Tuesday, 12 May 2020

I must repeat that Africa deserves to be paid a compensation for the damages COVID-19 pandemic is inflicting on lives and livelihoods.

In their prickly reaction to my April 16 Washington Post #ChinaMustPay article (a response published in the Guardian Newspaper of May 3, 2020), the Government of China through their Embassy in Nigeria missed the opportunity to responsibly address the serious issues raised.

I must repeat that Africa deserves to be paid a compensation for the damages COVID-19 pandemic is inflicting on lives and livelihoods.


Unfortunately and unfairly, my country, Nigeria, is one of fifty-four countries in Africa that are struggling to respond to the disruptive effects of China’s failure to take responsibility for a pandemic that could have been easily contained and localized to avoid the ruin it has caused our continent and the world at large.

Since Beijing failed to adhere to basic scientific and research transparency in the critical early days of the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan, it must accept responsibility with humility. Dr. Obiageli Ezekwesili

Therefore, a legitimate demand for accountability and payment of penalties by rich and powerful countries for damages their behaviors do to vulnerable people ought not to attract the kind of sour response China released.

There are six points that authorities in Beijing ought to humbly consider.

First, it is now clear to the world that China’s opaque handling of the pandemic is costing my country, our continent and people too much in lost lives and livelihoods. The unjustified suffering of the poor and vulnerable brought on by the actions of a comparatively rich and powerful country demands a new system for addressing global inequities.

I maintain that information in the public domain points to the fact that China suppressed vital information from the rest of the world on COVID-19. The burden to present convincing counter-factual information lies with China and,so far, it has failed to do so.

Second, I assert again that China owes Africa yet-to-be-estimated compensation. Its acts of negligence in December and early January resulted in a fast-spreading global pandemic that collapsed the continent’s economic growth from 2.9% in 2019 to negative 5.1% in 2020. Most importantly, China should, in the interim, take responsibility and ease the severe fiscal pressure on our countries, by announcing a cancellation of over $140 Billion in loans its government, contractors and banks have advanced to Africa over the last two decades.

Following this debt cancelation, an international consortium made up of the G20, China, Africa Union Commission and global institutions like the United Nations, World Bank and IMF should be constituted to assess the full extent of damages and the compensation due.

Third, Chinese authorities should know that we are Africans who are not lackeys of any power. Laying a baseless charge of “dancing to the tune of others” to an African reveals an appalling mindset toward our continent. It may in fact be this same sort of attitude that frames the extremely offensive profiling of Africans who are resident in China.

We do not dance to the drumbeat of any country or any continent -- our sole tune is the African Beat.

Fourth, the spirit of transparency ought to be in China’s own interest. It is intriguing that Beijing has so far failed to embrace my suggestion to allow an Independent International Panel of Experts to review and assess China’s handling of the COVID19 pandemic. Why? Is China afraid of full disclosure that can help the world learn vital lessons on how to manage global threats and risks better?

Fifth, this global New Normal requires faster prevention of cross-border risks and threats. The best antidotes to minimize global negative externalities that harm the weak and vulnerable are absolute transparency and removal of information asymmetries by countries.

As part of this New Normal, the global community has a duty to learn and correct past failures to penalize bad behavior. My #ChinaMustPay article is a call therefore to innovate global mechanisms that compel countries to start now to do the right things whenever risks and threats emerge.

Innovation is what China rode on to economic greatness. What then is wrong with asking for such as a legitimate part of our global New Normal?

Sixth, it should be in China’s historic and conscientious national interest to prevent future exploitation of vulnerable countries by economic supwerpowers. I did acknowledge previous global risks that similarly emanated from other rich and powerful countries and injured Africa’s economic growth and development. I find it hard to believe that China, given its history and experience with colonial mistreatment, would want this cyclical pattern to continue. Do the authorities in Beijing really want Africans to simply accept harmful actions of rich and powerful countries?

The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa in an April 2020 report on coronavirus pandemic stated that “over 300,000 Africans may lose their lives due to COVID-19.” According to the Africa Union Commission, the coronavirus is already collapsing many economies in Africa and worsening poverty. Already, the livelihoods of hundreds of millions on the continent, especially children, young people and women are already lost to the damaging economic disruptions caused by COVID-19.

The IMF calls the impact of the pandemic on Africa as “the worst reading on record”. It went further to state that Africa’s “Fiscal space is limited, and fiscal financing needs to address the crisis are large - at least $114 billion for this year”. International rating agencies have massively downgraded the credit ratings of African countries making investors more skittish.

I proposed a penalty system in the form of a Global Risk Burden Tax that will from now be payable to weaker and more vulnerable countries and their people whenever forced to bear a disproportionate burden from preventable global risks that emanate from rich and powerful countries.Such penalty tax would also serve as a disincentive to prevent the kind of unbecoming actions and decisions that escalated the spread of the deadly virus out of Wuhan.

China must know that where our lives and livelihoods are concerned, no country, regardless of how powerful it may be, can intimidate us Africans ever again.

Beijing should do the right thing now and accept the debt it owes Africa as a result of its failures on COVID-19. That is how responsible world powers should behave in the 21st Century if they are to be taken seriously.

Ezekwesili is the former vice-president for the Africa region at the World Bank and the former minister of education for Nigeria. She is the co-convener of #BringBackOurGirls Movement.

Published in Opinion & Analysis

Floods are the second most prevalent and devastating natural disasters in sub-Saharan Africa. Between 2000 and 2019 floods accounted for 64% of all disaster events in the region.

They affected the livelihoods of about 53 million people and killed more than 14,000. Sierra Leone, Ghana, Nigeria, Gabon, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mozambique were hit severely over this period.

Policies and strategies to confront the increasing flood frequency and deaths on the continent are on international, regional and national agendas. Most of these documents acknowledge that information is an important resource for flood preparedness. The recent World Disaster Report, for example, states that the impact of floods has reduced in some parts of the world because the general public obtained useful information about the risk and acted on it.

Mass information campaigns through radio, TV, newspapers, audio vans and weather reports have been ramped up globally in the past decade to improve flood disaster awareness. Such efforts are premised on the idea that people’s ability to prepare depends on getting the right information about the flood. They need to know – in clear language, at the right time – what might happen and when, and what they can do.

Unfortunately, it appears that efforts in flood risk communication haven’t always helped the general public to prepare better.

Ghana’s government conducts flood education campaigns annually before the rainy season. But in the country’s flood-prone informal settlements, where about 62% of the urban population reside, floods still have devastating consequences. In one of the most recent floods in the Greater Accra region in June 2015, one-third of the 152 fatalities were within or around informal settlements.

The research

Our study set out to investigate the effect of community participation in strengthening the relationship between disaster risk information dissemination and disaster preparedness. We chose three flood-prone communities (Old Fadama, Nima and Kotobabi) in Accra, Ghana’s capital city. We developed a model to test whether communities prepared better for flood disasters when they have been involved in communicating information. The study was undertaken a few months after the June 2015 disaster.

Our study showed that information that is accessible, comprehensive, and tailored to the needs of flood-prone populations strongly influences intentions to prepare. But this is only when city authorities make it possible for the public to get clarity and support to act on the information.

This insight shows how disaster management professionals and policy makers can integrate the cultural, social and value systems of a community into the communication process. Risk should be clearly communicated in languages that are understood locally and information must be channeled through traditional and community institutions.

Flooding in Accra

When people move to Accra, they usually start by living in an informal settlement. Most of these areas are flood-prone because houses are built on flood plains with non-durable materials.

The government carries out educational campaigns on radio, TV and other media through the National Disaster Management Organisation, Ghana Meteorological Agency and National Commission for Civic Education. These campaigns talk about the type of hazard, areas to be affected, potential damage and in some cases preventive measures. But they don’t involve the active participation of the public.

There’s a need to revisit this one-way information flow, and instead encourage dialogue between experts and the public. This could happen when public authorities build a good relationship with communities. A sustained relationship builds trust. This could in turn give communities the confidence to share experiences of their response to floods.

Our study results showed that providing flood information to the public instigates discussions among community members but has little impact on preventive action. It’s more persuasive when the public is actively engaged in discussions with experts on flood risk preparedness. This should be on transparent and open platforms where experts readily address people’s doubts and uncertainties.

The study revealed that regular engagement between experts and the public is an opportunity to clarify messages, seek additional information and build trust. This can influence positive behavioural changes in terms of flood preparedness.

Participatory disaster risk communication

The risk of climate-related disasters worldwide is growing, especially in developing regions. To build local resilience, disaster management experts and policymakers must make community participation the core element of risk communication to the public.

Our study showed that the level of community participation matters when it comes to disaster preparedness. When people get information in an engaging and interactive manner, their behaviour changes in positive ways. As one respondent quipped:

Give me more information but also seek my views and experiences; then I will act.

The public shouldn’t just receive information but take an active part in what is communicated and how, so that it is useful in their local circumstances.The Conversation

 

Matthew Abunyewah, Sessional lecturer, School of Architecture and Built Environment, University of Newcastle; Kim Maund, Discipline Head – Construction Management, School of Architecture and Built Environment, University of Newcastle; Seth Asare Okyere, Assistant Professor, Graduate School of Engineering, Osaka University, and Thayaparan Gajendran, Associate Professor, School of Architecture and Built Environment, University of Newcastle

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Published in Telecoms

Madagascar President Andry Rajoelina on Monday batted away criticism for promoting a homegrown “remedy” for COVID-19, charging that the West has a condescending attitude toward traditional African medicine.

“If it wasn’t Madagascar, and if it was a European country that had actually discovered this remedy, would there be so much doubt? I don’t think so,” he told French media in an interview.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has repeatedly warned that the COVID-Organics infusion, which Rajoelina has touted as a remedy against the deadly coronavirus, has not been clinically tested.

The drink is derived from artemisia — a plant with proven anti-malarial properties — and other indigenous herbs.

“African scientists… should not be underestimated,” he told France 24 and Radio France International (RFI).

“I think the problem is that (the drink) comes from Africa and they can’t admit… that a country like Madagascar… has come up with this formula to save the world,” said Rajoelina, who claims the infusion cures patients within 10 days.

Already Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Niger and Tanzania have taken delivery of consignments of the potion, which was launched last month.

“No country or organisation will keep us from going forward,” Rajoelina said in response to the WHO’s concerns.

He said proof of the tonic’s efficacy was in “the healing of our sick”. 

Madagascar has officially reported 183 coronavirus infections and 105 recoveries, with no deaths.

“The patients who were cured were cured through the administration of COVID-Organics alone,” the president said.

He referred to the remedy as “an improved traditional medicine”, adding that Madagascar was not conducting clinical trials but “clinical observations” in accordance with WHO guidelines.

 

By Agence France-Presse

Published in Economy

Cape Town International has once again won the top spot as the best airport in Africa for the fifth consecutive time.

The airport takes top honours in the prestigious Skytrax World Airport Awards, which are regarded as a quality benchmark for the world airport industry, assessing customer service and facilities across over 550 airports. The awards began in 1999, and are voted for by customers over a six-month survey period.

According to Skytrax, over 100 customer nationalities participated in the 2019-2020 survey. The survey evaluated the customer experience across airport service and product key performance indicators from check-in, arrivals, transfers, shopping, security and immigration through to departure at the gate.

Cape Town International ranked as number one in Africa and came in 23rd place globally.

“During this challenging time, this award is a beacon of hope for all in the tourism industry, signifying that when we are ready to welcome visitors to Cape Town and the Western Cape, we will be ready to once again offer them the excellent service they have become accustomed to receiving,” said Minister of Finance and Economic Opportunities, David Maynier.

CEO of Cape Town International, Deon Cloete proudly welcomed the ranking, saying, “All of this would not be possible without the collaboration of the Provincial and City structures especially Air Access. We’re extremely proud of this accolade. Well done to all involved!”

Wesgro CEO, Tim Harris, adds, “Cape Town International Airport once again proves itself a world-class airport based on a global benchmark for airline excellence. The Cape Town Air Access team is proud of this accolade for the airports industry and is working hard on recovery plans.”

 

CapeTown ETC

Published in Travel & Tourism
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