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United States Comprehensive Plan for Africa: The Challenges and Perspectives

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Corporate Council on Africa, the leading reputable U.S. business association with a strategic focus on connecting business interests between the United States and Africa, has held the 13th Summit. The U.S. government and private sector leaders together African political and corporate business leaders have been working consistently over these years to share insights on critical issues and policies influencing the U.S.-Africa economic partnership.

The Summit – held virtually – included 5 plenaries and 12 panel sessions highlighting key economic recovery strategies and focused on a range of sectors and issues, including health and vaccine access, trade, digital transformation, infrastructure, financing, small and medium scale enterprises, tourism, women’s leadership and investment opportunities in various African countries.

The 2021 Summit featured high-level African speakers, including H.E. Felix Tshisekedi, President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and African Union (AU) Chairman. H.E. Filipe Nyusi, President of the Republic of Mozambique and SADC Chairman, Hon. Pravind Jugnauth, Prime Minister of the Republic of Mauritius, H.E. Mokgweetsi Masisi, President of the Republic of Botswana, H.E. Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda, and H.E. Uhuru Kenyatta, President of the Republic of Kenya. 

In his remarks during the opening plenary session, Mauritian Prime Minister Jugnauth captured a sentiment expressed by the leaders when he stated that he “fully subscribe(s) to an integrated and prosperous Africa entering a mutually beneficial and strategic partnership with the U.S.” 

Rwandan President Paul Kagame noted in his inspiring speech “the Corporate Council on Africa has been the voice of private sector engagement between the United States and Africa for a quarter century.”

In addition to African Heads of States, a host of African Ministers of Trade, Energy, Agriculture, Investment, Information Communications and Technology, and Infrastructure from more than ten countries across the continent also participated in various Summit sessions.

Policy speeches delivered at the Summit also came from U.S. Cabinet officials – Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Katherine Tai, and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas Greenfield. They were joined by other senior officials in the new Biden-Harris Administration representing nearly a dozen U.S. government agencies that play a role in implementing U.S. policies and initiatives impacting the U.S. economic relationship with African nations. 

Among the highlights, Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo noted that “now is the time to strengthen U.S.-Africa economic relations” and Dana Banks, White House Senior Director for Africa, announced the Administration’s request for $80 million in additional funding to jumpstart the Prosper Africa Build Together Campaign that will drive billions of dollars of investment in Africa, build new markets for American products and create thousands of jobs for both African and American workers.

There were five dynamic sessions focused on health, addressed the COVID 19 pandemic and recovering from its economic impact. Building on CCA’s ongoing U.S.-Africa Health Security and Resilience Initiative, which includes a pillar on disease management and response, a high-level Summit plenary session focused on equitable COVID vaccine access and distribution.

During that session, Pfizer Biopharmaceutical Group President Angela Hwang, announced its partnership with the South African Biovac Insitute to manufacture and distribute the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine within the African Union – the first such arrangement for African production of the mRNA COVID vaccine. 

Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director-General of the WTO, announced the three roles WTO can play to help end the COVID-19 pandemic including, monitoring export restrictions and prohibitions to ensure goods move from one place to the other; working with the private sector to increase investments in manufacturing in emerging markets and developing countries; and supporting technology transfer and know-how.

Another highlight of the Summit was two special sessions – the first was on the future of energy and climate/clean energy in Africa. U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry, was joined by senior American officials, Ministers and senior African officials from key oil and gas producing nations, CEOs and other top executives from U.S. and African oil, gas and power companies and major investors in the sector. 

A lively dialogue covered important topics such as Africa’s energy poverty, the need for energy access on the continent, calls for countries to work together to promote public-private partnerships to address climate change, and for fair treatment in the development and financing of Africa’s energy transition. 

The second session brought together select business leaders with key Members of Congress, including Rep. Karen Bass and Rep. Chris Smith of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa to discuss U.S.-Africa trade policy. This high-level dialogue focused on legislation such as the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) and explored what U.S. legislation and policies are needed to promote greater U.S.-Africa trade and investment.

Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) was pleased to sign an MOU with the COMESA Business Council (CBC) to promote greater two-way trade and business partnerships between U.S. companies and those operating in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA). This region covers nineteen Eastern and Southern Africa countries.

At the Summit closing plenary session, CCA Board of Director Vice Chairs Diane Wilkens, Founder and CEO of Development Finance International, Inc. and General William Ward, Inaugural Commander Africa Command, noted the critical issues discussed during the Summit included equitable vaccine access, improving energy and transportation infrastructure, addressing climate change and food security, digitizing trade and maximizing U.S.-Africa trade and investment relying on initiatives such as the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and the Prosper Africa Build Together campaign.

Their message: “now is not the time to retreat from Africa, now is the time to invest and find new partners on the continent.” Corporate Council on Africa plans to support this through their ongoing programs and is looking forward to hosting the 2022 U.S.-Africa Business Summit in Morocco.

Florie Liser, CCA President and CEO, expressed appreciation to the CCA Board of Directors and the CCA team without whom the Summit could not have happened, and noted that CCA is here to support its Members and all those doing business in Africa.

The 2021 U.S.-Africa Business Summit was sponsored by leading global businesses and organizations including Abbott, Acrow Bridge, All Africa Global Media, Caterpillar, Chevron, Citi, Computer Frontiers Inc., Covington & Burling, Creative Associates International, Development Finance International (DFI), Inc., ExxonMobil Corporation, Fayus Inc., Flour Mills of Nigeria PLC, Flutterwave Inc., General William and Joyce Ward, Gilead Sciences, Google, Kosmos Energy, Jean Boulle Group, Jeune Afrique, Pfizer Inc., Prosper Africa, P&G, Rabin Martin, Sun Africa, Trade and Development Bank, Visa, and Vulcan.

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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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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