Africa’s COVID-19 infections top 8.42 million mark

By Jerry Omondi

A Kenyan man receives a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at Makongeni Estate in Nairobi, Kenya Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021.(Photo by Brian Inganga via CFP)

The number of COVID-19 infections in Africa surpassed the 8.42 million mark ok Sunday as the some countries on the continent continue to see declines in new daily cases.

According to the latest data from the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), the continent has so far registered 8,426,107 confirmed cases with 215,467 fatalities.

South Africa remains to be the hardest-hit country by the pandemic in Africa, with 2,916,179 infections and 88,587 deaths.

Only two other countries on the continent have reported more than half a million confirmed cases; Morocco (941,863) and Tunisia (710,773).

Various countries on the continent have rolled out mass vaccination drives in efforts to contain further spread of the virus.

Having struggled to obtain the vital jabs earlier in the year, more doses started streaming in over the past two months, enabling faster vaccinations.

These vaccination drives have been supported by various government-imposed containment measures, including nighttime curfews, bans on public gatherings, closures of public leisure facilities and the mandatory wearing of face masks.

The Africa CDC data also showed that some 7,801,688 recoveries have been recorded.

Three new Ebola cases confirmed in eastern Congo

By CGTN Africa

Three new Ebola cases have been confirmed in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, bringing the total to five in the last 10 days, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday.

Health officials have said the latest flare-up of the virus appeared to be linked to the massive 2018-20 outbreak, which killed more than 2,200 people and infected more than 1,000 others.

The cases were detected on Saturday in the health district of Butsili, close to the city of Beni where the last outbreak was centered, the WHO said in a statement. Three people out of the five confirmed cases have died.

Flare-ups after a major Ebola outbreak can be caused by latent infections that linger in the semen of survivors. Another cluster of cases linked to the 2018-20 epidemic broke out in February and was contained by May after six deaths.

Vaccines have been a game-changer in containing recent outbreaks more quickly. Last week medics began vaccinating contacts of the cases using a shot manufactured by Merck. It is one of two available Ebola vaccines, the other made by Johnson & Johnson.

DR Congo to set up new national airline “Air Congo”

By XINHUA

A view of Kinshasa International Airport in the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). (Creative Commons / Petter Lundkvist)

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is preparing to set up “in the coming days” a new national aviation company called “Air Congo”, DRC’s Ministry of Transport said Sunday.

The new airline “will have to be born in the coming days in the DRC with quality aircraft”, thanks to a partnership with Ethiopian Airlines, the ministry said on its Twitter account, adding that Ethiopian Airlines will hand over “at least seven planes to the DRC as part of a joint venture”.

The upcoming acquisition of these aircraft is the result of a memorandum of understanding signed in September 2021 in Addis Ababa between the DRC and Ethiopian Airlines, a joint venture in which the DRC would hold 51 percent of the shares against 49 percent for the Ethiopian company.

“The opening up of the national territory is the essential basis for economic and social development, in particular through the upgrading of air transport in optimal conditions of safety and security. It is in this context that I place my partnership strategy with Ethiopian Airlines,” Cherubin Okende Senga said in September in Addis Ababa.

Congo Airways currently serves as DRC’s main public airline and is DRC’s state-owned flag carrier airline. With a paid-up capital of 90 million dollars, it started operations in October 2015, using two Airbus A320 aircraft acquired from Alitalia.

Congo Airways, now with a fleet of four aircraft, also offered regional flights to Johannesburg, Douala and Cotonou.

African foundation hails China’s pledge to support biodiversity conservation

By XINHUA

A visitor enjoys a seed display during the UN biodiversity conference COP15 in Kunming, southwest China’s Yunnan Province. Yang Jinghao/CGTN

China’s financial pledge to support biodiversity conservation in developing countries illustrates its commitment to promoting planetary health, the Nairobi-based African Wildlife Foundation said in a statement.

During the 15th meeting of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, or COP15, in Kunming, the capital of southwest Yunnan Province, China announced an initiative to establish a biodiversity fund and took the lead by investing 1.5 billion yuan (233 million U.S. dollars) to support biodiversity protection in developing countries.

“This commitment, alongside those made by other stakeholders, is the start of a resource mobilization drive necessary to meet the annual global biodiversity financing gap,” said the foundation’s CEO Kaddu Sebunya in the statement late Friday.

The China-initiated Kunming Biodiversity Fund will boost the implementation of the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, Sebunya noted, adding that the Chinese concept of ecological civilization will have a positive impact on global efforts to ensure that economic development remains in harmony with nature.

Kenya’s Rotich, Ethiopian Memuye win Paris Marathon

By CGTN Africa

Kenyan Elisha Rotich and Ethiopian Tigist Memuye, winners of the Paris marathon, on October 17, 2021, surrounded, from left to right, by Ethiopian Yenenesh Dinkesa (finish 2nd), Ethiopian Hailemaryam Kiros (2nd), Kenyan Hillary Kipsambu (3rd) and Ethiopian Fantu Jimma (3rd). / AFP

Kenya’s Elisha Rotich won the men’s race and Ethiopia’s Tigist Memuye topped the women’s podium at the Paris Marathon on Sunday.

Rotich set a course record as he crossed the line in two hours four minutes 21 seconds to finish ahead of Ethiopia’s Hailemaryam Kiros.

The 31-year-old Kenyan took nearly a minute off his personal best and broke Kenenisa Bekele’s seven-year course record of 2:05:04 as he picked up pace after the 25-kilometer mark.

Kenya’s Hillary Kipsambu came third after slipping two spots in the final stages of the race.

In the women’s race, Memuye ran a time of two hours 26 minutes and 12 seconds after a late surge to seal the biggest win of her career.

Memuye finished about three seconds ahead of Yenenesh Dinkesa with Fantu Jimma third as Ethiopians swept the podium.

The Paris Marathon, featuring 60,000 participants from 145 countries, was initially scheduled for April this year but was delayed by six months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The race was cancelled in 2020 because of the pandemic.

Over 20 million people in South Africa jabbed

By Halligan Agade

South Africa has reached the milestone of 20 million people who have received coronavirus vaccines, with  another 154,000 people added to the tally of those fully vaccinated.

SABC’s vaccination pop-up site, in Johannesburg, South Africa, on August 27, 2021. Gauteng provincial government have partnered up with the SABC’s Auckland Park headquarters to reach as many people as possible to vaccinate against the virus. /Getty Images

That makes for some 35 percent of the adult population at least partially vaccinated.

In the 60+ age group, more than 60 percent of people have been vaccinated. Among those between 50 and 60 years old, more than 50 percent have been vaccinated.

Between the ages of 35 and 49, the proportion is more than 40 percent – for women. Among men of that age, the proportion drops to a little over 35 percent. But young adults, those up to 34, drag the average down, with only 23 percent of women and less than 17 percent of men in that bracket having been vaccinated.

South Africa also has 10.7 million people considered fully vaccinated – under the current regime, where a single dose of J&J counts.

On Friday, the United States moved towards treating J&J as a two-dose vaccine, on the back of data showing its efficacy shoots up after a booster shot. In South Africa, some 4.6 million people have received a single dose of the J&J vaccine. If the definition of fully vaccinated were to change to exclude them until they receive another dose, it would set things back by roughly a month, at the current rate of vaccination.

It is expected that around 6.5 million people will be added to the country’s tally when vaccinations for children between 12 and 17 will kick off next week.

At a little under 27 percent of the adult population fully vaccinated, South Africa is tracking well behind a global average of around 37 percent.

The world as a whole has now administered more than 6.6 billion doses, and the totals for people who have received at least one dose of a vaccine, and those considered fully vaccinated, are on track to hit 40 percent and 50 percent, respectively, soon.

Around 30 countries have reached or exceeded the herd immunity target South Africa has set for itself, of being two-thirds fully vaccinated, before the end of the year.

That includes the rich nations of Europe, and small island states such as the Maldives. But also in that group is countries South Africa may consider closer to being comparable, such as Chile, Uruguay, and Malaysia.

On the continent, Morocco counts more than half its population fully vaccinated, and Tunisia is above a third. Beyond those, and Zimbabwe, which is tracking close to South Africa’s level of vaccination, things go from bad to worse.

Many countries are still officially at below 1 percent fully vaccinated, something that is exceedingly rare elsewhere on the planet outside of disaster zones such as Yemen and Haiti.

(With input from agencies)

Uganda’s National Medical Stores mandates COVID-19 vaccination for employees, visitors

By Jerry Omondi

Uganda rolled out its mass vaccination drive in March 2021, with the aim of containing further spread of COVID-19 (Photo by Luke Dray / Getty Images via CFP) 

Starting Monday, October 18, employees and visitors to Uganda’s National Medical Stores (NMS) will be required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination before accessing the premises, the body’s Principal Public Relations Officer, Sheila Nduhukire, said.

The move is aimed at enabling the body to become fully compliant with a government policy on vaccination as a measure of curbing further spread of the virus.

“As a government agency mandated to buy, store and distribute medicines, including COVID-19 vaccines, it is only right that we lead by example. And that is why we have requested all our employees to present proof of vaccination with immediate effect and all visitors coming to NMS premises starting on Monday, 18th,” said Nduhukire.

“We are doing this because we want to encourage Ugandans to take the vaccine, but also to do our part to protect those that have already chosen the prevention route, which is getting vaccinated, so that they reduce the severity of the disease,” she added.

The East African country rolled out its mass vaccination drive in March, with the aim of containing further spread of the virus.

By Saturday, the total number of doses administered stood at 2,459,038.

The country has so far reported 125,094 confirmed cases of the virus with 3,182 fatalities, according to the latest data from the health ministry.

Republic of the Congo to vaccinate 4 mln people against yellow fever

By XINHUA

The Republic of the Congo’s Inter-Agency Coordinating Committee for Immunization adopted Saturday a plan to implement the preventive vaccination campaign against yellow fever.

According to the committee, this campaign aims to reach at least four million people aged between 9 and 60.

“Our country is part of the yellow fever epidemic belt,” the country’s Minister of Health and Population Gilbert Mokoki said, adding that according to the latest epidemiological analysis, the country is at the risk of yellow fever epidemics.

The main objective of this prevention campaign is to increase the level of immunity of the population against yellow fever in all health districts across the country and prevent yellow fever epidemics, said Mokoki.

In 2018, the country had already organized, in collaboration with the World Health Organization and its partners, a vaccination campaign that managed to immunize more than one million people in six days.

Pan-African film festival opens in Burkina Faso amid COVID-19 and security challenges

By CGTN Africa

27th edition of Pan-African Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou (FESPACO). /Roch KABORE

Africa’s premier film festival opened in Burkina Faso on Saturday with a colourful ceremony showcasing choreography, and acrobatic and musical acts from some of the continent’s biggest names, including Senegalese Grammy nominee Baaba Maal.

With a backdrop of Islamic militant attacks in Sahel West African nation and the coronavirus pandemic, the glitzy ceremony saw a tribute to the country’s military and to the former president and revolutionary leader Thomas Sankara.

The festival initially was planned for February, but was postponed as Burkina Faso battled a surge in coronavirus cases.

“It was important to postpone the festival,” Alex Moussa Sawadogo, delegate-general of the festival, said during the opening ceremony, saying it would not have been possible to get the quality of films selected had it been held in February.

Burkina Faso President Roch Marc Kabore, in a post on Twitter, said it was with pride that he gave the opening clap of the 27th edition of the Pan-African Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou (FESPACO).

“The holding of this biennial of African cinema, in a dual context of security and health challenges, testifies to the resilience and selflessness of the Burkinabe people,” Kabore said.

FESPACO, launched in 1969, is monitored by global industry players who scout the event for new films, productions, talents and ideas.

The 2021 edition will see the participation of the African International Film & TV Market organization in a dedicated platform aimed at connecting international buyers and outlets with sellers of African contents, promoting transactions and proposing new business models for the sector.

Over 200 films made by Africans and predominantly produced in Africa have been selected from around 1,132 productions for the week-long event.

Seventy films divided into six categories including feature films, short films, documentaries, animated films and school productions are in the official competition.

In the feature films category, 17 are competing, including Nigerian drama “Eyimofe (This is My Desire),” by twin brothers Arie Esiri and Chuko Esiri, which has received positive reviews and won the 2021 Best Feature Narrative in the Philadelphia BlackStar Film Festival.

Other feature films include Narcise Wandji’s “Bendskins” from Cameroon; Mamadou Dia’s “Baamum Nafi” from Senegal; Desiree Kahipoko-Meiffret’s “The White Line” from Namibia; and Burkina Faso’s “The Three Lascars” by Boubakar Diallo.

The festival ends on October 23 with the award of the prestigious Stallion of Yennenga prize for the best film.

Ghanaian start-up introduces Chinese-made EV to help reduce carbon emissions

By XINHUA

Two staff members take a test ride on electric motorbikes imported from China in Accra, Ghana, October 8, 2021. /Xinhua

For a long time, Ghana’s public transportation system has been a key source of carbon dioxide emissions. To address the challenge, SolarTaxi Ghana Limited, a Ghanaian start-up, has decided to make a change by introducing Chinese-made electronic vehicles.

According to Eugene Amponsah, operations manager of the company, the influx of many internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, especially public buses into Ghana, leads to serious emissions.

Official data in 2020 showed the average number of imported vehicles in Ghana stood at around 100,000 per year, while about 90 percent of which were used vehicles with high fume emissions.

The motivation for a cleaner environment spurred the company to turn its eyes on China.

“Now we source most of our cars and the parts from China. We have the BYD, Cherry, and Dongfeng among some other brands from China,” said Amponsah.

From a modest beginning in September 2019, SolarTaxi now has 150 electric motorbikes and tricycles with more than 60 electric cars operating in the country. Some of these cars are solar chargeable, and others grid power-charged.

The introduction, however, met some skepticism in the very beginning. Some local consumers thought they could suffer electrocution in an electric car during rains, while others suspect that they would be stranded if the battery ran out of power in the course of a journey.

According to the company, local consumers’ concern eased gradually as they increased the frequency of electric car use, which proved to be more economical and environmentally friendly. The company has also found a way of commercializing eco-friendly bikes.

“For the motorbikes, we designed them for courier because we do not get a large number of people buying them. What we rather have is courier companies, including Jumia, coming to rent our bikes,” he said.

SolarTaxi has so far created a minimum of 250 direct and indirect jobs, including engineers at the assembling and maintenance plants and riders who work with the courier companies.

“For now, we do the manual assembling but want to get to a stage where we can install machines to assemble many cars and bikes in a day. And that calls for partnership and funding. We, therefore, want to secure partnerships with some of the Chinese automobile companies to support us with training and equipment,” he said.

Amponsah says that from his own working experience, China is one of the greatest places to look at when it comes to the green economy, and the mass production of environmental-friendly cars is a great example of that.