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Igbo Women Seek Biafra, Voice Nigeria’s Bleak Future

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Mrs Marie Okwo Igbo Women Biafra

By Kester Kenn Klomegah

Nigeria is one of the largest by territory with a population (estimated currently at 206 million) and a huge economy in Africa.

Situated on the southern coast on the Gulf of Guinea in the Atlantic Ocean, this country most often referred to as the Giant of Africa has never-ending multiple and complicated internal problems ranging from politics (system of federal governance) to widening economic disparity to cultural differences. The country has 36 states and it is officially called the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Early July, Kester Kenn Klomegah had the chance and interviewed Chief (Mrs) Marie Okwo, President of the Igbo Women Assembly (IWA), about the impact of the civil war, the current politics and the role of the church in Nigeria.

She is one of the remaining few Nigerians who have seen Nigeria from the struggle for independence through the development of its democracy. Mrs Okwor, who is an associate of the late Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, is now the leader of the Igbo Women Assembly and one-time member of Advisory Council of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Established as an NGO in 2006, the Igbo Women Assembly focuses on women empowerment and the youth, it consistently encourages moral values, particularly among young graduates. Headquarters in Enugu, Enugu State of Nigeria.

Here are the interview excerpts:

The Nigerian civil war (1967-70) was a bitter experience and has also affected expected development in the Biafra State. What are your views about this, especially from women’s perspectives?

The war of 1967-1070 war was a pogrom; a war of attrition meant to wipe out a whole race for no just cause. It reminded me of the Holocaust against the Jews. Those who died of hunger starvation, bombings were numerous in number. Malnutrition killed many children who developed a disease called “kwashiokor” – medical experts explain as lack of protein in the body and the belly fills up with fluid. I feel very emotional as I speak about this.

Suffice it to say, that the war could have been avoided, had Nigeria kept her end of the agreement at Aburi, in the Republic of Ghana, which came to be called “the Aburi Accord” that was reached in 1967. This venue offered the delegates security guarantee and that meeting was billed to be the last chance of preventing all-out war.

The accord finally broke down because of differences of interpretation on both sides. This led to the outbreak of the war. Markets and places of worship were not spared from bombings and strafing. As a matter of facts, one of my domestic staffs lost her mother in one of the market bombings had been hurt by a shrapnel; she bled to death since medical facilities were scarce.

The effect of the war on the State of Biafra was deplorable: So much destabilization as the seat of government had to move from place to place and so could not settle down to the business of governing the people effectively. There were so many things to worry about, such as how to get arms and ammunition. There was also issues of food insufficiency.

Lack of concentration on the part of the administrators and the Biafran military officers and soldiers had adverse effects on the Biafrans. As each area fell to the Nigerian military and their superior military weapons, civilians also had to relocate to safer areas. It was really rough and tough especially for nursing mothers most of who lost their babies. So, so sad an experience.

Assessing the effects of the civil war today, especially from gender perspectives, what else can you say in this regard, will women play a more critical role in the administration of a Biafran state?

Before I comment on the role women can play in the administration of a Biafran state, let me mention the important roles they played during the war. It will be recalled that most men were in war fronts fighting to defend Biafraland. Others had lost their jobs and were forced to stay idle at home. The duties of catering for the needs of the rest of the families, therefore, fell on the women/ wives.  In short, they became the breadwinners.

On the roles women can play in a Biafran state, let me say, without fear of equivocation that without the contributions of women in governance, success will be difficult to achieve.  Women have great potentials that should be harnessed in order to move the state forward.

How do you look at the political governance in the country in relation to Biafra State?

The government of Nigeria is vehemently aversed to the name Biafra. The mere mention of that name makes them chilly. This government would rather have Biafrans remain under the servitude of the Caliphate North. The slogan after the was “No victor, no vanquished.” That was the greatest deceit of the century. Biafrans have never been re-integrated.

The basis for unity no longer exists. Biafrans struggle for their survival without depending on anyone. Since the Nigerian government has refused absolutely to accept Biafrans as a component part of Nigeria, it stands to reason that they should be allowed to go and develop on their own at their own pace. It is pertinent to mention that the North contributes little or nothing to the development of the country. Rather resources from Southern Nigeria are controlled and squandered by Northern Elements.

On security in Nigeria, I wish to make it categorically clear that in Nigeria, security is at its lowest ebb. The Fulani Herdsmen are the cause of the unprecedented insecurity in Biafraland. They move about freely with their cattle carrying sophisticated AK 47. They destroy farmlands and crops, kill farmers, gang-rape and kill female farmers in their farmlands. The resultant effect of the destruction of farms and crops will be devastating as there will be a monumental scarcity of food soon, this will spell doom for the masses.

Government and the security operatives are fully aware of the perilous situations but prefer to look the other way. Sometimes the police offer to pay competitions. A few days ago, a middle-aged woman was gang-raped by Fulani Herdsmen in a farm till she went into a coma she was taken to a hospital and later pronounced dead. The insult by these Fulani Herdsmen is a great insult to Biafrans. Why will these Fulanis not allow us peace in our space? Enough is enough! When people are pushed to the wall, they have no alternative than to fight back.

Igbo Women Assembly calls for a Referendum to settle the issue, once and for all. Our children have no future in Nigeria. We feel like the Israelites while in bondage under the Pharaohs of Egypt. We desire freedom to follow our own designs and practice our Christian Religion without let or hindrance.

Are people really satisfied with the current government? What, in your objective view, are some of their political mistakes?

Nigeria has never been so polarized or rancorous as it is now. There’s so much unrest which stems from oppression, corruption wrong choices of appointees to important governing bodies. Square pegs are placed in round holes indeed. The bitterness existing in Nigeria, at the present time, is unequalled. Security is non- existent. The reality is that there is unchecked anarchy. As things stand now, Nigeria may just disintegrate without gunshots.

Almost all of Nigeria’s intractable problems emanate from the imposition of candidates during elections; no free, fair or credible elections are conducted. The situation gets worse with every election.

In the first place, the Constitution under which elections are held is a fraud. Far from being the “People’s Constitution.” We have faced these mistakes since the inception of the presidential system of governance in Nigeria. The system under reference is wasteful, encourages corruption and dictatorial tendencies.

In spite of the flaws in the Constitution, the ruling party has ignored most of the clauses which might enhance the peaceful co-existence of the citizens. Impunity is rife with this current Administration. There is, therefore, an urgent need for intervention by concerned people of the entire world. Any adversity that befalls a Nation will have adverse effects on other Nations if not nipped in the bud.

This is a clarion call by the Igbo Women Assembly for assistance by all who abhor oppression and bad governance. No justice, no peace! No peace, no progress!

As a highly devout Catholic, how would you argue that the church could be a tool to fight against all injustices and state maladministration, most probably corruption in the Federal Republic of Nigeria?

The church in Nigeria, irrespective of denominations, has a vital role to play in addressing the ills of Nigeria. It is the duty of the church to do all in her power to restore the dignity and moral values of our societies.

All of a sudden, acquisition of wealth has taken precedence over integrity, justice and fair play. The church has a duty to inculcate the congregations with a sense of responsibility moral values and discipline. Most criminals and corrupt members of the society are not pagans but Christians driven into such negative behavioural tendencies by the system. It is interesting to say that wrong leaderships beget wrong followers.

Unfortunately, some pastors preach the gospel of prosperity instead of salvation, thereby driving people into acquiring filthy lucre through any means whatsoever. People quickly forget that greed and avarice lead to destruction. They do not remember that whatever one has on earth cannot accompany him/her to the great beyond. Others will enjoy the ill-gotten goods. Corruption has eaten deep into the fabrics of the nation and the church must make concerted efforts to bring the menace to the barest minimum.

And the Biafra diaspora outside Nigeria, especially in the United States and Europe…are they optimistic about breakaway of the Biafran State?

Biafrans in the Diaspora are even more enthusiastic about an independent nation than some Biafrans at home. Any sign that a Referendum is on hand will see a deluge of Diaspora Biafrans flying back home. They will contribute in no small measure to bring rapid development to the new nation-state. Surely, this new nation will overtake Nigeria, which regards herself as the so-called largest country, in Africa. Yes! Largest in all types of vices like kidnappings, rape, sleaze oppression, abuse of human rights and so forth.

What are your recommendations here, what should or must be done under the current circumstances in Nigeria?

My perspective on the future or the way forward for Nigeria, the country has expired and cannot be revived, neither can it be reactivated. It is my well-considered opinion that any group or ethnic nationality, which wants to leave this contraption, should be granted their peace and freedom. Nigeria is too large to be one country since there are too many differences in religion, cultures and traditions, food and languages and other factors. Nigeria has never and can never be one. Unity has eluded the country.

If, however, Biafra becomes unattainable then we should go back to the parliamentary system of governance. A weak centre with regional autonomy. As things are now, the country is rudderless and groping in the dark. If no positive action is taken soonest, Nigeria will take a nosedive into a deep precipice, in this case, the name will become irreversibly extinct.

Interview by Kester Kenn Klomegah.

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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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