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COVID-19: The Truth inside Malta, Zanzibar and Madagascar

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Ocean islands are, undoubtedly, favorite destinations for foreign investors and tourists primarily due to the diverse marine resources. These islands have geopolitical strategic relationship with the world. Amid the global spread of the coronavirus, it has become important to look at and analyze the extent of the disease and its impact, particularly, on the economy of the Republics of Malta, Zanzibar and Madagascar.

The theories and narratives are that islands may have few cases. Some other narratives that the islands may have huge numbers due to foreign visitors from infected countries and regions. It therefore becomes an important research focus to know the trends and to establish the possible effects on the economies and sociocultural lives of the population. Part of this study is presented here as follows: (i) The Islands and Coronavirus: An Overview, (ii) Geographical location and Appearance of Coronavirus (iii) Economic Impact of Coronavirus on these Islands and (iv) Current Lessons and Directions for the Future.

Overview of Coronavirus:

The coronavirus disease appeared first in 2019 in Wuhan city in China. The disease was, first identified in Wuhan and Hubei, both in China early December 2019. The original cause still unknown, it remains a puzzle and an enigma for the world scientific community. The disease symptoms include high body temperature with persistent dry cough and acute respiratory syndrome. Some medical researchers say it is a pneumonia-related disease.

Late December 2019, Chinese officials notified the World Health Organization (WHO) about the outbreak of the disease in the city of Wuhan, China. Since then, cases of the novel coronavirus – named COVID-19 by the WHO – have spread around the world. WHO declared the outbreak only on 30 January, and then recognized it as “pandemic” on 11 March 2020. 

Scientists and health experts have outlined various theories of its transmission. The basic transmission mechanisms of the coronavirus are the same worldwide. But the speed and pattern of spread definitely varies from country to country, urban to rural and place to place. Much also depends on cultural practices, traditional customs and social lifestyles. A densely populated township can have a different trajectory to a middle-class suburb or a village. The epidemic can spread differently among people on islands.

Geographical location and Appearance of Coronavirus:

The geographical location influence and spread of the coronavirus. The origin of coronavirus imported from Italy, Spain, France United Kingdom, Norway and Ireland. Later from the United States and North Africa. Reports from WHO, however, say Maghreb region (Algeria, Morocco and Egypt) has an increasing number of infections.

During the 2019-20 coronavirus pandemic, the first COVID-19 case in Malta was an Italian 12-year-old girl on 7 March 2020. The girl and her family were in isolation, as required by those following the Maltese health authority’s guidelines who were in Italy or other highly infected countries. Later, both her parents were found positive as well. As of 30 April, Malta reported 444 confirmed cases, 165 recoveries and 3 deaths.

The small Mediterranean island, first, imposed restrictions on travel from Italy, Germany, France, Spain and Switzerland to try to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Later closed completely air and sea entry points (except for cargo), and as of 13 March, mandatory quarantine was extended to travelers returning from any country. This was also published on the Malta Tourism Authority’s and Air Malta’s websites. Malta then lockdown the island. 

“The decision has been taken on the advice of the medical authorities because of the sharp increase in the spread of the virus, Some cases are local transmission, with the majority being foreigners and some linked to previous cluster and expected spread among immigrants living in crowded conditions,” Prime Minister Robert Abela told a press conference on 11 March.

Zanzibar, approximately 50 kilometers off Tanzania, is located in the Indian Ocean. It consists of many small islands and two large ones: Unguja and Pemba Island. The total population is 1.4 million. Zanzibar is a paradise for tourists with sandy beaches and clear Indian Ocean water, as well as coral and limestone scarps, which allow for significant amounts of diving and snorkeling.

Considerable disparities exist in the standard of living for inhabitants of Pemba and Unguja, as well as the disparity between urban and rural populations. The average annual income is $250. More than half the population lives below the poverty line despite its vast marine resources.

The Union Republic has shut its borders, both the mainland of Tanzania and the island of Zanzibar have banned all tourist flights as a precautionary measure against the deadly COVID-19. According the Ministry of Health, the Zanzibar had 105 coronavirus, Tanzania reported 284 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of 30 April, 2020.

Madagascar, located in southern Africa, belongs to the group of least developed countries, according to the United Nations. It is a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and African Union (AU). In 2018, the population of Madagascar estimated at 26 million. Madagascar’s natural resources include a variety of agricultural and mineral products. Its major health infrastructure, in poor conditions, is similar to many African countries.

Many of its medical centers, dispensaries and hospitals are found throughout the island, although they are concentrated in urban areas and particularly in Antananarivo. Access to medical care remains beyond the reach of many Malagasy, especially in the rural areas, and many recourse to traditional healers. This poses a challenge to contain the COVID-19.

As at 30 April, Madagascar recorded 249 coronavirus cases since the epidemic began, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Nevertheless, it did not report any coronavirus deaths. In addition, Comoros and Lesotho remain the only two African countries yet to record infections.

In a summarized report, Dr Antipas Massawe, a former lecturer from the Department of Chemical and Mining Engineering, University of Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania, East Africa, acknowledged the narratives that these ocean islands are closely involved in international tourism and trading, and consequently could easily be exposed to the global pandemic. “Malta, as an island situated naturally between Europe and North Africa, would be the most vulnerable because it is surrounded by heavily COVID-19 infected Italy, Spain, Turkey, Iran and others,” Massawe noted in his report.

Economic and Social Impact:

All the three islands of Malta, Zanzibar and Madagascar depend mostly on travel industry. Malta is the most highly-developed among them. Malta and Zanzibar are stable politically while Madagascar is an unstable southern African country.

Ocean islands face an unprecedented crisis like any other country in the world. Governments and their central banks have put together mega-bailout packages. These ocean island governments around the world have also taken strict measures and adopted a range of tracking technologies to control the spread of the virus, as recommended by World Health Organization (WHO).

With 105 coronavirus leading to lockdown of tourism sector, Zanzibar’s economy has been hard hit by tourists’ fears about the pandemic, with reports of hotel cancellations after the government suspended direct flights from Italy and other destinations. 

At least 80% of Zanzibar’s annual foreign income comes from tourism but the government is looking at boosting investment in other sectors, such as fishing and agriculture, to mitigate the economic blow. Zanzibar’s scenery and rich historical culture bring close to 500,000 tourists to the island every year. With 105 coronavirus leading to lockdown of tourism sector, Zanzibar’s economy has been hard hit by tourists’ fears about the pandemic, with reports of hotel cancellations after the government suspended direct flights from Italy and other destinations.

Financing for at least 60% of the island’s budget comes from the tourism sector. “It’s going to affect us a lot because we really rely on tourism. The Italian market is a big market but in general, tourism is the backbone of Zanzibar, so we are going to lose a lot.” According to the words of Zanzibar’s Health Minister Hamad Rashid.

“We have to improve our agriculture system now using beautiful rains that we have, we have to improve our fishing industry so that we don’t depend on tourism anymore because of this risk which may happen anytime again,” added Hamad Rashid. The ministry has put in place measures to help prevent a coronavirus outbreak. Zanzibar has 192 primary health centers with staff trained to look for symptoms. The health centers do screening and track business people who travel broad, especially to China. It’s a small area, so it’s very easy to control.

Ecotourism and agriculture, key sectors of Madagascar, have suffered due to coronavirus. Agriculture employs more than 60% of the population. Madagascar is home to various unexploited plants found nowhere else on Earth. Many native plant species are used as herbal remedies for a variety of afflictions. As an innovative strategy to address the negative impact brought by the global pandemic, Madagascan President Andry Rajoelina gave the official launch to a Covid-Organics that could prevent and cure coronavirus local. He went further to brand Covid-Organics as export product, state orders to purchase the herbal medicine came from more than 10 African countries.

The drink, Covid-Organics, is derived from artemisia – a plant with proven efficacy in malaria treatment – and other indigenous herbs, according to the Malagasy Institute of Applied Research (IMRA). Its safety and effectiveness have not been assessed internationally, nor has any data from trials been published in peer-reviewed studies. Mainstream scientists have warned of the potential risk from untested herbal brews. The United States’ Centers for Disease Control (CDC), referring to claims for herbal or tea remedies, says: “There is no scientific evidence that any of these alternative remedies can prevent or cure the illness caused by COVID-19. In fact, some of them may not be safe to consume.”

Current Lessons and Directions for the Future:

As the global economy struggles towards stabilizing, it further present new platforms for complete reviews and development strategies.

Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, President of the Republic of Ghana and Co-chair of the UN Secretary-General’s Eminent Group of Advocates for the SDGs and Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway and Co-chair of the UN Secretary-General’s Eminent Group of Advocates for the SDGs wrote an article about Sustainable Development Goals during the pandemic under the title: “Amid the coronavirus pandemic, SDGs more relevant today than ever” published in April. In their joint article, they raised many important viewpoints. But for the propose of this discussion, three of them are indicated here:

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

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

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

Meanwhile, it would be necessary to concentrate, in the short-term, on specific steps to curb the pandemic and its spread and reduce the damage to a minimum, primarily the health and lives of people on these islands and importantly for Africa. It is necessary to analyze the lessons and forge long-term development plans.

“Given the raging coronavirus pandemic,” said Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov’s interview with the International Life magazine, April 17, “One of the lessons to be learnt from the current events will be a shift in the elites’ stances in many countries which will prompt them to cut wasteful expenditure. It is significant to boost local healthcare systems and create reserves. We can hope that following the pandemic a well-known rule saying that lightning does not hit the same place twice will prove quite true. However, the sheer scale of the current disaster will apparently make a drastic effect on governments’ political compass.”

MD Africa Editor Kester Kenn Klomegah is an independent researcher and writer on African affairs in the EurAsian region and former Soviet republics. He wrote previously for African Press Agency, African Executive and Inter Press Service. Earlier, he had worked for The Moscow Times, a reputable English newspaper. Klomegah taught part-time at the Moscow Institute of Modern Journalism. He studied international journalism and mass communication, and later spent a year at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. He co-authored a book “AIDS/HIV and Men: Taking Risk or Taking Responsibility” published by the London-based Panos Institute. In 2004 and again in 2009, he won the Golden Word Prize for a series of analytical articles on Russia's economic cooperation with African countries.

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Shaping the Future Relations between Russia and Guinea-Bissau

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Guinea- Bissau Suzi Carla Barbosa have signed a memorandum on political consultations. This aims at strengthening political dialogue and promoting consistency in good cooperation at the international arena.

Russia expects trade and economic ties with Guinea-Bissau will continue developing; they must correspond to the high level of the political dialog between the countries, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in his opening remarks at the meeting with his counterpart from Guinea-Bissau Suzi Carla Barbosa.

“Probably, the next natural step will be to build up our trade-economic, investment cooperation in order to bring it to the level of our sound, confident political dialogue,” the Russian Minister added.

Speculation aside, the face-to-face diplomatic talks focus on effective ways for developing tangible cooperation in most diverse areas in Guinea-Bissau. The meeting agreed to take a number of practical steps, including reciprocal visits by entrepreneurs both ways.

“We talked about more efficient ways of developing our trade and economic cooperation. We agreed to undertake a range of specific steps, including the trips of businessmen from Guinea-Bissau to Russia and then from Russia to Guinea-Bissau,” Lavrov said.

Last year, Prime Minister of Guinea-Bissau Nuno Gomes Nabiam met with representatives of the Russian business community. The areas of interest mentioned in this respect included exploration of natural resources, construction of infrastructure facilities, as well as development of agriculture and fisheries.

Guineans are keen on deepening bilateral cooperation in fishing. The five Russian fishing trawlers have recently resumed their operations in the exclusive economic zone of Guinea-Bissau.

As explained the media conference, the topics discussed for cooperation included such spheres as natural resources tapping, infrastructure development, agriculture and fisheries

In terms of education, over 5,000 people have already entered civilian professions, and more than 3,000 people have acquired military specialties, which is important for Guinea-Bissau. In addition, military and technical intergovernmental cooperation agreement is about to enter in force. According to reports, Russia would continue to pursue military cooperation with the country.

Both ministers reviewed the situation in Mali, the Republic of Guinea and some other African areas, with an emphasis on West Africa and the Sahara-Sahel region.

Lavrov and Carla Barbosa discussed preparations for the second Russia-Africa summit planned for 2022. With high hopes that the collective attendance will include President of Guinea-Bissau Umaro Sissoco Embalo.

Guinea-Bissau, like many African states, has had political problems. In April 2020, the regional group of fifteen West African countries often referred to as ECOWAS, after months of election dispute finally recognized the victory of Umaro Sissoco Embaló of Guinea-Bissau.

Perspectives for future development are immense in the country. The marine resources and other waterbodies are integral part to the livelihood. Steps to increase agricultural production are necessary. The economy largely depends on agriculture: fish, cashew nuts and peanuts are its major exports. Its population estimated at 1.9 million, and more than two-thirds lives below the poverty line.

Sharing borders with Guinea (to the southeast), Gambia and Senegal (to the north), Guinea-Bissau attained its independence in September 1973. Guinea-Bissau follows a nonaligned foreign policy and seeks friendly and cooperative relations with a wide variety of states and organizations. Besides, Eсonomic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Guinea-Bissau is a member of the African Union (AU) and the United Nations.

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Analyzing The American Hybrid War on Ethiopia

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photo: UNFPA/Sufian Abdul-Mouty

Ethiopia has come under unprecedented pressure from the U.S. ever since it commenced a military operation in its northern Tigray Region last November. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered the armed forces to respond to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which used to be the most powerful faction of the former ruling party, after it attacked a military barracks. Addis Ababa now officially considers the TPLF to be a terrorist group. It fell out with PM Abiy after initially facilitating his rise to power as a result of disagreements over his fast-moving socio-political reforms.

The TPLF refused to join PM Abiy’s Prosperity Party upon its formation in December 2019. It also regarded his decision to postpone national elections last August until this June due to the COVID-19 pandemic as resulting in him illegitimately remaining in power. In response, the TPLF organized its own elections in the Tigray Region in September 2020 that were not recognized by the central government. This set a tense backdrop against which the group attacked the military a few months later in early November, which was what triggered the ongoing conflict.

The U.S. and its allies claim that Ethiopia is carrying out a campaign of ethnic cleansing in Tigray, which Addis Ababa, of course, denies. This set the basis upon which the U.S. began to sanction the country. The first sanctions were imposed in late May to target Ethiopian officials as well as some of their Eritrean allies who, the U.S. claimed, were supporting them in their military campaign. The Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) pulled out of Tigray a month later in June, claiming that this unilateral move would facilitate the international community’s relief efforts in the war-torn region that had attracted so much global attention.

The conflict did not end, however, but actually expanded. The TPLF felt emboldened to invade the neighboring regions of Afar and Amhara, parts of which it continues to occupy. Addis Ababa suspected that the group was receiving various equipment and other forms of support under the cover of UN aid shipments. It also accused the TPLF of manipulating international perceptions about the region’s humanitarian crisis in order to generate more support and increase pressure on the Ethiopian government. PM Abiy published an open letter to U.S. President Joe Biden last month, urging him to reconsider his country’s policy towards the conflict.

It regrettably went unheeded but deserves to be read in full, since the Ethiopian leader compellingly argued that the American policy is counterproductive and influenced by the TPLF’s lobbyists. Shortly after that, his government expelled seven UN officials at the end of September, who it accused of meddling. In early October, CNN published a report claiming that Ethiopian Airlines was illegally transporting weapons to and from Eritrea during the early stages of the conflict. This, in turn, prompted more sanctions threats from the U.S. The situation is such that the U.S. is now actively working in support of the TPLF against PM Abiy’s government.

This American hybrid war on Ethiopia is waged in various ways that deserve further study. They closely resemble the American hybrid war on Syria in the sense that the U.S. is using humanitarian pretexts to justify meddling in the country’s internal affairs. Its motivations to backstab its regional ally are entirely self-interested and zero-sum. The U.S. is uncomfortable with PM Abiy’s geopolitical balancing between Washington and Beijing. Although the former TPLF-led government was also close to China, the U.S. likely expected PM Abiy to distance Ethiopia from it, considering the pressure that Washington exerts upon its partners to do so.

He came to power in early 2018 around the time when the U.S. began to intensify its ongoing New Cold War with China. From the American perspective, it is unacceptable for the country’s partners to retain close ties with its top geopolitical rival. It is for this reason why the US far from appreciates PM Abiy’s balancing act since it likely expected for him to move away from China. This leads to the next motivation for the American Hybrid War on Ethiopia, which is to return the TPLF to power there, if not in a national capacity, then at least in its home region. Such an explanation will now be elaborated on more at length.

Ethiopia finds itself at a crossroads whereby the country can either continue on the path of centralization, like PM Abiy has attempted to do, or pursue the course of further federalization to the point where its regions receive more autonomy than before. One of the TPLF’s primary criticisms of the Ethiopian leader is that he is allegedly going against the country’s post-civil war federal foundation. If it can succeed at least in securing broad autonomy for its home region by force after failing to do so peacefully, this might then trigger radical reforms that result in advancing its federal vision throughout the rest of the country.

The U.S. could exploit the broad autonomy that these regions might receive in order to individually pressure them to distance themselves from China. Ethiopia is, after all, Africa’s second most populous country and used to have one of the world’s fastest rates of economic growth before the COVID-19 pandemic. From a continental standpoint, the U.S. might believe that turning Ethiopia against China could eventually become a game-changer in the New Cold War’s African theater. In other words, everything that the U.S. is doing against Ethiopia is motivated by its desire to “contain” China. It is now time to explain its modus operandi in detail.

The U.S. immediately exploited the TPLF-provoked conflict in Ethiopia to pressure PM Abiy to treat the group as his political equals. This was unacceptable for him, since doing so would legitimize all other groups that attack the armed forces in pursuit of their political objectives. The Ethiopian leader rightly feared that it could also trigger a domino effect that results in the country’s “Balkanization”, which would advance American interests in the sense of taking the country out of the “geopolitical game” with China. In response to his recalcitrance, the U.S. alleged that his government was carrying out ethnic cleansing.

American officials knew that this would attract global attention that they could manipulate to put multilateral pressure upon his government. Even so, PM Abiy still did not relent but continued waging his war in the interests of national unity. With time, the U.S. began to portray him as a “rogue leader” who did not deserve his Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 for resolving his country’s frozen conflict with the neighboring Eritrea. Its perception managers presented him as a power-hungry dictator, who was ruthlessly killing the ethnic minorities that opposed his government, including by deliberately starving them to death.

The ENDF’s withdrawal from the Tigray Region over the summer was interpreted by the U.S. as having been commenced from a position of weakness. It believed that ramping up the pressure at this sensitive point in the conflict could lead to him politically capitulating to the TPLF’s demands. This was a wrong assessment since PM Abiy hoped that everything would stabilize after his decision facilitated international relief efforts to the war-torn region. These were unfortunately exploited, according to Addis Ababa, in order to provide more support for the TPLF, which is why his government recently expelled those seven UN officials.

The U.S. “humanitarian imperialism”, as one can now call its policy against Ethiopia, is very pernicious. It focuses solely on the humanitarian crisis in the Tigray Region while ignoring the ones that the TPLF caused in the neighboring Afar and Amhara regions. This policy also manipulates perceptions about the situation in Tigray in order to delegitimize PM Abiy, the ENDF and the political cause of national unity that they are fighting for. The purpose is to encourage more members of the international community to pressure Ethiopia to the point where it finally feels compelled to politically capitulate. This policy, however, has proven to be counterproductive.

Far from giving up the fight, Ethiopia is doubling down and is now more motivated than ever before to see the war to its end, though ideally through a political rather than military solution due to humanitarian considerations. This does not imply treating the terrorist-designated TPLF as an equal but envisions replacing its leadership in the Tigray Region with a pro-government/unity party instead. That is, of course, easier said than done, which is why military means might continue to be relied upon to this political end. Throughout the course of its struggle, Ethiopia has begun to be seen as an anti-imperialist icon across Africa and the rest of the Global South.

PM Abiy’s open letter to Biden was full of powerful statements articulating Ethiopia’s sovereign interests. It showed that African leaders can resist the U.S., which could inspire the Ethiopian leader’s counterparts who might also come under similar pressure from their partner sometime in the future—due to its zero-sum New Cold War geopolitical calculations. Ethiopia’s sheer size makes it an African leader, not to mention it hosting the headquarters of the African Union, so it can influence the rest of the continent. It also has a very proud anti-imperialist history which motivates its people not to submit to foreign pressure.

China, Russia and India have politically supported Ethiopia against the U.S. at the UN, thereby debunking The Economist’s lie last week that “Ethiopia is losing friends and influence”. To the contrary, Ethiopia is gaining friends and influence, especially among the rising powers and the rest of the Global South. Its principled resistance to the American hybrid war on it has shown others that there is an alternative to capitulation. It is indeed possible to fight back in the interests of national unity. Not all American destabilization plots are guaranteed success. Just like the U.S. failed to topple the Syrian government, so too has it failed to topple the Ethiopian regime.

Ethiopia, however, is many orders of magnitude larger than Syria. This makes its hitherto successful resistance to the American hybrid war all the more significant. The leader in the Horn of Africa is a very diverse country, whose many people could be pitted against one another through information warfare to provoke another round of civil war that would help the TPLF’s U.S.-backed anti-government crusade. That worst-case scenario has not materialized, though, due to the majority of the population’s commitment to national unity even among some of those who might have misgivings about the present government.

This year’s elections saw the Prosperity Party win by a landslide, which shows how much genuine support it and its founder have among the masses. Furthermore, PM Abiy’s concept of “medemer” (“coming together”) aims to counteract “Balkanization” processes by pragmatically reforming socio-political relations inside the country. It is a very promising idea that could inspire other very diverse states across the Global South and help them ideologically thwart divide-and-rule plots like the one presently waged against Ethiopia.

Assessing the strategic situation as it presently stands, the American Hybrid War on Ethiopia is expected to intensify on manipulated humanitarian pretexts. More sanctions and even the threatened revocation of Ethiopia’s access to the U.S. market through the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) could worsen the economic situation for millions of people. The purpose in doing so would be to provoke anti-government protests that the U.S. hopes would be violent enough to catalyze a self-sustaining cycle of destabilization throughout the country after the security services crack down on the rioters.

The supplementary purpose is to encourage some Ethiopians to join anti-government terrorist groups allied or working in coordination with the TPLF unless the U.S. succeeds in pulling off a Color Revolution. This modus operandi is identical to the one that it relied upon in its hybrid war on Syria. In the Ethiopian context, the U.S. hopes to forcefully “Balkanize” the country, whether de jure or de facto through an extreme form of federalization. The point is to punish Ethiopia for balancing between China and the U.S., which showed other Global South states that such a pragmatic approach is possible instead of the U.S.-practised zero-sum one.

Nevertheless, the U.S. might still fail. The ENDF and other security services retain control throughout all the country’s regions with the exception of Tigray. It is therefore unlikely that any Color Revolution or Unconventional War there will succeed. Furthermore, Ethiopia enjoys close ties with the rising multipolar powers like China, Russia and India who can help it weather the current crisis by neutralizing U.S. attempts to isolate the country. In addition, the “medemer” concept ensures that national unity remains at the core of the Ethiopian society, reducing the appeal of foreign-backed “Balkanization” narratives.

Altogether, it can be said that Ethiopia is successfully resisting the U.S. hybrid war against it. There have certainly been some serious costs to its international reputation, but it remains committed to the cause of national unity, and it does not seem likely to politically capitulate to the terrorist-designed TPLF’s foreign-backed demands. Expelling those seven UN officials for meddling was a major move which speaks to how serious the country is about protecting its sovereignty. The same can also be said about PM Abiy’s open letter to Biden which preceded that development and explained why the U.S. is wrong for meddling in Ethiopia.

The American Hybrid War on Ethiopia will likely continue since the US doesn’t like to lose. It keenly understands what’s at stake in the realm of international perceptions, and it’s that the US cannot afford to have an African country – let alone one as large and influential as Ethiopia is – successfully resist its pressure campaign. Ethiopia’s resolute resistance can inspire other countries across the Global South, which can complicate the US’ efforts to pressure them into curtailing ties with China in the New Cold War. Had the US simply accepted Ethiopia’s balancing act, then the conflict might have ended by now, but its zero-sum policies prevented that.

From our partner RIAC

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Reducing industrial pollution in the Niger River Basin

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The Niger River is the third-longest river in Africa, running for 4,180 km (2,600 miles) from its source in south-eastern Guinea, through Mali, Niger and Nigeria, before discharging via the Niger Delta into the Gulf of Guinea in the Atlantic Ocean. Tributaries that run through a further five countries feed into the mighty Niger.

Hundreds of millions of people in West Africa depend on the river and its tributaries, for drinking water, for fish to eat, for irrigation to grow crops, for use in productive processes, and for hydroelectric power.

The health of the Niger River Basin is vitally important for the people and for the environment of West Africa. But this health is endangered by land degradation, pollution, loss of biodiversity, invading aquatic vegetal species and climate change.

To both assess and address these environmental issues, a Global Environment Facility (GEF)-funded project has brought together international, regional and national entities to work on integrated water resources management for the benefit of communities and the resilience of ecosystems. (Project details can be found here.)

One part of the early project research found that as the Niger River passes through Tembakounda, Bamako, Gao, Niamey, Lokoja and Onithsa – major trading, agro-processing and industrial cities – wastewater and other polluting substances are discharged directly into the river, often without consideration for the environment. National governments of the countries which the river runs through are either unable to deal with the accumulated environmental problems and/or are ineffective at preventing, regulating, reducing and managing pollution from industrial activities.

For this reason, one component of the GEF project, implemented by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), will facilitate the Transfer of Environmentally Sound Technology (TEST) to reduce wastewater discharges and pollution loads into the Niger River.

Despite the limitations on travel resulting from measures to halt the spread of the coronavirus, in August this year, UNIDO successfully identified and engaged with 19 pilot enterprises in various sectors, including pharmaceuticals, mining and agribusiness, operating in ‘pollution hotspots’ in the countries of the Niger River Basin. This number exceeds the original target of one enterprise per country. 

UNIDO experts are now introducing and sharing the Transfer of Environmentally Sound Technology (TEST) methodology with the pilot enterprises. In essence, this will mean the application of a set of tools including Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production, Environmental Management Systems, and Environmental Management Accounting, which will lead to the adoption of best practices, new skills and a new management culture.

Armed with these tools, the enterprises will be able to reduce product costs and increase productivity, while reducing the adverse environmental consequences of their operations. An awareness-raising campaign will be carried out so that the demonstration effect resonates across the Niger River Basin, prompting other enterprises to follow suit.

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