The U.S. pharmaceutical firm Merck & Co. has won the first-ever regulatory approval of a vaccine against the Ebola virus, a major boon in the fight against the deadly disease.
The European Commission’s November 10 decision granting a significant step toward full approval of Merck’s Ervebo vaccine, for use by adults over age 18, comes amid an outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) that has killed more than 2,100 people since it began last year.
While the approval is for use in the European Union, the vaccine already has been used in the DRC under a “compassionate use”…
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When Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton unveiled the long-awaited Africa Strategy of the Trump Administration on 13 December, ...Read More
When Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton unveiled the long-awaited Africa Strategy of the Trump Administration on 13 December, 2018 to an over-capacity crowd at the Heritage Foundation, the reception — including mine — was pretty grim.
In dark and foreboding tones, Bolton warned, “Great power competitors, namely China and Russia, are rapidly expanding their financial and political influence across Africa. They are deliberately and aggressively targeting their investments in the region to gain a competitive advantage over the United States.”
Others have advised the same, just articulated it differently. French President Emmanuel Macron said “the future of the world will largely be played out in Africa.”
Bolton referred to the predatory practices of China through its state-directed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which links China and some 65 other countries that account collectively for more than 30 percent of global GDP, 62 percent of population, and 75 percent of known energy reserves. Bolton blamed the BRI for saddling countries with unsustainable debt.
But in Washington, DC it’s important to look past the political theatrics for hints of a policy that lies beneath. Half-way through the adverb-laden text, Bolton said, “we are developing a new initiative called ‘Prosper Africa’ which will support U.S. investment across the continent, grow Africa’s middle class, and improve the overall business climate in the region.”
When I asked a U.S. government official at the event’s close if he was disappointed with the lack of specificity behind Prosper Africa, he said, “No, we got exactly what we needed from the NSA (National Security Advisor), a White House Africa policy, formally announced. The rest will come.”
And six months later it has.
On 18 June, in Maputo Mozambique, the content of Prosper Africa will be disclosed by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross on the margins of the annual summit of the U.S. Corporate Council on Africa (CCA).
This will be Ross’ second trip to Africa; the first was in July of last year, where he led a mission of the President’s Advisory Council on Doing Business in Africa (PAC-DBIA), and signed a MOU with Ghana’s Minister of Finance to connect U.S. businesses with priority Ghana investment opportunities.
In remarks to business leaders in Accra, foreshadowing the policy to come, Ross cited statistics that showed a decline in U.S. exports to Africa, and a reduction in overall U.S.-Africa trade and called it an “an embarrassment” for both the U.S. government and its private sector. “The US needs to step of its game in Africa,” he told the group.
Indeed, the lost opportunity cost is enormous for American industry when one looks to the future of a continent which is projected to exceed $5.6 trillion in market opportunities and a population of over 1.52 billion consumers by 2025.
According to a one-page fact sheet, in PDF format, from the U.S. Agency of International Development (USAID) entitled, “PROSPER AFRICA – A US Presidential Initiative,” Prosper Africa is a whole-of-government economic initiative with the intent to double two-way trade and investment between the United States and Africa.
A working group, co-led by USAID and the Department of Commerce, coordinates the 15 U.S. government agencies involved in the execution of the initiative. This will change when the White House names a permanent coordinator for the program. Read more...Read Less
Why Africa will choose Beijing in ongoing US-China trade warNovember 25, 2019
The trade tiff between the United States and China, the world’s two biggest economies has been going on for several months now. While much of th...Read More
The trade tiff between the United States and China, the world’s two biggest economies has been going on for several months now. While much of the fight has manifested itself in the form of tariffs, Africa, at the centre of a geopolitical battle between the two super powers has mostly sat it out and probably hoped to stay neutral.
But last month’s sanctioning of Chinese telecommunications giant, Huawei touched a nerve. Because of its involvement with Huawei, Africa, though not mentioned anywhere in Donald Trump’s directive to Google ordering an end to technology sales to Huawei, felt jittery.
And for good reasons. Much of the continent’s telecommunications backbone has been built and is still being built by Huawei. Should Huawei get crippled by sanctions, Africa’s technology and communication gains will suffer as well.
Since 2008, the East African country has been implementing its National Data Backbone Infrastructure project. To date, approximately 2,400km of optical fibre cable have been laid connecting dozens of towns. The project is supported through a $107m concessional loan from the Exim Bank of China.
Needless to mention, Huawei is the contractor.
As a developing, landlocked country, Uganda is mostly concerned about lowering the cost of transporting internet bandwidth from the East African coast and high speed connectivity.
Africa’s technology needsWhile America may have legitimate concerns about Huawei gear in its communications infrastructure, Africa’s worries, for now, are about connectivity. The continent just wants to get online.
More than just solidarity with Huawei, countries such as Ethiopia, Kenya, and Rwanda, with big tech ambitions of their own, must be upset.
The Huawei ban is just another trick in Washington’s grand strategy to contain China’s rise.
As Addis, Nairobi and Kigali position themselves as centres of innovation; boasting about gains in AI work and robotics, they can and should worry that Washington has a tendency to be erratic and punitive.
ALSO READ: Will Africa have to choose between US and Chinese tech?
Cultivating China-Africa tiesProbably in anticipation of this moment, Chinese tech companies have been cultivating deeper links with Africa. In 2017, ecommerce giant Alibaba’s Jack Ma made his maiden trip to the continent.
His Vision for Africa program is training 1,000 young African entrepreneurs operating platform-based businesses in the e-commerce, logistics, big data and tourism sectors. The training equips them with skills to champion new ways to approach commerce in their own markets.
It follows that the African Union is doubling down, not cutting back, on its cooperation with Huawei. In the agreement signed last week, Huawei will partner with the bloc to strengthen sectors including internet of things, cloud computing, broadband, rolling out 5G networks and artificial intelligence.
Broadly speaking, the United States’ new Africa policy unveiled by National Security Advisor John Bolton late last year felt, in both text and tone, as a thinly veiled ultimatum for Africa to choose between America and China. The Huawei ban does not seem like it will get many countries agonizing over which side.
Why Africa needs HuaweiHuawei’s telco equipment is cheap and reliable. For cash-strapped African governments desperate to get online, for cell phone signal, this is what matters most.
In South Africa, Kenya, Botswana and Nigeria, the world’s largest telecom equipment maker has signed agreements to develop smart cities. Smart cities help boost environmental sustainability by adopting modern technology in water and energy use.
The concept also greatly improves urban communication, safety and security. The share of Africa’s urban population is projected to increase to 50% and 60% by 2030 and 2060 respectively. China long figured out when and where to be in Africa.
The easiest way to get online in Africa now is with a smartphone. In Uganda’s capital, Kampala, some Chinese-made smartphone brands retail for as low as $30. One in three smartphones in Africa is a Tecno, made by Transision, a company based in Shenzhen, Southern China.
In Africa, China has provided affordable, reliable solutions to complex infrastructure challenges.
In looking at the US-China trade war, although it may not realize yet, Africa could end up providing the necessary counterbalance for calm and reason to reign.
Ronald Kato Africanews senior journalist and China-Africa Press Centre Fellow email@example.comRead Less
Think again: Sanctions less effective in war on impunity, plunder in AfricaOctober 29, 2019
A new study by a group that investigates “dirty money” in Africa finds that financial sanctions have limited success in quelling armed ...Read More
A new study by a group that investigates “dirty money” in Africa finds that financial sanctions have limited success in quelling armed conflicts and promoting respect for human rights in sub-Saharan countries.
The Sentry, a Washington-based NGO focused on exposing war profiteering and corruption in Africa, examines seven national case studies in its 85-page report titled Beyond Carrots, Better Sticks: Measuring and Improving the Effectiveness of Sanctions in Africa. Read more...Read Less