Tag Archives: COVID19

COVID19: Zambia poaching on rise

Kafue National Park in the heart of Zambia is one of the largest protected areas in Africa, now is under threat of poachers, who can enter the park without worrying about running into safari operators and their guests. In the months since the pandemic began, bushmeat poaching in Kafue’s formerly secured core zones has returned to the same level as two years ago, before the security overhaul, Rachel Nuwer writes.

In her article she point out that from May to August 2019, for example, rangers recovered just 25 snares from boundary areas surrounding the core protection zones, whereas this year, they found 136 snares over the same period. The amount of bushmeat seized over the same period has also skyrocketed, from about 100 pounds last year to more than 3,300 pounds this year. Two lions – both breeding females – have been killed in the core protection zones, something that “just outright never happened” prior to the pandemic, Young-Overton says.

The pandemic will almost certainly leave long-lasting impacts on Kafue’s wildlife and surrounding communities, Young-Overton says. Animal populations take much longer to recover than to decline, and the cascade of local poverty brought about by COVID-19 will not resolve itself overnight.

Across Africa, where the vast majority of protected areas already operate on a shoestring budget, similar scenarios are playing out. The pandemic has laid bare what conservationists have been warning of for years: that support for Africa’s nature is grossly inadequate. But rather than just highlighting and exacerbating this fact, many experts believe that COVID-19 presents a unique opportunity to completely revamp the way the world approaches conservation in Africa, which is currently almost entirely reliant on the fickle tides of tourism and the whims of donors. Through the fog of struggle and loss, conservationists see a chance to rebuild the status quo into something that is significantly more self-sustaining, resilient, and equitable.

For the majority of protected areas, the sums brought in from tourism and other sources are far from adequate. According to a 2018 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences paper, many such reserves are “paper parks,” or areas designated for conservation solely in name. They lack the resources to actually implement conservation on the ground. The paper’s authors calculated that 90 percent of the nearly 300 protected savannah ecosystems in Africa they analysed face crippling funding deficits – to the collective tune of at least a billion dollars.

EU contributes €183M to debt relief

The EU will contribute €183 million to the IMF’s Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust for debt relief in 29 low-income countries, allowing them to increase their social, health and economic spending in response to the COVID-19 crisis. This contribution, announced just after the G20 Summit endorsed a Common Framework on Debt Treatments beyond Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI), is fully in line with Commission President von der Leyen’s proposal for a Global Recovery Initiative that links investments and debt relief to the Sustainable Development Goals.

Afghanistan, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Nepal, Niger, Rwanda, São Tomé and Príncipe, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Tanzania, Tajikistan, Togo and Yemen will benefit from the contribution.

”The EU is combining injections of funds for the rapid easing of budget constraints to help the immediate response – through contributions like this one – with a sustained longer-term plan to assist partners in weathering a severe social-economic storm, which is far from over. The EU has been leading global efforts to do more on debt relief and debt restructuring efforts. It is our hope that our contribution will pave the way for others to join those global efforts” Josep Borrell, High Representative and Vice President for Foreign and Security Policy, said.

“Today, Europe makes an important contribution to multilateralism and debt relief. The EU as a member of the G20 strongly supports the Debt Service Suspension Initiative and the new Common Framework on Debt Treatment. This contribution to the IMF debt relief trust is a further demonstration of our firm commitment to helping low-income countries deal with their debt burden” Paolo Gentiloni, Commissioner for Economy, added.

“The Commission is determined to continue supporting its partner countries in maintaining their path toward the SDGs despite dire financial situations. Debt levels were already high before the crisis and in many countries they are now simply becoming unsustainable. This is why we have decided to contribute €183 million for debt relief through this IMF mechanism” Jutta Urpilainen, Commissioner for International Partnerships, stressed.

“I am very thankful to the EU for the generous contribution of €183 million to the CCRT—a critical step to help the world’s most vulnerable countries provide health care and economic support for their people during the ongoing pandemic. The EU and the IMF have a strong partnership on development financing. I urge others to join the EU and our other contributors in giving to the CCRT. Contributions from our member countries are instrumental in helping the Fund support the most vulnerable countries” Kristalina Georgieva, IMF Managing Director, participated in the virtual European Foreign Affairs Council of Development ministers to maximise common awareness of the worsening debt situation in many countries, said.

The EU funds channelled through the IMF’s Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust (CCRT) will provide debt service relief to 29 of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable countries.

The CCRT pays debts owed to the IMF for eligible low-income member countries that are hit by the most catastrophic natural disasters or battling public health disasters—such as epidemics or global pandemics. This allows them to free up resources to meet exceptional balance of payments needs created by the disaster rather than having to assign those resources to debt service.

Experience from the first two six-month tranches of CCRT relief showed that benefitting countries were able to boost their projected 2020 priority spending by some 1.2 percentage points of GDP; with expenditure on health and social protection increasing, on average, by about a 0.5 percentage point.

Another positive benefit from this short-term liquidity support is that it will also contribute to the countries’ macro-economic stability.

With this €183 million contribution, the EU becomes the largest donor to the CCRT, which so far has received over $500 million in grants from donor countries.

Low-income countries are facing large short-term liquidity needs, hampering their ability to find the necessary funds to deal with the COVID-19 crisis, and fuelling concerns about a fully-fledged external debt crisis.

The EU, as a global player, can help integrate debt relief into a broader policy dialogue, financing strategies and actions, in order to ‘build back better’.

CCRT-eligible countries are those eligible for concessional borrowing through the IMF’s Poverty Reduction and Growth Trust (PRGT) and whose annual per capita gross national income level is below $1,175. Vulnerable countries most seriously affected by the COVID-19 crisis benefit from the CCRT.

SAHEL: EU mobilises €238M

Brussels 09.10.2020 This Monday, November 9, 2020, the Mauritanian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and Mauritanians Abroad, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, co-chaired with the High Representative, Josep Borrell, the 6th G5 ministerial meeting Sahel-EU.

Two points were on the agenda of the discussions: the follow-up to the commitments made since the meeting between the leaders of the European Union and the Heads of State of the G5 Sahel of April 28, 2020 within the framework of the Coalition for the Sahel ; and an exchange on the new Sahel strategy of the European Union.

On the first point, the two parties welcomed the European Union’s commitment beyond the additional 194 million euros announced in April, in support of the security-development nexus: in total, nearly 238 million euros have already been mobilised for projects in the field of stabilisation of the most vulnerable regions (security and resilience). The two parties also recalled that the European mission to support the Malian defence forces (EUTM Mali) can now gradually expand its training in Burkina Faso and also in Niger. The establishment of the P3S secretariat by the EU should allow increased and coordinated support to the security and stability capacity of the G5 countries.

The G5 Sahel Ministers reaffirmed the determination of their Governments to pursue their efforts in the fields of security and development, in particular with regard to the delivery of basic services to the populations and respect for human rights and of international humanitarian law by the security and defense forces. The continuation of the ongoing investigations into the suspected cases of abuse is fundamental in this context.

With regard to the fight against Covid-19, the European Union, in Team Europe format, recalled the actions taken to redirect 449 million euros to provide medical equipment, finance awareness campaigns, and accelerate budget support disbursements to address the economic and social consequences of the pandemic. A total of 92 million euros will be disbursed today for Chad, Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger, to support the implementation of plans to respond to the pandemic, without worsening debt levels .

Underlining the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the already fragile balances existing in the Sahel, the Foreign Ministers of the G5 Sahel once again called for a total cancellation of the debt of the G5 Sahel countries and for the mobilisation of resources financial resources to help restart the economies of the Sahel. The two sides agreed to continue international efforts to reduce debt and access international sources of finance in a coordinated manner within the relevant multilateral frameworks.

Insisting on the need to find lasting solutions to the crisis, the EU and the G5 welcomed the organization of a conference on the central Sahel on October 20, during which the EU announced an additional contribution of 43 million euros, to help the more than 13 million people in need of humanitarian aid in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger.

On the second point, the meeting also provided an opportunity to discuss the ongoing review of the European Union’s Sahel strategy. The EU top diplomat underlined that the European Union would remain one of the main partners of the G5 Sahel States but that this partnership will henceforth be more demanding, the contribution of the European Union, however important it may be, only support the strong political will of the G5 Sahel States. From this perspective, the focus will be more on achieving results and implementing reforms aimed at strengthening governance.

The Foreign Ministers of the G5 Sahel welcomed the continued European engagement in the Sahel. The Ministers hoped that European and international support would come in support of local initiatives and in a coordinated manner between the various partners. As such, they are delighted to see the European Union involving them in the review of its Sahel strategy.

In conclusion, the High Representative and the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the G5 Sahel welcomed the holding of the next meeting between the Heads of State of the G5 Sahel and the President of the European Council on November 30, 2020.

COVID19: The Gambia receives €25M

Brussels 20.10.2020 The European Union disbursed €25 million of budget support for The Gambia’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. As part of the Team Europe global package, these funds contribute to the recovery from the pandemic and also support the transition towards democracy and medium-term development objectives. The announcement of the European Commission has been made on Monday, October 19. The Gambia receives €25M

Commissioner for International Partnerships, Jutta Urpilainen, said: “With this budget support, the EU is contributing to mitigate the most urgent budgetary needs of The Gambian Government in the context of the pandemic. As The Gambia’s key partner, the European Union encourages the Government to strengthen democracy, human rights and the rule of law, and to take the lead in building the necessary national consensus around the future direction of the democratic transition, with a new Constitution at its core.”

The pandemic constitutes an unprecedented global health and economic crisis with detrimental and long-lasting socio-economic impacts. This budget support serves to support The Gambia in tackling its economic and fiscal impact, including loss of government revenue, unforeseen additional expenses and the consequences of global disruptions to supply chains. This will contribute to The Gambia’s ongoing efforts to strengthen the democratic transition initiated in 2017.

Channelled to the National Treasury of The Gambia, the EU funds will be used in accordance with The Gambia’s own Public Financial Management systems and policy priorities. By providing fiscal space to address the pandemic and to continue financing basic public services such as healthcare and education, these funds will support The Gambia’s resilience to the crisis.

This funding also directly supports the long-term efforts to achieve debt sustainability. In addition, the EU will provide technical assistance and capacity building in areas such as public financial management and statistical development.

Since the democratic transition, the EU has provided to The Gambia €365 million in development funds during the period 2016-2020 and €38.95 million from the EU Emergency Trust Fund from 2015 to 2019.

The EU is committed to assist in strengthening the democratic and economic governance in The Gambia as well as its resilience capacity. The EU supports the priorities of The Gambian Government in view of encouraging inclusive and sustainable growth, achieving the necessary reforms related to human rights, to democracy, and on the rule of law.

The EU Delegation implements a broad project portfolio focusing on governance, energy and economic growth, providing budget support under a series of sequential state and resilience building contracts and accompanying the democratic reform and transitional justice trajectories.

EU officials visit to Horn of Africa

Brussels 10.10.2020 Senior European officials have concluded their two-day visit to Ethiopa visit aimed at uplifting the cooperation between the European Union (EU) and the African Union (AU) in the situation of COVID-19 pandemic.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and European commissioner for crisis management, Janez Lenarcic, inspected 1.5 tons of coronavirus testing kits which were donated to Ethiopia by Germany.

This is an important expression of the European Union role in the fight against pandemic and how we do that with our partners from the African Union,” Borrell said at an airport cargo hall in Addis Ababa, surrounded by thousands of boxes containing the test kits.

Lenarcic stressed that the European Commission wants any future COVID-19 vaccine to be treated as “a global public good” which should be available to all countries irrespective of their purchasing power.

Later on Octobrr 8, Borrell met Moussa Faki, the chairperson of the AU Commission.

“… The European Union, as Africa’s close neighbour and main partner, strongly supports the African Union efforts in silencing the guns on the continent” the head of the EU diplomacy said addressing the webinar on the role of the media in promoting silencing the guns of Africa.

 

“And here, Commissioner [of the African Union for Peace and Security, Smaïl] Chergui, our cooperation aiming at sustainable peace and conflict prevention is at the top of our common agenda. It also fosters inclusive and accountable governance and recognises the role of civil society, the media, and democratic institutions”  Borrell has underlined.

“Allow me to commend the work of journalists, specifically here, in Africa, and all over the world, for their commitment to ensure that all voices calling for peace are being heard. Voices that will eventually silence the guns because they are more powerful. Your work is crucial in providing reliable and credible analysis and acting as a bridge between local communities and policy makers. I can assure you that the European Union will continue to be a strong and reliable partner in the implementation of the African Union master roadmap for silencing the guns”  the EU top diplomat Borrell said during the webinar.

In May this year the EU has provided an additional €105.5 million to countries in the Horn of Africa as the coronavirus pandemic risks worsening the humanitarian situation across the region where many continue to suffer from armed conflict, displacement, and recurrent droughts and floods. Furthermore, a large-scale infestation of locusts threatens food security and livelihoods of many vulnerable people in the region.

Funding from this aid package to humanitarian projects in Djibouti (€500,000), Ethiopia (€42 million), Kenya (€15 million) and Somalia (€48 million).

IGWE: COVID19 pandemic in Africa

Leo IGWE OPINION Confronting Human Extinction and Post-Human Approaches to COVID-19 Pandemic in Africa.
A pandemic that has threatened to extinct humanity provides an ample opportunity to envision possible futures and explore post-human permutations. This is because, amidst the gloom and despair, fears, and anxieties over human survival, it is compelling that humans re-imagine and re-conceive the human. Speculations about the future must engage and move beyond human vulnerabilities and imperfections holding out some hope and optimism about the future and humanity.

A post-human take on the coronavirus pandemic is quite pertinent especially for the African continent, a region that has been predicted would be most affected by COVID-19. Although the surge in the infection rate that many predicated has not materialized, the region is no less vulnerable to epidemics and pandemics that could threaten human existence and survival in the region. Thus any speculation about redesigning or technologically augmenting the human is both cogent and promising and laden with opportunities and possibilities worthy of a reflection.

Pandemic Rattles Africa

The outbreak of COVID-19 caused so much panic and anxiety across Africa and the world. Drastic and unprecedented measures have been put in place to contain the spread of the virus- social distancing, a ban on international and domestic flights, and prohibition of public gathering in parks, churches, and schools. The pandemic has posed a serious challenge to African politics, economies, and health care sectors. According to the WHO, the first reported case of COVID-19 in Africa was on February 14 and since then 52 countries have reported cases. African countries still lag behind the rest of the world in testing and monitoring of the disease. In my country Nigeria, the number of confirmed cases has continued to rise. Very few tests have been conducted due to the limited number of testing equipment and personnel in the country. Like the Ebola virus, COVID 19 has revealed the fragile and weak health care capacities in African countries especially the technological deficit in the management of diseases. The UN Economic Commission on Africa has projected that between 300 thousand and 3 million Africans will lose their lives as a result of COVID-19. However, it noted that this projected impact could be affected by the intervention measures from the various countries.

These grim prospects for the region are predicated on so many factors including overcrowding and poorly serviced slum dwellings in urban areas, limited access to hand-washing facilities, informal workforce, undernourishment, underlying health conditions such as tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, and extreme poverty. Besides, there is a challenge posed by snake oil sellers who take advantage of people. Lack of a cure for the disease has provided an opportunity for quacks and other con artists to peddle fake therapies for the coronavirus, at very exorbitant prices. In Ghana and Nigeria, there have been reports of traditional healers, operators of herbal clinics, and pastors market spurious remedies and questionable cures for COVID-19.

As earlier noted, COVID-19 poses a serious challenge to African countries in the area of testing for the virus. As of June 29 Nigeria, a country of over 200 million persons has carried out a little over 130 000 tests. Let us assume that Nigeria can carry out a million tests at the end of the year, how long will it take to test half of the population of the country? The same situation applies to Zambia. Zambia reported its first two cases of COVID-19 in March. In May, this country of about 17 million people has conducted only 20,000 tests. Whilst in Kenya, the number of tests was 45,000 and 537,713 tests were required to cover one percent of the population.

As Belinda Herring has noted there is a lack of necessary infrastructure to tackle COVID-19. African countries lack the equipment and trained human resources, and also the reagents that are needed to do the tests.

To carry out these tests, African countries depend on other countries to send or sell the resources to them. They rely on the WHO to make available the testing materials, training as well as tracking facilities. Even with the existing support from other countries and the WHO, African countries need a technological leap to contain the coronavirus pandemic. Various technologies need to converge and combine in ways that could signal hope, enhance the health care capacity, and accelerate testing as well as treatment processes.

As it stands, the COVID-19 management status quo in African countries is anything but smart and capable of getting countries to defeat the pandemic. Some countries have trained human resources but there aren’t enough testing kits. They may possess testing kits but lack enough personnel to use them. Some countries have laboratories for the tests but not enough reagents or protective devices for the scientists and health workers.

Thus the effective management of COVID-19 is predicated on revamping the health infrastructure in African countries and making available cutting edge health technologies for testing, monitoring, and treatment of the disease. For instance, in Nigeria, the technology for testing and management of COVID-19 should be available and accessible to the country’s 200 million people, not just less than a million at currently the case. So with the current infrastructure, it is evident that African countries are incapable of meeting the targets of combating and containing COVID-19 and other life and human threatening epidemics and pandemics.

African countries need to transition into more technology-mediated societies that can harness scientific and technological innovations, emerging technologies including robotics, nanotechnology, gene therapy, stem cell therapy, and artificial intelligence in combating the disease. To rattle the COVID-19 management status quo in the region, a convergence of technologies and blurring of the line between is required to scale up efficient and effective management of the pandemic.

Namibia opens arms to tourists

Namibia has further eased restrictions for international tourists to try to prevent the complete collapse of a sector severely damaged by the coronavirus pandemic after the country closed its borders in March, following the pandemic announcement of the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The Tourism Ministry said on September 8 that that foriegn tourists could go to their pre-booked destinations and take part in activities for up to five days, after which they will be tested for the virus.

If they stay at their pre-booked destination for less than five days they can proceed to another destination without a test.

According to the rules introduced in July, tourists had to quarantine at their first destination for seven days, which resulted in a large number of cancellations, detrimental for the hotel owners.

The tourism sector in Namibia has not seen any new bookings since the beginning of the month, leading to 115.7 million Namibian dollars ($6.85 million) in cancellations, the ministry estimates.

“This has necessitated a rethink in our approach. The tourism sector is highly competitive and Namibia is competing to attract tourists with countries from all over the world,” Tourism Minister Pohamba Shifeta said.

COVID19: EU delivers test kits to Addis Ababa

The EU continues to work with Member States to tackle the coronavirus pandemic on all fronts. Today, 500.000 additional coronavirus testing kits have been provided to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The test kits were delivered by an EU Humanitarian Air Bridge flight and are part of a €10 million immediate support package to the African Union (AU) by the German Government in response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. In total, almost 1.4 million tests for the extraction and the detection of the virus will be made available to African Union countries.

“Through the EU Humanitarian Air Bridge, the European Commission continues to work hand in hand with Member States to support vulnerable countries amidst the coronavirus pandemic. It is in our common interest to tackle the pandemic worldwide. We are committed to ensuring effective delivery of essential medical equipment to the countries that need it the most. This specific consignment will be able to reach a large number of countries as it will support the African Union continental response,” said Janez Lenarčič, Commissioner for Crisis Management.

The kits delivery is part of the larger Team Europe support to the African continental response to the coronavirus.

Mr Gerd Müller, Minister for Development Cooperation of the Federal Republic of Germany, said on the occasion: “We will either beat the coronavirus together worldwide – or not at all. This is why we support the African Union through the German Epidemic Preparedness Team in cooperation with the EU. The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention coordinate the procurement of life-saving testing equipment for AU member states. They also play an important role in educating African health workers. With our support to the partnership to accelerate coronavirus testing, we make sure that testing is made widely available. We stand by our friends in Africa in the fight against the coronavirus.”

Lions need protecton amid pandemic crisis

African countries need to strengthen protection of lions without delay amid threats to their survival linked to aggravating situation related to pandemic criis, reflecting in rise absence of tourims, and rising of poaching, conservationists said on ahead of World Lions Dayobserved on August 10.

Edith Kabesiime, wildlife campaign manager at World Animal Protection, said that African lions were facing human and nature induced threats hence the need to prioritize their protection.

“We have witnessed the population of lions in Africa declined in the last decades as human beings occupy their habitat,” Kabesiime said at a virtual briefing in Nairobi.

The conservationist said that World Lions Day offers an opportunity to raise awareness on the emerging threats of poisoning big cats by livestock keepers and poaching to satisfy the overseas traditional healers demands.

“There is a need to raise awareness on the plight of lions even as we celebrate them as Africa’s iconic species,” said Kabesiime.

Statistics from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) displays the dramatic decline of Africa’s lion population from 200,000 in the last century to the current 20,000.

Kabesiime said that currently, lions exist in 26 African countries adding that the continent has lost about 90% of the carnivore from its original habitat amid rapid urbanization.

She said that the African lion has been categorized by IUCN as a vulnerable species amid international trade in its claws and jaws to meet a rising demand for traditional natural healers and jewelry.

“The other challenge facing lion conservation is illegal bushmeat and poisoning by farmers as a deterrent measure against attack on livestock,” said Kabesiime.

The shrinking of prey base for African lions linked to massive hunting by local communities, has increased their risk of death through starvation, Kabesiime has underlined.

The industrialised captive breeding of lions that has intensified in some parts of Africa also represents a threat to their survival, causing degeneration.

The scientists urged African governments to support innovative lions’ conservation programs that focus on expanding their prey base while minimizing conflict with humans.

Kabesiime said that a complex of measures as a ban on international trade in lion’s products coupled with enforcement of laws to deter poaching will help reverse their declining numbers in Africa.

Botswana dimond trade plunges

Botswana’s rough diamond exports plunged 68% in the second quarter of the year, data published by the central bank showed on August 7, as the COVID-19 pandemic affected demand, and trade.

In a bid to curb the spread of the virus, Botswana closed its borders in March following the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendations, preventing the international buyers from travelling to centres such as Mumbai, Antwerp and China who traditionally arrive to Gaborone ten times a year to buy diamonds.

Exports of diamonds from Debswana, a joint venture between Botswana and diamond mining giant De Beers, a unit of Anglo American, stood at $293 million in the second quarter of 2020, from $916 million in the preceding period.

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