The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Thursday warned that coronavirus could further weaken sub-Saharan Africa’s ability to adapt to climate change, as measures to contain the pandemic stretch limited resources.
A recent study on the impact of rising temperatures and extreme weather events on growth suggests sub-Saharan Africa — the region most vulnerable to climate change — will be hit 60 percent harder than the average for other emerging markets and developing economies.
Details of the analysis show that economic activity in the region can shrink by one percent in a month when that month’s average temperature is 0.5 degrees Celsius (0.9 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than average.
The IMF, which released the study on Thursday, called on policymakers not to sideline responses to climate change in dealing with coronavirus.
“Containing and managing the COVID-19 pandemic is taking a toll on already limited fiscal space and raising debt vulnerabilities in sub-Saharan Africa,” said the report, adding that coronavirus funding could also be used to “simultaneously address climate change”.
The IMF pointed to “intrinsic links” between viral outbreaks, environmental destruction and man-made pollution that weakens humans’ immune systems.
“Adaptation to climate change would also benefit other development areas, such as resilience to pandemics, and ultimately boost growth,” it added.
According to the report, adapting to climate change would cost sub-Saharan Africa between $30 and $50 billion (26.6-44.4 billion euros) per year for the next decade — the equivalent of around two to three percent of the region’s GDP.
The Fund said international support would be “paramount” but also noted that pre-emptive adaptation measures remained less costly than post-disaster relief.
Sub-Saharan Africa has so far lagged behind the global curve for coronavirus infections and deaths, although the number of cases continues to rise steadily across the region.
The continent has recorded more than 163,000 infections and at least 4,600 fatalities to date, according to an AFP tally.
But experts believe those figures could be underestimated due to inadequate testing.
There are also fears poor sanitation and weak healthcare systems could hamper any response to the full-blown outbreak.
The number of deaths from AIDS-related illnesses in sub-Saharan Africa could double if the provision of healthcare to HIV sufferers is disrupted during the coronavirus crisis, the United Nations said Monday.
A six-month disruption of antiretroviral therapy due to the COVID-19 pandemic could lead to more than 500,000 extra deaths in the region in 2020-2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UNAIDS said in a joint statement.
In 2018 — the latest figures given — an estimated 470,000 people died of AIDS-related deaths in sub-Saharan Africa.
The two UN bodies warned of the impact if HIV services are closed, supply chains interrupted, or healthcare services overwhelmed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Modelling conducted for the agencies said a six-month disruption in HIV healthcare services could turn the clock back to 2008, when more than 950,000 AIDS-related deaths were recorded in the region.
“The terrible prospect of half a million more people in Africa dying of AIDS-related illnesses is like stepping back into history,” said WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
The knock-on effects would see people continue to die in excess numbers over the following five years, the statement said.
In sub-Saharan Africa in 2018, an estimated 25.7 million people were living with HIV, of whom 16.4 million were taking antiretroviral therapy.
Tedros said some countries were already implementing measures such as ensuring people can collect bulk packs of treatment and self-testing kits.
“We must also ensure that global supplies of tests and treatments continue to flow to the countries that need them,” he added.
– ‘Needless deaths’ –
Five teams of modellers used different approaches to work out the effects of possible disruptions to testing, prevention and treatment services caused by COVID-19.
With a six-month disruption, estimates of excess AIDS-related deaths in one year ranged from 471,000 to 673,000.
Disrupted services could also reverse gains made in preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV, the agencies said.
HIV infections among children in sub-Saharan Africa have declined by 43 percent from 250,000 in 2010 to 140,000 in 2018.
Curtailment of HIV services for mothers and their children could see new child HIV infections rise by as much as 37 percent in Mozambique, 78 percent in Malawi and Zimbabwe, and 104 percent in Uganda, the modelling found.
“There is a risk that the hard-earned gains of the AIDS response will be sacrificed to the fight against COVID-19,” said UNAIDS executive director Winnie Byanyima.
“We cannot sit by and allow hundreds of thousands of people, many of them young, to die needless deaths.
“I urge governments to ensure that every man, women and child living with HIV get regular supplies of antiretroviral therapy — something that’s literally a life-saver.”
Since the first cases of HIV were reported more than 35 years ago, 78 million people have become infected with HIV and 35 million have died from AIDS-related illnesses, said UNAIDS.
The International Monetary Fund and World Bank on Wednesday called for governments to put a hold on debt payments from the world’s poorest nations so they can battle the coronavirus pandemic.
“The World Bank Group and the IMF believe it is imperative at this moment to provide a global sense of relief for developing countries as well as a strong signal to financial markets,” the Washington-based development lenders said in a joint statement.
The move aims to help countries that are home to two-thirds of the world’s population living in extreme poverty — largely in sub-Saharan Africa — and qualify for the most generous, low-cost loans from the International Development Association (IDA) financed by wealthier nations.
“The coronavirus outbreak is likely to have severe economic and social consequences for IDA countries” which will face “immediate liquidity needs to tackle challenges posed by the coronavirus outbreak,” the organization said.
The IMF and World Bank called on the Group of 20 nations to support the initiative for “all official bilateral creditors to suspend debt payments from IDA countries that request forbearance.”
In addition, the institutions called for an analysis of the financing needs these countries will face, and whether their total debt load is sustainable.
Part of the World Bank, the IDA is one of the largest sources of assistance for the world’s 76 poorest countries, providing zero or low interest loans spread over 30 years or more, and grants to some distressed nations.
In the fiscal year ending June 30, 2019, IDA commitments totaled $22 billion, of which 36 percent was provided on grant terms, according to the World Bank.
Sub-Saharan Africa has recorded its first COVID-19 death, a high-ranking politician in Burkina Faso, as the head of the World Health Organisation urged the continent to “prepare for the worst”.
“Africa should wake up,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news conference in Geneva on Wednesday, pointing out that “in other countries, we have seen how the virus actually accelerates after a certain tipping point”.
Africa has lagged behind the global curve for coronavirus infections and deaths, but in the past few days has seen a significant rise in cases.
Experts have repeatedly warned about the perils for the continent, given its weak health infrastructure, poverty, conflicts, poor sanitation, and urban crowding.
Medical authorities in the poor Sahel state of Burkina Faso announced Wednesday that the number of infections there had risen by seven to 27 — and that one of them, a 62-year-old diabetic woman, had died overnight.
The country’s main opposition party, the Union for Progress and Change (UPC), said in a statement that the victim was its lawmaker Rose-Marie Compaore, the first vice president of the parliament.
South Africa, the continent’s most industrialised economy, reported a more than one-third jump in cases, with 31 new infections bringing its tally to 116.
Nearby Zambia announced its first two confirmed cases — a couple that returned to the capital Lusaka from a 10-day holiday in France.
As of Wednesday, a tally of reported cases compiled by AFP stood at more than 600 for all of Africa.
Of these, 16 cases have been fatal: six in Egypt, six in Algeria, two in Morocco, one in Sudan and one in Burkina Faso.
Those figures are relatively small compared to the rest of the world — the global death toll has passed 8,800 with almost 210,000 total infections.
WHO chief Tedros said sub-Saharan Africa had recorded 233 infections, but warned the official numbers likely did not reflect the full picture.
“Probably we have undetected cases or unreported cases,” he said.
– ‘We live day-to-day’ – Watching from afar as the disaster unfolds in Asia and Europe, some African countries have wasted little time in ordering drastic measures.
Air traffic has been particularly hard hit, as many of Africa’s initial cases were detected in people who had returned from affected countries in Europe and the Middle East.
Some countries, such as Somalia, Chad, Guinea-Bissau and, most recently, the island of Madagascar have moved to stop all flights into their countries.
On Wednesday, Cape Verde — a tropical archipelago off Africa’s west coast that is heavily dependent on tourism — and the continent’s most populous nation, Nigeria, joined others in banning flights from the countries most affected by coronavirus.
Burkina Faso has ordered the closure of all schools and barred all public and private gatherings until the end of April.
There was concern on the unusually quiet streets of the capital Ouagadougou on Wednesday.
“It’s worrying what is happening with this virus, but we cannot barricade ourselves like developed countries. We lack everything here — we live day-to-day,” said bicycle seller Boureima Baguian.
“We cannot, for example, close the big market. If that happens, it’s not the coronavirus that will kill us but misery and hunger.”
The Democratic Republic of Congo announced similar measures as it reported its first local case, banning flights from affected countries and closing schools and universities for four weeks.
South Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa’s worst-hit country, has banned cruise ships from its ports. More than 1,700 people are stranded on a liner off Cape Town over fears that some have the virus.
It is just the latest blow to tourism across the continent, with coronavirus fears also cancelling sporting, cultural and religious events.
Christian and Muslim leaders in Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, and Senegal said they would suspend services to protect their faithful.
– ‘Disease hot spot’ – A 2016 analysis by the Rand Corporation, a US think-tank, found that of the 25 countries in the world that were most vulnerable to infectious outbreaks, 22 were in Africa — the others were Afghanistan, Yemen, and Haiti.
The report identified a “disease hotspot belt” extending across the southern rim of the Sahara through the Sahel to the Horn of Africa, where many countries are struggling with conflicts.
“Were a communicable disease to emerge within this chain of countries, it could easily spread across borders in all directions, abetted by high overall vulnerability and a string of weak national health systems along the way,” the report warned.
Tedros recommended that mass gatherings be avoided, urging Africa to “cut it from the bud, expecting that the worst can happen”.
“The best advice for Africa is to prepare for the worst and prepare today,” he said.
A boat carrying around 70 migrants from sub-Saharan Africa has sunk in the Mediterranean, leaving three people dead and dozens missing, Tunisian officials said on Friday.
The bodies of three people who drowned in the incident were found Friday, a spokesman for the Tunisian defence ministry said, adding the boat left Zuwara on the northwestern Libyan coast on Thursday.
A fishing boat picked up 16 survivors, who were transferred on board one of three military vessels involved in the search and rescue operation, said spokesman Mohamed Zekri.
A Maltese helicopter was also mobilised, he said.
According to those rescued, between 60 to 70 people from sub-Saharan Africa were thought to be on board, Zekri added.
Interior ministry spokesman Sofiene Zaag said however around 75 people were believed to have been on board the Italy-bound boat when it left Libya.
The Red Crescent said there could have been as many as 90 passengers on board the ill-fated vessel, which could indicate a much steeper death toll.
“We will probably never know the exact number of those who died,” said Mongi Slim, a Red Crescent official in the southern Tunisian town of Zarzis, where those rescued were taken.
Italy’s far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has vowed to close the country’s ports to migrants, although earlier Friday dozens who had been rescued at sea disembarked in Sicily.
Rome’s populist government has taken an increasingly hard line on migration, and Salvini, head of the anti-immigrant League party, last month signed a new directive banning charity vessels from rescuing migrants off Libya.
‘World’s deadliest sea crossing’
The UN agency for refugees UNHCR meanwhile called for stepped up search and rescue operations to avoid future tragedies in the Mediterranean, which it calls the “world’s deadliest sea crossing”.
“Across the region we need to strengthen the capacity of search and rescue operations,” said Vincent Cochetel, the agency’s special envoy for the Mediterranean.
“If we don’t act now, we’re almost certain to see more tragic events in the coming weeks and months,” he warned.
According to the UNHCR, the journey across the Mediterranean “is becoming increasingly fatal for those who risk it”.
“In the first four months of this year, one person has died (crossing the Mediterranean) for every three that have reached European shores, after departing from Libya,” it said.
That is up from last year’s toll of one person in 14, according to the UN refugee agency.
Libya, which has been wracked by chaos since the 2011 uprising that killed veteran dictator Moamer Kadhafi, has long been a major transit route for people desperate to reach Europe.
Over the past week, and despite a surge in violence following the launch of an assault on Tripoli by strongman Khalifa Haftar, Libyan authorities have rescued hundreds of migrants stranded at sea.
According to the International Organization for Migration, 101 migrants were returned to Libya on Friday, two days after Libyan coastguard intercepted boats.
The UN and rights groups have repeatedly decried the conditions in which migrants are held in Libya, where around 6,000 migrants are at detention centres, according to the IOM.
The Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights NGO has denounced what it said were the European Union’s “restrictive and inhumane policies” which it said led to the latest “human tragedy”.
Sub-Saharan Africa has received a “negative outlook” for 2018 from one of the world’s top rating agencies, Moody’s Investor Services.
In a report released on Monday, Moody’s says the negative outlook reflects the region’s subdued growth recovery, fiscal challenges and higher political risks.
Although Moody’s sees higher and more stable global growth in the New Year, it says Africa will get limited benefits of that because commodity prices are still low, in addition to domestic structural bottlenecks.
The agency, however, notes that regional GDP growth is expected to move up slightly to 3.5 per cent in 2018 with high currency and refinancing risks.
Moody’s rating overview shows nine out of 20 sub-Saharan sovereigns in “negative outlook” as at January 18, 2018.
The Nigerian government is making efforts to plug all revenue leakages in the operations of the nation’s ports, the Managing Director of the Nigeria Ports Authority, Hadiza Usman, said on Friday.
She made the remark during a tour of the ports in Port Harcourt and Onne in Rivers State, southern Nigeria.
According to the managing director, the era of operational lapses at the expense of revenue due to the government is over.
It was her first official visit to the sea port in Onne and she met with the members of the executives for an operational and assessment tour of the two sea ports.
In a separate meeting with members of the executives at Onne Port, the manager of the port, Mr Alhassan Abubakar, rolled out the challenges faced by personnel especially in the area of welfare.
Ms Hadiza Usman assured them that welfare of staff was a priority for her administration.
She told Channels Television that steps had been taken to ensure all revenue leakages were blocked and duly paid to the consolidated revenue account.
“One of the things we are doing in Onne Port is to ensure that all revenue due to the Federal Government is duly paid. We have developed a payment system that will guard against leakages,” she explained.
The General Manager of eastern ports of the Nigerian Ports Authority, Abdullahi Goje, hinted that the port was sitting on a land area of over 2,539 hectares and still expanding and was home of the nation’s oil and gas free zone, regarded as the fastest growing in Sub-Saharan Africa, with over 200 companies operating within the port.
At the end of the tour, the Managing Director of the Nigeria Ports Authority addressed journalists on the need to review the lease and concession agreements with operators to ensure the area is put to maximum use for the benefit of business and the economy.
President Muhammadu Buhari has felicitated with distinguished businesswoman, banker, economist and accountant, Otunba Ayora (Dr.) Bola Kuforiji-Olubi, OON, who recently clocked 80.
The President recalled the former minister’s decades of distinguished career in the private and public sectors of national life.
He noted that the contributions of the first female chairman of one of the first generation banks in Nigeria, UBA, would remain inspiring to the younger generation.
“It is not surprising that she is a proud and well-deserved recipient of the National Honour, fellowships, awards and honorary degrees from within and outside the country,” he said.
President Buhari particularly expressed delight that the economist had remained a pace-setter and leader in banking, manufacturing and entrepreneurship not only in Nigeria, but also in Sub-Saharan Africa.
He noted that God has been kind to her and prayed for continued health as well as longer life for the octogenarian, author and philanthropist to “enable the nation and humanity benefit from her wisdom and wealth of experience”.
Global rights group, Amnesty International has called for the abolition of death penalty in Nigeria.
The Country Director of Amnesty International, Mr Mohammed Ibrahim, on Wednesday, sought the abolition of death penalty laws in the country.
Speaking at a news conference in Abuja, Mr Ibrahim said, “The issue of death penalty is a constitutional matter which calls for the concern of all Nigerians irrespective of religious or economic status.”
He expressed concern that 10 states have so far signed the death penalty bill on kidnappings.
“Amnesty International Nigeria is worried about the growing number of state assemblies passing bills imposing death penalty for kidnapping and related offences.
“There are currently about 10 states in Nigeria, which had either passed a bill in the assemblies imposing the death penalty for kidnapping or in the process of passing such bills,” he said.
Thankgod Ebhos, who had been convicted to death, narrated what he went through for 19 years.
“I went to gallow to be executed along with four others. While in the gallow room, they hung four persons waiting for my turn, before they said no.
“The prison staff insisted that nobody from the gallow room has ever left there alive.
“Many of the prisoners are there because they don’t have lawyer or they don’t have people to ask of them,” he said.
An Aide to the Minister of Justice, Sylvester Imanobe, gave the Federal Government’s position on the matter.
“Nigeria is certainly moving towards the reformist philosophy of administration of criminal justice, that is why you find out that a renewed administration of criminal justice of 2015 laid emphasis on non custodial punishment.
“We are even moving faster from death penalty to discourage non-prison terms,” he said.
Death sentences in the sub-Saharan Africa fell from 909 in 2014 to 443 in 2015 mainly due to a decrease by Nigeria.
The Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Christine Lagarde, has arrived Nigeria for a four-day official visit during which she will meet President Muhammadu Buhari.
The meeting is expected to help strengthen the IMF’s partnership with the largest economy in Africa and to discuss how to address Nigeria’s economic challenges and the impact of low oil prices.
According to a statement by the IMF, “Mrs Lagarde believes that Nigeria is working hard to improve its business environment, promote opportunities for growth in the private sector and strengthen social cohesion and all areas where government has an important role to play.”
The IMF Managing Director, who arrived in Abuja at about 3:00PM, was received by the Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun; the Governor of Central Bank, Mr Godwin Emefiele and staff of the IMF at the Presidential Wing of the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja.
Mrs Legarde is expected to also meet with principal officers of the National Assembly, business leaders, prominent women and representatives of Civil Society Organisations.
The Nigerian Academy of Education has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to critically look into Nigeria’s dwindling education system with a view to improving on its standards.
The agency identified the alleged fallen standard of education in Nigeria and Sub-Saharan Africa as being responsible for the under-development of the region.
This was the submission of participants at the 30th annual congress of the Nigerian Academy of Education held in Kaduna State, North-West Nigeria.
The Vice Chancellor of National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), Professor Vincent Tenebe, said “without quality teachers, there is no future for Nigeria because teachers are the bedrock of any development in the society”.
According to him, education was the mother of all arts, maintaining that teachers today should be one of the well paid in the country because if they were paid well, they will produce the best.
The academic stressed that in situations where reverse was the case, it would amount to a case of garbage-in garbage-out.
The Guest Speaker, Professor Olugbemiro Jegede, decried that over 29 million primary school age children were not in school in Sub- Saharan Africa.
He identified some of the factors responsible for the low quality of education in Nigeria to include, depreciating quality of teachers, deficiency in research and capacity, inadequate teaching facilities and lack of regional quality assurance framework among others.
Professor Jegede called on President Buhari to appoint an educationist as Minister of Education.
The President of the academy, Professor Uduogie Ivowi, highlighted that there were strong recommendations that needed to be looked into to raise the falling standard of education in the country.
He observed that although there were several challenges confronting the sector ranging from lack of qualitative teachers to funding among others, if the facilities were provided, the standard of education would definitely improve.
Other participants at the event attributed the poor academic standard in public schools and lack of skilled teachers to poor funding of the education sector in the country.