Africa Media Review for February 4, 2022

ECOWAS Leaders Demand Timetable from Burkinabe Junta
West African leaders on Thursday ordered the military leaders in Burkina Faso to produce a clear roadmap for a transition to civilian rule within the “shortest time.” The leaders made the call at the end of a one-day summit of heads of state and government of the sub regional bloc, Ecowas in the Ghanaian capital, Accra. The emergency summit was convened to discuss the resurgence of coups in the sub region, with particular focus on last week’s military takeover in Burkina Faso. … In a communique issued at the end of the meeting, the Ecowas leaders reiterated their “absolute condemnation” of the coup and expressed concern over the continuous detention of the deposed President Roch Marc Christian Kabore. … Ghana’s president Nana Akufo-Addo, who is also the chairman of the bloc, blamed the military coup in Mali for setting the “dangerous” trend of coups in the region. “Let us address this dangerous trend collectively and decisively before it devastates the entire region,” Mr Akufo Addo said in a statement marking the opening ceremony of the summit. The West Africa leaders also discussed the situations in Mali and Guinea. They resolved to maintain their decision on both countries for lack of progress towards facilitating democratic transition. The Guinea junta was ordered to provide an acceptable timetable for restoring constitutional order, while Mali authorities were asked to present another time table with shorter transition period. Nation

West Africa Bloc to Deploy Stabilizing Force to Bissau after Coup Attempt
West Africa’s regional bloc, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) said on Thursday it will deploy troops to Guinea-Bissau to help stabilise the country following a failed coup early this week. The 15-nation regional bloc, which made the decision following a summit in Ghana’s capital Accra on Thursday, did not give details on strength and when the troops will be deployed. ECOWAS deployed a similar mission to the country from 2012 to 2020 after a coup, to help deter the military from intervening in politics and protect political leaders. Guinea-Bissau’s government said late on Wednesday that attackers in the failed coup attempt on Tuesday intended to assassinate the president and were part of a well-funded and tightly planned plot. It did not say who it believed was behind Tuesday’s attempt, although President Umaro Sissoco Embalo has previously suggested it may be linked to the international drugs trade. … Embalo has previously said he did not believe the army was involved in the coup attempt. … [Guinea-Bissau] is known as a major transit point for Latin American cocaine headed for Europe, sharing a common language with Brazil and Portugal, key exit and entry points in global trafficking networks. Reuters

In World First, South Africa’s Afrigen Makes mRNA COVID Vaccine Using Moderna Data
South Africa’s Afrigen Biologics has used the publicly available sequence of Moderna Inc’s mRNA COVID-19 vaccine to make its own version of the shot, which could be tested in humans before the end of this year, Afrigen’s top executive said on Thursday. The vaccine candidate would be the first to be made based on a widely used vaccine without the assistance and approval of the developer. It is also the first mRNA vaccine designed, developed and produced at lab scale on the African continent. The World Health Organization (WHO) last year picked a consortium including Afrigen for a pilot project to give poor and middle-income countries the know-how to make COVID vaccines, after market leaders of the mRNA COVID vaccine, Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna, declined a WHO request to share their technology and expertise. The WHO and consortium partners hope their technology transfer hub will help overcome inequalities between rich nations and poorer countries in getting access to vaccines. Some 99% of Africa’s vaccines against all diseases are imported and the negligible remainder manufactured locally. Reuters

COVID Inequity: In Africa, At-Home Tests Are Scarce, Costly
Perhaps the biggest obstacle to making inexpensive, self-tests widely available in the developing world is that the World Health Organization has yet to issue guidance on their use. Without the resources of wealthy countries to buy tests or evaluate their safety, poor countries must wait for WHO approval before aid groups and international agencies are willing to donate them in large numbers. … In an open letter to WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, more than 100 organizations last week called on the U.N. agency to speed its release of the self-testing guidelines, saying that 85% of infections are likely going unnoticed in Africa. … John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, said people would be more empowered to take action if at-home tests were available. “We have learned from HIV that self-testing is so critical because when people know their status, they do the right thing,” he said. Others pointed out that with generic versions of COVID-19 pills made by Merck and Pfizer on the way — after the companies agreed to let dozens of manufacturers make versions for poor countries — the tests will be even more crucial in the coming months. AP

Africa CDC Director Urges Youths to Boost COVID Vaccinations
Africa’s top health official is launching a campaign to enlist young people to encourage vaccinations, as just 11.3% of the continent’s 1.3 billion people are vaccinated against COVID-19. Youths will be encouraged “to play an active role” in ramping up inoculations across the continent where the vaccination rate is far below other regions in the world, Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director John Nkengasong said Thursday. Africa so far has 10.8 million confirmed infections and 240,000 deaths and vaccination efforts have been accelerating as vaccines doses are “becoming readily available” on the continent, Nkengasong said. In the last four weeks, Africa has seen an average 10% decrease in new cases, he said. Of the 597 million doses of vaccines that Africa has so far received, 64% have been administered, he said. The campaign tagged “African Youths for COVID-19 vaccination: Initiative for Saving Lives, Saving Livelihoods” “will be an important initiative” as the median age of Africa’s population at 19.5 years, Nkengasong said. AP

Sudanese Authorities Brutally Disperse Anti-Coup Protest in North Darfur
Security forces brutally dispersed protests against a visit of the head of the Sovereign Council and several members to the capital of North Darfur State, on Wednesday. Abdel-Fattah al-Burhan, Mohamed Hamdan Daglo “Hemetti,” Hadi Idriss and Tahir Hajar and Finance Minister Gibril Ibrahim, arrived in El-Fasher to take part in a meeting on the implementation of security arrangements in Darfur. The meeting also discussed the formation of the joint force. The Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors confirmed that five protesters were injured. Three of them were beaten by metal chains, one wounded by a tear gas canister, while the fifth, a young woman was harshly beaten with sticks and butts of a gun. The CCSD denounced the excessive use of violence. It said that security forces fired tear gas horizontally and directly on the protesters, beating them with iron tools, and chasing as well arresting them in a humiliating manner.” For its part, the Coordination of the Resistance Committees in El Fasher said four demonstrators were injured and five others arrested. The committees said the repression would not prevent them from resisting the ‘bloody coup.’ Sudan Tribune

South Sudan’s Legacy of Land Mines Hurts Recovery from War
As South Sudan struggles for peace, it’s still cleaning up the deadly threat posed by thousands of land mines from previous conflict decades ago. Cattle herders. Charcoal collectors. Children. All have been victims of long-forgotten mines that continue to make South Sudan one of the world’s most dangerous countries for unexploded ordnance. The mines are a stealth problem among the country’s more pressing ones, which include the slow recovery from a five-year civil war, the worst flooding in decades and hunger that’s expected to affect more people this year than ever during the young nation’s decade of existence. The explosives are a danger to fragile efforts at rebuilding and development. After a road construction company accidentally detonated an anti-tank mine last year just 25 kilometers (15 miles) outside the capital, Juba, a mine-clearing team was in the community of Gondokoro last month to safely detonate over a dozen more. The explosives were older than South Sudan itself, dating back to the 1980s and the long fight for independence from Sudan. Independence came in 2011, but the remnants of past conflict continue to kill civilians today. More than 5,000 South Sudanese have been killed or injured by land mines and unexploded ordnance since 2004, according to the United Nations Mine Action Service. More than 1 million explosive items have been found and destroyed in South Sudan during that time, UNMAS says. AP

Explosion at Nigerian Oil Vessel Sparks Fears of Major Spill
A vessel with a storage capacity of two million barrels of oil has exploded off the coast of southern Nigeria’s Delta state, raising fears of an environmental disaster and concerns about the fate of its crew. Shebah Exploration & Production Company Ltd (SEPCOL) said on Thursday that flames had engulfed the Trinity Spirit following the blast a day earlier. The floating production, storage and offloading vessel can process up to 22,000 barrels of oil a day, according to the operator’s website. Images published by local media showed thick black smoke billowing from a sinking ship engulfed by flames. … Since the 1970s, the oil-rich Niger Delta region has accounted for an overwhelming majority of Nigeria’s earnings. But the region continues to suffer the multiplier effect of decades of environmental degradation, which has eroded livelihoods and deprived residents of basic essentials such as access to clean drinking water. The area’s mangroves and swamps have become uninhabitable for many species and the average human life expectancy is also 10 years lower in the Delta than elsewhere in Nigeria. Although Nigeria is Africa’s largest crude producer, operating costs are high due to frequent accidents and widespread insecurity, although most accidents take place on land. Al Jazeera

Nigeria Says It Has Recovered at Least $750 Mln Linked to Corruption
Nigeria’s financial crimes agency recovered at least $750 million in local and foreign currency linked to corruption and fraud last year, the minister of information said on Thursday. Africa’s biggest economy and energy producer, Nigeria has struggled for decades with endemic corruption among the political elite, who many Nigerians blame for widespread poverty in the country. Information Minister Lai Mohammed said the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) last year recovered 152 billion naira ($366 million), $386 million and 1.1 million pounds sterling ($1.50 million) including digital currencies among other proceeds of white-collar crime. The EFCC investigates and prosecutes corruption in Nigeria. Mohammed did not give details on where the money had been recovered from or from whom. He added that 96 financiers of terrorism had been found in Nigeria with 424 associates and about 123 companies and 33 exchange bureaux following analysis by Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit in 2020-2021. Reuters

Salah’s Egypt to Face Mané’s Senegal in Final after Shootout Win Over Cameroon
Africa’s two best players will square off in Sunday’s final but, before this tournament’s marketing team gets too excited about a clash between Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané, it would be best to expect a slow burner. Egypt revel in those, and showed it again here. They survived a series of first-half scares against Cameroon, who were enthusiastic but blunt, and then stretched proceedings to their elastic limit. Once penalties loomed there was a sense everyone bar the noisy 900 fans who had flown from Cairo might as well head home: Egypt simply do not lose them and, for the sixth shootout running, showed cool heads while others wilted. … It meant a quiet end to Stade Olembé’s first game since the crush that tragically killed eight fans last Monday. Extra measures to avoid a repeat appeared to work: security personnel managed crowd control to the most minute detail, even upbraiding anyone deemed to be walking to the game too quickly, and this time the gates required for safe passage inside were all kept open. … Now they can at least anticipate a meeting of Salah and Mané that ought to get mouths watering; the hope must be that one or the other can rise above the endless scrap and scuffle. The Guardian



Photo: Adam Jones