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41st SADC Summit: Regional Integration Agenda and the Future Perspectives

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The Southern African Development Community (SADC) held the 41st Ordinary Summit of Heads of State and government in Lilongwe, Malawi on 17 to 18 August 2021 with a limited number of participants. It was to observe strictly the COVID-19 protocols.

The summit held under the theme “Bolstering Productive Capacities in the Face of COVID-19 Pandemic for Inclusive, Sustainable, Economic and Industrial Transformation” was preceded by a Council of Ministers meeting held in hybrid format whereby limited number of delegates attended physically, while others participated through virtual platforms.

The chosen theme seeks to explore further effective ways to accelerate the implementation of the SADC Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) 2020-2030, in particular, the Industrialization and Market Integration pillar.

During the Summit, Dr. Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera, President of Malawi took over the chairpersonship of SADC from Filipe Jacinto Nyusi, President of Mozambique who assumed the chairpersonship of SADC on 17 August, 2020 during the 40th SADC Summit.

Dr. Chakwera, the new Chairman of SADC and the President of the hosting country, in his speech underscored the following points: He reassured to pursue two key documents for the region: the SADC Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) 2020-2030 and the SADC Vision 2050, as well as the establishment of SADC Humanitarian and Emergency Operations Center (SHOC).

To work on the inequalities and disparities in accessing COVID-19 vaccines are seriously hindering efforts to save the lives of millions in the SADC and must be tackled head on. The inequalities and disparities we are seeing in the distribution and production of COVID-19 vaccines are symptomatic of an old geopolitical framework that is no longer working, no longer sustainable, and no longer acceptable. African countries are full members of the global community.

The time has come to work on the African Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), and to seek economic sustainability, especially at a regional level like SADC. It is necessary to utilize the productive capacities and turn the economies into engines for sustainable growth. It is necessary revitalizing the agricultural sector, enhancing value addition, facilitating
trade, and simplifying rules of origin. The African Continental Free Trade Area has availed SADC the opportunity to become the breadbasket and export basket of Africa.

“But we must seize the moment. We must fully implement the SADC Industrialization Strategy and Road-map, SADC Regional Agriculture Policy and SADC Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan, among others,” he stressed in his speech.

In line with the new SADC theme, the Government of Malawi is currently implementing the Malawi 2063, a vision focused on three drivers towards middle income status for the economy: Agricultural Productivity and Commercialization, Industrialization, and Urbanization.

In this regard, one of Malawi’s flagship projects is the Shire Valley Transformation Programme (SVTP) for the period 2018 to 2031 valued at $563 million. Its aim is increasing agricultural productivity and commercialization for targeted households in the Shire Valley, and to improve the sustainable management and utilization of natural resources. The true potential of this project lies in the opportunities for private sector participation from member states with the wherewithal for value addition chains towards industrialization. Such initiatives also benefit greatly from the Annual SADC Industrialization Week, which facilitates business linkages and promotes trade opportunities between member states.

“These are the tools for regional integration I promise to push for during my tenure as chair, because the time has come to turn our talk on regional integration into our walk. That is why Malawi will ensure that the 5th SADC Industrialization Week is held here
sometime this coming November to make this year’s theme a reality,” Dr McCarthy Chakwera, said, taking over the mantle of leadership of SADC.

Filipe Jacinto Nyusi, President of Mozambique, in handing over highlighted the following points: revitalizing trade across borders, enhancing industrial production within southern borders, and accelerating recovery of key sectors such as tourism.

The revival of the economies depends on the collective ability and step up the efforts toward economic stability, overcoming serious challenges together to eradicate poverty, food insecurity, and infrastructural underdevelopment, and build our region back better.

“We must therefore tackle the roadblocks standing in the way of our quest to reach this goal. One critical roadblock we must confront is the toxic nationalism that is causing some nations in the world to hoard millions of vaccine doses and deny other nations access to the same. Similarly, we must confront the toxic nationalism that is causing some regions in the world to deny other regions like SADC the rights to produce vaccines for their own populations,” he said.

According to him, “the key pillars of regional integration must be pursued and the goal of regional integration must be attained. We all agree that if we truly want inclusive and sustainable economic transformation across SADC, then regional integration is non-negotiable. We must enhance cross-border trade and investment in our region through the existing SADC mechanisms and where need be, introduce new ones.”

Filipe Nyusi added: “We must fully embrace industrialization as the most effective means of achieving the main goals of SADC namely: increased economic productivity; stronger regional integration; and reduced poverty for people living in the region. We must facilitate the free movement of our peoples in a manner commensurate with our shared conviction that we are truly a community of shared values and shared interests.”

Among the key highlights, the Executive Secretary of SADC, Dr. Stergomena Lawrence Tax, bids farewell to the SADC Heads of State and Government after serving for 8 years and welcoming a new SADC Executive Secretary. Coincidentally, Lawrence Tax was sworn in as the SADC Executive Secretary at the 33rd SADC Summit, which Malawi last hosted in Lilongwe in August, 2013.

In her farewell speech, she highlighted the achievements of SADC over the years, in terms of peace and security, consolidation of democracy, macro-economic convergence, industrialization, intra-trade, regional connectivity, access to energy, financial integration and inclusion, and mobile penetration.

As a national of the United Republic of Tanzania, Lawrence Tax also expressed her gratitude to the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania for the trust, and for nominating her for this position in 2013. She particularly expressed satisfaction on the progress made in empowering women, both economically, and in leadership positions in the region, and called for sustained and accelerated progress in women empowerment, and there still grounds to be covered.

In general, SADC had come a long way since the days of the liberation struggles, and the Region owed its cooperation, unity and development to the founders of this great organization whose sacrifices have enabled the level of transformation and successes it is enjoying today.

The Summit featured the following meetings and events: SADC Public Lecture under the theme: Promoting Digitalization for Revival of SADC Industrialization Agenda in the COVID era; Meeting of Standing Committee of Senior Officials and Finance Committee Meetings; Meeting of SADC Council of Ministers and SADC Organ Troika Summit.

The Summit took stock of progress made in promoting and deepening Regional Integration in line with SADC’s aspirations as espoused in the RISDP 2020-2030 and Vision 2050, which envisage a peaceful, inclusive, competitive, middle- to high-income industrialized Region where all citizens enjoy sustainable economic well-being, justice, and freedom.

Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the African Union Commission; Dr. Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa; Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank; Heads of Regional and International Organization; and Head of Mission and Members of Diplomatic Corp were present at the Summit in Malawi.

SADC in Brief:

SADC is an organization of 16 Member States established in 1980 as the Southern African Development Coordinating Conference (SADCC) and later in August, 1992 transformed into the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

The mission of SADC is to promote sustainable and equitable economic growth and socio-economic development through efficient, productive systems, deeper cooperation and integration, good governance and durable peace and security; so that the region emerges as a competitive and effective player in international relations and the world economy. Member States are Angola, Botswana, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

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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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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Africa: The G20 Must Recommit to Covax

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It is one year since the international community gave its backing to the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) facility to lead a worldwide effort to end the acute phase of the pandemic. The initiative aimed to ensure that every country, and not just those with sufficient money or resources, could access life-saving vaccines once they became available. As G20 health ministers prepare to meet in Rome on September 5-6, they are in a position to ensure that COVAX fulfills its mission.

A year ago, no one knew when or even if it might be possible to develop a safe and effective vaccine against COVID-19, let alone the 20 that are available today. But since making its first international deliveries in February, COVAX a partnership established by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance has delivered more than 235 million vaccine doses to 139 countries, and expects to deliver another billion doses in the fourth quarter. Only China, India, and the United States have delivered more. This start to the largest and most complex vaccine rollout in history has given hope to millions of people and laid solid foundations for how we respond to future pandemics.

Yet, so much more could, and should, have been achieved by now. It is unacceptable that only 1.8% of people in low-income countries have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, compared to 82% in high- and upper-middle-income countries. This shocking inequality is as economically senseless as it is destructive to human life, with the latest estimate of the cost of the slow rollout amounting to $2.3 trillion.

The world was woefully unprepared for a pandemic, and this is reflected in the challenges COVAX has faced. By the time initial funding arrived, wealthy countries had already locked up early vaccine supplies. Export bans affecting key suppliers, and difficulties experienced by many manufacturers in scaling up production to the required level, also undermined COVAX’s ability to access doses early.

Given increasing global vaccine inequity and the rise of new, more contagious coronavirus variants, we must put these challenges behind us. Thanks to the support of almost all G20 governments, alongside that of foundations and private businesses, COVAX has now raised nearly $10 billion and secured more than 600 million donated doses. All the preparations are in place for the most comprehensive vaccination effort that the world has seen.

Based on the committed orders COVAX has placed with vaccine manufacturers and the additional donations, hundreds of millions of new doses should now be available each month. We need to make sure they reach poorer countries and get into people’s arms. To avoid further delays, and for the facility to succeed, we need support from G20 leaders in four key areas.

First, we need doses, and we need them now. The premise of COVAX was always that the facility should be able to negotiate and buy its own doses. With our early vaccine access compromised, donations have played a vital role in maintaining our ability to keep doses flowing to those most in need. Of the 600 million doses pledged to COVAX to date, 100 million have now been delivered. We need more, and soon, with longer shelf lives and greater certainty so that recipient countries have time to plan their rollout. This can be achieved without jeopardizing high-income countries’ national vaccination efforts.

We also need G20 leaders to support our call for transparency. COVAX has legally binding agreements with manufacturers for more than four billion doses, but has all too often faced delays in accessing them. Without greater clarity regarding firms’ order books, it is impossible to know whether these holdups are due to production challenges or preferential treatment for bilateral arrangements. Insisting that manufacturers are transparent about their order timelines can ensure a level playing field where no one particularly those living in developing countries gets bumped to the back of the vaccine queue because of another bilateral deal.

In addition to ensuring that manufacturers keep their commitment to COVAX, governments should make global vaccine access their highest priority. Countries with pending orders for doses that they currently do not need should allow COVAX to take their place in the queue so that we can get doses to needy countries now.

Finally, lower-income countries require continued financial and technical support for their COVID-19 vaccine rollouts. Strengthening national health systems will help these countries to ensure delivery of doses and mitigate the pandemic’s secondary effects, and will leave in place infrastructure critical to future global health security.

By recommitting to COVAX, G20 leaders will recommit to a multilateral solution that builds on the astounding scientific progress of the past year. Based on COVAX’s latest forthcoming supply forecast, when topped up with doses through bilateral deals, equitable COVID-19 vaccine access can protect up to 60% of the adult population in 91 lower-income countries. This would represent a huge step toward the WHO target of 70%, which is needed to suppress the coronavirus everywhere, and COVAX represents the best opportunity to achieve it.

Failure would mean more lives lost, broken health-care systems, even deadlier and more transmissible variants, and a pandemic with no end in sight. The G20 must not allow that to be an option.

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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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