Saturday, August 08, 2020

 ZANU-PF, ANC Unite Against Renewed Onslaught

08 AUG, 2020 - 00:08

Zanu-PF Secretary for Administration Obert Mpofu (right) and African National Congress (ANC) secretary-general Cde Ace Magashule during a meeting of the two former liberation movements at the ZANU-PF Headquarters in Harare yesterday. — Picture by Justin Mutenda

Herald Reporter

African countries have once again become targets of a smear campaign to discredit former liberation war movements, with the continent erstwhile colonisers working with opposition parties to cause discord among sister parties, Zanu PF and the African National Congress (ANC) have said.

The systematic attack begun with the manufacturing of a non-existent crisis in Zimbabwe by the country’s detractors, who are working with fugitive former G40 functionaries desperate to cast aspersions on the Second Republic’s economic revival and re-engagement efforts.

A virtual meeting between Zanu PF secretary for Administration Cde Obert Mpofu and his South African counterpart Ace Magashule saw the two revolutionary parties pledging to work together to defend the gains of the liberation struggle.

Speaking to The Herald last night, Cde Mpofu said the two revolutionary parties were constantly in cordial contact at an inter-party level to confront the cross-sectional attempts to annihilate the standing successes towards entrenching democracy in the SADC region.

“Following regular fraternal engagements with my counterpart Cde Magashule, we have established that there are concerted efforts to attack the gains of the Second-Republic in Zimbabwe as well as the whole region and the continent at large.

“In my intense discussion with him this morning (yesterday), we shared a mutual position that liberation movements must be on the guard against efforts to divide the region,” said Cde Mpofu.

Cde Mpofu said former liberation movements must not stray and be caught up in the whims of externally induced efforts to discredit historical values that have stood the test of time.

“Our interactions as FLM are not only diplomatic, but they are premised on sound ideological brotherhood and a history of massive sacrifice. We are connected by our dedication to African Unity and not organised ploys by imperialists to misdirect our unity.

“Therefore, it must be known that we are cordially in contact at an inter-party level to confront the cross-sectional attempts to annihilate the standing successes of our democracy in the SADC,” he said.

Cde Mpofu noted imperialistic attempts to discredit the country by falsely claiming that there are human rights violations.

“What has been presented as the violation of human rights in Zimbabwe is part of the exhausted script of the MDC Alliance’s failure to come to terms with its defeat in the 2018 Harmonised Elections. Moreover, we are aware that the purported instability in Zimbabwe is precipitated by disgruntled fugitives and ejected elements from the revolutionary party, ZANU PF.”

He further said the leaders of the two parties President Mnangagwa and President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa enjoy cordial relations.

“I am aware of the profound relations between President Mnangagwa and President Ramaphosa of South Africa. Equally, the two Heads of State are constantly exchanging notes on issues affecting Zimbabwe and South Africa. Contrary to the unpopular misrepresentation of issues, there have been no cases of State incentivised human rights abuses. Given the international lockdown measures, all that the Government of Zimbabwe has done is to contain the breaching of lockdown protocols.

“This is because we are sensitive to the severe effects of the Covid-19 pandemic to human life.

“The misplaced anti-Zimbabwe campaign on social media aligns with retrogressive regime change elements backed by their external neo-colonial handlers.

“In fact, the pictures and video clips being circulated in the mainstream and social media are old footages which are not reflective of the current state of peace and tranquillity in Zimbabwe,” expressed Cde Mpofu.

Zimbabwe and South Africa enjoy strong cordial relations which date back to the liberation struggle against colonialism and Apartheid.

 Covid-19: Civil Service Reduces Staff on Duty to 15 Percent

Mukudzei Chingwere 

Herald Reporter

With the rise in Covid-19 cases, the Government has ordered ministries to have just 15 percent of their staff on duty at any one time, but the rest staying at home on standby and being available to help cope with surges in work and being given more work to do at home.

Units that provide essential services will have higher percentages of staff on duty.

The thinning of staff on duty will boost safety, making it far easier to enforce social distancing and other protocols to minimise risk of infections.

The Public Service Commission (PSC) has directed that only 15 percent must be at their work stations but those who remain at home have been ordered to be on standby, remain in the towns and cities they are employed and be ready to be called in to provide help if the 15 percent of staff on duty is overwhelmed.

With an estimated 300 000 public servants, Government is the biggest employer and an estimated 45 000 have been recommended to report for work, which will substantially reduce the number of those coming to work.

“We want 15 percent of the public service to be at their respective workplaces. We want to decongest the workplaces. Others will be on call and might be told to report for duty if those at work are overwhelmed or need to rest,” said PSC Secretary Ambassador Jonathan Wutawunashe.

“It is not every ministry where it is possible, where there are essential services that you cannot manage with 15 percent but those are exceptions.”

Ambassador Wutawunashe said the safety of workers was a priority and measures to protect the public servants would continue to be reviewed.

He said as they protected their workers, they would not negate the provision of essential services, which are needed by the public or cannot afford to be put on hold.

“The Government is mindful of the safety of its workers and as such it continues to review the situation relating to Covid-19, which at the moment seems to be escalating in terms of incidents of local infections. “It is Government to continue reviewing measures that protect the workers. While we continue to affirm that, essential services must be provided to the citizenry at the same time, the Government has taken the strategic role to reduce the number of civil servants reporting for duty at work stations to reduce the risk of exposure.”

Ambassador Wutawunashe said the position had already been communicated to all the ministries and had counselled the ministries to invest in technology so that those at home can remain useful during this crisis.

“The Public Service Commission has sent out a circular announcing to all heads of ministries that they needed to further reduce quite drastically the number those coming to work, and to ensure that those who are at home are working,” he said.

At the directive of President Mnangagwa, the Government is paying salary increases of 50 percent and the temporary US$75 monthly Covid-19 relief allowances, while waiting for the completion of negotiations on salary adjustments.

Ambassador Wutawunashe said the negotiations will continue, adding that the Government’s position was to take care of its staff, which includes those who get sick or infected by Covid-19 in the line of duty.

“The provision of essential services cannot be stopped, and the Government is very appreciative of the dedication that the workers have shown. Government would like to thank its employees sincerely for the effort.

“For its part Government continues to support the livelihoods of its workers including the salary grant while awaiting the usual negotiations between Government and its worker representatives.

“Government has come up with measures that support any worker who falls ill in the line of duty,” said Ambassador Wutawunashe.

Mauritius Declares Emergency Over Oil Spill From Grounded Ship

Indian Ocean island nation declares environmental emergency as satellite images show a dark slick spreading in waters.

A satellite image shows the bulk carrier ship MV Wakashio and its oil spill after it ran aground off the southeast coast of Mauritius [Maxar Technologies/Reuters]

Anxious residents of the Indian Ocean island nation of Mauritius have stuffed fabric sacks with sugar cane leaves to create makeshift oil spill barriers as tonnes of fuel leaking from a grounded ship put endangered wildlife in further peril.

The government on Saturday declared an environmental emergency as satellite images showed a dark slick spreading in the turquoise waters near wetlands that the government called "very sensitive".

Wildlife workers and volunteers ferried dozens of baby tortoises and rare plants from an island near the spill, Ile aux Aigrettes, to the mainland as fears grew that worsening weather on Sunday could tear the Japanese-owned ship apart along its cracked hull.

Residents and environmentalists alike wondered why authorities did not act more quickly after the ship, the MV Wakashio, struck the reef on the southeast coast of the Indian Ocean island on July 25.

Mauritius says the ship was carrying nearly 4,000 tonnes of fuel.

"That's the big question," Jean Hugues Gardenne of the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation told The Associated Press news agency. "Why that ship has been sitting for long on that coral reef and nothing being done."

This is the country's first oil spill, he said, adding that perhaps no one expected the ship to break apart. For days, residents peered out at the precariously tilted ship as a salvage team arrived and began to work, but ocean waves kept battering the carrier.

"They just hit and hit and hit," Gardenne said.

Cracks in the hull were detected a few days ago and the salvage team was quickly evacuated. Some 400 sea booms were deployed to contain the spill, but they were not enough.

Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth says the spill "represents a danger" for the country of 1.3 million people that relies heavily on tourism and has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

"Our country doesn't have the skills and expertise to refloat stranded ships," he said on Friday. "I worry what could happen on Sunday when the weather deteriorates."

France to send help

French President Emmanuel Macron announced on Saturday his country was sending help from the neighbouring island of Reunion, a French overseas territory.

A military aircraft from Reunion carrying pollution-control equipment would make two flights over the spill site, while a naval vessel carrying booms and absorbents would also set sail, authorities in Reunion said.

"When biodiversity is in danger, there is an urgent need to act," Macron said. "You can count on our support."

Greenpeace said the fuel and oil leak into nearby lagoons threatened the survival of thousands of species which were at "risk of drowning in a sea of pollution".

The spill near Pointe d'Esny was likely "one of the most terrible ecological crises ever seen on the small island country," the environmental group said in a statement.

"Thousands of species around the pristine lagoons of Blue Bay, Pointe d'Esny and Mahebourg are at risk of drowning in a sea of pollution, with dire consequences for Mauritius's economy, food security and health," said Greenpeace's climate and energy manager, Happy Khambule.

The country also has appealed to the United Nations for urgent aid, including experts in containing oil spills and environmental protection.

SOURCE: NEWS AGENCIES

Sudanese Army, SPLM-N al-Hilu Trade Accusations Over Attacks on Civilians

A Woman and child herding cattle in Nyaro, South Kordofan, (Getty Images)August 7, 2020 

(KHARTOUM) - The Sudanese army and the SPLM-North led by Abdel Aziz al-Hilu on Friday traded accusations about attacks on civilians in South Kordofan State.

While the parties failed to make progress in the stalled talks in Juba, there are reports on increasing separate attacks reviving concerns that this recurrent violence may lead to the resumption of military confrontation between the two sides in spite of the declared unilateral cessation of hostilities.

In a statement on Friday, the Sudanese army said that SPLA-N al-Hilu fighters planted mines and ambushed shepherds on their way from southern to northern Sudan in the Khor Al Waral area of South Kordofan State. The statement added that herdsmen were escorted by an army force.

The attack resulted in the killing of several civilians and soldiers in addition to the destruction of military and civilian equipment, further said the statement without giving an indication on the number of human casualties.

The army affirmed its commitment to ensuring free movement of its citizens and the exercise of their normal lives, while it fully adheres to the ceasefire and confidence-building measures.

Khor Al-Warl area is located southeast of Dilling town and it is one of the areas under the control of the SPLM-N al-Hilu.

For its part, the SPLM-N al-Hilu accused the government militia of repeatedly violating the ceasefire and deliberately using military force to secure transit of livestock to Al Quoz areas.

The rebel statement said the Sudanese government troops displaced many residents from their areas.

Further, it pointed out that the SPLM-N al-Hilu negotiating team had quitted the peace negotiating to protest similar attacks on 14 October 2019.

The SPLM-N al-Hilu condemned the new attacks and affirmed they would not stand idly by as civilians in the Movement controlled areas are targeted.

The Movement "will not hesitate to defend and protect them," stressed the statement.

(ST)

Hamdok, Pompeo Discuss Sudan’s Delisting from U.S. Blacklist

August 6, 2020 (KHARTOUM) - Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok Thursday said he received a call from U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo to discuss ongoing Sudan’s delisting process from the terror list.

Hamdok with Pompeo in Berlin on 14 February 2020 (ST photo)"Delighted to receive a phone call from (U.S.) Secretary Pompeo today to discuss further progress in delisting Sudan from the (State) Sponsors of Terrorism list (SSTL)," wrote Hamdok in a tweet posted on Thursday.

The State Department which used to issue statements about Pompeo’s activities did not make public a statement about the telephone conversation.

On 30 July, the U.S. top diplomat told the Senate that Pompeo that legislation related to the proposed settlement between Sudan and victims of the 1998 bombings will be tabled before the Congress "in the very near term".

The proposed law would reinstate sovereign immunity on Sudan so that it is protected from any future terror-related claims.

"Looking forward to the continued support of the U.S. Administration to Sudan’s transitional government," Hamdok further said.

(ST)

 Sudan Will Sign Peace Agreement Within Weeks: Hamdok

PM Abdallah Hamdok (L)) and SRF leader Hadi Idriss in Juba September 2019 (ST photo)

August 4, 2020 (KHARTOUM) - The Sudanese Prime Minister, Abdallah Hamdok, announced on Tuesday the signing of the peace agreement within some weeks.

In remarks o the staff of the General Secretariat of the Council of Ministers on the occasion of Eid Al-Adha, Hamdok said that the transitional period despite the huge challenges it was able to accomplish many tasks, particularly Sudan’s strong return of Sudan to the international family, and the progress made in peace talks in Juba.

"Within weeks, the peace agreement will be signed to complete the first phase of peace," he said.

The peace negotiations were suspended during the Eid Al-Adha holiday, before to resume on Monday 3 August. The ongoing talks deal with the security arrangements between the government and the Sudan Liberation Movement of Minni Minnawi(SLM-MM).

The Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF) which had already discussed the security file with the government will join the negotiating table when the discussions reach the outstanding points.

Hamdok also called for the need of speeding up the formation of the Transitional Legislative Council as it will enable the political forces to control the action of the transitional government involve it in the elaboration of its policies and programmes.

Hamdok also stressed the government’s continued efforts to address economic hardship and costly living.

It is worth mentioning that the talks with the SPLM-N of Abdel Aziz al-Hilu are stalled over the issue of the relationship between state and religion as the rebel group demands to address it in the talks while the government says it should be tackled by the constitutional conference.

(ST)

Friends of Sudan Invite SRF Leader to Address Their Meeting Next Week

Friends of Sudan meet in Khartoum on 11 December 2019 (SUNA Photo)August 5, 2020

 (KHARTOUM) - Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF) has been invited to address the Friends of Sudan group meeting next week, Sudan Tribune has learnt on Wednesday.

The Friends of Sudan will hold a teleconference meeting hosted by Saudi Arabia on 12 August to support peace efforts in Sudan.

The Saudi Ambassador to Sudan and South Sudan Ali Hassan bin Gaafar sent an invitation letter to SRF leader Hadi Idriss on 4 August 2020.

Gaafar in his letter requested Idriss to speak about “ways to overcome the obstacles to achieving sustainable peace in Sudan”.

The armed groups of the SRF complained that they had not been invited to a donor meeting hosted by the German government organized by the Friends of Sudan.

In a tweet posted on Wednesday SPLM-N Malik Agar deputy leader, Yasir Arman wondered how the UNITMAS planning team did not manage to meet them to discuss the peace process and ways to implement the would-be signed peace agreement.

“It’s surprising UN planning team who are in Khartoum to discuss preparations for UNITAMS have not approached the Sudan Revolutionary Front and other parties to the peace, given their main task is to support the implementation of the peace agreement and democratic transformation,” Arman said.

(ST)

Over US protests, China Partners AU on Disease Control

Home Over US protests, China partners AU on disease control

 By Timo Shihepo 

Aug 07, 2020

Windhoek - Construction of the Africa Centres for Disease Control (Africa CDC) headquarters will start soon after the African Union and China’s Ministry of Commerce signed an MoU for the project to commence, despite protests from United States. 

Africa CDC was launched in 2017 as a long-term response to the 2014 Ebola pandemic with a view to co-ordinating continental responses to disease outbreaks. 

All AU members contribute to the Africa CDC, with further financial assistance from China, Japan, Kuwait, the US and the World Bank.

Africa CDC presently operates out of the AU’s headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and the US$80 million funding from China – extended via the Forum on China-Africa Co-operation – will give the key institution its own base.

However, the US has opposed the funding, claiming China wants to mine data in Africa and use the continent against Washington in the trade war with Beijing.

The claims have fallen on deaf ears, and last week AU Commissioner for Social Affairs Amira Elfadil and China’s Vice-Minister for Commerce Qian Keming held an online MoU signing ceremony for “the Project of the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention Headquarters Building (Phase I)”.

Mrs Elfadil thanked China’s President Xi Jinping for Beijing’s continued support for Africa’s development.

“The African Union Commission attaches great value and importance to the significance of the construction of the Africa CDC headquarters building and AU will do all its best seriously in the realisation of the project,” she said.

Vice-Minister Keming said the financial support for Africa CDC was in fulfilment of a pledge made by Beijing through FOCAC.

The Africa CDC headquarters will be located south of Addis Ababa on a site approximately 90,000 square metres in size. The actual HQ floor area will be nearly 40,000 square metres.

Besides the administrative functions, the HQ will have an emergency operations centre, a data and resource centre and a laboratory, among other facilities.

 SADC Summit in Midst of Pandemic, Insecurity

By David Muchagoneyi & Freddy Mambara 

Aug 07, 2020 

Harare - The 40th Ordinary Summit of SADC Heads of State and Government starts Monday with regional leaders faced with finding and financing common positions on the unprecedented challenge posed by the COVID-19 pandemic while also confronting mounting peace and security threats.

The Summit runs from August 10-17.

Incoming Chair Mozambique hosts the Summit that will be held virtually due to the COVID-19 containment protocols recommended by the UN’s World Health Organisation.

Mozambique's President Felipe Nyusi will take over from Tanzania's John Magufuli as SADC Chair; while Botswana's President Mokgweetsi Masisi succeeds the Chairmanship of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation from Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

While the agenda may have been truncated the Heads of State and Governments will undoubtedly be preoccupied with the novel coronavirus pandemic and the radical Islamist insurgency in Mozambique.

Southern Africa is the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic on the continent.

International relations expert Mr Alexander Rusero from Africa University said leaders had to find a way to confront the security issues threatening the region.

"For a region reeling under COVID-19, just like any other region and state in the world, human security matters. Security of citizens is at stake here.

“All the developments we are seeing - from the Mozambique Islamist insurgency to the Zambia-DRC border dispute - call for robust measures aimed at securing the citizen more than the state itself, and that should dominate the SADC Summit agenda," he said.

Last week The Southern Times reported that the Mozambique issue would be handled at Heads of State and Government level amid indications that terror attacks – which have led to more than 1,000 deaths and 200,000 displacements - in the north of the country were being sponsored by external forces.

There were also suggestions that authorities in Mozambique were not too keen on a regional intervention and would prefer a bilateral arrangement with Zimbabwe, whose Chairmanship of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation ends at the Summit.

Not only Southern Africa is keeping a close eye on the unfolding security situation in Mozambique, which analysts say can easily spread across the region as evidenced by the Islamists’ threat to attack South Africa if it militarily assists its neighbour to restore peace and stability.

This week, United States Special Operations commander for Africa, Major-General Dagvin Anderson told African journalists that the American military was keenly interested in developments in Mozambique.

“We are looking at and assessing what’s happening in northern Mozambique, up in the Cabo Delgado region … we do believe there are external actors that are influencing that and making that more virulent and more dangerous (groups operate) in the Cabo Delgado region,” Maj-Gen Anderson said.

He added: “Because what we’re seeing now is that it is no longer just a local grievance that can be handled solely by, maybe, local authorities, but now that becomes something that is being inflamed by Islamic State, by the Islamic State-Core, that now that provides them training, it provides them education, and it provides them additional resources.

“We do believe that that will take multiple nations … Mozambique needs to take the lead on this but it won’t solely be Mozambique. Other countries in the region will need to engage.

“Tanzania, Malawi, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Zambia and others will need to help because this is going to spread regionally. The terrorists know no borders.  They will cross borders.  They will engage.  They will seek safe havens and refuges where they can in order to continue to disrupt the region.”

Prior to that, Botswana’s Lieutenant-General Placid Segokgo warned that the insurgency in Mozambique was a threat to the entire Southern African region.

“Security in the region, terrorism, particularly the insurgency in Cabo Delgado in Mozambique, is a very serious threat. It is not on our shores but it is a threat that moves very dynamically,” he told Botswana’s Parliament. “It’s a situation that we as a member of SADC cannot just turn a blind eye to.”

BP Poised to Sell 'Stranded Assets' Even If Oil Prices Rally

Ron Bousso, Dmitry Zhdannikov

LONDON (Reuters) - BP (BP.L) is preparing to sell a large chunk of its oil and gas assets even if crude prices bounce back from the COVID-19 crash because it wants to invest more in renewable energy, three sources familiar with BP’s thinking said.

The strategy was discussed at a BP executives meeting in July, the sources said, soon after the oil major lowered its long-term oil price forecast to $55 a barrel, meaning that $17.5 billion worth of its assets are no longer economically viable.

But even if crude prices bounce back to $65-$70 a barrel, BP is unlikely to put those assets back into its exploration plans and would instead use the better market conditions as an opportunity to sell them, the three sources said.

Major oil companies typically hold assets for the long term, even when crude prices plunge, with a view to start bringing more marginal production online when market conditions improve.

However, BP’s new divestment strategy, which has not previously been reported, means there will be no way back for the British energy company once it has offloaded its so-called stranded oil and gas assets.

BP did not respond to requests for comment.

The new strategy also sheds more light on chief executive Bernard Looney’s plan to reduce BP’s oil and gas production by 40%, or at least 1 million barrels per day, by 2030 while expanding into renewable energy.

“It is a simple calculation of natural production decline and planned divestment,” said a BP source, explaining how BP became the first big oil company to pledge a large cut in its oil output.

For decades, BP and rivals such as Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L) and Exxon Mobil (XOM.N) have promised investors that production would continue to rise.

But as climate activists, investors, banks and some governments raise pressure on the industry to reduce emissions to help cool the planet, European oil firms are changing tack and pledging to invest more in renewable energy sources.

U.S. rivals are under less government pressure and have not made similar commitments on renewables.

“As we look at the outlook for BP over the next few years and as we see production declining by 40% it is clear we no longer need exploration to fund new growth,” Looney said this week. “We will not enter new countries to explore.”

He said BP would continue to explore for oil near its existing production infrastructure as those barrels would be low cost - and help boost BP’s cash flow to fund its transition to cleaner energy.

FROM CANADA TO ANGOLA

BP also raised its target this week for returns from asset sales to $25 billion between 2020 and 2025, of which about $12 billion has already been lined up.

It has yet to name the other assets it wants to sell.

Sources have previously told Reuters that BP has identified Canadian oil sands assets and projects in deep water off Angola as being uneconomical under its new oil price scenario.

One of the three sources said BP’s divestment targets could easily be exceeded if it sells most of its assets currently viewed as stranded.

Parul Chopra, analyst at Rystad Energy, said in addition to Angola, he expected BP to move out of Azerbaijan, Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Iraq.

“In Iraq, the rates of returns are quite low. That fits into that profile, with high greenhouse gas emissions, they would want to exit that,” he said.

BP is planning a 10-fold increase in investment in low carbon energy sources to about $5 billion per year by 2030 and wants to deliver a 20-fold increase in renewables capacity to generate 50 gigawatts through new projects and acquisitions.

But with debt of close to $50 billion, BP will essentially be moving from one capital intensive business - oil - to another capital intensive business with lower margins - renewables.

At the moment, such a shift might be attractive to BP investors demanding the company move away from fossil fuels, but analysts say they should be prepared for lower margins.

Oil majors generally target a 12% to 15% return on their investments in oil. BP has said it is aiming for a return of 8% to 12% for renewables.

“Investors are pushing for a faster transition, but weak balance sheets mean the pivot is a challenge, leading companies to dismantle core businesses in order to facilitate the ramp up in capex (capital spending),” said Biraj Borkhataria at RBC Capital Markets.

Borkhataria said he expected BP to divest as much as 500,000 barrels a day of production while losing a similar amount through the natural decline in output from oilfields.

Additional reporting by Shadia Nasralla; Writing by Dmitry Zhdannikov; Editing by David Clarke

 Mozambique Announces Another 30 Days of State of Emergency

Xinhua| 2020-08-06 09:36:12|Editor: huaxia

MAPUTO, Aug. 6 (Xinhua) -- Mozambique will enter another 30 days of state of emergency from Friday, while the government seeks to relax some restrictive measures in three phases in the near future, Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi announced on Wednesday night.

"We believe that our next steps are based on two fundamental lines of action: the first is the maintenance of COVID-19 prevention and control measures; the second is to guarantee that social and economic life follows its normal course," said Nyusi in a televised speech to the nation.

Nyusi said the government has defined three phases for resuming social and economic activities based on the degree of risks to public health.

Phase one will start from Aug.18, with the resumption of face-to-face classes in higher education institutions, military academies, teacher-training, technical-professional and health institutes.

Religious gathering with no more than 50 people will also be allowed from Aug. 18.

In phase two, starting from September, cinemas, casinos, gyms, and driving schools will reopen.

Phase three concerns activities considered high risk. Starting on Oct. 30, Grade 12 classes will be resumed, while other grades will be resumed as soon as sanitation conditions are qualified.

Nyusi said many activities that were not mentioned will be subject to the regulations to be defined by the council of ministers.

"We know that the situation is serious. The pandemic seems to be far from over, so we have to manage for a period we don't know," said Nyusi.

 Tanzania: Lockdown Brings Digital Innovations in Learning

COVID-19 lockdown expedites innovative technology, but also spotlights digital divide in East Africa

Kizito Makoye   |

06.08.2020

Tanzania: Lockdown brings digital innovations in learning

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania 

The lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic came as a blessing in disguise for many technology innovators, but it also exposed a deep digital divide in the East African country of Tanzania.

While students of many elite schools like Ali Hassan Mwinyi Elite School, swiftly switched to Google classrooms to continue learning, their peers in government schools spent lockdown period to play hide and seek in dilapidated streets and slums.

Tanzania, which stopped releasing pandemic data in late April become the first country in East Africa to open educational institutes in late June, three months after enforcing the lockdown.

The move to allow students back to school was received with mixed reactions in the country, which to date has reported 509 COVID-19 infections with 21 deaths.

Declaring victory against the virus, President John Magufuli said that there was no need to keep schools closed further.

A busy economist Josephat Msafiri, working with a French oil company facilitated his daughters Sasha and Sandra to attend a virtual classroom, studying at an elite school.

Their uncle Makoye, a skilled communicator joined in to devise quick solutions for e-learning. “It was a bit challenging before, but they got used it and their performance improved remarkably, as attested by their school’s weekly progress reports,” Makoye told Anadolu.

The demand led innovations of many e-learning programs like Ubongo Kids for kindergarteners, Shule Direct, for secondary school students, KitKit, and My Elimu -- online portals providing educational content to help students continue studies during coronavirus holidays.

“We have witnessed a big technology rush with the government and educational stakeholders exploring what solution to school closure technology can offer,” says Gemma Todd, an expert in education at the World Bank.

Tanzania adopted a free education policy in 2015, which helped to propel enrolment to a whopping 15.4 million in elementary to advanced level secondary classes.

The Ubongo Kids app, through innovation, has combined cartons, entertainment with learning. -Cartoons help to learn A 2018 study published in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, suggested that children improved their drawing skills and learned language faster through cartoons.

The Ubongo Kids also allows parents to filter and supervise the content. To ensure equal access, most of these innovators partnered with local telecom operators to ensure access even without an internet package. Shule Direct and Mtabe App use artificial intelligence to help secondary school students interact with virtual teachers.

The KitKit program helps to improve early learning skills for out of school toddlers both in English and Kiswahili or Swahili languages.

While Karen Shigela, a grade VII student at Mwl. Julius Nyerere primary school and her sisters continued schooling through online classes throughout the lockdown period, in Tandale -- an impoverished city slum -- less fortunate students spent time roaming around streets.

With roughly 1.2 billion children globally out of school due to COVID-19, lack of online platforms to deliver education has deepened the crisis in learning, the United Nations Children’s fund warned. To help to bridge the yawning learning gap, authorities in Tanzania have also used the state’s radio and television to deliver lessons.

Despite innovations challenges persisted that included frequent hacking of some of those online platforms.

Pandemic changed student routine

Charles Wandwi, acting head teacher at Julius Nyerere Primary school, said in some classes half of the students could not participate in the virtual classrooms due to lack of necessary hardware.

“Some dishonest innovators were hacking our systems and pretend to have the solution to swindle money,” he said.

The pandemic has not only changed students’ routine but also their perceptions about everyday life.

“I enjoyed staying at home with mother and father, I have also learned a lot about the internet although my father put parental control that frequently notified him whenever I wanted to download something,” said Karen.

But not all students were upbeat about the coronavirus holiday.

Rabia Kisena, 15, at Mabwe girl’s secondary school said the coronavirus crisis has made life harder. “I couldn't see my friends for a long time, that was painfully bad,” she said.

Even with schools opened, some students still live in fear of contracting the deadly virus.

 AU: 'Aggressive, Bold' Action Needed to Combat COVID-19 in Africa

By VOA News

August 08, 2020 11:45 AM

Mourners pray during a burial ceremony at the Olifantsveil Cemetery outside Johannesburg, South Africa, Thursday Aug. 6, 2020…

Mourners pray during a burial ceremony at the Olifantsveil Cemetery outside Johannesburg, South Africa, Aug. 6, 2020. The frequency of burials in South Africa has significantly increased during the coronavirus pandemic.

The African Union says “aggressive and bold” action is needed to combat the COVID-19 outbreak on the continent. 

More than one million cases of the virus have been reported across Africa, but officials such as the World Health Organization’s Richard Mihigo warn the real number is likely larger, citing the absence of comprehensive testing in some countries.

Mihigo said in the Congolese capital of Brazzaville Friday that the one million mark in Africa is a “very symbolic milestone that the continent has crossed.”

While experts say infections in wealthier countries are also probably significantly undercounted, undetected cases pose a greater danger in Africa because of underdeveloped health care systems in some countries.

In the U.S., where coronavirus infections are approaching 5 million, about one-quarter of all infections worldwide, a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report reveals racial disparities in the U.S. coronavirus crisis also extend to children.

Hispanic children were eight times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 than white children, and Black children were hospitalized at a rate five times higher, the CDC report found. 

Black, Hispanic and Native Americans have been killed and hospitalized by COVID-19 at disproportionately high rates, further uncovering racial inequalities in the U.S. health care system, the CDC said.

In Australia Saturday, Victoria state reported 466 new coronavirus cases and 12 deaths. Victoria is home to more than two-thirds of Australia’s almost 21,000 COVID-19 infections. Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said six of the deaths were linked to outbreaks at senior citizens facilities.

India reported 933 new COVID-19 deaths over a 24-hour period as infections surged by more than 61,000 to nearly 2.1 million. India has the world’s third-highest number of infections after the U.S. and Brazil, where the death toll was expected to reach 100,000 on Saturday.

Despite Brazil’s mounting death toll and the fact the pandemic has yet to peak, the country continues to reopen stores and restaurants. President Jair Bolsonaro has downplayed the seriousness of the pandemic and has battled with local officials over lockdown measures.

A steady decline in COVID-19 deaths and infections in Pakistan has prompted the country to allow the full resumption of all international flights in and out of the country on Sunday.

The move comes weeks after the country allowed the resumption of domestic and international commercial flights. Only 14 COVID-19 deaths were reported Saturday, raising Pakistan’s death toll to 6,068.

Beginning Saturday in Britain, people are required to wear masks in most indoor settings. In England and Scotland, masks must be worn in places of worship, banks, libraries and in many other indoor places. 

Masks were already required in shops and on public transit, but more stringent measures were imposed to contain a surge in coronavirus infections in Britain after easing lockdown requirements.

Travelers arriving in Germany from most non-European countries and regions within the European Union with high infection rates must undergo testing for the coronavirus beginning Saturday. Travelers from high-risk areas were previously required to self-quarantine for 14 days or until they can produce a negative test.

In the U.S. on Friday, as more than 60,000 new COVID-19 infections were reported in the country, the city of Sturgis, South Dakota began welcoming visitors to its annual motorcycle rally. Some 250,000 people are expected this year.  The biker event regularly attracts 500,000, but the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to keep some people home.

There are no mask requirements in Sturgis and people have been asked to socially distance, a practice that was not being observed Friday on the town’s crowded streets. 

Elsewhere in the U.S., a state of Georgia student who was suspended for posting a photograph of a crowded hallway in her school, where many students were not wearing masks will be back in class Monday.  School officials were widely criticized for suspending her over the photograph.  The student told CNN Friday that she has no regrets about what she did. 

Johns Hopkins University says there are 19.4 million reported global COVID-19 cases and more than 721,000 deaths. 

 'Peak Yet to Come': Africa Hits One Million Coronavirus Cases

Amid lack of testing, real spread of virus on continent unknown, experts say, as countries struggle to curb infections.

by Saba Aziz 

7 Aug 2020

More than a million people across Africa have now been confirmed to have had the new coronavirus, as health experts warn the peak of the pandemic has yet to hit the continent.

The sombre milestone, reported by the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday, came more than five months after Egypt reported the continent's first confirmed case of coronavirus on February 14.

More than 22,000 people have so far died across Africa from the COVID-19 disease, while over 690,000 have recovered.

Last month, the World Health Organization (WHO) voiced alarm at the "acceleration" of the disease in Africa, which until recently had remained relatively unscathed by the pandemic compared with the rest of the world - even as many experts believe the actual number of coronavirus infections is likely much higher.

South Africa, which accounts for more than half of the continent's registered cases, is the worst-affected African nation and the fifth worst-hit globally. Egypt is in second place with 95,000 confirmed infections, followed by Nigeria, Ghana, Algeria, Morocco and Kenya.

"We haven't seen the peak in Africa yet," Mary Stephen, technical officer at the WHO's regional office for Africa, told Al Jazeera.

"Since countries started relaxing lockdown measures, we have seen an increasing number of cases and most of these - more than 80 percent - are coming largely from 10 countries," she said.

The virus has spread to all 54 countries on the continent of 1.2 billion people, stretching already fragile healthcare systems and crippling economies.

But experts and aid groups believe the actual extent of the contagion is being underestimated because of a lack of testing and poor access to data.

In South Africa, which has a population of 58 million people, some 10 million people have been screened - and more than three million tests have so far been administered, the highest for an African nation.

In Africa's most populous nation, Nigeria, about 3,000 tests are administered per day on average - a tenth of the number conducted in South Africa, which has about a quarter of the population.

Cameroon, central Africa's worst-affected country with 17,000 cases, has tested less than one percent of its population of 25 million.

Flourish logoA Flourish bar chart race

The International Rescue Committee, a global humanitarian aid group, said the testing rates in all the African countries where it operates fall far below WHO guidelines, keeping "responders in the dark about the real spread of the disease".

Shabir Madhi, a professor of vaccinology at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, described the figure of one million COVID-19 cases in Africa as "meaningless".

"It doesn't quantify the true magnitude of circulation of the virus," he told Al Jazeera.

"The absence of testing, unfortunately, is leading to a situation where countries are simply not understanding the impact COVID-19 is currently having and the impact it's going to have over the course of the next few months," Madhi said.

The number of deaths among the positive cases, called the case fatality rate, is less than six percent in all African nations.

This is, in part, due to the high percentage of young people in the continent's population and the lower prevalence of comorbidities - the presence of more than one disease or condition in a patient at the same time, WHO's Stephen explained.

However, the stigma attached to the virus has made it harder to fight the pandemic, with reports of healthcare workers being discriminated against, patients evicted and some avoiding treatment over fears of hostility across sub-Saharan Africa. 

Madhi warned that most African healthcare systems are not fully equipped to deal with "the external shock of COVID-19" and are at a risk of collapsing.

Healthcare workers in a number of countries, speaking to Al Jazeera, have also reported a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), inadequate pay, insufficient training and a lack of transparency from governments.

'Financial crisis'

Almost from the start of the health emergency, WHO had warned of the grave risks COVID-19 could pose to countries with weaker health systems, including in sub-Saharan Africa, where urban crowding and the prevalence of informal economies complicate efforts to stem the spread of the disease.

But as the new coronavirus began tearing across the world, Africa appeared to be spared its rapid spread, giving many governments more time to prepare for a severe outbreak by shutting down borders, banning large gatherings and imposing draconian stay-at-home orders.

Many of the lockdown measures have since been eased, but only after leading to an economic fallout in countries that were already struggling with financial troubles even before the arrival of the coronavirus.

In South Africa, which imposed one of the world's strictest lockdowns in March, a recent study showed up to three million people lost their jobs over the lockdown period - a disastrous prospect for a country that clocked 30.1 percent unemployment in the first quarter of 2020.

The United Nations has warned that over time, a "full-blown financial crisis" may unfold on the continent.

"The recent devaluation of several African currencies, combined with declining commodity prices, has put further stress on African countries' capacity to ensure food and nutrition security," Jennifer Blanke, vice president for Agriculture, Human and Social Development at the African Development Bank, wrote in a recent article.

While lauding the responsive measures and early, swift action at the beginning of the outbreak, WHO's Stephen said countries must continue to expand their capacities for surveillance, contact tracing, testing, isolation and treatment, especially at the grassroots level. They must also directly engage communities.

"What we have learned from previous outbreaks, like Ebola in 2014," said Stephen, "is if we limit the spread as quickly as possible, we'll limit the impact of the outbreak."

Follow Saba Aziz on Twitter: @saba_aziz

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA NEWS

'Aggressive Action' Needed as Africa Coronavirus Cases Pass Million


7 August 2020

Many experts believe not enough testing has been done and the true number of cases to be higher

"Aggressive and bold" action is needed as Africa's coronavirus cases pass the one-million mark, according to the African Union (AU) body dealing with the pandemic.

It says South Africa - where testing has been widespread - accounts for more than half of all cases.

Tanzania's lack of data meanwhile is a "concern" for the AU.

Experts say a lack of comprehensive testing across Africa means the true extent of the pandemic is not known.

Tanzania, for example, has not published figures for weeks and in early July its health minister said the virus was "heading towards an end".

"We continue to reach out [to Tanzania] but we're not having the right responses," director of the AU's Centres for Disease and Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), Dr John Nkengasong, told the BBC.

Field hospitals, like this one in Kenya, have been set up in several countries on the continent

In the continent overall, more than 22,000 people have died with Covid-19 and almost 690,000 people have recovered, the figures show.

Just over eight million tests have been carried out, but Dr Nkengasong said at least 13 million tests should have taken place.

Africa's first coronavirus case was confirmed in Egypt in February - three weeks after Europe, and two months after the outbreak began in China in December.

Where are Africa's hotspots?

The two countries with the highest numbers of cases are South Africa and Egypt. They accounted for 75% of all the new cases reported by mid-July.

South Africa has the highest recorded number of total cases and reported deaths, and make up more than half of all the cases in Africa.

The Africa CDC is keeping a close eye on Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, Zambia and Zimbabwe, Dr Nkengasong told the BBC's Newsday programme.

More than 65% of Africa's 55 countries have reported fewer than than 5,000 cases, Africa CDC says.

What is being done?

African nations have been praised for locking down more swiftly than other parts of the world.

The continent has fewer confirmed cases than Europe, which has 1.7 million, and the United States which has 4.8 million.

But there are concerns about insufficient testing, and the Africa CDC admits this should be expanded along with tracing.

Dr Nkengasong said another risk was "community fatigue" where people tire of prevention messages.

"We know that wearing masks constantly will help this situation," he added.

A coronavirus vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and tested in South Africa, the UK and Brazil, appears to be safe and triggers an immune response.

But it is still too soon to know if this is enough to offer protection and larger trials are under way.

A milestone and a mystery

This is a significant milestone and an alarming one. But it is also a mystery.

More than 500,000 cases of Covid-19 have already been confirmed in South Africa alone. The country has good data and - compared with most of Africa - a huge testing operation under way.

So, is it really possible that there are only another half a million cases across rest of the entire continent?

The short answer is no.

Experts here agree that, given the minimal amount of testing it is almost certain that Africa has already sailed far past the one million mark.

But doctors also point out that hospitals in many countries are not yet overloaded with suspected Covid-19 cases.

There are many possible explanations: fear of going to clinics, early lockdowns in many countries and sparser populations.

And because there is still so much to learn about Covid-19, it is possible that some populations may enjoy some extra protection against the virus, perhaps because of immune systems already bolstered by previous battles against malaria, cholera and other diseases.

 Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park Re-opens August 11

By Ghana News Agency -Aug 7, 2020

The management of the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park, in Accra, has announced the re-opening of the facility to the public on Tuesday, August 11, 2020.

The re-opening of the Park followed the easing of restrictions on the country’s tourist sites and attractions and open-air drinking spots announced by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, during his 14th address to the nation on Sunday, July 26.

Alhaji Abubakari Issah Osman, the Director of the Park announced this on Friday at a presentation of Personal Protective equipment by the Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA) to the Park, towards helping stop the spread of COVID-19.

The items are one box of hand sanitizer, a box of liquid soap, two packs of tissue, six handwashing stations, and a thermometer gun.

Alhaji Osman described the re-opening of the Park as great news to the management because the closure of the facility in March had impacted on the revenue generation of the organization.

He said management was well prepared to receive visitors to the Park, stressing that it had disinfected the facility and cleaned the environment for public use.

“We promise to ensure that all visitors adhered to the COVID-19 health protocols prescribed by the World Health Organisation and the Ghana Health Service for the safety of all and sundry”, Alhaji Osman said.

He said 15 visitors would be allowed at a time in the Museum with strict adherence to the social distancing rule and urged visitors to come with their facemasks.

Mr Akwasi Agyeman, the Chief Executive Officer, GTA said the items were presented on behalf of the Ministry of Tourism, Culture, and Creative Arts to help the management of the Park prepare adequately to contain the spread of COVID-19.

He underscored the contribution of the tourism sector to the country’s Gross Domestic Product in terms of foreign exchange and stated that the re-opening of the place would provide job opportunities and support the local economy.

The Chief Executive Officer pledged the Authority’s readiness to support the management of the Park to make it a destination of choice globally.

The Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park is the final resting place of the late Dr Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first President, and Africanist.

It also houses the mortal remains of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah’s wife, Fathia Nkrumah with the tomb designed by Don Arthur.

The Park also hosts rare artifacts relating to Ghana’s independence and gives visitors an in-depth history of the Sub-Saharan struggle for independence.

 Gender Ministry Holds Emergency Meeting to End Violence Against Women

By Ghana News Agency 

Aug 7, 2020

Mrs Cynthia Mamle Morrison The Minister Of Gender Children And Social Protection

Mrs Cynthia Mamle Morrison The Minister Of Gender Children And Social Protection

The Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection has held an emergency stakeholders meeting to find lasting solutions to gender-based violence.

It is also geared towards ending all harmful traditional practices in the country.This followed the lynching of the 90-year old woman, Madam Mariam Akua Denteh, at Kafaba in the East Gonja Municipality of the Savannah Region.

The meeting on the theme; “Protect Vulnerable Women, Their Lives Matter” was attended by ministers, traditional leaders, religious leaders, civil society organisations, non-governmental organisations, development partners, the National Peace Council, Action Aid Ghana and the media.


They raised concerns on the unfortunate lynching of the old woman and issued a communique to effectively deal with such situations in future to protect the welfare of women and girls.

The Communique called for a nationwide education targeting men and women, boys and girls on the effects of gender stereotypes, attitudes and beliefs that condone violence and harmful constructions of masculinity.

“Design and implement actions that promote gender equitable norms and behaviors and women’s participation in decision-making, Strengthen and increase access to justice, including; reparations, and access to comprehensive services” it stated.

“The empowerment of women and girls and the eradication of stigmatization of survivors, adoption of approaches at different levels and engaging all segments of society, including; traditional leaders, religious leaders, and civil society groups”.

“Strengthen legislation that addresses violence against women. In particular design legislation to punish witchcraft allegations as had been done for Trokosi and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)”.

It also called for the identification of male and female gender influential people who could champion Gender Based Violence agenda at the national, regional, district, and community levels; and engage boys and young men to become agents of change and transformation.

Mrs Cynthia Morrison, the Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, commended the stakeholders for their participation to deliberate on mechanisms to end the accusation of witchcraft in society.

She said it was wrong to accuse and abuse somebody based on the accusation that such a person was a witch as it was against their fundamental human rights.

The Minister said government would close all witch camps, provid a safe haven for inmates of the camps and reintegrate some back into society.

“Together with our Social Welfare Department we are looking at rehabilitating some of our buildings to make it a safe haven. What we are looking at most is to put an end to this kind of lynching because you perceive the person to be a witch,” she stated.

Ms Akua Dokuah, the Deputy Minister of Information, said those acts were perpetrated in society due to the mentality that some people had on the aged and therefore called for more sensitization programmes to educate the people.

Mr Niyi Ojuolape, the UNFPA Country Representative, commended the Gender Ministry for including traditional leaders in the dialogue process as they were the gate keepers in communities as regards endearing cultural practices.

He said this was a serious issue against human rights thus, “we need to strengthen our agencies and mechanisms to be able to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals target of living no one behind.”

Mr Ojuolape called state institutions to support all the interventions outlined during the meeting to eradicate gender base violence in societies.

Rev Dr Cyril Fayose, General Secretary Christian Council of Ghana, urged pastors who also engage in the act of labelling people as witches to desist from it.

He said protecting the vulnerable in society was the responsibility of all and urged people to report the act of lynching such people for the appropriate action to be taken.

Friday, August 07, 2020

 Ghana’s COVID-19 Cases Exceed 40,000 with Over 200 Deaths

Xinhuanet.com -Aug 7, 2020

Ghana has confirmed 455 new cases of the novel coronavirus, bringing its total case count to 40,097 on Friday morning, the latest update from the Ghana Health Service said.

The total recovered and discharged cases increased to 36, 638, as officials discharged 254 more patients who had completed their period of treatment.

Seven more infected people under treatment died, increasing Ghana’s death toll from the pandemic to 206. Active cases stand at 3,253.

Ghanaian health authorities now discharge people infected by COVID-19 after 14 days of treatment once they stop exhibiting symptoms.

 Africa CDC Urges Compliance to Preventive Measures as Africa Crosses 1 Million COVID-19 Cases

Xinhuanet.com 

Aug 8, 2020

The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) on Friday urged the African continent to increase compliance to the public health and social measures as the COVID-19 pandemic continued to gain momentum in Africa.

On Friday, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases across the African continent has exceeded the 1 million mark, reaching 1,007,366 confirmed cases as of Friday afternoon, according to the Africa CDC.

“As the pandemic continues to gain momentum in Africa, we must increase compliance to he public health and social measures so we can protect ourselves and protect our economy,” an Africa CDC statement quoted John Nkengasong, Africa CDC Director, as saying on Friday.

“We must increase mass wearing of masks as we expand testing and treatment services,” the Africa CDC Director said in his message regarding the launch of the World Mask Week, slated from August 7 to 14, as an effort to increase the use of face coverings in public across the globe.

According to the continental disease control and prevention agency, the number of deaths related to COVID-19 also rose to 22,066 on Friday as some 690,436 COVID-19 patients have recovered across the continent so far.

South Africa, the worst-hit country on the continent, has registered 538,184 confirmed COVID-19 cases so far, followed by Egypt, Nigeria, Algeria and Morocco, the agency said.

As the pandemic spread across Africa, the Africa CDC together with the World Health Organization (WHO) and more than 40 other global, regional and national organizations and institutions have initiated the Pandemic Action Network, which launched the World Mask Week that envisaged increasing the use of face coverings in public in Africa and beyond.

According to the Africa CDC, the newly introduced initiative encourages people and organizations in Africa and beyond to rally behind the importance of wearing a mask to stop the spread of COVID-19 during World Mask Week and every week until there is a vaccine available.

The initiative was launched by the WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus launched as part of his Wear a Mask challenge to mark the beginning of World Mask Week, asking people to share their mask photos and videos, it was noted.

“Given the alarming exponential increase of infection rates in Africa and across the globe, sustained community masking in public is critical to stop the spread of COVID-19, even as situations vary around the world,” the Africa CDC statement read.

“Until we have vaccines or medicines to fight COVID-19, face coverings are one of the best tools we have — particularly where social distancing is not practical,” the Africa CDC noted.

The Pandemic Action Network drives collective action to help bring an end to COVID-19 and to ensure the world is prepared for the next pandemic. The Network consists of more than 40 organizations aligned on the mission to promote policies that save the most lives and protect livelihoods by ending the cycle of panic and neglect on pandemics.

Despite the latest call to increase compliance to the public health and social measures, the Africa CDC had recently warned African countries to brace for possible “acute shortage” of COVID-19 Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in the near future.

“Due to disruptions in the global supply chain, some African countries may face the risk of an acute shortage of personal protective equipment,” the Africa CDC warned earlier this month.

The Africa CDC, which noted that some 41 countries are practicing mandatory public use of face masks, stressed that preventing a crisis such as acute shortage of personal protective equipment for healthcare workers “should be prioritized by health authorities in Africa as part of the COVID-19 response.”

It also stressed that the COVID-19 response team “should include actions to prevent PPE shortages in their planning, as adequate planning may minimize the negative consequences of an acute shortage.”

“Planning to prevent critical shortages should be done in advance, with clear triggers for implementation and resumption of standard practice,” the continental disease control and prevention agency added.

Government’s “CARES” Program Will Mitigate COVID-19 Impact on Companies

Ghana News Agency 

Aug. 7, 2020

Mrs Kate Quartey-Papafio, the Sector Chairperson, Electricals and Electronics, Association of Ghana Industries (AGI) has commended government for supporting large enterprises as part of COVID-19 Alleviation and Revitalization of Enterprises Support (CARES) Programme.

She said the support programme would help mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on companies and boost their recovery process after the pandemic.

The Chairperson, in an interview with the Ghana News Agency in Accra, described the support system as timely, because most companies had laid off workers, while others reduced salaries in response to the impact of the pandemic.

Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, the Minister of Finance, presenting the mid-year budget review statement on Thursday July 23, said Government was developing a three-year COVID-19 alleviation programme: dubbed, “Ghana Cares Programme” to support the economy with GHC 100 billion from 2021 to 2023 to help rescue the economy from the devastating effects of the pandemic.

The impact of the pandemic on the country’s economy, the Minister predicted, could last for three years.

Mr Ofori-Atta said the Bank of Ghana had released GH¢5.5billion out of a GH¢10 billion COVID-19 support fund in line with the emergency financing provisions under the Bank of Ghana Act, to deal with shocks that accompanied the Coronavirus pandemic.

Mrs Quartey-Papafio said the COVID-19 crisis had ignited the innovative spirit of the citizens and demonstrated the ingenuity of Ghanaians to produce to meet local needs and that there was no need to import products that could be produced locally.

She implored entrepreneurs to do aggressive branding and enhanced digital marketing transactions for higher visibility and continuity in a post COVID-19 era.

She said since the outbreak of COVID-19, face-to-face business transaction had become difficult and called on businesses to explore and maximize the benefit of online transactions to remain competitive in the emerging world of business.

She encouraged captains of industry with the relevant capacities, to employ the use of Intelligence Automation and Robotic Process Automation- an accelerated digital transformation that would better improve their ability to meet the high demands of consumers.

Egypt Calls for Suspension of Talks with Ethiopia over Dam Debacle
AFP 
2020/8/5 16:58:42

A view of the Nile River and the Cairo city is seen from the Cairo Tower in Cairo, Egypt, Nov. 24, 2019. (Xinhua/Wu Huiwo)

Egypt on Tuesday called for a suspension of meetings with Ethiopia on Addis Ababa's massive dam construction project on the Nile.

Sudan threatened to withdraw from the talks saying Ethiopia insisted on linking them to renegotiating a deal on sharing the waters of the Blue Nile.

Sudan's water and irrigation minister, Yasser Abbas, said he received a letter from his Ethiopian counterpart who proposed "the deal under discussion be limited to filling up the dam and any deal concerning its management be linked to the question of sharing Blue Nile waters."

Egypt and Sudan invoke a "historic right" over the river guaranteed by treaties concluded in 1929 and 1959. 

However, Ethiopia uses a treaty signed in 2010 by six riverside countries and boycotted by Egypt and Sudan authorizing irrigation projects and dams on the river.

"This is a significant development and a change in the Ethiopian position," the Sudanese minister said in a statement.

"This new Ethiopian position threatens the negotiations under the aegis of the African Union, and Sudan will not participate in negotiations which include the subject of sharing Blue Nile waters," he said.

AFP
African Activists Take Up the Law to Save Women
Reuters 
2020/8/4 17:38:40

As a young girl growing up in northern Zimbabwe's mining community of Mashonaland, Beatrice Savadye watched as her friends were forced into child marriages and early motherhood while many became sick with HIV.

Patients sit on benches in a waiting room at Rutsanana Polyclinic. Photos: AFP

Wanting a different life for herself and other girls, Savadye started the Zimbabwean women's movement Roots Africa seven years ago fighting for, among many things, legislation change to better protect women's rights in her region.

Under the lockdown, Savadye is one of a band of female activists in Africa pushing for stronger laws to protect women trapped indoors with abusers from a surge in violence, and also a spike in HIV infections.

"I don't like seeing injustice. We work to build resilience among young girls, to say that even if you are poor, you can have a better life," said Savadye, 33, while driving through Bindura, a town in Mashonaland.

The United Nations in June warned of a surge in domestic violence under coronavirus lockdowns, with calls to helplines doubling or tripling in some countries, as restrictions on movement made it impossible for many women to flee abusers.

The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) highlighted the risk of domestic violence and HIV infection for women and girls in sub-Saharan Africa, who already accounted for 59 percent of new HIV infections in the region in 2019.

While providing training, rescuing women from abusive homes in her own car, sheltering 30 women and their children and assisting them with antiretroviral (ARV) drugs to prevent full-blown AIDS, Savadye is also pushing for legal changes.

"It is painful to become an adult at a young age. Young girls need role models to look up to, safe spaces to run to, and laws to protect them," said Savadye.

Justice

In 2016 Roots Africa helped push for a constitutional court judgment that led to a ban of child marriage in Zimbabwe.

Savadye meets regularly with traditional leaders to make sure this legal protection translates into reality, particularly during the pandemic.

"We have seen an increase in child marriages during the lockdown as economic meltdown is one of the key drivers of child marriage and exploitation," Savadye told Reuters.

She is now pushing for a review of the Zimbabwean Termination of Pregnancy Act to fully legalize abortion. Currently it is only legal if the mother or child's health is at risk or the mother can prove she was raped, said Savadye.

"We are fighting against backstreet abortions," she said, adding that she also has to help women access ARV medication secretly so that controlling partners in denial of their status won't banish them from taking the pills. Across the border from Zimbabwe, Roots Africa's efforts are echoed by the South African women's rights charity Ilitha Labantu that means bringing a sunbeam of hope to the people in a local isiXhosa language.

"Violence against women has been a pandemic for a long time," said the charity's director, Ella Mangisa, 37.

"We fight against the normalisation of gender-based violence," she said from her office in Gugulethu, a township in South Africa's Western Cape Province.

Founded in 1989, Ilitha Labantu shelters abused women, provides them with skills and uses educational workshops to teach school and university students about consent, sexual violence and communication.

During the lockdown, the organization saw a spike in women fleeing abusive partners. "The Domestic Violence Act says a woman should be offered a place of safety if she is abused. But why must she run around like a headless chicken looking for this safety?" Mangisa asked.

"The perpetrator should be removed from the house, not the other way around," she said, adding her organization submitted a suggested amendment for the act to government during lockdown. "Laws and how they are enacted will better help women access justice," Mangisa said.

Dream

Further east in southern Africa, 25-year-old Malawian activist Grace Ngulube has used her own experience of being born with HIV to educate and help women at risk of getting the virus. "I faced many challenges such as stigma and denial. Little by little I became more confident to help others," said Ngulube from her home in the city of Blantyre.

Ngulube's organization, the National Association of Young People Living with HIV, organized support groups before the pandemic hit for youth living with HIV, educating them on their health rights and assisting them with accessing medication. But when schools closed and movement was restricted, Ngulube heard reports of a rise in sexual violence against women, girls and teenage pregnancies. Using WhatsApp to stay in touch with as many girls as she could, Ngulube also began meeting community leaders to ensure child marriages did not occur, even though they are illegal.

"There are laws, but we are pushing for them to be enforced," she said, adding that young girls with HIV were stigmatized for having low immune systems and labeled as potential corona carriers.

"This is why we need civic education," Ngulube said. But Savadye in Zimbabwe said she was concerned education campaigns ran the risk of being drowned out by COVID-19.

"With all efforts focused on fighting the coronavirus, we cannot forget about HIV, malaria, child marriages and gender-based violence," said Savadye, who often takes her 3-year-old son to her awareness workshops.

"I want him to be an ally to women one day, in a society where men and women can thrive with dignity. Whatever work we do now contributes to that dream."

Thursday, August 06, 2020

US 'Decoupling' Attempt Will be Doomed to Fail
Global Times 
2020/8/6 20:53:41

The US' suppression of high-tech Chinese companies has accelerated to a historically high level, and its means and scopes of attacks are unprecedented if compared to previous technology conflicts.

As the Trump administration has devised various methods to push for a tech "decoupling" from China, it may be worth taking a look at the history of US-China technological cooperation to shed some new light on the current situation.

After the normalization of diplomatic relations between the US and China in the late 1970s, the two countries carried out scientific and technological cooperation under the leadership of both governments. It was not until the late 1980s that the US tightened its restrictions on tech exports to China and called a halt to government-backed technical cooperation. But that didn't stop the pace of bilateral scientific and technological cooperation as private exchanges rose significantly.

The second wave of the US crackdown on Chinese technological progress took place in 2007, when China's manufacturing sector started to gain foothold in fields like computers, mobile phones and car making. 

Feeling threatened by China's rapid development, the US announced a revised regulation to expand a list of restrictive high-tech exports that covered 20 product categories and associated technologies, a move the US side said was intended to better protect its "national security."

Under such circumstances, Chinese capital began to seek technological development through overseas mergers and acquisitions. In 2016, China overtook the US in cross-border M&A volume for the first time, seeing a record high of $219.3 billion in acquisition deals, according to Dealogic.

Then, escalating reviews by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) dashed Chinese companies' hopes of acquiring high-tech firms overseas, marking the third wave of US obstruction in China's technological advance. 

Of course, none of the previous restrictions could compare to the current US squeeze on Chinese technology companies. This round of crackdown has escalated from a bargaining chip in a trade war to complete strategic containment of the world's second largest economy.

The Trump administration has resorted to means that could not have been anticipated, such as export controls, cutting Chinese companies off from American supply chains, disrupting Huawei's overseas business operations, launching the latest "Clean Network" program by decimating Chinese technology firms such as TikTok.

Perhaps the reason behind the attack is China's rapid technological development has aroused anxiety in the Trump administration. That is because China's manufacturing has gained capabilities in research and development (R&D) as well as in innovation, with a number of internationally competitive companies and brands emerging in fields like artificial intelligence, the internet, biotechnology and new energies.

The US' suppression of Chinese technology sector hasn't beaten Chinese manufacturing, but rather stimulated its potential in indigenous innovation and R&D. In the past, the US has not succeeded in blocking US-China technological cooperation, and nor will it this time.

Market forces require bilateral cooperation and exchanges, and technology knows no borders. The US government's attempt to go against the market is doomed to fail.
US is Becoming the Biggest Uncertainty in Future Global Economic Growth
By Lian Ping 
Global Times 
2020/8/7 2:20:11

A shuttered business is shown on July 21, in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, the US. Photo: AFP

Throughout the second half of the year, the US economy is expected to be operating alongside the nation's wide-spread epidemic, racial tensions and domestic factionalism. Potential social risks brought about by the three issues will further hinder the economic recovery of the US, and the American economy may become the biggest uncertainty in global economic growth.

As the world's largest economic entity, the US' recession will directly drive down the growth rate of the global economy. Since the US has maintained close economic and trade ties with most of the major economies around the world, its recession will lead to a drastic plunge in global demand, further causing contractions in trade and investment of those economies.

The US has rolled out a series of policies to monetize financial deficit in a bid to stimulate economic growth amid the fallout of the pandemic, which has aggravated financial risks in the country, and cast a shadow over further investments.

The ongoing China-US trade disputes may even expand to financial areas. Though the fallout from a possible financial dispute remains unclear, it could become another risk for the global economy during the second half of the year.

The US' failure to handle the coronavirus may even prolong the pandemic, which has already become the most critical variable in the global economy. Instead of flattening the curve, the US, during the past few months, has being speeding along a path to higher numbers of infections and is reported to have over 25 percent of the world's total confirmed cases.

The horrid death of George Floyd triggered massive anti-discrimination demonstrations in the US, which are adding pressure to epidemic prevention. 

The country is also struggling with contradictions between the need to quarantine and the desire to reopen the economy. Viruses don't have a nationality, and if the rate of infections in the US continues to rise, the vulnerable global economy will surely take yet another hit.

The US economy relies heavily on consumption. The US is also the world's largest consumer of finished products. With COVID-19 ripping across the US, skyrocketing unemployment has resulted in sliding consumption which in turn is causing a decline in exports from its trade partners.

The US' huge debt and expanding stock market bubbles have damaged the confidence of global investors. In order to tackle the fallout of the pandemic, the US government has launched massive stimulus packages and the US Federal Reserve has pledged unlimited quantitative easing, drastically accelerating the US' deficit.

The massive QE could ease a liquidity crisis and pressure on small businesses in the short term, it won't boost the economy's internal growth. Instead, it could create further risks in financial markets.

According to World Bank data, US GDP reached $21.43 trillion in 2019, accounting for 24.42 percent of the world's GDP. 

Although market institutions have forecast a potential recovery of the  US economy in the second half of the year following its drastic plunge of 32.9 percent in the second quarter, those forecasts were based on an eventual containment of the virus in the US. The current rate of infections are not at all reassuring.

The author is head of Zhixin Investment Research Institute. bizopinion@globaltimes.com.cn
US An Annoying Outsider in South China Sea Affairs
By Li Kaisheng 
Global Times 
2020/8/6 19:13:40

By The US has been waging an all-out campaign against China in an attempt to maintain its hegemony. It won't miss any chance to use the South China Sea issue as leverage. Against this backdrop, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in July said China's maritime claims in the South China Sea were "completely unlawful." People familiar with rhetoric on international politics are clearly aware that Pompeo's words deliver a message that the US is bolstering Southeast Asian claimants to take measures against China.

However, the US has not ushered in positive responses from these Southeast Asian countries. Take Vietnam. Vietnam's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Le Thi Thu Hang in July said Vietnam hopes all countries will make efforts to contribute to and maintain peace. It hopes for full cooperation in the South China Sea and to "settle disputes through dialogues and other peaceful measures, in accordance with international law and for the common interest." Her words sound prudent and cautious.

It is normal that China and Vietnam have diverse positions over the South China Sea. What's important is that the Vietnam expressed its will to proactively develop its ties with China and work with China to safeguard peace and stability in the region. It is evident that Pompeo's attempt to sow discord fails to lure Vietnam in.

Vietnam used to follow the US' suit in regard to South China Sea issues. Why didn't Hanoi go along this time? 

Fundamentally, it is because Hanoi has properly recognized the profound changes in geopolitical and economic situations taking place in the past few years. As a response, Vietnam has adjusted its policies accordingly.

With China's rise, it is increasingly unrealistic for Vietnam to take sides with the US. Although China has slowed down its pace of economic development, its gap with the US has been gradually narrowing. In this context, even though the US has ramped up its diplomatic containment against China, it makes sense that many countries around the South China Sea insist on not taking sides between the two giants.

Besides, a regional community with shared future, rather than ties with a faraway US, is becoming the foundation on which the ASEAN depends. Amid the new trend of de-globalization, especially as the US has broken up a bunch of international rules to maintain its interests, regional solidarity has become an optimal choice for ASEAN members. In the first half of 2020, ASEAN became China's largest trading partner. In the face of COVID-19, China and ASEAN have assisted each other in fighting the virus. They have conveyed a new annotation of community with shared future. If the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership will be signed within this year under joint effort of China and ASEAN, the advantage of a regional community with shared future will be further embodied.

China and Vietnam both have strong bonds defending their socialist systems. This is where the two countries' core interests lie. They need to support each other in this regard, especially given that the US has never abandoned the aim to subvert socialist countries, including Vietnam. Pompeo's speech on July 23 discriminated against socialist ideology - this has inevitably rung alarms for Vietnam.

Last but not least, the prior struggles between the claimant countries over the South China Sea reveal that all stand to lose from conflicts and that the China-proposed dual track approach is the right way for bridging regional differences. If the claimants persist to initiate conflicts, only those non-regional forces that do not want to see peace and stability in the South China Sea will benefit.

The US will continue to stir up South China Sea affairs. It may act offensively to set an example for ASEAN members to follow up. It will also take advantage of political changes within claimant countries to alienate China's relations with them. 

However, as long as the above-mentioned elements do not change, ASEAN members, including Vietnam, will not gang up with the US. If China and ASEAN can smoothly promote the signing of the South China Sea Code of Conduct, no matter how hard Washington tries to sow discord, the US will ultimately become nothing but an annoying outsider who cannot impact well-managed, peaceful development in the region.

The author is research fellow and deputy director at the Institute of International Relations of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn