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Africa needs to spend $15.7bn on refineries to curb emissions

African nations need to spend about $15.7-billion on their refineries to curb emissions and meet climate-change targets as demand for oil and gas surges, according to an industry lobby group.

Governments on the continent should focus on reducing sulfur levels in petroleum products because Africa’s consumption of fossil fuels will rise quickly in the coming decades even as the supply of clean energy also expands, said Anibor Kragha, executive secretary of the African Refiners and Distributors Association, or ARDA. The pan-African body, based in Ivory Coast’s commercial capital of Abidjan, promotes the interests of the downstream oil industry.

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A “leapfrog” switch by African nations from oil and gas directly to renewables isn’t realistic, Kragha said in an emailed response to questions. “Africa needs a unique energy transition roadmap.”

Governments in wealthier nations have set ambitious targets for a rapid shift to renewable energy to slash carbon-dioxide emissions, with many countries and companies making commitments to achieving so-called net-zero by 2050. Africa has accounted for about 2% of cumulative global emissions, according to the International Energy Agency, a figure the Paris-based organization sees rising to only as much as 4.5% by 2040.

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Africa’s overall energy consumption is set to increase at twice the pace of the global average as populations and economies grow, the IEA said in a 2019 report. Demand for oil and gas in Africa is expected to double to at least 7 million barrels per day and 317 billion cubic meters respectively by 2040, even as the contribution of renewables is forecast to soar more than tenfold from its current low base, according to IEA estimates.

HARMONIZED MEASURES
ARDA’s immediate priority is facilitating Africa’s switch to “cleaner” petroleum products, Kragha said. The group is working with the African Union to introduce harmonized measures across the continent that cap sulfur volumes in gasoline and diesel to 10 parts per million by 2030. That would bring it in line with existing limits in major economies including the U.S., the European Union, China and India.

The 15 governments of the Economic Community of West African States have already adopted an ARDA proposal to implement policies to phase out imported and manufactured fuels with more than 50 ppm, Kragha said.

Upgrading Africa’s refineries to meet the 10 ppm standard will cost about $15.7 billion, according to Kragha, citing a study by the AU and ARDA. The organization is developing funding frameworks with financial institutions, commodity traders and other firms to assist members with the revamps, he said.

ARDA is also promoting tighter restrictions on the age and quality of used vehicles that can be shipped to African countries and liquefied petroleum gas as an alternative cooking fuel to charcoal and firewood, Kragha said.

ARDA’s members and sponsors include African government regulators and state-owned energy companies, independent firms such as Nigeria’s Sahara Group and Rainoil Ltd., and international giants including TotalEnergies SA and Trafigura Group, according to the group’s website.

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Foreign officials who attend President Raeisi inauguration

The inauguration ceremony of the 8th president of the Islamic Republic of Iran will be held at the Iranian parliament on Thursday with the attendance of 115 high-ranking foreign officials and special envoys.

According to Seyyed Nezam Al-din Mousavi, spokesman for the Presiding Board of the Parliament, as many as 115 foreign officials from 73 countries will attend the 13th inauguration ceremony for the Iranian president at the parliament, including 10 heads of state, 20 parliament speakers, 11 foreign ministers and 10 other ministers, as well as the special envoys of presidents and heads of states, the deputy speakers of parliaments, parliamentary delegations, presidents, the officials and the representatives of 11 international and regional organizations.

The foreign officials and envoys that have already arrived in Tehran or will arrive later today until tomorrow for President Ebrahim Raeisi’s inauguration are as follows: 

The Deputy Secretary-General of the European External Action Service Enrique Mora at the top of a high-level delegation from the European Union (EU) has already arrived in Tehran for the inauguration. 

Also from Europe, the representative of the Vatican Pope Christophe Zakhia El-Kassis arrived in Tehran this morning. 

The special envoy of Aleksandar Vučić, president of Serbia is also announced to be among the participants.

Bosnian Foreign Minister Bisera Turković also arrived in Tehran on Tuesday. 

Indian government special envoy will arrive in Tehran later today. 

South Korea’s Deputy Foreign Minister Choi Jong-kun and Bangladeshi State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam, and Deputy Speaker of the lower house of the Parliament of Malaysia Mohd Rashid bin Hasnon are among the officials that have already arrived in Tehran from east and southeast Asian countries.

The Speaker of the Syrian Parliament Hammouda Sabbagh also arrived in Tehran on Tuesday and the Prime Minister of Syria Hussein Arnous will also be taking part in the ceremony. 

Deputy chairman of Turkmenistan’s national council, the speakers of parliaments of Namibia and Senegal, Slovenia’s parliament speaker Igor Zorčič, Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat, and Zanzibar speaker of House of Representatives Zubeir Ali Maulid will be taking part in Raeisi’s inauguration as well. 

Furthermore, Fazal Hadi Muslim Yar Speaker of the Meshrano Jirga National Assembly of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Tanzania parliament speaker, parliament speakers of Kenya and Sierra Leone, PUIC Secretary-General Mohamed Khouraichi Niass, Guinea-Bissau parliament speaker, and the speaker of Benin national assembly are also announced to be attending in the ceremony.

The head of the Supreme Council of Kyrgyzstan Talant Mamytov, Deputy Chair of Senate of Kazakhstan Asqar Şäkirov Nurlan Äbdirov, the Speaker of the National Assembly Tandy Modis, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives of Belarus Vladimir Andreichenko have also been announced among the participants in the ceremony.

Furthermore, the Speaker of Russia’s Duma Vyacheslav Volodin, the Inter-Parliamentary Union president Duarte Pacheco, the Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia Ivica Dacic, the Speaker of Azerbaijani Parliament Sahiba Gafarova, the speaker of Turkey’s Grand National Assembly of Turkey Mustafa Şentop are on the list of the previously announced guests. 

The chair of the Nigerian National Assembly who acts as the special envoy of the president, the speaker of Tajikistan’s Assembly of Representatives, as well as the chair of Brazil-Iran parliamentary friendship group will further represent their countries in President Ebrahim Raeisi’s inauguration.

Also, Speaker of Pakistan Senate Muhammad Sadiq Sanjrani, Speaker of the Uzbek Parliament Nuruddin Jan Ismailov, the deputy speaker of Guinea Conakry parliament, Bosnian Foreign Minister Bisera Turković, Ghanaian Minister of Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts Ibrahim Mohammed Awal, the UN Secretary-General envoy, the OPEC envoy, the envoy of Eurasian Economic Union, the representative of Asian Inter-Parliamentary Assembly, as well as the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) will take part in the Raeisi’s inauguration.

Mehr News Agency has learned that representatives of prominent religious scholars and influential cultural and social figures in the Islamic world will also be present in the ceremony.

Moreover, Iraqi President Barham Salih, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister Nicherwan Barzani will also attend the inauguration of the 8th Iranian president.

During the inauguration ceremony on Thursday in the parliament, President Ebrahim Raeisi will be sworn-in in accordance with Article 121 of the Constitution.

Reporting by Kamal Iranidoost

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Opportunities in the maritime industry abound – Transport Minister

The Minister of Transport, Kweku Ofori Asiamah has said out of the fifty-four (54) countries in Africa, thirty-eight (38) are coastal countries.

He said it is therefore imperative that we leverage on this attribute for our collective development of the Continent.

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At the moment, he stated, over 90% of imports and exports are by maritime transport.

“The 2050 Africa’s Integrated Maritime Strategy adopted in 2014 describes the maritime industry as the new frontier of the African Renaissance. The opportunities in the maritime industry abound, representing trillions of United States Dollars’ worth of goods and services and millions of jobs. This ranges from sectors such as shipping, logistics, insurance, port management, tourism, fishing and aquaculture just to mention a few.”

“The sub-region can tap into the opportunities offered by this new frontier to propel its developments. However, we can only do so if we build capacity to enable the participation of our citizens,” he said in a statement read on his behalf by Hassan Tampuli, Deputy Minister of at the 15th Congregation of the Regional Maritime University on Tuesday, August 3 at Nungua.”

He further stated that since the inception of the University in the 1980s, thousands of students from the sub-region have been equipped and prepared for the maritime industry’s job market.

The University, he said epitomizes the kind of regional integration yearned for under the African Union Agenda to tackle the challenges of development of the 21st century.

“It is therefore refreshing to note that the founding member countries of the RMU (then the Regional Maritime Academy) have remained steadfast and very supportive of this institution. As the host country of this institution, I extend our profound gratitude and appreciation to the Member States for this great show of togetherness in pursuit of our collective desire to develop the maritime industry in our respective countries,” he said.

“The Government of Ghana has not relinquished its responsibility as the host country of the University but is committed to providing the necessary infrastructure as assented to at the time of regionalization. I am pleased to inform you that under the Economic Development Cooperation Framework between the Government of Ghana and Korea, the Regional Maritime University would undergo massive infrastructure facelift and retooling,” he added.

As I speak to you, the Feasibility study for the Project is being finalized for the commencement of the Project. The scope of works to be covered under the project include the following: A training ship to provide onboard practical training for cadets; Training Simulators including a Full Mission Bridge, Coxswain, Full Mission Dynamic positioning, engine room and cargo handling among others; Educational equipment (Seafront Marine Research Lab, Transport Development Service Centre, Remote Education System and Fishing Gear Workshop Equipment among others); Educational facilities (Lecture theatres, student hotel, Graduate Business School, Sick Bay, student Cafeteria and Simulation Centre Building among others).”

“The Government of Ghana believes in the right to education as a fundamental principle to socioeconomic development. Government will there”ore continue to commit the necessary resources to ensure that this project takes-off as it will positively impact on job creation for the teeming youth who would acquire relevant skills to work in the maritime and allied industries.

“The Government of Ghana also believes that the country’s inland water bodies can be leveraged upon to provide sustainable means of transport. As I speak, a railway line is under construction to link the main sea port of Tema to the Volta Lake at Mpakadan. As part of the development of the water transport system, a Feasibility Study has been completed with also funding from the Korean Exim Bank under the Economic Development Cooperation Framework. The project would see to the upgrade of existing infrastructure, construction of new ones and provision of modern ferries and equipment. It is worthy to note that apart from the numerous jobs that would be created in the maritime industry, it will also help improve connectivity to communities that were displaced as a result of the creation of the Akosombo Dam.”

“Government is also rigorously reforming ports operations to bring about efficiency and ease of doing business. A number of major infrastructure facelift are currently ongoing at our two (2) major sea ports to respond to the increasing trade volumes,” he said.

“The RMU in these instances is an important player through the provision of the needed manpower especially in the training of seafarers and ship manning agents. A couple of years ago, the University collaborated with Bernhard Schulte’s Shipping Management Worldwide that afforded cadets of RMU to gain onboard practical experience on their vessels. I am informed that this collaboration has so far led to the recruitment and training of over 700 RMU students.”

“This is in consonance with the Government of Ghana’s vision to train more youth for sea service for export. I therefore want to use this opportunity to commend the Schulte Group and the Management of RMU for the continuous collaboration. Government on its part will continue to provide the needed support and necessary frameworks to scale –up the training of cadets and other skills required for the maritime industry,” he added.

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BIO Africa Convention – Webinar

Phemelo Motene

The webinar proceedings were opened by facilitator Phemelo Motene, who introduced the theme: Advancing Africa’s Biomanufacturing Value Chain through Innovation.

President of AfricaBio, Dr Nhlanhla Msomi apologised for the media launch being rescheduled. He said the AfricaBio organisation was formed in Grahamstown in 2000 to promote biotechnology, and that it enjoys a fruitful partnership with various stakeholders in industry and governments across Africa, including the South African government. After hosting a physical Convention since 2018 in Durban, last year was the first digital Convention, due to Covid-19. It is appropriate that the theme of this year’s Convention is about “Advancing Africa’s Biomanufacturing through Innovation”; the Launch therefore focused on vaccines, especially vaccine nationalism.  It is imperative for Africa to be able to develop its own vaccines: Africa has the intellectual resources to do this. Biotechnology can also contribute to the remediation of the environment, which is vital in the context of climate change. Lastly, achieving food security through biotechnology is a major priority of AfricaBio. 

What are your thoughts about the past year, and what do we need to advance as a continent?

Dr Phil Mjwara

Dr Phil Mjwara, Director-General, Department of Science and Innovation: We should be grateful that we are starting to understand the mutations of the virus, and whether the vaccine is still effective as the new variants emerge. There is capacity in Senegal, Egypt, Tunisia and South Africa, but pooling of resources needs to occur. We have to start identifying the active ingredients and working out how we can take this to the market to achieve self-sufficiency. We also need to fund a science industrial complex that can manufacture vaccines, and governments must indicate that they are willing to purchase them when they are produced.

Why was it necessary to establish the commission on Covid-19?

Dr Lwazi Manzi

Dr Lwazi Manzi, Head of Secretariat: AU Commission on Covid-19: President Cyril Ramaphosa was head of the AU when the pandemic struck, and he established the Commission, the African Continental Strategy and a task force to co-ordinate activities and responses. The Africa Medical Supplies Platform was set up, which allowed us as a continent to pool resources and procure Covid-19 tools at the same time as the rest of the world. The Africa Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT) was also established and has been responsible for securing vaccines; special envoys were responsible for obtaining finance. The commission is responsible for advancing all of these structures that were set up and assessing the extent of the pandemic. We cannot “waste the crisis” and we must ensure that a resilient healthcare system is maintained.

What is the significance of the moment for Biovac?

Patrick Tippoo

Patrick Tippoo, Head of Science and Innovation at bio-pharmaceutical company Biovac: The significance of the moment (Biovac has struck a deal with Pfizer and BioNTech to process and distribute over 100-million doses of Covid-19 vaccines a year for the African Union, beginning in 2022) extends well beyond Biovac; there is this dream of Africa becoming self-sufficient so it does not have to rely on the outside world for emergency products. This is the culmination of many years of hard work. Biovac was established by the government as a public-private partnership in 2003. There is an expectation that Biovac will be able to produce Covid-19 vaccines within the next 12 to 18 months.

Christopher Whitfield

Christopher Whitfield, Executive Director: Global Patient Solutions – Gilead Sciences: Our company has been producing Remdesivir (a broad-spectrum antiviral medication) for many years now, and our main focus is on HIV. We want to make our products on the African continent and become more self-sufficient. Voluntary licences is one way to do this; we have a partnership with Aspen, and we are moving towards vaccine production. 

How difficult is it to obtain financing for biotechnology in Africa?

Vuyisile Phehane

Dr Vuyisile Phehane, Executive at Bio-Economy at Technology Innovation Agency: TIA was established by an act of parliament for the development of innovations that are publicly funded. We have had to understand the global production chain for obtaining financing for biotechnology, which is expensive, as it requires specialised skills and infrastructure. We have had to identify follow-on funders and partners and find ways to continue attracting them. We also have to identify hurdles for marketing products; collaborations are essential to overcome these. South Africa has world-class higher education institutions, and we must use this resource.

AfricaBio has been around for many years; what is required to get things moving?

Bada Pharasi

Bada Pharasi, Chief Operations Officer of the Innovative Pharmaceutical Association of South Africa (Ipasa): My association is voluntary, and it contributes to uplifting medical health in South Africa. Mandela Month reminds us of our duty to contribute to the good of all. Gilead is a member of Ipasa. We are building an environment that contributes to sustainable healthcare development and preparing Africa for future pandemics. Johnson & Johnson has entered into preliminary agreements with local company Aspen Pharmacare (for the technical transfer and proposed commercial manufacture of their Covid-19 vaccine); Pfizer and Biovac are also collaborating.  We believe that AfricaBio is on the right track; South Africa is taking the lead in biotechnology.

How do we begin to address all the challenges that have been spoken about? 

Msomi: The key is to build an ecosystem that works for society; all the parts of the value chain need to be interconnected, and this is the role AfricaBio must play. We are very encouraged by the collaboration announced between Pfizer and Biovac. HIV is still a huge issue, and will likely remain after Covid-19 has disappeared; and biotechnology has a huge role to play in managing food security in Africa. Resources are becoming limited, and so we have to choose our priorities carefully, and we must learn from the pandemic.

What have we learned from this crisis? 

Mjwara: We must celebrate that we will soon have an mRNA production centre here in Africa, which happened because of intensive dialogue. Strong ecosystems are being built between investors and researchers; and we must invest more in research for the future.

Why do African countries not procure medicine from their own continent? 

Manzi: We haven’t produced our own Covid-19 vaccine yet; we don’t have our own innovations yet. We are not benefiting from our own research and development, as there is not enough funding. Consumers are quite well informed about their own food, but they know very little about vaccines. Consumer interest and demand is important, and biotech knowledge must be shared, so that consumers can place the correct lobbying pressure on political systems. 

Whose responsibility is it to bring the consumer into this conversation? 

Msomi: This is a very important question. The consumer voice sets the tone for what is developed. Scientists have the most dominant voice in research, and AfricaBio is trying to break that mold, break down those barriers, so the voices of the men and women on the street are heard. The voices of the people must be heard!

Why can’t we have our own Gilead in Africa?

Whitfield: I’ve always been passionate about this very topic. There is a big opportunity to partner with big pharma companies; Aspen is busy doing it, but there should be more companies doing it. India took this decision 20 years ago. Many products are just sitting on shelves because the focus is not on places such as Africa, and on African diseases. We need to take the lead from the EU.

What was the difficulty around negotiating pricing for HIV drugs?

Mjwara: I can’t comment on that, but I think the AU must play a market pool role, and approach countries to ask if they can get consumers to buy local medicines — this will create demand. Africa has a relatively small market however; incentives have to be created, so lessons must be taken from the big companies in the US. Remember, you have to build trust among consumers for local products.

What was the silver bullet that Biovac employed?

Tippoo: There is no silver bullet. There was in the past a combination of short-sightedness and limited resources, but Covid-19 has brought these into focus, so there was no choice but to do something. This remarkable set of developments has caused discussions about collaborations all over Africa. What is happening now will have far-reaching implications in the future. Biovac has been investing in R&D, which is the critical pivot point for access to products; regulation and government support also play a big part. 

Are we doing enough to encourage and support start-ups?

Msomi: One of the biggest challenges in Africa is the setup of our ecosystem. We are not doing enough to communicate the potential of start-ups to investors. One of the key roles of AfricaBio is to support start-ups. Partnerships are essential; funding on its own is not enough.

Why are we not coming up with the right finance models?

Phehane: Africa must begin to establish itself as an attractive investment destination. We must demonstrate that we believe in ourselves, which will attract foreign investment. There is never enough investment in SMMEs, which need multiple sources of funding if they are to be competitive in the market; this requires more research. We need the correct infrastructure to conduct clinical trials; many patents have not been tested on the African continent, which is a golden opportunity. Partnerships in this regard are essential. SMMEs must resist being bought out by larger companies, but they need funding partnerships to do so. 

Is it practical to resist acquisitions?

Pharasi: Many small companies get bought out because they don’t have enough capital. Government must embrace the private sector to prevent this — as has happened in Brazil — and use small companies in the R&D sector. South Africa and India are calling for a waiver of intellectual property (IP) rights for Covid-19 vaccines. What makes it possible for R&D to take place here in South Africa is that it has one of the best clinical research facilities on the continent. At the basis of R&D is the recognition of IP rights; a balance must be struck between access to medicines and protection of IP. The Biovac/BioNTech/Pfizer agreement makes it possible for South Africa to manufacture vaccines from 2022.

Is it true that our government doesn’t want to interact with the private sector?

Mjwara: Government has many sectors! We need to examine our health intervention strategy, and learn from the story of the vaccine regarding this. We also need the right venture capital firms that are prepared to take risks on start-ups that have new products. 

Are you optimistic about Africa?

Manzi: How do we fund start-ups with new products? The vaccine market is dominated by developed countries, who can take the risks. It’s all about balancing the risk, and we are doing that here by pooling resources. Yes, I am hopeful, because we have started to set up this model, to do the R&D, set up the markets and create the demand. This is what the commission is going to do; we have the expertise here, and soon we will reap the benefits.

What is your parting comment, Dr Mjwara?

We need to think about how we are going to put the pieces together. We have world-class clinical trials, quality universities, R&D, fill-and-finish (filling vials with vaccines and packaging them); we must put all of this together.

What are the stumbling blocks for start-ups getting funding?

Whitfield: There are funding mechanisms in most developing countries, such as TIA in South Africa. It is very difficult to innovate; 90% of innovations fail. Pooling of investors will help to mitigate the risk, so that TIA does not have to stand alone. In the US there are call-out platforms for new technologies to get exposure and funding. 

Closing Remarks

Msomi: It takes a long time to transfer IP, and then to leverage it and make products that can be sold. It’s better to take the route Biovac took, which is much faster. It’s a very emotional topic, and it requires long-term thinking.

Tippoo: Yes, the technology-transfer partnership route is much faster to get products onto the market, and we need to learn from that.

Pharasi: I agree with the other panellists. To develop a vaccine here is a lengthy process. The BIO Africa Convention is a training hub for start-ups and SMMEs; they provide tools that can assist isolated communities. Giants like Gilead must work together with small companies. Ipasa recognises the value of BIO Africa.

Whitfield: In the US there are many investors looking for innovative companies, and I wish this could be replicated here in Africa. Collaborations are essential.

Phehane: I am very optimistic about Africa’s potential. We must not be afraid to venture, and we must invest in ourselves to demonstrate our capabilities. We have the networks in place, and I would like to invite investors to come and see what TIA does.

Msomi closed the proceedings by saying it had been a very rich discussion, which exposed to investors the type of conversations that will take place at the BIO Africa Convention. This is not a Convention for the loudest voice: it is for all stakeholders, especially civil society; we need to align food security with biotechnology, and the Convention will look to craft solutions with international partners. There are opportunities out there, and they must be grabbed, for the sake of everybody. 

The BIO Africa Digital Convention 2021 will focus on Africa’s capability and capacity to form effective partnerships with other nations towards bringing vaccine manufacturing to the continent. The digital convention takes place on 23 and 24 August. For more details visit: https://www.bioafricaconvention.com/

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AMISOM supports a school in Gedo region to boost education in Somalia

AMISOM supports a school in Gedo region to boost education in Somalia – African Union News Today – EIN Presswire

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The African Union Commission and TRAFFIC Sign a Memorandum of Understanding to Combat Illegal Wildlife Trade and Support Development

The African Union Commission and TRAFFIC Sign a Memorandum of Understanding to Combat Illegal Wildlife Trade and Support Development – African Union News Today – EIN Presswire

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Covid-19: Biden touts lead role in vaccinating the world as Delta variant surges

President Joe Biden says the United States has distributed more than 100 million Covid-19 vaccine doses overseas ― more than all other countries combined. — Reuters pic
President Joe Biden says the United States has distributed more than 100 million Covid-19 vaccine doses overseas ― more than all other countries combined. — Reuters pic

WASHINGTON, Aug 4 ― The United States has distributed more than 100 million Covid-19 vaccine doses overseas ― more than all other countries combined, President Joe Biden said yesterday as he touted his record on countering the Delta variant cutting a deadly swath across the planet.

The announcement, which follows the administration belatedly achieving its July 4 target for getting 70 per cent of American adults at least one shot, marked “just the beginning” of US efforts to help the world battle the pandemic, the White House said.

“As of today, we have shipped over 110 million doses to 65 nations,” Biden said in a national address.

“These vaccine donations from America are free. We’re not selling,” he added. “There’s no favoritism and no strings attached. We’re doing this to save lives. That’s it.”

Since it began in late 2019 the coronavirus outbreak has killed at least 4.2 million people globally, including 613,679 people in the United States, which is the worst-affected nation.

The availability of vaccines saw the daily toll of new cases drop dramatically in many countries earlier this year, but the highly contagious Delta variant has since been driving surging infections.

The United States has shipped 111.7 million doses mostly through the international vaccine distribution system known as Covax, but also in conjunction with organizations such as the African Union and the Caribbean Community, or CARICOM.

“According to the United Nations, this is more than the donations” of all other countries combined, Biden added.

Major recipients of donated vaccine shots include Indonesia, the Philippines, Colombia, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Pakistan and South Africa.

Starting late this month, the United States will begin sending 500 million Pfizer doses that it has pledged to buy and donate to 100 low-income countries.

Even as the United States stepped up its bid to send shots overseas Biden again appealed to Americans to get vaccinated, warning that the virus is “moving like wildfire through the unvaccinated community.”

“It’s heartbreaking, particularly because it’s preventable,” he said.

As cases rise the inoculation drive is slowly picking up steam again after slumping for several months, especially in traditionally conservative areas such as the South and Midwest and among young people, poor people and ethnic minorities.

But in a country where both masks and vaccines have become politicised, Biden also called on local authorities such as Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida ― which is once again a virus hotspot ― to stop blocking businesses and schools from implementing mask mandates.

“If you aren’t going to help at least get out of the way of the people that are trying to do the right thing,” he said.

Disney, Google, Facebook

Biden highlighted recent vaccination mandates imposed by corporate America on employees, and an upward trend in inoculation rates, particularly in areas with high transmission of the coronavirus.

Disney, Google, Walmart and Facebook have said they will obligate employees to get vaccinated ― as has Tyson Foods, which was forced to close many of its meatpacking plants early in the pandemic after its frontline workers were exposed.

Meanwhile New York City announced yesterday it would require proof of vaccination for people attending indoor venues such as restaurants, gyms and shows.

Biden has seen his approval rating drop recently, although it remains above 50 per cent.

He is looking to seize back the initiative after a difficult week in which the nation’s top health authority changed course to recommend that vaccinated people mask up again indoors in areas of high Covid transmission.

The White House has also been criticised for inaction as a moratorium on evictions expired, leaving millions of American facing the possibility of homelessness as the pandemic rages.

The nationwide ban was intended to extend until September, but a recent Supreme Court ruling meant it had to end early unless renewed by Congress, which failed to do so.

Biden said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was expected to have an announcement on a possible extension on the moratorium shortly, suggesting that even if it is struck down by the Supreme Court it will still “give some additional time” to distribute billions in aid which has already been sent to states. ― AFP

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White House: US Has Donated Over 110 Million Vaccine Doses to 65 Countries

President Joe Biden’s administration announced on Tuesday that the U.S. has donated more than 110 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to 65 countries as a part of an effort to try and stop the spread of the Delta variant.

The majority of the vaccines were manufactured in the United States and were shipped through COVAX and other global partners like the World Bank and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

COVAX is a global initiative whose aim is the equal distribution of COVID-19 vaccines around the world. The Alliance is directed by the Vaccine Alliance (formerly the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, (Gavi), the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), and the World Health Organization (WHO).

The WHO begun the initiative in April 2020, in partnership with the European Commission, and the government of France as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. COVAX coordinates international resources to enable low-income countries to access the vaccine.

In a June statement, Biden said that his administration supports suspending the intellectual rights to the vaccine.

“My administration supports efforts to temporarily waive intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines because, over time, we need more companies producing life-saving doses of proven vaccines that are shared equitably,” said Biden in a press statement.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Tuesday that the United States is the greatest contributor of vaccines to the global effort.

“With the announcement today, we will have donated more to the world than all of the countries in the UN, including Russia and China, combined, and this is just the beginning. We are going to continue to be a provider of vaccines and assistance to the global community in our fight against COVID,” said Psaki.

Biden outlined how the vaccines were to be distributed.

“At least 75 percent of these doses—nearly 19 million—will be shared through COVAX, including approximately 6 million doses for Latin America and the Caribbean, approximately 7 million for South and Southeast Asia, and approximately 5 million for Africa, working in coordination with the African Union and the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” he said.

The remaining 6 million doses, would be shared with countries in crisis because of surging cases, including Canada, Mexico, India, and the Republic of Korea.

Epoch Times Photo
Epoch Times Photo
An Indian relative comforts a patient as she receives treatment for the coronavirus at the Kapil Government Hospital, which became a coronavirus consultation and treatment facility serving villages in the Jaipur and Sikar districts, on May 15, 2021 in Rajasthan, India. (Rebecca Conway/Getty Images)

The Biden administration said it looks at some key factors to determine which countries should receive the donation of vaccines, including infection “case rates, death rates, and hospitalizations; current vaccination rates; responses to surges; and a country’s ability to receive vaccines and put shots into arms.”

The Biden administration said the effort is focused on saving lives and is not in any way done to “secure favor” from any government. Countries like India are at the top of the administration’s list because of the recent surge there of the Delta variant of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.

Biden’s Secretary of State Antony Blinken echoed the administration’s goal of stopping COVID deaths in India during a press briefing with India’s Minister of External Affairs on July 28. According to John Hopkins University India had 31,726,507 confirmed cases of COVID and over 400,000 deaths.

“[COVID] hit both of our countries very, very hard. We remember with gratitude and we will not soon forget the aid and assistance that India provided to us in the early days of COVID-19 when our hospitals were overwhelmed early in the pandemic,” said Blinken.

“Over the past few months, the United States Government has contributed more than $200 million to India for COVID-19 relief, and there’s been a huge outpouring from individual Americans from the private sector in support as well,” he said.

“Today, I am pleased to announce that the United States Government will send an additional $25 million to support vaccination efforts across India,” he added.

Source: DreamAfrica LIVE (A DreamGalaxy Trusted Brand)

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The African Union, Israel and the futility of appeasement

For decades, African countries have supported the Palestinian liberation struggle against Israel, seeing in it parallels with their own anti-colonial movements. Likewise, the African Union has not hesitated to criticise Israeli international law violations and occupation of Palestinian lands.

Most recently, Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat condemned Israel’s war on Gaza and its violent attacks against Palestinians in Jerusalem. So why on earth did the commission grant Israel the privilege of an observer status at the AU just two months later?

It is not like Israel has had a change of heart in its treatment of Palestinians. If anything, Israeli leaders have doubled down on what international human rights organisations have called war crimes and have persisted in their colonial policies, despite African condemnation.

As South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa has argued, Israel is erecting an apartheid system in Palestine akin to apartheid South Africa as colonisation, in the form of illegal, exclusively Jewish settlements, goes on unabated.

Some South African and Israeli observers have deemed Israel’s racist regime “far worse” than South Africa’s pre-1994, given the large-scale ethnic cleansing that has taken place in Palestine.

All of this begs the question: Why would Mahamat, a seasoned politician, allow such a questionable and grave decision to be made without consultation with the member states?

This is especially disturbing considering that an absolute majority of African states have only recently renewed their trust in Mahamat’s leadership, re-electing him for another four-year term!

Already, some major countries from Algeria to South Africa have flatly rejected Israel’s admission to the Union, in any form, as incompatible with the values and principles of the AU charter, demanding an explanation and outright reversal.

Now, I realise that a number of African and Arab leaders have appeased Israel as a way to reach out to the United States. They reckon that Israel has major sway in Washington and may be of help to influence the decisions of the world’s superpower in their favour.

Indeed, such pragmatism – read opportunism – may have worked for the likes of Sudan in getting US sanctions lifted after it began normalising relations with Israel.

In other words, US leaders have encouraged such malpractice, no less the present administration, which claims to put human rights at the centre of its foreign policy.

Mahamat’s own impoverished and embattled home country, Chad, has stepped up its relations with Israel over the past four years for military and strategic gain.

But how does that relate to the African Union Commission? And why should the Palestinians always pay the price?

After all, the Ethiopia-based AU Commission is not a state; it is a continental organisation that represents all 55 member states, most of whom have suffered terribly at the hands of the same type of repressive colonialism that is besieging Palestine.

Africa’s inter and intra-state politics are too complicated to address in one article, but there is certainly a unique shared history and a certain commonality among African states that cannot be forgotten or ignored.

Not long ago, Israel was directly implicated in supporting Western colonial enterprises in Africa. And it armed and trained some of the worst African regimes during the Cold War.

Even when Western nations distanced themselves from apartheid South Africa, Israel remained the racist regime’s best friend, praising apartheid and cooperating with Pretoria in nuclear weapons development.

Worse still, it never apologised for it. Ever.

And while Israel did try to improve relations with African countries by providing various types of aid and technical assistance over the past two decades, it has also armed some of the continent’s unsavoury regimes.

Still, there is nothing that Israel can offer Africa that it cannot purchase on the world market or obtain from the various world powers vying for influence on the continent.

In other words, pragmatism does not justify appeasing racism.

It is not a coincidence that the late Nelson Mandela, who led reconciliation in South Africa, never reconciled with apartheid Israel and persisted in his support for the Palestinian struggle while vehemently opposing anti-Semitism.

I remember his words all too clearly when I attended the Durban World Conference Against Racism 20 years ago where my book, Palestine/Israel: Peace or Apartheid, was launched.

Mandela urged the thousands of attendees to fight against the “racism contagion”, which he described as a “disease” not unique to any people or continent, but an ailment of the human mind and soul.

Indeed, racism knows no nationality or religion.

But Israel, with the help of the US and other Western countries, sought to undermine the conference, fearing a condemnation of Zionism and Israeli racism and demands of Western repatriations for African nations.

A week later, al-Qaeda’s despicable 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington unleashed a global barrage of racism against Muslims and Arabs, including Palestinians. And it has not stopped since, even though Muslims have been the foremost victims of terrorism.

Today, as Africans continue to suffer from discrimination and prejudice, Africa must be at the forefront in the fight against racism in all its forms, including religious bigotry, national chauvinism and settler colonialism.

The African Union Commission has a moral and political responsibility to lead such a fight against racism, not undermine it through cynical appeasement and empty declarations. Granting an apartheid regime the privilege to “observe” the African Union legitimises it and empowers Israeli leaders to carry on with their colonial enterprise in Palestine.

Source: DreamAfrica LIVE (A DreamGalaxy Trusted Brand)

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T.N. delegation to visit Namibia soon

A 50-member delegation, including 30 from Tamil Nadu, will soon head to Namibia to explore business and trade opportunities. The India Africa Trade Council (IATC) in collaboration with the India Namibia Trade Forum (INTF), opened the Namibia Trade Commission Office at Ashok Nagar, Chennai, on Tuesday.

“Business opportunities in Namibia exist in the areas of agro-processing and green schemes, pharmaceuticals, food processing, solar energy, information technology, gems and jewellery, tertiary education, tourism and the manufacturing sector,” said Gabriel P. Sinimbo, High Commissioner of the Republic of Namibia.

Win-win situation

“One of the most viable and sustainable ways to bring about a win-win situation between India and Namibia is through increased investments from India and by entering into joint venture partnerships between Namibian and Indian entrepreneurs,” he said.

The current bilateral trade between India and Namibia is just over $100 million, according to the statistical information from the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India. “Our diamonds and semi-precious stones are exported through London to India and we want to change this so that these commodities could be directly exported to India,” the High Commissioner said.

Welcoming Indian firms to invest in Namibia, he said, “The African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement came into effect on January 1, 2021. The trade agreement will allow goods and services to move freely among the 55 member states of the African Union (AU), which will boost intra-African trade and create a market-size of 1.3 billion consumers and a combined GDP of more than $3.4 trillion. With this in place and other mentioned regional free trade agreements, Namibia will have access to a bigger African continental market.”

Indian companies that have invested in Namibia include Vedanta Resources and the Indian GPT Group of companies in a joint venture with Transnamib for the production of concrete sleepers.

Other Indian companies have invested in energy, agriculture (irrigation), healthcare, diamond cutting and polishing and retailing businesses.

Source: DreamAfrica LIVE (A DreamGalaxy Trusted Brand)