Over the years, the vacation rental industry became a huge business, with millions of tourists choosing fully furnished homes or apartments instead of a traditional hotel or motel experience.

However, the COVID-19 outbreak caused an enormous financial hit to the entire market, cutting down revenues of both the big players like Airbnb or Booking.com and smaller vacation rental owners and property managers.

According to data presented by Stock Apps, the revenue of the global vacation rental industry is expected to plunge by $35bn in 2020, a 42% drop year-over-year.

Airbnb, Booking.com, and Expedia Witnessed a 90% Plunge in Reservations

The vacation rental segment includes private holiday homes and houses and short-term rental of private rooms or flats through online marketplaces like Airbnb and Booking.com or in travel agencies.

In 2017, the entire industry generated $78.7bn in revenue, revealed the Statista data. In the next two years, this figure rose by 7% to almost $84bn.

However, vacation rental companies had a rough start to 2020. After a promising first few weeks of 2020, the initial wave of the COVID-19 caused massive cancellations of stays, with even the market’s biggest players witnessing colossal reservation drops.

In week 14 of 2020, short-term rental bookings on the Expedia platform saw a 94% drop year-over-year. Two other travel industry giants, Airbnb and Booking.com, followed with a 93% and 91% plunge, respectively. The strong negative trend continued between June and September after the coronavirus pandemic ruined what is typically a peak summer travel period.

As of week 35, there was a 62% YoY drop in short-term rental bookings on the Airbnb platform. However, Booking.com and Expedia witnessed even more significant losses, with their reservations plunging by 66% and 86% in this period.

Tourism revenue1

Tourism revenue2

Tourism revenue3

Statista data show the global vacation rental industry is expected to witness a recovery in 2021, with revenues growing by 36.7% to $66.9bn, still $17bn under 2019 levels. In the next three years, this figure is forecast to rise to $88.4bn.

The average revenue per user in the vacation rental segment is forecast to amount to $111.1 in 2020, a slight increase in a year. By 2025, this figure is expected to rise to $117.

The Number of Users to Plunge by 42% to 445 Million

Although the initial wave of the COVID-19 caused massive reservations drops in the first months of 2020, statistics show the number of users is expected to stay deep below the last year’s levels.

In 2017, almost 750 million people chose vacation rentals instead of hotels and motels. Over the next two years, this figure rose to 777 million.

However, Statista estimates the number of users in the vacation rental segment to plunge by 42% YoY to 445 million in 2020 and remain under 2019 levels in the next three years.

In global comparison, the United States represents the world’s largest vacation rental market, expected to generate $9.5bn in revenue in 2020, a 45% plunge in a year.

To fight the spread of COVID-19, some US states placed restrictions on short-term rentals, which caused massive complaints from the companies operating in the market. In Florida, property owners and a vacation rental management company even filed a federal lawsuit against the governor, accusing him of violating their constitutional rights.

The Chinese market, the second-largest globally, is forecast to witness a 43.5% drop YoY, with revenues falling to under $5.3bn. Japan, the United Kingdom, and Germany follow, with $3.2bn, $2.6bn, and $2.5bn in revenue in 2020, respectively.

It has been nine months since the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the outbreak of COVID-19, caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, a “public health emergency of international concern”.

Since then, more than 44 million cases have been recorded and over one million lives lost. Economic costs measure in trillions of dollars. Global recovery will take years.

A safe, effective COVID-19 vaccine is expected to be developed in record time and may be approved for production, distribution and acceptance some time in 2021. Public health experts say that at least 70% of any community must get vaccinated with a COVID-19 vaccine to achieve an acceptable level of immunity to protect its members.

We recently surveyed 13,426 people in 19 countries. We included two of Africa’s most populous and visible nations, Nigeria and South Africa, which are among the most affected by COVID-19 on the continent.

Overall, we found that 71.5% of participants said they would take a “proven safe and effective vaccine” while 14% would refuse it outright. An additional 14% said they would hesitate to take the vaccine.

But that average figure is deceptive. It was raised by favourable responses from two Asian countries that also recorded very high trust in government health recommendations. More than 80% of Chinese respondents and 75% of South Koreans said they would accept a vaccine. South Africans came closer than any other country to the 70% standard, at almost 65%. But only 46.3% of Nigerians said they would do so. This is slightly higher than the results we found in Spain, Sweden, Poland, Brazil and Ecuador.

Hesitancy

These vaccine hesitant people are not necessarily vaccine opponents. A large number of them consistently vaccinate their children against numerous childhood diseases. However, it must be noted that the increasingly well-coordinated global anti-vaccine movement has repurposed itself to challenge the very reality of COVID-19 as well as the usefulness of a new vaccine to prevent it. They have leveraged social media platforms to promote these doubts.

We also tried to determine how much trust people would have in a COVID-19 vaccine if their employer recommended it. Just more than three in five (61.4%) of all our respondents said they would do so. The numbers dropped to less than half of South Africans (46%) and Nigerians (44%).

Our data confirms a troubling trend towards vaccine hesitancy that has been found in other global and national studies. Professor Heidi Larson, a co-author of our paper, and her team at the Vaccine Confidence Project at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine recently reported on trends in vaccine confidence observed across 149 countries between 2015 and 2019. They found that political instability and religious extremism were critical factors in declining vaccine confidence in many of these countries.

Recent political unrest in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country with over 200 million people, does not bode well for a successful COVID-19 vaccination campaign there. Only South Africa and Ethiopia have recorded more COVID-19 cases on the continent.

Many public health workers also recall a massive boycott against polio vaccination in northern Nigeria. It was caused by a single rumour, and not an adverse event. This boycott led to the years of more polio infections and deaths in Nigeria, and delayed polio eradication from the continent as a whole.

So what must be done to get on track for a successful African vaccination programme against COVID-19?

Moving forward

As scientists, we should help health leaders to prepare now with education and dialogue to set appropriate expectations for when a coronavirus vaccine may be available. We need to build vaccine literacy with effective communication and community engagement for acceptance country by country, village by village, taking into account community-specific issues, concerns or misconceptions and working with local religious and civil leaders and influencers.

We also need to help people become more fluent about vaccinations: Are they safe? Will they protect me and my family? Do I need to be vaccinated to be able to work? Will everyone be able to get it? Will vaccination sterilise me or my kids?

And we must be realistic that none of this information and advocacy will truly convince people to accept COVID-19 vaccination, or any other, in the absence of genuine societal trust. Without mutual trust, we may not be able to rebuild economies and return to anything approaching “normal” life.

It would be tragic if we developed, made and distributed safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines and people refused to take them, when health infrastructure and equipment levels cannot stem the pandemic.

Two authors of this study, Drs. Ratzan and Larson, are co-leaders of a recently launched global coalition – CONVINCE [COVID-19 New Vaccine Information Communication and Engagement]. This initiative is spearheaded by the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health, the Vaccine Confidence Project of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and Wilton Park, a part of the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. A number of African public health leaders have already joined it.The Conversation

Scott C. Ratzan, Distinguished Lecturer, , CUNY Graduate Center; Agnes Binagwaho, Vice Chancellor, University of Global Health Equity; Heidi Larson, Senior Lecturer in Epidemiology & Population Health, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine; Jeffrey V Lazarus, Associate Research Professor, Instituto de Salud Global de Barcelona (ISGlobal); Kenneth Rabin, Senior Scholar, CUNY Graduate Center, and Lawrence O. Gostin, University Professor; Founding Linda D. & Timothy J. O’Neill Professor of Global Health Law, Georgetown University

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

Trade routes have been significantly disrupted this year in efforts to contain COVID-19. The effects of this are already showing: global growth is set to contract by 4.9% and growth in sub-Saharan Africa will contract by 3.2%.

This will get worse if continued restrictions further impede trade. The World Trade Organisation has warned that at worst, global trade could collapse by a third this year, and at best, it will contract by 13%, similar to the recorded drop after the 2009 financial crisis.

This has fundamental consequences – both direct and indirect – for many. For instance, within the first few weeks in March when some trade routes were initially suspended, flower exports from Kenya to the European Union fell by 50%, affecting around a million people.

Trade enables formal firms to flourish, which will be essential for economic recovery. It also protects the urban poor operating in the informal economy against poverty and hunger. The continuation of trade is even more essential for their survival as they operate without an adequate safety net.

Restricting trade also affects supply and prices. Import disruptions have resulted in shortages, including food, and prices have spiked. This has brought economic hardship to small traders and consumers across the continent.

In the current economic climate, trade is not a luxury that can be temporarily avoided. In Africa, there’s a growing body of evidence showing that firms – from large to very small – have been severely affected by restrictions in the movement of goods and people. For many this means not only losing a livelihood, but a direct impact on their ability to meet basic needs.

Economic impact on formal firms

A study of formal firms in Uganda found that exports fell by 57% at the start of its lockdown, compared to a year earlier. It also found that imports, which these firms rely on to produce, fell by 43%.

The researchers of the study simulated what would happen with continued import reductions of this magnitude. The results were devastating: 6.6% of all formal firms in the Ugandan economy would likely have to close, resulting in a reduction of formal employment by 4.7%.

Fortunately, the Ugandan government ensured trade could continue throughout lockdown. Exports and imports started to rebound relatively quickly.

The impact of slower trade has also been tracked in Ethiopia, where a survey of firms showed that trade disruptions affected a fifth of small, medium, and large firms due to a lower supply of raw materials and intermediate goods, as well as the restricted movement of workers.

The importance of the role played by formal firms can’t be overstated. Evidence suggests that in sub-Saharan Africa the labour productivity of formal firms is four times higher than that of informal firms. This is because formal firms are able to scale and specialise in a way that informal operations cannot. In addition, across the continent, taxes on incomes, profits and capital gains accounted for around 25% of all national tax revenues.

But smaller informal firms will have an equally crucial role to play in the recovery.

Urban informal sector

In developing cities, most firms operate in the informal sector, accounting for more than 66% of employment across the continent.

A 2016 census of informal firms in the Greater Kampala area showed that informal firms were very small: about 60% have only one employee and 70% have an annual turnover of UGX 10 million (US$2,700) or less. Over 90% of micro firms were operating close to, or at, the poverty line.

The challenge for the poorest of these firms operating in cities is that the majority of their income is used to buy food in urban markets. Therefore, trade is not only a question of economic activity, but more importantly of survival. It is also why the urban poor are the hardest hit by lockdown measures.

Evidence from a small-scale trader survey in Lagos showed that during the lockdown, most firms were making zero revenue. And these effects seem to be persistent: in Sierra Leone, for example, where the economy has reopened, profits for these firms are still nearly 50% lower than pre-lockdown levels.

In Uganda, which has by some estimates already eroded nearly 10 years of gains in poverty reduction efforts, the sharpest spike in poverty levels to date was in the capital city, Kampala. It is also why there have been increases in hunger and malnutrition across the country.

Uganda is not alone: simulations of an eight-week lockdown across Africa show that eight million people, including 3.9 million children under five years, would be severely food deprived.

Trade is not a luxury

Rethinking global guidelines on handling pandemics is not an easy task given that the contexts to which they will be applied are extremely diverse. Perhaps the most efficient guidelines will be those that allow for targeted, data-driven, flexible and localised approaches.

Understandably, however, during this pandemic and for future ones, much of the world also looks for global standards set by bodies like the World Health Orgnisation. But when setting these standards it is important to remember that for many, health versus the economy is a false dichotomy. Rather, for many in poor urban areas, trade is not only a means of making ends meet, but of avoiding the trap of poverty and hunger. Nikita Sharma, the Managing Editor for the IGC, also contributed to this articleThe Conversation

 

Astrid R.N. Haas, Policy Director, International Growth Centre and Victoria Delbridge, Head of the Cities that Work initiative, International Growth Centre

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

Netflix Inc on Tuesday posted its weakest subscriber gains in four years as streaming competition increased, pandemic restrictions eased and live sports returned to television.

The company added 2.2 million paid subscribers globally during the quarter that ended Sept. 30, missing Wall Street's target of 3.4 million and its own forecast.

Earnings per share also landed below analyst expectations at $1.74. The consensus forecast was $2.14, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Shares of Netflix, one of the biggest gainers this year as people stayed home amid the pandemic, dropped nearly 6% to $494 in after-hours trading on Tuesday.

"Domestic subscribers were nearly flat, which highlights Netflix's saturation in the U.S.," said Ross Benes, analyst with eMarketer. With domestic additions slowing, revenue growth will likely come from price increases, he said.

The company reported a blockbuster quarter at the start of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, adding 15.8 million paying customers from January through March.

Netflix had warned investors that a sudden surge in new sign-ups would fade in the latter half of the year as COVID-19 restrictions eased. Netflix forecast in the fourth quarter it would bring in 6 million new subscribers around the globe, short of the 6.51 million that analysts expected.

The streaming video pioneer is trying to win new customers and fend off competition as viewers embrace online entertainment. During the third quarter, Netflix released "Emily in Paris", "Enola Holmes" and "The Devil All the Time."

Netflix acknowledged that competition was increasing as studios across Hollywood from Walt Disney Co to AT&T Inc's WarnerMedia have restructured to compete more directly for video subscribers.

"Competition for consumers' time and engagement remains vibrant," Netflix said in a letter to shareholders.

In recent months, major sports resumed play and nascent streaming services, including AT&T's HBO Max and Comcast Corp's Peacock, offered audiences new options.

Netflix said its results reflected the fact that it saw such a big surge in customers early in the year.

"We continue to view quarter-to-quarter fluctuations in paid net adds as not that meaningful in the context of the long run adoption of internet entertainment, which we believe is still early and should provide us with many years of strong future growth as we continue to improve our service," the company said.

Netflix officials noted the company had pulled in more subscribers in the first nine months of 2020 than in all of 2019. It ended the third quarter with 195.2 million global streaming customers.

"Next time we get together, we should be over 200 million members, completing a year of 34 million (additions)," an annual record, Co-Chief Executive Reed Hastings said in an analyst interview.

The company also said it expected to complete shooting over 150 productions by the end of the year and that it would release more original programming in each quarter of 2021 compared with 2020.

Revenue rose 22.7% to $6.44 billion in the third quarter, edging past estimates of $6.38 billion.

Net income rose to $790 million, or $1.74 per share, in the quarter from $665.2 million, or $1.47 per share, a year earlier.

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the extent of Africa’s reliance on imports.

As global supply chains and the flows of manufactured goods around the world have been disrupted by lockdown restrictions, African countries have faced the prospect of mass unemployment and curtailed economic growth in a way which more self-reliant developed countries have not, as noted by the African Union in its research paper titled Impact of the Coronavirus on the African Economy.

As leaders globally consider the trade-off of permitting sectors of their economies to operate while still minimising the risk of transmission of the virus, the imperative of long-term, sustainable economic development in Africa through coordinated initiatives has never been clearer. Investment in industrialisation is a key lever to moving the economic growth needle over the long term, as demonstrated by the last few decades of economic growth trends globally.

Those countries that have industrialised and exported manufactured goods have become the most resilient and diversified economies. In the wake of global supply chain disruption, Africa faces a golden opportunity for governments to provide incentives for industrialisation and the development of local value chains. Industrialisation cannot happen in a vacuum: governments need to work hand in hand with development finance partners who can provide the funding that manufacturers and suppliers require to scale up production and manufacture appropriate goods to meet market demands.

Joel Jackson, CEO of Mobius Motors, based in Nairobi, Kenya, says during COVID-19-induced lockdown Mobius has continued to focus on testing and development of a new vehicle model which will be uniquely tailored to the African environment, but once restrictions are lifted and economic activity can resume in full, will scale up production and distribution of its vehicles to the wider African market.

“With a vehicle designed for African operating conditions and sold at an unparalleled price point, Mobius is driving down the cost of vehicle ownership; playing an important role in catalysing economic development in Africa, on two fronts. First, the pandemic and subsequent lockdown have shown how profoundly important mobility is to a fully functioning economy and healthcare system. Second, vulnerabilities of global supply chains to pandemics have highlighted the importance of localisation and self-reliance to build resilience in national and regional manufacturing ecosystems” he says.

Jackson says African economic recovery will require doubling down on industry potential and working with development funders who recognise the benefits of greater self-reliance in Africa’s future growth story.

“This kind of event fundamentally undermines global supply chains and import-dependent markets, making it even more crucial for African countries to build their long-term resilience through a stronger and more localised supplier landscape in the manufacturing sector. Governments need to expand incentives to companies and business models that have the potential for a disproportionate impact on job creation and up-skilling.”

Mobius is currently in discussions with the Kenyan government about incentives for local industrialisation and skills development. “The more we invest in industrialisation, the more we enable a self-fuelling flywheel of economic growth and consumer market development,” Jackson says.

He cites a recent research paper by McKinsey, Reopening and Reimagining Africa: How the COVID-19 crisis can catalyze change, which states that Africa cannot rely on business as usual to come back from the brink. In recovering from the crisis, Africa has the potential to create a reshaped and more resilient manufacturing sector, “provided that governments and businesses tackle long-standing barriers to industrialisation and cooperate to seize new opportunities”.

“We estimate that, for every dollar of manufactured product, Africa imports approximately 40 cents in inputs from outside the continent—higher than most other regions in the world. Over five years, a serious push to reduce reliance on global supply chains could add an initial $10-20 billion to the continent’s manufacturing output if 5 to 10 percent of imported intermediate goods can be produced within the region. In addition to supply-chain resilience, the shift could also benefit exporters in countries experiencing devaluation, if they could capture the upside of increased export attractiveness with less burden of more expensive imported inputs,” the report says.

No African car brand has been able to establish a presence in local markets at scale, and Jackson says a coordinated effort with governments and funders can overcome structural challenges to scale up local production and content. Mobius was founded in 2011 and has focused on manufacturing a multi-use transport platform that can “plug in” a range of different modules to enable a myriad of transport applications – something imported vehicle models are unable to do in meeting African challenges.

“There is a clear and significant gap in the market: durable and affordable vehicles, offering the versatility consumers want. We have donated two of our first-generation Mobius II vehicles to the Kenyan government for the COVID-19 community relief effort, and the advantages of a locally tailored vehicle platform are demonstrable. The next step is to progressively scale our next-generation Mobius 2 vehicle across the continent and drive positive and sustainable socio-economic change,” Jackson says.

When it comes to public transport, there is a responsibility both on operators and on commuters to make the required changes to their travel and commuting behaviour. This is the only way in which we can hope to keep coronavirus infection rates under control.

The comment comes from a manufacturer and distributor of cleaning products INDUSTROCLEAN, following an announcement made by President Ramaphosa on Sunday night on the regulations and limitations for long and short distance taxi journeys.

Emma Corder, Managing Director of INDUSTROCLEAN, says the reality is that public transport is a high-risk environment because of the number of people in a confined space with limited ventilation. There is also little if any access control to identify potentially sick commuters as well as a variety of common surfaces to touch such as handrails and doorknobs.

“All parties involved in public transport – taxi operators, bus companies, train operators and commuters – have to take the necessary precautions,” she says.

It starts with the wearing of a mask, explains Corder.

“This is a critical way to protect yourself and others, and it is equally important to wear it correctly. Masks block droplets from your sneezes and coughs and minimizes the likelihood of you touching your face and either spreading or coming into contact with the virus from other people.”

Eating requires removing the mask in a high-risk situation, so change habits and eat and drink before or after the ride. It will benefit others just as much as it helps you stay safe and virus free, she adds.

Secondly, it’s important that commuters sanitize their hands before and after each trip. Most transport operators provide hand sanitizers but having your own on hand is always advised. 

“Carrying your own hand sanitizer will not only keep you safe but also provide peace of mind during your commute,” commented Corder. It is important that the sanitizers contain 70% alcohol.

Other tips include:

  • First a good deep cleaning and disinfection with a hospital grade disinfectant is advised. It is important that all vehicles be cleaned both in and outside. They need to be wiped down on the inside after both the morning and afternoon peak-hour periods, on a daily basis.
  • Regularly deep clean all seats, rails and windowpanes in public service vehicles washing down surfaces with soap and water and disinfect them with a hospital grade disinfectant.
  • For normal cleaning, using the spray and wipe method is effective and disinfectants should be freshly prepared and National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications(NRCS) registered.
  • Hand washing facilities and alcohol-based sanitizers should be placed at strategic points such as security check points, as well as entrances of public transport interchanges and public toilets.
  • Review the stock and availability of essential protection and cleaning equipment and supplies and plan their distribution and refill beforehand.

During travel: 

  • All individuals accessing a taxi, bus or train must undergo temperature screening.
  • Make sure all commuters sanitize their hands before boarding.
  • All commuters must wear a mask at all times.
  • Provide adequate waste management facilities (waste bins and bin-liners).
  • Avoid overcrowding and body contact. Keep a distance from each other. Owners and operators of public transport vehicles are advised to find more innovative ways to avoid overcrowding.
  • Ensure good ventilation and respiratory hygiene in all public transport vehicles.
  • AVOID handshakes at all times.

“We all have to remain vigilant as the number of coronavirus infections continue to rise. By following these simple daily guidelines we can all work together to keep the infection number as low as possible,” says Corder.

First, we tried the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine. Then we tested the antiviral drug remdesivir. But new UK research gives the strongest indication yet we may have found a useful treatment for COVID-19.

This time it’s an old anti-inflammatory drug, dexamethasone, which has been described as cheap, old and boring.

Preliminary results from a clinical trial just released indicate the drug seems to reduce your chance of dying from COVID-19 if you’re in hospital and need oxygen or a machine to help you breathe.

The results were significant enough for the UK to recommend its use for severe COVID-19.

Before we roll it out in Australia, we need to balance the drug’s risks with its benefits after peer-review of the full trial data.

What is dexamethasone?

Dexamethasone has been used since the late 1950s, so doctors are familiar with it. It’s also inexpensive, with a packet of 30 tablets costing around A$22 (for general patients) under Australia’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

So if it does work for COVID-19, this cheap and boring drug, already available in Australia with a prescription, would be easy to add to current treatments.

Dexamethasone belongs to a class of drugs known as corticosteroids and is used to treat a range of conditions related to inflammation. These include severe allergies, some types of nausea and vomiting, arthritis, swelling of the brain and spinal cord, severe asthma, and for breathing difficulties in newborn babies.

And it’s dexamethasone’s application to those latter two respiratory conditions that prompted doctors to think it may also help patients severely affected by COVID-19.

What did the trial find?

The recently reported results come from the Randomised Evaluation of COVID-19 Therapy, or RECOVERY, trial.

The researchers put patients into one of three groups: those needing ventilation (a machine that helps them breath); those who just needed oxygen therapy; and those who needed no treatment to help them breathe.

Patients in each of those groups were given dexamethasone (6mg once a day, either as a tablet or via intravenous injection), for ten days. A fourth group (a control group) was not given the drug.

Dexamethasone was most useful for the ventilated patients; deaths for this group dropped by about one-third with drug treatment. In contrast, deaths only dropped by one-fifth for those patients who were only receiving oxygen therapy. There was no benefit to patients who could breathe normally.

Results of the dexamethasone trial have just been released.

The researchers calculated that giving dexamethasone to eight ventilated patients would prevent one from dying, on average. And giving it to around 25 patients needing oxygen alone would 

How might dexamethasone work for COVID-19?

When a patient has severe COVID-19, their immune system ramps up to catch and control the virus in the lungs.

In doing this, their body produces more infection-fighting white blood cells. This results in inflammation and pressure on their lungs, making it very difficult for them to breath.

It’s therefore likely dexamethasone reduces this inflammation, and so reduces pressure on the lungs.

 

What are the downsides?

There are potential complications with using dexamethasone.

First, dexamethasone also suppresses the immune system when it reduces inflammation. So, it’s not usually recommended for people who are sick, or could be sick, from other infections. So doctors will need to make sure patients have no other infections before they are prescribed the drug.

If the results of this trial are correct though, the drug doesn’t appear to compromise the patient’s ability to fight COVID-19; it might just affect their ability to fight off other diseases.

Second, the drug is only useful for patients with difficulty breathing and needing some assistance either through ventilation in a hospital or from oxygen therapy.

There appears to be no benefit for patients who don’t need help breathing. So we shouldn’t be giving it to everyone who tests positive to the virus.

 

Third, like all drugs, dexamethasone has side effects that need to be monitored. Serious, but rare ones include: severe stomach or intestinal pain, sudden changes with vision, fits, significant psychiatric or personality changes, severe dizziness, fainting, weakness and chest pain or irregular heartbeat, and swelling of the face, lips, mouth, tongue or throat, which may cause difficulty in swallowing or breathing.

What happens next?

The results of the clinical trial are preliminary. So we need to wait for the full study data and scientific peer-review before we can make a definitive decision as to whether dexamethasone treatment is a worthwhile, and safe, addition to COVID-19 therapy in Australia.

 

 

Nial Wheate, Associate Professor | Program Director, Undergraduate Pharmacy, University of Sydney

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

African hotel development had returned to growth at the start of 2020, with more than 78,000 rooms in 408 hotels in the pipeline, according to the 12th annual survey by W Hospitality Group, acknowledged as the industry’s most authoritative source. However, the COVID-19 outbreak is now shattering the dreams of Africa’s hotel industry.

W Hospitality Group’s Managing Director, Trevor Ward, said: “The growth of the chains’ presence in Africa has been a very positive story since we started this analysis in 2009. It is quite clear from the numbers that the chains, the developers, the investors – and all of us at W Hospitality Group! – continue to believe in the opportunities that Africa presents in the hotel and tourism industry. However, our industry has been devastated by the impact of COVID-19, possibly more so than most other economic sectors, mainly because of the almost total shutdown of borders and of the aviation sector – no flights means no guests.”

“With that background, we see a slowdown in pipeline growth in 2020, as we all get to grips with the new reality. With so many of the players locked down, fewer deals will be signed, and it is inevitable that some of the planned openings in 2020 will be delayed, due to closed or slower-paced construction sites, restrictions on funding and a lack of market demand. According to our latest data, there are 90 hotels with 17,000 rooms scheduled to open in 2020, but we estimate that at least half of these will be delayed, bringing the actualisation rate down to no more than 40%.”

This year’s African Hotel Chain Development Pipeline survey covers 35 international and regional hotel contributors across the 54 countries in north and sub-Saharan Africa, and in the Indian Ocean islands. It reveals a 3.6% increase on the 2019 pipeline. Most encouraging was a record 68 chain hotels opening last year, fully 75% of those which were scheduled to open, with 11,000 rooms. That performance was substantially up from the 39% of those scheduled to open in 2018 actually doing so. Accor performed particularly well; it opened 18 hotels last year with almost 3,500 rooms in its various brands, ranging from Ibis to Fairmont.

The findings of the 2020 Pipeline report, together with a mid-year update, will be discussed in depth at Bench Events’ new virtual conference, to be held on 21st July. This event is complementary to the Africa Hotel Investment Forum (AHIF), the leading hospitality investment conference in Africa, which has in previous years connected business leaders to serious investors, driving funds into tourism projects, infrastructure and hotel development across the continent.

Marriott, the world’s largest hotel chain, has the largest pipeline in Africa, 22 per cent more hotels and 6 per cent more rooms than second-placed Accor, but Accor has been catching up fast, signing 25 new deals last year, compared to Marriott’s 17 new projects.

Hotel Chain Development Pipelines in Africa 2020

Top 10 Chains by Number of Planned Rooms

   

Hotels

Rooms

Change on 2019

Average Size

 

1

Marriott International

90

17,902

5.9%

199

 

2

Accor

74

16,868

24.6%

228

 

3

Hilton Hotels & Resorts

53

10,093

-10.0%

190

 

4

Radisson Hotel Group

38

7,385

-17.7%

194

 

5

InterContinental Hotel Group

13

2,642

38.8%

203

 

6

Barceló Hotels & Resorts

8

2,488

-

311

 

7

Meliá Hotels & Resorts

6

1,954

-15.7%

326

 

8

Hyatt International

11

1,859

23.4%

169

 

9

Mangalis Hotel Group

13

1,522

-14.5%

117

 

10

Deutsche Hospitality

4

1,503

32.0%

376

 

If Accor can open its hotels in 2020 at the same rate that it did in 2019, it is likely the company will overtake Marriott and position itself as the largest operator in Africa. 

Table 9: Hotel Chain Development Pipelines in Africa 2020

Top 10 Chains: Pipeline vs Existing Hotels in Africa

   

Pipeline

Existing

Pipeline vs Existing (Rooms)

   

Hotels

Rooms

Hotels

Rooms

 

1

Marriott International

90

17,902

139

24,567

73%

2

Accor

74

16,868

155

25,688

66%

3

Hilton Hotels & Resorts

53

10,093

48

13,344

76%

4

Radisson Hotel Group

38

7,385

41

8,254

89%

5

InterContinental Hotels Group

13

2,642

27

6,329

42%

6

Barceló Hotels & Resorts

8

2,488

14

3,203

78%

7

Meliá Hotels & Resorts

6

1,954

12

3,084

63%

8

Hyatt International

11

1,859

8

1,838

101%

9

Mangalis Hotel Group

13

1,522

4

572

266%

10

Deutsche Hospitality

4

1,503

15

4,888

31%

TOTAL

 

310

64,216

463

91,767

70%

 

Trevor Ward said: “We have to wait and see what will happen in the second half of 2020, and in 2021, as we emerge from lockdown and other restrictions. Tourism is such an important industry in Africa, because of the direct and indirect jobs that it creates and sustains, as well as its strong foreign currency earnings. We are anxious to see hotels reopen and get back to contributing to the African growth story.”

Matthew Weihs, Managing Director of Bench Events, which is staging Africa Tomorrow, said: “Right now, we are facing the biggest recession in history. For those seeking to operate hotels, it is a dreadful time. However, for the savvy investors, this is actually a moment of opportunity because hotels are a long-term investment and one of the secrets of success is to spend money during the bottom of the economic cycle in order to capitalise on the upturn as soon as it comes. That’s one reason why I expect the networking sessions at Africa Tomorrow will be very busy and fruitful.”

The unfolding US-China power rivalry bears a striking resemblance to the tensions between the US and the Soviet bloc during the Cold War years. Back then, African countries were positioned like pawns on a grand chessboard.

Their social and economic progress was hampered because they expended energy aligning themselves with either of the superpowers in the battle for world supremacy between communism and capitalism.

With notable exceptions, African states generally failed to exercise positive agency for their own development. They also eroded the institutional and governance foundations vital for economic success.

In the current context of rising geopolitical tensions between the US and China, African countries may find themselves repeating the same mistakes unless they proactively shape their own destinies.

The tensions between the two great powers, characterised by a vicious trade war, are deepening at a time when the world economy is under enormous strain due to COVID-19. At the same time African countries are facing their worst economic crises since independence.

Africa is institutionally under-prepared to weather the combined effects of the health pandemic and severe economic recession. Its leaders will need to consciously design strategies of engagement that will help them to manage the ongoing superpower tensions to their advantage. They should do so without taking sides. This requires that they deal with each of these great powers based on pragmatic – rather than ideological – choices.

Despite their institutional under-preparedness, African countries can – and indeed must – be highly strategic and tactical in how they respond to the US-China tensions. Failure to do so will inevitably mean sacrificing their own interests.

There are three arenas of challenges and opportunities for the African continent in the current geopolitical climate. The first involves technological frontiers, the second is global supply chains, and the third is trade integration and economic cooperation.

New technological frontiers

There is overwhelming evidence that technological innovation is the key driver of economic growth. Therefore, access to and exploitation of new technologies such as 5G is vital to Africa’s development. Fifth generation technologies are important options for a continent like Africa where mobile technology has leap-frogged more traditional technologies.

Access to technologies like 5G offers access to universal broadband, which is critical for the continent’s advance to a digital economy.

In May last year the US government put the Chinese firm Huawei, the world’s leading supplier of 5G network infrastructure, on its list of entities deemed to pose a significant risk to national security and foreign policy interests.

Huawei was effectively banned from importing and incorporating key US technologies into its products and services. This included both hardware, such as high-tech semiconductor components, and software, like Google Mobile Services (GMS). The ban was later extended to key technologies from non-US firms. These included the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, a major Huawei supplier.

In the month following the initial ban, the CEOs of four major South African telecommunications operators – Telkom, Vodacom, MTN and Cell C – wrote a joint letter to South African president Cyril Ramaphosa requesting his urgent intervention on the US action against Huawei. Their aim would have been to lend diplomatic weight to prevent damage to South Africa’s telecommunications sector.

In July last year Ramaphosa came out in support of the four operators as well as Huawei. He said the ban was:

an example of protectionism that will affect our own telecommunications sector, particularly the efforts to roll out the 5G network, causing a setback on other networks as well.

This was an example of pragmatism on the part of the South African government.

African policymakers should strenuously safeguard their right to choose from the widest possible range of technology options that suit their countries’ development needs. And they should insist on acquiring and developing new technologies like 5G based on pragmatism.

Global supply chains

The second theatre of struggle for African countries is in global supply chains.

The COVID-19 reality, combined with the ratcheting up of US-China tensions over trade, technology and supply chains, has opened up opportunities that African countries should exploit.

Combined, they have exposed serious problems in supply networks across various sectors. These include digital products, food, pharmaceutical and medical supply chains.

These sectors represent opportunities for African countries to develop new products, services and capabilities. They could, for example, provide answers to safeguarding Africa’s food security needs, local production of essential drugs and medicines, low-cost medical tests and equipment, and logistics.

A mural of presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping in Berlin. EFE-EPA/Omer Messinger

But African countries will need to work more collaboratively to develop thriving economic sectors and cross-border industrial linkages. Trade will, in our view, be a critical enabler for this.

This leads us to the third domain, namely the need for African countries to deepen trade integration and economic cooperation. This will provide a basis for diversifying from over-reliance on export markets such as China and the US, and to build internal resilience.

Intra-Africa trade

Intra-African trade accounts for just 16% of total African trade. This compares with 52% in Asia and 73% in Europe. African trade is highly concentrated on a few economic hubs: China and Europe together account for 54% of total African trade, with China being Africa’s single largest trading partner. It accounts for over 14% of total African trade.

The African Continental Free Trade Area creates the institutional and infrastructural framework for Africa to strengthen intra-African trade, diversify its trading partners and implement long-overdue trade policy reforms.

COVID-19 has induced significant delays in the implementation of this trading arrangement. It should, in fact, have magnified a sense of urgency. But instead of showing adaptability, African leaders pressed a pause button. As a result, the continent could miss an opportunity to accelerate development of cross-border value chains in medical supplies and equipment and other areas.

Imagination and courage

African countries should seize the opportunities presented by deepening tensions between China and the US to realise positive agency and chart their own future. They will need to be more proactive and adaptive under the fluid and uncertain global environment. This will require a great deal of imagination and courage.

African countries face a daunting set of challenges and constraints. But policymakers always have options.The Conversation

 

Mzukisi Qobo, Head: Wits School of Governance, University of the Witwatersrand and Mjumo Mzyece, Associate Professor of Technology and Operations Management, University of the Witwatersrand

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

South African banks and the government are looking for ways to boost take up of an up to 200 billion rand ($11.58 billion) loan scheme to help coronavirus-hit businesses, two bank executives and a source close to the discussions told Reuters.

Possible amendments being discussed include encouraging banks to ease their lending conditions, the source close to the discussions said.

"There are minor issues around the design," the source continued, including wording in the terms that has led to banks applying their standard credit procedures and rejecting more applications than anticipated.

The scheme, launched in May, was meant to encourage banks to lend more, on more favourable terms, to small businesses struggling with the effects of the pandemic.

But concerns arose that the money -- 40% of President Cyril Ramaphosa's 500 billion rand economic stimulus package -- was not being fully used after big banks approved only a few billion rand of loans in the first few weeks.

Lenders, the treasury and the central bank are in regular talks on the issue, the source said, with finance minister Tito Mboweni keen to announce changes to the scheme in his emergency budget on June 24.

Goolam Kader, business banking managing executive at Nedbank (NEDJ.J), said the lender is working closely with the Banking Association South Africa (BASA) to identify potential improvements.

He added that Nedbank did not apply credit criteria that are different from usual when assessing loan requests made under the scheme, but that various factors affected take up, including its other efforts to help customers.

Standard Bank referred Reuters to BASA, which declined to comment. FirstRand and South Africa's treasury did not provide comment by a deadline.

Jaco le Roux, chief risk officer of relationship banking at Absa's retail and business bank, said it did apply different criteria as well as imposing requirements like a bond over property less often.

Other features being discussed include raising the turnover threshold for eligible companies from 300 million rand, expanding the list of things businesses can spend the money on and the type of loans banks can extend, and lengthening the term of payment holidays, le Roux and the source said.

Take up has already accelerated to around 7 billion rand and could double within days, the source continued. There may have been a lag as businesses considered their options.

Stuart Theobald, chairman of Intellidex, which presented to government on how to design a scheme, said it did not seem to be working as intended, citing issues like the banks often requiring personal guarantees for the loans, as is standard in South Africa.

"This is not meant to be banking as usual," he said. "You want banks to behave as if they are in the best of times ... but the design of it is such that they can't actually do that."

 

Reuters

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