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COVID-19 Exposed Burden Women Bear as Caregivers—Mercy Jelimo

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Mercy Jelimo

By Kester Kenn Klomegah

For over two decades, the Centre for Rights Education and Awareness (CREAW) has been fighting for gender equality, empowerment of women and improvement of women’s rights in Kenya and broadly in East Africa.

Established in 1999, CREAW has used bold, innovative and holistic interventions for the realization of women’s rights. Most of its programs have focused on challenging practices that undermine equity, equality and constitutionalism, promoting women’s participation in decision making and deepening the ideology and philosophy of women’s empowerment.

In this interview, Mercy Jelimo, an Executive Program Officer at the Nairobi-based CREAW discusses the current situation about gender issues, landmarked achievements, existing challenges and the way forward. Here are the interview excerpts:

In your estimation and from your research, how is the situation with gender inequality, specifically in Kenya, and generally in East Africa?

This survey was commissioned by our partners Women Deliver and Focus 2030 with over 17,000 respondents covering 17 countries on six continents. The survey findings indicated that over 60% of respondents believed that gender equality had progressed. However, on average, 57% of respondents also felt that the fight for gender equality is not over particularly because we see key aspects of gender inequality persist including unequal distribution of unpaid care, domestic work and parental responsibilities between men and women (the COVID-19 pandemic has spotlighted the burden women bear as caregivers) different employment opportunities with religion and culture continuing to entrench discrimination against women.

Whereas in East Africa, the survey only covered Kenya, the results are shared across. In particular, the Kenyan respondents indicated that there has been notable progress in regards to gender equality particularly when it comes to the legal and policy frameworks to guard against discrimination on whichever basis be it sex, religion, class or race.

Over the last quarter-century, the country has promulgated a new Constitution and a raft of subsidiary legislations and policies that are critical to gender equality. Some of these laws include but not limited to: the Sexual Offences Act 2006, the Children’s Act 2001, the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act 2011, the Marriage Act 2014, the Protection Against Domestic Violence Act 2015, the Victim Protection Act 2014, the Witness Protection Act 2008, the National Policy for Prevention and Response to Gender-Based Violence 2014, the National Guidelines on the Management of Sexual Violence 2015, the Multi-sector Standard Operating Procedures for Prevention and Response to Gender-Based Violence, and the National Policy on the Eradication of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) 2019.

Kenya has also ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (the Maputo Protocol), the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, among other instruments.

However, even with this robust legal framework, accountability and the implementation of these laws have lagged behind.

The status of women and girls as compared to men and boys still remains unequal at all levels of society both public and private. This imbalance manifests itself as normalized negative social norms and ‘cultural’ practices with brutal violations against women and girls continuing to be perpetrated, women being excluded from leadership and decision making positions, limited in their political participation and women and girls being denied access to economic opportunities.

Undeniably, women and girls continue to be victims of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) including rape, domestic violence, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and child marriage.

In fact, as of March 2020, according to statistics from Kenya’s Gender Violence Recovery Centre (GVRC), 45% of women and girls between the ages of 15 and 49 have experienced either physical or sexual violence with women with girls accounting for 90% of gender-based violence (SGBV) cases reported.

Harmful practices such as FGM and child marriage are still prevalent, with the Kenya Demographic Health Survey (2014) reporting a national FGM prevalence rate of 21% for women and girls aged 15-49 years of age. The prevalence rate differs from one practising community to the other, with communities such as Somali (96%) Samburu (86%) and The Maasai (78%) having significantly higher prevalence.

Sadly, this is the story across all the other countries in East Africa where we have progressive legal and Policy framework but with zero accountability mechanisms.

It is worth noting that in 2018, the East Africa Community Council of Ministers approved the EAC Gender policy which is key to ensuring that gender equality and empowerment of women are not only integrated into every aspect of its work but provides an outline of key priority areas for partner states.

The EAC has also instituted other gender mainstreaming efforts including the EAC Social Development framework (2013), the EAC child policy (2016) the EAC Youth policy (2013), a Gender Mainstreaming Strategy for EAC Organs and Institutions, (2013) amongst others.

By the way, what are your research findings that you presented in a report on January 28? Are there any similarities and differences in gender studies in other East Africa countries?

The key findings from Kenya can generally be used to paint a picture of the situation in the EAC region. Apparent gender disparities in the region remain in a number of areas such as in political representation, access to education and training, access to quality and affordable healthcare, high unemployment rates of women, rampant sexual and gender-based violence, harmful cultural practices, inadequate financing for gender needs and programs.

Firstly, when asked about the status of gender equality, the majority of respondents identified gender equality as an important issue (96%) and that government should do more (invest) to promote gender equality.

Secondly, the role of religion and culture; how boys and girls are socialized and unequal representation were identified as obstacles to gender equality. This finding indicates the work that still remains to be done for gender equality actors in Kenya and other partner states in the EAC.

The most important step to achieving gender equality is dismantling systems and structures that promote and protect inequalities. whereas the country has made tremendous progress in having relevant legal and policy frameworks, there is still a lack of implementation of these laws – this finding answers the why question– because institutions, people and structures are still very patriarchal.

Furthermore, the lack of representation of women (also cited by Kenyan respondents as an obstacle) might explain the failures in the implementation of the laws and policies.

Thirdly, the respondents identified corruption as the most important issue facing the country. This finding is also supported by the 2019 Global Corruption Barometer – Africa survey that showed that more than half of citizens in the continent think graft is getting worse and that governments were doing very little to curb the vice.

The impact that corruption has on service delivery cannot be overemphasized especially on public goods such as healthcare, education, water and sanitation. More specifically, is the resulting lack of public financing to programs and interventions that address gender needs & promote gender equality.

A recent Corruption Perception Index (CPI) Report by Transparency International indicated that all the countries in East Africa with the exception of Rwanda scored below the global average rate of 43 out of 100.

More importantly, is that the report noted that countries that perform well on the CPI have strong enforcement of campaign finance regulations as this correlates with the dismal performance of women in politics who often than not do not have the requisite political funding to mount effective political campaigns and outcompete their male counterparts.

What would you say about discrimination or representation of women in politics in the region? Do you feel that women are not strongly encouraged in this political sphere?

There has been significant progress when it comes to women’s political representation and participation with a majority of the countries in the EAC region adopting constitutional quotas and other remedies to promote representation.

All the countries in the East Africa Community have achieved the 30% critical mass with the exception of Kenya (21%) and South Sudan (28%).

More women occupy ministerial portfolios that were perceived to be the preserve of men such as defence, foreign affairs, manufacturing, trade, public service and so forth. Not to miss that the leading country globally – Rwanda is from the region (63%).

However, most institutions including parliaments are still male-dominated and women in the region still face a number of challenges including violence against women in politics, religious and cultural beliefs and norms that limit women role, lack of support from political parties, lack of campaign financing and unregulated campaign financing environment with the progressive legal and policy frameworks yet to be fully implemented.

These challenges continue to limit the representation and participation of women in the public and political sphere. The region is yet to have a woman as a president just to illustrate the glass ceilings that remain.

Tell us about how women are perceived (public opinion) in society there? How is the state or government committed to change this situation, most probably by enacting policies?

“Don’t tell me what you value. Show me your budget and I‘ll tell you what you value” This quote by President Joe Biden aptly captures the state of affairs in the region in relation to gender equality. The countries in the region have continued to enact and reform legal and policy frameworks but have largely remained unimplemented; the primary reasons being lack of financial and accountability mechanisms to ensure that these programs and policies are actualized.

For us to reach the conclusion that governments are committed to promoting gender equality and women empowerment, we need to see a shift from lip service to prioritization and adequate resourcing of programs that advance gender equality.

What platforms are there for improving gender equality, for ending gender-based violence and for discussing forms of discrimination there? Do you suggest governments have to act now to accelerate issues and progress on gender equality in East Africa?

As Deliver for Good Campaign partners in Kenya together with other gender equality advocates, the Sustainable Development Goals and Africa Agenda 2063 provide important blueprints to developing our society economically, socially and politically.

The Deliver for Good campaign is evidence-based advocacy campaigns that call for better policies, programming and financial investments in girls and women. Most importantly, the Generation Equality Forum (GEF) is an important mobilization moment to ask governments and the private sector to accelerate progress not just in East Africa but globally.

Specifically, we will be using this moment to call on governments, not only make bigger and bolder commitments but also, to ensure that they match these commitments with financing and accountability mechanisms.

As the Deliver for Good campaign partners in Kenya, we have a particular interest in one of the GEF Action Coalitions – Gender-Based Violence – to leverage on the Kenyan government leadership and the political will to end traditional practices that are harmful to women and girls such as Female Genital Mutilation and Child Marriage. Particularly and in line with the survey findings, we will be calling for: increased accountability for physical and sexual crimes against women; increased investment in prevention and protection programs while calling for inclusive efforts and programs that leave no woman behind in Kenya and East Africa.

Kester Kenn Klomegah is a versatile researcher and a passionate contributor. Most of his well-resourced articles are reprinted elsewhere in a number of reputable foreign media

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Russia Needs Migrants to Realise Infrastructure Projects

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Russia

By Kester Kenn Klomegah

Despite various official efforts, including regular payment of maternal capital to stimulate birth rates and regulating migration policy to boost the population, Russia is reportedly experiencing decreasing population.

According to the Federal State Statistics Service, Russia’s population currently stands at approximately 144 million, down from 148.3 million.

Experts at the Higher School of Economics believe that regulating the legal status of migrants, the majority of them arriving from the Commonwealth of the Independent States or the former Soviet republics could be useful or resourceful for developing the economy, especially on various infrastructure projects planned for the country.

These huge human resources could be used in the vast agricultural fields to boost domestic agricultural production. On the contrary, the Federal Migration Service plans to deport all illegal migrants from Russia.

Within the long-term sustainable development program, Russia has multibillion-dollar plans to address its infrastructure deficit especially in the provinces, and undertake mega projects across its vast territory, and migrant labour could be useful here. The government can ensure that steady improvements are consistently made with the strategy of legalizing (regulating legal status) and redeploying the available foreign labour, the majority from the former Soviet republics rather than deporting back to their countries of origin.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin has been credited for transforming the city into a very neat and smart modern one, thanks partly to foreign labour – invaluable reliable asset – performing excellently in maintaining cleanliness and on the large-scale construction sites, and so also in various micro-regions on the edge or outskirts of Moscow.

With its accumulated experience, the Moscow City Hall has now started hosting the Smart Cities Moscow, an international forum dedicated to the development of smart cities and for discussing changes in development strategies, infrastructure challenges and adaptation of the urban environment to the realities of the new normal society.

Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Russia lacks a sufficient number of migrants to fulfil its ambitious development plans. He further acknowledged that the number of migrants in Russia has reduced significantly, and now their numbers are not sufficient to implement ambitious projects in the country.

“I can only speak about the real state of affairs, which suggests that, in fact, we have very few migrants remaining over the past year. Actually, we have a severe dearth of these migrants to implement our ambitious plans,” the Kremlin spokesman pointed out.

In particular, it concerns projects in the agricultural and construction sectors. “We need to build more than we are building now. It should be more tangible, and this requires working hands. There is certainly a shortage of migrants. Now there are few of them due to the pandemic,” Peskov said.

Early April, an official from the Russian Interior Ministry told TASS News Agency that the number of illegal migrants working in Russia decreased by 40% in 2020 if compared to the previous year. It also stated that 5.5 million foreign citizens were registered staying in Russia last year, while the average figure previously ranged between nine and 11 million.

On March 30, 2021, President Vladimir Putin chaired the tenth meeting of the Presidential Council for Interethnic Relations via videoconference, noted that tackling the tasks facing the country needs not only an effective economy but also competent management. For a huge multinational state such as Russia, it is fundamentally, and even crucially important, to ensure public solidarity and a feeling of involvement in life, and responsibility for its present and future.

At this moment, over 80 per cent of Russian citizens have a positive view on interethnic relations, and it is important in harmonizing interethnic relations in the country, Putin noted during the meeting and added “Russia has a unique and original heritage of its peoples.

“It is part of our commonwealth, it should be accessible to every resident of our country, every citizen, everyone who lives on this land. Of course, we will need to review the proposal to extend the terms for a temporary stay of minors of foreign citizens in the Russian Federation.”

President Vladimir Putin has already approved a list of instructions aimed at reforming the migration requirements and the institution of citizenship in Russia based on the proposals drafted by the working group for implementation of the State Migration Policy Concept of the Russian Federation for 2019-2025.

“Within the framework of the working group for implementation of the State Migration Policy Concept of the Russian Federation for 2019-2025, the Presidential Executive Office of the Russian Federation shall organize work aimed at reforming the migration requirements and the institution of citizenship of the Russian Federation,” an official statement posted to Kremlin website.

In addition, the president ordered the Government, the Interior and Foreign Ministries, the Federal Security Service (FSB), and the Justice Ministry alongside the Presidential Executive Office to make amendments to the plan of action for 2019-2021, aimed at implementing the State Migration Policy Concept of the Russian Federation for 2019-2025.

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Why Africa is a Priority for Russia’s Rosatom

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Ryan Collyer Rosatom

By Kester Kenn Klomegah

After the first Russia-Africa summit held in Sochi, authorities have been moving to build on this new chapter of Russia’s relations with African countries.

As set in the joint declaration, the two sides have outlined comprehensive goals and tasks for the further development of Russia-Africa cooperation in significant areas including science and technology.

Business interest in Africa is steadily increasing and Russian companies, among them Rosatom, are ready to work with African partners.

It is largely acknowledged that energy (construction and repair of power generation facilities as well as in peaceful nuclear energy and the use of renewable energy sources) is an important area of the economic cooperation between Russia and Africa.

Ryan Collyer is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Rosatom Sub-Saharan Africa, and his key responsibilities include overseeing, implementing and managing all Russian nuclear projects in the Sub-Sahara African region.

In this insightful and wide-ranging interview with Kester Kenn Klomegah in early April 2021, Ryan Collyer discusses efforts toward providing nuclear power, training of nuclear specialists, the main challenges and the future plans for Africa.

Here are the interview excerpts:

Even before the first Russia-Africa summit held in October 2019, several African countries have shown a keen interest in building nuclear power plants. What is the current situation (overview) moving from mere interest to realizing concrete results in Africa?

It is important to note that nuclear is not new to Africa and Africa is not new to nuclear. South Africa has successfully operated Safari 1 research reactor for over 55 years and Koeberg nuclear power plant for over three decades. At one point, South Africa was the second-largest exporter of the life-saving medical isotope, Molybdenum 99, in the world. There are also currently research reactors in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, and Ghana.

Another source is the cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency. Thanks to that, many countries like Benin, Ethiopia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, and others benefit from modern nuclear technologies applications in healthcare and agriculture. In Zambia, a cancer disease hospital received much-needed support, and now over 20,000 patients have been diagnosed and treated at the hospital. Benin’s soybean farmers could triple their income using the benefits of nuclear irradiation. In Tanzania, its island of Zanzibar became tsetse-free thanks to the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT).

Many other African countries are already working on joining the atomic club in one form or another, whether it be the construction of a Nuclear Power Plant or a research reactor or the development of nuclear infrastructure or the training of professional personnel. In this undertaking, Russia is a trusted partner for many. We have signed intergovernmental agreements in the peaceful use of atomic energy with Algeria (2014), Ghana (2015), Egypt (2015), Ethiopia (2019), the Republic of Congo (2019), Nigeria (2012, 2016), Rwanda (2018), South Africa (2004), Sudan (2017), Tunisia (2016), Uganda (2019) and Zambia (2016). Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) were signed with Kenya in 2016 and Morocco in 2017.

How would you estimate the potential nuclear energy requirements in Africa? How is that compared to other alternative power sources such as solar and hydro-power?

Today, 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa (one-out-of-two people) do not have access to electricity. Any significant change is not forthcoming, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). Estimations show that 530 million people (one-out-of-three people) will remain without electricity in 2030. As GDP growth and urbanization in Africa escalate, the power demand will increase exponentially. Today the electricity demand in Africa is 700 terawatt-hours (TWh), with the North African economies and South Africa accounting for over 70% of the total.

According to the IEA estimate scenarios, by 2040, the electricity demand will more than double in the Stated Policies Scenario to over 1600 TWh. It may reach 2300 TWh in the Africa Case Scenario. It is undeniable that Africa needs vast amounts of sustainable energy to transform societies, grow economies, and reduce the global carbon footprint.

No single source of electricity can provide these amounts and considerably lower greenhouse emissions. A healthy mix of several intermittent and baseload options can satisfy these criteria and allow for the economy and society’s prosperity. The top-5 performers in the Energy Trilemma Index by World Energy Council have a combination of both nuclear and renewable resources to balance all three dimensions: equity, security, and environmental sustainability, thus enabling their prosperity and competitiveness. For example, Switzerland has over 30% nuclear, Sweden roughly 40% nuclear, Finland – 18%, and France – over 70% nuclear.

Apart from energy poverty, nuclear can solve other continent problems, from low industrialization to advances in science, healthcare, and agriculture, thus propelling the continent towards the African Union’s Agenda 2063 Master plan, which envisions Africa’s transformation into the global powerhouse of the future. So, we are advocating a diverse energy mix that utilizes all available resources, including renewables and nuclear, to ensure climate resilience and environmental safety, social equity, and supply security.

Can you discuss concretely the planned nuclear projects in South Africa, Zambia and Egypt? Say why these have still not taken off as planned, the necessary agreements have been signed though?

Our plans for projects in Egypt and Zambia are proceeding at the pace acceptable for both parties. In Egypt, we plan to commission four power units with VVER-1200 type reactors with a capacity of 1200 MW each by 2028. We will also supply nuclear fuel throughout the entire NPP life cycle (60 years), provide training services, and carry out maintenance and repairs within ten years after each unit’s start. With our initial agreement signed in 2015, and necessary infrastructure still being put in place, the El Dabaa project is firmly underway.

Our project in Zambia, Center for Nuclear Science and Technology, is implemented in several stages, starting with a Multipurpose Irradiation Center. Once the Center is built, a training complex within it will contribute to building capacity in nuclear technology by providing opportunities for training students of different degrees from Bachelor to PhD and carrying out advanced experiments and research that provides a new level of practical competencies. With Zambia being new to nuclear, the installation of infrastructure is the key priority at the moment.

As for South Africa, we maintain a cordial working relationship with crucial nuclear industry bodies and are monitoring their ambitions to add 2500MW of new nuclear to the grid very closely, but we are not currently engaged in any active nuclear projects. The initial 9600MW nuclear new build program in South Africa was halted in 2017 as a result of internal procedural issues of the country. It is important to note that the 9600MW program did not make it past the Request for Information (RFI) stage, and Rosatom was only one of many vendors interested to bid for the project.  The program was then downsized to 2500MW and restarted in 2020 as the country grapples with power shortages due to an ageing coal-fired fleet.

To what extent, the use of nuclear power safe and secured for Africa? What technical precautions (measures) can you suggest for ensuring nuclear security?

A nuclear power program is a complex undertaking that requires meticulous planning, preparation, and investment in time, institutions, and human resources. The development of such a program does not happen overnight and can take several years to implement. All countries, which embark on the path towards the peaceful use of nuclear technologies, do so by adopting the IAEA Milestone Approach framework. This approach provides newcomer countries with well-structured guidance and a clear to-do list, which gives them a clear understanding of how to safely and effectively implement and manage their civil nuclear program. This approach includes necessary policy and legal framework, human capital development, installation of management and regulatory bodies, implementation of safeguards, and educating the public.

Since many of our partners are relatively new to the technology, we are able to provide full support to them on their path towards achieving their national nuclear energy programs, this at all of its stages of the project and in full accordance with IAEA regulations.

Do you also envisage transferring technology by training local specialists and how does this currently look like, how many specialists per year undergoing training in Russia?

The ultimate goal in our projects is to help our partners gain independence in terms of human capital. Still, it will need at least a decade of education and training of many young people and professionals.

As part of our commitment, we assist our partner countries with training local personnel via a government-sponsored bursary program by the Russian Ministry of Science and Higher Education. Since 2010, hundreds of students from Algeria, Ghana, Egypt, Zambia, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia, and South Africa have been receiving nuclear and related education at leading Russian educational institutions. Currently, over 1500 students from Sub-Saharan Africa study in Russia under bachelor, master and post-doc programs, 256 students are on nuclear and related programs.

Another aspect is short-term training for professionals – managers and specialists in nuclear. The topics of training range from nuclear energy, technology management and technical regulations to safety features of Russian designs in nuclear.

In your view, why many African countries opting for renewable energy? Is nuclear power affordable for Africa? With this trend, what is Rosatom’s plan for future cooperation with African countries?

Currently, renewables show the fastest-growing curve in meeting this demand with the solar potential of 10 TW, the hydro of 350 GW, the wind of 110 GW, and the geothermal energy sources of 15 GW. Many are easy to install and demand little in terms of investment.

However, the critical question regarding these sources is reliability. US Energy Department estimates show that nuclear power plants produce maximum power over 93% of the time during the year. That’s about 1.5 to 2 times more than natural gas and coal units and 2.5 to 3.5 times more reliable than wind and solar plants. To replace a nuclear power plant, one would need two coal or three to four renewable plants of the same size to generate the same amount of electricity onto the grid.

Another critical question is the cost. Most of the funds are needed during the construction period. Building a large-scale nuclear reactor takes thousands of workers, massive amounts of steel and concrete, thousands of components, and several systems to provide electricity, cooling, ventilation, information, control and communication. However, apart from a reliable source of electricity throughout several decades (from 40 to 60 years minimum), the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that the construction of new NPPs is competitive compared to other green energy sources like wind and solar. It is also worth noting such an economic advantage of nuclear power as the electricity cost’s stability and predictability.

Our experience shows substantial dividends for any country that joins the international nuclear community. We are talking about thousands of new jobs, quantum leaps in R&D, and the creation of entirely new sectors of the economy. According to our estimates, US$1 invested in nuclear power plants under the Rosatom project brings in US$ 1.9 to local suppliers, US$4.3 for the country’s GDP, and US$1.4 to the Treasury as tax revenues.

We have recently calculated even more specific data based on El Dabaa nuclear power station. During the construction period, the NPP project will increase the country’s GDP by over US$4 billion or 1%, bring around US$570 million as tax revenue, and employ over 70% of local personnel. Apart from the NPP itself, Egypt will have a new seaport, several roads, and schools constructed. After the start of operations, over 19% of the population or 20 million people will have access to electricity, and the NPP will prevent over 14 million tons of CO2 emissions annually.

In general, I would like to say that while the capital cost for nuclear energy may be higher, the reliable energy that it produces over its lifespan is very affordable. Beyond this, the inclusion of nuclear energy into the energy mix itself gives a powerful qualitative impetus for the economy, the establishment of high-technology-based industries and, as a result, the growth of export potential and quality of life.

Reference: Rosatom offers integrated clean energy solutions across the nuclear supply chain and beyond. With 70 years of experience, the company is the world leader in high-performance solutions for all kinds of nuclear power plants. It also works in the segments of wind generation, nuclear medicine, energy storage and others. Products and services of the nuclear industry enterprises are supplied to over 50 countries around the world.

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World Bank to Finance COVID-19 Vaccines for 40 Developing Countries

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World Bank

By Adedapo Adesanya

The World Bank will commit $2 billion in financing for COVID-19 vaccines in about 40 developing countries by the end of April in order to close the disparity in vaccination rates across the world.

This was disclosed by the World Bank Managing Director of Operations, Mr Axel van Trotsenburg, at a forum on Friday.

According to the multilateral lender, the $2 billion is part of a larger pool of $12 billion that the financial organisation has made available overall for vaccine development, distribution and production in low-and middle-income countries.

World Bank President, Mr David Malpass, in separate remarks, noted that that the bank expects this to expand to $4 billion worth of commitments in 50 countries by mid-year.

This followed complaints raised by public health officials at the forum, which warned that a race between the coronavirus and the vaccines meant to stop it could be lost if the pace of vaccinations in the developing world did not pick up.

This was echoed by the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who said that existing vaccines could be rendered ineffective if the virus continues to spread and mutate.

“Even those countries who have high coverage of vaccines will not be secure because the new variants that may not be stopped by the vaccines we have, will invade the countries that may have even 100% coverage in a few months,” he said.

The WHO Head called for more political will to boost production of COVID-19 vaccines and share supplies, including through stalled intellectual property waiver on vaccines through the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Dr Ghebreyesus explained that the WTO’s Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property or TRIPS waiver was the “elephant in the room” holding back vaccine production.

He added that it was meant for emergencies such as the coronavirus pandemic.

Countries had requested a waiver from certain provisions of the multilateral agreement so that more countries get equitable access to vaccines.

Amid rising COVID-19 cases, a waiver on certain provisions of the agreement is expected to help more countries, especially middle- and low-income nations to access vaccines.

However, countries have been divided on the issue, with some developed nations opposing it.

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Queen Elizabeth II’s Husband Prince Philip Dies at 99

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prince philip

By Adedapo Adesanya

The husband of Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain, Prince Phillip, has died at the age of 99, a statement from Buckingham Palace has revealed.

Prince Philip was the longest-serving royal consort in British history after getting married to Princess Elizabeth in 1947, five years before she became the Queen.

The Palace announced the death of the late monarch via its official Twitter handle today. He was said to have passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle.

“The Royal Family join with people around the world in mourning his loss. Further announcements will be made in due course.

“It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen announces the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh,” the statement said.

Fears over the health of the Duke of Edinburgh, as he was formally known, had been heightened after he recently spent a month in hospital for treatment.

He left the hospital on March 16 following what was described as a successful procedure for a pre-existing condition and treatment for an unspecified infection.

He was first admitted on February 16 on the advice of his doctor after he complained of feeling unwell.

Philip had returned to Windsor Castle, west of London, where he had been isolating with the queen, Britain’s longest-serving monarch, since the start of the coronavirus pandemic last year.

He was due to turn 100 in June.

The news of his death saw television channels interrupt regular programmes and start special coverage marking his life.

The BBC announced his death and played the national anthem, God Save the Queen.

Prince Philip had increasingly struggled with his health in recent years and had retired from public life.

The Greek-born former naval officer was then treated for a blocked coronary artery and had a stent fitted.

Condolences

The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Mr Boris Johnson, said he inspired the lives of countless young people.

Speaking at Downing Street, Mr Johnson said, “He helped to steer the Royal Family and the monarchy so that it remains an institution indisputably vital to the balance and happiness of our national life.”

The British PM noted that he received the news of the duke’s death “with great sadness”.

“Prince Philip earned the affection of generations here in the United Kingdom, across the Commonwealth, and around the world,” he further said.

Scotland’s First Minister, Mrs Nicola Sturgeon, said she was saddened by the death of the Duke.

She tweeted: “I send my personal and deepest condolences – and those of @scotgov and the people of Scotland – to Her Majesty The Queen and her family.”

Prince Philip and the Queen had four children, eight grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

Their first son, the Prince of Wales, Prince Charles, was born in 1948, followed by his sister, Princess Royal, Princess Anne, in 1950, the Duke of York, Prince Andrew, in 1960 and the Earl of Wessex, Prince Edward, in 1964.

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Towards the Second Russia-Africa Summit

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Russia-Africa Summit

By Kester Kenn Klomegah

Following the instruction of the Russian President on the preparation of the second Russia-Africa Summit in 2022, a working meeting between an Adviser to the President of the Russian Federation and the Association of Economic Cooperation with the African States (AECAS), the Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum and the Roscongress Foundation was held in Moscow.

Among the participants of the meeting were Adviser to the President of the Russian Federation Anton Kobyakov, Ambassador-at-Large of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Head of the Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum Oleg Ozerov, Chairman of the Board, Chief Executive Officer of the Roscongress Foundation, Head of the Coordination Council for Russia-Africa Partnership Forum Alexander Stuglev and Head of AECAS Alexander Saltanov.

They discussed the prospects for further development of relationships with African countries in accordance with the decisions of the first Russia-Africa Summit that was held in Sochi in October 2019, as well as the key aspects of preparation for the next top-level Russian-African meeting in 2022, including the need to establish efficient information cooperation with African countries.

Adviser to the President was presented with the interim results of the work done by the Secretariat that was created in 2020 for coordination and preparation of events within the Russia-Africa format, as well as advances made by AECAS, the establishment of which is an important achievement on the way to efficient and fruitful preparation for subsequent events of the Russian-African track.

The day before Russian President Vladimir Putin informed the participants of the International Inter-Party Conference Russia-Africa: Reviving Traditions about the preparation for the second Russia-Africa Summit in a telegram and noted that the first Summit «gave a strong momentum to the development of friendly relationships between our country and countries of the African continent.»

Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov, who took part in the Inter-Party Conference, said that the Summit is already being prepared and filled with meaningful content, and roadmaps of Russian-African economic, scientific and humanitarian cooperation are to be drafted in the near future.

The Minister also noted that African issues are supposed to be included in the programme of the upcoming St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. These topics will be further discussed at the next meeting of foreign ministers of Russia and the African Union trio that is scheduled for 2021.

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Economic Outlook: IMF Projects 6.0% Growth in 2021

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$188trn global debt IMF Chief

By Adedapo Adesanya

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has reviewed its World Economic Outlook (WEO) to 6.0 per cent this year after the contraction of 3.3 per cent in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the Bretton Wood Institution on Tuesday, accelerated vaccinations and a flood of government spending, especially in the United States, have boosted the outlook for the global economy, but more must be done to prevent permanent scars.

The IMF said governments had spent $16 trillion in their attempts to mitigate the economic damage caused by the virus and that without the unprecedented policy response the global economy would have contracted by 10 per cent last year.

The WEO warned that the recovery would be uneven, with faster progress in rich countries further advanced with their vaccine programmes and with the financial firepower to pay for stimulus packages. Inequality would increase both between and within countries, it stated.

The IMF warned against withdrawing government support too soon and urged policymakers to safeguard the recovery through policies to support firms, including ensuring the adequate supply of credit and workers with wage support and retraining.

Of the advanced countries, the United States has recorded the biggest improvement in its prospects, with the IMF raising its growth forecasts by 1.3 points to 6.4 per cent in 2021 and 1.0 points to 3.5 per cent in 2022.

The United Kingdom is expected to grow by 5.3 per cent in 2021 and by 5.1 per cent in 2022 – an upward revision of 0.8 and 0.1 percentage points respectively since January.

Meanwhile, China’s economy, one of few that grew last year, will expand 8.4 per cent in 2021, the IMF said.

The Euro Area too will see GDP expand 4.4 per cent, slightly better than the prior forecast.

Speaking on the report, Ms Gita Gopinath, the IMF’s economic counsellor, said in a blog: “It is one year into the COVID-19 pandemic and the global community still confronts extreme social and economic strain as the human toll rises and millions remain unemployed.

“Yet, even with high uncertainty about the path of the pandemic, a way out of this health and economic crisis is increasingly visible. Thanks to the ingenuity of the scientific community hundreds of millions of people are being vaccinated and this is expected to power recoveries in many countries later this year.”

Ms Gopinath said swift action had prevented a repeat of the financial meltdown of 2008 and as a result, medium-term losses – output that will never be recovered – would be smaller at about 3 per cent of global GDP.

Unlike after the 2008 crisis, it would be emerging markets and low-income countries that could be expected to suffer greater scarring given their limited ability to stimulate their economies.

Despite becoming more optimistic about growth prospects, she said the future presented daunting challenges.

“The pandemic is yet to be defeated and virus cases are accelerating in many countries. Recoveries are also diverging dangerously across and within countries, as economies with slower vaccine rollout, more limited policy support, and more reliant on tourism do less well.”

The IMF calculates that an additional 95 million people expected to have entered the ranks of the extreme poor in 2020, and there are 80 million more undernourished than before.

The lender noted that cooperation to ensure widespread vaccinations across the world to address the “deeply iniquitous” vaccine access where rich countries are scooping up the bulk of the supply.

IMF also called for resources to help children who have fallen behind in their education during the pandemic.

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