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Nurturing Africa’s Monsters and Sustaining the Dystopian Narrative

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A recent concern amongst some African intellectuals has manifested in the question; why is the West so enamored with Africa’s poverty porn? There has been that proclivity. That fetish for distressing stories from Africa, which explains the unbalanced perspective about Africa in the Western media. The African writer-in-residence at an American university who has written so compellingly about malnourished children in a war-torn African country with distended bellies, twig-like limbs, visible ribs and rust-colored thinned hair has unlocked a treasure chest of grants and fellowships. Winning Pulitzer Prizes, gaining international acclaim and raising funds from cleverly presenting Africa’s real and imagined misery has been the norm for some writers, photographers and NGOs from the continent, it is always about the commercialization of pain and grief. The symbolism of the Kevin Carter story impresses this fetish even further. The photographer had gone to South Sudan in March 1993, and had photographed a hunger-ravaged child in an open field, kneeling in the dirt, head bowed as if in prayer, while a vulture watched in the hope that she was soon going to be a corpse. That picture had captivated the world, not in the sense of what it represented in its stark presentation of humanity in its most hopeless of situations, but in a curious voyeuristic interest.

Africa must begin on a wrong foot in celebrated forgetfulness, when the stage was set for the Independence of many African countries, a shadowy and an even more sinister control of the continent’s soul was tied to the goods that the West had to offer. As a consequence, Africa must sell its soul, the leaders must court the goodwill of the West and African writers must write stories that the West wants to read. Stories that must show Africa’s misery.

There is a brand of Afrocentrism that is stuck in the racial insecurity that some African leaders and intellectuals feel when dealing with the West. That brand of Afrocentrism appears very resolute in its consideration of economic handouts even in the face of privation, but it fails when there is a personal benefit that is interfaced by condescending gestures, gestures made necessary by the leverage of power. Whoever controls the money controls the narrative. Suddenly tough-talking African government officials find themselves unable to negotiate IMF loans from a position of convenience, African countries find that they cannot give political and moral support for citizens who face racism in top international organizations. It is helplessness. The same helplessness Africa feels currently in the clutch of the Chinese state. For some of the African intellectuals, it has become a tradition to criticize the continent and institutions they helped undermine from the comfort of a Parisian café or in the coziness of a hotel room in Frankfurt. The continent has problems; yet it is the job of many African intellectuals and writers to exaggerate those problems and romanticize them. They know it is in high demand, such expectations of black misery.

The West must be purged of its sins; its conscience must be clear that Africa is settled when there are indications that no one cares. The Rwandan genocide was a case in point. Colonialism had aggravated ethnic mistrust between Hutus and Tutsis just as it had been in Nigeria, ethnic mistrust which had been a fallout of the colonial arrangement had fired up a civil war in Nigeria in 1967. Many African writers fed off the horror of both historical incidents. The United Nations Security Council that could have averted the Rwandan genocide, could only cite Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter when there was a legal challenge to the jurisdiction of the court it established for the prosecution of the Rwandan war criminals.

Africa has monsters. These were teething monsters fed with the lust for wealth and power. The spiritual gratification that must appease these African monsters now grown, must be exercised in the philanthropic and charity gestures that should show the world cares about Africa’s pain and the economic emasculation of society by Africa’s poor choices.  What has not been noted is that in the beginning of things, Western colonialism of Africa started bitter wars of boundaries and political misgivings in territories marked in error and in the empowerment of power drunk bandits. Africa’s monsters have run amok in dangerous, economically reckless regimes, expressed in an obscenely corrupt elite class and in mock institutions without merit. The corruption in Africa which started on a large scale with resource exploitation had the collusion of multinationals and African leaders. One instance was the Shell and Eni corruption scandal that involved employees of both companies and a former Nigerian president. Reuters reported in 2018,that the money involved in the scandal was ‘more than the entire Nigerian healthcare budget for 2018.’

The African monsters of poverty, terrorism, famine and insecurity seem to grow in the light of their glorification, and the profiteers of misery feed off them. African leaders blame the consequences of their economic profligacy and lack of foresight on the West, but the continent is a legacy of a failed start. Could Africa have been better without a legacy of a failed start? In Nigeria, the weaponization of ethnicity for political advantage and to avoid political responsibilities started with a state with incongruent parts; a state which was the product of a colonial experiment.In South Africa, the psychology of the society is fractured in its engagement with the ghosts of Apartheid, and so violent crime became history’s gift to the people.

Africa’s monsters were created by colonialists, and they are nurtured by African leaders without vision; without a sense of nationalistic responsibility toward the states they govern. These African leaders in collusion with their marionette intellectuals have ruined the continent, and they keep ruining the continent in the dystopian narratives they help peddle to a willing Western audience who have closed their minds to the good that might come from the African continent. New narratives about inventors and young smart people trying to fill in the gaps in countries where the leadership has failed must be made known. Africa needs new set of leaders, and as much as it needs new narratives of victories out in the wild; Africa needs to know that it is not a hellish place, but a continent with peculiar challenges. Africa does not need thinkers who mock their own people in narratives that rob the black body of dignity, but thinkers who would explore the mystery of the continent in ways that can inspire the continent and bring the world to understand the mysteries and beauty of the continent.

Olalekan Moyosore Lalude is a Nigerian lawyer, thinker, essayist and short story writer. He is a currently a doctoral student at the School of Law and Security Studies, Babcock University. He has been published under the name Mark Lekan Lalude in the AfricanWriter, Kalahari Review, WTBP Anthology and Face2Face Africa.

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Africa

Money seized from Equatorial Guinea VP Goes into Vaccine

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As a classic precedence, the Justice Department of the United States has decided that $26.6m (£20m) seized from Equatorial Guinea’s Vice-President Teodorin Nguema Obiang Mangue be used on purchasing COVID-19 vaccines and other essential medical programmes in Equitorial Guinea, located on the west coast of central Africa.

“Wherever possible, kleptocrats will not be allowed to retain the benefits of corruption,” an official said in a statement, and reported by British Broadcasting Corporation.

Obiang was forced to sell a mansion in Malibu, California, a Ferrari and various Michael Jackson memorabilia as part of a settlement he reached with the US authorities in 2014 after being accused of corruption and money-laundering. He denied the charges.

The agreement stated that $10.3m of the money from the sale would be forfeited to the US and the rest would be distributed to a charity or other organisation for the benefit of the people of Equatorial Guinea, the Justice Department said.

The UN is to receive $19.25m to purchase and administer COVID-19 vaccines to at least 600,000 people in Equatorial Guinea, while a US-based charity is to get $6.35m for other medical programmes in Equatorial Guinea.

Teodorin Nguema has been working in position as Vice-President since 2012, before that he held numerous government positions, including Minister of Agriculture and Forestry. Known for his unquestionable lavish lifestyle, he has been the subject of a number of international criminal charges and sanctions for alleged embezzlement and corruption. He has a fleet of branded cars and a number of houses, and two houses alone in South Africa,

Teodorin Nguema has often drawn criticisms in the international media for lavish spending, while majority of the estimated 1.5 million population wallows in abject poverty. Subsistence farming predominates, with shabby infrastructure in the country. Equatorial Guinea consists of two parts, an insular and a mainland region. Equatorial Guinea is the third-largest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa.

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African Union’s Inaction on Ethiopia Deplorable – Open Letter

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The crisis in northern Ethiopia has resulted in millions of people in need of emergency assistance and protection. © UNICEF/Christine Nesbitt

A group of African intellectuals says in an open letter that it is appalled and dismayed by the steadily deteriorating situation in Ethiopia. The letter, signed by 58 people, says the African Union’s lack of effective engagement in the crisis is deplorable. The letter calls on regional bloc IGAD and the AU to “proactively take up their mandates with respect to providing mediation for the protagonists to this conflict”.

The letter also asks for “all possible political support” for the AU’s Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, Olusegun Obasanjo, whose appointment was announced on August 26, 2021. A United Nations Security Council meeting on the same day welcomed the former Nigerian president’s appointment.

Earlier in August 2021, UN  chief Antonio Guterres appealed for a ceasefire, unrestricted aid access and an Ethiopian-led political dialogue. He told the council these steps were essential to preserve Ethiopia’s unity and the stability of the region and to ease the humanitarian crisis. He said that he had been in close contact with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and had received a letter from the leader of the Tigray region in response to his appeal. “The UN is ready to work together with the African Union and other key partners to support such a dialogue,” he said.

August 26, 2021 was only the second time during the conflict that the council held a public meeting to discuss the situation. Britain, Estonia, France, Ireland, Norway and the United States requested the session.

Fighting between the national government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front broke out in November 2020, leaving millions facing emergency or crisis levels of food insecurity, according to the United Nations. Both sides have been accused of atrocities.

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More African Countries Register Russia’s Sputnik Vaccine

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Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) is a specialized technical institution of the African Union (AU) that strengthens the capacity and capability of Africa’s public health institutions as well as partnerships to detect and respond quickly and effectively to disease threats and outbreaks, based on data-driven interventions and programmes.

During the outbreak of the coronavirus, the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT), was established by African Union, as a component in support of the Africa Vaccine Strategy and was endorsed by the AU Bureau of Heads of State and Government on 20th of August 2020.

Dr John Nkengasong, Director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), has emphasized: “Africa has to team up with development partners to achieve its 60% continent-wide vaccination in the next two years. I think that is why we should as a collective of the continent, and of course, in partnership with the developed world make sure that Africa has a timely access to vaccines to meet our vaccination targets.”

An official media release in February 2021, the Africa Vaccine Acquisition Task Team from the African Union (AU) informed that Russia would supply and deliver 300 million Sputnik V vaccines to Africa. That step was intended to support African countries to attain their targeted immunization of 60% of the population by the year-end. That vaccine story disappeared, but instead what become so common is the speedy registration of Sputnik V on bilateral basis in various African countries.

According to the latest, Nigeria has become the 68th country in the world to approve the Russian vaccine. The use of the Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine has been approved in Nigeria, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) said in an official statement.

“The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF, Russia’s sovereign wealth fund) announces the approval of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine against coronavirus by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control of Nigeria (NAFDAC). Nigeria has become the 68th country in the world to approve the Russian vaccine. Total population of all countries, where Sputnik V is approved for use, now exceeds 3.7 billion people, which is nearly half of the global population,” the statement said.

“Nigeria is the most populous nation in Africa, and the approval of Sputnik V will provide for using one of the safest and most effective vaccines in the world. Sputnik V is based on a proven human adenoviral vectors platform and is successfully used in over 50 countries. Approval in Nigeria will make an important contribution to the country’s fight against the pandemic,” CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) Kirill Dmitriev said.

Besides Nigeria, other African countries have registered Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine. Reportedly, the vaccine has been registered in Algeria, Angola, Djibouti, Egypt, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Morocco, Namibia, Tunisia, the Republic of Congo (DRC) and Zimbabwe.

Russia’s drive to share Sputnik V vaccine, of course, offers a chance to raise its image and strengthen alliances in Africa. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation has made efforts promoting the vaccine using all its channels. But supply and delivery have largely lagged behind, the pledges have simply not been fulfilled. Russian authorities have oftentimes said that they would step up efforts for fruitful cooperation in combating coronavirus in Africa.

Promising more than can be delivered appears to be a universal problem with coronavirus vaccines, and it is a real risk for Russia as well, said Theresa Fallon, Director of the Brussels-based Centre for Russia Europe Asia Studies. “They have won the gold medal for creating this very effective vaccine,” she said. “But the problem is how are they going to implement production and delivery?”

Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), with profit motivation, has attempted supplying the Russian vaccines through, Sheikh Ahmed Dalmook Al Maktoum, from the Monarch family and a third party in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to a number of African countries. For instance, the Republic of Ghana reportedly signed US$64.6 million contract for Sputnik V vaccine from Russia through Sheikh Ahmed Dalmook Al Maktoum. It was double the price from the producer as reported in the media.

On the other hand, Russian President Vladimir Putin has noted, in a speech early September, that advanced countries that produce vaccines against the coronavirus do little to protect humanity from the pandemic.

“The benefits of vaccination are enjoyed mostly by advanced economies. The bulk of the vaccines is made there, and it is used to protect their own population. But very little is being done to protect humanity in the broad sense,” Putin said at the plenary session of the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, the Far East of Russia. “This is very bad for the producers, because all this boomerangs around the globe. For instance, in Africa the level of protection with vaccines is minimal, but contacts with the African countries continue. There is no getting away from this. This infection will return again and again.”

According to an official release obtained late February, the Sputnik V vaccine the following advantages:

• Efficacy of Sputnik V is 91.6% as confirmed by the data published in the Lancet, one of the world’s oldest and most respected medical journals; It is one of only three vaccines in the world with efficacy of over 90%; Sputnik V provides full protection against severe cases of COVID-19. 

• The Sputnik V vaccine is based on a proven and well-studied platform of human adenoviral vectors, which cause the common cold and have been around for thousands of years. 

• Sputnik V uses two different vectors for the two shots in a course of vaccination, providing immunity with a longer duration than vaccines using the same delivery mechanism for both shots. 

• The safety, efficacy and lack of negative long-term effects of adenoviral vaccines have been proven by more than 250 clinical studies over two decades. 

• The developers of the Sputnik V vaccine are working collaboratively with AstraZeneca on a joint clinical trial to improve the efficacy of AstraZeneca vaccine. 

• There are no strong allergies caused by Sputnik V. 

• The price of Sputnik V is less than $10 per shot, making it affordable around the world. 

In February, peer-reviewed medical journal The Lancet published an analysis from Phase III clinical trial of the Russian vaccine, showing its 91.6-percent efficacy against symptomatic COVID-19. The Sputnik V vaccine was developed by the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology.

Sputnik V was registered in Russia on August 11, 2020 as the world’s first officially registered coronavirus vaccine. Russian vaccines have advantages as no deaths have been reported after vaccination with the Sputnik V, Alexander Gintsburg, Director of the Gamaleya Center, the vaccine developer, said and was reported by TASS News Agency. “As of today, no deaths after vaccination with Sputnik V have been registered,” he said.

Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) is Russia’s sovereign wealth fund established in 2011 to make equity co-investments, primarily in Russia, alongside reputable international financial and strategic investors. RDIF acts as a catalyst for direct investment in the Russian economy. RDIF’s management is based in Moscow.

In Africa, during first of September, the coronavirus-related death toll has topped 196,190, while more than 6.9 million recoveries have been reported. South Africa accounts for a majority of coronavirus cases and deaths across Africa – 2,777,659 and 82,261 respectively. The death toll in Tunisia climbed to 23,451, and 664,034 cases have been confirmed. Egypt recorded 16,736 deaths and 288,441 coronavirus cases.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, Ethiopia is ranked second to South Africa (308,134 cases and 4,675 deaths) and is followed by Kenya (235,863 cases and 4,726 deaths) and Nigeria (191,805 and 2,455). The total number of COVID-19 cases has reached almost 8 million in Africa, according to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Regional Office for Africa.

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