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COVID’s Aftershocks in Africa: Will Africa pay twice for climate change?


A roundup of the latest news, stats, and analysis of COVID-19’s impact in Africa. View our data tracker and sign up for our weekly newsletter here, and read on rising cases, variants, and vaccines — plus why vaccine policy is climate policy.

Top news

“Aid for climate change should be given separately and not be part of official development assistance.”

— Cyril Ramaphosa at the Leaders Climate Summit

Africa’s youngest president: Idriss Déby was reportedly wounded and killed in the line of fire while visiting Chadian soldiers on the front lines after claiming victory in the country’s presidential election (his sixth term as president). A military council led by Déby’s son “Kaka” assumed authority in contravention of the constitution, claiming it will hand over power via democratic election in 18 months. At 37, he is now Africa’s youngest head of state. Africa Report has more.

Blood loss: COVID-19 has caused declines in the availability of blood for transfusions on the continent. Last year, a 44% fall in donations led to an acute shortage in Kenya, while DRC’s donations fell 42% and Nigeria 38%. Regular donation drives plummeted as schools closed — but international funding cuts also contributed. Five countries in Africa saw increases, with donations up 14% in Burundi and 8% in Ethiopia.

Famine alert: Yemen, South Sudan, and northern Nigeria are at the highest alert level for famine, according to the Global Coalition Against Food Crises. In South Sudan’s Jonglei state, people are already facing famine-like conditions. ONE’s COVID Tracker shows more than half the country doesn’t have enough food. In Ethiopia, Sudan, Nigeria, and Mozambique, conflict is a primary driver — while in Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone, and Liberia, currency depreciation, food inflation, and climate shocks pose major challenges

Up a third: The World Food Programme reckons 270 million people are facing or at high risk of being acutely food insecure and warned of hunger increasing by a third across West Africa, with staples increasing 200% in some regions. The price of rice in Sierra Leone is 60-70% higher than the five-year average.

In the bin: Last week, Malawi announced it was throwing away 16,000 COVID-19 vaccines that had expired. Vaccine hesitancy, rumours that out-of-date jabs have been administered, and the extremely rare risk of blood clots are hampering the roll out. South Sudan may be about to bin 60,000 doses after it received doses with 14 days left until their expiry (the doses last six months). It all points to the need for a major scale up of public education and capacity to roll out doses.

Readiness: While 85% of countries surveyed by the World Bank have vaccine readiness plans, only 30% have plans to train the large number of vaccinators who will be needed. A new UN Economic Commission for Africa poll of 3,200 people in eight African countries showed over 55s are confident in the vaccine. 44% of 15-34 year-olds are not, citing poor effectiveness and health risks.

A new way to ban Africans: Vaccine passports are being proposed by the same countries least likely to approve visas for Africans. So said Liberia’s former minister for public works, who is calling for African leaders to push back strongly on the policy of rich countries further restricting African travel after hoarding vaccine supplies.

Slow money: While politicians-turned-campaigners like Gordon Brown clamber to amp up vaccine financing, the World Bank has committed $12 billion. It had been struggling to get it out the door, with only 11% of the money approved last month with bureaucracy and strict standards around which vaccines can be purchased hindered progress. The bank has responded by aligning eligibility criteria with COVAX.

Supplier stress: India is the world’s largest vaccine producer. But with COVID-19 raging and less than 1% of its population vaccinated, the country does not have enough doses for its own people. Meanwhile, 90 developing countries are awaiting Indian-made doses through COVAX. WSJ reports that only 41 million of the planned 2 billion doses have been delivered. Its plan to get 240 million shots out the door by the end of next month has been reduced to 145 million as India has all but stopped exporting.

Recycling saves the planet: With agreement on the creation of $650 billion IMF Special Drawing Rights in the bag, attention now turns to how the rich countries that don’t need them can “recycle” them to poor countries that do need them. CGD has a good proposal. Elsewhere, Venezuela just heard it won’t get its share until its government is recognised by the international community.

Justin 2 – Boris 0: Canada increased aid in its annual budget this week by CAD1.4 billion over the next five years. A good reminder to PM Boris Johnston, who leads the only major economy cutting aid during the pandemic. This week the UK revealed the scale of the cuts, slashing funding to the PM’s personal G7 priority, girls education, by a quarter. ONE’s Sara Harcourt lays out the trends in the latest global aid data released last week. Canada also announced it will create a public company ownership register — a major step forward in the fight against corruption.

Climate change and Africa: Biden’s Climate Summit prompted a flurry of commitments. The UK committed to cut CO2 emissions by 78% by 2035, while the European Union agreed a climate law to hit 55% reductions by 2030. Good news. With 4% of global emissions and 70% of the world’s people who live under $1.90 a day, some African activists are concerned that blanket bans of fossil fuel investments (particularly natural gas) will hit poverty reduction efforts and job creation hard. Vijaya Ramachandran lays out the challenge.

Fantastically corrupt: As Transparency International revealed the scale of nepotism in the UK’s procurement (with contracts worth $1.6 billion going to politically connected firms), Nigeria’s Subnational Budget Transparency Survey 2020 showed state governments have significantly improved budget and procurement transparency. Almost exactly five years ago, the UK hosted a global anti-corruption summit where Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari attended.

The numbers

  • 60-70%: increase in the price of rice in Sierra Leone against the five year average. 49.9% of the population don’t have enough food. (ONE Africa Tracker)
  • 1500: One bitcoin uses as much energy each year as 1500 Nigerians. (CGD)
  • 18.3 million: COVAX vaccines received by 41 African countries (WHO Africa)

Other reads

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