By Adedapo Adesanya
The African Development Bank (AfDB) has approved $27.4 million in grants to support the African Union’s (AU) efforts to mobilize a continental response to curb the COVID-19 pandemic.
The approval comes after the gathering of the extended Bureau of the Union’s Conference of Heads of State and Government with Africa’s private sector in April, chaired by South Africa’s President, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa, who also serves as the chairperson of the AU.
At the meeting, the AfDB’s President, Mr Akinwumi Adesina, vowed strong support for the AU COVID-19 initiative.
Speaking on the approval, Mr Adesina said, “With this financing package, we are reaffirming our strong commitment to a coordinated African response within the face of COVID-19. Most significantly, we are sending a robust signal that collectively, the continent can address the pandemic in Africa, which is straining health systems and causing unprecedented socio-economic impacts on the continent.”
Majority of AfDB’s grant financing for this initiative, which stands at about $26.03 million, will help fortify the institutional capacity of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) to reply to public health emergencies across the continent, while the balance of $1.37 million, is going to be a contribution to the AU COVID-19 Response Fund.
The two grants, from the bank’s concessional window, which are the African Development Fund and the Transition Support Facility, will support the execution of Africa CDC’s COVID-19 Pandemic Preparedness and Response Plan through strengthening surveillance at various points of entry (air, sea, and land) in African countries; building sub-regional and national capacity for epidemiological surveillance, and ensuring to make available private protective apparatus for frontline workers set out in hotspots and testing materials.
The function also will make the possible collection of gender-disaggregated data and adequate staffing for Africa CDC’s emergency operations centre.
Before this time, in February 2020, only two reference laboratories in South Africa and Senegal could run tests for COVID-19 on the continent. The Africa CDC, working with governments, the WHO, and several other development partners and public health institutes, has increased this capacity to 44 countries. Despite this progress, Africa’s testing capacity remains at 600 per a million people compared to 50,000 in Europe.
Commenting, Mrs Wambui Gichuri, AfDB acting vice-chairman, agriculture and human development said, “Our response today and support to the African Union is timely and can play an important role in helping Africa look inward for solutions to create resilience to the present pandemic and future outbreaks.”
The finance support will accompany various national and sub-regional operations financed by the African Development Bank under its COVID-19 Rapid Response Facility to support African countries control and moderate the impacts of the pandemic.
African Union to Send Delegates to Russia, Ukraine
By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh
The African Union (AU) is planning to wade into the crisis between Russia and Ukraine with a view to finding a lasting solution and averting the looming food shortage that may hit the continent.
On February 24, 2022, Russia invaded its neighbour, Ukraine and this action has sent prices of food, especially cereals and fuel higher in the markets.
On May 18, the AU delegates were supposed to be in Moscow but the trip was aborted. However, the Chairman of the group and President of Senegal, Mr Macky Sall, confirmed at a joint news conference with visiting German Chancellor, Mr Olaf Scholz, that the visit will happen.
“As soon as it’s set, I will go to Moscow and also to Kyiv. We have also accepted to get together all the heads of state of the African Union who want to meet with President (Volodymyr) Zelensky of Ukraine, who had expressed the need to communicate with the African heads of state. That too will be done in the coming weeks,” he said.
The invasion of Ukraine by Russia has divided Africa. In early March, Senegal abstained from voting on a United Nations resolution – overwhelmingly adopted – that called on Russia to withdraw from Ukraine.
The AU, Regional Economic organizations have officially called for the adoption of diplomacy mechanisms and negotiations through which to end the seemly endless crisis between Russia and Ukraine.
Besides the official statements from the AU, Southern African Development Community (SADC ) and Economic Community of West African States, at least, half of the African countries from the continent voted to condemn Russia’s action in the neighbouring republic. According to reports, 17 African countries abstained from voting on the resolution at the United Nations.
Some policy experts say this Africans’ voting scenario at the UN opens a theme for a complete geopolitical study and analysis. There are so many interpretations and geopolitical implications though.
Nevertheless, the African Union, Regional Economic organizations and the African governments are still and distinctively, divided over the Russia-Ukraine crisis due to divergent views and worse, afraid of contradictions and confrontations posed by the crisis and its effects on future relations.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has also come under fierce criticism over the official stand on the Russia-Ukraine crisis.
Prior to the February 24 crisis, Russia indicated strong preparedness and high interest to broaden cooperation in trade and in the economic sectors in Africa. With an invariable commitment to strengthen and develop relations in a positive and constructive manner, and especially in these challenging circumstances, Moscow is still planning for the second Russia-African summit.
Gerrit Olivier, an Emeritus Professor at Pretoria University and former South African Ambassador in Russia and Kazakhstan, said South Africa, a member of BRICS and an economic powerhouse in Africa, abstained from voting against Russia. There have been many conflicting reports about South Africa’s position on the Russia-Ukraine crisis. For many, both inside and outside the country, this was a controversial decision resulting in a rare local public debate about foreign policy.
What followed was indeed a case study of expedient, if not downright ‘Walter Mitty’ diplomacy. First, President Cyril Ramaphosa rushed to telephone Putin, obviously to bask in the reflected glory and honour of speaking to the ‘great man’. Afterwards, he subserviently thanked “His Excellency President Vladimir Putin” for taking his call. At the same time, our ‘great negotiator’ refused official engagement with the local Ukrainian ambassador as well as with ambassadors of the European Union, our biggest trading partners, wrote Professor Gerrit Olivier.
As a direct result of the crisis, Europe has abandoned importing oil and gas from Russia. It has been looking for alternatives in Africa. Sall said Senegal would be ready to supply Europe with liquefied natural gas (LNG) as the continent seeks to wean itself off Russian energy sources. Along with neighbouring Mauritania, Senegal hopes to exploit gas and oil deposits found in the Atlantic in recent years.
Sall has estimated LNG production starting in December 2023 and reaching 10 million tonnes per year in 2030. The Senegalese leader said he had asked Germany to help Senegal develop future projects. Scholz said discussions should continue “in an intensive manner” because it was in our mutual interest to achieve progress.
In late February and early March, Mr Macky Sall, and the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Ms Moussa Faki Mahamat, issued official statements urging both Russia and Ukraine to employ diplomatic means to solve the crisis, and further said they were following closely the developments in the former Soviet republic of Ukraine.
Meanwhile, as a direct result of the “special military operation” launched on February 24, Russia has come under a raft of sanctions imposed by the United States and Canada, the European Union, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and a host of other countries.
100 million People Displaced in Nigeria, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Others—UNHCR
By Adedapo Adesanya
The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has disclosed that the Ukraine war and other conflicts have forced about 100 million people to flee to safety.
According to UNHCROpens in a new window report, the number of forcibly displaced people worldwide rose to 90 million by the end of 2021, propelled by new waves of violence or protracted conflict in countries including Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Myanmar, Nigeria, Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
So far in 2022, the war in Ukraine has displaced 8 million within the country this year and forced around 6 million to leave the nation.
Speaking on this, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Mr Filippo Grandi said, “One hundred million is a stark figure — sobering and alarming in equal measure. It’s a record that should never have been set.
“This must serve as a wake-up call to resolve and prevent destructive conflicts, end persecution, and address the underlying causes that force innocent people to flee their homes.”
By calculation, the 100 million people forcibly displaced worldwide represents one per cent of the global population and is equivalent to the 14th most populous country in the world.
The number includes refugees and asylum seekers as well as the 53.2 million people displaced inside their borders by conflict.
Speaking further, Mr Grandi added, “The international response to people fleeing war in Ukraine has been overwhelmingly positive.
“Compassion is alive, and we need a similar mobilization for all crises around the world. But ultimately, humanitarian aid is a palliative, not a cure.”
He then called for peace and stability to ensure that the number doesn’t grow any further in the coming years.
“To reverse this trend, the only answer is peace and stability so that innocent people are not forced to gamble between acute danger at home or precarious flight and exile.”
Last week, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) informed that a record 59.1 million people were displaced within their homelands last year, four million more than in 2020.
Conflict and violence triggered 14.4 million internal displacements in 2021, a nearly 50 per cent increase over the previous year.
Meanwhile, weather-related events such as floods, storms and cyclones resulted in some 23.7 million internal displacements in 2021, mainly in the Asia-Pacific region.
Russia Reaffirms Readiness to Support Mali
By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh
After withdrawing from the Joint Military Force of the G5-Sahel group which the United Nations described as “unfortunate” and “regrettable” middle of May, Malian Foreign Minister, Abdoulaye Diop, made a snapshot visit, for the second time under the new military administration to Moscow, intended to review various aspects of strategic partnership deals with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
“We paid special attention to the practical aspects of organizing deliveries from Russia of wheat, mineral fertilizers and petroleum products that are so much needed by the people of Mali today in conditions of illegitimate Western sanctions,” Lavrov said at a press conference after talks with Diop in Moscow.
The sound pace of military and military-technical contacts between the two countries was noted during the talks, according to Lavrov, and thanked his Malian counterpart for support for Russia’s resolutions at the latest session of the UN General Assembly. Lavrov made to explicit reference to the meeting of the UN Security Council the Western countries that consistently tried to “put their blame at Russia’s door” and to shirk responsibility for the food crisis.
“It goes without saying that we discussed the situation in Ukraine and around it, including the meeting of the UN Security Council devoted to world food security issues, where the Western countries tried to put their own blame at somebody else’s door. They argued that the crisis, which by and large is a result of their own efforts, allegedly stems from the crisis in Ukraine. Of course, they blamed it entirely on Russia,” Lavrov said.
Russia reaffirms its readiness to render Mali support in raising the fighting efficiency of its armed forces. “We reaffirmed Russia’s readiness as a permanent member of the UN Security Council to further contribute to normalizing the situation in Mali, render Bamako comprehensive support on a bilateral basis, in particular, in the sphere of raising the combat efficiency of the Malian armed forces, training troops and law-enforcement personnel,” Russia’s top diplomat said.
France’s decision together with Western allies to end the anti-insurgent Operation Barkhane and the European special forces mission Takuba does not contribute to restoring security in Mali and the entire Sahel region. Reports say France has approximately 5,100 troops in the region under Operation Barkhane, which spans five countries in the Sahel – Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.
With the final exit and the vacuum created by France, Russia now sees Mali as an excellent conduit to penetrate into the Sahel by pushing the much-criticized Wagner Group that organizes private military for countries in conflict. It is aggressively targeting the Sahel region, an elongated landlocked territory located between north Africa (Maghreb) and West Africa region, and also stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea.
“There is an obvious danger of the emergence of enclaves of power vacuum where militants of various outlawed armed gangs will feel free at hand and they have already prepared for such acts. This threatens the country’s territorial integrity and we repeatedly told our French counterparts about that,” Russia’s top diplomat said.
On March 2 at the United Nations General Assembly, African representatives and their votes were considered very interesting, and have geopolitical implications for study and analysis. Some 17 African countries abstained from the vote at the UN General Assembly to deplore the Russian invasion of Ukraine while some other 28 countries in the continent voted in favour. Mali was among those that abstained from vote. Eritrea was the only African country that voted against the resolution. It opposes all forms of unilateral sanction as illegal and counterproductive.
“All our initiatives were supported by Mali. We agreed to enhance coordination on the UN platform and in other international organizations. We are determined to work for this in earnest, including in the recently created Group of Friends in Defense of the Charter of the United Nations,” Lavrov assured.
During his first official visit in November 2021 to Moscow, Abdoulaye Diop and Sergei Lavrov, in fact, focused on increasing bilateral cooperation in economic sectors. But particularly significant was Russia’s military assistance to strengthen the position of the new military government and to fight rising terrorism in the Sahel region.
As developments explicitly show, Mali already stands in isolation there as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union, the United Nations, and the bilateral and multilateral partners endorse and support the implementation of sanctions and other strict measures to ensure a peaceful return to constitutional and democratic government in Mali.
Mali, a landlocked West African state with an impoverished population, faces increasing isolation from the international community over the political power grab. Even as the African Union (AU), the continental organization, and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the regional bloc, both suspended the membership of Mali following military coups in August 2020 and May 2021, the ruling military officials are still holding onto political power by delaying the proposed elections in February 2022.
The African Union, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and foreign organizations such as the European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN) have requested a quick transition to a civilian government. They further urged that efforts are taken to resolve outstanding issues relating to sustainable development and observing strictly principles of democracy in the Republic of Mali in West Africa.
Moscow is still planning to hold the second Russia-African summit. The “special military operation” approved by both the Federation Council and the State Duma (legislative chambers) to “demilitarize and denazify” the former Soviet republic of Ukraine has pushed the United States and Canada, European Union members and many other external countries to impose sanctions against Russia.
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