By Kester Kenn Klomegah
Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) is a specialized technical institution of the African Union (AU) that strengthens the capacity and capability of Africa’s public health institutions as well as partnerships to detect and respond quickly and effectively to disease threats and outbreaks, based on data-driven interventions and programmes.
During the outbreak of the coronavirus, the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT) was established by African Union, as a component in support of the Africa Vaccine Strategy and was endorsed by the AU Bureau of Heads of State and Government on 20th of August 2020.
Dr John Nkengasong, Director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), has emphasized: “Africa has to team up with development partners to achieve its 60% continent-wide vaccination in the next two years. I think that is why we should as a collective of the continent, and of course, in partnership with the developed world make sure that Africa has timely access to vaccines to meet our vaccination targets.”
In an official media release in February 2021, the Africa Vaccine Acquisition Task Team from the African Union (AU) informed that Russia would supply and deliver 300 million Sputnik vaccines to Africa. That step was intended to support African countries to attain their targeted immunization of 60% of the population by the year-end. That vaccine story disappeared, but instead what becomes so common is the speedy registration of Sputnik V on a bilateral basis in various African countries.
According to the latest, Nigeria has become the 68th country in the world to approve the Russian vaccine. The use of the Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine has been approved in Nigeria, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) said in an official statement.
“The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF, Russia’s sovereign wealth fund) announces the approval of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine against coronavirus by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control of Nigeria (NAFDAC). Nigeria has become the 68th country in the world to approve the Russian vaccine. The total population of all countries, where Sputnik V is approved for use, now exceeds 3.7 billion people, which is nearly half of the global population,” the statement said.
“Nigeria is the most populous nation in Africa, and the approval of Sputnik V will provide for using one of the safest and most effective vaccines in the world. Sputnik V is based on a proven human adenoviral vectors platform and is successfully used in over 50 countries. Approval in Nigeria will make an important contribution to the country’s fight against the pandemic,” the CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) Kirill Dmitriev said.
Besides Nigeria, other African countries have registered Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine. Reportedly, the vaccine has been registered in Algeria, Angola, Djibouti, Egypt, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Morocco, Namibia, Tunisia, the Republic of Congo (DRC) and Zimbabwe.
Russia’s drive to share the Sputnik V vaccine, of course, offers a chance to raise its image and strengthen alliances in Africa. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation has made efforts to promote the vaccine using all its channels. But supply and delivery have largely lagged behind, the pledges have simply not been fulfilled. Russian authorities have oftentimes said that they would step up efforts for fruitful cooperation in combating coronavirus in Africa.
Promising more than can be delivered appears to be a universal problem with coronavirus vaccines, and it is a real risk for Russia as well, said Theresa Fallon, Director of the Brussels-based Centre for Russia Europe Asia Studies. “They have won the gold medal for creating this very effective vaccine,” she said. “But the problem is how are they going to implement production and delivery?”
Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), with profit motivation, has attempted supplying the Russian vaccines through, Sheikh Ahmed Dalmook Al Maktoum, from the Monarch family and a third party in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to a number of African countries. For instance, the Republic of Ghana reportedly signed a $64.6 million contract for the Sputnik V vaccine from Russia through Sheikh Ahmed Dalmook Al Maktoum. It was double the price from the producer as reported in the media.
On the other hand, Russian President Vladimir Putin has noted, in a speech in early September, that advanced countries that produce vaccines against the coronavirus do little to protect humanity from the pandemic.
“The benefits of vaccination are enjoyed mostly by advanced economies. The bulk of the vaccines is made there, and it is used to protect their own population. But very little is being done to protect humanity in the broad sense,” Putin said at the plenary session of the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, the Far East of Russia. “This is very bad for the producers because of all these boomerangs around the globe. For instance, in Africa the level of protection with vaccines is minimal, but contacts with the African countries continue. There is no getting away from this. This infection will return again and again.”
According to an official release obtained late February, the Sputnik V vaccine has the following advantages:
- Efficacy of Sputnik V is 91.6% as confirmed by the data published in the Lancet, one of the world’s oldest and most respected medical journals; It is one of only three vaccines in the world with an efficacy of over 90%; Sputnik V provides full protection against severe cases of COVID-19.
- The Sputnik V vaccine is based on a proven and well-studied platform of human adenoviral vectors, which cause the common cold and have been around for thousands of years.
- Sputnik V uses two different vectors for the two shots in a course of vaccination, providing immunity with a longer duration than vaccines using the same delivery mechanism for both shots.
- The safety, efficacy and lack of negative long-term effects of adenoviral vaccines have been proven by more than 250 clinical studies over two decades.
- The developers of the Sputnik V vaccine are working collaboratively with AstraZeneca on a joint clinical trial to improve the efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
- There are no strong allergies caused by Sputnik V.
- The price of Sputnik V is less than $10 per shot, making it affordable around the world.
In February, a peer-reviewed medical journal The Lancet published an analysis from a Phase III clinical trial of the Russian vaccine, showing its 91.6-per cent efficacy against symptomatic COVID-19. The Sputnik V vaccine was developed by the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology.
Sputnik V was registered in Russia on August 11, 2020, as the world’s first officially registered coronavirus vaccine. Russian vaccines have advantages as no deaths have been reported after vaccination with the Sputnik V, Alexander Gintsburg, Director of the Gamaleya Center, the vaccine developer, said and was reported by TASS News Agency. “As of today, no deaths after vaccination with Sputnik V have been registered,” he said.
Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) is Russia’s sovereign wealth fund established in 2011 to make equity co-investments, primarily in Russia, alongside reputable international financial and strategic investors. RDIF acts as a catalyst for direct investment in the Russian economy. RDIF’s management is based in Moscow.
In Africa, during the first of September, the coronavirus-related death toll has topped 196,190, while more than 6.9 million recoveries have been reported. South Africa accounts for a majority of coronavirus cases and deaths across Africa – 2,777,659 and 82,261 respectively. The death toll in Tunisia climbed to 23,451, and 664,034 cases have been confirmed. Egypt recorded 16,736 deaths and 288,441 coronavirus cases.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, Ethiopia is ranked second to South Africa (308,134 cases and 4,675 deaths) and is followed by Kenya (235,863 cases and 4,726 deaths) and Nigeria (191,805 and 2,455). The total number of COVID-19 cases has reached almost 8 million in Africa, according to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Regional Office for Africa.
Russia Proposes Complete Ban on Cryptocurrencies
By Adedapo Adesanya
The Russian central bank has proposed a complete ban on cryptocurrencies in the country.
The proposal emphasized that crypto is extremely volatile and has helped to spread fraudulent activities in the country, adding that it is also a potential risk to the country’s national economy.
Director of the Bank of Russia, Ms Elizaveta Danilova, during a presentation, said that a complete ban would mean no mining, trading, or usage of crypto in the country.
However, owning cryptocurrencies would still be legal.
The report also suggested that the government should introduce punishments for individuals who buy or sell products/services using crypto.
The central bank, which is planning to issue its own digital currency, said crypto assets becoming widespread would limit the sovereignty of monetary policy, with higher interest rates needed to contain inflation.
This isn’t the first time the Bank of Russia has gone after cryptos as it had banned mutual funds from investing in any cryptocurrencies.
In 2019, the country blamed cryptocurrencies for spreading money launching and terror financing.
However, the government legalized crypto in 2020, although banning their use as payments.
The move is the latest in a global cryptocurrency crackdown as governments from Asia to the United States worry that privately operated and highly volatile digital currencies could undermine their control of financial and monetary systems.
With the total ban of the asset by China, Russia witnessed a rise in crypto mining and this move has already triggered investors to dump their coins.
In September, China intensified its crackdown on cryptocurrencies with a blanket ban on all crypto transactions and mining, hitting bitcoin and other major coins and pressuring crypto and blockchain-related stocks.
Market analysts note that although the Bank of Russia’s proposal can cause significant worry for its crypto traders and miners, it’s still not confirmed if the government will follow through with a total ban.
Proposed Amazon Headquarters in South Africa Under Threat
By Adedapo Adesanya
Plans by Amazon to establish its Africa headquarters in Cape Town, South Africa, could hit a snag if a legal challenge by indigenous activists is allowed to proceed, a Cape Town court heard on Thursday, January 20.
According to reports, construction is already underway for Amazon’s $262 million African headquarters on land that Khoisan communities hold sacred as a site of their early resistance to European colonisers in 1510.
Several Khoisan groups threw their support behind the project after the developers agreed to build a heritage, cultural and media centre that will be operated by indigenous groups.
However, the Goringhaicona Khoi Khoin Indigenous Traditional Council and a neighbourhood association have asked the Western Cape High Court to halt construction.
A lawyer for the property developers, the Liesbeek Leisure Property Trust, told the court that Amazon has signalled it will pull out of the project if the delay is granted.
According to an advocate, Mr Sean Rosenberg, “If Amazon has indicated, even directly, that it’s not going to tolerate any further delays, that’s not hearsay evidence.
“That’s direct evidence of what Amazon’s intentions are.”
“The much more likely possibility is that this project will not go ahead, given what has happened up until now, given Amazon’s impatience, given Amazon’s indication,” he added.
Amazon itself is not named in the case but the hearing is expected to conclude Friday.
Once hunter-gatherers, known under the now-discarded label of Bushmen, the Khoisan suffered deeply under colonisation and apartheid.
Many in their community say they still endure wide social inequalities and economic opportunities today, and their past remains overlooked.
DR Congo Raises Stake in Shelter Afrique 2.46%
By Aduragbemi Omiyale
The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has increased its shareholding in Shelter Afrique to 2.46 per cent, up from 1.68 per cent held previously.
This followed the payment of $1.7 million capital arrears in the pan-African housing development financier on December 22, 2021, to add to the initial $2.5 million.
DR Congo has now joined Tanzania, Morocco, Mali, Lesotho, Namibia, Togo and Zimbabwe as Shelter Afrique Class A shareholders who have fully paid their capital obligations.
“We are grateful to the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo as this is a show of strong belief in the role and mandates of Shelter Afrique in the provision of affordable housing in Africa, and particularly the DRC.
“We are particularly appreciative of the roles played by the Minister for Urban Planning and Housing, Mr Pius Mukala and the Minister for Finance, Mr Nicolas Kazadi, for making the disbursements,” the Group Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Shelter Afrique, Mr Andrew Chimphondah said.
“We wish to show our gratitude to the eight shareholders who have fully paid their capital subscriptions and to those who continue to increase their stakes in the company – it is a huge vote of confidence in our board approved strategy which is being implemented successfully by the management,” Mr Chimphondah added.
In the recent past, DRC has enhanced its engagement with Shelter Afrique. Consequently, the company has ramped up its activities in the country by actively pursuing large-scale, low-cost housing projects in DRC through public-private partnerships and equity investments.
Recently, Shelter Afrique approved a line of credit worth $11.4 million to a financial institution to finance 285 mortgages in the country.
Shelter Afrique is also keen on supporting urban regeneration projects in Lubumbashi and Goma, which is expected to develop 500 housing units – the company has set aside $20 million, pending board approval.
“Additionally, under our social housing plans, we are currently reviewing a housing project in Goma that seeks to develop 1000 housing units for families displaced by the eruption of Mount Nyiragongo and Kanyaja, which occurred in May and June 2021. When approved, we will invest $1 million in equity for a period of 7 years,” he further stated.
Other projects so far financed by Shelter Afrique in the DRC include Devimco’s 7-floor office building for rental purposes, La Tradition, Le Concorde, L’Ambassadeur; Azda; and a 10-storey building in Kinshasa developed by ELOLO SPRL.
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