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Stakeholders debate how political deadlocks threaten Africa’s economic integration

On 27 July 2021, Imani Center for Policy and Education, a Ghanaian think tank held a seminar, in Accra, on the topic: “The Imperative of Economic Recovery: How can the Resolution of the Sahara Issue Strengthen Africa’s Regional and Continental Integration?”.

The seminar aimed to debate and discuss the African Union’s (AU) current challenges in an objective, scientific and dispassionate manner, in the context of a highly intellectual and fact-based exercise with credible experts and influential decision-makers.

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The participants’ debate focused on, among other things, how political deadlocks, such as the Sahara issue, are, today, a major hindrance to Africa’s economic integration.

“The participants highlighted the necessity of finding a realistic and definitive solution to this longstanding issue, which can only constitute a breakthrough in Africa’s regional and continental consolidation, especially in the current context, marked by the urgency induced by the pandemic’s economic and social repercussions.

“Most of the participants considered the resolution of the Sahara issue a necessary step to enhance the continent’s economic integration, in view of its current dynamics marked by the exclusivity of the United Nations process and the pre-eminence of the Moroccan Autonomy Plan as a sincere, realistic, credible, and inclusive political solution,” a communique issued at the end of the seminar said.

Below is the full communiqué…

Communiqué: The Imperative of Economic Recovery: How can the Resolution of the Sahara Issue Strengthen Africa’s Regional and Continental Integration?

On 27 July 2021, Imani Center for Policy and Education, a Ghanaian Think Tank held a seminar, in Accra, on the topic: “The Imperative of Economic Recovery: How can the Resolution of the Sahara Issue Strengthen Africa’s Regional and Continental Integration?”. The event brought together several Ghanaian and West-African stakeholders including prominent policymakers, experts, academics, business leaders, think tank and civil society representatives from the Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria and Senegal.

The seminar aimed to debate and discuss the African Union’s (AU) current challenges in an objective, scientific and dispassionate manner, in the context of a highly intellectual and fact-based exercise with credible experts and influential decision-makers. Accra being the host of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement’s (AfCFTA) secretariat, the discussions focused on the challenges of regional and continental economic integration, with a special focus on the role of Regional Economic Communities. The participants highlighted the urgency of such integration and called for the full implementation of the AfCFTA and its premunition from any deadlocks that hamper the continent’s integration ideal on the ground, as stated and backed by the AU.

The debate also focused on how political deadlocks, such as the Sahara issue, are, today, a major hindrance to Africa’s economic integration. The participants highlighted the necessity of finding a realistic and definitive solution to this longstanding issue, which can only constitute a breakthrough in Africa’s regional and continental consolidation, especially in the current context, marked by the urgency induced by the pandemic’s economic and social repercussions. Most of the participants considered the resolution of the Sahara issue a necessary step to enhance the continent’s economic integration, in view of its current dynamics marked by the exclusivity of the United Nations process and the pre-eminence of the Moroccan Autonomy Plan as a sincere, realistic, credible, and inclusive political solution.

In the current context, marked by the urgency of economic recovery – for the unity, the integration and the overall safety of the continent – the recent incident in Guerguerat demonstrates the need to overcome political deadlocks and unproductive ideological positions. Extensively analysed by the participants, the three-week obstruction by Polisario-led campers of a vital and strategic road – connecting Europe, North Africa and Western Africa – put neighbouring countries, the region and the whole continent’s economic security at risk. It also highlighted the importance and weight of the cooperation between Morocco and West-African countries.

Furthermore, the participants examined the solutions available to the AU to rebalance its position on the issue, and fully play its neutral role in contributing to promote a lasting solution to a dispute that has been halting the AU’s functioning as well as the continent’s overall integration. Recognizing the current dynamic around the Sahara issue, the participants highlighted that the United Nations Security Council process could be supported by Ghana’s contribution to reach a final and realistic solution, in light of its upcoming non-permanent membership in the Security Council.

Whilst economic integration represents an emergency and a major milestone in the consolidation and development of Africa, it would be jeopardized should the AU not rationalize its institutional architecture. According to the debates, the consolidation of such architecture makes it imperative for the AU to complete its institutional reform and build its resilience against separatist and secessionist agendas, which are a real threat in numerous African countries.

The participants considered the admission into the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), then its maintenance by the AU, of a non-state entity, which has, since merely been a source of obstructions and division, as a striking example to this day. According to the participants, the AU should correct this “cumbersome legacy” and “historical miscarriage”. Thus, the suspension, if not the expulsion, of the “SADR”, an armed group with no attributes of a sovereign State, must not be considered as a taboo or unattainable objective. Its fulfilment is not intent on being an exclusively Moroccan ambition but one that drives African States to put an end to superfluous divisions, and to stop the instrumentalization of an organization which is supposed to serve a Pan-African ideal and goal.

Source: DreamAfrica LIVE (A DreamGalaxy Trusted Brand)

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EFF rejects AU’s granting of observer status to racist Zionist apartheid Israel

Fighters say this makes the union complicit in the continuing killings of Palestinians


Wednesday, 28 July 2021

The EFF rejects the African Union Commission decision to grant the racist Zionist apartheid state of Israel observer status in the African Union. The decision is shameful and undermines the struggle against an assault on Palestinians human rights supported and sustained by Western Imperialist regimes.

The decision to grant Israel observer status makes the AU complicit in the continuing killings of Palestinians and goes against AU’s commitment to principles of self-determination and decolonization. The solidarity for freedom of oppressed people for Africa should be unconditional, and Africans, guided by the spirit of the founders of the African Union, should always side with the oppressed people.

The AU should lead by example and call for the continent to isolate and boycott Israel and not rest until the people of Palestine are free. Instead of treating murders with civility and dignity while Palestinians continue to suffer unimaginable dehumanization. The EFF calls for the immediate removal of all officials who granted Israel the observer status.

The provocative and unilateral decision of the insubordinate Chairperson of the African Union Commission to invite and accept the diplomatic credentials of apartheid Israel representatives into the fold of the African Union observer status community is misconduct worth AU sanctions against its own employee.

Mr. Moussa Faki Mahamat is nothing more than a mere functionary of the AU and has no powers to bind the AU on decisions that have far reaching political implications. The Constitutive Act of the AU provides that the Chairperson of Commission is the Chief Executive Officer, legal representative of the AU and the Commission’s Chief

Accounting Officer. He is not an executive authority. The Chairperson’s functions are limited to administration and finances; promoting and popularising the AU’s objectives and enhancing its performance; consulting and coordinating with key stakeholders like Member States and act as a depository for all AU and OAU treaties and legal instruments. This nonsensical chairperson has not consulted with Members States, nor his decision authorised by the General Assembly of the AU.

The AU on its founding in 2002 correctly refused to inherit the practise of Organisation of African Unity in providing apartheid Israel with diplomatic observer status in its ranks. Any change of policy should be authorised by the AU General Assembly of Heads of States prior to its implementation by its employees including this Moussa Faki Mahamat.

The EFF will write to the Chairperson of the African Union to demand an urgent meeting of AU Heads of States to impeach this stupid administrator who has surrogated political power and decision of AU taking advantage of inability of Head of States to sit due to the Corona pandemic.

We further call on all AU member states to petition the AU Chairperson, the President of Democratic Republic of Congo, His Excellency Felix Antoine Tshisekedi, for an extraordinary sitting of the AU General Assembly to once and for all bring finality on this stupendous conduct of their employee, Moussa Faki Mahamat.

We call on AU member states to declare this AU employee a prohibited person from travelling to any part of Africa other than his return flight to Chad where his community needs him most to contribute in bringing about peace and democracy to his war raven country.

Statement issued by the EFF, 28 July 2021

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SA should welcome Israel’s entry to the AU – SAZF

South Africa Should Welcome Israel’s Entry to the AU

28 July 2021

The South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) welcomes the establishment of Israel’s observer status at the African Union (AU). This positive development is a corrective step to the anomaly that has prevailed for two decades in preventing Israel entry status. Israel already has diplomatic relations with 46 of the 55 member states of the AU and continues to strengthen her ties with the African continent.

The SAZF is encouraged that African Union members will work more closely with Israel on fighting the coronavirus, improving regional security and implementing water, agricultural and health care technology solutions for the benefit of their people. We are also hopeful that the AU Observer status may assist further African countries to establish closer diplomatic ties with Israel.

It is unfortunate that the South African government has taken a position against these positive developments and the critical work between Israel and many African states. The SAZF believes that the greater intercontinental cooperation with Israel is a sign that the SA Government should follow suit in building and improving South Africa’s relations with Israel as opposed to missing out on the opportunities it brings. The furthering of the partnership with Israel would lead to increased positive benefits and impacts for all South Africans and will help address the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality. We call on the South African government to accept the decision of our fellow African nations and work towards a better future for ordinary South Africans and the continent as a whole.

Statement issued by Rowan Polovin, National Chairman, South African Zionist Federation, 28 July 2021

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No place for apartheid and colonialism in the AU – SA BDS Coalition

No place for apartheid and colonialism in the African Union

Issued: 27 July 2021

The Chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, announced on 22 July – without any prior consultation with other member states – that he received credentials from Aleli Admasu, Israel’s Ambassador to Ethiopia, Burundi and Chad. Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs asserts that this means the state had been granted observer status at the African Union.

The SA BDS Coalition condemns this manoeuvre and urges our government, as well as other AU member states, to reject Israel’s claim to accreditation and ensure the matter is placed on the agenda of the next session of the AU Executive Council.

According to the AU’s process for accreditation of a non-African state or organisation, Mahamat should have considered the request on the basis of: the Constitutive Act of the African Union; relevant decisions of the AU organs; the known views and concerns of member states; and the supreme interest of the AU.

Mahamat’s undemocratic, unilateral decision to accept the Israeli ambassador’s credentials sidesteps these criteria and norms of procedure, risks undermining the stability and credibility of the AU and violates several objectives of the Constitutive Act, which commits the Union to work towards African unity and solidarity, promote peace, democratic principles, popular participation and human rights in accordance with relevant human rights instruments.

We are extremely disappointed that our government did not immediately publicly reject the Israeli claim and announce that it would lodge an objection to the AU Chair. South Africa has long supported the legitimate struggle of the Palestinian people for self-determination, and has consistently maintained that that Israel has no place in the AU.

Israel falsely claims that its assistance to African states in fields such as agriculture, technology and economic development is philanthropic. In reality, this is simply opportunistic leverage. Gaining observer status at the AU will enhance Israel’s relationship with African states and allow it to influence their voting within the AU and at multilateral institutions such as the UN. Their objective is to muscle recipient states to support Israel at the UN and other international fora.

How can Israel’s claim of wanting to make a significant contribution to Africa be taken seriously when the Israeli government openly displays its contempt for people from the continent by imprisoning and deporting thousands of African asylum seekers and tolerates (even encourages) racist attacks on Africans living in Israel. A state that treats African people in such degrading and racist ways should not be rewarded with observer status at the African Union. Israel’s latest egregious transgression is the use of its spyware, which is being deployed to snoop on African journalists, human rights activists and even on our own President!

Israel hopes to use observer status at the AU to justify its apartheid policies against Palestinians in order to dilute AU criticism of Israeli actions. Would the AU have allowed the racist Pretoria regime of the past the opportunity to defend apartheid at its meetings?

Israel has acted with impunity over its decades of violations of human rights and international law. The AU should not be rewarding a serial human rights offender, aggressor, colonising and apartheid power. Instead, the AU should uphold the Palestinian call for boycotts, divestment and sanctions to isolate Israeli apartheid.

Roshan Dadoo

William Shoki

Naazim Adam

Statement issued by SA BDS Coalition, 28 July 2021

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SA ‘appalled’ by Israel’s African Union observer status

  • SA slammed the decision to grant Israel observer status at the AU.
  • The AU granted Israel observer status to enable coordination in the battle against Covid-19.
  • South Africa backs the Palestinian cause.

South Africa on Wednesday vehemently objected to last week’s “unilateral” decision by the African Union Commission to grant Israel an official observer status at the continental organisation.

In a strongly worded statement, the continental powerhouse, which last year held the annually rotating AU presidency, said it “is appalled at the unjust and unwarranted decision of the AU Commission to grant Israel observer status in the African Union”.

READ | #UnrestSA: Violence could impact entire region, African Union Commission warns

The AU handed Israel the observer status on Thursday, a move the two parties expected would enable Israel to further help the AU battle the coronavirus pandemic and terrorism on the continent.

“The decision to grant Israel observer status is even more shocking in a year in which the oppressed people of Palestine were hounded by destructive bombardments and continued illegal settlements of the land,” South Africa’s foreign affairs ministry said, blasting the move as “inexplicable” and “incomprehensible”.

South Africa backs the Palestinian cause with formal diplomatic relations established in 1995, a year after the end of apartheid, and it downgraded its embassy in Tel Aviv in 2019.

The Palestinian territories already have observer status at the AU and pro-Palestinian language is typically featured in statements delivered at the AU’s annual summits.

The AU Commission took the “decision unilaterally without” consulting its members, according to South Africa.

South Africa will ask Moussa Faki Mahamat, chair of the AU Commission, to brief member states on the decision and it hopes the issue will be discussed at the level of heads of states and governments.

“South Africa firmly believes that as long as Israel is not willing to negotiate a peace plan without preconditions it should not have observer status” in the AU, it said.

Source: News24

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South Africa expresses outrage after African Union Commission grants Israel observer status

Clayson Monyela,

Pretoria – The South African government said on Wednesday it is “appalled” at the African Union Commission’s decision which granted Israel an official observer status at the African Union.

“The government of South Africa is appalled at the unjust and unwarranted decision of the AU Commission to grant Israel observer status in the African Union.

’’The African Union Commission has taken this decision unilaterally without consultations with its members,” said spokesperson for the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) Clayson Monyela.

“The decision to grant Israel observer status is even more shocking in a year in which the oppressed people of Palestine were hounded by destructive bombardments and continued illegal settlements of the land. The African Union strenuously objected to the deaths of Palestinians and the destruction of civilian infrastructure.”

Last week, the Israeli ambassador to Ethiopia, Burundi and Chad, Aleli Admasu, presented his credentials to Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairman of the African Union Commission, at the continental bloc’s headquarters in Addis Ababa.

Monyela said the decision by the AU Commission in this context is inexplicable.

“The unjust actions committed by Israel offend the letter and spirit of the Charter of the African Union.

’’The AU embodies the aspirations of all Africans and reflects their confidence that it can lead the continent through the practical expression of the goals of the charter, especially on issues relating to self-determination and decolonisation.”

Monyela said Israel continues to illegally occupy Palestine in complete defiance of its international obligations and relevant UN resolutions.

“It is therefore incomprehensible that the AU Commission chooses to reward Israel at a time when its oppression of Palestinians has been demonstrably more brutal,” he said.

“The South African government will ask the chairperson of the commission to provide a briefing to all member states on this decision which we hope will be discussed by the Executive Council and the Assembly of Heads of States and Government.”

Monyela insisted that South Africa firmly believes that as long as Israel is not willing to negotiate a peace plan without preconditions, it should not have observer status in the African Union.

“The African Union cannot be a party in any way to plans and actions that would see the ideal of Palestinian statehood reduced into balkanised entities devoid of true sovereignty, without territorial contiguity and with no economic viability,” he said.

Israel previously had the observer status at the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), but its efforts to regain the standing have consistently failed in the African Union, which replaced the OAU.

Algiers has reportedly also voiced its condemnation of the decision of the African Union to grant Israel observer status to the pan-African organisation.

African News Agency (ANA)

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Biden administration undoes a Trump policy that severely restricted penalties imposed on unsafe nursing homes.

A medical technician administered a coronavirus test to a walk-in patient at a mobile testing site in Palmetto, Fla., last week.
Credit…Octavio Jones for The New York Times

In addition to revising its mask guidance on Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also quietly updated its testing recommendations for people who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

The agency now advises that vaccinated people be tested for the virus if they come into contact with someone with Covid-19, even if they have no symptoms. Previously, the health agency had said that fully vaccinated people did not need to be tested after exposure to the virus unless they were experiencing symptoms.

“Our updated guidance recommends vaccinated people get tested upon exposure regardless of symptoms,” Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, the agency’s director, said in an email to The New York Times. “Testing is widely available.”

Fully vaccinated people should wear a mask in public indoor spaces after exposure, the agency said. Three to five days later, they should be tested for the virus.

If the results come back negative, they can stop wearing masks indoors. If results are positive, the infected should isolate at home for 10 days.

Although people who are fully vaccinated may still get infected with the virus, these breakthrough infections tend to be mild or asymptomatic. The vaccines authorized in the United States provide strong protection against the worst outcomes, including severe disease, hospitalization and death, including from the Delta variant.

The new testing recommendation came on the same day that the agency recommended that fully vaccinated people return to wearing masks indoors under some circumstances. When levels of community transmission are high, everyone, regardless of vaccination status, should wear masks indoors when they are in public, the agency now says.

The agency also recommended that vaccinated people in close contact with unvaccinated people, including children under age 12, consider wearing masks in public indoor spaces whatever the transmission rates in the local community. In a shift, the agency also recommended universal masking in schools.

For months, the C.D.C. had resisted recommending masks for vaccinated people, even as the highly contagious Delta variant spread and the World Health Organization recommended continued mask wearing.

The change was prompted by new data suggesting that even vaccinated people who are infected by Delta may carry large amounts of the virus and transmit it to others, Dr. Walensky said at a news briefing on Tuesday.

Apoorva Mandavilli contributed reporting.

Covid-19 vaccinations being offered Tuesday at the Rose E. McCoy Auditorium on the Jackson State University campus in Jackson, Miss. The state is seeing a steep rise in cases and deaths.
Credit…Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

Mississippi’s top state health officials warned on Wednesday of an “astounding” rise in Covid-19 cases that threatens to overwhelm some hospitals’ intensive care units. They ordered hospitals to forgo some elective surgeries and to adhere to a plan to transfer patients to other facilities with available beds when necessary.

The number of Covid-19 infections in the past two weeks was well over double the number recorded for the first half of July, the officials said at a news conference. Deaths rose by 51 percent over the same period and now average between three and four a day, according to the statistics presented.

Statewide, the statistics showed, more than 300 Covid-19 patients were in intensive care or on a ventilator, compared with a few dozen at the start of the month. Where intensive care units are full, some patients are being treated in emergency rooms, the officials said.

Rampant misinformation about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines is undercutting the state’s efforts, said Dr. Thomas Dobbs, the state health officer.

“We’re going to make the vaccine available, but you know, there’s a mountain of opposition to us from some folks,” he said. “We have gotten ourselves into this mess together, and we need to get ourselves out together.”

While the national outlook is also worsening quickly, Mississippi is one of a handful of states where the rate of infections is skyrocketing. Fewer than one half of adults have received at least one shot, putting the state at the bottom of the nation’s vaccination rate ranks and rendering much of its population vulnerable to the highly contagious Delta variant.

Dr. Dobbs said the flood of Covid-19 patients means hospitals in the state must forgo elective surgeries that require overnight stays and must be prepared to fly Covid-19 patients to other facilities if beds run short. He said that many health professionals are “absolutely worn out” from previous surges and that some hospital nurses are quitting — a trend that could make it harder to handle the ongoing spike.

Dr. Paul Byers, the state epidemiologist, called the rise in the number of daily infections “astounding.” He cited 72 long-term-care facilities where unvaccinated staffers have been largely spreading the virus, but he also mentioned settings like summer schools and cheerleading camps.

He said he expects cases to continue to escalate in the coming weeks. Asked to identify where in the state outbreaks are most severe, he said: “We are covered up with outbreaks.”

The bad news for baseball fans, posted outside the ballpark in Philadelphia on Wednesday. The Phillies-Nationals game was postponed by a Covid-19 outbreak.
Credit…Laurence Kesterson/Associated Press

The Washington Nationals postponed their Wednesday night game against the Philadelphia Phillies after a dozen players and staff members tested positive for coronavirus.

In a statement, the Nationals said the game was postponed to “allow for continued testing and contact tracing involving members of the National organizations.”

The wave of infections came after a Nationals shortstop, Trea Turner, left during the first inning of Tuesday night’s game against the Phillies after testing positive for the virus.

Dave Martinez, manager of the Nationals, told reporters that four players, including Turner, and eight staff members were among the positive cases, ESPN reported.

Mr. Martinez also told reporters he believed that one of the dozen cases was a person who is unvaccinated, according to ESPN.

The Nationals are among many M.L.B. teams that have been able to loosen safety protocols after reaching the 85 percent vaccination threshold set by the league. Players and coaches on these teams do not have to wear masks in the dugout or bullpen during games, can work out without masks in weight rooms and are subject to less frequent testing for the virus.

The Nationals had a previous outbreak at the beginning of the season when their series against the Mets was postponed in April after four Nationals players and a staff member tested positive for the virus.

And after several Yankees players tested positive for the virus, that team had to postpone its July 15 game against the Red Sox.

The Nationals and Phillies are set to make up the Wednesday game as part of a doubleheader on Thursday.

A medical worker administered a shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to Fulvio Fraschini at a cultural center on the outskirts of Milan, Italy, on Wednesday.
Credit…Antonio Calanni/Associated Press

The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday agreed to allow Johnson & Johnson to extend the shelf life of its coronavirus vaccine to six months.

The F.D.A.’s decision came as state health officials were growing increasingly concerned about whether doses of the vaccine would expire and go to waste. The vaccines were previously set to expire after four and a half months.

In a letter, the F.D.A. said its decision was “applicable to batches that might have expired prior to the issuance of this concurrence letter” and had been stored at the proper temperature, between 2 to 8 degrees Celsius, or 35.6 and 46.4 Fahrenheit.

The single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine can be stored at normal refrigeration, which has helped states reach more isolated communities where it may be difficult to manage a two-dose vaccine like those made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. Both of those must be stored at much lower temperatures.

As of Wednesday, more than 13 million Americans had received the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been the most widely administered in the United States, with more than 87 million Americans fully vaccinated with it. More than 63 million people in the United States have been fully vaccinated with the Moderna formula.

President Biden on Tuesday.
Credit…T.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York Times

President Biden will formally announce on Thursday that all civilian federal employees must be vaccinated against the coronavirus or be forced to submit to regular testing, social distancing, masking requirements and restrictions on most travel, two people familiar with the president’s plans said Wednesday.

White House officials said the administration is still reviewing the specific details of the policy, which the president is expected to announce in a speech from the White House. In a statement on Tuesday, Mr. Biden said his remarks will reveal “the next steps in our effort to get more Americans vaccinated.”

The president’s move is expected to be similar to an announcement on Wednesday by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York, who said that tens of thousands of state employees would be required to show proof of vaccination or submit to weekly testing. Mr. Cuomo also said that “patient-facing” health care workers at state-run hospitals would be required to be vaccinated as a condition of their employment. Two days earlier, New York City announced that all 300,000 municipal employees must be vaccinated or submit to weekly testing.

The federal plan will not force employees to get a shot unless they work directly with patients at hospitals run by the Veterans Affairs department. But public health officials are hoping that the prospect of extra burdens for the unvaccinated will help convince more people to get one.

Mr. Biden’s decision to embrace stricter vaccine rules for federal workers follow days of deliberations and reflect growing concern among top federal health officials about the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant, which poses a special threat to children, older Americans and those with weakened immune systems, including cancer patients. But that concern, officials said, must be balanced against the threat of a backlash that could drive opposition to vaccination. Recent research has shown that vaccines remain effective against the worst outcomes of Covid-19, including those involving the Delta variant.

Asked by a reporter on Tuesday whether he would require vaccinations for the nation’s nearly two million federal workers, Mr. Biden was blunt.

“That’s under consideration right now,” he said, adding, “But if you’re not vaccinated, you’re not nearly as smart as I thought you were.”

Mr. Biden did not provide details, but administration officials said the idea being debated was similar to the New York City mandate.

It was not clear if Mr. Biden was planning something similar for the military, although he does have the authority to do so. Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III has said he would not be comfortable with a mandate until the Food and Drug Administration had fully approved the vaccine.

The officials said that this was not a matter of simply firing federal employees who refused to be vaccinated, but that the government could add burdens or restrictions — like extensive testing or a ban on all but essential travel — for those who did not willingly get the protections. They said there was evidence that making life inconvenient for those who refuse the vaccine works reasonably well to increase inoculation rates.

The move underscores the need by Mr. Biden and his top health advisers to grapple with the limits of his legal authority when it comes to forcing Americans to be vaccinated. Aides say the president has no power to order all Americans to get a shot, nor can he require children to be vaccinated as a condition of attending school; that is a function reserved for state or local governments.

A student received a second dose of the Pfizer vaccine at the Family Life Academy Charter School Middle School in the Bronx on Tuesday.
Credit…James Estrin/The New York Times

Pfizer reported on Wednesday that the power of its two-dose Covid vaccine wanes slightly over time, but nonetheless offers lasting and robust protection against serious disease. The company suggested that a third shot could improve immunity, but whether boosters will be widely needed is far from settled, the subject of heated debate among scientists.

So far, federal health officials have said boosters for the general population are unnecessary. And experts questioned whether vaccinated people should get more doses when so many people have yet to be immunized at all.

“There’s not enough evidence right now to support that that is somehow the best use of resources,” said Natalie Dean, a biostatistician at Emory University in Atlanta.

Still, the findings raise questions about how much the Pfizer vaccine will prevent infection in the months to come. And with coronavirus cases surging again in many states, the data may influence the Biden administration’s deliberations about delivering boosters for older people.

If third shots are cleared for the general population, the boosters would likely represent a multi-billion-dollar business for Pfizer.

In a study posted online but not yet peer-reviewed or published in a scientific journal, Pfizer and BioNTech scientists reported that the vaccine had a sky-high efficacy rate of about 96 percent against symptomatic Covid-19 for the first two months following the second dose. But the figure declined by about 6 percent every two months after that, falling to 83.7 percent after about four to six months.

Against severe disease, however, the vaccine’s efficacy held steady at about 97 percent.

“It’s not a big drop, but it is noteworthy,” Dr. Dean said. “Overall, they find that the vaccine is still performing very well, at very high efficacy.”

The study period ended before the rise of the Delta variant, the highly contagious version of the virus that now dominates in the United States and makes vaccines somewhat less effective against infection.

The findings come from 42,000 volunteers in six countries who participated in a clinical trial that Pfizer and BioNTech began last July. Half of the volunteers got the vaccine, while the other half received a placebo. Both groups received two shots spaced three weeks apart.

The researchers compared the number of people in each group who developed symptoms of Covid-19, which was then confirmed by a P.C.R. virus test. When the companies announced their first batch of results, the vaccine showed an efficacy against symptomatic Covid-19 of 95 percent.

In other words, the risk of getting sick was reduced by 95 percent in the group that got the vaccine, compared with the group that got the placebo. That result — the first for any Covid-19 vaccine — brought an exhilarating dose of hope to the world in December when it was riding what had been the biggest wave of the pandemic.

Since then, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has made up the majority of shots that Americans have received, with more than 191 million doses given so far, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

In the new study, the researchers followed the volunteers for six months after vaccination, up to March 13. Over the entire period, the researchers estimated, the vaccine’s efficacy was 91.5 percent against symptomatic Covid-19. (The study did not measure the rate of asymptomatic virus infections.)

But within that period, efficacy did gradually drop. Between one week and two months after the second dose, the figure was 96.2 percent. In the period from two to four months following vaccination, efficacy fell to 90.1 percent. From four months after vaccination to the March cutoff, the figure was 83.7 percent.

Those figures still describe a remarkably effective vaccine, however, and may not convince critics that booster shots are widely needed.

Earlier on Wednesday, Pfizer reported that a third dose of its vaccine significantly increases blood levels of antibodies against several versions of the virus, including the Delta variant.

Results were similar for antibodies produced against the original virus and the Beta variant, which was first identified in South Africa. Pfizer and BioNTech expect to publish more definitive research in the coming weeks.

The announcement was a preliminary snapshot of data contained in an earnings statement. The finding has not been peer-reviewed nor published in a scientific journal. And although antibody levels are an important measure of immunity, they are not the only metric. The body has other defenses that turn back infection.

Pfizer also said in its statement that vaccines for children ages 5 through 11 years could be available as early as the end of September. The vaccine is already authorized in the United States for everyone ages 12 and up.

Pfizer’s vaccine brought in $7.8 billion in revenue in the last three months, the company said, and is on track to generate more than $33.5 billion this year.

The vaccine is poised to generate more sales in a single year than any previous medical product, and by a wide margin. The sales figures are poised to translate into billions of dollars in profit for the drugmaker.

Patrons in Grand Central Market in Los Angeles wore masks on Tuesday. California’s Department of Public Health recommended on Wednesday that people wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status.
Credit…Alex Welsh for The New York Times

The new guidance about mask-wearing that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued on Tuesday is not legally binding, leaving it up to state and local officials to decide whether and how to implement it. And that in turn depends greatly on local politics.

The C.D.C.’s recommendation that all adults in areas where the coronavirus is spreading rapidly go back to wearing masks indoors, even if they are fully vaccinated, was met with a sharp backlash in some areas, especially from political leaders in Republican-leaning states where mask mandates have been banned.

Officials in some states took the new guidance and swiftly ran with it. Others decided to take a wait-and-see approach.

In New Jersey, where eight of 21 counties meet the C.D.C.’s threshold, Gov. Philip D. Murphy, a Democrat, “strongly recommended” that all residents wear masks in indoor settings where the risk of spread may be high. In California, the public health department recommended residents wear masks in indoor public spaces, regardless of vaccination status. The moves came a day after the officials in Illinois joined the C.D.C. in recommending face coverings, and after Nevada issued a mask mandate.

Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, said that even though current vaccines are effective, including the highly contagious Delta variant, “we are still seeing the virus rapidly spread among the unvaccinated,” increasing the risk for everyone.

Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat of Nevada, went further, reinstating a mask mandate set to take effect on Friday for all residents in indoor public spaces in counties with high rates of transmission, including Clark County, home to Las Vegas.

In Washington State, Gov. Jay Inslee urged all residents on Wednesday to follow the C.D.C.’s new mask guidance, but did not issue a mandate. And in Kansas, Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, said she would let local officials decide whether to issue mask mandates, even though she supports the new guidance.

Other jurisdictions, including Delaware, the District of Columbia, and New York, were among the jurisdictions saying that said they would review the C.D.C.’s guidance before making any decisions. While all of New York City currently exceeds the coronavirus transmission threshold that the C.D.C. set to determine where indoor masking is needed, Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference on Wednesday that the city was still evaluating the guidance and the research and data that underpinned it.

And several Republican governors just said no, including Greg Abbott of Texas, Doug Ducey of Arizona, Pete Ricketts of Nebraska, Kim Reynolds of Iowa, and Brian Kemp of Georgia. Conservatives in those states have often cast public health measures as an attack on freedom.

“I’m concerned that this guidance will be used as a vehicle to mandate masks in states and schools across the country, something I do not support,” Ms. Reynolds said in a statement.

Mr. Abbott, who signed an executive order in May preventing local governments from requiring masks, said that wearing a face covering was a matter of personal responsibility.

“Every Texan has the right to choose whether they will wear a mask or have their children wear masks,” Mr. Abbott wrote in a tweet.

Meanwhile, Apple said it will start requiring employees and customers to wear masks regardless of their vaccination status in certain stores across the country in accordance with the new C.D.C. guidelines.

C.D.C. officials also called on Tuesday for universal masking for teachers, staff, students and visitors in schools, regardless of vaccination status and transmission rates of the virus. Some school districts in Alabama and Georgia did not wait for state governments to weigh in, and immediately instituted their own mask requirements. Mr. Inslee of Washington said his state would retain its school mask mandate for students and staff.

In Florida, where new case reports have surged nearly tenfold over the last month to an average of more than 10,000 a day, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, a Republican, issued a statement encouraging parents in his state to decide what’s best for their children when it comes to masking.

The governor did not address the new guidance about vaccinated adults at a news conference in Milton, Fla., on Wednesday. Florida never had a statewide mask mandate.

Mayor Daniella Levine Cava of Miami-Dade County, Fla., said at a news conference on Wednesday that masks would be required for employees and visitors at all indoor county facilities.

“I have pledged from the beginning that if we see a spike in the positivity rates that we would take all the necessary steps to protect the community, including making updated recommendations,” she said.

Other jurisdictions, like Los Angeles County and St. Louis County, Mo., had reinstated mask mandates even before the C.D.C.’s announcement.

But in a sign of the political challenges some local officials face, the St. Louis County Council voted on Tuesday evening to repeal the order. The move came a day after Attorney General Eric Schmitt of Missouri, a Republican, filed a lawsuit seeking to halt implementation of the county mandate, which is still in effect in the city of St. Louis.

On Wednesday, Mr. Schmitt wrote on Twitter that he plans to sue Kansas City, Mo., as well, following an announcement by Mayor Quinton Lucas that he would reimpose a mask mandate.

The Biden administration asked White House staffers on Tuesday to wear masks indoors, and the Office of Management and Budget detailed new mask rules for federal agencies. In an email obtained by The New York Times, the agency said, “In areas of substantial or high community transmission, agencies must require all federal employees, on-site contractors, and visitors, regardless of vaccination status, to wear a mask inside of federal buildings.”

Alan Rappeport and Michael Gold contributed reporting.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York announced a vaccine or testing mandate for all public employees on Wednesday.
Credit…Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

Responding to lagging vaccination rates and a rise in coronavirus cases, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Wednesday that New York’s tens of thousands of state employees would be required to show proof of vaccination or face weekly testing.

The governor also announced a much stricter mandate for state-run hospitals, saying that all “patient-facing” health care workers at those facilities would be required to be vaccinated, without the option of regular testing instead.

Mr. Cuomo’s announcement comes two days after Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a similar requirement for New York City’s government work force of 300,000 employees.

Much of the nation is grappling with the rapid spread of the Delta coronavirus variant. Earlier this week, Gov. Gavin Newsom of California announced his own requirement that would cover 246,000 state government employees, as well as two million health care workers in the public and private sectors.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services will require all workers and volunteers at state-operated facilities to be fully vaccinated or receive an approved medical or religious exemption by Sept. 30, according to a statement sent to The New York Times on Wednesday. Officials did not respond to questions about whether those with exemptions will be required to undergo testing.

President Biden plans to formally announce on Thursday that all civilian federal employees must be vaccinated against the coronavirus or be forced to submit to regular testing, social distancing, mask requirements and restrictions on most travel, two people familiar with the president’s plans said Wednesday. Such a policy would be a stark shift for a president who has grappled with the authority he has to force Americans to get vaccinated. Mr. Biden is expected to say more about his plans later this week.

The increasing support among government officials for vaccine mandates, which have met with pushback from some unions, underscores their concern with a far more contagious variant that poses a special threat to children, and older and unvaccinated people.

“We’re working with our unions to implement this quickly and fairly,” Mr. Cuomo, a third-term Democrat, said during remarks to a state business group on Wednesday.

The new state policy will go into effect by Labor Day, he said.

Earlier this week, Mr. Cuomo had shied away from imposing such a requirement on the state’s work force, arguing that most “public-facing” employees were municipal workers, and suggesting it was more of a decision for localities.

But Mr. Cuomo’s shift in stance appeared inevitable following Mr. de Blasio’s announcement and news that a similar move was under consideration at the federal level.

Mr. Cuomo highlighted the urgency behind the change, noting the steady rise in coronavirus cases statewide: About 2,200 new cases were reported on Tuesday, up from 275 on a month ago, on June 28.

Currently, most New York State employees are not subject to regular testing, except for those working in some congregate settings like colleges and universities.

For example, staff and faculty members at the State University of New York and the City University of New York are required to get tested for the coronavirus weekly unless they are fully vaccinated, a policy similar to the one Mr. de Blasio announced this week.

The public universities will require proof of vaccination from students attending in-person classes once the Food and Drug Administration fully approves the vaccines, although that could be months away. The vaccines are now being administered under an emergency use authorization.

Dan Levin contributed reporting.

Most people wore masks at Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan on Tuesday.
Credit…Brittainy Newman for The New York Times

All of New York City currently exceeds the threshold for coronavirus transmission outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday in its guidance recommending that vaccinated people resume wearing masks in public indoor spaces in areas where the virus is raging.

Agency officials said that Americans should wear masks indoors in parts of the country that have recorded more than 50 new infections per 100,000 residents over the previous week, or where more than 8 percent of tests are positive for infection over that period.

All five counties in New York City fall under those parameters. Staten Island, which has again become a virus hot spot and has some of the lowest vaccination rates in the city, recorded 109 cases per 100,000 residents last week, according to the C.D.C. In Brooklyn and Manhattan, 78.1 and 70.4 cases were recorded, respectively, while the Bronx (58.6) and Queens (56.4) are both closer to the 50-case benchmark set by the C.D.C.

The agency’s recommendations are not binding, and on Wednesday, it remained unclear whether New York City would alter its mask requirements to reflect the new guidelines.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference that the city was still evaluating the guidance and the research and data that underpinned it.

“We got it less than 24 hours ago, and it is complicated information,” Mr. de Blasio said. “So our health team is reviewing and we’ll have more to say on it in the next few days.”

As they weighed the C.D.C.’s suggestions, city health officials continued to urge residents to get vaccinated. Starting Friday, the city will give $100 to residents who get their first dose of a vaccine at city-run vaccination sites.

Mr. de Blasio has in recent days emphasized the need for vaccine mandates as the pace of inoculations has slowed in the city. But on Wednesday, he said that the city still believed incentives could work hand-in-hand with more forceful vaccine guidance.

“There are a huge number of New Yorkers open to vaccination but just haven’t quite gotten there,” he said. “I think when someone says here’s $100 for you, that’s going to make a big impact.”

Officials at the C.D.C. also called for universal masking in schools, a policy that New York City’s public school system, the nation’s largest, had already said it would keep in place.

Currently, vaccinated individuals are largely not required to wear masks in New York State, though they are required on the city’s buses, subways and trains.

Google’s campus in Mountain View, Calif. The company will delay its return to office and mandate vaccines for its workers.
Credit…Christie Hemm Klok for The New York Times

Google said Wednesday that it would require employees who returned to the company’s offices to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. It also said it would push back its official return-to-office date to mid-October from September, joining a host of other companies whose plans have been scrambled in recent days by the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant.

Sundar Pichai, the chief executive of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, announced the news in a note to employees, which was reviewed by The New York Times.

“Getting vaccinated is one of the most important ways to keep ourselves and our communities healthy in the months ahead,” Mr. Pichai wrote. He added that the vaccine mandate would apply to U.S. office locations “in the coming weeks” and to other regions “in the coming months.”

Google has more than 144,000 employees globally. A Google spokeswoman said the company did not have any current vaccination rates to share, though Mr. Pichai wrote that it was “encouraging to see very high vaccination rates” among employees in places where vaccines were widely available.

Mr. Pichai also said in the note that Google’s voluntary work-from-home policy was being extended through Oct. 18. Previously, employees had been planning to return in September, though no specific date had been set.

“We recognize that many Googlers are seeing spikes in their communities caused by the Delta variant and are concerned about returning to the office,” Mr. Pichai wrote. “This extension will allow us time to ramp back into work while providing flexibility for those who need it.”

The decision followed a similar announcement from Apple, which said last week that it would push back to October, from September, the date by which employees would need to return to its offices.

The companies are among many in tech that are changing their office plans as coronavirus cases spike. Lyft said on Wednesday that it would not require employees to return to the office until February, while Twitter said it would close its newly reopened offices in San Francisco and New York and indefinitely postpone other reopening plans.

Some Google employees have been returning to work in the office on a voluntary basis. In California, as the Delta variant of the coronavirus has surged, workers began donning masks in Google offices again.

Silicon Valley tech companies like Google led the push to remote work in the beginning of the pandemic, but Google has not fully pivoted away from office work, and it has said it expects most employees to eventually return to in-person work at least three days a week.

The company said in March that it would spend $1 billion on California developments this year, including two office complexes in Mountain View. It is also building a 7.3 million-square-foot office space in San Jose.

A child receiving a yellow fever vaccine in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in 2018. Routine  childhood vaccinations have dropped off in Latin America since the pandemic began.
Credit…Andre Penner/Associated Press

The coronavirus pandemic is opening the way for other preventable diseases to surge across Latin America and the Caribbean, interfering with routine inoculations and medical treatment in one of the world’s hardest-hit regions, World Health Organization officials warned on Wednesday.

There has been a sharp decline in measles vaccinations throughout the region, and a recent survey found that the pandemic has slowed efforts to diagnose and treat viral hepatitis B and C infections throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.

“More than 300,000 children, mostly in Brazil and Mexico, missed out on their routine immunizations last year, leaving them vulnerable to deadly yet preventable infections,” said Dr. Carissa Etienne, the director of the Pan American Health Organization, a part of the W.H.O.

“If we do not reverse these trends we risk an avalanche of worsening health issues in the Americas,” she added. “Soon, Covid-19 will not be the only health crisis demanding countries’ attention.”

Though overall caseloads have declined in the region since the spring, Covid-19 continues to take a devastating toll, and several Latin American nations, including Argentina, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador and Paraguay are “among the countries reporting the world’s highest weekly death rates,” Dr. Etienne said at a weekly briefing. She warned that “too many places have relaxed the public health and safety measures that have proven so effective against this virus.”

Officials voiced particular concern about Cuba, which is reporting its highest rates of new cases and deaths since the pandemic began. Hot spots have also been detected in parts of Argentina, Colombia and Mexico, and new cases have risen sharply in the United States.

Though vaccines have been plentiful in the United States, Canada, Chile, Uruguay and a few other countries in the Americas, they have been scarce elsewhere. Only one-sixth of the population of Latin America and the Caribbean has been fully vaccinated.

One of the most extreme examples is Haiti, which was only recently able to begin its vaccination campaign after a donation of shots from the United States.

Travelers at Heathrow airport in London last month.
Credit…Andy Rain/EPA, via Shutterstock

Fully vaccinated travelers from the United States and most of the European Union will be allowed to enter England and Scotland without quarantining upon arrival starting Aug. 2, the British authorities said on Wednesday, as they sought to attract tourists after months of restrictions.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Wednesday that he wanted Americans to travel to England “freely.” The Scottish government quickly followed London’s lead. Last week, the British government relaxed all but a handful of restrictions in England despite a major surge in infections. Cases have since declined, surprising experts and government officials who had expected them to keep rising.

On Twitter, Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, wrote, “We’re helping reunite people living in the U.S. and European countries with their family and friends in U.K.”

As of Aug. 2, the rules will apply equally to travelers from the United States and most of the European Union, as well as Iceland, Norway and Switzerland if they have been vaccinated with shots authorized by either American or European drug regulators, Mr. Shapps said. The exception is travelers from France, who will still have to self-isolate for 10 days. He said travelers will need a negative coronavirus test before a trip and another upon arrival.

The government has been criticized for discriminating between travelers who were vaccinated in Britain and those inoculated elsewhere, without any medical justification. Vaccinated people arriving in England from most “amber list” countries, those with moderately high transmission, have been required to self-isolate — unless they received their shots in Britain.

Most European countries have opened to American tourists after the European Union recommended lifting a ban on nonessential travel last month. Yet E.U. and British residents are still mostly banned from traveling to the United States unless they are U.S. citizens.

The Biden administration said on Monday that it would continue to restrict the entry of Europeans and others into the United States, citing concerns that infected travelers may contribute to a further spread of the very contagious Delta variant. The State Department is advising American travelers not to go to Britain, Spain or Portugal, and to reconsider travel to other parts of Western Europe.

Few experts are willing to draw definitive conclusions from the overall decline in cases in Britain over the past week, which could reflect transient factors like the school summer break, the end of the European soccer championships or fewer tests being administered.

But if the trend is sustained, it raises a tantalizing prospect that Mr. Johnson may have bet correctly that the country could withstand a return to normalcy, even with the Delta variant circulating widely.

Mark Landler contributed reporting.

Maureen McKinney’s husband was one of fifteen residents who died from a coronavirus outbreak at the Prestige Post-Acute and Rehab Center in Ellensburg, Wash.
Credit…Chona Kasinger for The New York Times

As the Delta variant raises fresh concerns about the safety of the nation’s nursing homes, the Biden administration has quietly reversed a Trump administration policy that limited the fines levied on facilities that endangered or injured residents.

Deaths in nursing homes account for nearly one-third of the U.S. pandemic’s overall death toll. They peaked at the end of last year, but have plummeted since the introduction of the Covid-19 vaccines.

Even so, advocates and some officials say, inadequate staffing, shortages of protective equipment and poor infection control remain concerns at the nation’s 14,000 skilled nursing facilities.

While 81 percent of nursing home residents are now fully vaccinated, only 58 percent of workers in the homes are immunized, according to federal data, heightening the risk of outbreaks even among vaccinated residents.

There are signs of a creeping rise in infections in nursing homes, particularly among workers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating the source of outbreaks in Colorado nursing homes where vaccination rates may be low.

The policy favoring lower penalties, adopted in 2017 by the Trump administration, directed regulators at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to shift away from fining a nursing home for each day it is out of compliance with federal standards. The relaxed policy reduced many penalties to a single fine, effectively lowering the penalties to a maximum of $22,000, instead of amounts running into hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Many of the nursing homes that are cited for poor infection controls, failing to protect residents from avoidable accidents, neglect, mistreatment and bedsores, are repeat offenders. Larger fines act as a deterrent and are more likely to signal strong enforcement of the rules, according to Toby Edelman, a senior policy attorney at the Center for Medicare Advocacy.

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Ecobank Group and AUDA-NEPAD MSME Academy graduate 200 in Financing Programme

Accra, July 28, GNA – The leading pan-African banking group, Ecobank Group, and the African Union Development Agency New Partnership for Africa’s Development (AUDA-NEPAD), has held a virtual graduation ceremony for more than 200 alumni of the inaugural Ecobank’s MSME Training for Financing Programme.

The Graduates came from the eight (8) countries in the pilot phase of the MSME Academy namely, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda and Togo.

The MSME Academy, launched by the Ecobank Group and AUDA-NEPAD in 2020, amid the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic is part of AUDA-NEPAD’s transformational ‘100 000 MSMEs’ initiative, a continental response to COVID-19.

The Academy provides entrepreneurs, owners and managers of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) with coaching, mentoring and business skills training courses.

Ade Ayeyemi, CEO, Ecobank Group, who attended the ceremony, said: “We had no hesitation in supporting AUDA-NEPAD’s ‘100,000 MSMEs’ initiative. The framework we designed collectively hinges on three critical pillars needed for MSMEs to build resilience in such unprecedented times, being access to capabilities, access to finance and access to markets.

The graduation ceremony is another milestone achieved in our journey and commitment to supporting MSMEs and helping them to grow into tomorrow’s larger businesses. My very hearty congratulations to the MSME Training for Financing class of 2021. This is the beginning of wholesome success for your businesses and Ecobank is here to support you in evolving into a major business owner on our continent”.

Dr Ibrahim Mayaki, CEO AUDA-NEPAD, said the graduation was being held at an opportune time, after the first anniversary of the 100,000 MSMEs Initiative.

“The Ceremony builds on other important milestones achieved so far, including the launch of the Initiative in 13 Member States, reaching out to more than three million participants, mostly micro-entrepreneurs, who learned about the potential the MSME Academy platform offers.

He commended Ecobank for its commitment to the success of this programme.

About 3000 MSMEs applied to the MSME training for the Ecobank Financing programme, out of which 850 were short-listed in the 8 pilot countries. The six-week-long programme covered four modules and 15 training sessions per country – in total – 120 sessions were delivered in all 8 countries.

In the third quarter of 2021, Ecobank will deliver a unique sandwich programme for the remaining over 2,000 SMEs who registered but were not shortlisted in the just ended training programme.

The objective is to ensure that no MSME who expressed the desire to be part of this learning experience is left behind.

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Battle for topmost army post escalates ahead of 2023 polls 

Source: Battle for topmost army post escalates ahead of 2023 polls – NewsHawks

THE battle for the topmost position of Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) commander is intensifying following the recent death of Lieutenant-General Edzai Chimonyo, as Major-General David Sigauke, currently Chief-of-Staff (General Staff) in the army, emerges as the favourite for President Emmerson Mnangagwa in front of retired Lieutenant-General Engelbert Rugeje — Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga’s political ally — ahead of the 2023 elections.


Military sources say even though Sigauke is not well, Mnangagwa wants him ahead of Rujege. Politics looks certain to trump professional military considerations in the process in this case.

Zimbabwe’s past critical elections were always manipulated by the military, interfering with the process behind the scenes or directly with boots on the ground to bring force to bear on the outcome.

So whoever becomes the ZNA commander will have a serious impact on Zimbabwe’s politics and the 2023 elections outcome — essentially on the power matrix.

Military sources told The NewsHawks — the country’s leading investigative journalism network – that whereas Rugeje is the overwhelming favourite for Chiwenga to take over as ZNA commander, Sigauke is the first choice for Mnangagwa.

“Given that this is a critical position in both military and political strategic terms in the Zimbabwean context, two names stand out among others: Rugeje who is supposed to take over all things being equal given his qualifications and experience, and Sigauke, the well-positioned President’s man,” a military source said.

“Politics aside, Rugeje is supposed to be the next ZNA commander, but Mnangagwa doesn’t like him because he is Chiwenga’s political ally. Mnangagwa prefers Sigauke — and well Sigauke is most likely to take over – in fact he will take over barring eleventh hour changes. It’s already decided. If the late Major-General Trust Mugoba was alive; remember he died while on an African Union mission, he would as their peer take over.”

Given their ongoing political brinkmanship, Mnangagwa and Chiwenga are on a renewed collision course over the appointment, with Rugeje — who played a critical role in Mnangagwa’s coup ascendancy in November 2017 — at the centre of the row and the attendant power struggle.

Military sources said some of those well-positioned to occupy the ZNA top post which fell vacant following the death of Chimonyo on 8 July if things were professionally managed, include Major-Generals Paul Chima and Hlanganani Dube.

“Chima and Dube should have had a chance, but you know these Zimbabwean things when it comes to power and positions of influence, they are always mostly unprofessional and ugly,” a military source said.

“Chima will be excluded on subtly ethnic and xenophobic grounds; Dube won’t make it on ethnic considerations, but also because he is former Zpra. Already, the Air Force of Zimbabwe and Zimbabwe Defence Forces commanders, Elson Moyo and Philip Valerio Sibanda respectively, are Zipra, but ethnically they are actually the President’s tribesmen. This distortion serves Mnangagwa’s political and ethnic designs, but I don’t think we should still have that sort of thing in this country. But then again, partly because of that the new ZNA commander will be Zanla. The bigger picture is power retention and consolidation. These are the underlying currents — meritocracy is always sacrificed in the process — in our rotten body politic and state institutions, including the security forces, if you go deep down into the political gutter — it’s tragic, but real.”

The other candidates — unlikely as they are — include Major-General John Chris Mupande, a Chiwenga ally, retired Lieutenant-General Martin Chedondo, currently ambassador to China, and Major-General Thomas Moyo, Military Intelligence Directorate commander. His predecessor Major-General Mike Nicholas Sango, ambassador to Russia, has been mentioned.

After taking over in 2017, Mnangagwa purged the police, intelligence and army ranks in a sweeping move to clear and control the security forces. Soon after the coup in 2017, Mnangagwa removed six Brigadier-Generals, who became Major-Generals upon retirement, from active service.

These included Godfrey Chanakira, Thando Madzvamuse, Evaristo Dzihwema, Chanceller Diye, Gerald Gwinji and Sango.

Later, he purged Major-Generals Chedondo, Douglas Nyikayaramba, Anselem Sanyatwe and Air Vice-Marshal Shebba Shumbayaonda. The removed commanders were made ambassadors or sent home.

Military sources told The NewsHawks this week that the issue of the appointment of the next ZNA commander is looming large in the corridors of power amid resurgent infighting between the two leaders.

“This is a big issue because the President and his deputy have different political agendas on who should replace Chimonyo,” a military source said.

“The President took a bit of time searching among the serving and retired senior commanders for the most suitable candidate; Sigauke is his choice, while Chiwenga is dead set on ensuring Rugeje gets the job. Although it is the commander-in-chief who has the final say, the process is consultative, hence clashing designs and manoeuvres.

“The new commander is supposed to have been appointed by the time Zimbabwe commemorates Heroes and Defences Forces holidays on 9 August and 10 August respectively. It’s raising tensions between them because it is a critical appointment with implications for power dynamics and how the unresolved leadership issue between them will be settled.”

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Sudan warns again about Nile Dam hydropower plan

Sudan renewed its warning of the dangers posed by Ethiopia operating a giant hydropower dam on the Blue Nile river without a binding agreement, as it tries to mitigate the effects of the latest reservoir filling.

Without proper co-operation on its operation, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam could threaten the wellbeing of half of Sudan’s population, irrigation minister Yasser Abbas said on Wednesday, repeating his country’s refusal to rejoin talks on the project until international mediators were added.

That signals there is no end is in sight for the decade-long dispute that’s pitted downstream Egypt and Sudan against Ethiopia and raised the prospect of instability in the Horn of Africa.

“Ethiopia is trying to impose the reality on us and we reject that,” Abbas told reporters in the capital, Khartoum. Ethiopia insists talks through the African Union, which stalled earlier in 2021, are the only avenue.

Ethiopia said earlier in July it had completed the filling of the reservoir of the dam on the Nile’s main tributary for the second year in a row amid opposition in Sudan and Egypt. While Ethiopia says the GERD is vital to its economic development and energy production, Sudan — citing its experiences in 2020 — argues it could mean drought and flooding downstream if no agreement is forged.

While Ethiopia had informed Sudanese authorities it filled the dam with 13-billion cubic metres in 2021, Sudan’s calculations show it only accumulated 4.5-billion cubic metres, Abbas said.

Sudan has also taken precautionary measures to alleviate the impact, storing more water in the reservoir of the Roseires dam, about 90km downstream from the GERD.

Ethiopia’s water minister, Seleshi Bekele, didn’t respond to a request for comment on whether international mediators could be brought in to restart talks.

Bloomberg News. More stories like this are available on

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