$1m Business Fee: Nigeria, Ghana Parliamentary Leaders Hold Talks Over Trade Dispute

Speaker, House of Representatives, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila exchanging pleasantries with his Ghanaian counterpart, Rt. Hon. Kingsford Alban Bagbin after the Speaker of the Ghanaian Parliament addressed members of the House of Representatives in plenary on Wednesday 7th July, 2021.

 

Nigerian and Ghanaian parliamentary leaders on Wednesday commenced a discussion on how to resolve the trade impasse between the two countries.

Speaking at a press conference after a closed-door diplomatic meeting in Abuja, the Speaker of the Nigerian House of Representatives Femi Gbajabiamila and his Ghanaian counterpart Alban Sumana Bagbin, said the trade dispute would soon become history.

According to a statement issued after the closed-door meeting, and signed by Gbajabiamila, the Ghanaian lawmaker was admitted to the House to address the members as part of “Parliamentary diplomacy” of Nigeria’s House of Reps.

READ ALSO: Two Lawyers Accused Of Rigging NBA Elections To Be Arraigned Nov 9

The trade dispute between both countries arose after the Ghanaian authorities imposed a $1million business participation fee on foreigners seeking to do business in Ghana.

“We got assurance from both sides that the issue of trade dispute will be a thing of the past. We’re now putting up a mechanism to make sure that these issues don’t come up again in the future,” Bagbin said.

 

‘Technical Committee Set Up’

Gbajabiamila said the closed-door meeting they held was a successful one as issues of interest to both countries were discussed.

“We’ve more or less concluded the roadmap to achieve lasting solutions to the diplomatic issues with our traders.

“The issue with our traders and the Ghanaian authorities has been addressed today. The Minister of Trade and the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs were at the meeting.

“There is a technical committee set up. They will be going to Ghana next week to dot the ‘Is’ and cross the ‘Ts'”, he said.

Gbajabiamila also announced that the two parliaments had established and inaugurated a parliamentary friendship group that would hold talks on the relationship between the two countries.

“We’ve inaugurated the friendship group, and they will start talking on behalf of the two Parliaments.

“I want to thank you, the Hon. Speaker, for your kind words and your determination to see an end to the issue.

“The issue of the Nigerian embassy in Ghana, the Ghanaian authorities have accepted to take responsibility, though it has nothing to do with them, they said they will put it back,” Gbajabiamila added.

Responding, Bagbin said: “I want to sincerely thank you so much for the invitation. I can only confirm that everything will be put in place to address the issue of trade between our two countries.

“Let’s ensure that the relationship between Ghana and Nigeria remains cordial and mutual. I thank the Speaker for his commitment and enthusiasm on this matter.”

Earlier, Bagbin addressed members of the House at plenary, where he said Ghana and Nigeria had come a long way and that the relationship between the two countries would continue to be cordial and mutual.

According to him, the two countries have been able to address whatever issues that came up between them in the past and that they should be able to do that currently.

Speaker, House of Representatives, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila with his Ghanaian counterpart, Rt. Hon. Kingsford Alban Bagbin during a media briefing following a meeting with the visiting Speaker of the Ghanaian Parliament to the House of Representatives in Abuja on Wednesday 7th July 2021.

 

Addressing Nigerian lawmakers, Bagbin said,  “Rt. Hon. Speaker, I am here just to help bring finality to the impasse. I pledge my commitment and that of the Parliament of Ghana, to contribute in every way possible to end the impasse between traders of our two sister countries.

“In furtherance of that, under my leadership, the Parliament of Ghana has appointed a seven-member committee as Ghana’s delegation to the Joint Committee of Eminent Persons of our Legislatures. They will interact with their Nigerian counterparts towards passing the ‘Ghana-Nigeria Friendship Act.’

“The Act will set up the proposed ‘Ghana-Nigeria Business Council’, which is intended to provide the legal and institutional framework to sustain the continued friendship and business interests of our people.”

He also appealed to review the prohibition list banning the importation of specific goods and commodities into the Nigerian market from other countries, including Ghana.

This request, he added, is underscored by the resolution as captured in the communique of 31st May 2021 referred to as supra.

Nine Dead In Ghana Gold Mine Collapse

A file picture of the Ghanaian Flag
A file picture of the Ghanaian Flag

 

Nine people died in a gold mine collapse in northern Ghana this week, police said Thursday as rescue operations continue.

Accidents in small-scale gold mining, known locally as “galamsey”, are common in the West African nation and President Nana Akufo-Addo vowed a crackdown to curb its environmental damage.

The latest incident in the remote mining area of Gbane, Talensi district, in the Upper East region near the border with Burkina Faso happened late on Monday during a downpour, police said.

READ ALSO: France’s Ligue 1 To Cut Clubs From 20 To 18 From 2023

“We started with our rescue operation on Tuesday and by Thursday, we’ve been able to retrieve nine bodies,” police spokesman David Fianko-Okyere told AFP.

“We suspect three more bodies are trapped down there so we’re doing everything possible to get them dead or alive.”

Eyewitness Yakubu Musah said the mine caved in after rainwater flooded the pit.

“There are about two or more different pits underground here with only one tunnel connecting as the passage to them,” said Musah.

“When you are down there it’s very difficult to tell what is happening out here, so I’m sure they had no idea it was even raining. I don’t think anyone survived.”

Upper East Regional Minister Stephen Yakubu said the mine was a registered mine, not an illegal site.

“We suspect the rains may have weakened the foundations of the pit,” said Yakubu adding that a committee would investigate the causes.

In a separate incident last week, three people were killed when an illegal gold mine collapsed in the south of the country.

Ghana is Africa’s second-largest gold producer and exports of the metal, along with other minerals and oil, drive the country’s economy.

AFP

Buhari To Visit Ghana Over Mali Crisis

FILE: President Muhammadu Buhari climbs the stairs of the Presidential Jet as he embarks on a medical trip to the United Kingdom on March 30, 2021.

 

President Muhammadu Buhari will depart Abuja on Sunday for Accra, Ghana to attend an emergency Extraordinary Summit of ECOWAS, convened to discuss the recent political developments in Mali.

Presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, announced the visit on Saturday via a statement.

The President is expected back in the country “at the end of the one-day Summit.”

According to Mr Adesina, the meeting is at the instance of the Chairman of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS and President of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo.

Prior to the Extraordinary Summit, the President had met with the Special Envoy and ECOWAS mediator in Mali, former President Goodluck Jonathan, who briefed him on the latest developments in the country following his meeting with key political actors in the West African country.

“As the situation in Mali continues to evolve, Nigeria had condemned the May 24 military coup, the subsequent detention of the president and prime minister by soldiers, and called for the immediate and unconditional release of all civilian officials detained,” the statement added.

“President Buhari will be accompanied by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, Minister of Defence, Maj. Gen. Bashir Salihi Magashi (rtd), Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Richard Adebayo, and Director-General of National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ahmed Rufai Abubakar.”

In COVID-19 Times, Ghana’s 2.0 Churches Thrive

People pray and sing during a worship radio show at Accra FM station in Accra on April 26, 2021. The show started 6 years ago but now they also stream the program on Facebook to appeal to a younger audience.
CRISTINA ALDEHUELA / AFP

 

The pandemic has forced many Christian Ghanaians to change their religious practices, with churches turning to online services and donations, and live streaming funerals.

More than 70 percent of the West African country’s 30 million people are Christian, mainly Pentecostals or Evangelists, who have had to abide by strict rules in churches to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

“We are following the government’s instructions to the letter. But Covid-19 has significantly affected our attendance,” said Reverend Kofi Oduro Agyeman-Prempeh from the Destiny Adenta church in a suburb of the capital Accra.

More than 92,000 people have tested positive for Covid-19 in Ghana and 780 people have died although the true figure is believed to be higher because of a lack of testing.

“Even though the national numbers are low these days, I can see that the fear of contamination is still present. During mass, the faithful are more hesitant to stand up, dance and sing,” Agyeman-Prempeh added.

 

A cameraman films a funeral in Accra on April 22, 2021. The pandemic has forced many Christian Ghanaians to change their religious practices, with churches turning to online services and donations, and live streaming funerals.CRISTINA ALDEHUELA / AFP

 

In an effort to reassure his congregation, the reverend registered the church on Asoriba, an app and website that connects churches to worshippers.

Founded in Ghana in 2015, the app provides tools to pastors to organise events, monitor attendance and communicate with members.

Since the arrival of the pandemic, subscriptions have increased by 30 percent, the founders say.

“The pandemic has validated everything we have done so far. We have identified a real need. We know that the future will be digital, including the future of religious practices,” said one of Asoriba’s co-founders, Saviour Kwaku Dzage.

Once registered on the platform, worshippers can easily send donations via mobile transfer.

“Even during Covid, the church needs this money to grow and to help the needy. And since cash is seen as a potential vector of contamination, online payment seemed like the obvious solution,” Dzage said.

A cameraman films pallbearers carrying a coffin during a funeral ceremony in Accra on April 22, 2021. T
CRISTINA ALDEHUELA / AFP

 Virtual funerals

Half of Ghanaians do not have access to the internet but with a majority of its population under 30, digital penetration has accelerated in recent years, increasing from 23.5 percent in 2015 to 55.6 percent in 2020, according to Ghana’s national statistics office.

Before the pandemic, funerals in Ghana were famous around the world for being colourful events, with music, songs, and dances. With the arrival of Covid, funerals were first limited to 100 people and then 25.

“It’s been heartbreaking for us,” said Reverend Banister Tay, operations manager for Transitions, a funeral service based in Accra.

“Since only a handful of relatives are now able to attend the ceremony in person, we had to offer the others a way to attend virtually.”

With the aim of “digitising the funeral industry”, Transitions has been offering streaming services and a platform for online donations since 2018.

“When Covid came along, we were already ahead,” said Tay, adding that they had to suddenly step up their game.

 

A pastor talks to his congregation in a church in Adenta on April 18, 2021. 

 

“Just one percent of our customers were using our streaming services before the pandemic, they are now almost 90 percent.”

During services, filming crews buzz around: three cameras usually film indoors while another film outdoors to capture the arrivals of those lucky enough to attend in person.

Two Transitions staff manage the flow of live pictures and collect money sent online.

“This pandemic was an opportunity to educate Ghanaians that funerals can also be done online, and that you don’t lose anything. We even realised that online donations were superior to physical donations!”

Tay is optimistic for the future and thinks virtual funerals will continue after the restrictions are lifted.

“A sizeable portion of our streaming audience are members of the diaspora. Many Ghanaians live abroad and cannot always return home when they lose a loved one. It is also for them that we thought of this solution.”

-AFP

Automobile Giants Hyundai, KIA To Establish Assembly Plants In Ghana

The move comes less than a month after Twitter announced that its African base will be in Ghana. Photo: [email protected] Kyerematen

 

Automobile giants, Hyundai and KIA are set to establish assembly plants in Ghana, a move that comes less than a month after social media firm, Twitter announced that its African base will be located in the country. 

Ghana’s Minister for Trade and Industry, Alan Kyerematen announced this on Thursday, noting that the plants will be ready by the end of 2022.

The move is a product of the Ghana Automotive Development Programme orchestrated by the Ghanaian government in partnership with some players in the industry, a development Kyerematen noted will see other automobile firms setting up assembly plants in the country.

“Pleased to announce that Hyundai & KIA are set to establish assembly plants in Ghana by the end of 2022 to join Toyota-Suzuki, Nissan, Kantanka, Volkswagen & Sinotruck,” the minister tweeted on his official handle. “The Ghana Auto Development programme = 3,600 assembly & 6,600 manufacturing parts jobs in Ghana.”

 

READ ALSO: Germany Chooses Ghana As Location For West African Centre Of Global Health

Earlier in the day, the Trade and Industry Ministry signed a deal with the ‘Invest for Jobs’ (an initiative of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development) to promote Ghana’s automotive industry and back the building of industrial parks.

The event which was co-hosted by the German Ambassador to Ghana, Christoph Retzlaff and Kyerematen, signalled the cooperation between both nations.

“For the purpose of this cooperation with the Ministry, an amount of 540,000 Euros is being invested – through a financing agreement, to support industrial park development and to establish an Automotive Desk at the Ministry,” the ministry posted on its official Facebook page.

It added that through “the local assembly of vehicles, 3,600 direct and indirect jobs would be created in Ghana, and the addition of components and parts manufacturing will also add about 6,600 direct and indirect jobs.”

 

 

 

 

Twitter Chose Ghana Due To Unpatriotic Nigerians, Says Lai Mohammed

 

The Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed says Twitter chose Ghana as the headquarters for its African operations, due to the unpatriotism of Nigerians. 

Speaking to newsmen in Abuja, Mr Mohammed said the tech giants chose Accra over Nigeria because the nation’s West African neighbours are champions of democracy and abide by the rule of law.

“The reasons cited by Twitter for citing the headquarters in Accra, Ghana is that Accra is a champion of democracy and there is rule of law in the country, among other reasons. This is what you get when you de-market your country,” the minister stated.

He further blamed the media for championing the course of devaluing Nigeria by fervently putting out negative reports and painting the country as a hell on earth.


Twitter To Set Up Its African Base In Ghana

‘I Thought Nigeria Was Giant Of Africa’ – Reactions Trail Establishment Of Twitter Base In Ghana


“The media is more to blame for this which most times exaggerate the challenges in the country.

“At no time was this worse than during the #EndSARS protest when Nigerian journalists both traditional and new media were trying to outdo themselves in painting Nigeria as a hell where nobody should live.

“When they all conspired to vilify not just the government but the people of Nigeria. We are not saying that you should not criticise the country but be fair and patriotic. When you destroy your own house, where are you going to live?

“You can imagine the kind of job opportunities that citing that headquarters in Nigeria would have generated, the kind of visibility it would have given Nigeria but we destroyed it. It is what the insiders say about their country that the outsider will use to judge and condemn the country.”

The minister argued that the natural expectation is that Nigeria with a 25 million Twitter user population should have been the hub of twitter business in Africa, as against ghana with only eight million Twitter users.

He urged Nigerians to be more patriotic, stressing that the continuous push to put the nation in a bad light has now cost a great opportunity that would have benefitted the youths and the nation at large.

‘I Thought Nigeria Was Giant Of Africa’ – Reactions Trail Establishment Of Twitter Base In Ghana

 

 

The announcement by Social media giants Twitter, stating it is officially making Accra the headquarters of its operation in Africa, has stirred diverse reactions all over social media. 

As part of its plan to fully enter into the African Tech Space, Twitter through its CEO, Jack Dorsey on Monday stated that it would be making Ghana’s capital its HQ.

The announcement was very pleasant news to many Ghanaians with President Nana Akufo-Addo calling it “EXCELLENT news”.

He further stated that both the “government and Ghanaians welcome very much the announcement and the confidence reposed in the country.

“This is the start of a beautiful partnership between Twitter and Ghana, which is critical for the dev’t of Ghana’s hugely important tech sector,” the president’s statement partly read on Twitter.

While the people of Ghana were celebrating the new development which many believe will help the nation’s economy by creating more jobs and opportunities for young people, there were some who weren’t so pleased.

Many Nigerians specifically were not really happy that Twitter chose Ghana instead of Nigeria, however, the grievance was not necessarily against the tech company nor against Ghanaians, but against the government and those at the helms of state affairs in Nigeria.

Most Nigerians who reacted to the move argued that if all things were as they should be, then Nigeria’s population should be enticing enough to have Twitter make the country its African base.

They also fault the government in that there are so many policies that make the nation rather unsuitable for investors such as Twitter, especially with several reports suggesting that Nigeria’s parliament has from time to time deliberated on laws that tend to muffle the rights of individuals (mostly the rights to free speech).

Below are some reactions obtained from Twitter.

Ghana Hit By Nationwide Power Outage

A file picture of the Ghanaian Flag
A file picture of the Ghanaian Flag

 

Ghana suffered a nationwide power cut on Sunday, the west African country’s electricity provider GRIDCo said, as it attempted to restore power.

The Ghana Grid Company Limited (GRIDCo) said it was dealing with “a total system shutdown”.

“At approximately 2.10pm on Sunday March 07, 2021, a challenge in the power system led to a total system shutdown. This led to an interruption in power supply to all parts of the country,” the company said in a statement.

“The technical team is currently working to restore power supply,” it added. “GRIDCo is also working to ascertain the reasons behind the total system shutdown.”

Ghanaians took to social media to express their frustration.

“Can you give us a timetable for these power outages. It’s so not cool. We’re fed up and we can’t continue to suffer in this heat in our own homes,” Vivian Quartey posted on Facebook.

“GRIDCo and ECG what is this? Do you want to destroy our home appliances? Enough!!” Frank Dodoo added on Twitter.

Power had still not returned in the capital Accra by 1845 GMT, an AFP reporter said.

Some 84 percent of Ghana’s population has access to electricity, according to the World Bank — one of the highest rates in sub-Saharan Africa.

The country has both hydropower and thermal plants fuelled by crude oil and natural gas, and exports power to Togo, Benin and Burkina Faso.

However, power cuts are frequent — a problem that sparked major demonstrations in Ghana in 2015.

The country has enjoyed one of the fastest rates of economic growth in the world since the 2000s, fuelled by its significant supplies of gold, cocoa and oil.

However, some regions continue to suffer chronic poverty, and the global Covid-19 pandemic has dealt a heavy blow to Ghana’s economy.

Ghana’s economic growth is set to fall this year to 0.9 percent, according to International Monetary Fund forecasts — the lowest rate for 30 years.

AFP

Ghana, Ivory Coast Administer World’s First Free Covax Jabs

Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo receiving a shot of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine in a live broadcast. PHOTO: @NAkufoAddo/Twitter

 

Ghana and its West African neighbour Ivory Coast on Monday became the world’s first states to administer vaccines from Covax, a global scheme to procure free Covid jabs for poorer countries.

Richer nations have surged ahead with inoculating their population, but many poorer countries are still awaiting their first vaccine doses.

“It is important that I set the example that this vaccine is safe by being the first to have it, so that everybody in Ghana can feel comfortable about taking this vaccine,” Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo, 76, said before receiving a shot of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine in a live broadcast.

READ ALSO: Why Buhari, Others Will Receive COVID-19 Vaccine ‘In The Open’ – Minister

The first lady Rebecca Akufo-Addo also received a jab, one day before the rest of the 600,000 doses are deployed across the country.

In Ivory Coast a short while later, Patrick Achi, President Alassane Ouattara’s spokesman, was vaccinated in a tent vaccination centre set up in a sports complex in Abidjan, the country’s economic hub.

Getting the jab, said Achi, was a “patriotic duty.”

Vaccination “offers the hope of a return to normal in the coming months,” he said.

Ivorian Health Minister Eugene Aka Ouele said the first batch of 504,000 vaccines would be distributed in the Abidjan area, “the epicentre of the country’s epidemic.”

Members of the armed forces and security services followed Achi in getting their immunisation.

 

– Covax push –

Ghana’s food and drug authority last month authorised the Indian-made vaccine and Russia’s Sputnik V, as the government aims to reach 20 of its 30 million population by year’s end.

Last Wednesday, Ghana was the first country to receive vaccines from Covax, led by Gavi the Vaccine Alliance, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).

Some 145 participating economies are set to receive 337.2 million doses by mid-year — enough to vaccinate a little over three percent of their combined populations.

Covax has said it hopes to raise the figure to up to 27 percent in lower-income countries by the end of December.

Ghana has recorded 84,023 Covid-19 cases and 607 deaths since the start of the pandemic, although the true figure is believed to be higher because of lack of testing.

Schools reopened in January after a 10-month closure, but large social gatherings are banned and land and sea borders have remained closed since March 2020.

Despite the vaccine roll-out, the president said that all the current restrictions to curb the spread of the virus were to remain in place.

Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa with around 200 million people is scheduled to receive nearly four million Covax-funded vaccines on Tuesday.

Africa has been relatively spared in the global coronavirus pandemic, although there remain deep concerns about the potential for further surges caused by new variants of the microbe.

The continent of 1.3 billion people has officially recorded 3.9 million cases out of 114 million worldwide, according to an AFP tally. African fatalities number more than 103,000 out of a global 2.53 million.

Outside the Covax initiative, African countries that have launched vaccination drives include Senegal, South Africa, Zimbabwe, the Seychelles, Mauritius, Rwanda, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea, Algeria, Morocco and Egypt.

AFP

First Vaccines Delivered Under Global Covax Scheme

Airport workers unload a shipment of Covid-19 vaccines from the Covax global Covid-19 vaccination programme, at the Kotoka International Airport in Accra, on February 24, 2021. PHOTO: NIPAH DENNIS / AFP

 

Ghana became the first country to receive vaccines from the global Covax scheme on Wednesday, paving the way for poorer nations to catch up with inoculation drives to stamp out the coronavirus pandemic.

But Europe’s vaccine rollout faced fresh woes after AstraZeneca said it would only be able to deliver half its promised doses to the EU, deepening ongoing tensions with the bloc oversupply shortfalls.

More than 217 million vaccine doses have been administered globally, according to an AFP tally Wednesday, though the vast majority have been given in high-income countries.

Hopes are high that the inoculations will allow the world to finally emerge from a pandemic that has killed more than 2.4 million, infected 112 million, and hammered the global economy.

READ ALSO: Ghana Receives World’s First Doses Of Free Covax Vaccines

But health experts have warned that unless the whole world has access to vaccines, the pandemic will not end.

The head of the World Health Organization applauded the first delivery of the Covax vaccines Wednesday with an enthusiastic tweet.

“At last!” posted WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“A day to celebrate, but it’s just the first step.”

The WHO is one of several organisations behind Covax, which aims to deliver at least two billion doses globally by the end of the year.

The 600,000 doses delivered to Ghana in a ceremony broadcast live on television are from Oxford/AstraZeneca, and will be administered in several Ghanaian cities from Tuesday.

They are part of an initial tranche of deliveries headed to several low and middle-income countries, including to Ivory Coast this week.

Covax, led by Gavi the Vaccine Alliance, the WHO, and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), is seeking to ensure vaccines are equitably distributed globally.

So far, Israel, the United States, and Britain are leading in vaccine rollouts, while many poor countries have yet to receive a single jab.

 

– ‘Menacing’ third wave –

But as the watershed delivery was celebrated in Ghana, there was more bad news for Brussels over its scramble to secure coronavirus vaccines for the European Union.

AstraZeneca said Tuesday its EU supply chains would only be able to deliver half of an expected order of 180 million doses, but assured it would fill the gap by using its international network.

It is the latest setback for the bloc which has come under fire for its sluggish vaccine rollout.

EU chief Ursula von der Leyen was locked in a war of words with AstraZeneca earlier this year after accusing the British-Swedish firm of breaking a contract by delaying vaccine deliveries.

But she struck a more affable tone Wednesday, saying she was “optimistic” about the rollout.

“New questions are always arising that we can generally resolve amicably,” she told a German newspaper, in comments published Wednesday.

Elsewhere on the continent, Hungary forged ahead with its own campaign, administering Chinese-made Sinopharm jabs in a first for the EU.

The country has criticised Brussels for its procurement problems and turned not only to China but also to Russia to secure jabs.

This month it also became the first EU nation to administer Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, in a bid to beat back rising infections and deaths.

“A third wave of the virus is menacing Hungary,” Prime Minister Viktor Orban said as he announced the Chinese vaccine rollout.

Ukraine also celebrated a landmark Wednesday, giving a doctor the country’s first Covid shot after a slow start of its own that sparked widespread anger.

Meanwhile, in France, which has faced global embarrassment over its stuttering vaccination campaign rollout, the government said new regional restrictions could be imposed amid “a worsening situation”.

“Rapid and strong measures” are needed to combat spiraling infections in some French regions, government spokesman Gabriel Attal said, refusing to rule out another national lockdown.

Elsewhere in the world, there was a glimpse of normality more than a year into the pandemic as sports fans streamed into a brand new cricket stadium in Ahmedabad, India — the world’s biggest.

“I am here with my whole family for this historic moment. We have taken precautions for coronavirus by wearing masks. I hope India wins,” said an “excited” Tarun Parmar, ahead of a Test match against England.

AFP

EU Chief Seeks ‘Amicable’ Solution As AstraZeneca Admits New Delays

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen gives a press statement following a phone call meeting with Britain's Prime Minister, at the European Commission in Brussels on December 13, 2020. Olivier HOSLET / POOL / AFP
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen gives a press statement following a phone call meeting with Britain’s Prime Minister, at the European Commission in Brussels on December 13, 2020. Olivier HOSLET / POOL / AFP

 

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen insisted Wednesday that new problems dogging the supply of AstraZeneca’s vaccines can be resolved, after the group admitted it could deliver only half the expected amount to the bloc in the second quarter.

“The vaccine manufacturers are our partners in this pandemic and they have also never faced such a challenge,” she told the German regional daily Augsburger Allgemeine.

“New questions are always arising that we can generally resolve amicably,” she said on the eve of a virtual EU summit on the response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Von der Leyen added that she advocated “working together with the companies to ensure global production is improved”.

AstraZeneca said Tuesday its EU supply chains would only be able to deliver half of an expected supply of Covid-19 vaccines to the bloc in the second quarter — but that it would look to make up the shortfall from elsewhere.

READ ALSO: Italy Seeks UN Probe Into DRC Envoy’s Killing

A spokesman for the British-Swedish drugs group told AFP AstraZeneca was “working to increase productivity in its EU supply chain” and would use its “global capability in order to achieve delivery of 180 million doses to the EU in the second quarter”.

“Approximately half of the expected volume is due to come from the EU supply chain” while the remainder would come from its international supply network, he added.

The announcement follows controversy over deliveries of the AstraZeneca-Oxford University jab to the European Union in the first quarter, which has caused tension between the bloc and the pharmaceutical company.

– Diplomatic tensions –

Ahead of the EU’s approval of the vaccine at the end of January, the company sparked fury among European leaders by announcing that it would miss its target of supplying the EU with 400 million doses, due to a shortfall at the firm’s European plants.

The disagreement also caused diplomatic tensions with Britain, which definitively left the EU after 40 years of membership following a transmission period at the end of 2020 — with Brussels implicitly accusing AstraZeneca of giving preferential treatment to Britain at the expense of the EU.

The UK government has vaccinated millions of Britons with the AstraZeneca jab since late last year.

But the company only began shipping it to the EU in early February, after the bloc’s drug regulator took its time over recommending its use.

The AstraZeneca vaccine has suffered a number of other setbacks — it was temporarily excluded from South Africa’s immunisation campaign because of concern it was less effective towards new virus variants there; and Germany’s vaccine commission recommended it only for people aged 18 to 64 years old.

But more recently, World Health Organization experts recommended it for use on people aged over 65 and in settings where new strains of the virus are circulating.

The shot forms the bulk of doses being rolled out around the world — especially in poorer countries — under the Covax programme.

It has attracted praise for its low cost relative to rivals and its ease of storage — a regular refrigerator can be used.

AstraZeneca said on February 11 its profits doubled in 2020.

Ghana Receives World’s First Doses Of Free Covax Vaccines

Airport workers transport on dollies a shipment of Covid-19 vaccines from the Covax global Covid-19 vaccination programme, at the Kotoka International Airport in Accra on February 24, 2021. PHOTO: NIPAH DENNIS / AFP

 

Ghana on Wednesday became the first country to receive vaccines from Covax, a global scheme to procure and distribute Covid inoculations for free for poorer countries.

Launched last April, Covax said it planned to ship two billion doses by year’s end.

“The next phase in the fight against this disease can begin -– the ramping up of the largest immunisation campaign in history,” UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore declared in a statement.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: Nigeria Records Less Than 700 Cases For Four Consecutive Days

“At last!” World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, whose organisation also backs the Covax initiative, said in a tweet.

“A day to celebrate, but it’s just the first step.”

This photograph taken on February 24, 2021, shows a Covax tag on a shipment of Covid-19 vaccines from the Covax global Covid-19 vaccination programme, at the Kotoka International Airport in Accra. PHOTO: NIPAH DENNIS / AFP

 

The 600,000 doses delivered to Ghana are the Oxford/AstraZeneca formula, made under license by the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, the Serum Institute of India.

They are part of an initial tranche of deliveries headed to several low and middle-income countries.

An Emirates flight carrying the vaccines touched down at Accra’s Kotoka International Airport shortly after 0740 GMT, where a government delegation led by the Minister for Health Designate Kwaku Agyeman Manu received them, in images broadcast on television.

Ghana’s food and drug authority has already authorised the use of the Indian-made vaccines as well as Russia’s Sputnik V, according to local media.

The West African nation has recorded 80,759 Covid-19 cases and 582 deaths since the start of the pandemic, although the true figure is believed to be higher because of lack of testing.

Vaccinations are scheduled to start on Tuesday in Accra, Kumasi, and Obuasi.

They will begin with health workers and other frontline staff, adults over 60, and people with underlying health conditions, Information Minister Kojo Oppong Nkrumah said.

The first who will get the vaccines also include “frontline executive, legislature, judiciary, and their related staff, frontline security personnel, some religious leaders, essential workers, teachers, and other personalities,” he said.

The government said it was making “frantic efforts” to acquire enough vaccines to inoculate all of Ghana’s 30 million people and urged people to take part in the drive.

– New variants –

Covax, led by Gavi the Vaccine Alliance, the WHO and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), had expected the first round of deliveries in March with some early shipments occurring in late February.

For Ghana, it aims to deliver 2,412,000 doses.

Africa has been relatively spared by the pandemic.

It was the last continent except Oceania to reach the threshold of 100,000 deaths, which Europe crossed in April 2020.

To help speed the immunisation of the continent’s 1.3 billion people, the African Union said it had secured 270 million doses of anti-Covid vaccines for delivery this year.

The WHO on Monday accused wealthy countries of hogging Covid vaccines and hindering the pathway for poorer nations to get them too.

The health agency said some rich countries’ direct deals with manufacturers had meant that previously-agreed vaccine allocations for poorer countries, via the Covax programme, were being reduced.

Some 145 participating economies are set to receive 337.2 million doses — enough to vaccinate a little over three per cent of their combined populations.

Covax has said it hopes to raise the figure to up to 27 per cent in lower-income countries by the end of December.

New variants of the virus, including in neighbouring Nigeria, are spreading across the continent with the UK and South African variants recorded in cases in Ghana.

“It is strongly recommended for countries to use the AstraZeneca vaccine even if the… new variants are present,” the WHO said in a statement last week.

In Ghana, schools reopened in January after a 10-month closure, but large social gatherings are banned and land and sea borders have remained closed since March 2020.

Economic growth is expected to have plummeted in 2020 to its lowest in three decades, to 0.9 per cent according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), from 6.5 per cent in 2019.

AFP