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African Union Seat at a G-21? Better Stop the Exploitation of Africa

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The United Nations held a pre-Summit on Food Systems on July 26-28, 2021, as a primer for its first Global Food Summit coming up in September 2021. At this meeting, Jeffrey Sachs, American and popular Economist as well as UN Special Envoy on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), made an important intervention. Many Africans were excited that Sachs called for the African Union, representing 1.4 billion people, to have a seat at a G-20 that transforms into G-21. The media focus has been on the tokenism of an AU seat, instead of many cogent issues that Sachs eloquently repeated.

I use repeated because this thought system dated from a long line of agitators for independence of Africa and scholars such as Dr. Walter Rodney in How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, andmore recently, Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao in many speeches and YouTube videos beyond her Africa 101: The Wake Up Call. Arikana was fired as African Union Ambassador to the United States by the African Union. Many an African, like myself, saw the termination of Arikana’s appointment as punitive. She dared to point out that colonialists never left Africa and showed how they continue to rip-off and exploit Africa.

Lucky for Arikana to have only lost her job. Walter Rodney lost his life. He was assassinated in 1980 at age 38. I am not aware that the riddle of who killed Rodney was ever solved. However, this illustrious Guyanese lives on through his works as an unsung great African hero. The Nobel Prize will always elude the likes of Rodney. If his type had been recognized it would have raised questions on the orthodoxy that Africa’s problems solely rests on African shoulders.

It is extremely helpful and hope raising to have an American Economist from the US articulating and showing the import of external dynamics on the continuing underdevelopment of Africa. He asked the pre-summit meeting to go into the history of why the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) remains in turmoil and poverty. Though Arikana articulated on this theme of the West causing turmoil in Africa in order to extract resources, Jeffrey Sachs rightly noted the extractions of King Leopold of Belgium’s claim to ownership of the Congo through to the CIA’s assassination of Patrice Lumumba and installed Mobutu Seseseko. Arikana details several assassinations of other visionary leaders of Africa as well as overthrow of others by colonialists operating under a different mode of imperialism referred to as neo-colonialism.

Jeffrey Sachs rightly pointed to Glencore’s extraction of cobalt from the DRC without responsibility or accountability to the sovereignty claims of the government of the DRC but paying taxes at Glencore’s home country for the insurance of continuing protection under the continuing destabilization of peace in the DRC – after all, weapons are not made in the DRC.

Arikana had called attention to the exploitation of Africans through loans from the world arena – especially the West, including from the Bretton Woods institutions. Of course, the US led some European powers, at the end of the Second World War, to design a United Nations at the political level and the Bretton Woods institutions at the economic level not to have tea parties but to rebuild and control the world for their interests with the architect being the primus inter pares (first among equals). The equals at the time were limited to the United Kingdom and France. Token veto rights were granted to Kuomingtang China and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) now Russia. Of course, in terms of tokenism, Egypt, Ethiopia, Liberia, and apartheid South Africa had token presence at the foundation of the UN. They were only needed to boost the pretense of having a multilateral entity that is “united”.

The claims of Europeans to ownership of Africa were ratified by the act of the US going ahead to with the formation of the UN without insisting on self-determination and the need for all territories being free and at the table from the beginning. Why should the US, the primus inter pares, insist for a place at the table for Africans? It new that the Europeans would have accused it of interference and probably called attention to the unsalutary situation of race relations in America, a situation that had benefitted and built America on the back of black people over centuries?

For me, what is important are the billions of African people, not mere political representation by the AU Envoy at a G-21. Does having the AU envoy at the G-21 meeting go beyond the protocol of just having an African sited for the sake of formality? Would it not be a reference point for legitimizing tokenism for Africans?

Just as it was in the beginning, so it remains that neither the UN Secretary-General nor the Presidents of the Bretton Woods institutions dare to intervene and call for a stop to the continuing structured ripping-off and exploitation of Africans. African leaders are not exonerated either. Most of them rip-off their continent and stash away proceeds of their loot with the cover of major powers from the West. In effect, there is a commonality of interests between bad African leaders and external powers ripping-off Africa.

I am not excusing most African leaders from their failure in moving Africa forward in spite of the active efforts to assassinate any that showed promise on developing Africa. If some Asian leaders could be focused and wiggle through structured underdevelopment, there must be enough of eternal excuses for the failure of African leaders ensure improved lives for their people. African bad leaders should have recognized the thorny paths to development and avoided them by creating alternative routes. 

I doff my hat to Jeffrey Sachs even if he is more accommodative to African bad leadership. After all, African leaders cherish Westerners more. Nonetheless, I appreciate Sachs being current during his intervention by calling for vaccine equity as opposed to vaccine hoarding with respect to the global Covid-19 pandemic. Sachs noted that the US alone was able to raise 7 trillion dollars in loans -at zero interest- to fight the scourge when Africans neither raised a penny/cent nor a yuan. Hence, it was possible for the West to implement lockdowns with some little human face as opposed to what happened in Africa.

As usual, African leaders found it easier to go abegging for vaccine donations through the COVAX arrangement. I must be thankful to Western taxpayers that I got two doses of AstraZeneca vaccines through this modality even if European interests now say that the AstraZeneca vaccines produced in India will not have equal rights with those made in Europe and probably America.

Of course, Africans are naïve if they think that the little vaccines being received are out of love. Declaring the Indian version of AstraZeneca as not measuring up for ease of passage in Europe shows the long-term preferred interest on financial flows on vaccine purchases. This material interest is separate from the fear of Covid-19 mutants that are of concern to mankind in general. The relative abandonment of Africa on Ebola virus speaks volumes since this virus was not as virulent outside of Africa.

We should abhor tokenisms. Generally, they play on people’s intelligence. They also give false impressions, which in this case is the pretense that 1.4 billion Africans are brought on to the table. So, my apologies to Jeffrey Sachs for differing with his call for a stronger UN and at the same time wanting a seat for the African Union at the proposed G-21.

At the end of the Cold-War in 1990/1991, the weak countries called for a new world order in which the United Nations would be a stronger coordinator of our world for good. Boutros Boutros-Ghali got carried away and thought the call was for real. He learnt the hard way as the carpet was pulled under his feet and he became the only UN Secretary-General, so far, not elected for a second term. He over-relied on the French to save him by continuing to veto Kofi Annan with the hope that the decision would go to the General Assembly that would gang up against America and give him a second term. The French bargained and lifted their veto on Kofi Annan and history was made to have a black man at helms of the UN. Kofi Annan also thought he could be daring in his second term and say it truthfully as he saw it. He was almost fired. In summation, only the weak countries yearn for strong multilateralism.

From antecedents, what use is an African Union’s Envoy having a seat at a G-21 to join: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union? For me, not much.

Being at the table should not be because Africa has a population of 1.4 billion. Sitting at G-21 should be based on the summation of the material net worth of the African Union making worthwhile contributions. Slighting Nigeria, the G-20 has the token presence of South Africa. What food has the South African representation at meetings put on the table in Africa? What use would a ceremonial presence at the table be, without decision-making powers? Will AU presence stop Western companies from continuing with the underdevelopment of Africa? Will it remove the European resistance to having Africans manufacture vaccines through their sharing of knowledge? If anything, the token presence would legitimize an erroneous perception that Jeffrey Sachs is inadvertently selling: that of a multilateral G-21 would turn around and start to serve the developmental interests of Africans.

Power exists to bolster interests. Under Western competitive ideology as opposed to Yoruba “Omoluabi” (character plus integrity imbued with a we sharing spirit) or Zulu “Ubuntu” (I am because you are spirit), it would be naïve to expect that granting a seat to the African Union would see to the protection of African interests. It is a joke to call for higher taxation for the 2,700 billionaires of our world to allow an African child have access to safe drinking water or reduce maternal mortality rate in Africa not to talk of ensuring that Africans enjoy utmost freedom which I had put as an ideal situation of enjoying the summation of all the SDGs that Jeffrey Sachs advises the UN on.

I have no problem if the three billionaires wanting to create luxurious tastes and control space travels go to live in space and leave their billions behind with instructions to use their resources for realizing the SDGs as Sachs suggested in his intervention. But we know that the dominant ideology on earth does not support such orientation. Their respective billions would be invested for more material acquisitions irrespective of whether they need it or not.

By the way, does our world really need a G-21 when so many UN Agencies are doing their best but are deliberately underfunded as Jeffrey Sachs rightly noted? Should the League of Arab States (LAS); the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN); the Organization of American States (OAS) etc., not be entitled to their respective seats at a G-24? More importantly, will Sachs suggestion not further undermine the United Nations? I am sure he and I are agreed for a stronger UN even if I know that such will never happen.

For me, Prof. Sachs could be of much help to the 1.4 billion people of Africa, probably as opposed to their bad leaders, if he directs a detailed study that builds on the thoughts of Walter Rodney, Arikana etc., to unravel the mechanisms of continuing ripping-off and exploitation of Africans by private interests actively supported by their respective national governments and the Bretton Woods institutions etc. Such knowledge can help towards the implementation of policies that bolsters the SDGs by a new set of purposefully recruited African leaders.

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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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