Pfizer Vaccine Effective Against UK COVID-19 Variant—Study
By Ahmed Rahma
A new study has shown that the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is effective against the highly infectious variant of the virus detected in the United Kingdom.
A study by the United States’ drugmaker confirmed this on Wednesday. It said the results of the study were based on an analysis of the blood of participants in trials which contains more extensive analysis than those released by Pfizer last week.
Last week, Pfizer said a similar laboratory study showed the vaccine was effective against one key mutation called N501Y found in both of the highly transmissible new variants spreading in Britain and South Africa.
The latest study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, was conducted on 10 mutations, which are characteristic of the variant known as B117 identified in Britain.
Among the 11 authors of the study were the chief executive, Ugur Sahin and chief medical officer, Oezlem Tuereci, co-founders of BioNTech and husband-and-wife team.
The encouraging news comes amid warnings today that the UK could still be in lockdown at Easter, despite the vaccine rollout.
The UK’s elderly and vulnerable are being prioritised for the jabs from Pfizer and the Oxford AstraZeneca team.
The government said under-70s could begin receiving the vaccine this week, as the number of doses administered hit 4 million.
More mass vaccination super-hub sites were opened this week as health authorities ramp up efforts to meet the government’s target to vaccinate 15 million in the UK by mid-February.
But the vaccination drive is in a race against time as the UK is rocked by record daily deaths, and the NHS in recent days disclosed that the infection rates have begun to tail off in some COVID hot-spots, including London.
However, some key government figures have warned against complacency.
Speaking on lockdown if infection figures drop, the chief science adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance said, “The advice at the moment is vaccines are not going to do the heavy lifting for us at the moment, anywhere near it.
“This is about, I’m afraid, the restrictive measures which we’re all living under and carrying on with those.
“The numbers are nowhere near where they need to be at the moment, they need to come down quite a lot further – we need to make sure we stick with it.
“You go for a walk in the park or something, life looks normal; you go for a walk in a hospital, if you work in a hospital, you will see life not looking normal at all.
“This is a really difficult, dangerous situation we’re in, and we need to get the numbers down, so I don’t see a release of these measures as being a sensible thing to do in the short term.”
Russia’s ‘Return to Africa’ Sparks Policy Controversy
By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh
During Africa Day, celebrated annually on May 25th, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov reiterated that Moscow’s decision to return to Africa is strategic due to the geopolitical changes, and its return has become a popular post-Soviet slogan in Russia’s establishment. The second Russia-Africa summit in St. Petersburg, due in July, is a strategic decision by Moscow concerning its long-term goal of regaining presence on the continent, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov told the local Russian media TASS.
“This is not a one-time event. It is a strategic decision. It is our long-term policy and practice under the slogan of Russia’s return to Africa. Of course, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, some things were lost. There was stagnation in our relations. Some embassies were closed. Now we are actively working to reopen and restore the work of our embassies,” said Bogdanov.
Extensively speaking on several questions with the media on the eve of Africa Day, the Russian diplomat noted that some African countries were more dependent on Western aid than others, but Russia was not imposing anything on anyone because it proceeded from the sovereign equality of the UN member states. Moscow’s role is to help African countries in the UN Security Council and other UN structures, as well as on a bilateral basis, Bogdanov explained.
“In principle, we have equal, good relations with all countries. With some, of course, they are more advanced,” he added and wished African friends, especially on Africa Day, stronger sovereignty and further development so that economic opportunities support this sovereignty. This will let them strengthen political sovereignty in accordance with their genuine national interests and not listen to some outside noise,” Bogdanov said.
What is referred to as Africa Day is celebrated on May 25, the day on which the Organization of African Unity (now the African Union) was established in 1963. Until 2002, when the organization was transformed, it had been Africa Liberation Day. The African Union’s headquarters are located in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
According to official sources, Mikhail Bogdanov is the Russian President’s Special Presidential Representative for the Middle East and Africa, Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister of the Russian Federation. He has served as Deputy Foreign Minister since June 2011, as Special Presidential envoy for the Middle East since January 2012, and as Special Presidential envoy for the Middle East and Africa since October 2014.
In practical terms, Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov’s critical assessment of Russia’s return to Africa, the goals of signing several bilateral agreements which remain unimplemented, decades-old pledges and promises undelivered, anti-Western rhetoric and hyperbolic criticisms of foreign players which form the main component of Russia’s policy – these indicating the slogan of Russia’s return to Africa. Beyond its traditional rhetoric of Soviet-era assistance rendered to sub-Saharan African countries, Russia has little to show as post-Soviet achievements in contemporary Africa.
At least, Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Foreign Minister Qin Gang have indicated on their side that Africa is not the field for confrontation but rather the field for cooperation to uplift its development to an appreciable level. China has heavily invested in developing infrastructure in different economic sectors. Its slogan ‘win-win’ cooperation and ‘share common future’ have shown visible results across Africa.
During these past years, there have been several meetings of various bilateral intergovernmental commissions and conferences both in Moscow and in Africa. Official visits to and from proliferate only end up with the display of eternal passion for signing documents called Memoranda of Understandings and bilateral agreements with African countries. From the highly-praised historic first summit held in 2019, there are 92 agreements.
Currently, the signs for Russia-African relations are impressive – declarations of intentions have been made, and a lot of important bilateral agreements signed; now it remains to be seen how these intentions and agreements entered into over these years will be implemented in practice, argued Professors Vladimir Shubin and Alexandra Arkhangelskaya from the Institute for African Studies.
“The most significant positive sign is that Russia has moved away from its low-key strategy to strong relations, and authorities are seriously showing readiness to compete with other foreign players. But, Russia needs to find a strategy that reflects the practical interests of Russian business and African development needs,” said Arkhangelskaya, a Lecturer at the Moscow High School of Economics.
Several authentic research reports have criticised Russia’s policy in Africa. As expected, those weaknesses were compiled and incorporated in the ‘Situation Analytical Report’ by 25 policy researchers headed by Professor Sergey Karaganov, Faculty Dean at Moscow’s High School of Economics. This 150-page report was presented in November 2021, offering new directions and recommendations for improving policy methods and approaches with Africa.
With about 1.3 billion people, Africa is a potential market for all consumable goods and services. In the coming decades, there will be accelerated competition between or among external players over access to resources and economic influence in Africa. Despite the growth of external players’ influence and presence in Africa, says the report, Russia has to intensify and redefine its parameters as it has now transcended to the fifth stage. Russia’s Africa policy is roughly divided into four periods, previously after the Soviet collapse in 1991.
Now in the fifth stage, still marking time to leverage to the next when it would begin to show visible results. While the number of high-level meetings has increased, the share of substantive issues on the agenda remains small. There are few definitive results from such various meetings and conferences. Apart from the absence of a public strategy for the continent, there is a shortage of qualified personnel and a lack of coordination among various state and para-state institutions working with Africa. The report lists insufficient and disorganized Russian-African lobbying, combined with the lack of “information hygiene” at all levels of public speaking, among the main flaws of Russia’s current African policy.
Another policy report, titled ‘Ways to Increase the Efficiency of Russia’s African Strategy under the Crisis of the Existing World Order’ (ISSN 1019-3316, Herald of the Russian Academy of Sciences, 2022), co-authored by Professors Irina O. Abramova and Leonid L. Fituni castigated or reprimanded authorities who are squeezed between illusions and realities with policy ambitions in Africa. Against the backdrop of geopolitical changes and great power competition, Russian authorities need to have an insight/understanding into the practical investment and economic possibilities on the continent.
The authors said that: “It is time for Russia, which over the past 30 years has unsuccessfully sought to become part of the West, to abandon illusions and reconsider its foreign economic and policy strategy, reorienting itself to states that are turning from outsiders into significant players in the international political and economic space and are willing to interact with our country on a mutually beneficial and equal basis.”
In addition, the report underlined the fact that Russia’s elite demonstrates a somewhat arrogant attitude toward Africa. High-ranking officials have often used the phrase ‘We (that is, Russia) are not Africa’ to oppose attempts at changing the status quo to change the approach toward Africa. Despite the thoughtless imposition of the idea that Africa is the most backward and problematic region of the world in Russian public opinion, qualified Africanists – including Western experts, call Africa the continent of the 21st century: attributing this to the stable growth rates of the African economy over the past 20 years, and the colossal resource and human potential of the African region.
The report acknowledges the fact that African countries consider Russia as a reliable economic partner, and it is necessary to interact with African public and private businesses on a mutually beneficial basis. In this regard, Russian initiatives should be supported by real steps and not be limited to verbal declarations about the “return of Russia to Africa,” especially after the Sochi gathering, which was described as very symbolic.
The authors, however, warned that due to the failure on Russia’s side to show financial commitment, African leaders and elites from the Anglophone, Francophone and Lusophone nations will still be loyal and inseparably linked by nostalgic post-colonial master relationships. And this relates to the furtherance of economic investment and development, education and training – all to be controlled by the former colonial powers as African leaders choose development partners with funds to invest in the economy.
South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA) has its latest policy report on Russia-African relations. It shows the dimensions of Russian power projection in Africa and new frontiers of Russian influence and provides a roadmap towards understanding how Russia is perceived in Africa. It highlights narratives about anti-colonialism and describes how Russian elites transmit these sources of solidarity to their African public. To seek long-term influence, Russian elites have often used elements of anti-colonialism as part of the current policy to control the perceptions of Africans and primarily as new tactics for power projection in Africa.
The reports delved into the historical fact that after the collapse of the Soviet era, already over three decades, Russia is resurgent in Africa. While Russia has been struggling to make inroads into Africa these years, the only symbolic event was the first Russia-Africa summit held in Sochi, which fêted heads of state from 43 African countries and showcased Moscow’s great power ambitions.
The authors further wrote that “Russia’s growing assertiveness in Africa is a driver of instability and that its approach to governance encourages pernicious practices, such as kleptocracy and autocracy promotion, and the dearth of scholarship on Moscow’s post-1991 activities in Africa is striking.” Records further show that Russia kept a low profile for two decades after the Soviet collapse. Russia’s expanding influence in Africa is compelling, but further examination reveals a murkier picture. Despite Putin’s lofty trade targets, Russia’s trade with Africa is just $20 billion, lower than that of India or Turkey.
In the context of a multipolar geopolitical order, Russia’s image of cooperation could be seen as highly enticing, but it is also based on illusions. Better still, Russia’s posture is a clash between illusions and reality. “Russia, it appears, is a neo-colonial power dressed in anti-colonial clothes,” says the report. Simply put, Moscow’s strategic incapability, inconsistency and dominating opaque relations are adversely affecting sustainable developments in Africa. Thus far, Russia looks more like a ‘virtual great power’ than a genuine challenger to European, American and Chinese influence.
Of course, Russian-African relations have been based on long-standing traditions of friendship and solidarity, created when the Soviet Union supported the struggle of African peoples against colonialism. Since Africans are struggling to transform their economy and take care of the 1.3 billion population, the bulk is still impoverished. African leaders must remember their election campaign pledges made to the electorate while still holding political power.
Unlike Western countries, European Union members and Asian countries, which focus particularly on what they want to achieve with Africa, Russia places the anti-colonial fight at the core of its policy. In short, Russia knows what it wants from the continent: access to markets, political support against Ukraine and general influence in the continent. It is time for African leaders to clarify what it wants concretely from Russia during the July 2023 Russia-Africa summit.
Russia not Addressing Sustainable Development Goals in Africa—Nyongesa
By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh
liThis short but insightful interview conducted by Kestér Kenn Klomegâh with George Nyongesa, a Senior Associate at the Africa Policy Institute in Nairobi, Kenya, and a Tutorial Fellow and PhD candidate at the University of Nairobi, focused concretely on Russia and Africa relations, Russia’s ineffective policy strategies and challenges in implementing its policy goals in African countries. Here are the excerpts.
Historically, Russian influence on African countries has largely pivoted around hypersonic anti-Western rhetoric; but does such still have relevance in post-colonial and independent African countries
Russia has long had cordial relations with many African countries thanks to ties established during the Soviet era, where their shared mistrust of the West and similar economic and ideological goals frequently led to alignments. However, the nostalgia for the former Soviet Union is waning along with the generation of African leaders who benefited from it. This fact continues to undermine Russia’s relevance and perceived usefulness to Africa, especially among the new crop of leaders.
Generally, the younger African generations, who make up a sizable portion of the continent’s population, grew up when Russia had only a semblance of the gravitas of the former Soviet Union. This is noteworthy because the African continent is fast transitioning towards democracy and development. Against this background, the invasion of Crimea and Ukraine has not done much to win Russia the respect of African countries. Besides, numerous new issues arose following the fall of the Soviet Union, and this seems to have overshadowed Russia’s strategic position to work with Africa. Since then, a lot has been lost, and no doubt other powers, especially the Westerners, Europeans and Asians, jumped in to fill the void.
What next for Russia in Africa?
In a nutshell, it is imperative that Russia takes its foreign economic policy initiatives seriously as it seeks an assertive posture on the global stage, even as it juggles its efforts to regain influence in Africa. In the past, anti-western rhetoric worked easy magic in building alignment, but currently, the majority of the continent is largely focused on democratization and economic emancipation.
For this reason, representatives from the United States, the European Union, and even the Gulf States discuss Africa from various angles, but their main focus is on how to establish their economic presence on the continent. For instance, following their previous EU-AU summit, both parties reached a consensus on a number of infrastructure and investment projects. In particular, the EU already has an investment program that they claim would create links, not dependencies, at a cost of €300 billion ($340 billion) to finance new investment initiatives that are similar to China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
As competing global powers continue to court Africa, it is interesting to note that Russia rarely discusses the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). The AfCFTA could, at the very least, provide a framework for economic diplomacy towards resetting commercial ties between Russia and Africa. As things currently stand, Russia’s geopolitical stake in the continent of Africa is barely noticeable. For instance, Russian direct investment into Africa is significantly less than that of Europe and North America, totalling less than 1%. Also, Russian direct assistance is scarce, largely symbolic and frequently takes the form of in-kind donations to humanitarian crises or forgiveness of debt. In addition, compared to Africa’s large trading partners like Europe and the United States, trade between Russia and Africa in 2020 totalled $14 billion, or about 2% of the continent’s overall trade.
In summary, it seems the strongest aspect of Russia’s relations with Africa should be robust economic cooperation. If Russia’s foreign economic agency paid attention to AfCFTA, which promises to create a single borderless market, they would find numerous potential opportunities for “win-win” cooperation. It is the Chinese strategic style which challenges Western and European powers even as it capitalizes on localization, production and marketing of consumer goods and services across Africa.
Adesina Says Climate Finance Dearth “Choking” Africa
By Adedapo Adesanya
The President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Mr Akinwumi Adesina, has lamented that a lack of adequate financing for tackling climate change in Africa has become dire and is “choking” the continent.
He made this known while addressing journalists at a media lunch organized to kick off the 2023 Annual Meetings of the lender in the Egyptian resort city of Sharm El Sheikh.
Mr Adesina called out developed nations for not honouring the $100 billion climate finance pledge they made to developing countries.
“Africa is being short-changed in climate finance. Africa is choking,” he told newsmen.
“Your role as the media is very important to help carry the news – the news of efforts being made, challenges being faced, and the fierce urgency of now in getting much-needed climate finance to Africa,” the bank chief said.
The bank group’s Annual Meetings will allow the bank’s Board of Governors, African leaders and development partners to explore practical ways of “mobilizing private sector financing for climate and green growth in Africa,” in line with the theme of this year’s meetings.
Mr Adesina said the theme was chosen to draw attention to the urgent need for climate finance, hammering that Africa will need $2.7 trillion by 2030 to finance its climate change needs.
“Anywhere you look in Africa today, climate change is causing havoc,” Mr Adesina said. “In the Sahel, hotter temperatures are drying up limited water, causing water stress for crops and livestock and worsening food insecurity.”
The former Nigerian agric minister said that in vast areas of East and Southern Africa, and in the Horn of Africa, a combination of droughts and floods is causing massive losses of people and infrastructure, leading to rising numbers of refugees.
“There is still much to do, as Africa’s private sector climate financing will need to increase by 36 per cent annually,” he said.
Mr Adesina said, “If Africa had that money, the Sahel would have electricity. If Africa had that money, we would recharge the Chad basin, which has provided livelihoods for millions of people in Chad, Nigeria, Niger and Cameroon. Everything will change in all those countries; we will green the Sahel. We will insure every single African country against catastrophic weather events.”
Mr Adesina told the journalists, “Africa’s measured natural capital alone is estimated to be worth $6.2 trillion,” which, if well harnessed, can spur more rapid economic growth and wealth generation.
He spoke about the Bank’s flagship Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) scheme that provides heat-tolerant seed varieties to increase yield in crops such as wheat.
He also gave the example of Ethiopia, which is now self-sufficient in wheat production and plans to export the surplus to neighbouring countries.
AfDB is spearheading climate adaptation efforts across the continent and has devoted 63 per cent of its climate finance, the highest among all multilateral development banks.
It plans to support millions of farmers, enabling them to access climate-resistant seeds. The institution has also launched the Desert to Power initiative to develop 10,000 megawatts of solar power to benefit nearly 250 million people across the Sahel.
The bank and the Global Center for Adaptation have launched the African Adaptation Acceleration Program (AAAP) to mobilize $25 billion to support Africa’s adaptation to climate change.
It has also established Alliance for Green Infrastructure (AGIA), in partnership with other institutions, to mobilize $10 billion in private investment for green infrastructure in Africa.
Latest News on Business Post
- Shares of FTN Cocoa Surge 54.55% in One Week May 29, 2023
- JUST IN: DAAR Communications Chairman Raymond Dokpesi Dies May 29, 2023
- Full Text of President Tinubu’s Inaugural Speech May 29, 2023
- Tinubu Promises Unified Exchange Rate, Lower Interest Rate May 29, 2023
- Panic as Queues Return to Petrol Stations After President’s Announcement May 29, 2023
- MultiChoice Develops Integrated Payment Platform May 29, 2023
- IFC Invests $13m to Support Ecotourism, Conservation in Sub-Saharan Africa May 29, 2023
- BREAKING: Tinubu Removes Fuel Subsidy May 29, 2023
- Russia’s ‘Return to Africa’ Sparks Policy Controversy May 29, 2023
- Mr Tinubu, You Have Inherited a Divided Nation… May 29, 2023