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The challenge of COVID-19 in Africa

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

Since its emergence in December last year, covid-19 has spread rapidly around the world, flooding the health system and weakening the global economy. As a result of the epidemic, the virus has spread across the African continent. So far, nearly 48 countries have been affected, but the impact has been felt from the beginning of the crisis. With the spread of covid-19 on the African continent, Africa has responded rapidly to the epidemic, and the number of cases reported so far has been lower than people had feared. The experience of past epidemics, that is, age structure, certainly works, and so does the response of all actors: the state, civil society, regional organizations… However, the economic and financial impact of the epidemic is enormous. Nevertheless, the challenges are still great due to the strategy adopted by the government, public support for the measures taken, the resilience of the health system, economic impact, cross-border cooperation, etc… In recent years, African countries have done a lot to improve the well-being of the people on the continent. Economic growth is strong. The digital revolution has begun. The free trade zone has been decided. But the epidemic threatens progress in Africa. It will exacerbate existing inequalities, hunger, malnutrition and vulnerability to disease. Demand for African goods, tourism and remittances have declined. The opening of the free trade zone has been delayed, and millions of people may fall into abject poverty.

The African continent has some advantages

However, the continent’s unique demographic structure suggests that it may not be as affected by the epidemic as the rest of the world. In fact, globally, people over the age of 65 are the age group most likely to be complicated by the epidemic. In Africa, a very young continent, only 4% of the population belongs to this age group (20% in France, 16% in the United States and 11% in China). This will make Africa’s experience different from that of its aging European and Asian neighbors. Another factor of hope that has been repeatedly mentioned is the climate of the African continent, which will not be conducive to the spread of the virus. However, so far, this theory has not been supported by any data.

Moreover, the health crisis we are facing is not the only one that has affected the African continent in recent years. For example, since 2013, the Ebola epidemic has killed tens of thousands of Africans, providing crisis management experience for the affected countries. After discovering that Asia, Europe and the United States have been seriously affected by the virus, this may partly explain why many countries on the African continent have taken swift and severe measures, such as checking airport temperature, closing borders, closing airports, closing airports, closing airports, etc. Suspension of international flights or isolation measures. The virus spread rapidly in Europe before it really affected Africa, which is why some African governments responded highly to the crisis.

Some concerns

However, some inherent factors in the African continent hinder the implementation of certain preventive measures, which are of the same scale as those in Europe, Asia or the United States. Social distance is complex in a continent where nearly 200 million people live in crowded shantytowns or are used to living in harmony with their families. In addition, some Africans live in a water shortage environment, especially in remote urban areas, which makes simple (effective) gestures (such as washing hands regularly) difficult.

Finally, measures to limit the employment of citizens may endanger the survival of many people, since half of the population lives on less than $2 a day, has no savings or wealth, and the informal sector accounts for 85.8% of employment. It should also be noted that the large-scale spread on the continent is worrisome because it is estimated that the health systems of African countries are at different levels, but most of them are not able to cope. They lack not only medical staff, but also equipment, especially for the treatment of people living with HIV. Respirators are not enough for patients. The African continent, in particular, still faces treatable but in many cases fatal diseases: AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. The burden of covid-19 on the medical system often hinders the treatment of these other diseases.

Economic issues

What is the impact on African economy? It’s hard to say. However, the impact was felt even before the first pollution case was announced. In fact, intra African trade currently accounts for less than 18% of the continent’s trade, which means that Africa’s economy is heavily dependent on trade with the rest of the world. In addition, the industry of the African continent is mainly concentrated in raw materials. Due to the crisis, the prices of raw materials have been seriously affected. Some of Africa’s major economies are still heavily dependent on exports of resources such as oil or minerals. The global crisis has led to a collapse in the prices and demand for these raw materials, although their exports account for more than a quarter of the total exports of 25 countries and 55% of Africa’s GDP.

Border closures also make it impossible for these countries to rely on tourists to restore their economic health. The epidemic may help to redefine the relationship between African countries and external actors. Finally, most of these countries do not have the capacity to deploy economic support or stimulus plans on a scale comparable to that of western countries to limit the impact of the crisis. In this regard, we understand that despite the collapse of tourism, Egypt is one of the most resilient economies on the African continent. Thanks to “strong domestic markets and the authorities’ strong response to fiscal and monetary policy”, the country even feels luxurious to be one of the few countries to achieve positive growth (+ 3.5%) in 2020.

Ismaila Diadama is currently a second year PhD student in Industrial economics at the Jilin University, working under Professor Qi ping . My research is focused on economics. I particularly interested in the modern industrial structure, upgrading of industrial structure and efficiency of factor allocation.

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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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