Coronavirus and more....

Weekly updates and information

Coronavirus pandemic

Movers & Shakers

Mauritius declared wary victory over Covid-19, saying on May 12 it had “zero” active patients and had not documented a single new case in 17 days. The Indian Ocean island nation is the first African country to announce such a feat, though the island remains wary of new infections.

Kenya’s biggest bank by assets, KCB Group, posted 8% profit after tax in the first quarter to March at $59m. However, the lender has had to restructure more than $1bn in loans and the CEO is hesitant to predict how earnings will be impacted this year. 

Jumia, a major e-commerce platform in Africa, has reported an almost 7% fall in first quarter revenue due to supply chain disruptions, particularly in China. It also reported signs that lockdowns were hastening a shift towards online shopping in Africa.  

Kenya and Zambia have closed their borders with Tanzania, following growing fears that the government has failed to get a handle on Covid-19. The government has not announced any updates since April 29, leading to a warning from the US Embassy that the pandemic has grown exponentially in Dar es Salaam. 

The eastern-based Libya National Army (LNA) has suffered a series of military setbacks since Turkey sided with the Triopli-based UN-backed government in January. The Government of National Accord (GNA) captured the LNA’s only airbase near Tripoli, as Libya’s ongoing civil war draws in more foreign powers. 

 
 

Zimbabwe’s doctors strike over lack of protective gear

Zimbabwe’s public hospital doctors went on strike today over a lack of protective gear as the country’s already fragile health system threatens to buckle under the coronavirus.

Despite registering only two confirmed cases, some patients’ families are reportedly being asked to provide basics such as gloves and even clean water.

Hundreds of doctors are at risk and will only re-enter the hospitals when the government provides suitable protection, says the president of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association.

Zimbabwe’s doctors had only just returned to work in January after a four-month strike demanding better salaries and working conditions.

As neighbouring South Africa registers the most cases in Africa, many fear that Zimbabwe will be unable to cope in a similar situation.

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Afreximbank creates $3bn pandemic facility for Africa

The Cairo-based African Export Import Bank (Afreximbank) has announced a $3bn credit facility to help African countries overcome the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Pandemic Trade Impact Mitigation Facility will help support foreign exchange reserves and assist commodity exporters with declining revenues, the bank said in a statement released yesterday.

“Africa is exposed on many fronts, including significant declines in tourism earnings, migrant remittances, commodity prices and disruption of manufacturing supply chains,” said the president Benedict Oromah.

“A rapid and impactful financial response is required to avert a major crisis in Africa.”

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Sierra Leone declares 12-month public health emergency

Sierra Leone has declared a 12-month public health emergency to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, despite being one of the few African countries with no confirmed cases.

“The rapid global spread of the coronavirus poses an immense risk to human beings that can lead to major loss of life and can cause socioeconomic disruption in Sierra Leone,” said president Julius Maada Bio in a televised speech.

“This situation requires effective measures to prevent, protect, and curtail the spread of the coronavirus disease in Sierra Leone.”

The West African nation suffered greatly under the ebola outbreak in 2014, and it appears to be taking no chances during this pandemic.

While epidemiologists have warned the coronavirus crisis could extend for many months, most governments worldwide have announced measures that extend for weeks or months, not an entire year.

Other African countries without confirmed cases include Malawi, which has also declared a national disaster.

South Sudan and until recently Libya – which has just confirmed its first case – add to the list, though this is likely a result of poor detection techniques in conflict situations.

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Ethiopia calls on G20 meeting to implement three-point plan to help Africa

In the lead up to a meeting on Thursday which was called as an extraordinary session to counter the coronavirus pandemic, the G20 must adopt certain measures to support Africa’s struggle against the virus, Ethiopia says.

“A dramatic decline in exports, disruption of global chains, and the sudden drying up of travel tourism – and, in the case of Ethiopia, the impact on Ethiopian Airlines, which accounts for two-thirds of the country’s revenues from services exports – are sure to wreak havoc to our economies,” read a letter from the prime minister’s office.

It added: “Africa’s ability to take even modest measures to inject liquidity and cushion its companies and workers from the impact of this calamity are further constrained by the heavy debt burden, the servicing of which alone costs many of them significantly more than their annual health budgets.”

“These challenges cannot be adequately addressed by policies and measures taken individually by any one country or group of countries; they require a globally coordinated response. Just as the virus knows no borders, our responses should also know no borders.”

One suggested measure is to arrange a $150bn emergency financing package through G2O facilities such as the World Bank, International Finance Corporation and the International Monetary Fund.

Another is to increase support for Africa’s health institutions including WHO-Africa and the AfricaCDC.

Lastly, Ethiopia has proposed a debt resolution and restructuring package which proposes to write-off all interest payments on government loans.

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Waiving interest payments on African debt could provide much-needed economic stimulus

Almost half of the immediate economic stimulus of $100bn needed to combat the impact of the coronavirus pandemic could come from waiving interest payments for African countries, says the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).

Waiving an estimated $44bn of interest on sovereign debt in 2020 would boost liquidity and fiscal space for governments struggling to respond to the rapidly-spreading virus.

Government debt has risen sharply in sub-Saharan Africa over the past decade as investors flock to developing countries in search of higher returns and governments aim to finance ambitious infrastructure projects.

External debt payments account for an average 13% of revenue in Africa, according to data compiled by the UK-based Jubilee Debt Campaign.

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South Africa to go into 21-day lockdown from Thursday

President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced a 21-day total lockdown on the 56m inhabitants of South Africa, telling them that sweeping measures were necessary to avoid a “catastrophe of huge proportions.”

South Africa has recently overtaken Egypt as the country with the most cases in Africa, the number rising to 402 on Monday according to the minister of health.

“The numbers will continue to rise. It is clear that … we need to urgently and dramatically escalate our response,” Ramaphosa told the nation.

International flights to some major airports have been suspended and strict new quarantine regulations will be imposed.

These measures follow the declaration of a national disaster last week which closed schools and called for social distancing.

The lockdown will be enforced by the police and the army.

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Coronavirus overshadows East Africa’s locust response

The delivery of pesticides and equipment to key areas in the fight against East Africa’s locust outbreak is being delayed due to the onset of coronavirus in the region.

Originating in Yemen last July, the locusts troubled Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia at the beginning of this year before laying eggs which are set to hatch in the coming months.

If governments are unable to prevent the swarms from breeding, the region faces swarms 500 times bigger than previously witnessed which could lead to serious food shortages.

Due to a transport lockdown and increased shipping costs, effective responses to the outbreak have been compromised and experts fear the region will struggle to counter two looming threats.

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The Dubai-based Emirates Group announced today it will temporarily suspend all passenger flights by March 25

The Dubai-based Emirates Group announced today it will temporarily suspend all passenger flights by March 25, while retaining its cargo operations.

The Gulf carrier operates major routes across Africa and is one of the few remaining airlines with scheduled flights to Europe and North America.

The group is implementing basic salary reduction for the majority of employees in an effort to stay afloat as global transport routes grind to a halt during the coronavirus pandemic.

The move has been mirrored by many airlines including Kenya Airways and British Airways.

Others like Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines are seeking substantial government bailouts.

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Three more African countries registered their first coronavirus cases

Three more African countries registered their first coronavirus cases over the weekend bringing the total number of affected countries to 42 with 1,187 cases according to data provided by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Angola, Eritrea and Uganda confirmed initial cases while Mauritius recorded its first death as the virus spreads across Africa despite proactive responses taken by governments to close their borders to heavily-affected areas.

Despite much of the world adopting this measure, the WHO has warned that it is unlikely to stop the transmission of the virus.

Many now fear that Africa is merely a number of weeks behind other places like Italy and the US which have seen huge increases since initally reporting a few cases.

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