Tag Archives: COVID19

EU: South Africa in view

Brussels 13.12.2021 Today the Foreign affairs ministers will hold a comprehensive discussion on EU-Africa relations, touching on the overall situation on the continent and the challenges it faces in fields such as: security, development, demographic growth, health, democratic evolution, and engagement at a multilateral level.

South Africa’s president has condemned travel bans enacted against his country and its neighbours over the new coronavirus variant Omicron.

Cyril Ramaphosa said he was “deeply disappointed” by the action, which he described as unjustified, and called for the bans to be urgently lifted.

The UK, EU and US are among those who have imposed travel bans.

As nearly two years of restrictions have impacted South Africa’s travel and hospitality sector, the industry and travellers need clarity on what to expect over the key festive season, says Euan McNeil, managing director of the Flight Centre Travel Group.

In an open letter addressed to president Cyril Ramaphosa, McNeil said that a lack of certainty around the level of restrictions – and when they could be introduced – meant many prospective travellers were not making holiday plans.

“We have been here before. December 2020 brought with it beach bans, stricter curfews and alcohol bans. Six months later, during our third wave largely driven by the Delta variant, leisure travel to and from Gauteng was prohibited.

“Over the past 20 months of navigating the catastrophic impacts of Covid-19, the tourism and travel industry has suffered the collateral damage of these regulations aimed at stemming the spread of Covid-19.”

On Thursday (10 December), South Africa reported 22,391 new cases of Covid-19, taking the total reported to 3,093,452.

Deaths have reached 90,060 (+22), while recoveries have climbed to 2,870,329, leaving the country with a balance of 133,063 active cases. The total number of vaccines administered is 26,917,603 (+135,961).

Omicron: AU calls to lift travel restrictions

Brussels 08.12.2021 The African Union called for an urgent end to travel restrictions imposed on some of its member states, saying the measures effectively penalise governments for timely data sharing in line with international health regulations.

The measures act “as a disincentive for information sharing in the future, potentially posing a threat to health security on the continent and globally,” the AU said in a statement.

Late last month, European Union states, the United States and Britain, among other nations such as Israel, imposed travel curbs on seven southern African countries after they reported several cases of the Omicron variant, which is considered highly infectious.

EU proposes ban on South Africa flights

Brussels 26.11.2021 Concerns over a new COVID-19 variant detected in South Africa have caused new wave of travel restrictions in Italy and Germany on Friday, November 26, as Brussels demands the EU-wide flight restrictions. (Image: illustration).

The European Commission will propose to suspend air travel from southern Africa amid concerns over this particular variant, EC President Ursula Von der Leyen announced on Friday.

The proposal could be enacted in urgent procedures on Friday night, November 26.

Germany, Italy and France have already announced measures to restrict air travel from the region.

Rome has banned entry on its territory to anyone who has stayed in southern Africa during fortnight, said health minister Roberto Speranza, invoking “maximum precaution” in the face of the new variant.

The countries targeted by this measure are South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and Eswatini, the Minister has underlined.

German Health Minister Jens Spahn said on Friday, November 26, airlines coming from South Africa will only be able to transport German citizens, meaning only repatriations will be possible.

South Africa, like much of the region, has suffered through three significant pandemic waves since the beginning. While the number of new infections across the country is now still relatively low and positivity levels are under 5%, public health officials have already predicted a fourth wave because of the mutations of the virus alike the one they have discovered now.

During a news briefing, South African genomic scientists said the variant has an unusually high number of mutations, with more than 30 in the key spike protein, which is the structure the virus uses to get into the cells they attack.

EU reinforces Horn of Africa ties

Brussels 10.05.2021 The Council today approved conclusions affirming the EU’s commitment to give new impetus to its partnership with the Horn of Africa, and establishing a new strategy for the region.

A geo-strategic priority for the EU in Africa, the Horn of Africa region has undergone unprecedented developments over the last years and is now at a crossroads.

With this new strategy, EU’s intention is to further strengthen and deepen its strategic relationship and partnership with the Horn of Africa and its countries, notably with a view to reduce instability, promote democracy and sustainable growth.

The strategy will aim at reinforcing a joint approach to democracy and regional peace and security, revitalising multilateralism and the rules-based international order, strengthening commitment to social and human development, boosting post-COVID socio-economic recovery and trade and regional integration. The strategy also aims at strengthening the partnership with the broader region notably the Red Sea, the Western Indian Ocean and the Nile.

The cornerstones of the EU’s engagement will be mutual accountability, whereby there is a common understanding of each partner’s responsibilities, priorities and concrete objectives, and a Team Europe approach, which has shown that through collective action the EU is a solid partner of the region.

Tanzania: President whereabouts unknown

Questions persist over the health of Tanzanian President John Magufuli who has not been seen in public for 11 days. Opposition leader Tundu Lissu has told the BBC that according to his sources the President is being transported to Kenya for treatment in hospital against COVID-19. The BBC has not been able to verify this report independently.

Mr Magufuli has faced criticism for his coping with COVID-19 sanitary crisis, with his government refusing to buy vaccines. The East African nation has not published its coronavirus cases since May.

Its 61-year-old president has called for prayers and herbal-infused steam therapy to counter the virus.

Earlier this month, at a funeral for a top presidential aide, President Magufuli said Tanzania had defeated COVID-19 last year and would win again this year.

Mr Lissu says he was told that President Magufuli had been flown to Kenya for treatment at Nairobi Hospital on Monday night.

According to the opposition leader, the president has suffered a cardiac arrest and is in a critical condition.

There has been no official response from the government, which has warned against publishing unverified information about the Tanzanian leader, who was last seen at an official event in Dar es Salaam on 27 February.

Africa: EU provides €100M for vaccination

“The EU continues to strengthen its partnership with the_African Union.Our actions speak for themselves: we provide €100M to @AfricaCDC to support vaccination campaigns. At global level EU doubling #COVAX contribution to €1 billion. We can only be safe together. #StrongerTogether” the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell wrote.

“We will only be safe if the whole world is safe. As announced in the G7, the EU is doubling its contribution to COVAX, the world’s facility for universal access to vaccines – from €500 million to €1 billion.
Deliveries will start soon. A true moment of global solidarity” Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president tweeted.

“We are providing €100 million in humanitarian assistance for the roll out of vaccination in Africa.
The funding will be used to strengthen health systems, ensure the cold chains, buy equipment and train staff” she continued.

Kenya lost $100M of tourism revenue

The sector includes tourism, which has been greatly affected by a drop in visitor arrivals due to COVID-19 restrictions. “This led to either complete closure of businesses in accommodation and food service sector or significantly scaled down operation,” the statistics office said.

In early December, the tourism ministry said the sector had lost 110 billion Kenyan shillings ($999.55 million) in revenue between January and October.

Some of the more stringent measures that affected the sector, like stopping movement into and out of regions that were initially most affected by COVID-19, and the total closure of bars, have been lifted.

Providing some support, however, the agriculture, forestry and fishing sector grew 6.3% from a 5.0% expansion in the same period in 2019.

“The impressive performance was supported by increases in tea production, exports of fruit and sugarcane production,” the statistics office said.

Construction also picked up, rising 16.2% from 6.6% growth a year earlier.

The economy contracted 5.7% year-on-year in the second quarter of last year, its first quarterly contraction since the global financial crisis 12 years ago.

The African economy’s performance in 2020 was hit by effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions that were put in place to contain its spread, forcing many businesses to close and send their employees home.Accommodation and food service activity crashed 57.9%, a sharp deterioration from 9.9% growth in third quarter of 2019, Kenya’s statistics office said on Thursday.

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.

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