Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Zimbabwe to Get Bus Assembly Plant

01 OCT, 2020 - 00:10 

Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Dr Sibusiso Moyo converses with Belarusian Minister of Industry Mr Petr Parkhomchik (right) and Belarus Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Alexander Sidoruk when the delegation paid a courtesy call at his Munhumutapa Offices in Harare yesterday. — Picture: Believe Nyakudjara

Mukudzei Chingwere

Herald Reporter

Zimbabwe, through a joint venture cooperation with Belarus, will soon set up a vehicle assembly plant for the production of buses suitable for the local terrain, a move that dovetails into President Mnangagwa’s thrust for industrialisation.

After a meeting with Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Dr Sibusiso Moyo, visiting Belarusian Minister of Industry, Mr Piotr Parkhomchik announced the plan.

“About the buses, we are not talking about the supply, but the assembling altogether to develop new buses which are suitable for Zimbabwe,” he said.

There would also be the training of local engineers to work at the plant as part of the cooperation between the two countries which is also hinged on agriculture, mining, infrastructure development as well as science and innovation.

Minister Parkhomchik said the projects needed to be put into the cooperation blueprint without delay.

“The visit is going on with a very warm reception.

“We are looking at mutual international trade, the Transport Company and joint venture construction of infrastructure like roads and we need to do it quickly.

“In the near future, we will visit each and agree on the next roadmap as quickly as possible and I am confident the level of the relationship between the two countries is going to be strong.

“The second deal we agreed on is garbage removal management and availing all the needed equipment,” he said.

Dr Moyo said the Belarus cooperation deal and the recently commissioned John Deere project for the supply of agriculture mechanisation equipment, were a culmination of the re-engagement policy of President Mnangagwa.

“The principle for re-engagement and engagement is open to all the countries in the world and remember we have said we want to cooperate in business with everyone for the benefit of our people.

“President Mnangagwa’s thrust at his inauguration was that Zimbabwe was open for business. The fruits of this policy is what we witness today. What we witnessed two months ago with the John Deere project is what we have witnessed today with the Belarusian project of mechanisation,” said Dr Moyo.

“Remember Belarus used to be the biggest industrial hub within the USSR. It was the centre of industry, engineering and production,” he said.

Zimbabwe was engaging other countries to transfer technology and industrialise by manufacturing a lot of products.

“We have also asked that whatever form of engagement which we make, must be sustainable. We have agreed to actually concretise a joint commission agreement so that we can actually deal with a number of areas which are critical.

Belarus last year offered Zimbabwe 500 buses to help modernise the country’s public transport system following visits by President Mnangagwa to Belarus, Russian and Kazakhstan.

The Eastern European country offered to help develop Zimbabwe as a regional transport hub using its own experiences.

Government is exploring options on how to best utilise the offer.

Preliminary work to assemble 300 Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (Zupco) buses in partnership with Belarus begun earlier this year, with Government setting up a taskforce to superintend over the implementation of the project, expected to take off soon.

The taskforce — made up of the ministries of Local Government and Public Works, Finance and Economic Development, Zupco and AVM Africa — has already come up with a roadmap for the project.

Design specifications of the buses have since been sent to the Eastern European country to determine the cost of the knocked-down kits.

A new fleet for the parastatal is also being progressively procured from China and South Africa.

Government’s targeted intervention through providing subsidised transport is meant to insulate commuters from extortionate fares charged by private transport operators.

Negotiations are also underway with Chinese manufacturers to set up bus assembling plants locally after Government recently procured buses from the Asian country.

All Zimbabwe Wants is to Freely Decide its Destiny

28 SEP, 2020 - 04:09 

Ranga Mataire, Writing Black


Zimbabwe is a unique country, so unique that a whole continent like Europe can sit down to discuss its fate and resolve to slap sanctions on this small nation south of the Sahara.

Of course, we know that our crime is not the so-called human rights violations.

No country is above some sort of governance blemish. So the issue is clearly not human rights violations, but the land. At least, some officials of some of the Western nations, including America, have come out in the open to say that Zimbabwe is a bad example of what not to do regarding to the land issue.

It was this awareness of the duplicitousness of the West and America, that President Mnangagwa called for respect of multilateralism as opposed to unilateralism. It was a message, which resonated with the theme of the 75th anniversary of the United Nations General

Assembly’s (UNGA) theme of; “The future we want, the United Nations we need: reaffirming our collective commitment to multilateralism” — confronting Covid-19 through effective multilateralism.

All Zimbabwe is asking is for a future free of sanctions. All Zimbabwe is asking is freedom to decide its destiny without being hamstrung by punitive unilateral sanctions that prove that the West is still keen on suppressing total freedom through an equitable redress of colonial iniquities.

President Mnangagwa’s message during the high level General Debate of the 75th UN General Assembly was unequivocal.

We can’t talk of multilateralism when other countries unilaterally slap sanctions on other nations for no apparent reason except that they dared challenge the status quo that favoured former colonisers.

Surely, this is not about human rights violations because if it, was then America should also face the same punitive measures given its bad record in violating the rights of black people.

Black people in America face systematic institutional racism, particularly from the police. There seems to be two justice systems in America.

One serving white people and the other for black people.

Surely, if it was about human rights violations, then people in Libya, Iran and other such nations where superpowers have caused much chaos and suffering should be clamouring for just treatment.

It has become embarrassing for both America and EU to talk about human rights violations in Zimbabwe when there are worse violations in other parts of the world.

Some missed the import of the President’s message. President Mnangagwa essentially appealed to the UN for support to end Western nations that he said were setting back development.

President Mnangagwa’s message was bolstered by the fact that not so long ago a UN report clearly stated that sanctions had a negative impact on the whole well-being of Zimbabwe.

“These are a breach of international law and compromise Zimbabwe’s capacity to implement and achieve Sustainable Development Goals, including eradication of hunger,” he said.

“We therefore call on the General Assembly to strongly pronounce itself against these unilateral illegal sanctions,” he said.

Zimbabwe has faced Western sanctions since the early 2000s couched as targeted, but have impacted devastatingly on the whole population .

A report in November by the UN special rapporteur on the right to food, Madam Hilal Elver said that sanctions contributed to poor climate for business and investment.

“These economic sanctions worsen the existing inequalities and do not have any actual impact on their supposed target,” the rapporteur said in her report.

Our hope is that progressive nations in the UN took note of President Mnangagwa warning that humanity is currently at crossroads because of challenges that do not respect borders.

It is our hope that progressive nations in UN took note of President Mnangagwa’s warning that multilateralism is under threat from blind pursuit of narrow interest and therefore the need for strengthening international amity and goodwill as well as uphold mutual respect and observe the sovereign equality of States.

The call for multilateralism clearly leaves local opposition that seem to celebrate unilateral actions taken by America and the EU in sizes and sevens.

There is absolutely no place for bullying in international relations. Covid-19 sobered some nations that used to pride themselves as advanced and highly-industrialised to face any challenges — natural or made.

As Writing Back proponents, we applaud the stance taken by Chinese President Xi Jinping who in his address to the UN General Assembly emphasized that no nation can arrogate itself the role of policeman of the world.

There is surely no place for caustic and bombastic conduct in how states relate to one another. And nations must be given sovereign right to chart their own destiny.

Our hope is that United States Ambassador Brain Nichols will stand by his word in recognising the reforms that have so far been implemented by the Second Republic.

We also hope that Americans realise the benefits of mutual cooperation instead of being perennial adversaries.

America’s Trojan horse for regime change — the MDC in all its “smithereens” has proven to be an ineffectual puppet motivated more by the pursuit self-aggrandisement rather than serving a public good.

Time will tell if Zimbabwe and the US can chart a new path of mutual respect devoid of the condescending attitude of the later.

All Zimbabwe wants is to be given the sovereign right to chart it’s own trajectory.

Zimbabwe, South Africa Border Blockade Fails

Thupeyo Muleya

Herald Beitbridge Bureau

Organisers of a two-day demonstration that sought to block commercial traffic from entering and leaving South Africa through Beitbridge Border Post were left eating the dust from the cargo trucks driving over the bridges when the planned protest failed.

This is the second time in recent weeks that the demonstration has failed.

Some pressure groups led by Judah Hossana, leader of an organisation known as the Smoke that Thunders, have in the last six weeks been threatening to bring business to a standstill.

It is understood that the demonstrations were part of plan B for those who failed to organise a similar event in Zimbabwe on 31 July.

Sources in South Africa yesterday said Hossana and his few supporters tried in vain to get to the border as the police in that country were in an uncompromising mood.

“The group of fewer than 30 people tried to march to the border and were stopped by the police enforcing Covid-19 protocols and anti-smuggling operations some 10km from the Beitbridge Border Gate.

“To save face, Hossana and his people went to a church in Matswale suburb in Musina where they tried to lure some African refugees to join in but failed to find any takers.

“They then started picketing carrying placards denouncing the Zimbabwean Government before dispersing,” said the official.

Limpopo police spokesperson, Brigadier Motlafela Mojapelo was not available for comment yesterday.

According to another official, Hossana and crew tried twice to get to the N1 highway without success between Thursday and Friday.

“They left a frustrated lot,” said the source.

Police officer commanding Beitbridge, Chief Superintendent Tichaona Nyongo said Zimbabwean police were fully prepared for any spillover of the demo to the Zimbabwean side.

“According to information on the ground, the planned demonstrations flopped in South Africa. So we don’t expect any spillover. Though these people had promised to carry out their mission across the border, we are not taking any chances. We are ready for any spillover and we will continue enforcing the laws of the land,” said Chief Supt Nyongo.

Zimbabwe is one of South Africa’s largest trading partners in Sadc with the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority saying the Beitbridge border post contributes over 31 percent of the total customs revenue.

In August, another demonstration flopped after people failed to show up at the selected pick-up points in Johannesburg, from where they were supposed to be bused to Beitbridge.

Last year the Confederation of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) also hit a brick wall after their request to protest inside the border area was turned down by security authorities from both countries.

Political Bureau of WPK Central Committee Meets

The 18th meeting of the Political Bureau of the Seventh Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea took place at the office building of the Central Committee of the WPK on September 29.

Kim Jong Un, Chairman of the WPK, Chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the DPRK and Supreme Commander of the armed forces of the DPRK, attended the meeting.

It was also attended by members of the Presidium and members and alternate members of the Political Bureau of the WPK Central Committee.

Present there as observers were department directors of the WPK Central Committee, members of the national anti-epidemic field and others concerned.

Upon authorization of the Political Bureau of the WPK Central Committee, Chairman Kim Jong Un presided over the meeting.

The meeting pointed out some faults being revealed in the efforts to prevent the spread of the deadly virus and had an in-depth study and discussion of the issues of further intensifying the state emergency anti-epidemic work.

A report on the worldwide spread of COVID-19 was made at the meeting.

The meeting stressed the need to strictly guard against conceit, carelessness, irresponsibility and slackness in the anti-epidemic field and employ tougher anti-epidemic measures of a Korean style and intelligence. It also called for successfully maintaining a steel-strong anti-epidemic system and order by heightening the atmosphere of mass-based anti-epidemic campaign and galvanizing all people into united conscious action.

The Political Bureau of the Party Central Committee examined the Party and state affairs, which have been conducted to mark the 75th founding anniversary of the WPK, and the situation of the campaign for recovery from natural disasters, before proposing, discussing and deciding on necessary organizational steps to ensure their successful implementation.

The meeting also dealt with organizational matters.

The meeting was an important occasion for protecting the security of the country and the people to the last and stabilizing and improving their living standards as it took practical measures to splendidly celebrate the 75th founding anniversary of the WPK as a genuine, auspicious holiday of all the people and victoriously conclude this year, the last year of the five-year strategy for national economic development, despite the unprecedented misfortune and natural disasters.



DPRK: South Korean Authorities Warned against Intrusion

The Korean Central News Agency issued the following report to warn the south Korean authorities on September 27:

In connection with the occurrence of an awful case which should not have happened in the present phase of inter-Korean relations, we investigated it and notified the south side of its detailed account on September 25.

True to the intention of our Supreme Leadership, we also took more necessary security measures in order to make sure that no more incident spoiling the relations of trust and respect between the north and the south would happen in any case.

We are about to organize a search operation in the southwestern waters and the western coastal areas, and in case we find any tide-brought corpse during the operation, we even consider conventional procedures and ways of handing over it to the south side.

But, according to the report by the western fleet of our Navy, the south side has mobilized many vessels including warships to an action presumed to be a search operation and let them intrude into our territorial waters since September 25. It arouses our due vigilance as it may lead to another awful incident.

We do not care whether or not the south side conducts any kind of search operation in its territorial waters.

But we can never overlook any intrusion into our territorial waters, and we seriously warn the south side against it.

We urge the south side to immediately halt the intrusion across the military demarcation line in the west sea that may cause new tension.


Korea Chamber of Commerce

The Korea Chamber of Commerce (KCC) is a non-governmental, standing trade and investment promotion organ. Its mission is to provide exchange and cooperation to domestic trading companies and enterprises in touch with foreign or regional chambers of commerce and trade or investment promotion bodies, and to represent and protect their interests at home and abroad.

It concludes agreements for economic cooperation and exchange with relevant international bodies and foreign chambers of commerce and trade promotion groups, and issues certifications for trading activities.

It spreads to its members the contents of international customs and usage and agreements, including the regulations on international commercial terms, and organizes an exposition, exhibition, consultation, etc.

It links commercial ties for trade and investment between local institutions, enterprises and bodies with foreign bodies, enterprises and individuals, and provides consultative service concerning such problems as introduction of exports, patents and trademarks, construction of export bases, opening of marketing, exchange of goods, attraction of investment, etc.

It also stands proxy for registering patents and trademarks with relevant institutions of the DPRK or a foreign country, according to the application of the owner of a patent or a trademark.

In 2019, the KCC introduced the trade and investment policies and environment of the DRPK to delegations from Russia, China and other countries and discussed the issue of cooperation in the sectors of trade, investment and technical exchange between businesses.

The KCC will continue to keep close ties with the International Chamber of Commerce and its counterparts in other countries so as to render great services for the economy-related institutions and trading companies of the country to conduct external economic cooperation and technical exchange and business activities in a proactive and multifaceted way.

Add: Jungsong-dong, Central District, Pyongyang, DPRK

Tel: 0085-02-381-5926

Fax: 0085-02-381-4654/5827



DPRK’s System Guarantees Rights of the Aged

The DPRK has long since established the people-oriented system of guaranteeing the rights of the aged.

On June 24, Juche 35 (1946), it adopted the Labour Law for the Factory and Office Workers in North Korea, which stipulated the issue of studying and drawing up the regulations on special allowance to cover the deficit in the livelihood of aged blue- and white-collar workers. According to it, the Provisional People’s Committee of North Korea on December 19 that year adopted a decision “The Law on Social Insurance”, which defined that the special allowance would be paid to the aged with high ratio.

During the fierce Fatherland Liberation War (1950-1953) the DPRK Cabinet adopted a resolution “On ensuring national social security”. After the war it formulated the “Regulations for guaranteeing the national social security” in spite of difficult economic situation of the country and took a measure to stabilize the living of the aged by making huge state investment to this end.

Later, the DPRK has steadily developed the system of guaranteeing the rights of the aged.

It adopted the Socialist Constitution of the DPRK (December 27, 1972) and the Public Health Law the DPRK (April 3, 1980), which stipulated that the system of universal free medical service shall be enforced for all citizens and stressed the need to take good care of the aged patients in particular with a high sense of responsibility so that they would fully enjoy the benefits of free medical care. It also adopted several laws and enforced the people-oriented policies of looking after the health and living of the aged at State expense.

The Law of the DPRK on Protection of the Aged was adopted in April Juche 96 (2007), which provides a reliable legal guarantee for thoroughly ensuring the rights and interests of the aged and respecting them and offering them with better living conditions.

Based on a well-knit administration system for the protection of the aged, the country directs efforts to ensuring their rights, interests and living conditions. Typical organizations to this end include the Central Committee of the Korea Federation for the Care of the Aged, the Korea Elderly Care Fund and the Korean Cultural and Art Association of the Aged, etc.


DPRK Production of Medicines on Increase

The Jongsong General Pharmaceutical Factory is increasing production of medicines.

The factory, which has realized the integration of development, production and marketing of medicines, turns out over 280 kinds of reserve medicines, Koryo medicines and health foods.

The transfusion plant has an annual capacity of producing tens of millions of various transfusions, including glucose injection, lactated Ringer’s solution and general amino acid injection. All its production lines, ranging from the moulding of plastic bags to filling, sterilizing and packing, are on an automated, streamlined basis.

The biomedicine plant produces intermediate urokinase and refined urokinase.

The injection plant produces tens of millions of injections every year, including solution, powder and freeze-dry ones.

The demand for capsules and various tablets is on the increase as they are badly needed in everyday life and their storage and usage are convenient.

Various kinds of Koryo medicines and health foods of the factory enjoy popularity.

All production lines of the factory comply with the requirements of GMP certified by the WHO.

Most recently, the factory sent many medicines to the people in the flood-stricken areas.

Manageress Ko Yong Kum said: We will make endeavours to increase production of medicines so that our people fully enjoy the benefits of the socialist public health system.


DPRK: The Most Important of State Affairs

On March 17 this year, Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un declared the construction of the Pyongyang General Hospital on the spot and broke ground first to signal the start of the project.

That day, he said: Our Party regards the people-first principle as its inherent nature and sacred political creed. So, protecting and improving the health of the people is a most pressing and honourable revolutionary undertaking, which it should shoulder and fulfil without fail, whatever the situation.

Regarding the work to shore up the public health sector as the most important of the State affairs to give top priority, he steadily followed the road of devotion to this end.

Under his warm care for the good of people, the Breast Tumour Institute of the Pyongyang Maternity Hospital, Okryu Children’s Hospital, Ryugyong Dental Hospital, Ryugyong General Ophthalmic Hospital, Medical Oxygen Factory and other modern medical service centres have been built in the capital city of Pyongyang even under the difficult conditions of the country.

The Korean people still remember what Kim Jong Un said during his visit to the newly-built Ryugyong General Ophthalmic Hospital.

He said as follows: The Party continues to channel great efforts into building up the material and technical foundations for healthcare. This is not because the country is well off but because it is an important undertaking to give full play to the advantages of the country’s socialist health system, in which the Party and the government take full charge of the people’s lives and health, and to defend socialism.

During his visit to the Medical Oxygen Factory under construction, he said as follows: There are many things for us to do, but nothing is more important than the work for promoting the people’s wellbeing. The priority in this work is the healthcare. It is my resolve to direct efforts to the public health sector so as to make our people lead a long life in good health.

Looking round the factory splendidly built on the outskirts of Pyongyang, he said in delight that he was happy at the thought that he has done another worthwhile job for the good of people.

It is his firm faith and will to ensure that the people and the rising generation lead a healthy and civilized life, enjoying the benefits of advanced medical services under the socialist healthcare system.


DPRK: By Introducing Rational Methods

The Taean Heavy Machine Complex is pushing ahead with production of generating equipment.

This year it finished the production of custom-built machines including the generating equipment for the Hungju Youth Power Station No. 4.

Now, it is effecting innovations by proactively introducing rational methods.

It reduced the refining time of molten iron by introducing a new method and is producing water-wheel blades and gears by improving the moulding method. Based on improved automatic welding process, it increases the speed of welding the frames of equipment by three times while ensuring their quality on a high level.

It also reduces the machining cycle by two-thirds by introducing effective jigs.


Mozambique President Named Africa Oil & Power’s “Person of the Year” for 2020

Africa Oil & Power will present H.E. Filipe Nyusi, President of Mozambique, with highest honors at the Mozambique Gas & Power 2021 event

MAPUTO, Mozambique, September 30, 2020/ -- H.E. Filipe Nyusi, President of Mozambique has been selected as Africa Oil & Power’s ( “Person of the Year” for 2020 by Africa Oil & Power. This prestigious award is presented to exceptional individuals who display true leadership and innovative thinking in steering their countries or organizations to the forefront of the global energy sector.

President Nyusi has been at the helm of Mozambique’s energy sector during its many recent successes, including several multibillion gas projects which are now in development in this Southern African country. These natural gas projects, once fully actualized, represent more than three times the country’s current GDP, with the Exxon-led Rovuma LNG project valued at $23.9 billion; the country’s Total-led gas project valued at $23 billion; and the $4.7 billion Coral FLNG project, which is expected to reach first gas in 2022.

H.E. Filipe Nyusi has steered Mozambique through incredible challenges, and is leading the country to demonstrable economic success.

Multibillion-dollar gas projects are transforming Mozambique’s economy and are leading to prosperity, progress for all Mozambicans.

Africa Oil & Power will present H.E. Filipe Nyusi, President of Mozambique, with highest honors at the Mozambique Gas & Power 2021 event.

“H.E. Filipe Nyusi has led the charge in creating an enabling environment in the energy industry and the broader economy that paved the way for extraordinary energy deals which Mozambique currently enjoys,” said Jude Kearney, former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Service Industries and Finance at the US Department of Commerce during the Clinton Administration and currently President of Kearney Africa Advisors. “I can think of no better individual in Africa’s energy space on whom to bestow this award. Mozambique has a bright future ahead as international gas projects drive new growth, job creation, economic development and prosperity,” added Kearney.

Not only has President Nyusi been instrumental in the deals coming through, he has also helped drive a focus on national capacity building and has made sure the projects set aside natural gas for domestic use, setting the country on a path towards economic diversification and energy security.

“H.E. President Filipe Nyusi has worked hard to create an environment that ensures that a strong gas industry will create jobs, boost entrepreneurship, protect our environment, diversify our economy for the benefit of all the citizens and generate much-needed revenue for the government. The President has made the energy sector a crucial component of the economic well-being of Mozambique,” said Florival Mucave, CEO of the Mozambican Oil & Gas Chamber.

“H.E. President Filipe Nyusi has taken Mozambique from a place of relative obscurity in the energy markets, to a place of leadership in the global natural gas industry,” said Renée Montez-Avinir, Managing Director of AOP.  “His leadership has been instrumental in bringing these mega natural gas projects to fruition, providing vital investment security to close several multi-billion dollar deals. There is no doubt, the natural gas projects will transform Mozambique, bringing progress and prosperity to the entire country and placing Mozambique at the forefront of a global natural gas revolution,” added Montez-Avinir.

In office since 2015, Nyusi has aggressively pursued an anti-corruption campaign; continued to lead the country in peace; and has successfully navigated the country through incredible challenges, including Tropical Cyclone Idai that struck Mozambique in 2019 and the economic fallout presented by COVID-19 this year.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Africa Oil & Power Conference.

‘Sanctions Hamper Access to Capital’

30 SEP, 2020 - 00:09 

Herald Reporter

Zimbabwe’s efforts to implement sustainable development and its capacity to revive the economy from the impact of Covid-19 pandemic are hampered by the illegal sanctions denying access to capital, President Mnangagwa has told the United Nations, while appealing for more debt relief for developing countries.

During a high-level virtual meeting of Heads of State and Government as part of the ongoing opening session of United Nations General Assembly he said the pandemic and illegal sanctions had derailed Zimbabwe’s efforts to achieve the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development.

“Efforts towards practical and real time solutions to the sustainable debt burden that constitutes risk to long lasting recovery for most developing countries must be vigorously pursued. The efforts must enable debtor countries to channel more resources towards developmental programmes for Zimbabwe,” President Mnangagwa said.

“The illegal economic sanctions are undermining the implementation of the sustainable development goals agenda and constraining our ability to shield the economy from the negative impact of the novel coronavirus.

“Sanctions severely undermine our efforts to access capital from the international markets hence Zimbabwe appeals to the UN General Assembly to unequivocally call for the removal of these sanctions. Zimbabwe stands ready to work with the international community to strengthen multilateralism for the realisation of our shared goal of creating a better world for all.”

He said the Covid-19 pandemic had affected economies and had attendant human costs and urged the world to build a recovery path anchored on resilient, adaptable and financially inclusive economies.

“The decade of action must remain alive and on course even in the face of this novel coronavirus which has become a global health catastrophe. The pandemic has brought with it severe human costs exerting pressure on budgets and non-monitory resources. It has also resulted in trade-investment and supply-chain disruptions.

“Unemployment is soaring, debt and poverty are mounting. It is imperative therefore that we build a recovery path anchored on resilient adaptable and financially inclusive economies over and above proposals relating to financing. Zimbabwe supports the recommendation on socio protection investment in ICT, building resilient inclusive health systems and mechanisms to absorb the shocks of Covid-19,” he said.

The co-conveners of the session, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness as well as United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Gutteres participated in the virtual session.

Outcomes of the meeting are expected to feed into and mobilise action at high-level meetings such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund annual conferences and the G20 Leaders’ Summit slated for October and November this year.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

UN Says Over 200,000 Refugee Children Out of School in Ethiopia Due to COVID-19


2020/9/23 11:06:26

People wearing face masks cross a busy street in Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia, Aug. 21, 2020. (Xinhua/Michael Tewelde)

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Tuesday said more than 200,000 refugee children are out of school in Ethiopia due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

"The Ethiopian Ministry of Education has initiated consultations with education and health partners on possible reopening of schools during the new academic year. Schools have been closed since March due to COVID-19, leaving over 200,000 refugee children out of school," the UN refugee agency said in its situation update issued on Tuesday.

The East African country is one of the largest refugee-hosting countries in Africa, sheltering about 779,261 registered refugees and asylum seekers as of the beginning of this month, according to the latest figures from the UN refugee agency.

According to the agency, essential primary healthcare activities are maintained in all refugee camps, which are currently part of the ongoing national campaign to enhance awareness and testing for COVID-19.

It also noted that an additional 200,000 face masks have been delivered to the refugee camps to improve the protection of frontline responders, while infrared thermometers, disposable gloves and surgical masks have been procured for distribution.

The UNHCR, however, stressed that refugees continue to receive only about 84 percent of the minimum standard food ration of 2,100 kcal per person per day. "This has kept the global acute malnutrition rate in most camps higher than the acceptable standards."

It also said that it has received 1.8 million US dollars from Education Cannot Wait (ECW) to strengthen its COVID-19 response in education.

The Ethiopia Ministry of Education is also working with partners to develop guidelines on how to mitigate COVID-19 and ensure a safe learning environment.

China's Biotech Giant BGI Opens COVID-19 Test Kit Plant in Ethiopia


2020/9/23 9:17:00

An expert works at the BGI Ethiopia COVID-19 test kit factory in the Bole Lemi industrial park on the outskirts of Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia, on Sept. 22, 2020. Chen Songheng, General Manager of BGI Ethiopia, a subsidiary company of China's biotech giant, BGI Genomics Co., Ltd., is feeling optimistic about Ethiopia's anti-COVID-19 fight. (Xinhua/Wang Shoubao)

Chen Songheng, General Manager of BGI Ethiopia, a subsidiary company of China's biotech giant, BGI Genomics Co., Ltd., is feeling optimistic about Ethiopia's anti-COVID-19 fight.

Chen administers the Chinese company's first ever plant in Africa, a COVID-19 test kit factory located on the outskirts of Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa.

"We have opened our first factory not only in Ethiopia but also in the whole of Africa. Now, the capacity of production for the COVID-19 tests kits is about six million test kits per year," Chen told Xinhua on Tuesday.

"We would like to provide localized production in Ethiopia that can also benefit all African countries. Our aim is to make affordable artificial test kits to all African countries to help them in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic," Chen said.

Chen also applauded the Ethiopian government's high-level support to the new COVID-19 test kit factory, showcased with the inauguration of the factory by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on September 13.

"We appreciate the support from the Ethiopian government. With the Ethiopian government alongside us we feel very strong confidence in the fight against COVID-19," said Chen.

With the COVID-19 test kit plant already receiving glowing remarks from high level Ethiopian government officials, Chen feels confident that the initiative will diversify its engagements in the post-COVID-19 era.

"After the COVID-19 pandemic disappears, we will focus on the artificial test kits production to provide products for the likes of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis (TB), malaria and dengue fever," Chen told Xinhua.

BGI Ethiopia's work currently isn't solely restricted to the production of COVID-19 tests kits, with Ethiopian staff of the firm gaining knowledge and experience through their employment.

One such Ethiopian employee is Hussein Mohammed, a Research and Development Engineer at the BGI Ethiopia plant. said the East African country lacks sufficient medical expertise relating to COVID-19, which the new factory will provide.

"We don't have much professional expertise on COVID-19, so my long-term aim is working with BGI Ethiopia and making myself better than I am now," Mohammed told Xinhua.

"As an Ethiopian, it's a big honor to work with BGI Ethiopia. Hopefully, it will give me a wonderful experience in the future and I will share my experience with fellow local employees," Mohammed said.

Mohammed's experience with China's successful fight against the COVID-19 pandemic extends to his time as a student in Wuhan city where he firsthand witnessed China's successful anti-COVID-19 efforts.

Mohammed returned to Ethiopia in June after two years of study in Wuhan city, out of which the last six months coincided with the outbreak of COVID-19 in the city as well as the successful control of the disease.

"The Chinese government played a great role in protecting us during the COVID-19 pandemic. They were providing free meals for us when we stayed more than six months indoor," Mohammed said.

The BGI Ethiopia COVID-19 test kit factory, located inside the Bole Lemi industrial park on the outskirts of Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, is expected to help save much-needed foreign currency that the Ethiopian government spends towards importing test kits.

The importation of vast majority of COVID-19 test kits from abroad has been also causing financial and logistical challenges to Ethiopia, which has so far confirmed 69,709 COVID-19 cases and 1,108 COVID-19 related deaths.

Speaking at the COVID-19 test kit factory inauguration event earlier this month, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali said the factory's inauguration came at a critical juncture in the country's fight against the pandemic.

"The commencement of COVID-19 test kits production will boost the testing capacity of Ethiopia and other African countries," Ahmed had said.

"The factory will additionally provide commercial laboratory services for a total of three million transit passengers at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport," said the Ethiopian premier said.

Chinese FM Calls for Making Correct Choice in Post COVID-19 Era


2020/9/29 14:53:08

A member of staff prepares to inspect an inbound ship at the port of Fuyuan in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, Aug. 13, 2020. Photo:Xinhua

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Monday called on all countries to make a correct choice so as to improve global governance and international order in the post COVID-19 era.

The world is now at an important historical juncture since World War II, with the coronavirus outbreak still ravaging across the globe, unilateralism and bullying moves threatening global order, and rising protectionism affecting world economy, Wang made the remarks at the opening ceremony of the Lanting Forum held in Beijing.

"Where are we going in the post COVID-19 era? All countries should not take it lightly or make the wrong choice," he said.

During the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly, the international community has reached the consensus that the United Nations is still the most complete platform in the international system, multilateralism remains the cornerstone of the current international order, and solidarity and cooperation is the only way out of the pandemic, according to Wang.

"Some certain country made use of the United Nations as a stage to serve its own political and selfish interests, provoking conflicts and confrontation, and many countries have resisted such heinous moves in various ways," he said.

Countries, no matter big or small, strong or weak, are all equal members of the international community. Those who believe they are strong enough to ignore and break international rules will eventually be abandoned as time goes by, Wang said.

Wang called on all countries to stick to peaceful development, stay true to the values of equality and justice, fight the pandemic through solidarity, and maintain the direction of openness and cooperation.

Global Governance Likely Takes Regional Form in Post-pandemic Era

Global Times 

2020/9/28 22:54:42

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi delivers an address at the Lanting Forum in Beijing on Monday. Photo: Wang Wenwen/GT

Editor's Note: Under the theme "International Order and Global Governance in the Post-COVID-19 Era," the Lanting Forum was held at China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Monday. Jointly organized by the China Public Diplomacy Association and the Nizami Ganjavi International Center, the forum gathered officials, scholars and economists worldwide to participate. The following are speeches given by three speakers. 

Fu Ying, Former Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of China, Chairperson of Center for International Security and Strategy at Tsinghua University

The biggest issue in the world today is how to best cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only the governments of countries are doing everything they can to improve domestic public health management, the international community is also in urgent need to improve global governance. Our world, however, is not as united as it should be in the face of this worldwide crisis. Instead, politicians from some countries have been attempting to politicize the prevention and control efforts. As a result, global coordination mechanisms are not able to raise the efficiency as expected.

The US has been playing a leading role in the world affairs for a long time. And it is most disappointing that it fails to play a constructive role in this fight. Since the initial outbreak of the pandemic, Washington has been arrogant, incompetent and unwilling to cooperate. Meanwhile, right-wing forces in the US are advocating for unilateralism, deconstructing the global governance system based on multilateralism, in total disregard of the interdependence of nations formed in the course of economic globalization. In terms of relations with China, they are trying to take advantage of the pandemic to decouple from China, thus advancing confrontational competing strategies and protecting US hegemony through a zero-sum approach.

What is the right direction? This year marks the 75th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations. On September 22, President Xi Jinping delivered a speech via video from Beijing and emphasized at the general debate of the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly that "multilateralism, epitomized by the UN, is the only way that the contemporary world can work well." 

People's original intentions of promoting multilateralism were to settle the issue of "peace and war" once and for all. The core values of multilateralism suit the common interests of all countries. The vitality of multilateralism lies in a win-win spirit, and it is the only way to prevent the spread of extreme and retrogressive forces. What's encouraging is that, as the world is entering the third decade of the 21st century, voices supporting globalization, multilateralism and improvement of global governance continue to present the mainstream in the international community. 

China believes in and supports multilateralism. We believe a diversified co-existence plays a key role in multilateralism. Our world calls for interconnection and interdependence among countries. The relations among major powers can only remain on track through mutually beneficial cooperation and fair competition. So-called "decoupling," on the other hand, goes against the trend of the times.

Another key foundation for multilateralism is balance. Balance forms the foundation of stability in the world. In diplomacy, all countries should consider a balance among their own interests, security and development. Facing major power competition, many medium and small-sized countries have chosen a balanced diplomacy rather than taking a side, which indeed reflects the characteristics of a multilateral era.

China has been actively carrying out bilateral and multilateral cooperation during its fight against the epidemic. Many private enterprises in China have utilized their resources and provided anti-epidemic supplies to Europe, Africa, Latin America, and the US. The spirit of selflessness and internationalism demonstrated by Chinese people and enterprises showcases the foundation of China's multilateral mindset and policies. 

Despite this, some outsiders remain suspicious about China's intentions and worry that China's global cooperation may involve strategic plans. However, China has shown the world through its actions what the spirit of a community of shared future for mankind really means. If China has any intentions, they are only about contributing to the world's future peace and development.

Multilateralism is the only solution for the international community to cope with new problems and challenges. We have to realize what global citizens truly care about and need. The foundation of better global governance should be built upon safeguarding humanity and focusing on people's livelihoods, welfare and development. To make this happen, the practice of common security and cooperative development is essential for countries.

Martin Jacques, a former senior fellow at the Department of Politics and International Studies at Cambridge University

COVID-19 has served to poison global relations and exacerbate tensions. Why? The primary reason was the already deteriorating relationship between the US and China. From the outset, COVID-19 was played out in that context. From the outset China was the subject of a vitriolic and quite shocking attack in the Western media and by Western politicians for its secrecy and alleged cover-up. Such was the venom of this assault that, certainly in Western countries, it had a negative impact on popular attitudes towards China. Although the tsunami of abuse has significantly subsided, serious damage has been done to the prospects for global cooperation. 

A secondary reason why COVID-19 has negatively impacted global governance is that such was the scale of the threat, the fear and concern that was engendered at all levels of societies, the size of the challenge confronting national governments, that countries tended to look inwards rather than outwards. National debate, argument and action became all- consuming and largely eclipsed a desire to learn from others.  

Everywhere COVID-19 has been an enormous test of governance. It is difficult to think of an obvious equivalent other than war. Like war, it has been highly revealing with regard to the competence of national governance. There have, broadly speaking, been three main types of responses: first, that in East Asia, including China, South Korea and Japan. There have, of course, been important differences but it is the commonalities that are most striking. First the role and sheer competence of government and the respect that government enjoys amongst the people. Second, the collectivist instincts of the people and the social discipline that this engenders. The wearing of masks, for example, unlike anywhere else, is not a subject of debate: it is universally observed. Third, in all these countries the objective is the suppression and elimination of the virus rather than simply its containment. This is seen as a precondition for economic recovery. They have all been remarkably successful at fighting the virus, with China's performance, given its size, extraordinary. 

The second type of response, that of Western European countries, has, with varying degrees of success, been to contain rather than eliminate the virus. This has been accompanied by continuous debates about the role of government versus the rights of the individual and the needs of the economy versus the right to life. They have been far less successful in fighting the virus than the East Asian countries. 

The third type of response, that of the US and Brazil, has been a disaster: fighting the virus has been seen as secondary and an inconvenience rather than the fundamental priority. Unsurprisingly, huge numbers have died as a consequence. The role of government has been played down compared with the rights of the individual and the needs of the economy have been prioritised over fighting the virus.

The ramifications of these different approaches will be profound. In the longer run it will surely lead to a growing debate about the relative merits of these different forms of governance, a debate which hitherto has largely taken place on the side lines. The failure of the American approach under Trump - alongside the failure of US economic policy over the last two decades - is bound to further weaken America's waning global influence.

My final general point concerns global governance and the international order in the wake of COVID-19. It is difficult to be optimistic. The US and China are now much further apart than was the case at the beginning of this year. A new kind of cold war is well underway. This will weaken the possibilities of global governance. The clearest example of this has been America's withdrawal from WHO and curtailing its funding. It is possible that Biden's election might create a more favourable outlook for global cooperation but it is very unlikely there will be a return to the status quo ante. Progress regarding global governance is more likely to assume, for the foreseeable future, a regional form. An obvious - and encouraging - example is that China and the European Union appear to be taking a parallel track on carbon dioxide emissions, which would be extremely important for any serious progress on the Paris climate agreement. Similarly, the Belt and Road Initiative offers the prospect of new forms of intra-national cooperation. 

John Ross, Senior Fellow of Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China

Clearly, the world faces its deepest global crisis since World War II - with the simultaneous coming together of three profound threats in the short, medium and longer terms.

First, the short-term threat to literally millions of lives from the COVID-19 pandemic - which in turn produces an economic crisis.

Second, medium/longer-term economic stagnation in the advanced parts of the world economy - growth in advanced economies was cumulatively slower than after 1929, with consequent social and geopolitical tensions, before the world was thrown into its deepest economic recession since the Great Depression by COVID-19.

Third, a longer-term trajectory toward climate change, which would reach levels with catastrophic consequences for humanity, which there is only a limited period of time to stop and which must therefore be tackled starting in the short term - a period which will be profoundly affected by the patterns of economic recovery from the COVID-19 economic downturn.

All are best tackled by an internationally coordinated response. 

Faced with the 2008 international financial crisis there was a degree of international coordination in the response via the G20 - it was not completely adequate but it played a significant role. Discussions between the US under President Obama and China led to the Paris Climate change agreement of 2016.

Unfortunately, since 2016 the US has moved into unilateralism, particularly its withdrawal from Paris Climate Change Accords, withdrawal from WHO, creating paralysis in the WTO and refusal to participate in internationally coordinated response to COVID-19.

It is vital for other parts of the world to cooperate on all three current crises because they are interrelated - this response will of course be seriously strengthened if the US returns to the path of multilateralism.

There is pessimism on global cooperation on COVID-19. The world is divided into two strategies - Western Pacific countries have followed an "elimination" or "zero COVID-19" strategy for coronavirus with rapid results. But the US and the EU have not. Unless there is a rapid breakthrough on a vaccine, pessimism remains regarding the US and the EU and real possibilities of international cooperation. Nonetheless, there will be cooperation in the much more medically successful countries in the West Pacific.

Cui Hongjian, director of the Department of European Studies, China Institute of International Studies

The COVID-19 pandemic and the competition between major powers have become the severest challenges to international politics. Deficiencies in global governance have been further exposed and multilateralism has been challenged. But to finally defeat the pandemic and maintain the balance of the international system, multilateralism is an indispensable solution.

First, reinvigorating multilateralism requires a broad, rather than an exclusive consensus in the international community. All countries should actively participate in the discussion, and their solutions from their own perspectives should be encouraged rather than opposed. Some tend to limit the scope of multilateralism to certain specific subjects, but exclude or deliberately downplay other subjects. If such problems are not solved, then multilateralism will finally become a hollow word. This will not help solve problems and will harm mutual trust. 

Some are also worried that China will use the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to promote its own rules. The fact is, if these rules are in line with multilateralism and benefits all sides, then why not? All sides should be open in terms of rules. Some countries want to benefit from the BRI, while they also want to exclusively dominate the rules. Such mentality is not multilateral.

Second, reviving multilateralism will require adapting to changes in the international community, and building a stable and sustainable international order should be its goal. During the UN General Assembly's 75th anniversary meeting, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres mentioned building an inclusive and networked multilateralism. This means adapting to changes in the international environment brought by globalization.

Third, reviving multilateralism is not a privilege of moderately developed countries, nor is it a policy tool of powerful countries. Its path should include international mechanisms, regional cooperation, multilateral coordination and greater responsibilities for major powers. Multilateralism should be open cooperation, not a small circle of competition and exclusion. If people believe that a closed and exclusive small circle tailored for few countries is called multilateralism, then it is doomed to fail.

And last but not least, reinvigorating multilateralism requires the international community to jointly maintain a sustainable environment, set clear goals and take joint actions. Some countries' unilateral acts have severely challenged multilateralism. Global division of labor and free trade are the foundations of multilateralism. Thus, insisting on economic openness and cooperation should be the primary goal of reviving multilateralism. 

Major powers may have disputes on some issues, but they should not refuse to cooperate on other areas. All sides need to communicate and seek consensus. To this end, responding to the COVID-19 and climate change are the most significant areas where the international community can take joint action.

Lessons from a Million COVID-19 Deaths: Global Times Editorial

Global Times 

2020/9/29 23:23:4

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

The global COVID-19 death toll surpassed a million on Tuesday, Beijing time. It's shocking. In the US alone, the virus has killed over 200,000, more than the combined deaths from five wars, including the Korean and Iraq wars. What's most heartbreaking is that most of those deaths could have been avoided. 

In the battle between the people and virus, the former have suffered a defeat. The US, as the worst-hit but most powerful country, should take the blame. If international society has neither the ability nor resolve to reflect on this fiasco, or should the US continue to take a passive attitude or even resist global cooperation in the pandemic fight, then mankind will have to pay an even more painful price.  

China is the only populous country that has effectively put the deadly epidemic under control. The Chinese people are going to embrace the National Day holidays, during which hundreds of millions of people will travel within the country to enjoy a rare moment to relax this year. This is a remarkable result of the Chinese people's arduous efforts to fight the epidemic. Of course, China should not show off. But attempting to belittle China's achievement, picking a hole in it is something driven by an unhealthy and gloomy mentality.  

In today's pandemic fight, it has become clear who our enemy is. What is also obvious is the necessity for global cooperation to fight the coronavirus. However, loopholes remain in global cooperation against the pandemic. With the strong disruption from Washington, political disputes have outweighed public health cooperation, which has led to more infections and deaths. 

Although territorial disputes remain, countries' impulse to expand territories has greatly declined. The traditional geopolitical struggle will drift far away from where people's concerns lie. What people are most concerned about are the common challenges facing mankind such as public health security, climate change and environmental issues and so on. These must be tackled through joint efforts of all countries. 

At this moment, whoever tries to divide the world is sure to be condemned in history. The Trump administration has failed to effectively deal with the coronavirus, and is dividing the world at the peak of the pandemic. What it has done will become a huge stain of this US government. 

The world faces daunting challenges in fighting the pandemic. It's already autumn in the northern hemisphere and winter is not far away. As the temperature drops, the global pandemic is gaining a fresh momentum. Many European countries, which enjoyed relief for several days, face the impact of the second wave of the epidemic. The coronavirus is spreading in India, China's southern neighbor, at an astonishing speed. Some predict India will become the world's most epidemic-hit country. Then, of course, there's the US. 

As long as one country fails to tamp down the virus, people's battle against the pandemic cannot be declared a victory, and China's epidemic prevention and control achievements will be fragile. The Chinese people have a quite sober understanding of this. 

The world is revolving around the pandemic in 2020. Mankind will eventually defeat the coronavirus - no one doubts this. The question is how big a price will have to be paid. The cost of a million lives was unimaginable in the past. Some public health experts estimate that may grow to two - even three - million. 

The most pressing challenge the world is facing now is to prevent the numbers from further rising. What lessons have been learned after we have paid such a high price? What kind of adjustments will the world make? These are the key to avoiding the reemergence of a global tragedy. 

Global Partnership to Make Available 120 Million Affordable, Quality COVID-19 Rapid Tests for Low- and Middle-income Countries

28 September 2020 

News release

A full access package includes WHO policy guidance on the use of antigen-based rapid diagnostic tests, manufacturer volume guarantees for low and middle-income countries,  catalytic funding to assist governments to deploy the tests and an initial US$50 million procurement fund.

Several rapid, point-of-care antigen tests are being assessed by WHO for Emergency Use Listing (EUL).

Agreements between the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and test manufacturers Abbott and SD Biosensor make available innovative tests priced at a maximum of US$5 for low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).

The Global Fund commits an initial US$50 million to enable countries to purchase the new tests, with the first orders expected to be placed this week.

Expedited market introduction of these tests in multiple LMICs is being supported through the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), Unitaid, FIND, CHAI, and their partners.

This is the latest move from the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator to develop, procure and distribute critical new tools to fight the pandemic; new tests are urgently needed to meet the huge unmet needs for testing worldwide 

A set of agreements to make available, for low and middle-income countries, affordable, high-quality COVID-19 antigen rapid tests were today announced by the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator. Organizations involved in the milestone agreement include the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND), the Global Fund, Unitaid, and the World Health Organization (WHO).

As part of this comprehensive, end-to-end effort, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has executed separate volume guarantee agreements with rapid diagnostic test (RDT) producers Abbott and SD Biosensor. These two arrangements will make available to LMICs 120 million antigen rapid diagnostic tests (Ag RDTs) – priced at a maximum of US$5 per unit – over a period of six months. These tests provide results in 15–30 minutes, rather than hours or days, and will enable expansion of testing, particularly in countries that do not have extensive laboratory facilities or trained health workers to implement molecular (polymerase-chain reaction or PCR) tests.

The tests developed by Abbott and SD Biosensor are highly portable, reliable, and easy to administer, making testing possible in near-person, decentralized healthcare settings. Both companies’ tests are faster and cheaper than laboratory-based tests, enabling countries to increase the pace of testing, tracing and treating people for COVID-19 at the point of care particularly in areas with under-resourced health systems. A number of other Ag RDTs are at various stages of development and assessment.

To scale up the Ag RDTs, the Global Fund today announced that it has made available an initial US$50 million from its COVID-19 Response Mechanism to enable countries to purchase at least 10 million of the new rapid tests for LMICs at the guaranteed price, with the first orders expected to be placed this week through the Global Fund’s pooled procurement mechanism.

FIND and WHO are working together to accelerate appropriate use by supporting implementation research that will optimize Ag RDT use in multiple LMICs, in line with WHO guidance. This includes provision of catalytic volumes of tests to understand how Ag RDTs can best fit into health systems.

Unitaid and Africa CDC will combine resources to initiate the roll out of these tests in up to 20 countries in Africa starting in October 2020. This multi-million-dollar intervention, currently undergoing final sign-off by their Boards, is designed to engage multiple partners active in the COVID-19 response in these countries, such as CHAI, African Society for Laboratory Medicine (ASLM) and local organizations. This will bolster efforts by the African Union’s Partnership to Accelerate COVID-19 Testing (PACT) initiative, launched in August 2020 to mobilize experts, community workers, supplies and other resources to minimize the impact of the pandemic on the African continent by testing, tracing, and treating COVID-19 cases in a timely manner.

Testing is a critical cornerstone of the COVID-19 response, enabling countries to trace and contain the virus now, and to prepare for the roll-out of vaccines once available. Effective testing strategies rely on a portfolio of test types that can be used in different settings and situations. While molecular tests started to be rolled out within a month of the virus being sequenced, these tests are mainly laboratory based, relying on infrastructure and trained personnel to conduct them. Rapid tests to detect the presence of the virus at the point of care, which are faster and cheaper, are a vital addition to the testing arsenal needed to contain and fight COVID-19.

WHO guidance published on 11 September 2020 highlights the value of these tests in areas where community transmission is widespread and where nucleic acid amplification-based diagnostic (NAAT) testing is either unavailable or where test results are significantly delayed.  As well as supporting test-trace-isolate strategies, the tests can help identify or confirm new outbreaks, support outbreak investigations through screening; monitor disease trends; and potentially test asymptomatic contacts.

The ACT-Accelerator Diagnostics Pillar is co-convened by FIND and the Global Fund, working closely with WHO and over 30 global health expert partners to accelerate innovation and overcome the technical, financial, and political obstacles to achieving equitable access to effective and timely testing. Such unprecedented global collaboration has enabled development and deployment of the first WHO EUL-approved Ag RDT within eight months of the first identification of the virus. In comparison, it took nearly five years to develop the first RDT for HIV. Several more antigen RDTs for COVID-19 are currently under WHO EUL review. Overall, the ACT-Accelerator Diagnostic Pillar aims to facilitate the supply of 500 million tests to LMICs within 12 months.

These agreements are critical to fulfil the key objective of the ACT-Accelerator: to ensure all countries, regardless of income, have fair access to new tests and tools to fight COVID-19. The exceptional speed with which the Ag RDT access package has been created demonstrates the breadth of the impact of the ACT-Accelerator initiative, and this and future achievements in testing will complement similar milestones anticipated to emerge from the Vaccines and Therapeutics Pillars.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of WHO, said: “High-quality rapid tests show us where the virus is hiding, which is key to quickly tracing and isolating contacts and breaking the chains of transmission. The tests are a critical tool for governments as they look to reopen economies and ultimately save both lives and livelihoods.”

Mark Suzman, Chief Executive Officer of the Gates Foundation, said: “Testing is an essential tool in the fight against COVID-19. We are delighted to join a partnership that will help ensure that the latest, high-quality diagnostics do not just go to the highest bidder but will be available at an affordable price to the world’s lower income countries. In addition, all of the actions announced today point to the growing success of the ACT-Accelerator in catalyzing global cooperation for a fair and effective response to this global crisis.”

Dr Iain Barton, Chief Executive Officer of CHAI, said: “These agreements will help ensure that millions of people in low- and middle-income countries have access to high-quality rapid testing in villages and towns as well as cities. This has the potential to revolutionize government’s ability to respond to the pandemic, enabling quick diagnosis and response to contain localized virus outbreaks before they spread.”

Andrea F. Wainer, Executive Vice President of Abbott’s rapid and molecular diagnostics businesses, said: “Abbott is pleased to bring our Panbio COVID-19 rapid antigen test and Sympheos digital solution to people and health authorities in low- and middle-income countries through this innovative partnership. We have long been committed to making sure our life-changing technologies are affordable and accessible, and for decades have been supporting many of these countries with our rapid tests for malaria, HIV, hepatitis, and other deadly infectious diseases.”

Hyo-Keun Lee, Chief Executive Officer of SD Biosensor, said: “We, SD Biosensor, are pleased to supply our STANDARD Q COVID-19 rapid antigen tests for people who really need fast and accurate COVID-19 diagnosis. Through this partnership, we will keep striving do our best to provide the best quality of COVID-19 antigen rapid kits for fighting COVID-19.”

Dr John Nkengasong, Director of the Africa CDC, said: “Antigen tests are an important complement to PCR testing, and are crucial to expand testing capacity throughout Africa. The beauty of antigen testing is that it is fast and gives quick results. It will allow healthcare workers to quickly isolate cases and treat them while tracing their contacts to cut the transmission chain.”

Dr Philippe Duneton, Unitaid’s Executive Director a.i., said: “Access to these point-of-care rapid tests with be a game changer in the fight against COVID-19. We are working to support countries to rapidly deploy and use these new tests in the best possible way. Today’s news shows what the ACT-A partners working together can deliver in our efforts against the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Dr Carolyn Gomes, Special Advisor for the Board, ProActividad, Jamaica, and Alternate Board Member (Developing Country NGOs), The Global Fund “Ensuring equitable access to rapid diagnostic tests is essential for controlling COVID-19 in all countries and to opening up economies across the world. Ensuring an affordable price is a major step forward.  Tests that can be used at the point of care by front-line workers will greatly facilitate community access to testing. To ensure equity in access for those who need it most, there will need to be much greater support of the ACT-Accelerator and the Diagnostics Pillar in particular. Much more money is needed to meet the needs of the most vulnerable.”

Peter Sands, Executive Director of the Global Fund, said: “This is the ACT-Accelerator in action. It is proof that by working together at a massive global scale, we can develop and deploy a vital new tool to help contain and fight the pandemic. This is not just a new test – it’s the money and the deployment plan to get it to where it’s needed, fast. This is the power of global collaboration.”

Dr Catharina Boehme, Chief Executive Officer of FIND, said: “With this Ag RDT package, the ACT-Accelerator partners have secured much-needed tools for LMICs to dramatically increase COVID-19 testing. With the financial support of several countries, we have made great progress, but to ensure we reach all those who need testing and bring the prices down, we urgently need substantial funding from public, philanthropic, and multilateral sources.”

About the ACT-Accelerator

The Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, is a new, ground-breaking global collaboration to accelerate the development production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines. It was set up in response to a call from G20 leaders in March 2020 and launched by WHO, the European Commission, France and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in April 2020. The ACT-Accelerator is not a decision-making body or a new organization, but works to speed up collaborative efforts among existing organizations to end the pandemic. It is a framework for collaboration that has been designed to bring key players around the table with the goal of ending the pandemic as quickly as possible through the accelerated development, equitable allocation, and scaled up delivery of tests, treatments and vaccines, thereby protecting health systems and restoring societies and economies in the near term. It draws on the experience of leading global health organizations which are tackling the world’s toughest health challenges, and who, by working together, are able to unlock new and more ambitious results against COVID-19. Its members share a commitment to ensure all people have access to all the tools needed to defeat COVID-19 and to work with unprecedented levels of partnership to achieve it. The ACT-Accelerator has four areas of work: diagnostics, therapeutics, vaccines and the health system connector. Cross-cutting all of these is the workstream on Access & Allocation.

The Diagnostics Pillar of the ACT-Accelerator is focused on ensuring that everyone who needs a test can get one. Workstreams span research and development, market readiness, procurement, and country preparedness. Achievements to date include laboratory trainings in partnership with Africa CDC in early February, and a suite of online courses deployed within weeks. Nearly 20 million tests have been procured with the Diagnostics Consortium, ensuring diagnostic access for LMICs and readiness for test-and-treat implementation in these countries. Independent evaluations of antibody tests are also being conducted, as high-quality antibody tests are essential to understand population immunity for future vaccine roll out.

For information about WHO’s Emergency Use Listing

African Green Reformer Tipped to Win UN Trade Leadership Race

29/09/2020, 11:30am

Women from Kenya and Nigeria are favourites to lead the World Trade Organization and have promised to push climate change up the agenda

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (left) and Amina Mohamed (right). (Pictures: WTO/Jay Louvion)

By Joe Lo

Two African women who have pledged green reforms are the front-runners to become the World Trade Organization’s next director-general in November.

Either Kenya’s Amina Mohamed or Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala could become the organisation’s first female and first African leader.

According to analysts from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, many nations, particularly in Africa and the EU, are expected to support both candidates.

Both women used their written candidate statements to call for environmental reform of the WTO’s trade rules, while their three opponents from Korea, the UK and Saudi Arabia, have said little about climate change.

Mohamed, who has held cabinet roles including foreign affairs in the Kenyan government since 2013, said the economic recovery must “take account” of issues like climate change. The WTO should be reformed to “support our shared environmental objectives” and encourage diffusion of clean technologies, she said.

Okonjo-Iweala, former finance minister for Nigeria, said that “the WTO appears paralysed at a time when its rule book would greatly benefit from an update to 21st century issues such as ecommerce and the digital economy, the green and circular economies”. She said she wants to reach “optimal complementarity between trade and the environment”.

She previously co-chaired the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate along with Nicholas Stern, the author of ‘the Stern review’ which raised awareness of climate change in the UK.

The statement of the Saudi Arabian candidate, a former fighter pilot, banker and economy minister Mohammed Al-Tuwaijri’s does not mention climate change or the environment at all.

Korean trade minister Yoo Myung-Hee’s statement said that the WTO’s trade initiatives should encompass development issues like the environment.

Myung-hee has been Korea’s first female trade minister since March 2019. The South Korean government promised a “green new deal” and to end finance for coal plants abroad – but was criticised in May for bailing out Doosan Heavy Industries, a major manufacturer of coal technology.

Both Myung-hee and the UK’s Liam Fox criticised fisheries subsidies, which can incentivise over-fishing. Other than that, Fox’s statement did not mention the environment or climate change.

Fox is a former UK trade minister and vocal supporter of the country’s ‘Brexit’ policy. He has been criticised by environmentalists for voting against green measures, meeting a climate change denying US think tank while a minister and saying in February 2019 that “third world” countries need oil and gas.

IMF endorses EU plan to put a carbon price on imports

Mohamed spoke about climate change in a press briefing reported by Reuters. She said the WTO could replicate carbon pricing initiatives like the EU’s “on a grander scale”.

The EU has proposal taxing environmentally-damaging imports if other major polluters do not sign up to a minimum carbon price. The policy is supported by the International Monetary Fund  but Russia’s Prime Minister has labelled it “latent protectionism”.

Cameron Hepburn, an environmental economics professor at Oxford University, told Climate Home that climate change and trade were “closely linked” and “it is good to see Amina recognising this”.

He said that measures like carbon taxes are “rising up the agenda in many nations”. He added: “It is entirely appropriate that countries wanting to price carbon should ensure a level playing field for domestic firms and importers. Even with a patchwork of different national and subnational carbon prices, and different border adjustments, the WTO has an important leadership role to play in ensuring that the trade regime becomes a support rather than a hindrance for progress on climate change.”

Pia Eberhardt, from Corporate Europe Observatory told Climate Home that the WTO is “completely out of sync with the reality of the climate crisis. Changing that requires abandoning the WTO’s many damaging agreements and radical new thinking on how, what and how much we trade”.

Mohammed said that “WTO must be a part of the global conversation on climate change” and that, if she was elected, the WTO’s trade and environment committee would draw up rules for the international trade of environmental goods and services like solar panels and wind turbines.

The last WTO head, Robert Azevêdo, called in 2015 for tariffs on renewable components to be reduced. For example, India has imposed tariffs on Chinese solar panels, partly because of geopolitical tensions and partly because it wants to build up its own manufacturing capacity. This has hindered growth in India’s renewable sector.

Since 2014, a group of WTO countries have been trying to reduce tariffs on green products through an ‘environmental goods agreement’. These nations include those in Europe, North America and Australia but the only major developing country involved is China.

University of Geneva academics have argued that developing countries have ignored the talks as they tend to have higher tariffs on green products and so are the most worried about a potential flood of cheap imports. These countries often don’t have the environmental regulations to produce environmental goods and so have little to gain, the researchers said.

EU palm oil restrictions risk sparking trade spat

The WTO’s rules have often been used by environmentally damaging industries to challenge green measures. In 2017, palm-oil producing nations threatened to sue the EU over a proposed ban on the product’s use for biofuels, which is linked to deforestation. The ban has yet to be implemented.

The WTO allows governments to target environmentally destructive products, but critics say that the criteria for doing so are too limited.

Climate Action Network (Can) Europe wrote in a policy briefing: “The initial burden of proof lies with the trade-restricting state. It must show that trade restrictions are necessary to its environmental policy, proportionate to their objective and applied in a non-discriminatory fashion. The arguments provided are analysed and evaluated through the lenses of international trade law, by WTO adjudicators. This results in a structural supremacy of trade law over environmental law.”

Can Europe called for a climate waiver to be added to the WTO’s rules, exempting green policies. And it argued countries should be allowed to encourage local procurement in renewable energy projects, to make them more politically appealing.

Eberhardt criticised the WTO’s agriculture rules which she said “encourage industrial farming, a key driver in the generation of greenhouse gases”. Critics have said that WTO rules stop governments supporting small-scale, sustainable farms.

Last December, Kenya made the issue of climate change central to their successful bid for a UN Security Council seat, which it will take up in January. The East African nation faces food and water shortages linked to climate change.

Currently, the WTO’s members are secretly giving their opinions on who should be elected. After this process, the candidates will be whittled down to two. The winner is then expected to be announced in November 2020. The decision-making is by consensus.

Puzzled Scientists Seek Reasons Behind Africa's Low Fatality Rates from Pandemic



Vaccine trials' volunteers wait for their names to be called before testing for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), and taking part of the country's human clinical trial for potential vaccines at the Wits RHI Shandukani Research Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa, August 27, 2020.   | Photo Credit: REUTERS

Could TB vaccine also offer protection against COVID-19?

Africa's overburdened public health systems, dearth of testing facilities and overcrowded slums had experts predicting a disaster when COVID-19 hit the continent in February.

The new coronavirus was already wreaking havoc in wealthy Asian and European nations, and a United Nations agency said in April that, even with social-distancing measures, the virus could kill 300,000 Africans this year.

In May the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that 190,000 people on the continent could die if containment measures failed. Yet as the world marks 1 million COVID-19 deaths, Africa is doing much better than expected, with a lower percentage of deaths than other continents.

The continent's case fatality count stands at 2.4%, with roughly 35,000 deaths among the more than 1.4 million people reported infected with COVID-19, according to Reuters data as at late Monday. In North America, it is 2.9% and in Europe 4.5%

Hard-hit countries such as Italy and Britain have recorded fatality counts of 11.6% and 9.0% respectively, compared to 1.6% for Ethiopia, 1.9% for Nigeria and 2.4% for South Africa, the continent's worst affected country.

Hospitals in many African countries say COVID-19 admission rates are falling.

“Based on what we have seen so far it is unlikely that we are going to see anything at the scale that we are seeing in Europe - both in terms of infections and mortality,” said Rashida Ferrand, a London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine professor working at the Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals in the Zimbabwean capital Harare.

Experts say that some COVID-19 deaths in Africa probably are being missed. Testing rates in the continent of about 1.3 billion people are among the lowest in the world, and many deaths of all types go unrecorded.

South Africa saw some 17,000 extra deaths from natural causes between early May and mid-July, 59% more than would normally be expected, according to a July report from the South African Medical Research Council. That suggests the death toll from COVID-19 could be significantly higher than the official figure, currently over 16,000, researchers say. Even so, there is wide agreement that COVID-19 fatality rates have not so far been as bad as predicted.

Why? Scientists and public health experts cite a number of possible factors, including the continent's youthful population and lessons learned from previous disease outbreaks. African governments also had precious time to prepare due to the relative isolation of many of their citizens from airports and other places where they could come into contact with global travellers.

Some scientists also are exploring the possibility that a tuberculosis vaccine routinely given to children in many African countries might be helping reduce deaths from COVID-19.

Another theory being considered is whether prior exposure to other coronaviruses including those that cause the common cold has provided a degree of resistance in some of the very communities once thought to be most vulnerable.

“There is a lot of circumstantial evidence,” Salim Abdool Karim, a South African infectious disease specialist who has advised the government on COVID-19, told Reuters, “but there is no smoking gun.”

Lessons learned

The virus hit Africa later than other continents, giving medical personnel time to set up field hospitals, source oxygen and ventilators, and learn from improvements in treatment elsewhere.

“We got the gift of time,” said Thumbi Mwangi, senior research fellow at the University of Nairobi's Institute of Tropical and Infectious Diseases. “We had an amount of preparation that others did not.”

One reason could be that international travel is limited in many African countries, and travelling domestically can be more difficult than on other continents, Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa, told a news conference on Thursday.

The continent's governments have also battled deadly infectious diseases such as Ebola, which killed more than 11,000 people in West Africa in 2013-16. So officials took notice when the new coronavirus started spreading around the globe rapidly early this year.

Many African countries were quick to introduce screening at airports, suspend flights from heavily affected nations and enforce social distancing measures and mask wearing.

Within a week of Kenya reporting its first case, schools were shut, incoming travellers had to undergo a mandatory quarantine and large gatherings were banned. Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, imposed a ban on interstate travel and a curfew. Many of its land borders had already been closed since August 2019 to cut down on smuggling, which helped fight the pandemic too.

South Africa introduced one of the world's toughest lockdowns in late March, when the country had confirmed just 400 cases.

“Africa brought down the hammer earlier in terms of coronavirus lockdowns,” said Tim Bromfield, regional director for East and Southern Africa at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, a U.K.-based think tank.

Experts also point to the continent's demographics.

Research has found that the risk of developing severe COVID-19 increases with age.

A 2019 United Nations report said 62% of sub-Saharan Africa's population was under 25 and just 3% 65 or over. In the U.N.'s Europe and North America region, 28% were under 25 while 18% were age 65 and up.

Chikwe Ihekweazu, director general of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, attributed his country's relatively low case mortality rate in part to the fact that the majority of patients were between the ages of 31 and 40.


Scientists in several countries including South Africa are testing whether the century-old Bacille Calmette-Guşrin (BCG) vaccine, widely used on the continent against tuberculosis, provides a degree of cross-protection.

BCG vaccines have been shown to protect against other viral respiratory illnesses, and a study published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in July found that countries with higher vaccination rates for tuberculosis had lower peak mortality rates from COVID-19.

Studies have also started in South Africa and Zimbabwe to assess the impact of past exposure to other coronaviruses.

More than half of Africa's urban population is concentrated in slums, where access to water for hand washing is scarce, and physical distancing is near-impossible.

Diseases spread rapidly under such conditions, but some scientists wonder whether that may have been an unexpected boon in this case. There is some evidence that T cells developed by the body's immune system after exposure to other common cold coronaviruses could help fight off COVID-19.

“I would say that is at least a plausible explanation as to why there are different levels of resistance to the virus in different populations,” said Thomas Scriba, an immunologist and deputy director of the South African Tuberculosis Vaccine Initiative.

Others are more sceptical.

“All other regions have been exposed to coronaviruses, have poor people and slums and have received BCG vaccination,” said Humphrey Karamagi, team leader for data and analytics at the WHO's Africa office. “We are most probably looking at a mix of multiple factors working together - and not a single magic bullet.”

For Sam Agatre Okuonzi, from the Arua Regional Referral Hospital in Uganda, the doomsday predictions were informed by entrenched prejudices, including that the continent is prone to disease.

“COVID-19 has shattered a lot of biases about disease in general but also about Africa,” he told Thursday's briefing. ”The severity of the pandemic has not played out in line with the outrageous predictions.”