Nigeria quits international basketball for two years

By AFP

The Nigerian government on Thursday ordered the country’s basketball teams to pull out of international competitions for two years following a lingering leadership row at the basketball federation.

United States’ Draymond Green (14) shoots against Nigeria’s Ekpe Udoh (8) during an exhibition basketball game Saturday, July 10, 2021, in Las Vegas. / AP

In January, the federation staged two separate elections during which the incumbent Musa Kida emerged as the winner in one, while Igoche Mark was voted through in the other.

“Government intends to utilize this period of the break to address all contentious issues among stakeholders,” said sports minister Sunday Dare in a statement.

The minister said the government would only help develop basketball in a better atmosphere.

He urged players, officials, and fans of the sport to remain calm as the “government embarks on far-reaching initiatives to reposition, sustain and stabilize the game of basketball for growth and success in the long-term interest of the country”.

Nigeria’s markets regulator publishes rules on crypto assets

By CGTN Africa

Automobiles drive past the headquarters of the Nigerian central bank in Abuja, Nigeria, on Friday, Jan. 10, 2020. Revenue in Nigeria has fallen short of the government target by at least 45% every year since 2015, and shortfalls have been funded through increased borrowing. Photographer: KC Nwakalor/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Nigeria’s market regulators published a set of regulations for digital assets, signalling the country is trying to find a middle ground between an outright ban on crypto-assets and their unregulated use.

Nigeria’s Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) published the “New Rules on Issuance, Offering Platforms and Custody of Digital Assets” on its website.

The 54-page document lays out registration requirements for digital assets offerings and custodians and classifies the assets as securities regulated by the SEC.

According to the SEC, no digital assets exchange would be allowed to facilitate the trading of assets unless it had received a ”no objection” ruling from the commission.

A digital assets exchange will be required to pay 30 million naira ($72,289) as a registration fee, among other fees.

The country’s Central Bank last year banned banks and financial institution from dealing in or facilitating transactions in digital currencies.

However, Nigeria’s young, tech-savvy population eagerly adopted cryptocurrencies, for instance, using peer-to-peer trading offered by crypto exchanges to avoid the sector ban.

In October, Nigeria launched a digital currency, the eNaira, in the hope of expanding access to banking. Official digital currencies, unlike cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, are backed and controlled by the central bank.

West Africa nears local vaccine production: official

By XINHUA

CFP Photo

West Africa edges close to starting local vaccine production for various health conditions in the subregion, an official from the West Africa Health Organization (WAHO) said Friday.

Stanley Okolo, the Director-General of WAHO, made the remarks at a press briefing after the 23rd Ordinary Meeting of the Assembly of Economic Community of West African States Health Ministers.

He said that the sub-region would start manufacturing vaccines for health conditions including COVID-19, yellow fever, rabies, and snake bites, to become self-sufficient in vaccine production and availability.

“We brought together five candidate companies whom our assessment shows are close to vaccine manufacturing now in our region. Two of them are from Ghana, two from Nigeria, and one from Senegal,” said Okolo.

In the medium-to-long term, he said the West African region could produce 22 vaccines after strengthening the pharmaceutical industry.

The director-general also noted that WAHO has partnered with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) to develop road-maps for getting pharmaceutical companies onto good manufacturing practice, a system for ensuring that products are consistently produced and controlled according to quality standards.

Cameroon starts nationwide polio immunization

By XINHUA

Map of Cameroon

Cameroon on Friday launched a nationwide polio immunization exercise targeting over 5 million children under the age of five years.

The first phase of the campaign will run from May 16 and the second phase will run from June 10 to 13 in 197 districts of the country, according to officials of the Ministry of Public Health.

Paul Naseri Bea, governor of the Center region, officially launched the exercise in the capital, Yaounde.

“This exercise is important for our children and the future of our country. All parents need to vaccinate their children. A child who does not receive the vaccines exposes himself to diseases,” Bea told reporters.

Throughout the campaign, vaccination officers will move from door to door, to markets, schools and churches administering the novel oral polio vaccine (nOPV2).

The health ministry last year reported the detection of a rare wild poliovirus (type 2) in the country.

Cameroon has since been training health workers on measures to eradicate the disease.

The country was certified polio-free in 2020 by the World Health Organization (WHO) after having reported no indigenous polio cases for 10 years.

Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus that mainly affects children under five years.

The virus is transmitted by the fecal-oral route and by aerosol droplets, according to the WHO.

Africa’s COVID-19 infections top 11.54 million

By Jerry Omondi

CFP Image

The number of COVID-19 infections reported in Africa reached 11,545,490 on Sunday as many countries the continent continue to report reduced new cases.

The latest figure was published by the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, which also noted that the continent has registered a total of 252,626 virus-related fatalities.

Most African countries in the past week continued to report declines in new cases, with some further easing containment measures that have been in place for months.

The Egyptian government has green-lighted a full reopening of mosques as part of the latest easing of COVID-19 restrictions.

Rwanda’s government on its part lifted a mask mandate for people in public.

A few countries have however expressed concerns over possible resurgence of cases as cold seasons creep in.

South Africa, the continent’s hardest-hit country, has particularly seen a slight rise in infections, prompting health authorities to amplify their calls for vigilance against the virus.

Although cases have risen, hospitalization in South Africa remains low, with the number of patients currently admitted testing positive for COVID-19 at around 20 percent of the late December 2021 peak.

According to the World Health Organization, Africa’s past four pandemic waves have occurred around mid and end-year, and mostly driven by new COVID-19 variants, winter seasons and high population movement during these holiday periods.

In 2021, the Delta-fueled mid-year surge began round May and in late November with the emergence of Omicron.

South Africa in new surge of COVID from versions of omicron

By AP

A patient undergoes a nasal swab to check for COVID-19 at a testing center in Soweto, South Africa, Wednesday, May 11, 2022.(AP Photo)

South Africa is experiencing a surge of new COVID-19 cases driven by two omicron sub-variants, according to health experts.

For about three weeks the country has seen increasing numbers of new cases and somewhat higher hospitalizations, but no increases in severe cases and deaths, said Professor Marta Nunes, a researcher at Vaccine and Infectious Diseases Analytics at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto.

“We’re still very early in this increase period, so I don’t want to really call it a wave,” Nunes said. “We are seeing a slight, a small increase in hospitalizations and really very few deaths.”

South Africa’s new cases have gone from an average of 300 per day in early April to about 8,000 per day this week. Nunes says the actual number of new cases is probably much higher because the symptoms are mild and many who get sick are not getting tested.

South Africa’s new surge is from two variations of omicron, BA.4 and BA.5, which appear to be very much like the original strain of omicron that was first identified in South Africa and Botswana late last year and swept around the globe.

“The majority of new cases are from these two strains. They are still omicron … but just genomically somewhat different,” said Nunes. The new versions appear to be able to infect people who have immunity from earlier COVID infections and vaccinations but they cause generally mild disease, she said.

In South Africa, 45 percent of adults are fully vaccinated, although about 85 percent of the population is thought to have some immunity based on past exposure to the virus.

S.Africa’s new COVID cases cross 10,000 for first time since January

Reuters

People sit in line as they wait to register next to the Transvaco coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine train, after South Africa’s rail company Transnet turned the train into a COVID-19 vaccination center on rails to help the government speed up its vaccine rollout in the country’s remote communities, at the Springs train station on the East Rand, South Africa, August 30, 2021. Picture taken August 30, 2021. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases on Wednesday reported 10,017 new COVID-19 cases, the first day since January the institute has reported more than 10,000 new infections.

Health authorities have warned South Africa may be entering a fifth wave of infections driven by the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron sub-variants. 

South Africa has recorded the most coronavirus cases and deaths on the African continent and only exited a fourth wave in January.

Experts had predicted a fifth wave could start during the southern hemisphere winter months, sometime in May or June.

Just under 50% of South Africa’s adult population of roughly 40 million have received at least one dose of COVID vaccine, with 45% of adults fully vaccinated.

The pace of vaccinations has slowed in recent months, with officials warning that shots risk being discarded. 

Initially the vaccination campaign was dogged by difficulties securing early supplies but later by hesitancy.

Bank of Central African States Urges CAR to Annul Bitcoin as Currency

FILE – An advertisement for Bitcoin, one of the cryptocurrencies, is displayed on a building in Hong Kong, Nov. 18, 2021. The Central African Republic, along with El Salvador, has recognized the use of Bitcoin as legal tender.

YAOUNDE, CAMEROON — The Cameroon-headquartered Bank of Central African States (BEAC) has urged the Central African Republic (CAR) to annul a law it passed in late April that made the cryptocurrency Bitcoin legal tender. The bank warned in a letter made public last week that the move breached its rules and could affect monetary stability in the region.

BEAC said the CAR’s decision to make Bitcoin legal tender could compete with the Central African Franc (CFA), the region’s France-backed currency.

A letter from the bank’s governor to the CAR’s finance minister dated April 29, and made public last week, said the move suggests the CAR wants a currency beyond the bank’s control.

The regional bank’s letter goes on to suggest using the cryptocurrency could upset monetary stability in the six-member Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC).

CEMAC members, including the CAR, Cameroon, Chad, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, and the Republic of Congo, use the CFA Franc as currency.

The bank urged the CAR to comply with CEMAC in promoting economic and financial cooperation and avoiding policies that may lead to monetary fluctuations.

But economists note cryptocurrency is growing in popularity and difficult to control.

Financial Capital economist Willy Delort Heubo said Bitcoin transactions have quadrupled in the region in the past three years.

He said the decision by the CAR to adopt Bitcoin as legal tender is a violation of a community pact signed by the six member states of (CEMAC) to protect the economic block’s financial integrity and economic development. However, Heubo said despite the region’s policies against making Bitcoin legal tender, it is very difficult to stop cryptocurrency transactions when people agree to use it as a means of payment.

The BEAC has also expressed concern that cryptocurrencies could make it easier for criminals to launder money and sponsor terrorism or rebellions in the region.

The CAR has been in conflict between rebels and central authorities since 2013. Cameroon is fighting separatists, and Chad is fighting a spreading Islamist insurgency.

Last week, Cameroon’s Employers Union said armed groups in central African countries use Bitcoin to hide their financial transactions. The union said Cameroon in 2021 reported Bitcoin transactions of $260 million – 40% of them to separatists in western regions.

The central African bank said instead of adopting Bitcoin, the CAR should implement CEMAC monetary policies to reduce endemic poverty.

CEMAC economist and consultant David Kunde said if the CAR does not annul the law on Bitcoin, the bank could punish it.

He said when the CAR or any CEMAC member states want to buy from the international market, they rush to the Bank of Central African States for liquidity for their transactions. Kunde said the Bank could withhold the CAR’s reserves if it violates the economic bloc’s laws.

The BEAC declined to answer questions from a reporter on what pressure it might use to get the CAR to annul the Bitcoin law.

The Central African franc (CFA) was pegged to the French franc following agreements signed between Cameroon, Chad, the Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and the Republic of Congo in 1948.

The CEMAC member states agreed to keep at least half of their financial reserves in the French treasury in return for a convertibility guarantee.

Since 1999, the CFA franc has been pegged to the Euro at about 660 CFA francs to one Euro.

https://www.voanews.com/a/bank-of-central-african-states-urges-car-to-annul-bitcoin-as-currency/6567064.html

Ghana records highest inflation rate since 2004

By CGTN Africa

CFP Image

According to the latest statistics, Ghana’s inflation rate reached 23.6 percent in April, the highest since 2004.

Speaking at a regular press conference, the Government Statistician, Samuel Kobina  said that the food inflation increased to 26.6 percent and the non-food inflation increased to 21.3 percent in April.

Providing policy considerations for national and subnational decision-makers, the government statistician revealed that 295 out of the 305 brand items in the inflation basket recorded price increases.

“And 99 of the items recorded higher inflation rates than the national average inflation rate of 23.6 percent,” he added.

The Bank of Ghana, which is mandated to ensure price stability, is set to review the economy and make policy decisions in response to the surging inflation later this month.

‘There’s need for effective regulation in alcohol marketing’:WHO

By CGTN Africa

Globally, 3 million people die each year as a result of harmful use of alcohol – one every 10 seconds – representing about 5 percent of all deaths.

A disproportionate number of these alcohol–related deaths occur among younger people, with 13.5 percent of all deaths among those who are 20–39 years of age being alcohol-related.

According to a new report from the World Health Organization (WHO) there is need for more effective regulation in online marketing techniques for alcohol.

“Alcohol robs young people, their families and societies of their lives and potential,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization. “Yet despite the clear risks to health, controls on the marketing of alcohol are much weaker than for other psychoactive products. Better, well enforced and more consistent regulation of alcohol marketing would both save and improve young lives across the world.”

The report shows that young people and heavy drinkers are increasingly targeted by alcohol advertising, often to the detriment of their health.

While many countries have some form of restrictions on alcohol marketing in place, generally they tend to be relatively weak.

WHO now urges national governments to integrate comprehensive restrictions or bans of alcohol marketing, including its cross-border aspects, into public health strategies.