A South African pharmaceutical company will manufacture the Pfizer- BioNTech Covid vaccine for distribution in Africa
The continent of Africa has, to date, inoculated a little more than 3 percent of its population with at least one shot
The Cape Town-based Biovac is to distribute the Covid vaccinations exclusively to the African Union’s 55 member states once it is operational in 2022
CAPE TOWN, South Africa: A South African pharmaceutical company will manufacture the Pfizer- BioNTech Covid vaccine for distribution in Africa.
The South African biopharmaceutical manufacturer Biovac reached agreement to produce the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for distribution in Africa.
The continent of Africa has, to date, inoculated a little more than 3 percent of its population with at least one shot.
The Cape Town-based Biovac is to distribute the Covid vaccinations exclusively to the African Union’s 55 member states once it is operational in 2022.
Officials have set a goal of manufacturing over 100 million doses annually.
As a first step, Pfizer-BioNTech will “begin immediately” transferring technical knowledge to Biovac, as well as participate in on-site development and the installation of equipment.
“From day one, our goal has been to provide fair and equitable access of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to everyone, everywhere,” Albert Bourla, chairman and chief executive officer of Pfizer, said in a statement. “Our latest collaboration with Biovac is a shining example of the tireless work being done, in this instance to benefit Africa.”
John Nkengasong, the director of the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, praised the deal between Pfizer-BioNTech and Biovac in a statement to CNN as “great and welcome news that must be celebrated in the context of this pandemic as every action counts,” according to Reuters.
ADDIS ABABA, July 23 (Xinhua) — The African Union (AU) and the Gulf of Guinea Commission have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to reinforce joint efforts of addressing maritime security and safety along the Gulf of Guinea.
According to an AU statement on Friday, the agreement includes operationalization of the integrated strategy for the Seas and Oceans Horizon 2050, dubbed AIM Strategy 2050, and the strategy of the Blue Economy of the 55-member pan-African bloc.
Bankole Adeoye, AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, and Florentina Ukonga, the Executive Secretary for Gulf of Guinea Commission signed the MoU Thursday at the AU Headquarters in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, reaffirming the new dynamic within the AU to strengthen intra-African collaboration, toward effective implementation of policies affecting Africa’s maritime space.
“This agreement is indeed long overdue,” said Adeoye, indicating that it would strengthen coordinated efforts of AU member states to address critical issues on Africa’s blue economy and maritime security across Central and West Africa, while safeguarding the lives and livelihoods of the African people, especially those in the coastal regions.
Welcoming the new partnership, Florentina Ukonga said her Commission would work very closely with AU, to scale up continental interventions to mitigate piracy and other forms of criminality and economic exploitation on the high seas of Africa.
“This is indeed a great day for Africa as our Member States pay closer attention to maritime governance with the aim to protect our seas and our people who must primarily benefit from Africa’s maritime resources,” said the Executive Secretary.
Some eight coastal countries along the Gulf of Guinea make up the Commission created in 2001 to serve as a permanent institutional instrument of cooperation at a regional level between the states bordering the Gulf of Guinea to defend their common interests.
HARARE – Zimbabwe has accused the United States of trying to use Covid-19 vaccines to meddle in its internal political affairs, claiming Washington gave the country’s main opposition party half a million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government has so far refused to consider the approval of western manufactured Covid-19 vaccines, preferring those from China, Russia and India.
For two decades, Zimbabwe’s relations with Western countries have been strained over the southern African country’s alleged human rights abuses and the ruling Zanu PF’s propensity to rig elections.
President Mnangagwa’s ruling party accuses countries such as the US of funding the opposition MDC Alliance to pursue a regime change agenda.
The 79-year-old ruler’s spokesperson, George Charamba, ignited a fresh diplomatic tiff this week after claiming the US embassy had imported vaccines so that the MDC Alliance could run its own vaccination programme, parallel to the one initiated by the government.
Mr Charamba claimed Zimbabwe had refused to authorise use of Johnson & Johnson doses that are now stuck at the US embassy in Harare.
He claimed the MDC Alliance received “two tranches of American vaccines, in total amounting to half-a-million doses, for a political vaccination programme through, which they hope to checkmate the goodwill that has accrued to Zanu PF through a sprite public vaccination programme.”
“The United States embassy’s strategy has been to desperately stampede the Ministry of Health to allow the government to accept importation and administration of those unregistered vaccines, using the Covax facility,” Mr Charamba tweeted.
“This would then provide cover to this political donation. Unfortunately for them, Chinese, Russian and Indian vaccines, which are registered for use in the country are now registered with the World Health Organisation, making them part of the Covax menu.”
He added: “Zimbabwe insists that any assistance under Covax limits itself to those registered vaccines. The United States and their MDC-Alliance lackeys are in a real bind.”
US and MDC respond
The US embassy in Harare, however, dismissed the claims that it was pushing for a parallel Covid-19 vaccination programme in Zimbabwe as false.
“United States government vaccine deployment is very transparent and will come to Africa through the Covax/(African Union) mechanism,” the embassy said.
“The United States government has not provided any entity in Zimbabwe with vaccines to date.”
Fadzayi Mahere, MDC Alliance spokesperson, accused the government of politicking about vaccines at a time the pandemic was killing more people in Zimbabwe.
“It’s a matter of record that people are dying of Covid yet the government [rejected] vaccines that were offered to them under Covax,” Ms Mahere said.
“They must not deflect by dragging the MDC Alliance into this. Our priority is the need to save lives. We cannot be politicking over a matter of this nature. The MDC Alliance has not received vaccines from any person or organisation.”
“It’s a matter of regret that Mr Charamba continues to act in this disgraceful manner. He is telling lies and politicking with people’s lives instead of focusing on vaccine hesitancy.”
Other vaccines Zimbabwe has rejected include the British-Swedish AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna, from the United States.
Zimbabwe’s vaccination programme has been disrupted by a shortage of vaccines.
In June, the country refused to draw down from its three million doses allocation of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine under the Covax facility, claiming it did not have refrigeration facilities suitable for it.
Health experts, however, said the excuse did not make any sense since the Chinese vaccines that were already in use in Zimbabwe were being kept under similar conditions.
Former colonial power Britain has also unsuccessfully tried to convince Zimbabwe to take the Covid-19 vaccine donations under Covax.
Last year, President Mnangagwa’s government accused the US embassy of sponsoring anti-corruption protests in the country that were brutally put down by the military.
The government says it is crafting a new law named the Patriot Bill that will bar local politicians who actively lobbied for US sanctions against Zimbabwe from participating in future elections.
Washington has repeatedly denied allegations that it is pushing for a regime change in Zimbabwe but has consistently called for economic and political reforms in the country.
ABOARD US MILITARY AIRCRAFT – The United States is again targeting fighters with the al-Qaida-affiliated al-Shabab terror group in Somalia, launching its second airstrike in the past four days following a nearly six-month hiatus that began when President Joe Biden took office.
The strike, by U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), appears to be part of an effort to lend U.S. airpower to what has been described as a fierce struggle on the ground between the Somali military and al-Shabab in Galmudug state, the same region targeted in Tuesday’s airstrike.
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told VOA and other reporters traveling aboard a U.S. military aircraft with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin that Friday’s strike was carried out in support of Somali forces near the village of Qeycad. He said the strike was permitted by the powers granted by the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force.
Kirby added that just as with the earlier airstrike, U.S. troops were not on the ground with Somali forces but were conducting a remote advise-and-assist mission. Further information was not provided because of “operational security.”
Al-Shabab is ‘no match’
A statement issued earlier Friday by the Somali government said the precision airstrike “destroyed al-Shabab fighters and weapons with zero civilian casualties.”
“Al-Shabab’s tactics are no match for the Danab [Somali special forces] and its partners,” the statement added, further describing the strike as having a “crippling” impact on the al-Shabab fighters.
The resumption of U.S. airstrikes against al-Shabab comes as military and intelligence officials in the U.S. and around the world warn of a growing threat from the al-Qaida-linked group.
US Strikes Al-Shabab in Somalia for First Time in Six Months
US defense officials say the lone strike was launched as part of a remote ‘advise and assist’ mission after Somali forces came under attack
Late last month, AFRICOM Commander General Stephen Townsend told a virtual defense forum that the spread of terrorism “has continued relatively unabated” across Africa, and he singled out al-Shabab as a major concern.
“We see threats in Somalia to regional stability,” he said. “We even see threats there to the U.S. homeland.”
Terrorism Spreading ‘Unabated’ Across Africa, Warns US Commander
Blunt assessment from top general of US forces in Africa comes one day after US-led coalition to Defeat ISIS pledged to push back against terror group’s gains there
Those concerns are being echoed by intelligence agencies from other countries and U.N. monitors, who warned in a report released Friday that al-Shabab has been successfully exploiting a security vacuum created by the departure of U.S. troops and a partial drawdown of the African Union Mission in Somalia.
In central and southern parts of the country, al-Shabab has “encountered little resistance in capturing several towns … in areas that had previously been hostile,” the report said.
The intelligence from U.N. member states also warned that al-Shabab, already able to boast having 10,000 fighters under its command, is gaining more advanced military capabilities.
The group “has significantly increased its use of drones to conduct reconnaissance flyovers and record the activities of security forces,” the report said, warning that al-Shabab may soon start weaponizing the drones as well.
Some intelligence agencies voiced fears that the drones could be used to supplement al-Shabab’s portable air defense systems in potential attacks on low-flying aircraft and aviation infrastructure along the border with Kenya. The area has served as a critical corridor for humanitarian flights and commercial aircraft.
Earlier this year, some Somalis voiced concerns that the pause in U.S. airstrikes was serving to embolden al-Shabab, allowing key leaders to come out of hiding and their fighters to mass in larger numbers without fear.
Somalia Fears New US Airstrike Guidance Is Benefiting al-Shabab
Officials tell VOA the lack of airstrikes against al-Qaida affiliate will allow group’s leaders to ‘come out of hiding’
The U.S. carried out 63 airstrikes against al-Shabab in 2019 and 53 airstrikes in 2020.
Another seven airstrikes were launched in the first 2½ weeks of 2021, before former U.S. President Donald Trump left office.
Not everyone, however, is convinced that the previous pace of U.S. airstrikes has made much of a difference.
Stephen Schwartz, the U.S. ambassador to Somalia from 2016 to 2017, told VOA that airstrikes against al-Shabab and the Islamic State group have “limited or modest value” in the overall fight against extremists, but they are extremely useful “in keeping al-Shabab on its back foot.”
“With no airstrikes for months and months, I would imagine al-Shabab is more relaxed, but also more able to do the things they couldn’t, whether it’s mobility, training more in the open, just lots of things that could make them more effective,” Schwartz said.
Some Somali military officers have also expressed concerns, telling VOA that while airstrikes can be helpful, they need additional support, including better weaponry and supplies to fight al-Shabab on the ground.
Statistics compiled by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a U.S.-based nonprofit research group, suggested that the danger to civilians in Somalia from al-Shabab actually decreased in the absence of airstrikes.
ACLED said it found 155 incidents in which al-Shabab targeted civilians in the six months before Biden took office, and just 90 in the six months after he became president.
VOA’s Somali Service contributed to this report.
This article was updated after the Pentagon press secretary revised the explanation of the department’s legal authority for the airstrike.
Yellow taxi van vehicles line the streets in the Victoire district of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, on 11 January, 2019. According to ISS research 73% of the DRC population, about 60 million people, remain poor, with GDP per capita only 40% of what it was at the time of the country’s independence in 1960. (Photo: John Wessels/Bloomberg)
Real democracy and visionary leaders are vital for reform and development in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“Can new leadership transform the DRC’s fortunes?” was the title of a seminar this week presented by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) and the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA). It was a good question.
Although, as one of the speakers, Daniel Mukoko Samba, deputy prime minister and minister of the budget in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) between 2012 and 2014, observed rather wryly — it is a perennial question.
Speaking with the benefit of a former insider — and still one, in a way, as he is currently a member of President Félix Tshisekedi’s African Union chair team — Mukoko recalled that the same question is asked every time there is new leadership in the DRC.
On each occasion, there is a spike of hope for this sprawling giant that seems to have so much potential. And each time, the hope is dashed on the seemingly intractable realities of the country — persistent grinding poverty, perpetual instability and particularly its bad governance and corruption.
According to a report presented at the seminar by ISS Researcher Kouassi Yeboua, written by Yeboua and ISS colleagues, Jakkie Cilliers and Stellah Kwasi, 73% of the DRC population, about 60 million people, remain poor. GDP per capita is only 40% of what it was at independence in 1960.
Yet this is a country blessed with vast mineral resources and more arable land than any other in Africa. Even so, the DRC still has to import most of its food, about $1.5-billion worth per year. And Yeboua said all those minerals had hardly benefited the ordinary Congolese at all — enriching mainly the rent-seeking elite and crooked foreign business people.
According to Yeboua, the DRC needed to transform its economy by adding value to its natural resources through coherent industrial policy. In the meantime though, boosting agricultural production was a “low-hanging fruit” that could expand economic output and feed the population. The country should also devolve more power and resources to lower echelons of government.
The DRC’s core problem, though, has been very poor political leadership. Yeboua said that the DRC scored just 0.9 points out of 5 on the World Bank government effectiveness index compared to the 1.4 average for low-income African countries and 1.7 for sub-Saharan Africa. He said the major condition of the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) recently approved $1.5-billion loan to the DRC was improved governance.
But Mukoko then catalogued the many hopeful economic reform plans drafted since the World Bank and IMF returned to the DRC in 2001 after a 10-year absence. Each plan had sparked a flurry of new legislation and a surge in hope that then slowly faded away.
Mukoko agreed with Yeboua that the problem lay with the rent-seeking political, economic and military elite and their corruption. But he had an interesting take on that, essentially blaming it on the political system rather than on the inherent corruption of the political elite.
He suggested that the vast number of political parties in the DRC — between 600 and 650 — were at the root of the problem. This inevitably led to the creation of large, sprawling governing coalitions and bloated cabinets — the current one with about 56 ministers — where patronage had to be dispensed very widely.
He noted that in this system, certain parties were given monopolies on specific cabinet portfolios. This made it very difficult for a president to root out corruption and instil good governance without being accused of political bias and targeting his political enemies.
And the need for large coalitions also meant that it took a long time after elections to form governments. He noted that following the December 2018 elections, it had taken Tshisekedi over two years to establish his “sacred union” coalition to replace his predecessor Joseph Kabila’s Front Commun pour le Congo (FCC) alliance.
Mukoko said he was a member of an independent advocacy group seeking consensual electoral reforms to ensure that the crucial next elections in 2023 produced a stronger and more coherent government. What he didn’t say was that perhaps the solution he and others were looking for had been staring them in the face all along: it’s called democracy.
The problem with the 2018 election was that, as the seminar chairperson SAIIA Senior Researcher Stephanie Wolters pointed out, Tshisekedi didn’t really win. He was chosen by Kabila’s faction as a compromise between its own candidate Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, who lost too badly to be credible, and Lamuka’s Martin Fayulu, who really won.
It was that deal that created Tshisekedi’s dependence on Kabila for political support. This dependence in turn essentially paralysed government while Tshisekedi battled to gain political independence of Kabila by forming an unwieldy coalition of his own to try to oust that of his predecessor.
As Wolters said, ‘The fundamental problem is that the political elite is governing in its own interests, and that makes even the most avid reform efforts very hard to move forward sustainably.
‘Tshisekedi still has some time to demonstrate his commitment to real governance reform. However his recent anti-corruption moves, for example, already indicate a certain political selectivity. If governance is really to improve, no one must be above the law.’
Perhaps DRC politics is inherently fractured and needs a visionary leader — not necessarily very democratic — to seize command and force through the necessary economic reforms, as some believe. But until that messiah arrives, a good place to start building coherence as the basis for development would surely be to put in office those politicians the Congolese people choose to be there. DM
The African Union (AU) has granted observer status to Israel after nearly 20 years of lobbying by the Jewish state harshly criticised by many of the bloc’s leaders.
Israeli Ambassador to Ethiopia, Burundi and Chad Aleli Admasu officially presented his credentials to AU Commission chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat at the association’s headquarters in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital.
“This is a day of celebration for Israel-Africa relations,” Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said in a statement, noting that his country had diplomatic relations with 46 of the 55 African nation states and “wide-ranging partnerships and joint cooperation in many different fields including trade and aid.”
Israel held observer status in the AU’s predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), but was not admitted on the same basis when the AU was founded in 2002.
“This corrects the anomaly that has existed for almost two decades and is an important part of strengthening the fabric of Israel’s foreign relations,” Lapid said. “It will help us strengthen our activities on the African continent and with the member states of the organisation.”
But Faki stressed that the AU “has been very clear on its position that in the issue of Palestine and Israel, a Two State Solution is necessary for a peaceful co-existence.”
In May this year the AU Commission chairman condemned Israel’s “bombardments” of the Gaza Strip and “violent attacks” by Israeli security forces at the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, accusing the Israeli Defences Forces of acting “in stark violation of international law”.
The OAU, established in 1963, enshrined the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the post-colonial African states. But the AU has sent peacekeeping troops to intervene in conflicts — notably in Somalia.
The OAU excluded South Africa, which then included the former German colony of South-West Africa — now Namibia — until the abolition of the apartheid system. The kingdom of Morocco withdrew in 1984 after the organisation recognised Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara as a sovereign state.
AU member Egypt is the only African nation to share a land border with Israel, and controls one side of the Rafah border crossing to Gaza. Israel invaded and occupied African soil in the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula during the 1967 Six-Day War, finally returning control in 1982 under the terms of a 1979 peace treaty brokered by US president Jimmy Carter.
South Africa has had frequently-strained relations with Israel since the end of apartheid over its treatment of Palestinian inhabitants of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. Freedom struggle veterans have likened the situation there to apartheid, even comparing it unfavourably to pre-1990 South Africa. Israel was one of a handful of countries that openly sold arms to the apartheid government.
In 2019 Pretoria downgraded its diplomatic mission to Tel Aviv to a consulate only after ambassador Sisa Ngombane’s term ended. Ngombane had previously been recalled for four months in May 2018 in protest at Israel’s crackdown on the Great March of Return protests by Palestinians following then-US president Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, in which troops shot dead of protesters.
Burkina Faso received on Tuesday night a shipment of more than 150,000 Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccines doses.
A gift from the U.S. through the Covax initiative, that should help speed up vaccination in Burkina Faso which like other countries of the continent suffers from vaccines shortages.
“Vaccination is voluntary. We are going to continue sensitization efforts so that we have community acceptance and commitment towards vaccination. We are doing it in the interest of the people,” Burkina Faso Health Minister Prof. Charlemagne Ouedraogo said during a hand over ceremony alongsideU.S. ambassador to Burkina Faso Sandra Clark.
Vaccination levels across Africa are still very low, with less than 2% of the continent’s population of 1.3 billion having received at least one shot, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
To help alleviate the vaccine shortage on the continent, the U.S. has begun delivering the first batches of 25 million doses of vaccines it is sharing with the African Union.
Senegal, Burkina Faso and Gambia are amongst the first nations to get the Janssen jab. Ethiopia and Djibouti are also receiving doses.
The effort has delivered only 200 million vaccines globally since February, while the U.S. alone has administered more than 338 million doses.
After COVAX’s biggest supplier — the Serum Institute of India — halted exports in March to deal with an explosive surge on the subcontinent, the agencies behind COVAX, including the World Health Organization, resorted to begging rich countries for donations.
Most of the promised doses won’t arrive until next year and although Group of Seven countries pledged to donate a billion COVID-19 vaccines, that is far short of the 11 billion WHO says are needed to protect the world.
Around 1,600 people from all over Africa and Japan gathered over six days to explore closer business ties at the Third Japan-Africa Business Forum, which this year attracted the highest number of participants since its launch.
The conference was organized by the Asia External Representation Office of the African Development Bank, in coordination with the African Diplomatic Corps in Tokyo, the Japan External Trade Organization, the Japan International Cooperation Agency, the United Nations Development Programme and United Nations Industrial Development Organization. It took place in a hybrid format between 29 June and 8 July. This year’s theme was “Shaping a New Africa in the Era of Covid-19.”
Koji Yonetani, a senior official in the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, delivered a speech on issues to be addressed at the 8th Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD8) next year. Yonetani, Director General in the African Affairs Department, identified two major themes that should be addressed at TICAD 8. Firstly, the solidarity of the international community to overcome the Covid-19 pandemic. Secondly, a “better recovery” in Africa by utilizing the power of the private sector. He said “public-private dialogue will be an indispensable and important element of TICAD 8 next year, in order to harness the power of the private sector.”
In her keynote speech at the opening session, Acting Senior Vice President of the Bank, Bajabulile “Swazi” Tshabalala, underscored the Bank’s strong partnership with Japan, citing examples such as the Enhanced Private Sector Assistance or “EPSA” Initiative. She stressed the reasons why Japanese businesses are increasingly attracted to Africa. “The opportunities are tremendous, and Africa, with its growing population and demographic dividend, is the next new frontier in the global economy.” Tshabalala also called on the Japanese business community to join the Bank’s Africa Investment Forum in November 2021.
Five of the six days were dedicated to the Bank’s High 5 strategic priorities, namely Light Up and Power Africa, Feed Africa, Industrialize Africa, Integrate Africa, and Improve the Quality of Life for the People of Africa. One session focused on start-ups.
Takashi Hanajiri, Head of the Bank’s Asia External Representation Office, explained the Bank’s role as an investment facilitator.
“There are risks in African business. However, the risks are challenges to be controlled and are proof of the opportunities on the other side of the coin. The key to doing business in Africa is to meet good business partners and utilize the support tools of our Bank.”
The Forum was accompanied by a three-week online business matching platform, which attracted 375 people from African, European, and Japanese companies. The participants exchanged 503 messages and held 59 business-to-business meetings virtually.
To promote Africa as an investment and trade destination, the Forum brought together African ministers, Japanese government officials, senior officials of the Bank, and business executives from both Japan and Africa. TICAD8 will take place in Tunisia, in 2022.