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Despite Criticisms, Madagascar Moves Ahead With COVID-Organics

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While Western and Europeans and Asians race to find vaccines for coronavirus, Africa can no longer wait for that scientific discovery that experts have said it would, most probably, be ready in a year or two. Some experts have argued that coronavirus would never disappear, but rather becomes endemic.

Indeed, the crisis has put the global science to practical test. Every individual country is busy fighting the pandemic in its own way, trying to make sure that it gains from the crisis. As the virus persistently sweeps across the world, southern African island of Madagascar seems desirous with an initiative to tap into its local herbal science to produce COVID-Organics to save human lives.

Madagascar, a southern African island in the Indian Ocean, has found an alternative to fight the fast spreading coronavirus, beginning on experimental basis and with a rudimentary approach at home. With increasing number of coronavirus, Madagascar is steadily depending on its natural resources to help Africa. As a result of the island’s isolation, 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.

On April 21, the President of Madagascar Andry Rajoelina officially launched a local herbal remedy claimed to prevent and cure the novel coronavirus. The drink is simply called COVID-Organics and is derived from Artemisia – a plant with proven efficacy in malaria treatment.

During an African Union meeting late last month, he stressed the importance of the herbal cure – a variant of which prevents the virus, while another cures it. Speaking to colleague heads of state with a bottle of COVID-Organics on his table, he reiterated the viability of the herbal cure.

“There are two treatment protocols (curative and preventive). The state of health of COVID-19 patients who took Tambavy CVO CovidOrganics improved after 7 days and fully recovered after 10 days. These patients have taken no other product than COVID-Organics,” Rajoelina said.

In an exclusive interview with FRANCE 24 and RFI, Rajoelina defended his promotion of a controversial homegrown remedy for COVID-19, stressing that COVID-Organics works really well. He further claimed that if a European country had discovered the remedy, people would not be so skeptical. “What if this remedy had been discovered by a European country, instead of Madagascar? Would people doubt it so much? I don’t think so,” the president told FRANCE 24’s Marc Perelman and RFI’s Christophe Boisbouvier.

“What is the problem with COVID-Organics, really? Could it be that this product comes from Africa? Could it be that it’s not OK for a country like Madagascar, which is the 63rd poorest country in the world… to have come up with (this formula) that can help save the world?” asked Rajoelina, who claims the infusion cures patients within ten days.

“No one will stop us from moving forward – not a country, not an organization,” Rajoelina said in response to the WHO’s concerns, and added the proof of the tonic’s efficacy was in the “healing” of “our patients”, calling it a “preventive and curative remedy,” according to the report.

In a similar argument, Dr. Charles Andrianjara, Malagasy Institute of Applied Research (IMRA) Director General pointed out straight “COVID-Organics will be used as prophylaxis that is for prevention, but clinical observations have shown a trend towards its effectiveness in curative treatment.”

In a response to an email media query, an official at the presidency wrote: “We are committed to taking the traditional therapies through the same clinical trials as other medication. It’s about time to participate and not only observe. As the opportunity emerges, we have the resources to use as a remedy against coronavirus, and to save lives. We need to think how to use it productively and profitably now.”

The global scientific community has become curious. Scientists at Germany’s Max Planck Institute in Potsdam are among a group of researchers from Germany and Denmark collaborating with the United States company, ArtemiLife, to explore whether the Artemisia plant can really be used against the coronavirus.

“It is the first study in which scientists are investigating the function of these plant substances in connection with COVID-19,” the Head of the Study Group, Peter Seeberger, said in an interview with DW.

On April 28, while in a video conference with Foreign Ministers from Brazil, China, Russia and South Africa, the Indian Foreign Affairs Minister, Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar noted that the pandemic not only poses a great risk to the health and well-being of humanity but also severely impacts on the global economy.

According to Jaishankar, India is providing pharma assistance to nearly 85 countries, including many countries in Africa, to support their response to the pandemic, and emphasized the need to provide support to businesses, especially small and medium scale enterprises, and the efficacy of traditional medicine systems.

Chinese are highly sensitive to opportunities, leverage indiscriminately to almost all sectors in Africa. Now China is showing interest in adopting and collaborating with Madagascar’s herbal initiative. China has already promised to scale up its assistance to Africa by creating a health care initiative that allow African countries to access funds to address challenges in the healthcare delivery. It plans to build the headquarters of the African Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

One area that presents the world with opportunity, and has be explored in the search for treatment is the field of herbal medicine. So far, many countries are adopting supportive care and non-specific treatment options to relieve patient symptoms. Chinese traditional medical practices in China and herbal preparation from Madagascar raise hopes for COVID-19. The potential here gives credence for consideration as traditional and herbal remedy for COVID- 19, argued Justice Ray Prah from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST).

Madagascar’s scientific initiative has drawn wide criticisms, instead of encouragement and support. The World Health Organization (WHO), established to monitor and tackle global health problems, research for innovative ways to ensure health of people, was rather the first to punch Madagascar. The officials have explained that the local African brew 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 consumption of untested herbal brews.

The African Union (AU), Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have made similar claims and said they would only support and endorse products that proved effective through scientific study.

But, the African Union, all African Governments and Regional Organizations have to get committed to taking “traditional therapies” through the same clinical trials as any other medication. It is worth to say that it is necessary to make collective or continental efforts toward finding a remedy against coronavirus.

African leaders have to understand that an effective COVID-19 vaccine, if it ever arrives, has to be treated as a public good for the whole of the global society, but at a cost not as a humanitarian aid. The combination of national self-interest and pressure for the pharmaceutical industry to make a profit is already triggering a geopolitical bust up over who actually gets access to the vaccine first.

Several media reports said an increasing number of African countries are opting for the COVID-Organics. About 10 African leaders have, already ordered for it since its launch in April. The countries include Chad, Comoros Islands, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Niger and United Republic of Tanzania.

With COVID-19, Africa has to explore its own resources. African countries and the African Union (AU) have to reinforce scientific cooperation among its member states so that the continent can be ready for quick and concerted efforts to deal with unexpected health crises such as coronavirus, recently argued Dr Aminata Touré, former Prime Minister of Senegal and currently President of the Economic, Social and Environmental Council in Dakar, Senegal.

It is certainly too soon to draw some lessons on the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic since it continues to dramatically affect significant segments of the world population and still remains a puzzle, an enigma for the world scientific community. Some African governments, at different levels, have mobilized their resources and expertise, elaborated innovative strategies and carried out bold and strategies to contain the spread of the coronavirus, she explained.

“The African Union has to reinforce the scientific cooperation among its member states in order to ensure our common health sovereignty. This is urgent today, to put in place a genuine scientific partnership between our African universities so that we can identify anticipatory and preventive therapeutic and pharmaceutical solutions to human suffering. We must actively encourage the African scientific diaspora to build solid cooperation, exchange network systems with our counterparts from the continent in order to build African centers of research and laboratory excellence,” suggested Touré.

Touré explicitly concluded that only these would be capable of helping to inspire widely recognized African initiatives on the cutting edge of research and development for medicinal and vaccine cures. This is the true path to health sovereignty.

Nearly a quarter of a billion people across Africa will catch coronavirus during the first year of the pandemic, the World Health Organization has said in a new study published in the British Medical Journal. The study further warns that 190,000 Africans could die of COVID-19 in the first 12 months of the pandemic unless urgent action is taken.

According to the latest figures from the WHO, Africa has more than 60,000 cases of COVID-19, which implies that Africa has been spared the worst of the pandemic. Experts say that the low number of tests in Africa is certainly hiding the true scale of the crisis. The African countries most affected by the pandemic included South Africa and Maghreb countries of Algeria, Egypt, and Morocco. Ghana and Nigeria have disturbing infected numbers in West Africa.

Thirty-five (35) African countries have each recorded less than a thousand cases. Eritrea is among a handful of African countries that have not recorded deaths as of May 15, others are Madagascar, Central Africa Republic, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, Lesotho, Rwanda and Uganda. Mauritius declared total recoveries (332) from coronavirus infections (332) as of May 11.

Madagascar reported no deaths. Out 238 cases, it claimed 126 active and 112 have recovered. Madagascar’s natural resources include a variety of agricultural and mineral products. Its major health infrastructure, in poor conditions, similar to many African countries. Madagascar, located in southern Africa, has 26.3 million population and 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).

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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Africa

Scaling Up Development Could Help Southern African leaders to Defeat Frequent Miltant Attacks

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Terrorism

Leaders of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) are now considering, without foreign interference, tackling frequent insurgency devastating regional development, causing havoc to human habitation and threatening security in southern Africa. This collective decision came out after the Extraordinary Double Troika meeting on 8th April in Maputo, Mozambique.

The violence unleashed more than three years ago in Cabo Delgado province took a new escalation on March 24 when armed groups attacked the town of Palma. The attacks caused dozens of deaths and forced thousands of Palma residents to flee, worsening a humanitarian crisis that has affected some 700,000 people in the province, according several reports.

Many international organizations and foreign countries have responded with humanitarian support and with financial aid aimed at alleviating situation, specifically in Mozambique and generally in southern Africa.

For example, the European Union (EU) pledged to send almost €7.9 million in response to the humanitarian crisis caused by terrorism in northern Mozambique, part of a package totaling €24.5 million for the entire southern Africa and Indian Ocean region. EU humanitarian aid to Mozambique “seeks to provide a response to the humanitarian consequences of the conflict in northern Mozambique, where €7.86 million of EU funding will be directed,” a statement from the European Commission details.

Beside horrific attacks, drought is also currently affecting Angola, Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. For instance, the EU will provide assistance to address a severe food and nutrition crisis in Madagascar. A further €6.00 million for helping children across the whole region gain access to education, and €8.00 million to improve the region’s disaster preparedness.

Now Southern African leaders are looking at pulling their resources together to improve the deteriorating security situation, supporting vulnerable displaced and affected people with shelter, food, protection and access to healthcare, especially in northern Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province, and further widely in southern Africa.

As a first step, SADC has called for cooperation in cross-border surveillance as essential to stem the flow of foreign fighters fomenting terrorism in Cabo Delgado, and further warning the spread of violence throughout southern Africa. Among other measures, SADC suggested that southern African police and judicial systems must consistently work to combat trafficking and money laundering that funds terrorism.

Despite these collective measures, there are still a few more questions as to whether SADC could, in practical terms, control frequent violent extremist attacks using available resources in the southern Africa.

SADC, among others, mandates for enforcing collective security in the region. While the presidents of Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe have called for “an immediate technical deployment” to Mozambique ahead of another high-level meeting at the end of April, Mozambique has so far been unreceptive, according reports.

There have been various suggestions from experts. “What we have here is a human rights and humanitarian crisis that has left hundreds of thousands displaced, insecure and unable to return to their homes because of the attacks that have been ongoing,” said Dewa Mavhinga, the Southern Africa director for Human Rights Watch. “So, the lack of security then spills over to affect everything else, including in terms of stability and economic programs that might be taking place in Cabo Delgado.

Historian Yussuf Adam, a retired professor at Maputo’s Eduardo Mondlane University, told VOA the problems dated back way beyond the start of the insurgency in 2017. He attributed to sharp disparity in development in the region.

He believes that Mozambique’s government, most importantly, has to tackle systemic poverty and inequality, in addition to resorting to a military solution. “There is no military solution. People have to be heard, and things have to be negotiated, and also people’s right to land,” he said. “People have to benefit from whatever it is will come out, is coming out, from this mining, oil, petrol and gas operations. That’s something which has to be seen and done.”

Mavhinga says, the government needs to take responsibility for its own policy failures. While militants have committed grievous acts – including rapes and beheadings – rights groups have also documented abuses by Mozambican security forces, including torture and extrajudicial killings.

South African lawyer and scholar Andre Thomashausen has also indicated that the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has its own internal differences. He anticipated that this SADC summit would not be able to take concrete measures, due to the division of opinions that exists within SADC, the lack of means and manpower resources could obstruct any positive results.

Thomashausen, however, said that the previous meeting did not express any solidarity, intervention and appeal to the African Union, regional and international community, explained further that SADC clearly indicated it prefers to deal with the crisis at the regional and without foreign interference. Therefore, the countries of the southern region “continue to bet on their own initiative, on their own commitment from region.”

The final communiqué from the summit condemned the terrorist attacks “in the strongest terms” and declared that “such heinous attacks cannot be allowed to continue without a proportionate regional response” but it did not suggest what such a regional response might consist of.

It further expressed “SADC’s full solidarity with the government and people of Mozambique” and reaffirmed “SADC’s continued commitment to contribute towards the efforts to bring about lasting peace and security, as well as reconciliation and development in the Republic of Mozambique.”

The summit ordered “an immediate technical deployment” to Mozambique, and the convening of an Extraordinary Meeting of the Ministerial Committee of the Organ by 28 April 2021 that will report to the Extraordinary Organ Troika summit on 29 April 2021.

SADC, an organization of 16 member states established in 1980, has as its mission to promote sustainable and equitable economic growth and socio-economic development through efficient, productive systems, deeper cooperation and integration, good governance and durable peace and security; so that the region emerges as a competitive and effective player in international relations and the world economy.

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SADC Summit Ends With Promises of More Meetings

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The Southern African Development Community (SADC) held an Extraordinary Double Troika meeting on 8th April in Maputo to deliberate on measures on addressing terrorism and its related impact on the current development specifically in the Mozambique and generally in southern Africa. The Cabo Delgado crisis started in 2017 with insurgents taking control of parts of northern Mozambique.

One of the two troikas consists of the current, incoming and outgoing chairs of SADC (namely Mozambique, Malawi and Tanzania), while the second is formed by the current, incoming and outgoing chairs of the SADC organ for politics, defence and security cooperation (Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe).

South African president Cyril Ramaphosa and the ministers of international relations, defence and state security attended the meeting. It was also attended by Mozambique, Botswana, Malawi Zimbabwe and Tanzania.

The summit was called in the wake of the terrorist attack of 24 March against the town of Palma in the northern Mozambican province of Cabo Delgado, but the leaders did not pledge any immediate practical support for Mozambique.

SADC Troika heads however said the acts of terrorism perpetrated against innocent civilians in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique, could not be allowed to continue without a proportionate regional response and reported that 12 decapitated bodies have been found behind a hotel in the region.

Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi has called for cooperation in cross-border surveillance as essential to stem the flow of foreign fighters fomenting terrorism in Cabo Delgado, warning of the spread of violence throughout Southern Africa.

Among the measures that the SADC countries should implement to combat terrorism is strengthening border control between Southern African countries, he said, and further added that Southern African police and judicial systems must consistently work to combat trafficking and money laundering that funds terrorism.

Nyusi stressed that the organization should implement practical acts to combat this scourge of terrorism to prevent its expansion and destabilization of the region, and warned of the risk that the actions of armed groups with a jihadist connotation could hinder regional integration.

According official reports, SADC fends off United States / European Union anti-terror intervention in Cabo Delgado. It further said no to another Mali / Somalia / Libya / Syria disaster on the African continent, adding that the global Anti-Terror lobbies are frustrated.

Deeply concerned about the continued terrorist attacks in Cabo Delgado, especially for the lives and welfare of the residents who continue to suffer from the atrocious, brutal and indiscriminate assaults, the leaders decided at their meeting to deploy a technical mission to Mozambique. It’s not clear what action the region will take but the deployed technical mission will report back to heads of state by 29 April.

The final communiqué from the summit condemned the terrorist attacks “in the strongest terms” and declared that “such heinous attacks cannot be allowed to continue without a proportionate regional response” but it did not suggest what such a regional response might consist of.

The Summit expressed “SADC’s full solidarity with the government and people of Mozambique” and reaffirmed “SADC’s continued commitment to contribute towards the efforts to bring about lasting peace and security, as well as reconciliation and development in the Republic of Mozambique.”

The summit ordered “an immediate technical deployment” to Mozambique, and the convening of an Extraordinary Meeting of the Ministerial Committee of the Organ by 28 April 2021 that will report to the Extraordinary Organ Troika summit on 29 April 2021.

The extremely brief communiqué mentioned no other specific measures.

The violence unleashed more than three years ago in Cabo Delgado province took a new escalation about a fortnight ago when armed groups attacked the town of Palma, which is about six kilometres from the multi-million dollar natural gas, according to United Nations data.

The attacks caused dozens of deaths and forced thousands of Palma residents to flee, worsening a humanitarian crisis that has affected some 700,000 people in the province since the conflicts data. Several countries have offered Maputo military support on the ground to combat these insurgents, but so far there has been no openness, although reports and testimonies are pointing to security companies and mercenaries in the area.

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African agriculture is ready for a digital revolution

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Authors: Akinwumi Adesina and Patrick Verkooijen*

After a dark 2020, a new year has brought new hope. In Africa, where up to 40 million more people were driven into extreme poverty and the continent experienced its first recession in 25 years, a brighter future beckons as the economy is forecast to return to growth this year.

Africa now has an opportunity to reset its economic compass. To build back not just better, but greener. Particularly as the next crisis—climate change—is already upon us.

Africa’s food systems must be made more resilient to future shocks such as floods, droughts, and disease. Urgent and sustainable increases in food production are needed to reduce reliance on food imports and reduce poverty, and this is where digital services come into play.

With mobile phone ownership in Sub-Saharan Africa alone expected to reach half a billion this year, digital services offered via text messaging can reach even the most remote village. And at least one-fifth of these phones also have smart features, meaning they can connect to the internet.

We can already see how digital services drive prosperity locally and nationally. In Uganda, SMS services that promote market price awareness have lifted the price farmers receive for bananas by 36 percent, beans by 16.5 percent, maize by 17 percent, and coffee by 19 percent. In Ghana, services that cut out the middleman have lifted the price for maize by 10 percent and groundnuts by 7 percent.

But digital services don’t just raise farmgate prices, they are the gateway to farm loans, crop insurance, and greater economic security, which in turn enables farmers to increase their resilience to climate change—by experimenting with new, drought-resistant crops, for example, or innovative farming methods.

Text messages with weather reports help farmers make better decisions about when and what to plant, and when to harvest.

In Niger, a phone-based education program has improved crop diversity, with more farmers likely to grow the cash crop okra, while an advisory service in Ethiopia helped increase wheat production from one ton to three tons per hectare.

The data footprints phone users create can also be analyzed to help assess risk when it comes to offering loans, making credit cheaper and more accessible.

Phones and digital services also speed up the spread of information through social networks, helping farmers learn about new drought-resistant crops or services that can increase productivity. Free-to-use mobile phone-based app WeFarm, for example, has already helped more than 2.4 million farmers find certified suppliers of quality seeds at fair prices. They can also connect farmers to internet-based services.

Examples of digital innovation abound, sometimes across borders. In Ghana, Kenya, and Nigeria, equipment-sharing platform Hello Tractor is helping farmers rent machinery by the day or even hour, while in Ethiopia, AfriScout, run by the non-government organization Project Concern International with the World Food Programme and the Ministry for Agriculture, provides satellite images of water supplies and crops every 10 days so problems can be spotted quickly to aid remedial action.

Transforming food systems digitally has demonstrably excellent results: the African Development Bank, which has allocated over half of its climate financing to adaptation since 2019, has already helped 19 million farmers in 27 countries to lift yields by an average 60 percent through applying digital technology, for example.

This is why the Global Center on Adaptation and the African Development Bank have launched the Africa Adaptation Acceleration Program (AAAP) to mobilize $25 billion to scale up and accelerate innovative climate-change adaptation across Africa.

Once developed, the digital nature of these services often makes such projects easy to replicate elsewhere and scale, even across large rural areas with little existing infrastructure.

Further, adaptation projects are proven to be highly cost-effective, often delivering value many times the original investment and so helping African economies grow faster and create many more much-needed jobs.

This makes it imperative that the global resolve to rebuild economies in the wake of Covid-19 is harnessed in the most effective way. We must not simply replicate the mistakes of the past. We must build back stronger, with a more resilient and climate-smart focus.

Funding and promoting disruptive business models in which digital technologies are embedded to increase productivity without using more land or more water will create a triple win: increased production, a more resilient climate and more empowered farmers.

We have the means and the technical capability to put Africa well on the way to achieving food self-sufficiency and greater climate resilience. In doing so, we can help millions move out of food poverty. We must not squander this opportunity to create truly historic and lasting change.

AfDB

*Patrick Verkooijen is CEO of the Global Center on Adaptation.

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