AFCON 2021: Defending champions Algeria suffer shock defeat to Equatorial Guinea

By David Ochieng Mbewa

Defending Africa Cup of Nations champions Algeria are on the verge of a surprise exit in the group stage after suffering a shock 1-0 defeat to Equatorial Guinea late on Sunday.

Esteban Obiang netted the only goal of the game in the 70th minute as Equatorial Guinea, ranked 114th in the world, pulled off the biggest result of the tournament so far against the continent’s second-ranked team.

Algeria’s reserve bench during the Group E Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 football match between Algeria and Equatorial Guinea at Stade de Japoma in Douala. /Getty Images

Algeria did have the ball in the net twice but the respective efforts by Baghdad Bounedjah and Youcef Belaili were ruled out for offside. Equatorial Guinea also had goalkeeper Jesús Owono to thank for producing a string of saves to deny the pre-tournament favorites.

The defeat sent Algeria to the bottom of Group E on one point with just one game left as the Desert Foxes settled for a goalless draw against Sierra Leone in their first match.

Crucially, it also ended the North African side’s 35-match unbeaten streak which began in 2018. Algeria had been hoping to break Italy’s world record of 37 matches unbeaten.

Algeria now must defeat Côte d’Ivoire in their final group game to have any hope of advancing to the knockout phase.

Meanwhile, Côte d’Ivoire missed the chance to secure automatic qualification for the knockout phase after conceding a dramatic late equalizer in a 2-2 draw with Sierra Leone.

Côte d’Ivoire missed a chance to take an early lead after Sierra Leone goalkeeper Mohamed Kamara, hero of the previous match against Algeria, kept out Franck Kessié’s penalty in the 12th minute.

Côte d’Ivoire did take the lead, eventually, as Sébastien Haller netted the opener from close range after being set up by Wilfried Zaha.

However, Sierra Leone leveled the tie 10 minutes into the second half as Musa Kamara expertly controlled the ball and fired a left-footed shot high into the net.

Nicolas Pépé restored Côte d’Ivoire’s lead in the 65th minute with a low curling finish from just inside the penalty box.

With the game seemingly won, Côte d’Ivoire goalkeeper Badra Ali Sangaré had a moment of madness in which he spilled a headed-back pass back into play allowing Steven Caulker to pick out Alhadji Kamara who squeezed the ball into the net in the third minute of added time in the second half.

Côte d’Ivoire defender Serge Aurier was then forced to go in goal for the final minutes with Sangaré injured but no further goals were scored.

Côte d’Ivoire leads Group E with four points followed by Equatorial Guinea on three points while Sierra Leone is third with two points and Algeria has one point.

(Story compiled with assistance from wire reports)

Tanzania, Burundi ink deal for $900 million rail link

By CGTN Africa

Finance ministers from Tanzania and Burundi have signed an agreement for the construction of a 900 million U.S. dollar railway aimed at boosting trade between the East African neighbors. The deal was inked in the western Tanzanian town of Kigoma on Sunday.

The 282-kilometer line will connect Burundi’s official capital Gitega with the western Tanzanian town of Uvinza. Tanzania’s finance ministry says the two countries will seek to jointly finance the railway, adding that total construction costs would not likely exceed $900 million.

Tanzania boasts of massive seaports and constitutes a crucial trade link for landlocked neighboring countries like Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo, which planners are working to connect to the Indian Ocean port of Dar es Salaam via a standard-gauge railway line currently under construction.

Botswana to start COVID-19 vaccine booster jab

By XINHUA

A man receives the COVID-19 vaccine at a drive-through COVID-19 vaccination site in Gaborone, Botswana, October 12, 2021. (Xinhua)

Botswana will start offering booster shots of five different COVID-19 vaccines from Monday, Botswana’s Ministry of Health and Wellness announced in a statement.

Those who have received their last dose at least two months prior and ideally within six months of their original shot automatically qualify for booster shots of Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD and Sinovac, read the statement released Friday.

According to the statement, this follows the approval of the booster shots of all the five different COVID-19 vaccines by the southern African country’s medicinal regulator, Botswana Medicines Regulatory Authority (BoMRA).

Shirley Mukamambo, the principal public relations officer with Botswana’s Ministry of Health and Wellness, told Xinhua in a telephone interview Sunday that everyone who has been fully vaccinated “must get a booster dose of a vaccine which he or she was vaccinated with.”

“Booster doses are meant to increase immunity that in case one is infected by COVID-19 or variant must not suffer severe symptoms that may lead to hospitalization or death,” said Mukamambo.

Botswana has recorded 237,678 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 2,514 related deaths since the first detection of the pandemic in March 2020, according to the ministry.

By the end of December 2021, at least 1.03 million people of the country had been fully vaccinated, exceeding the targeted population, said Makumambo.

Mixed results for African sides in U19 Cricket World Cup opening matches

By David Ochieng Mbewa

The 14th edition of the U19 ICC Cricket World Cup which kicked off on Friday in the West Indies saw Africa’s representatives register mixed results.

The only one of the three sides from the continent to pick up a victory was Zimbabwe who dismissed Papua New Guinea for 93 to claim a 228-run win at Queen’s Park Oval.

FILE PHOTO: A cricket ball is seen lying on a pitch. /CFP

The remaining two sides, South Africa and Uganda, suffered 45-run and 39-run defeats to India and Ireland, respectively.

Zimbabwe currently tops Group C with two points, ahead of Afghanistan and Pakistan, who are yet to play each other, and Papua New Guinea.

Zimbabwe is due to face Pakistan on Monday at the Diego Martin Sporting Complex in Diego Martin.

Meanwhile, Uganda and South Africa, who are in the same group, Group B, are third and fourth, respectively, behind India and Ireland.

Uganda will next play South Africa, winners of the competition in 2014, at Queen’s Park Oval in Port of Spain on Tuesday.

The top two teams from each of the four groups will advance to the Super League stage while the remaining teams will battle it out in the Plate tournament.

The Super League will take place from January 26 in Antigua and Barbuda while the Plate tournament will take place in Trinidad and Tobago from January 25-31.

The semifinals will be hosted by the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Ground and Coolidge Cricket Ground on February 1 and 2 while the final will be held at the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Ground on February 5.

Egypt unearths remains of two ancient royal statues in Luxor

By XINHUA

Royal mummy of Amenhotep I, the second pharaoh of the 18th dynasty, in April 2006, at Cairo Museum, Egypt. Statues belonging to his descendent, Amenhotep III, were found in Luxor in January 2021. (Photo by Patrick Landmann/Getty Images)

The stone remains of two ancient royal statues and colorful walls and columns were unearthed in Egypt’s monument-rich city of Luxor, the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities said in a statement on Thursday.

The new discovery was made by the Egyptian-German archeological mission during the restoration work of the Mortuary Temple of Amenhotep III on the western bank of the Nile River.

“The mission discovered limestone parts of two sphinx-shaped statues of Amenhotep III dated back to the 18th Dynasty in the New Kingdom. The two statues have mongoose head, royal beard and necklace,” said the statement.

The name of Amenhotep III was written on the chest area of the two statutes.

Three semi-statues made of black granite for Sekhmet, warrior goddess as well as the goddess of healing were also found, it added.

In addition, the mission uncovered walls with colorful inscriptions about festivals of love and some bases of the temple’s columns.

AFCON 2021: Nigeria qualifies for last 16, Salah earns Egypt first victory

By David Ochieng Mbewa

Nigeria sealed their place in the Round of 16 at this year’s Africa Cup of Nations after defeating Sudan 3-1 at the Stade Omnisport Roumdé Adjia in Garoua on Saturday.

The Super Eagles put in a dominant performance and cruised into a 2-0 lead at halftime courtesy of goals from Samuel Chukwueze and Taiwo Awoniyi.

FILE PHOTO: Nigeria celebrates a goal during a 2021 Africa Cup of Nations Afcon Finals match in Garoua, Cameroon. /CFP

Nigeria extended its lead shortly after the restart when Moses Simon combined with Awoniyi to slid the ball into the net.

Sudan grabbed a consolation after Walieldin Khidir converted a penalty which was awarded by referee Victor Gomes for a foul by Ola Aina.

This was the first time that Nigeria had won their opening Africa Cup of Nations games in consecutive tournaments, and it left them top of Group D with six points from two matches.

Meanwhile, seven-time champions Egypt bounced back from their loss in the opening game against Nigeria with a narrow 1-0 win against Guinea Bissau.

Captain Mohamed Salah scored the only goal of the game volleying in a cross from Amr El Solia in the 69th minute.

Victory saw Egypt leapfrog their opponents into second place with three points while Guinea Bissau is third with one point.

The final group matches will take place concurrently on January 19 with Egypt facing Sudan and Nigeria taking on Guinea Bissau.

(Story compiled with assistance from wire reports)

COVID-19 program delivers one billion doses to poorer countries

By AP

A shipment of COVID-19 vaccines distributed by the COVAX Facility arrives in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Friday, Feb. 25, 2021. (AP Photo)

The World Health Organization said Sunday that a United Nations backed program shipping coronavirus vaccines to many poor countries has now delivered one billion doses, but that milestone “is only a reminder of the work that remains” after hoarding and stockpiling in rich countries.

A shipment of 1.1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to Rwanda on Saturday included the billionth dose supplied via the COVAX program, the UN health agency said.

WHO has long criticized the unequal distribution of vaccines and called for manufacturers and other countries to prioritize COVAX. It said that, as of Thursday, 36 of its 194 member countries had vaccinated less than 10% of their population and 88 had vaccinated less than 40%.

The program has made deliveries to 144 countries so far, “but the work that has gone into this milestone is only a reminder of the work that remains,” WHO said in a statement.“COVAX’s ambition was compromised by hoarding/stockpiling in rich countries, catastrophic outbreaks leading to borders and supply being locked,” it added. “And a lack of sharing of licenses, technology and know-how by pharmaceutical companies meant manufacturing capacity went unused.”

Zimbabwe extends national COVID-19 lockdown, delays opening of schools

By David Ochieng Mbewa

The Zimbabwean government extended the national lockdown in the country by a further two weeks and also delayed the opening of schools by a week as the country battles against a fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a government notice, the one-week period is aimed at giving schools time to put in place preventive public health measures depending on the existing COVID-19 situation at that time.

FILE PHOTO: A student gets her temperature taken before entering a school in Harare, Zimbabwe. /Getty Images

Other measures in the notice include a directive that teachers and students must wear face masks while in class and teachers and students who are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine should get the jab before schools open.

Authorities were also ordered to conduct regular inspections of learning institutions at least once a week to assess their compliance with the regulations.

Earlier this month, the government postponed the reopening of schools, with the exception of examination classes, due to a surge COVID-19 cases.

Zimbabwe has so far reported 225,637 confirmed COVID-19 cases, 20,993 recoveries and 5,238 deaths.

(Story compiled with assistance from wire reports)

AFCON 2021: Senegal, Guinea play out goalless draw, Zimbabwe eliminated

By David Ochieng Mbewa

Senegal and Guinea kept alive their hopes of automatically qualifying for the Round of 16 of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations despite a goalless draw in their Group B match at the Kouekong Stadium in Bafoussam on Friday.

In a game in which possession was almost evenly shared and chances were far and few between, Senegal duo Bouna Sarr and Abdou Diallo were guilty of missing gilt-edged chances to score and give the 2019 runners-up a win that would more or less have secured passage to the knockout stages.

Diallo also had a strong header saved by Guinean stopper Aly Keita as Senegal applied pressure on Guinea with a series of set-pieces.

Guinea also had a glorious chance to break the deadlock before that when Ilaix Moriba set up Morgan Guilavogui at close range, but Senegalese goalkeeper Seny Dieng did well to keep out his effort.

The group’s other game saw Zimbabwe crash out of the tournament following a 2-1 loss to Malawi.

Gabadinho Mhango scored twice in the 43rd and 58th minutes as Malawi came from a goal down to stun The Warriors and snap a five-game losing streak.

Ishamel Wadi had opened the scoring for Zimbabwe who have now failed to win a competitive match in 13 attempts, losing nine of those fixtures.

Zimbabwe will hope to salvage some pride in their final group game against Guinea while Malawi will hope to secure passage into the knockout phase for the first time in three attempts albeit in a difficult encounter against Africa’s top-ranked side, Senegal.

(Story compiled with assistance from wire reports)

WHO says slow vaccinations limit Africa’s chances of stopping the emergence of new COVID-19 variants

By Jerry Omondi

People line up to be tested for the new crown virus at the Windhoek Center in Namibia. /CFP

Africa’s chances of limiting the emergence and impact of new COVID-19 variants remain low as the continent continues to grapple with low vaccination numbers, according to Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa.

Moeti sounded the warning on Thursday at a media briefing on the continent’s COVID-19 situation.

“This year should mark a turning point in Africa’s COVID-19 vaccination drive. With vast swaths of the population still unvaccinated, our chances of limiting the emergence and impact of deadly variants are frighteningly slim,” said Dr. Moeti.

“We have the know-how and the tools and with a concerted push we can certainly tip the balance against the pandemic,” she added.

According to the WHO, more than 85 percent of people in Africa are yet to receive a single dose of COVID-19 vaccines and just around 10 percent of the continent’s population has been fully vaccinated.

African countries form the majority of the 90 nations globally that have still not reached the WHO end-2021 target of vaccinating at least 40 percent of their populations.

The continent’s vaccination drive was hampered by the slow arrival of vaccine doses in the first half of last year. The latter half saw more batches arrive, but inoculation numbers remain much lower compared to other regions.

In her briefing, however, Dr Moeti pointed out that while Africa’s fourth pandemic wave is flattening, the continent still needs to continue with pandemic countermeasures.

So far, Africa has reported 10,066,092 COVID-19 infections with 231,445 fatalities, according to data from the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.