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African Union Suspends South Sudan Over Annual Dues

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south sudan

By Adedapo Adesanya

The African Union (AU) has suspended South Sudan over failure to honour its financial obligations for the past three years, amounting to $9 million.

South Sudan will, however, remain a member of the Addis Ababa-based organization, but cannot participate in meetings until it clears its obligation.

In clarifying the extent of the suspension, Mr Hakim Edward, deputy Foreign Affairs spokesperson, said the country’s AU membership attained in July 2011 remained intact except that the country cannot participate in AU meetings.

“We would like to confirm to the public that South Sudan is one of the countries that have been sanctioned by the AU due to lack of yearly financial contributions,” Mr Edward said in a statement.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs would like to assure the public that it is coordinating with the ministry of finance to resolve the matter not only with the AU but with other regional bodies,” he added.

It was reported by local media that South Sudan has a lot of unpaid arrears to regional, international, and global bodies it subscribes to. It was also reported, the country was also yet to clear its arrears to the East African Community to which it owes about $24 million.

South Sudan, which seceded from Sudan on July 9, 2011, joined the African Union on July 27, 2011, becoming the 54th member.

In 2019, the AU’s Peace and Security Council voted to suspend neighbouring Sudan from all AU activities until a civilian government has been formed. The decision followed violent military action against pro-democracy activists who helped toppled the government of Mr Omar Al-Bashir.

The council made the announcement after a meeting in Addis Ababa of the member states of the pan-continental body. The country’s membership was restored after the ruling military council and opposition groups agreed to share power in a transition to democracy.

Adedapo Adesanya is a journalist, polymath, and connoisseur of everything art. When he is not writing, he has his nose buried in one of the many books or articles he has bookmarked or simply listening to good music with a bottle of beer or wine. He supports the greatest club in the world, Manchester United F.C.

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UK Flags Borno, Yobe, Others as Danger Zones

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United Kingdom UK Danger Zones

By Ashemriogwa Emmanuel

The United Kingdom (UK) has advised its citizens against travelling to some northern and middle belt states in Nigeria it described as danger zones as a result of the heightened kidnap cases and increased insecurity in those regions.

These states include Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Gombe, Kaduna, Katsina, Zamfara, Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Cross River.

In a travel advisory for its nationals released on Saturday, October 16, the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) announced to foreign nationals that there was a high threat of kidnap throughout Nigeria for ideological, financial or political reasons.

According to the advisory, “The groups have previously shown intent and capability to conduct kidnaps in Nigeria. Foreign nationals, including humanitarian workers, are likely targets for kidnap.

“Humanitarian hubs and workers have been targeted during attacks in the North East, including Monguno, Borno State on June 13, 2020.

“There’s a high threat of kidnap throughout Nigeria. Kidnaps can be motivated by criminality or terrorism and could be carried out for ideological, financial or political gain. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the risk of kidnap increases after dark.

“The security environment in the North East has deteriorated since 2018 and there is a heightened risk of kidnap. Kidnaps in the North East have included humanitarian and private-sector workers.

“There are also reports that Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa, ISWA, are continuing to actively plan to kidnap foreigners.

“In North-East Nigeria, extremist groups operate in some northern and middle belt states, including Bauchi, Gombe, Kano, Kogi, Kaduna, Niger and Adamawa states. If you’re working or travelling in these states then you should be aware of the risk of terrorist kidnapping.”

The information also disclosed the increased protests and demonstrations in the South East region of Nigeria Since August 9, 2021, warning that stay-at-home protests are likely during October in the South East region.

“There have been reports of violence during Stay at Home protests previously. You should monitor local media, avoid any demonstrations or large gatherings and follow any instructions from local police and security forces.

“There have been a number of attacks and targeted killings in the South-east and Southsouth regions of Nigeria, including in the states of Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Imo, Abia, Anambra, Delta, Edo and Ebonyi.

“Some of these attacks have been on isolated roads and in remote locations, but there is a chance that they could occur in metropolitan areas. There is also a heightened risk of indiscriminate attacks on police and security infrastructure, which may inadvertently affect bystanders,” it read.

The UK government then advised travellers to these regions to exercise caution if travelling in remote areas at night and follow local news outlets for further information.

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New US Travel Rules Excludes Foreigners Vaccinated with Russia’s Sputnik V

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Sputnik V

By Kester Kenn Klomegah

Local and foreign media have stepped up reports about rising COVID-19 infections in Russia. While the reports indicated high deaths in the country, the other highlighted new trends that are noticeably appearing there.

Interestingly, directors at the Russian tourism and travel agencies say that many Russians are lining up for vaccine tourism in Serbia, Bulgaria and Germany and a few other foreign countries.

These Russians aim at getting foreign vaccines including Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca.

Here are a few facts about Russian vaccines.

Russia’s Sputnik V was the first officially registered coronavirus vaccine on August 11, 2020. Russia is using four vaccines for mass vaccination for COVID-19. These are Sputnik V and Sputnik Light developed by the Russian Health Ministry’s Gamaleya Center.

EpiVacCorona developed by the Vector Center of the Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing (Rospotrebnadzor), and CoviVac developed by the Chumakov Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Clinical trials of the EpiVacCorona vaccine on teens aged from 15 to 17 might begin in the near future.

China has a 1.3 billion population and has given the two billionth vaccine by the end of August, the United States has 380 million and has vaccinated 60% of its population. In Europe, the vaccination rate is high at an appreciable level.

Overall, Russia with an estimated 146 million people has Europe’s highest death toll from the pandemic, nearly 210,000 people as of September 30, according to various authentic sources including the National Coronavirus Task Force.

More than 42 million Russians have received both components of a coronavirus vaccine, according to Russian Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova.

“The number of citizens who have received the first component of a vaccine has topped 44 million, and more than 37 million people have completed a full vaccination course,” Golikova said.

She gave an assurance back in July that once the population have been immunized with at least the first component of a two-shot vaccine, herd immunity to COVID-19, or at least an 80% vaccination rate, should be reached by November 1.

Even though Russia boasted of creating the world’s first coronavirus vaccines, vaccination is very low. Critics have principally blamed a botched vaccine rollout and mixed messages the authorities have been sending about the outbreak.

In addition, coronavirus antibody tests are popular in Russia and some observers suggest this contributes to the low vaccination numbers.

Western health experts say the antibody tests are unreliable either for diagnosing COVID-19 or assessing immunity to it. The antibodies that these tests look for can only serve as evidence of a past infection. Scientists say it’s still unclear what level of antibodies indicates that a person has protection from the virus and for how long.

Russia has registered Sputnik V in more than 150 foreign countries. The World Health Organization is yet to register this vaccine. For its registration, it must necessarily pass through approved procedures, so far Russia has ignored them, according to reports.

There have also been several debates after the World Health Organization paused its review process of the Sputnik V vaccine over concerns about its manufacturing process, and few other technical reasons. While some talked about politicizing the vaccine registration, others have faced facts of observing recognized international rules for certifying medical products as such vaccines.

During the first week of October, Russian Health Minister Mikhail Murashko has reiterated or repeated assertively that a certain package of documents was needed to continue the process for the approval of the Russian coronavirus vaccine Sputnik V by the World Health Organization. The final approval is expected towards the end of 2021.

Still, one of the problems with registration is unfair competition in the global market. For instance, Russian Minister of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov said in an interview with the Rossiya-24 television channel on October 5: “I think it is an element of competition. Until Pfizer covers a certain part of the market, it is pure economics.”

On the other side, Pyotr Ilyichev, Director for International Organization at the Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry, told Interfax News Agency, for instance, that World Health Organization has been playing politics around Russian vaccine especially when it is needed in most parts of the world.

“The world is facing an acute shortage of vaccines for the novel coronavirus infection. In certain regions, for instance in African countries, less than 2% of the population has been vaccinated. The Russian vaccine is in demand, and the UN stands ready to buy it,” he told Interfax.

“However, certification in the WHO is a complex, multi-step process, which was developed in the past in line with Western countries’ standards. It requires time and serious efforts from our producers. We hope that this process will be successfully finalized in the near future,” Ilyichev said.

Chairman of the State Duma’s Foreign Affairs Committee Leonid Slutsky has described as discriminatory a decision reported by foreign media that the United States, under its new consular rules, would deny entry for foreigners immunized with the Russian COVID-19 vaccine Sputnik V.

“Thus, the U.S. will blatantly embark on a path of ‘vaccine discrimination.’ There are absolutely no grounds for such decisions. The efficacy and safety of the Sputnik V vaccine have been confirmed not only by specialists but also by its use in practice,” Slutsky said on Telegram.

He cited an article in The Washington Post saying that from November the United States may begin denying entry to foreigners vaccinated with Sputnik V.

It means that if such additional border measures are adopted, foreigners seeking entry to the United States will have to be immunized with vaccines approved for use either by American authorities or the World Health Organization.

According to an article published in The Washington Post, for the first time since the pandemic began, the United States intends to loosen entry restrictions for foreigners vaccinated against COVID-19.

The new rules, which enter into force in November, will not apply to Russians vaccinated with Sputnik V and citizens of other countries using this Russian vaccine.

Under the new rules, foreigners will enter the United States only if they are immunized with vaccines approved for use by the United States Food and Drug Administration or the World Health Organization. Russia’s Sputnik V is yet to be approved by the World Health Organization and is not recognized by the United States.

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Airtel Money, Flutterwave to Explore East African Markets

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Airtel Money Flutterwave East African Markets

By Adedapo Adesanya

Airtel Money has announced a partnership with an African payments company, Flutterwave, to expand the former’s services to East African markets.

Through the partnership, businesses integrating Flutterwave in Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, Kenya and Rwanda will be able to receive payments from Airtel Money customers and make bulk payments into Airtel Money wallets, thanks to Airtel Money’s proprietary fintech platforms.

The new services will go live subject to regulatory approvals in the respective countries and reach Airtel Money’s 19.2 million customers in East Africa.

This is coming after a month after the fintech company announced a mobile money partnership with MTN Group to integrate Flutterwave in Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia to receive payments via MTN Mobile Money (MoMo).

According to the company in a statement, the partnership will positively increase mobile money usage and penetration in Africa and improve local economies and livelihoods, as well as create opportunities for individuals and businesses across the continent.

Speaking on the development, Airtel Mobile Commerce BV CEO, Mr Vimal Kumar Ambat commented: “Airtel Money is committed to bridging the digital divide and enhancing financial and digital inclusion for millions of businesses across sub-Saharan Africa. Our partnership with Flutterwave will help to empower even more customers through simple and accessible payments services, using the latest technologies, that support business innovation and boost local economies.”

On his part, Flutterwave founder and CEO, Mr Olugbenga Agboola, stated that, “Our business goal is to continue to support African businesses digitise their payments methods and introduce them to a world of opportunities that come with digitisation.

“We are excited to have partnered with Airtel Money to further advance local businesses payment methods which will allow them to increasingly provide more services to their customers, grow their customer base and revenue.”

The development of Mobile Money in Africa has been nothing but remarkable and commendable with approximately 144 mobile money providers operating in Africa, with M-Pesa having over 50 million users and MTN MoMo having over 48.9 million users.

Furthermore, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates show that Africa has more digital financial services users than any other region in the world, accounting for nearly half of the 700 million individual users globally.

COVID-19 has also triggered a widespread shift in the adoption of mobile money services, with the GSMA reporting a 12.7 per cent increase in the number of registered global mobile money accounts in 2020.

As the trend continues its upward spike, this partnership further responds to the growing dominance of cashless societies across the sub-Saharan region and the need to penetrate digital innovation deeper into communities across Africa.

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