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Celebrating the Least Corrupt Country: Rwanda

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Probably the most objective international ranking of countries according to the extent of their corruption is the annual Gallup World Poll, in which 1,000 or more individuals in each of over a hundred countries are scientifically randomly sampled and asked “Is corruption widespread throughout the government in” their country “or not?” Only the survey that was published in 2013 is available complete online. Rwanda scored as being by far the least-corrupt country. Two years later, incomplete results were shown in Gallup’s 2015 poll-report, but Rwanda wasn’t among the countries which were included in that report. However, even up till 2020, articles are still being published about how remarkably free of corruption Rwanda seems to be.

Gallup (an employee-owned company) normally sells the findings to wealthy investors throughout the world. In 2015, Gallup headlined, “75% in U.S. See Widespread Government Corruption”, and ranked only the 37 countries that the U.S. regime approves of, which the U.S. regime’s ‘Freedom House’ had ranked as having a ‘free press’ (meaning a press whose major ‘news’-media adhere sufficiently to the U.S. CIA’s advices). In rank order, the least corrupt of those 37 countries were: Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Finland, New Zealand, Norway, and Germany — all of them ranging from only 14% corrupt, to 40% corrupt. The most corrupt, in rank order starting with the most corrupt, were: Lithuania, Portugal, Ghana, Spain, Czech Republic, and Slovenia — all of them at least 80% corrupt, which were actually ranked from 82% corrupt to 90% corrupt. 75% of Americans told Gallup they thought “corruption widespread throughout the government.” (We thus will call America “75% corrupt.”) Latvia was in the middle of the 37, at 63% corrupt. So: amongst ‘free press’ countries (governments that the U.S. regime isn’t aiming to regime-change), this percentage (63%) was the average rate of corruption (that is, of the population’s alleging corruption to be “widespread throughout the government”).

When Gallup published their complete poll-report, on 18 October 2013, which was headlined “Government Corruption Viewed as Pervasive Worldwide”, it included 129 countries. Shown here in rank order will be the 11 least-corrupt nations as indicated in that October 2013 Gallup news-report; and, for each nation, also — by way of comparison — the Transparency International (TI) corruption-rankings, in 2012, will be shown, because that was the year when Gallup’s data were being collected. (Click onto the link just above, if you want to see the complete 2013 Gallup article, with the scores shown for all 129, but Gallup provided there only the nation-by-nation scores, no rankings, and presented the 129 nations only in alphabetical order, instead of in rank order, perhaps so as not to give offence which might drive away potential clients that are in disappointingly low-scoring countries, such as America.) What is to be be shown here — for the first time anywhere — are the ranks that are based upon those Gallup-published scores

As was noted at the outset here, Rwanda ranked there as #1 (it had the lowest percentage — it was the least viewed as corrupt) that year. Only 5% of Gallup’s Rwandan respondents answered “Yes” to “Is corruption widespread throughout the government in Rwanda or not?” For purposes of simplicity and brevity, we may call that a finding of “only 5% corrupt.” 

Here, then, to start with, are listed the corruption-percentages, and ranks, of the 11 least-corrupt nations, out of the Gallup-surveyed 129 nations: 

1=Rwanda (ranked in 2012 TI as #50 out of 176 [but they say ‘198’] countries) 5%

2=Sweden (in 2012 TI #4 of 176) 14%

3&4=Singapore (in 2012 TI #5) & Denmark (in 2012 TI tied as #s1-3, one through three) 15%

5=Switzerland (in 2012 TI #6) 23%

6=NZ (in 2012 TI tied as #s1-3) 24%

7&8=Georgia (in 2012 TI #51) & Norway (in 2012 TI #7) 25%

9=Luxembourg (in 2012 TI #12) 26%

10&11=HongKong (in 2012 TI #14) & Finland (in 2012 TI tied as #s1-3) 30%

Near the middle of that Gallup 2013 ranking was:

63&64&65&66=U.S., tied with Guatemala, Nepal, Philippines, & Taiwan

At the very bottom were:

129=Tanzania 95% (ranked #102 out of ‘198’ — actually 176 — by TI)

(At the bottom of the TI rankings were 3 tied: Afghanistan, N. Korea, & Somalia.)

128=Kenya 93%

125&126&127=Greece, Nigeria, & Chad 92%

124=Uganda 91%

123=Lithuania 90%

120&121&122=Ghana, Cameroon, & Bosnia 89%

118&119=Portugal & Indonesia 88%

116&117=South Africa & Thailand 87%

U.S. ranked in the 2012 TI as being #19 out of 176 (‘198’), which, of course, is considerably better than being #64 out of 129 (in the much more reliable Gallup survey), because TI itself is corrupt: it’s a U.S.-regime front. 

Transparency International was founded in 1993 by former top officials of the World Bank. The World Bank had been initiated at the three-week, 1-22 July 1944 Bretton Woods Conference, in New Hampshire, and this was being done by appointees of the anti-imperialist Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and of the imperialist (or “pro-imperialist”) Winston Churchill, and so it wasn’t clear whether or not it would support imperialism. In fact, Wikipedia’s article on the “Bretton Woods Conference” states that:

In his closing remarks at the conference, its president, U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau, stated that the establishment of the IMF and the IBRD marked the end of economic nationalism. This meant countries would maintain their national interest, but trade blocs and economic spheres of influence would no longer be their means. The second idea behind the Bretton Woods Conference was joint management of the Western political-economic order, meaning that the foremost industrial democratic nations must lower barriers to trade and the movement of capital, in addition to their responsibility to govern the system.

This was before FDR died and Truman and the Cold War fundamentally changed things; and that Wikipedia article (being part of U.S. propaganda) falsely says that the attendees were representing “the foremost industrial democratic nations”, though many of those nations were actually dictatorships, such as Brazil, Cuba, El Salvador, Honduras, Haiti, Egypt, China, and the Soviet Union

Democracy had nothing to do with it. Imperialism did — and, after FDR’s death, nothing could stop the Bretton Woods system from being imperialistic at its very start. The exhaustively documented study by Eric Toussaint, The World Bank — A Critical Primer, opens its Introduction by noting that, “The list of governments resulting from military coups that were supported by the World Bank is impressive,” and these have all been U.S.-supported (and mostly were U.S.-perpetrated) coups. He also noted that, “the U.S. government has indeed enforced its views in those areas [of the World Bank’s operations] in which it is directly concerned.” Furthermore, and more generally: “The hidden agenda of the Washington Consensus aims … at maintaining the US global leadership. … For instance, the World Bank will only grant a loan on condition that a country’s water and sanitation services are privatized.” Billionaires — mostly American ones — end up receiving the profits from what would otherwise have been public works in foreign countries. Those “works” consequently ignore the poor. This is why the interests of the local poor are ignored, while the interests of global billionaires (and especially of U.S.-based billionaires) are advanced. On page 134, Toussaint refers to “the total cynicism inherent in the system, which results in artificially increased debt loads [in poor countries] that in no way correspond to the money injected into the economies of these countries.” The existing World Bank’s system is exactly what FDR had condemned and said absolutely must be replaced (and explained why it needed to be replaced). The book’s Chapter “24: An Indictment of the World Bank” is a scathing summary of this international gangland operation. (FDR had similarly described imperialism.) As one review of Toussaint’s book summed up the work: “The strategy, in a nutshell, is that providing infrastructure should fall on the state sector, and anything that might prove profitable should be given to the private sector (preferably favouring multinational corporations), i.e. privatisation of profits combined with the socialisation of the cost of anything not profitable.” John Perkins’s classic Confessions of an Economic Hit Man details the operations that Perkins had done for the World Bank and the benefits he had been providing to billionaires, and the destruction he had been perpetrating upon the residents in those vassal-nations. This wealth-transfer, from the masses to the classes — further impoverishment of the poor — is similarly the agenda of Transparency International, not just the World Bank’s agenda. TI assists it by producing their faked rankings. In a sense, boosted rankings are being bought and paid for. 

So, actually, the World Banks’s history is also TI’s history — its pre-history, which shaped it. That goes back to the Bretton Woods Conference, on 1-22 July 1944.

Wikipedia’s article on the “Bretton Woods Conference” says that, “The institutions [World Bank and IMF] were formally organized at an inaugural meeting in Savannah, Georgia, on March 8–18, 1946.[13] Notably absent from Savannah was the USSR, which had signed the Bretton Woods Final Act but had then decided not to ratify it. The USSR never joined the IMF and IBRD.” However, actually, the Soviet Union did not sign the “Bretton Woods Agreements”. The U.S.S.R. was the only Bretton Woods attendee which did not. Signing was done actually at a ceremony in Washington, DC, on 27 December 1945. In the U.N.’s online pdf of that final document, at page 120, where it says, “Pour l’Union des” (Républiques socialistes soviétiques), there is a blank, no one listed even as attending, and it’s the only blank. Every other Bretton Woods attendee sent a representative, who signed. As early as 26 July 1945, Truman had personally expressed his hostility to Stalin; and, clearly, from that moment on, Stalin knew that the death of FDR on 12 April 1945 had changed everything. (Which it did.)

The reason why TI was created by the World Bank in 1993 is that, at that time, the World Bank’s Chief Economist was the extremely pro-imperialist and highly political American, Larry Summers; and the World Bank’s President was J.P. Morgan’s former long-serving CEO, Lewis Preston, who became appointed by U.S. President G.H.W. Bush as the World Bank’s President in 1991. On 24 February 1990, just before the Soviet Union and its communism and its Warsaw Pact equivalent to America’s NATO military alliance all ended in 1991, G.H.W. Bush secretly started instructing America’s allies that though the Cold War was ending on the Soviet side, the Cold War was secretly to continue on the U.S.-and-allied side. Consequently, a new excuse for it — no longer ‘capitalism versus communism’ — was needed; and anti-corruption would be that excuse. That’s why TI was created. I previously explained in detail how “TI was instituted by the U.S.-created World Bank, in order to handle the ‘corruption’-propaganda portfolio for the U.S. empire.” TI is specifically a U.S. imperialist operation. It’s an intrinsic part of the U.S. regime’s operation for achieving all-encompassing U.S. empire. It is not an objective credible rating-system, for anything.

Whereas Gallup is honest, Transparency International (TI) is corrupt. Instead of being owned by its employees, TI is funded by the U.S. and its European allies (in other words, it’s a U.S. Cold War, CIA-affiliated, operation), a U.S.-regime PR gimmick, in order for them to use those ‘corruption’-rankings against governments (ones that consequently get scored lower) which the U.S. aristocracy — its billionaires — want to regime-change — overthrow, control, take over, conquer. Almost all on the list of TI’s donors are controlled by U.S. billionaires. America’s TI ranking, as of 9 July 2019, of 23 out of 180 (and that’s a real “180”: TI didn’t fake that count, in that year), is said there to be from “Corruption Perceptions Index 2018”, but if one clicks through to the complete list (it’s in .xlxs, but also here for anyone to see), then the U.S. actually ranks there tied as #23-#24, below (starting from #1): 1-2=Denmark&NZ, 3=Finland, 4-6=Singapore&Sweden&Switzerland, 7=Norway, 8=Netherlands, 9-10=Germany&Luxembourg, 11=Iceland, 12-15=Australia&Austria&Canada&UK, 16=HongKong, 17=Belgium, 18&19=Estonia&Ireland, 20=Japan, 21=UAE&Uruguay, 23-24France&U.S. All of those governments — both directly and indirectly — fund TI. TI’s methodology is based on officials’ opinions, not on data. Their published “Methodology” is a scandal, filled with opacities, easy to manipulate in the dark, such as: “Transparency International reaches out to each one of the institutions providing data in order to verify the methodology used to generate their scores. Since some of the sources are not publicly available, Transparency International also requests permission to publish the rescaled scores from each source alongside the composite CPI score. Transparency International is, however, not permitted to share the original scores given by private sources with the general public.” (Elsewhere, I have further discussed TI’s methodology.) Their rankings are PR tools, not trustworthy information-sources. Anyone who cites TI’s ‘findings’ (except critically) is not to be trusted, because even if they are honest, they are trusting a hoax. Gallup is vastly more trustworthy than TI.

Not only do Rwandans know that their country is relatively outstanding against corruption, but even the countries that fund TI begrudgingly acknowledge it. On 22 July 2010, the BBC headlined “Rwanda has negligible corruption – Transparency” and reported that, “Incidents of bribery in Rwanda are negligible, anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International says.” But TI’s rating of Rwanda was systematically an under-rating of that country’s outstanding performance, because the industrialized nations donate to TI, and they don’t want to be outshone by a third-world nation. “He that pays the piper calls the tune.” Rwanda has not been paying the piper. However, even the CIA-edited (and even written) Wikipedia acknowledges that Rwanda’s leader, Paul Kagame, “is popular in Rwanda,” and that “Rwanda’s economy has grown rapidly under Kagame’s presidency, with per-capita gross domestic product (purchasing power parity) estimated at $1,592 in 2013,[212] compared with $567 in 2000.[213] Annual growth between 2004 and 2010 averaged 8% per year.[214]” Unfortunately, this situation could rapidly change. For example: starting, in 2013, Rwanda’s debt/GDP ratio soared, from a long stable 20%, up to around 40% in 2017, and, during the three years of 2019 through 2021, Rwanda’s monthly debt-service payments due, mainly to the World Bank, will have soared from $2.688 billion to 23.341 billion. Will Rwanda still be enforcing its anti-corruption laws in 2022? Or will foreign billionaires instead be effectively in control over that country? Who knows? However, even on public debt, Rwanda isn’t yet anywhere near the worst countries. As of 2018, these were the 12 countries (out of 186) where public debt/GDP was actually over 100%: Barbados 123%; Cabo Verde 130%; Congo Republic 101%; Cyprus 112%; Greece 188%; Italy 130%; Japan 238% (but almost all domestic-owned); Lebanon 150%; Portugal 121%; Sudan 168%; U.S. 106%; Venezuela 159%. So, even on that, Rwanda outperforms U.S.

China’s Xinhua News Agency headlined on 10 December 2019, “What makes Rwanda one of least corrupted countries in Africa?” and opened with some of the explanation for Rwanda’s recent outstanding performance:

Rwanda, which ranks as one of the least corrupted countries in Africa, has made holistic efforts to fight corruption, officials and scholars told Xinhua on Monday, the date of this year’s International Anti-Corruption Day. The central African country ranked 48th among 180 countries across the world in the Corruption Perceptions Index 2018 published by Transparency International, making it the least corrupted country in East and Central Africa and the fourth least corrupted in the entire African continent.

Rwanda’s achievements in its fight against corruption can be attributed to several factors, including political will, awareness campaigns, and enforcement of laws, said Clement Musangabatware, Rwanda’s deputy ombudsman in charge of preventing and fighting corruption. … The unity of the Rwandan people in the fight against corruption has also contributed to eliminating vice, according to Rwandan Senator Juvenal Nkusi.

The government of Rwanda has effectively combated corruption by creating a culture of transparency and accountability while making the cost of getting involved in corruption high, said Nkusi, noting that Rwandan officials are aware of the dire consequences of corruption.

The nation’s zero-tolerance policy, which is maintained by top leaders, is an “apparent consensus” among the political community regardless of party affiliation, said Frederick Golooba-Mutebi, an independent researcher on politics and public affairs.

On 4 August 2020, Kenya’s The East African headlined “KAGAME: We’re putting maximum pressure on the corrupt” and opened, “Rwandan public officials convicted of corruption risk facing hefty fines and auctioning of their property if convicted as the country steps up the fight against the vice in the face of dwindling domestic revenues which have come under enormous pressure during the coronavirus pandemic.” Another reason for this intensified enforcement might be to police the increased investment into the country by foreigners.

Furthermore, there are also other indicators of the rankings of various countries as regards corruption. On 15 April 2013, I headlined “How the U.S. Performs in Recent International Rankings” and reported that: 

A much broader ranking-system, from the World Economic Forum, is “The Global Competitiveness Report 2012-2013,” which ranks 144 countries, on a wide range of factors related to global economic competitiveness. … Corruption seems to be a rather pervasive problem in the U.S. On “Diversion of Public Funds [due to corruption],” the U.S. ranks #34. On “Irregular Payments and Bribes” (which is perhaps an even better measure of lack of corruption) we are #42. On “Public Trust in Politicians,” we are #54. On “Judicial Independence,” we are #38. On “Favoritism in Decisions of Government Officials” (otherwise known as governmental “cronyism”), we are #59. On “Organized Crime,” we are #87. On “Ethical Behavior of Firms,” we are #29. On “Strength of Auditing and Reporting Standards,” we are #37. On “Reliability of Police Services,” we are #30. On “Transparency of Governmental Policymaking,” we are #56. On “Efficiency of Legal Framework in Challenging Regulations,” we are #37. On “Efficiency of Legal Framework in Settling Disputes,” we are #35. On “Burden of Government Regulation,” we are #76. On “Wastefulness of Government Spending,” we are also #76. On “Property Rights” protection (the basic law-and-order measure), we are #42.

The U.S.’s overall “global competitiveness” ranking was #7. All of the “corruption” factors were listed under the heading of “Institutions,” and the United States’ overall “Institutions” ranking was #41. (Singapore had the #1 “Institutions” ranking. NZ was #2 on “Institutions.” All nations’ “Institutions” rankings were shown on pages 16-17. However, some of the “Institutions” factors, on the basis of which those ranks are generated, do not concern corruption. Furthermore, most of the information that was inputted to calculate these rankings came from the World Bank. Only the Gallup surveys are based upon perceptions by the public within each of the ranked nations.) 

The summary for Rwanda said: “Rwanda moves up by seven places this year to 63rd position, continuing to place third in the sub Saharan African region. As do the other comparatively successful African countries, Rwanda benefits from strong and relatively well-functioning institutions, with very low levels of corruption (an outcome that is certainly related to the government’s non-tolerance policy), and a good security environment. Its labor markets are efficient, its financial markets are relatively well developed, and Rwanda is characterized by a capacity for innovation that is quite good for a country at its stage of development. The greatest challenges facing Rwanda in improving its competitiveness are the state of the country’s infrastructure, its low secondary and university enrollment rates, and the poor health of its workforce.”

Here were a few of Rwanda’s corruption (“Institutions”) ranks (shown in the report’s page 307): On “Diversion of Public Funds,” Rwanda was #37. On “Irregular Payments and Bribes,” it was #21. On “Public Trust in Politicians,” it was #6. On “Strength of Auditing and Reporting Standards,” it was #69 (and that was Rwanda’s worst “Institutions” rank). Rwanda’s overall “Institutions” ranking was #20. (However, page 77 of the report indicated that Rwnda was being rated on the basis of 2011 data, not 2012.) 

So: for “Institutions,” U.S. was #41, and Rwanda was #20, whereas the 2012 TI “corruption” rankings were U.S. #19 and Rwanda #50. That contrast in rankings might be a fair indicator of how corrupt (bought and paid for) TI is. (Of course, if Gallup’s findings were the best measure of a country’s “corruption,” then that contrast against TI’s U.S. #19 and Rwanda #50 would instead be U.S #65 versus Rwanda #1.) Anyway, Rwanda was vastly less corrupt than the U.S. is. Whether Rwanda might have been #1 out of 129, or #20 out of 144, can be reasonably debated, but that it would have been #50 out of 176 (which TI claimed was instead out of 198) can be simply ignored — it is outside the bounds of reasonable credibility.

Associated with lack of corruption is honest police forces. On 28 June 2018, Rwanda’s leading daily newspaper, The New Times, headlined “Gallup report: Rwanda is second safest place in Africa”, and reported that 83% “of Rwandan residents have confidence in the local police force and … feel safe walking alone at night.” The safest countries were: Singapore 97%, and — in second through fourth place — “Norway, Iceland and Finland who tied at 93 per cent respectively. Rwanda came at 40 globally.” U.S. ranked at #35 out of 142 countries in this survey.

By contrast, as compared to the case of Rwanda — a country that is trying hard not to be corrupt — the U.S. Supreme Court has (see “Federal Public Corruption Prosecution After ‘Bridgegate’”) unanimously ruled, on 7 May 2020 (in Kelly v. U.S.), that unless direct bribery can be proven against a public official, any other type of abuse of public office (than direct bribery) is entirely legal, and not subject to penalty, under any U.S. criminal laws, regardless of any suffering that might have been perpetrated upon the general public, or upon any individual, by that official’s action, or decision. This landmark ruling concerned two subordinates, not the elected official himself; and, so, of course, elected officials themselves are now, essentially, totally immune in the U.S. Even their subordinates are safe, and therefore won’t have incentive to give plea-bargained testimony against their boss in complex corruption-cases. They’re already “home free.” A month later, on June 15th, this same U.S. Supreme Court, in yet another landmark decision, ruled by 8 to 1 that even low officials, such as police, are beyond the reach of the law if they even murder totally innocent persons, if it’s being done while they are on the job. The badge is their protection. (Of course, both of those rulings are likely to cause corruption in the U.S. to grow yet higher.)

As Nicole M. Argentieri, one of America’s top experts on corporate crime, commented about the Kelly v. U.S ruling, one result of the ruling is that “even conduct that the court unanimously characterized as an ‘abuse of power’ can escape prosecution.” The 9 ‘Justices’ didn’t consider the prevention of abuse of power by public officials to be a sufficiently high priority for it to be prosecuted, or even to be at all illegal. Of course, America’s courts aren’t supposed to be writing the laws, but prior rulings, from prior U.S. Supreme Courts, had interpreted America’s laws regarding corruption very differently. As Argentieri observed, “Between the 1940s and the 1980s, it was common for federal prosecutors to use federal fraud laws to prosecute public officials for ‘schemes to defraud citizens of their intangible rights to honest and impartial government’.” Corruption was prosecuted, but now it virtually cannot be. U.S. Supreme Court rulings such as these have made public corruption increasingly legal, and this year’s two rulings make it henceforth entirely legal. And, regardless of whether America’s now allowing public corruption should be attributed primarily to the legislative or to the judicial branch, it’s the current situation. And, yet, TI’s latest, 2019, ranking for the U.S. is #23 out of 198 countries (actually out of 176 countries); and their ranking for Rwanda is #51 (out of ‘198’), which pretends that Rwanda is quite a bit more corrupt than is the United States. TI’s rankings are thus worthless. They are pure propaganda, no news-value except for their own scandalousness and TI’s corruptness. And, as far as TI’s own ‘transparency’ is concerned, it’s yet another fraud. Itself is both opaque, and corrupt. Rwanda has tried hard to be neither. 

TI’s ‘corruption’ scores affect how high an interest-rate the nation will pay on its sovereign debt. The IMF’s Public Financial Management Blog headlined on 15 September 2016 “The (Fiscal) Benefits of Transparency”, and reported: “A series of studies (Ciocchini et al 2003; Depken et al 2007; Remolona et al 2008) show that as scores on Transparency International’s (TI’s) Corruptions Perception Index (CPI) decrease, borrowing costs increase. These studies all show direct causality between corruption risk and borrowing costs, controlling for other influences.” Investors trust the fraud and therefore pay lots more for debt from ‘Transparent’ regimes than from low-scored ones. The IMF (the U.S. regime) can only be happy that the TI fraud works. However: taxpayers in any non-U.S.-allied country can only be sad that it does, because it raises their nation’s debt even further. The entire existing World Bank, IMF, and IBRD (‘International Bank for Reconstruction and Development’) system is set up so as to steal from taxpayers in low-income countries — such as Rwanda — in order to increase the wealth of foreign investors who invest in low-scored countries (which America’s billionaires want to conquer — which, if that happens, would increase their own wealth even more).

So: when the U.S. empire, starting in 1991, took anti-corruption as its new excuse for being imperialistic, replacing its old anti-communist excuse, what actually emerged in the U.S. itself has been a country in which around three-quarters of its own residents believe “corruption widespread throughout the government.” That’s tied with Guatemala, Nepal, Philippines, & Taiwan. According to any measure (except the fraudulent TI), Rwanda is far less corrupt than that. Whether it will remain so is another matter.

Author’s note: first posted at Strategic Culture

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010

Africa

Review: As Coronavirus Rise Past Three million, Africa Hopes for Vaccine

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Migrant women and their children quarantine at a site in Niamey, Niger. © UNICEF/Juan Haro

With its large population and fragile health systems, Africa has recorded more than three million Covid-19 cases, still less deadly as compared to other regions in the world, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC). According to Africa CDC, Africa’s coronavirus tally was 3,021,769 as of January 10. The death toll was 72,121 and the number of recoveries was 2,450,492. The biggest number of coronavirus cases were reported from South Africa, Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia, and Ethiopia.

South Africa, with more than 1.2 million reported cases, including 32,824 deaths, accounts for more than 30% of the total for the continent of 54 countries and 1.3 billion people. The high proportion of cases identified in South Africa, were attributed to more tests carried out than many other African countries.

African countries are expecting to get medical equipment, most especially vaccine, to help them out of the pandemic. These they expect from external sources. During January 4-9, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi paid official visits to Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Tanzania, Botswana and Seychelles. Wang Yi emphasized that China is willing to deepen mutually beneficial cooperation in diverse spheres with Africa. For example, China’s efforts to create a new image in Africa through China-European Union Cooperation in vaccine.

Both China and the EU vow to work as a global collaboration under the World Health Organization in terms of accelerating the development and manufacture of Covid-19 vaccines, and assuring fair and equitable access for every country in the world. It’s about making the vaccine a global public good.

Last December, during his annual media conference, President Vladimir Putin made it known that Russia’s readiness to help foreign countries including Africa. With regard to cooperation with other countries, it would boost the technological capabilities, enterprises to produce the vaccine, foreign countries would invest their own money into expanding their production capacities and purchasing the corresponding equipment, he explained.

Foreign countries would be investing in these projects: the enlargement of production facilities and the purchase of equipment. “As for cooperation with foreign countries: nothing is stopping us from manufacturing vaccine components at facilities in other countries precisely because we need time to enhance technological capacities of our vaccine manufacturing enterprises. This does not hinder vaccination in the Russian Federation in any way,” Putin said.

According to January report from the Tass News Agency, the Russian Direct Investment Fund has only registered the first Russian vaccine Sputnik V in Africa. “Russian Direct Investment Fund announces the first registration of Sputnik V in Africa. Ministry of Pharmaceutical Industry of Algeria registered Sputnik V on January 10th,” as follows from a post on their official Twitter account.

According to the Russian Direct Investment Fund, the registration was done under the accelerated Emergency Use Authorization procedure. This procedure was also used to register this vaccine in Argentina, Bolivia, and Serbia. The Fund said that supplies to Algeria would be possible thanks to its international partners in India, China, South Korea and other countries.

Writing under the headline “Africa’s Road to Recovery in 2021 Is a Fresh Start” published originally by Chatham House, Dr Alex Vines, the Director for the Africa Program at Chatham House, said many African countries would be much more seriously affected by the socioeconomic consequences of the global economic slowdown triggered by the pandemic. Even before Covid-19 hit, an increasing number of African countries were indebted and financially stressed.

He wrote that African debt would become a greater global concern in 2021 as many African states remain the world’s poorest and most fragile and have been hard hit by the economic and financial costs imposed by the pandemic.

In his analysis, Dr Vines further pointed out that 2021 will also see increased geopolitical rivalry for influence in Africa. This will include competition over generosity, ranging from positioning over debt cancellation to providing Covid-19 vaccines. China has its Sinopharm vaccine and has already signed up to Covax, the international initiative aimed at ensuring equitable global access. The Russians have their Sputnik V vaccine, the UK has its AstraZeneca and University of Oxford vaccine, and the US the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech (with Germany) vaccines.

Reports from Quartz also said Africa appears not part of the supply priorities of the Pharmaceutical companies producing the foremost Covid-19 vaccines. While Pfizer-BioNTech has offered to supply just 50 million Covid-19 vaccines to Africa starting from March to the end of this year, Moderna and AstraZeneca have not yet allocated supplies for Africa. AstraZeneca directed the African Union (AU) to negotiate with the Serum Institute of India for its vaccine to see if they can get a deal. Serum Institute of India has earlier obtained the license to produce the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The Quartz report said most African countries mainly relied on the COVAX co-financing public-private facility backed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to enable rapid and equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines for lower income countries. The facility promised access to vaccines for up to 20% of participating countries’ population with an initial supply beginning in the first quarter of the year to immunize 3% of their population. However, COVAX is underfunded, and these countries must look for other avenues to access more doses to vaccinate the 50% of their population in order to reach immunity.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, several countries around the world have been making efforts to facilitate local vaccine development, clinical trials, and some had made upfront payments for vaccines to encourage early production. Outside of South Africa, most African economies have played too little or no role at all in the development of Covid-19 vaccines and had likewise made little or effort to secure vaccines while other economies around the world were doing so.

For instance, a globally respected genomic and infectious disease laboratory in Nigeria announced the development of a Covid-19 vaccine in September that is 90% effective against the virus in the preclinical trial but it has not been able to carry out clinical trials due to lack of support and funding.

While Kenya recently announced that through the COVAX facility, it ordered 24 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, with supply expected to start arriving in the second week of next month, several African countries are opting for vaccines from India, Russia, and China. This is despite skepticism about the vaccines from Russia and China in particular. Both countries rolled out their vaccines without phase 3 clinical trial results that confirm the vaccine effectiveness.

South Africa said it made a deal with Serum Institute India and will be getting 1.5 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine for its health workers starting this month. The country, which is going is also in talks with Russia and China to procure vaccines. Currently, Guinea is testing the Russian vaccine, Sputnik V and has ordered 2 million doses.

Morocco has ordered 65 million doses of the Sinopharm vaccine from China, and AstraZeneca vaccine from Serum Institute India. Egypt plans to buy 40 million doses of the Sinopharm vaccine, has already received 50,000 doses of the vaccine in December, and expecting another 50,000 in the second or third week of this month when vaccination will commence. Nigeria says vaccine access was in its discussions this week with the Chinese foreign minister during his visit to the county, according to the report from Quartz.

Besides the fact that Africa has registered its three million cases, Africa still behind the United States and European countries, and Asian countries such as China and India when it comes to the Covid-19 outbreak. For many African countries, it is still the time to reflect on African countries’ responses to Covid-19. Although it has abundant resources, Africa remains the world’s poorest and least developed continent, and worse with poor development policies. It is time to prioritize and focus on sustainable development.

Significantly, the global pandemic has exposed the weaknesses in Africa’s health system, adversely affected its economic sectors, it is therefore necessary for African leaders, the African Union (AU), regional organizations and African partners be reminded of issues relating to sustainable development and integration. It sets as a reminder to highlight and prioritize the significant tasks set out by the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the African Union’s Agenda 2063.

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Africa

China’s Diplomacy in Africa: Being a civilian great power

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Authors: Xu Guoying & Chen Yiling*

During January 4-9, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi paid official visits to Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Botswana and Seychelles. According to the media reports, the visits is in line with China’s 30-year tradition of choosing Africa as the destination of all Chinese foreign ministers’ first overseas visit each year and demonstrated China’s close attention to its ties with African countries as well as its firm friendship with African people.

Noting the year 2021 marks the last year for the implementation of Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) Beijing Action Plan (2019-21), FM Wang’s visits aimed to deepen coordination and communication with the African side to cement the important consensuses and facilitate economic recovery in African countries while fighting the virus. Since the outbreak of the pandemic in 2020, the close cooperation between China and Africa in fighting the pandemic has indicated the two sides’ firm determination to step up relationship with each other. This is more necessary because the traditional friendship between China and Africa would have reached new heights in the post-pandemic era while they also expected to exchange views on a new round of forum during this visit.

There is no doubt that China’s diplomacy has always adhered to the principle that all countries, large or small, are equal and that has advocated multilateralism, opposed power politics, promoted general democratization in international relations, and supported the United Nations to play its due role in international affairs. To that end, China needs the consensus and diplomatic supports from the countries in the Third World, particularly the African states. Given this, Chinese FM Wang reiterate that big countries should take the lead in abiding by the basic norms of international relations, not interfering in other countries’ internal affairs, helping small and medium-sized developing countries, and assuming their international responsibilities in dealing with climate change and promoting sustainable development. Today, as the largest developing country, China is willing to fulfill its international obligations since its development is a growing force for peace, justice, and other developing countries as equal members of the international community.

This is not a lip-service but a solemn promise to play a more active role in international affairs and is willing to work with the country to safeguard world peace, stability, and prosperity. As a matter of fact, most states of Africa have admitted that China has adhered to the principle of equality between large and small countries, and made all the efforts to safeguard the interests of small and medium-sized countries and developing countries. Morally and practically, China has always stood with developing countries in international affairs. During his trip to Africa, Wang praised China’s close ties with the African states like the important members of the international community where all the members should treat each other as equals and achieve fruitful results in practical cooperation.

It is obvious that the leaders of the African states welcomed FM Wang’s visit and vowed to continue to support Beijing on the issues concerning China’s core interests, and inclusive of taking the opportunity of jointly building the Belt and Road and implementing the outcomes of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) Beijing Summit with the view to taking mutual cooperation to a new level and building a community with a shared future for both sides in light of the economic and social development needs of the African people. Considering the huge African population and rich natural resources, China is willing to deepen mutually beneficial cooperation with Africa in many traditional and new areas such as green environmental protection and blue ocean economics. Meanwhile, China fully understands the urgent desire of the African states to cope with climate change. The two sides agreed to sign the implementation agreement on the construction of low-carbon demonstration zones in South-South cooperation.

Since China’s relationship with Africa has been never exclusive, it calls on the cooperative programs with all the countries, in particular the European Union. For example, China’s efforts to create a new image in Africa through China-EU Cooperation in vaccine. This is the good chance for both sides because they all want to bring the coronavirus pandemic under control and then it’s going to require a major, global effort to do so. As a matter of fact, China has reiterated that the virus knows no borders and has no interest in the nationality of its victims. As a result, it will overcome all barriers if we do not work together to counter it. In the face of the virus, we are without doubt a global community. But the key question is: Are we able to act like one? The answer is yes, but China and the EU need to work together to play a pivotal role in dealing with what is called the political, social, and ethical issue. It requires that political leaders manage to explain convincingly that it is advantageous for all of us if as a first step some people are vaccinated in all countries instead of all people in some countries?

Both China and the EU vow to work as a global collaboration under the World Health Organization in terms of accelerating the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and assuring fair and equitable access for every country in the world. It’s about making the vaccine a global public good. This should be in Chinese and Europe’s interests too. There is a consensus between China and the EU that nurses in African countries be vaccinated as a first step, and soonest—needs a big PR push.

There’s little doubt that most Europeans want the vaccine as soon as possible. But the EU should also move fast to vaccinate especially doctors and nurses in as many affected and vulnerable African countries as possible. There are several compelling reasons to do this. First is the destructive nature of the virus. The longer it flourishes, the greater the chance of it mutating in ways that make it even more deadly, contagious, or just difficult to vaccinate against. Getting it rolled out quickly across Africa is crucial. Second, a World Bank study in last April showed that if the EU and European governments are really serious about their soft power, this is the time to share the vaccine in a way that equals to the global influence of China as it has already been sending vaccine for trials in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan, and the Philippines.

Now as for China’s relations with Africa, where it has built huge infrastructure projects on the back of loans to several countries and is extracting much-needed raw materials, the Chinese leadership has gone on the offensive. In June, Chinese President Xi Jinping told a meeting of African leaders that “African countries will be among the first to benefit” from a coronavirus vaccine, once its development and deployment is completed in China. Moreover, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has pledged that Beijing would extend $11 billion (€9 billion) in loans for vaccines to Latin American and Caribbean countries. In light of this, China and the EU should cooperate with each other in Africa rather than excluding the other side. For sure, all the more reason for China and the EU to seize the opportunity to boost their mutual soft power with a combination of philanthropy and a big dose of self-interest.

To that end, China has reiterated that it is not a military threat to the status quo since it has reaffirmed the defensive nature of its national defense policy as Chinese top legislative body adopted new revisions to the National Defense Law, renewing tasks and goals as well as cementing policies. Accordingly, it is quite sure that China will be more like to act as a civilian great power which is compatible with the goal of the European Union. Considering this, China and the EU would be able to continue their cooperative partners in trade and economics, transparent and open competitors in high technologies and possibly the systematic rivals.

*Chen Yiling, MA, a research fellow at the Center for International Relations, SIPA, Jilin University

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Africa

Somalia: My Nostalgic, Childhood Visit to Grandma’s Village

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At twelve noon, the old man whispers to himself as he counts his prayers with a rosary. He strokes his goatee beard, streaked with grey. He hitches up his sarong and sits under a shady tree on a mat made from a deerskin. On the mountains behind him, I see a mirage as the sun bakes the scenery. He is a popular imam among the villagers. They hold him in great reverence throughout the village, which is located twenty miles west of Erigavo, Somalia.

I see my grandma sharpening a big knife. For the past three months, this knife has been handy for my grandma. She uses it for countless purposes, from cutting fresh little sticks off the acacia trees to slaughtering animals for a feast. She chews on the tip of one of those sticks to make it soft enough to brush her teeth. I watch the rolling eyes of this restrained ram as its ears wiggle and listen to the clatter of the sharpening. Two women lay the ram on its back, one holds the front legs, and the other holds the rear ones, and grandma walks calmly towards the ram, grabs the chin, presses the head down and slits the throat, and blood gushes out on the steep ground and runs down to the outsole of her shoes. The ram’s eyes do not move now, and they stare at the sky, motionless.

This is Ismael. He seems to have done enough physical exercise, not in an urban gym, but by tending the camels, drinking camel milk, and running around in the bush from dawn to dusk. His bones are thick, and his muscles are strong. He is a real nomad and can walk miles and miles without breaking a sweat. Look at me. I’m a city boy who barely walks a mile a day. And grandma sends me to fetch firewood with this boy. Look at him. He walks well, but to me, his steps are so fast. I have to keep up with his unusual pace where he zigzags, jumps over thorny cactuses, changes direction unexpectedly, and avoids clear paths. As I chase him, I cough because of the dust strewn in my face by his stamping feet. Sandy grains are in my eyes and my vision is blurry. It takes us five miles to arrive at a place where firewood abound. I sit to rest, panting, cleaning my teary eyes with a handkerchief. Not only does he scale a tree like a monkey, he gathers some firewood, breaking every dry branch there with the swift blows of his axe and tossing it down. For him, a village life is a walk in the park.

I tie a firewood load into a bunch and heave it to my back. The Ismael’s load is three times bigger than mine. He walks swiftly and disappears from view with a lightning speed. With resting intervals, I reach home forty minutes later than him, with my feet blistering and my nose bleeding slightly. I fling the firewood away from my back to the ground and descend to a sitting position. I pull off my sturdy boots, and something smell ammonia.

The women start a three-stone fires in three different spots, and the flames lick the enormous cooking pots whose outer form dark and hardened flakes from years of use. I sit there wreathing in a haze of clouds of smoke, trying to strike up a conversation with this girl in her teen years.

 “How can you guys cook all this meat without messing up something in the process?” I dub my nose.

“What makes you think we will cook all the meat?” she swaggers past me, putting more firewood into the fire.

“I’m just asking,” tears roll down from my eyes.

         “Please don’t trip,” she says as I get up suddenly.

“What?,” I step back, stumbling over a head.

“That belongs to the second ram,” she explains. “I am Sophia, by the way.”

“I’m Ahmed,” I glance at the ram head, freaked.

Two muscled men dig a square hole in the ground and use it as an underground oven to cook lamb stuffed with rice. Look at them. They are in a perfect shape. They fight off lions and hyenas at night when these predatory carnivores attack the herds, Ismael tells me. One of them is wearing an eye patch. His name is Hussein. His back has scars that resemble the shape of the African continent, his left fingers suffer from physical deformity. The other man has a silky dress and a black shirt on. He wiggles the white-faced Seiko watch on his wrist into place, checking the time repeatedly as he flips the meat. He yawns and I glimpse that he is missing all his lateral incisors. His name is Hassan, and he is in love with the imam’s daughter. Her name is Amina. Despite Hassan’s declared love, Amina was not forthcoming with being in love with Hassan.

“How did he afford that watch?” I ask curiously.

“He sold a bull last year to buy that watch and a new wardrobe,” Ismael answers.

“By the way, one day Amina told him to remove all his lateral incisors to prove his love,” he adds.

“Wow, poor man!” I yell softly.

“Probably, she said that jokingly,” Ismael smiles.

“Love is a strange thing,” I check my broken shoelaces.

“You know nothing about love,” he raises his voice. “You are barely sixteen.”

“You know more than me about how love works in this village,” I blow my nose.

“Anyway, the wedding is tonight, and I am two years older than you,” he puts peanuts into his mouth.

“ Whatever,” my eyes settle on a Billy goat flirting with a goat.

My mouth waters with the delicious sight of the meat and the rice, readied on those big stainless still plates. The women pour the soup into several glass jars as well. Sophia hands me the largest plate for the imam. As I walk towards the tree, I see six meditative men with the imam. Each man is sitting on his own deer-skin mat and holds a rosary. My hands shake with the weight which propelled me to put the plate hastily in front of the closest man, the imam. He opens his eyes, nodding. Then, I hear thuds under the nose of each man. I feel amazed at the synchronization of the women for bringing the brimming plates and placing them down at the same time. And the rest of the food, from tropical fruits to freshly squeezed juices, keeps traveling on its way to the tree as if carried by ant colonies.

At nine o’clock pm, everyone gets engrossed in the wedding’s climax. The groom and the bride wear exquisite traditional dresses. Sophia gazes at me, blushing, and I gaze back at her, feigning shyness. I virtualize the two of us in those dresses. Maybe she envisages that too. Many villagers attend the event and enjoy the feast. Out of the blue, a lion purrs in midair and attacks the imam. Hussein lifts his spear and hurls it at the beast, killing it. The imam sustains slight injuries. Hussein becomes the hero of the night, takes off his shirt in celebration with his continent-shaped scars showing.

 I am in a school uniform, heading to the kitchen for breakfast. It is a beautiful morning. After a few months in the village, everything looks tidier than the village, and my sense of smell detects the difference. All the city scents lingering in the air are rich and exotic in a novel way. The people are gentler and more polite. But I remember the innocence and lack of political correctness of the village people. Unlike the city people who seem to harbor grudges, they get everything off their chest. And in my mind’s eye, I see Sophia’s face as she waives at me goodbye. I look forward to a second visit next year when school is closed.

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