Daily Archives: June 3, 2018

WHO Vows to Intensify Fight Against Snakebite

Governments around the world plan to strike back harder at snakebite, a scourge that kills tens of thousands of people a year.

A World Health Organization (WHO) resolution raises the priority of improving snakebite prevention as well as access to effective and affordable antivenom. The measure was approved by 192 countries in late May.

The WHO estimates that venomous snakes bite 1.8 million to 2.7 million people a year, killing between 81,000 and 138,000 of them.

For every person who dies following a snakebite, another four or five are left with disabilities such as blindness, restricted mobility or amputation, and post-traumatic stress disorder, The WHO reports.

Snakebite envenoming is most prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia, the WHO reports. People in rural, impoverished areas there and elsewhere are most at risk, challenged by poor or remote health systems, and limited diagnoses, ambulances and other emergency care � including reliable antivenom.

In sub-Saharan Africa, just 2 percent of people bitten by venomous snakes have access to appropriate antivenom, says Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), the aid group also known as Doctors Without Borders.

We need to know better the data [on] where most cases take place, said Julien Potet, MSF’s policy adviser on neglected tropical diseases, speaking by phone last week from Geneva. We need to better regulate the quality of the antivenoms, to distribute them accordingly in the areas of highest need and to make them affordable, because otherwise they [patients] will not be able to access the product.

Potet pointed out that French pharmaceutical company Sanofi Pasteur has stopped manufacturing Fav-Afrique, the only serum known to effectively treat bites from some sub-Saharan African snakes. The last batches of the company’s serum expired in June 2016.

Production of the antivenom takes roughly two years, the in-Pharma Technologist website reported. It said the pharmaceutical company cited manufacturing costs, and competition from cheaper but less effective treatments, in its decision to stop producing Fav-Afrique.

MSF has estimated that the antivenom costs a patient $250 to $500 for treatment.

Sanofi Pasteur announced in January that it had agreed to divest its antivenom immunoglobulin range, which includes Fav-Afrique, to the U.K.-based firm MicroPharm.

We hope this resolution will trigger some actions to better regulate the market … and to prioritize and subsidize antivenom production and distribution, Potet said.

Now we need to make sure this resolution is translated into a concrete, fully funded action plan, he added.

A WHO working group is expected to offer recommendations on how governments can bolster data collection, training for health workers, access to care and support for effective antivenoms, according to Devex, a website aimed at the global development community. It said the group’s report is expected by Nov. 30.

Devex also reported that David Williams, the group’s chair, estimated about $6 million was needed in 2018-2019 to prepare the recommendations, improve surveillance, deliver antivenoms, and address other technical and medical challenges.

Source: Voice of America

WHO Vows to Intensify Fight Against Snakebite

Governments around the world plan to strike back harder at snakebite, a scourge that kills tens of thousands of people a year.

A World Health Organization (WHO) resolution raises the priority of improving snakebite prevention as well as access to effective and affordable antivenom. The measure was approved by 192 countries in late May.

The WHO estimates that venomous snakes bite 1.8 million to 2.7 million people a year, killing between 81,000 and 138,000 of them.

For every person who dies following a snakebite, another four or five are left with disabilities such as blindness, restricted mobility or amputation, and post-traumatic stress disorder, The WHO reports.

Snakebite envenoming is most prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia, the WHO reports. People in rural, impoverished areas there and elsewhere are most at risk, challenged by poor or remote health systems, and limited diagnoses, ambulances and other emergency care � including reliable antivenom.

In sub-Saharan Africa, just 2 percent of people bitten by venomous snakes have access to appropriate antivenom, says Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), the aid group also known as Doctors Without Borders.

We need to know better the data [on] where most cases take place, said Julien Potet, MSF’s policy adviser on neglected tropical diseases, speaking by phone last week from Geneva. We need to better regulate the quality of the antivenoms, to distribute them accordingly in the areas of highest need and to make them affordable, because otherwise they [patients] will not be able to access the product.

Potet pointed out that French pharmaceutical company Sanofi Pasteur has stopped manufacturing Fav-Afrique, the only serum known to effectively treat bites from some sub-Saharan African snakes. The last batches of the company’s serum expired in June 2016.

Production of the antivenom takes roughly two years, the in-Pharma Technologist website reported. It said the pharmaceutical company cited manufacturing costs, and competition from cheaper but less effective treatments, in its decision to stop producing Fav-Afrique.

MSF has estimated that the antivenom costs a patient $250 to $500 for treatment.

Sanofi Pasteur announced in January that it had agreed to divest its antivenom immunoglobulin range, which includes Fav-Afrique, to the U.K.-based firm MicroPharm.

We hope this resolution will trigger some actions to better regulate the market … and to prioritize and subsidize antivenom production and distribution, Potet said.

Now we need to make sure this resolution is translated into a concrete, fully funded action plan, he added.

A WHO working group is expected to offer recommendations on how governments can bolster data collection, training for health workers, access to care and support for effective antivenoms, according to Devex, a website aimed at the global development community. It said the group’s report is expected by Nov. 30.

Devex also reported that David Williams, the group’s chair, estimated about $6 million was needed in 2018-2019 to prepare the recommendations, improve surveillance, deliver antivenoms, and address other technical and medical challenges.

Source: Voice of America

After Decades-Long Hiatus, Russia Seeks Renewed Africa Ties

On Sunday, Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, will visit Rwanda to meet his counterpart, Louise Mushikiwabo, and President Paul Kagame. They plan to discuss economic development and fighting terrorism, Russia’s foreign ministry said, along with Russia’s involvement with the Africa Union, which Kagame chairs until the end of the year.

Lavrov’s Rwanda trip follows a five-nation Africa tour in March and highlights Russia’s interest in deepening its involvement across the continent.

After that trip, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia decided to cancel more than $20 billion in debt contracted by African nations to help the continent overcome poverty.

Russia is looking at Africa as a potential trading partner. It’s looking at Africa as a partner in this desire of Russia to create a multipolar world, Paul Stronski, a senior fellow in the Russia and Eurasia program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told VOA by phone.

Beyond arms deals

Those partnerships have historically centered on arms sales, with documented deals between Russia and at least 30 African nations, according to data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

They have three refurbishment plants at the moment already in the continent, including in South Africa, said Alex Vines, a former U.N. sanctions inspector who’s now with the London-based think tank Chatham House. That’s worked quite well for them, and Russian military equipment is pretty robust, fairly low maintenance. And that has made the Russians attractive.

Increasingly, Russia has sought deals beyond weapons, including agreements to extract minerals, provide nuclear power, and boost its political and cultural influence in Africa.

Those efforts could translate into favorable votes at the U.N., where three African countries now serve on the Security Council.

The consequences of Russia’s re-emergence in Africa aren’t yet clear, experts say. But the implications could be profound, especially with new opportunities to partner with China and a U.S.-Africa strategy that remains largely undefined.

Soviet-era ties

Before its collapse, the Soviet Union enjoyed an extensive military presence in Africa � historic ties that bolster Russia’s efforts to reinvigorate its presence on the continent.

In the Cold War era, the Soviet Union established naval bases across Africa, including facilities in Egypt, Ethiopia, Angola, Libya and Tunisia.

Those bases were decommissioned when the Soviet Union fell, but military deals continued.

Between 1990 and 2017, Russia and Egypt, for example, engaged in nearly 30 arms deals, mainly for surface-to-air missiles and related technologies, according to SIPRI.

Now Russia is seeking partnerships that broaden its interests. Vines told VOA that Russia’s aims are expanding from security to trade and resources.

One example is Angola, which benefited from Soviet support when it gained independence from Portugal in 1975. Now, Russia is involved in diamond mining in the country and, according to Vines, may build a new telecommunications center in Angola at their own cost.

There will be some new relationships which are more mercantile (focuses) and based probably around extractives, Vines said. I think we will see more trips of the foreign minister of Russia, Lavrov, and some of his colleagues into Africa in the future for that very reason.

Securing votes

Russia also has political reasons to court African leaders.

Having long faced sanctions against itself and its trading partners, as well as an extended economic downturn, Russia needs African votes at the United Nations, Vines said, to accomplish its broader goals.

Russia has tried to sidestep U.N. sanctions and U.S. trade embargoes against countries it seeks arms deals with, Stronski said.

Allies in Africa could make that a lot easier. The continent’s 54 nations have considerable sway in the General Assembly, and CAte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea and Ethiopia hold temporary seats on the powerful Security Council.

‘No questions asked’

For African countries with emerging economies and authoritative governments, Russia, like China, represents an appealing partner: willing to engage, with few rules or requirements.

Russia comes with, right now, sort of ‘no questions asked’ diplomacy, Stronski said.

That’s good for African leaders, who benefit from added incentives and loose restrictions on the deals they make. But it also fuels corruption, according to Stronski, and that prevents citizens from benefiting from partnerships as much as they could.

There is a lot of discussion about how Russian arms help fuel instability and fuel conflict on the African continent, Stronski said. But African governments also risk a backlash, especially in countries with robust media playing a watchdog role, he added.

That’s a narrative Russia has sought to flip.

Russia presents this vision of the West as sort of being an instability fueler and talk about how the bombing of Libya helped create sort of a power vacuum that has sort of led to the spread of weapons throughout the Middle East and North Africa, Stronski said.

A multipolar world, rather than one dominated by the U.S., is one of Russia’s key strategic objectives, he added.

Setbacks

Russia’s efforts in Africa haven’t produced results at every turn. One failed venture appears to be in Djibouti, which Vines likened to an aircraft carrier for Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.

Five countries have established military bases in the tiny East African country, most recently China. Russia sought to subcontract space from China, Vines said. But Djibouti, facing pressure from the U.S. and its Western allies, blocked the deal.

Without access to China’s facility, Russia’s options are limited, Stronski said.

I don’t see Russia really having the funds, the resources to put anything beyond a very limited port call or landing and refilling rights, he said.

Playing catch-up

Whether Russia can translate its renewed investments in Africa into major economic or political benefits isn’t clear, both Stronski and Vines said.

That’s in part because others, including Europe, the U.S., Gulf countries and China, are far ahead, according to Stronski.

They closed down many of their embassies, and they really focused more closer to home. And now, in the last five years, they’ve realized that they were needing to play catch-up in Africa, Stronski said.

Russia also faces financial constraints, particularly relative to China.

The Russian Federation is by no means a Soviet Union, and it doesn’t have the deep pockets (or) the capacity to extend itself globally in the way that the Soviet Union was able to, Vines said.

Despite these limitations, Russia’s rising profile has clear implications for the U.S., according to Stronski.

The United States should look at this as a warning sign and should develop a more coherent and clear policy of what it sees as U.S. interests in the African continent. And I don’t see a very coherent message coming out of either the State Department or the White House right now on that issue, he said.

Source: Voice of America

After Decades-Long Hiatus, Russia Seeks Renewed Africa Ties

On Sunday, Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, will visit Rwanda to meet his counterpart, Louise Mushikiwabo, and President Paul Kagame. They plan to discuss economic development and fighting terrorism, Russia’s foreign ministry said, along with Russia’s involvement with the Africa Union, which Kagame chairs until the end of the year.

Lavrov’s Rwanda trip follows a five-nation Africa tour in March and highlights Russia’s interest in deepening its involvement across the continent.

After that trip, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia decided to cancel more than $20 billion in debt contracted by African nations to help the continent overcome poverty.

Russia is looking at Africa as a potential trading partner. It’s looking at Africa as a partner in this desire of Russia to create a multipolar world, Paul Stronski, a senior fellow in the Russia and Eurasia program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told VOA by phone.

Beyond arms deals

Those partnerships have historically centered on arms sales, with documented deals between Russia and at least 30 African nations, according to data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

They have three refurbishment plants at the moment already in the continent, including in South Africa, said Alex Vines, a former U.N. sanctions inspector who’s now with the London-based think tank Chatham House. That’s worked quite well for them, and Russian military equipment is pretty robust, fairly low maintenance. And that has made the Russians attractive.

Increasingly, Russia has sought deals beyond weapons, including agreements to extract minerals, provide nuclear power, and boost its political and cultural influence in Africa.

Those efforts could translate into favorable votes at the U.N., where three African countries now serve on the Security Council.

The consequences of Russia’s re-emergence in Africa aren’t yet clear, experts say. But the implications could be profound, especially with new opportunities to partner with China and a U.S.-Africa strategy that remains largely undefined.

Soviet-era ties

Before its collapse, the Soviet Union enjoyed an extensive military presence in Africa � historic ties that bolster Russia’s efforts to reinvigorate its presence on the continent.

In the Cold War era, the Soviet Union established naval bases across Africa, including facilities in Egypt, Ethiopia, Angola, Libya and Tunisia.

Those bases were decommissioned when the Soviet Union fell, but military deals continued.

Between 1990 and 2017, Russia and Egypt, for example, engaged in nearly 30 arms deals, mainly for surface-to-air missiles and related technologies, according to SIPRI.

Now Russia is seeking partnerships that broaden its interests. Vines told VOA that Russia’s aims are expanding from security to trade and resources.

One example is Angola, which benefited from Soviet support when it gained independence from Portugal in 1975. Now, Russia is involved in diamond mining in the country and, according to Vines, may build a new telecommunications center in Angola at their own cost.

There will be some new relationships which are more mercantile (focuses) and based probably around extractives, Vines said. I think we will see more trips of the foreign minister of Russia, Lavrov, and some of his colleagues into Africa in the future for that very reason.

Securing votes

Russia also has political reasons to court African leaders.

Having long faced sanctions against itself and its trading partners, as well as an extended economic downturn, Russia needs African votes at the United Nations, Vines said, to accomplish its broader goals.

Russia has tried to sidestep U.N. sanctions and U.S. trade embargoes against countries it seeks arms deals with, Stronski said.

Allies in Africa could make that a lot easier. The continent’s 54 nations have considerable sway in the General Assembly, and CAte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea and Ethiopia hold temporary seats on the powerful Security Council.

‘No questions asked’

For African countries with emerging economies and authoritative governments, Russia, like China, represents an appealing partner: willing to engage, with few rules or requirements.

Russia comes with, right now, sort of ‘no questions asked’ diplomacy, Stronski said.

That’s good for African leaders, who benefit from added incentives and loose restrictions on the deals they make. But it also fuels corruption, according to Stronski, and that prevents citizens from benefiting from partnerships as much as they could.

There is a lot of discussion about how Russian arms help fuel instability and fuel conflict on the African continent, Stronski said. But African governments also risk a backlash, especially in countries with robust media playing a watchdog role, he added.

That’s a narrative Russia has sought to flip.

Russia presents this vision of the West as sort of being an instability fueler and talk about how the bombing of Libya helped create sort of a power vacuum that has sort of led to the spread of weapons throughout the Middle East and North Africa, Stronski said.

A multipolar world, rather than one dominated by the U.S., is one of Russia’s key strategic objectives, he added.

Setbacks

Russia’s efforts in Africa haven’t produced results at every turn. One failed venture appears to be in Djibouti, which Vines likened to an aircraft carrier for Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.

Five countries have established military bases in the tiny East African country, most recently China. Russia sought to subcontract space from China, Vines said. But Djibouti, facing pressure from the U.S. and its Western allies, blocked the deal.

Without access to China’s facility, Russia’s options are limited, Stronski said.

I don’t see Russia really having the funds, the resources to put anything beyond a very limited port call or landing and refilling rights, he said.

Playing catch-up

Whether Russia can translate its renewed investments in Africa into major economic or political benefits isn’t clear, both Stronski and Vines said.

That’s in part because others, including Europe, the U.S., Gulf countries and China, are far ahead, according to Stronski.

They closed down many of their embassies, and they really focused more closer to home. And now, in the last five years, they’ve realized that they were needing to play catch-up in Africa, Stronski said.

Russia also faces financial constraints, particularly relative to China.

The Russian Federation is by no means a Soviet Union, and it doesn’t have the deep pockets (or) the capacity to extend itself globally in the way that the Soviet Union was able to, Vines said.

Despite these limitations, Russia’s rising profile has clear implications for the U.S., according to Stronski.

The United States should look at this as a warning sign and should develop a more coherent and clear policy of what it sees as U.S. interests in the African continent. And I don’t see a very coherent message coming out of either the State Department or the White House right now on that issue, he said.

Source: Voice of America

AFRICA MUST LEVERAGE ITS RESOURCES TO GROW ECONOMIES, SAYS GHANA VP

Accra–Vice President Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia has underlined the urgent need for African countries to leverage their enormous resources and investment opportunities to create jobs and lift the population out of poverty.

There were enough wealth and resources in the continent to aid its development and wean it off donor support.

Dependency on the international donors and financiers comes down to playing by their rules and committing to their terms, some of which may not be aligned to Africa’s development specific challenges.

Vice President Bawumia was addressing the 2018 African Sovereign Wealth Funds Summit in Accra.

Financing Africa’s transformation: the role of sovereign wealth funds, was the theme chosen for the meeting.

The event, organised by the Afrochampions Initiative brought together African Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWFs) managers, investors, government officials and captains of industries to discuss best strategies of leveraging their sovereign wealth funds to transform their economies and accelerate development.

SWFs are state-owned investment funds, invested in real and financial assets – stocks, bonds, real estates, precious metals, or in alternative investments including private equity fund or hedge funds.

They are mostly invested globally, and often revenues from commodity exports or from foreign exchange reserves held by the Central Bank.

The funds help countries to best manage and invest their oil wealth and commodity exports for the future generations.

According to the 2018 African Sovereign Wealth Funds Index, there is a total of seven trillion dollars’ worth of sovereign wealth funds globally, with 12 African countries having between them US$90 billion representing 1.4 per cent of the total global SWFs.

The Index ranked Nigeria, Rwanda and Ghana as countries best managed sovereign wealth funds in Africa.

The Vice President asked that premium was placed on generating more revenue domestically to strengthen the position of the countries when it came to selecting partners and negotiating on priority areas.

He reiterated the government’s unswerving determination to move Ghana beyond aid and said this was at the heart its economic planning strategy and thinking.

It was in line with this that it was deepening ties with sister African countries through trade and investment � to shift away from aid dependency.

He welcomed the Single African Trade Area Agreement signed by the 44 African nations in Rwanda and said it was a step in the right direction � it was going to boost intra-Africa trade and accelerate economic growth

The Vice President was emphatic that depending on aid was not sustainable in the long term.

Sooner or later, fatigue would set in, narrowing fiscal space for development.

He said for SWFs to contribute positively towards the economic transformation of the African economies, there was the need for domestic revenue mobilisation.

He urged investment in the human resource, saying, doing that was one of the best strategies to speed up economic growth � it was the path travelled by most of the developed nations.

That, he said, was not to discount the significant contribution physical infrastructure could equally make and added that the right balance and synergies was found.

He encouraged countries to enhance the savings and investment culture so that the SWFs could be used to develop their economies.

For the wealth fund to grow and to play a key role in transforming economies there got to be clear rules and patience.

Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK