It has taken a pandemic as severe as Covid-19 to jostle Sub-Saharan Africa into action to bolster its vaccine production capacity and capability, ... argues Stavros Nicolaou of Aspen, Africa's biggest drug company. For the first time in the region’s history, the continent is pooling its resources and aggregating volumes to mount a collective and co-ordinated response for its coronavirus vaccine needs.
AfDB – meetings postponed to June
Ghana was set to welcome the African Development Bank (AfDB) for its Annual Meetings from 24 to 28 May, but that has since been postponed to June because of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Just as they were last year, the virtual meetings will be held from the bank’s headquarters in Abidjan.
AfDB president Akinwumi Adesina is also keen to take measures to avoid a downgrading of the Bank’s credit risk, since losing its AAA rating would raise its borrowing costs.
Covid-19 vaccination programmes
From May, Russia is making 300 million doses of the Sputnik V anti-Covid vaccine available to the Africa Medical Supplies Platform to help African countries meet their initial 60% vaccination targets. Critics say the Sputnik is up to three times more expensive than ‘Western’ jabs.
In South Africa, 13,350,140 people will be eligible for a Covid-19 vaccination in May, when phase two of the national jab campaign starts. The government originally targeted a 67% vaccination rate this year, but experts warn that this goal is likely to be missed due to vaccine shortages and procurement-plan changes as the ‘South African’ variant takes its toll.
The heritage of man and nature
Art keeps on happening in Abidjan despite rising Covid-19 cases, with Jems Koko Bi’s exhibition at the Galerie Cécile Fakhoury an early highlight of the 2021 West African cultural season. The veteran Ivorian wood sculptor launched his exhibition, ‘Patrimoine’, on 12 March, and it continues on until 5 June.
Many of the artworks are on show for the first time, like the newly created Cocon, which shows a large man in a wooden shell, and Le Sommeil de l’Arbre, a large and disjointed human body in a profound state of rest.
Koko Bi tackles themes of heritage, inheritance and property through the lens of nature in his paintings and sculptures. He told journalists: “Heritage is what has been passed on to us, what we preserve and pass on to future generations. This theme is, therefore, the object of a collective choice, marking the belonging to a community, to a lineage.”
In the project space at the gallery, the works of a new wave of sculptors in wood – Soro Kafana, Le Moane and Serge Nemlin – continue the theme, with Koko Bi serving as their mentor.
The return of artists of a certain standing, like Koko Bi, Ernest Düku and Ouattara Watts, to exhibit or live in their native land reflects the vibrancy of the Ivorian art scene. It is also about the young artists who are staying – finding inspiration and an ever-increasing number of galleries and buyers in the now peaceful country, whose first contemporary art museum, the MuCAT, opened in 2020.
The collector Adama Toungara chose Abobo for the museum to help give the suburb, marked by post-electoral violence a decade ago, a new perspective.
Book: Formation: The Making of Nigeria from Jihad to Amalgamation
Feyi Fawehinmi and Fola Fagbule’s new book is a must-read for understanding how Nigeria got to where it is today. How Nigeria was stitched together decades ago continues to shape the country’s politics, with the 2023 elections looming and sectarian conflicts tearing at the seams.
While Covid-19 has led to the cancellation of many Africa-focused events, some are still going ahead, mostly in virtual form:
- Africa Tech Week: The event will take place virtually from 5-6 May to discuss the current wave of digital activity and technology’s potential to transform the continent.
- Energy Financing: What next for donor funding in Africa’s energy sector? Invest Africa and PwC are organising a virtual meetup on 6 May to talk about finance for the continent’s electrification.
- IHI Africa Forum: The Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s 4-6 May event addresses a crucial topic in light of the current pandemic: the future of quality healthcare in Africa.
Food Security: The looming hunger
A map of food insecurity can show how multiple crises exacerbate each other. The Covid-19 pandemic, poor rains, conflicts and locust swarms all pose threats up to May 2021.
While much of the international agenda is focused on Covid, other crises are continuing unabated. The Famine Early Warning System reports: ‘Multiple shocks are jointly leading to below-normal household income, higher food and seed prices, and reduced household purchasing power. Crises or worse outcomes and high food-assistance needs will persist into 2021.’
Flashpoints for hunger and conflict include the Sahel, Ethiopia, Sudan’s Darfur region, eastern DRC and Mozambique. And one country stands out for its hunger unrelated to armed conflict – Zimbabwe.
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