countries on various projects, but this requires practical interest and goodwill. These countries have shown a certain amount of interest, although it is thus far unclear how this interest can be transformed into practical actions.
In conclusion, we should note that the needs of Africa in terms of human development, building new infrastructure, industrial development and job creation are so great that the combined efforts of all external partners are both encouraged and welcomed. There is plenty of work for all interested parties. There is no need for a “battle,” rather, a strategic vision and a readiness to negotiate are required.
Russia is simply following its course, seeking to strengthen its traditionally friendly ties with Africa. The upcoming Russia–Africa Summit will define the priorities of Russia’s policy in Africa more clearly, including in the eyes of Russia’s partners in the west, and may lay the foundations for new talks and debates on the possibilities of cooperation on the African continent.
From our partner RIAC
Walking On A Tightrope Of Rights And COVID
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.
South Sudan’s transition from conflict to recovery ‘inching forward’
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.
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”.
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.
China’s vaccine diplomacy in Africa
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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