A resident receives the covid19 jab at Nyabugogo Taxis Park on December 13, 2021.Early January 2022, over 5.5 million Rwandans had been fully vaccinated while above 7.7 M people had obtained their first dose . / Dan Nsengiyumva
“Effective leadership, institutional readiness, long term health sector infrastructure investments and partnership.
On top of working hard to secure vaccines, including paying high cost from its budget, the Government of Rwanda allowed its people free access to the vaccine. The buy-in of the people on the vaccine showed the trust the people have towards their leadership. Covid-19 also showed institutional readiness; ability to rollout the vaccine nationally as soon as the vaccines arrived in Rwanda. There is also evidence that Rwanda reaped from its long term investments in the health sector infrastructure.”
Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in economic development policies for Africa for over 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com. Mr. Freeman’s stated personal mission is; to eliminate poverty and hunger in Africa by applying the scientific economic principles of Alexander Hamilton.
July 21, 2021 This report below by the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, published July 19, should serve as a call to arms for immediate action to prevent the deaths of several hundred thousand Africans in the months ahead. Now is the time for action; not debate. Africa needs 3 billion doses of the vaccine, not the few hundred thousand doses that are being dribbled out by the Western countries. Africa’s 1.5 billion people must be vaccinated now-not in 2023. We African nations need to upgrade their weak healthcare system. Manufacturing and distributing centers for the vaccine must immediately be created along with necessary infrastructure, logistics, and training. Now is not the time to quibble about money. Human life is more precious than money. Don’t worry about lending money, give the money outright to prevent Africa from experiencing what India has suffered, and potentially far worse.
By the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, July 9, 2021
“The surge in the Delta coronavirus variant in Africa is set to cause hundreds of thousands of deaths in the coming months absent a dramatic scaling up of preventative measures and COVID vaccine access. “While parts of the world have seemingly begun to turn the page on the pandemic, COVID’s third wave is the headline story across Africa. There has been a near tripling in the number of COVID cases and 30,000 fatalities on the continent since the end of April when the Delta variant emerged in Uganda.“ Read my earliuer posts: Vaccination and Healthcare for Africa NOW! Prevent Scourge of Covid-19 and Save Lives Biden Must Lead All-Out Effort to Vaccinate Africa From COVID-19 Rising Covid19 Death Rate Threatens Africa. Vaccinations and Healthcare Must Be Provided International Cooperation and Collaboration Needed to Save Lives in Africa From COVID-19 New Economic Order Required to Combat COVID-19 in Africa Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in economic development policies for Africa for over 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com. Mr. Freeman’s stated personal mission is; to eliminate poverty and hunger in Africa by applying the scientific economic principles of Alexander Hamilton
June 12, 2021 Lawrence Freeman This brief study, “Lessons for Africa from India’s Deadly COVID Surge,” by the African Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS), is extremely relevant for Africans today. The Daily Telegraph reports: “Coronavirus cases across Africa have surged by 25 per cent over the last week, sparking fears that the continent of 1.3 billion people is unprepared to deal with a ‘third wave’. The rise in cases stands in stark contrast to all other regions where infection rates are falling, according to the latest World Health Organization (WHO) statistics.” According to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, (Africa CDC) the death rate from covid-19 has increased 2% in the past week. Clearly Africa is in danger of an upsurge of cases of the coronavirus with the potential of a third wave spreading across the African continent. African nations have only vaccinated between 1-2% of their populations. United States President, Joe Biden, has pledged 200 million doses to be given to poorer nations desperately in need of the vaccine, like Africa, by the end of this year, and 300 million more by next June. However, to date, the U.S. has not delivered a single dose of the vaccine to underdeveloped nations. British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has pledged 100 million doses of the vaccine, and the G-7 nations–U.S., Canada, France, Italy, Germany, Japan, and England, are expected to announce that 1 billion doses will be donated, with no delivery date. President Biden has already pledge $4 billion to COVAX, a worldwide vaccine distribution center based in Europe. While these belated announcements of vaccine pledges by G-7 nations is good; it is not good enough. It has been six months since the U.S. began vaccinating Americans and has made progress towards vaccinating almost 290 million of its inhabitants 12 years and older. With Africa’s population nearing 1.5 billion, it will require 3 billion of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines to inoculate its people from the coronavirus. Predictions are that only 50-60% of Africa’s population will be vaccinated by the end of 2022! Vaccinating half of the people living on the African continent, a year, and a half from now, will not do. It is unacceptable if we are really serious about defeating this deadly pandemic. What Has To Be Done, Now! Let me summarize from my earlier article: Biden Must Lead All-Out Effort to Vaccinate Africa From COVID-19
- In order to fully vaccinate the expanding African population, African nations must be assisted in producing the vaccines locally. We have to develop vaccine manufacturing plants in Africa. This will also require waiving patent rights on the major vaccines.
- There must be a massive upgrading of the deficient health infrastructure in African nations. More doctors, more hospitals, more hospital beds, more ICU rooms equipped with advanced medical equipment are necessary to prevent Africans from dying, who contract this deadly virus.
- We should use the current emergency, the urgency of defeating this virus and saving lives, to do what we should have done 60 years ago; build infrastructure in Africa. Hospitals and manufacturing centers cannot run without electricity. High speed rail transportation for passengers and freight is a necessity. Distribution capacity of the vaccine to reach the population will require an expansion of existing infrastructure. Every nation must have medical schools to train nurses and doctors. Infectious disease and virology medical centers are also required. Increase food production is essential to build strong immune systems. Massive economic development especially in hard and soft infrastructure is required if we are going to prevent potentially millions of lives from needlessly perishing. To accomplish this mission, Africa needs a minimum of 1,000 gigawatts of electricity, and 100,000 kilometers of high speed rail.
Excerpts below from: “Lessons for Africa from India’s Deadly COVID Surge,” “The surge in COVID-19 cases in India, spurred by a more transmissible variant and complacency, provides a stark warning to African populations to remain vigilant to contain the pandemic.” “India’s COVID-19 surge is a warning for Africa. Like India, Africa mostly avoided the worst of the pandemic last year. Many Sub-Saharan African countries share similar sociodemographic features as India: a youthful population, large rural populations that spend a significant portion of the day outdoors, large extended family structures, few old age homes, densely populated urban areas, and weak tertiary care health systems. As in India, many African countries have been loosening social distancing and other preventative measures. A recent survey by the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) reveals that 56 percent of African states were “actively loosening controls and removing the mandatory wearing of face-masks.” Moreover, parts of Africa have direct, longstanding ties to India, providing clear pathways for the new Indian variant to spread between the continents.” “Ramping Up of Vaccine Campaigns. According to the Africa CDC, the continent has administered just 24.2 million doses to a population of 1.3 billion. Representing less than 2 percent of the population, this is the lowest vaccination rate of any region in the world. With the Indian and other variants coursing through Africa, the potential for the emergence of additional variants rises, posing shifting threats to the continent’s citizens. Containing the virus in Africa, in turn, is integral to the global campaign to end the pandemic. Recognizing the global security implications if the virus continues to spread unchecked in parts of Africa, the United Nations Security Council has expressed concern over the low number of vaccines going to Africa.” Excerpts below from The Guardian: Third-wave-sweeps-across-Africa-as-Covid-vaccine-imports-dry-up “The threat of a third wave in Africa is real and rising. Our priority is clear – it’s crucial that we swiftly get vaccines into the arms of Africans at high risk of falling seriously ill and dying of Covid-19,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization (WHO) regional director for Africa.” “The WHO said the pandemic was now trending upwards in 14 countries and in the past week alone, eight countries had witnessed an abrupt rise of over 30% in cases. However, vaccine shipments to African nations have ground to a near halt.” Read: “Lessons for Africa from India’s Deadly COVID Surge,“ Read my previous posts below: Biden Must Lead All-Out Effort to Vaccinate Africa From COVID-19
Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in economic development policies for Africa for over 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com. Mr. Freeman’s stated personal mission is; to eliminate poverty and hunger in Africa by applying the scientific economic principles of Alexander Hamilton
March 29, 2021
Biden Must Lead All-Out Effort to Vaccinate Africa
Dr. John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Dr. Nicaise Ndembi, senior science advisor for the Africa CDC, and Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, African Development Bank President, have all spoken out on the need to vaccinate Africa’s more than one billion people. Dr. Adesina speaking earlier this month at the launch of the Bank’s African Outlook 2021 report said, “We need global solidarity and vaccine justice for Africa…as long as Africans remain unvaccinated the world will go back to square one.” On a March 25 webinar, organized by the Advocacy Network for Africa, and Africa Rising, Dr. Nkengasong echoed the same immediacy for Africa to vaccinate its people against Covid19. He told his audience; we have more Africans dying from the second wave of Covid19 and there is potential of a third wave. “We need vaccines today” he said. All African Must Be Vaccinated! Dr. Ndembi, speaking on the same webinar, outlined the minimal goal of vaccinating 60% of Africa’s population by the end of 2022. Based on his low estimate of Africa’s population at 1.2 billion, he calculated vaccinating 720 million people, requiring 1.4 billion doses of the two dose Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. The one dose Jonson and Johnson could significantly speed up the vaccination process. However, it is unacceptable to plan to vaccinate only 60% of Africa’s growing population over the next 21 months. Only a small number of vaccines has been delivered to Africa, about 14.6 million doses, according to Dr. Adesina, reported by Reliefweb. The main vehicle for acquiring the COVID-19 vaccines for Africa is the COVAX initiative, led by the World Health Organization and backed by the United Nations. President Biden has authorized $2.5 billion to fund COVAX and pledged another $1.5 billion. However, the U.S. unlike China and Russia, has not donated a single dose of any its three vaccines to Africa. As all epidemiologists know, as long as large numbers of human beings remain unvaccinated, the virus will mutate, potentially to more contagious and virulent strains, endangering the whole human race. Therefore, it is not only immoral for vaccine producing nations not to vaccinate the populations of all lower and middle income nations, but insanely irresponsible.
For the sake of preserving the wellbeing of the human race, our goal has to be nothing short of complete vaccination of the planet’s eligible population. It is foolish to have poorer nations competing for limited supplies of vaccines. According to Matthew Kavanagh, who participated in the March 25th webinar, sharing the limited supply of vaccines will not be sufficient to defeat the virus. He estimated that given the appropriate support, some African nations could begin producing vaccines themselves in six months. Dr Adesina pointed to the core of the solution; “Africa needs to develop its pharmaceutical industry and begin manufacturing.” There is no viable solution to protect Africa’s expanding population from this virus, other than immediately building up the capacity of African nations to produce and distribute vaccines to their people. This will require releasing the patents-the secrets of the vaccines, to other nations. Kavanagh, from the Center for Global Health Science and Security, rightly demands that governments “will need to use their legal and political authority to push companies to share their patents and know-how.” He pointed out that the creation of the Moderna vaccine was supported by $2.5 billion of American taxpayers’ money. President Biden’s administration must use every kind of effort to insure that intellectual property rights do not trump the obligation to save lives. All-Out Economic Mobilization Required to Defeat COVID-19 As a result of responding to the spread of HIV/AIDS over several decades and more recently, from several outbreaks of Ebola, Africans have learned some valuable experiences. For African nations to produce and distribute vaccines in sufficient quantities to inoculate over one billion people, new capabilities will have to be added to their diminutive manufacturing sectors. To get the vaccine into the arms of their population, their weak health care system will have to be vastly expanded. This will require implementing economic growth policies that are long overdue in Africa, but under the necessity of defeating the COVID-19 pandemic, must now be immediately executed. This includes massive investment in hard and soft infrastructure. For example. One cannot expect to win the war against this virus, without high-speed rail transportation to move products quickly in refrigerated cars between cities and ports. Without roads, the vaccine will not reach large sections of the population. Of course, more hospitals and well equipped clinics will be required to be built. Energy will be needed to produce and maintain the quality of the vaccines, as well as providing the power for the manufacturing plants and hospitals. Africa is severely lacking in these and other basic categories of infrastructure. It is estimated that almost 40 million more Africans will be pushed into poverty this year as a result of the pandemic. I believe that estimate is too low, but it would still represent almost a 10% increase in the number of Africans living in poverty. To respond to the necessity of winning the war against this pandemic, Africa would have to be transformed with immense investments in new infrastructure, production, and industry. Hiring those eager to work in these productive jobs will provide meaningful employment for millions of youths, and those misemployed in the cancerous so called informal economy. What President Biden Should Do It is reported that in a recent discussion with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, U.S. President Joe Biden, proposed that western nations develop a Belt and Road initiative like that of China. Let us start with the African continent, which is projected to have 25% of the world’s population in 2050, with 2.4 billion people. For a just and intelligent American policy to vaccinate Africa from COVID-19, President Biden should provide leadership in:
- Calling for a debt moratorium on principal and interest for the next two years-at least until the end of the first quarter of 2023, so nations can free up funds to pay for vaccinating their citizens.
- Persuading the vaccine manufacturers to allow the patents of their vaccines to be released so other nations can reproduce the vaccine. Essentially, waiving intellectual property rights.
- Providing know-how and technology transfer for the production and storage of the vaccines.
- Providing interest free loans-grants as startup funds for vaccine manufacturing plants.
- Providing training and logistical support for establishing mass vaccination centers.
- Offering long term low-interest concessionary loans for the construction of vitally necessary hard and soft infrastructure in the model of China’s Belt and Road
Surely for the sake of civilization, America can and must assist African nations to accomplish more than vaccinating just 60% of their population by 2022. If we do not fully vaccinate Africa, then in addition to the loss of life among Africans, the virus would continue to mutate, travel around the world, potentially infecting and reinfecting the world’s population. From a purely economic outlook, the global economy would lose trillions of dollars from underperforming African economies. Let us act nobly and wisely in understanding that when we act in the interest of others, we are also acting in our own interest Read: African development bank president calls global vaccine solidarity and justice africa; and To democratize vaccine access democratize production Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in economic development policies for Africa for over 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com. Mr. Freeman’s stated personal mission is; to eliminate poverty and hunger in Africa by applying the scientific economic principles of Alexander Hamilton.
President Kagame is Right: Africa Must Get Covid19 Vaccinations. It is Morally and Economically Just.
February 9, 2021 The Guardian on February 7, published an insightful statement from Rwandan President, Paul Kagame, on the importance of vaccinating Africans, entitled: Until Africans get the Covid vaccinations they need, the whole world will suffer. President Kagame correctly concludes: Ensuring equitable access to vaccines globally during a pandemic is not only a moral issue, but an economic imperative to protect the wellbeing of people everywhere. But when will Africa get the protection it needs? If all lives are equal, why isn’t access to vaccines? I completely agree with President Kagame. It is both immoral and economically stupid not to vaccinate every human being as quickly as possible, and without cost. Let me briefly summarize. 1) Every human being is bestowed by the Creator with the power of creative reason. Thus, every human being is sacred. Society should spare no effort to preserve human life. This is a requirement of civilization. After all, we are not Malthusians, who believe the world is over populated. 2) Until the Covid19 virus is eliminated across the world, no nations or peoples are safe from the virus and its mutations. Therefore, it is criminally stupid not to vaccinate every single person on the planet as quickly as possible. 3) The global economy will also suffer, if more human beings are unable to work or die due to sickness from Covid19. Economic production and trade will shrink, lowering the physical standard of living throughout the world. 4) It is cheaper to vaccinate everyone for free than pay for exorbitant medical costs to treat patients with Covid19. 5) Let us use this horrible crisis to unite all nations in a global effort to not only eradicate this deadly virus, but upgrade the healthcare system of African nations, enabling them to properly respond to the needs of their people Below is the full text of President Kagame’s column.
The current situation with regard to the access and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines vividly illustrates the decades-old contradictions of the world order.
Rich and powerful nations have rushed to lock up supply of multiple vaccine candidates. Worse, some are hoarding vaccines – purchasing many times more doses than they need. This leaves African and other developing countries either far behind in the vaccine queue, or not in it at all.
There are worrying signs of vaccine nationalism in Europe and North America. The pressures on political leaders to vaccinate all their citizens before sharing supplies with others is understandable. But forcing smaller or poorer countries to wait until everyone in the north has been catered for is shortsighted.
Delaying access to vaccines for citizens of developing countries is ultimately many times more costly. The pandemic will rage on, crippling the global economy. New mutations may continue to emerge at a more rapid pace. The world risks reversing decades of human development gains and eclipsing the 2030 sustainable development goals.
In this context, the billions of dollars it would cost to distribute vaccines across the developing world is not particularly high, given the return on the investment. Doing so would unlock global commerce, which would benefit all trading nations during the long road to economic recovery that lies ahead of us. We need global value chains to be fully operational again and to include everyone.
Last year, the world came together to provide additional fiscal space for developing countries through the debt service suspension initiative at the G20. This helped governments in Africa pay for their Covid responses and provide additional social protection, thereby preventing the worst outcomes. We shouldn’t lose that spirit now and give in to an unfortunate erosion of global solidarity.
The Covax facility, led by the World Health Organization, was supposed to ensure doses for 20% of Africa’s people – right from the start and at the same time as richer countries. However, nearly two months after the first vaccines have been administered, it is still not clear when African nations will be able to start immunising people, though the first doses may begin reaching the continent later this month.
What can be done in practical terms? The rich world can help developing countries get the same fair prices that they have already negotiated for themselves. One pharmaceutical firm is reportedly planning to charge $37 per dose for “small orders”. Recently, one African country reported being asked to pay more than double the price that the European Union had negotiated for the same product.
During natural disasters, price gouging for essential supplies is illegal. It should not be tolerated for vaccines during a pandemic either. If prices are fair, and Africa is allowed to place orders, many countries on the continent would be willing and able to pay for themselves. But, given the current market structure, they will need active support from more powerful countries to do so.
The African Union and Afreximbank have set up the Africa Medical Supplies Platform to help countries secure financing by providing advance commitment guarantees of up to $2bn to manufacturers. The platform has negotiated an initial order of 270m doses, but this is still very far from the 60% coverage Africa needs to achieve some measure of herd immunity, and there is no telling when those supplies will be available.
Africa is not sitting back and waiting for charity. We have learned our lessons from the past. All we ask for is transparency and fairness in vaccine access, not the protectionism currently in play.Read: Until Africans Get Covid Vaccinations They Need, Whole World Will Suffer
Watch my interview on RT TV from January: Africa must be vaccinated Read my earlier posts: International Cooperation and Collaboration Needed to Save Lives in Africa From COVID-19 ; New Economic Order Required to Combat COVID-19 in Africa Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in economic development policies for Africa for over 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com
January 29, 2021 In my interview with RT TV, I emphasized that it was deadly stupidity and immoral not to vaccinate ever African. WATCH: Africa must be vaccinated The entire world is not safe until ALL people are vaccinated. In the Spring of 2020, when Africa had a lower rate of COVID19 infection compared to the rest of the world, I warned of an increase in the death rate in Africa due to woefully deficient healthcare. If we care about the human race, we need a “New Just Economic Order,” that values human life over debt and money. Ambassador John Campbell is his blog post Covid-19-death-rate-rising-africa? discusses the increase in infection and mortality from Coivd19 on the African continent. Read my earlier posts below on COVID19 in Africa:
Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in economic development policies for Africa for over 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com
New analysis by Oxfam finds that 76 out of the 91 IMF loans negotiated with 81 countries since March 2020 – when the pandemic was declared – push for belt-tightening that could result in deep cuts to public healthcare systems and pension schemes, wage freezes and cuts for public sector workers such as doctors, nurses and teachers, and unemployment benefits, like sick pay.
“The IMF has sounded the alarm about a massive spike in inequality in the wake of the pandemic. Yet it is steering countries to pay for pandemic spending by making austerity cuts that will fuel poverty and inequality. These measures could leave millions of people without access to healthcare or income support while they search for work, and could thwart any hope of sustainable recovery. In taking this approach, the IMF is doing an injustice to its own research. Its head needs to start speaking to its hands,” said Chema Vera, Oxfam International’s Interim Executive Director…
UN Speech by Ivory Coast President: “Bolder Measures” Needed To Help African Economies Hit by COVID-19
General debate of the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly: Statement by His Excellency Mr. Alassane Ouattara, President of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire
New Infrastructure Vital for South Africa to Combat COVID-19 and Save Lives!
South Africa Says Lenders Commit $21 Billion to Building Projects
Private fundingSome of the projects, such as the next stage of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project, are already in process. Ramokgopa was not clear on whether the total investment amount included previously announced expenditure. “What we need are projects that are financed independently by private investors who then earn a return through operating the projects,” said Theobald. “Those are genuinely fiscal neutral and growth positive.” Ramokgopa did say one project to build 45,000 housing units was completely privately funded. The commitments are as follows:
- Transport: 47 billion rand, creating 50,000 jobs
- Water and sanitation: 106 billion rand, creating 25,000 jobs
- Housing: 138 billion rand, creating 190,000 jobs
- Agriculture: 7 billion rand and 4,000 jobs
- Digital: 4 billion rand and 700 jobs
- Energy: 58 billion rand, creating 6,000 jobs
Reported by EIRNS, researchers at South Africa’s National Income Dynamics Study (NIDS) group released a Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey (CRAM) on Wednesday, July 15, which provided a bleak picture of the reality currently facing that nation under lock down, conditions which are representative of much of Africa and the Global South. Conducted over a two-month period during May and June, the extensive (20-minute) survey was conducted by phone this year, with 30 researchers contacting over 7,000 people/homes. Of the hundreds of questions asked — with conversations getting personal to the point of provoking tears — the final report breaks the responses into three categories: Employment, Hunger, and Health.
- On employment: 30% of income earners who had a job in February did not earn an income in April 2020 (the month South Africa’s hard lock down started and before relief efforts kicked in). As could be expected, job losses were highest in already-disadvantaged areas which could least afford it.
- On hunger: 47% of respondents reported that their household ran out of money to buy food in April 2020. 1 in 5 respondents told researchers that someone in their household had gone hungry in the last seven days, and 1 in 7 respondents reported that a child had gone hungry in the last seven days. In households with children, 8% reported “frequent” child hunger (3 or more days in the last 7 days) in their household, and 1 in 25 (4%) reported “perpetual” hunger (almost every day or every day), with cases of “food shielding” (adults not eating so their children could survive), evidenced by “adult” hunger surpassing child hunger by almost 8%.
- On health: 78% couldn’t (or wouldn’t, whether out of fear or poverty) see a doctor at least once during May or June, while 23% reported they were unable to access needed medications. The situation in South Africa is compounded by the unaddressed crisis of AIDS, with victims being unable to access critical care because of COVID-19 overload, a condition which could only be worse if the patient were pregnant.
While the authors do not note it, the survey is the first known to bring together these three aspects of the crisis, providing an accurate physical-economic picture of this harsh reality. Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in the economic development policy of Africa for 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com
July 14, 2020
IMF Conditionalities Contribute to Shortage of Health Workers
Lawrence Freeman As I have told my friends for many years, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is incapable of helping nations grow their economies. I do not believe the IMF can point to any success story, where its policies led to improving the standard of living of the population. Their macro-monetarist ideology fails to understand the essential driver of real (not monetary) growth. Following IMF prescriptions usually results in more suffering for the victim nation. For a more in depth analysis read my article from last year: Africa Needs Real Economic Growth, Not IMF Accountants. The report cited by the ActionAid and Public Service International highlights the failure of the IMF: IMF Told Countries Facing Critical Health Worker Shortages to Cut Public Sector Wages The statistics are revealing, but should not be shocking to those of us who study physical economics. Throughout its history we have seen the IMF insist on cuts to meet to macro-economic goal at the expense of the population. This report clearly pinpoints the effects of tying loans to cuts back in healthcare. Africa was suffering from an acute shortage of healthcare workers before the COVID-19 pandemic. Sub-Saharan Africa has the fewest physicians per 1,000 population and the lowest number of hospital beds per 1,000 population. It was pointed out by Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, earlier this year, that payments of debt service equaled or surpassed the amount of money nations spent on healthcare. He wrote “In 2019, 64 countries, nearly half of them in sub-Saharan Africa, spent more on servicing external debt than on health. Ethiopia spends twice as much on paying off external debt as on health. African nations, or any country for that matter, should not be subjected to this kind of treatment. Human life is real and precious. Debt is merely a financial accounting mechanism. There is no equivalence. The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the failure of the world globalized financial system, which has been become decoupled from the real economy. Genuine economic growth uses credit to promote human life. President Franklin Roosevelt’s Bretton Woods system, in its perverted form, came to an end on August 15, 1971. For the last fifty years, the City of London-Wall Street centered financial system has become more corrupt each decade, serving the interest of a tiny few. Now is the time to launch a New Bretton Woods, dedicated to improve the conditions of life for all people of all nations. I will be writing more on this subject in the future.
Below are excerpts from the cited report:
- Of the 57 countries last identified by the WHO as facing critical health worker shortages, 24 received advice from the IMF to cut or freeze public sector wages.
- When countries are told to contain wage bills – it means fewer doctors, nurses and frontline workers in countries already desperately short of medics.
- All but one of the 18 low-income countries advised by the IMF to cut or freeze public sector employment funding, are currently below the WHO’s recommended nurse-to-population threshold of 30 per 10,000.
- The WHO predicts that these countries will experience a collective shortage of at least 695,000 nurses by 2030.
Read the full report: IMF Told Countries Facing Critical Health Worker Shortages to Cut Public Sector Wages Read my earlier posts: VIDEO: Africa’s Healthcare Infrastructure Requires a New Bretton Woods World Needs New Economic Platform to Fight COVID-19 New Economic Order Required to Combat COVID-19 in Africa Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in the economic development policy of Africa for 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com
VIDEO: Africa’s Healthcare Infrastructure Requires a New Bretton Woods
https://youtu.be/Km1Y2D5Bjuw July 10, 2020 I was a featured speaker on a webinar sponsored by Watch Democracy Grow on June 16. The assigned topic of my presentation was: Prioritizing social infrastructure development on the continent. Watch my 18 minute presentation on the impact of COVID-19 in Africa and the need for a New Bretton Woods to build healthcare infrastructure. In my conclusion, I emphasized that human creativity, emanating from the brow of millions of African youth, is the source of wealth for Africa’s future. I am happy to announce that my website is now entering its fourth year. I began publishing on lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com on July 1, 2017. In three years my website has had over 50,000 views. To increase the influence of my ideas, which are outside the box, I am asking my friends and supporters to subscribe to my website, and circulate my posts. I am also available to provide research, writing, and consultation on all topics related to Africa, including Africa-US, and Africa-China relations. I hope all of you remain healthy during these challenging times. Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in the economic development policy of Africa for 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com
COVID-19 Tragedy Compels Revamping Globalization and Food Production
The World Food Programme has warned that the COVID-19 pandemic could cause one of the worst food crises since World War II. It predicts a doubling of the number of people going hungry – more than half of them in sub-Saharan Africa. While wealthier people stay inside and practise physical distancing, the economically marginalised populations risk going out in search of food. They take decisions between livelihoods and life in the most extreme cases. Such food inequities show the need for system-level action.
So far, the global food system has proven to be resilient to the COVID-19 pandemic. Food is still being produced, processed and distributed. Unfortunately, the system’s underlying injustices and inequities continue too. Around 1.58 billion people globally can’t afford healthy diets.
These inequities are especially stark on the African continent. Even before the COVID-19 crisis, the African food system was ailing. Food is perennially in short supply. In 2018, more than 250 million people in sub-Saharan Africa experienced severe food insecurity, incomes for farmers are lower than anywhere globally in real terms, and more than 30% of children are stunted partly due to poverty and poor diets.”
Read: COVID-19 Recovery: Chance to Improve African Food System and Repositioning Agriculture for Africa’s Youth Read my previous posts:
- World Needs New Economic Platform to Fight COVID-19
- New Economic Order Required to Combat COVID-19 in Africa
Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in the economic development policy of Africa for 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com
International Collaboration and Cooperation is Necessary to Fight COVID-19 in Africa
Lawrence Freeman April 26, 2020 While the current number of total cases of COVID-19 in Africa is comparatively low, the potential for mass deaths across the continent is ominous, according to a study issued by the United Nations Economic Commission of Africa (UNECA): UNECA COVID-19 Response: Protecting Lives and Economies in Africa If Africa, is to stem the elevated projected rate of morbidity and mortality from the coronavirus, it will require a massive infusion economic and medical assistance. In the last week COVID-19 cases in Africa increased by 46% from 16,000 to 26,000 with 1,200 deaths, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). With civilization experiencing a pandemic that has upended all normalcy, affecting the very fabric of our social, economic, and political life on this planet, only a collective international effort will succeed in defeating this deadly invisible enemy. No alliance is more important in this war against death than that of the United States and China, which have the two largest economies.
COVID-19 and Poverty Killing Africa According to the analysis by the UNECA, COVID-19 in Africa: Protecting Lives and Economies, a low estimate of .3 million to as high as 3.3 million lives could be lost due to COIVD-19. The study also estimates that from 2.3 million to 22.5 million could require hospitalization, and .5 million to 4.4 million would require critical care. A minimum of $44 billion will be required for emergency healthcare. The causes for these horrifying projections include:
- 56% of the nearly 600 million Africans who live in urban areas-336 million, live in slums
- 66% of Africans do not have access to household hand washing facilities
- Prevalence of underlying medical conditions especially HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malnutrition
- An average of only 1.8 hospital beds per 1,000 people
- 94% of Africa’s stock of pharmaceuticals are imported
I have written that Africa has a deficit of an estimated 1.8 million healthcare workers. The average for sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is an absurdly low 0.21 doctors for 1,000 people compared to Italy with 4.2 physicians per 1,000. Twenty SSA nations have .08 doctors or less per 1,000 of their citizens, with several at levels of 0.03 and 0.02 doctors. Over twenty-five SSA nations have 1 bed or less to treat 1,000 of their population In addition to the conditions listed above, the informal economy is another major factor contributing to the projected high rate of African fatalities, the informal economy. Africa has an extraordinarily large percentage of its labor force, between 70-80%, employed outside of conventional hourly wage, and salaried employment. These jobs, if you can call them that, primarily involve hawking consumer goods on the street, selling in congested markets or from makeshift store fronts, barely provide a living, and have no health or unemployment insurance. For the majority of Africans, if you do not work, you do not eat. Thus, Africans are faced with the life threatening dilemma of obeying sheltering in place or starving their family.
According to the UNECA study, the economic consequences for Africa from COVID-19 could be devastating.
- Economic growth could drop from 1.8% to -2.6%
- From 5-29 million pushed into extreme poverty-$1.90 per day
- 19 million jobs lost
- Increased borrowing, devaluation of currencies, and plummeting commodity prices
“To protect and build towards the Continent’s shared prosperity, $100 billion is needed to urgently and immediately provide fiscal space to all countries to help address the immediate safety net needs of the populations,” reiterates Vera Songwe, UN Under Secretary-General and Executive Secretary, Economic Commission for Africa, according to Africa Renewal Poverty, and lack of basic infrastructure, especially electricity has been killing Africans for decades. In the current conditions of this deadly pandemic, poverty, unarguably will be the biggest factor in the death rate from COVID-19. According to a recent report Strategy to Defeat the Pandemic, released in EIR magazine, SSA has:
- 14% of the world’s population
- 60% of the world’s extreme poor
- 70% of those worldwide lacking access to electricity
- 20% of urban dwellers worldwide living in slums
They highlight the case of Nigeria, which typifies the conditions throughout SSA. Nigeria has 200 million people, 41% living in extreme poverty, 55% with no access to electricity, and 55% of their urban population living in slums. Citing Time magazine, EIR reports that Nigeria has only 500 ventilators per 2.5 per million people, 200 times less per capita than the US that has 170,000 ventilators for 330 million people. Africa and the world cannot afford to lose millions more of our fellow human beings to death and poverty. Our failure over the last half century, to eliminate poverty, hunger and install a quality healthcare system, following the liberation of African nations from colonialism, has proved fatal.
Slums in Nigeria (courtesy Global Village) End Geo-Political Warfare Against China For humanity to defeat this deadly virus, global cooperation is imperative. Unfortunately, President Donald Trump, for opportunistic reasons, has succumbed to appalling and unjustified attacks on China. President Trump has placed a higher priority on his re-election, by appealing to the prejudices of his base of supporters, than leading a worldwide military style campaign against COVID-19. While not as extreme as some in his administration, President Trump has joined the chorus from both the Republican and Democratic parties in blaming China for the spread of COVID-19. His recent attacks on the WHO, alleging collusion with China, and subsequently cutting off funds to the WHO, is a case in point. The WHO is being unfairly scapegoated as part of geo-political crusade vilifying China. Not surprising, the instigation against China comes from British Secret Intelligence MI6. On April 15, John Sawers, former chief of MI6 (2009-2014) told Reuters, “China concealed crucial information about the novel coronavirus outbreak from the rest of the world and so should answer for its deceit.” He told BBC, “There is deep anger in America at what they see as having been inflicted on us all by China, and China is evading a good deal of responsibility for the origin of the virus, for failing to deal with it initially.” Since then, more wild unsubstantiated claims from the Trump administration have been launched accusing China of creating the COVID-19 at its virology lab in Wuhan. President Trump has vacillated in deciding whether China created the virus intentionally or accidently, with no evidence at all presented to substantiate these allegations. Africa’s Survival If, the projections of fatalities resulting from COVID-19 are correct, Africa will need assistance from all its partners. The scale of this crisis demands it. The United States and other Western nations must extirpate the geo-political ideology that treats African nations as pawns in countering China. Africa needs basic infrastructure. Roads, power, railroads, clean water, hospitals, etc. are crucial for Africa’s survival. Speaking at a Johns Hopkins webinar on April 22, Gyude Moore, from the Center for Global Development, and former Liberian Minister of Public Works (2014-2018) unequivocally recognized that China is performing a unique task in Africa. He told his audience that if China were to stop building infrastructure in Africa, there would be no one to fill that vital role. Contrary to many Africans who foolishly believe that China is colonizing Africa, Moore stated, “China should not leave the continent.” As I and others understand, including Gyude Moore, Africa’s infrastructure requirements are so enormous, that all of Africa’s partners can share in developing this huge continent, whose population is expected to double to 2.4 billion in the next 30 years. It is imperative that saving lives and defeating this coronavirus be the foremost concern of all citizens, leaders, and institutions. Let us use the occasion of this perilous time in our history, to jettison all prejudices, grievances, ideologies, and small mindedness, to aspire to be the noble and generous human beings the Creator intended us to be. Read my two earlier reports on COVID-19 in Africa:
- World Needs New Economic Platform to Fight COVID-19
- New Economic Order Required to Combat COVID-19 in Africa
April 8, 2020 Below are two important articles on how South African nations are responding to the coronavirus. According to author, Ramasimong Phillip Tsokolibane, South Africa can retool its manufacturing capacity to begin production of ventilators. These life saving machines will be essential to save lives as the coronavirus proliferates across the African continent, especially in South Africa. As of today, April 7, Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 10,789 cases of COVID-19, 536 deaths and 1,122 recoveries for 52 nations reporting.South Africa has 1,749 cases,13 deaths and 45 recoveries. For a country with less than 5% of Africa’s total population, it has 16% of the total cases-the highest among all African nations. South Africa being the most industrialized nation on the continent should take up the challenge of gearing up production of ventilators, and lead other African nations by example in responding to this pandemic. Tsokolibane writes: “To survive, the severely ill need ventilators, the machine that helps you breathe or breathes for you, when the airways in your lungs are too swollen and inflamed for you to breathe on your own. We have only about 6 000 of them. Ten times as many will not be nearly enough at peak levels of the pandemic. A ventilator can cost R180,000 or more.” “We must plan on making at least 80,000 ventilators for South Africa! The government should issue letters of intent to purchase from multiple manufacturers who meet the needed specifications. We must make at least 27,000 for Zimbabwe! Make more for Namibia, Angola, Zambia, Mozambique, DR Congo, and others. We must make more than we expect to need, because they must be on hand everywhere; a person who needs a ventilator now, may be gone before someone can go across town to fetch one.” Read: Why South Africa Must Start Manufacturing Ventilators Immediately ______________________________________________________ The Zimbabwean reports on a significant initiative underway in Zimbabwe: “The government has turned to its tertiary institutions with engineering and technology capacity including University of Zimbabwe, Chinhoyi University of Technology (CUT), Great Zimbabwe University (GZU), Midlands State University and the Harare Institute of Technology, among others, for production to meet local demand…Higher education minister professor Amon Murwira told Quartz Africa the hand sanitizers, masks and gloves were made to meet the standards of the WHO…” https://www.thezimbabwean.co/2020/04/zimbabwes-universities-are-manufacturing-masks-gloves-and-hand-sanitizers-to-beat-coronavirus/
Breaking the cycle of food shortage in Africa with fertilizer and technology (courtesy of Global Farmer Network)
UN warns of food shortages across globe
COVID-19 Pandemic in Africa
Africa Union Needs to Demand More
For more on COVID-19 read my two recent articles below.
- World Needs New Economic Platform to Fight COVID-19
- New Economic Order Required to Combat COVID-19 in Africa
The World Needs A New Economic Platform to Fight COVID-19
Lawrence Freeman April 5, 2020 Today April 5, the total cases of COVID-19-(coronavirus) in Africa are 8,536, deaths 360, and recoveries 710. On March 30, one week ago, the total cases were 4760, deaths 146, and recoveries 355. The diagram above shows the increased rate of the spread of COVID-19 across the African continent. In my March 30 article, New Economic Order Required to Combat COVID-19 in Africa, I concluded with a call for a New Just Economic Order, if humankind is going to effectively conquer the current pandemic. We have come to a moment in the evolution of our civilization that we must acknowledge the failures of the present political-financial system. The Western-advanced sector nations, lacking an in depth and over-supplied health infrastructure have found themselves utterly unprepared to deal with the latest and most deadly zoonotic virus, COVID-19. The G-7 nations with a population of 750 million, and 39% ($34 trillion) of the world’s GDP are grabbling to muster the resources and capacity to defeat the coronavirus, while 90% of the world’s 7.5 billion people live with a frail health infrastructure, or none at all. We have witnessed an increasing number of new zoonotic viruses (SARS, MERS, Swine Flu, HIV/AIDS) over recent decades. Humanity will only successfully defend itself by launching a global upgrading of healthcare including new scientific research into how human immune systems can become less susceptible to viruses that originate in animals. Inadequate healthcare and impoverished living conditions in the developing sector cannot continue. It is a crime that has been perpetuated for decades, and the very survival of humanity screams out for a revolution in our thinking and practices. Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, stated eloquently the link between Africa and the advanced sector in this current crisis: “Advanced economies are unveiling unprecedented economic stimulus packages. African countries, by contrast, lack the wherewithal to make similarly meaningful interventions. Yet if the virus is not defeated in Africa, it will only bounce back to the rest of the world.” (emphasis added) PM Abiy “If Covid-19 is not beaten in Africa it will return to haunt us all” .The virus can only be overcome in Africa, and the rest of the developing sector, if we launch a new economic system, one that values human life above servicing debt and avariciousness. Perilous Conditions in Africa Dr. John Nkengasong, head of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said that COVID-19 “is an existential threat to our continent.” The Africa CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO) do not know the actual number of Africans infected with the virus, due to a lack of ability to test the population. Nor do they have an accurate count of the number of ventilators available in each African nation. Over a month since the appearance of the coronavirus on the continent, experts estimate that Africa is at the early phase of its proliferation. The United Nations World Food Program warned that “the coronavirus pandemic threatens to cause food shortages for hundreds of millions of people especially in Africa,” according to Naharnet. “For many poor countries, the economic consequences will be more devastating than the disease itself.” Pandemic Threatens Food In Import Reliant States An article published by Quartz, Africa Has About One Doctor for Every 5000 People cites a report by the (WHO), that Africa in 2013 “had a deficit of estimated 1.8 million healthcare worker that is projected to rise 4.3 million by 2035.” One reason, according to the article is that: “Currently, there are only 170 medical schools serving the 47 countries of sub-Saharan Africa. Of those countries, 6 have no medical schools, and 20 have only one medical school.” Statistics for the number of doctors per 1,000 population for African nations are horrifying. Physicians Per 1,000 People. When Compared to the figures for advanced sector nations that are now “hot spots” for COVID-19 to those of Africa, where the incidence of the virus is weeks behind Europe and the United States, Africa’s potential death rate is frightening. Examine these estimates: U.S. has 2.3 doctors for 1,000 people, Spain 3.2, Italy 4.2, and South Korea 1.8. The average for sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) has an absurdly low 0.21 doctors for 1,000 people. Twenty SSA nations have .08 doctors or less to treat 1,000 of their citizens, with several at levels of 0.03 and 0.02 doctors. Two orders of magnitude less physicians than the nations that today are experiencing the highest mortality rates. Governor Cuomo of New York, and Mayor de Blasio of New York City beg every day for more healthcare professionals, ventilators and PPEs (Personal Protective Equipment) to deal with the overload of coronavirus cases, Imagine what the potential death rate of Africa’s almost 1.5 billion population could be when one factors in extreme levels of poverty, weakened immune systems, and malnourishment, all prevalent on the African continent.
UNCTAD’s $2.5 Trillion Strategy The March 30, 2020, statement by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development–UNCTAD, UN Calls for $2.5 Trillion Coronavirus Crisis Package for Developing Countries is excerpted below. “The consequences of a combined health pandemic and a global recession will be catastrophic for many developing countries and halt their progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.” UNCTAD’S strategy includes:
- $1 trillion of debts owed by developing countries should be cancelled this year
- $500 billion needed to fund a Marshall Plan for health recovery and dispersed as grants
Credit for a New Economic Order Debt cancellation, and a Marshall Plan to build up health infrastructure for the developing sector nations are crucial for the survival of emerging nations. However, to break from the old political-financial system that has failed us, and to create a new economic platform, we must create credit for physical economic growth. What is missing from UNCTAD’s proposal, and what is absent from all United Nations strategies, is the understanding of the importance of establishing a mechanism for the creation of credit. Following in the footsteps of President George Washington and his brilliant Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, we should establish a National Credit Bank. Nations Must Study Alexander Hamilton’s Principles of Political Economy. Wisely, the US Constitution provides for the federal government, not the states, to issue public credit to promote the general welfare. Credit for production and infrastructure, unlike mere money, is the sine qua non for any healthy economy. This is not the same as printing trillions of dollars of money to bail out an over extended monetary system with a bubble of over one quadrillion of dollars in debt and derivatives. Debts of developing sector nations must be cancelled to clear the decks for the issuance of new credit directed to fostering industrialized economies with healthy agricultural and manufacturing sectors. Extended credit with low interest rates must be issued for long term investments in vital construction of infrastructure. This is a life and death matter for the very survival of African nations. Every government is obliged to create a national bank for the sole purpose of generating physical economic growth critical for the security and future health of that nation. Instead of relying on the present global financial institutions that dictate loan agreements at unnecessarily high interest rates coupled with arduous conditionalities we should create a new global economic system. One founded on the principles that promote the true shared common good for all nations and all peoples. Under this new system sovereignty is inviolate, and trade and credit agreements are premised on improving the material conditions of life for the people of those nations. All political and economic relationships between nations should be to benefit the general welfare of its citizenry. Human beings are sacred, financial systems are not. We can and should craft new monetary systems to advance progress, not monetary profits. President Franklin Roosevelt created the Bretton Woods System, with the intention of uplifting the planet from the misery of World War II. He had magnificent ideas for promoting economic growth around the world, including greening the deserts of Africa. Sadly, after his death, Bretton Woods was perverted, and became the opposite of what he intended. While we must fight this deadly virus with all the resources that governments can assemble, we need to also think to the future; the creation of a more advanced economic platform. It is up to us create a new architype of relationships among sovereign nation states to transform the world out of the ashes of its present decayed state. Let us call this new paradigm by its historic name–A New Just World Economic Order _____________________________________________________________________
New Economic Order Required to Combat COVID-19 in Africa
Lawrence Freeman March 30, 2020 As of March 30, 2020, the Africa CDC reports the total number of COVID-19 cases-4,760, deaths-146, and recoveries-355. The totals for individual nations vary from higher levels: Algeria 511 cases and 31 deaths; Egypt 609 and 40; Morocco 479 and 26, South Africa 1280 and 1; Nigeria 111 and 1 (cases and deaths respectively); to dozens of nations reporting 10 or less cases and 0 deaths. Africa CDC COVID-19 While these figures for Africa are significantly lower than nations in Europe, Asia, and North America, in some cases orders of magnitude lower, there is reason for great concern for the spread of the Coronavirus throughout the African continent. Many African nations are unable to adequately test their citizens, and one should assume the number of cases is vastly unreported. Also, there unique features of African society that present an impediment to isolation of those infected with COVID-19, and social distancing. African society are centered around crowded mass markets, and culturally Africans are prone to show their friendliness towards others by holding hands. Factoring in a weak healthcare system, poor nutrition, inadequate housing, lack of electricity and clean water, and already prevalent existing diseases (HIV AIDS, Malaria, TB) in the population, COVID-19 could propagate very rapidly, overwhelming an insufficient number of beds, hospitals and doctors. For Africans, the consequences of the proliferation of COVID-19 could be catastrophic, resulting in higher levels of mortality and morbidity than we have presently experienced. Debt Restructuring Necessary for Africa’s Health In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, for the first time in many years, African leaders are demanding a restructuring of the onerous debt, whose payment has diverted nations’ revenues away from investing in vital categories of infrastructure, including healthcare. Payment of debt, mere loans, cannot be, to quote from William Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, “the pound of flesh” used to kill people. Tragically, since African nations liberated themselves from European colonialism, debt has been used as a weapon to repress the development of emerging nations. On March 24, the office of the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Dr Abiy Ahmed, released an incisive three point proposal to the G20 nations outlining necessary actions to be taken to safeguard African nations during this pandemic. He began by dramatically stating the truth, “COVID-19 poses an existential threat to the economies of African countries. Our economies, fragile and vulnerable even in the best of times will face serious shocks.” He than discussed a crucial underlying constraint imposed on African nations, “the heavy debt burden, the servicing of which alone costs many of them [nations] significantly more than their annual health budgets.” Prime Minister Abiy requested from the G20:
- $150 billion “Africa Global COVID-19 Emergency Financing Package”
- “Global Africa Health Emergency Package”
- “Debt resolution and Restructuring Package.”
Elaborating on debt restructuring, Prime Minister Abiy wrote, “Ethiopia proposes all interest payments to government loans should be written off. We suggest the remaining debt be converted into long term low interest loans with 10 years grace period before payments. All debt payments will be limited to 10% of the value of exports.” The theme of restructuring Africa’s debt to deal with the present crisis, was also discussed in a virtual conference of African finance ministers on March 19, according to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA). To battle COVID-19, the ministers said, “Africa needs an immediate emergency economic stimulus to the tune of $100 billion” The UNCEA reports that they are asking that $44 billion, almost fifty percent of the funds requested, would come from halting payments of debt service, and in the most fragile nations to the loan principal as well. African Finance Ministers Discuss Debt In an insightful column, published in the March 25th edition of the Financial Times, Prime Minister Abiy again raises the necessity of debt alleviation: “Building on what has been announced by international financial institutions, the G20 must launch a global fund to prevent the collapse of health systems in Africa. The institutions need to establish a facility to provide budgetary support to African countries. The issue of resolving Africa’s debt burden also needs to be put back on the table as a matter of urgency.” (emphasis added) PM Abiy “If Covid-19 is not beaten in Africa it will return to haunt us all”
Emergency Actions Taken Nigeria—March 18, with 8 confirmed cases, imposed a travel ban on 13 high-risk COVID-19 infested countries; mandated a ban open worship and other public gatherings; mandated compulsory laboratory tests on all staff and members of the national assembly; mandated that public institutions should be equipped with temperature gauge. All airports in Nigeria are closed to international commercial flights until 23 April. Rwanda—March 21, with 17 confirmed cases of COVID-19, suspended all arriving and departing commercial flights for 30 days; shutdown of schools, universities, and places of worship for two weeks; the office of the Prime Minister released a list of nine preventive measures. Ethiopia—March 23, with 11 confirmed COVID-19 cases, enforced a 14 day mandatory quarantine for all travelers entering the country; closed all schools, and banned all gatherings and sports events for 15 days. March 25, Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde ordered that more than 4,000 prisoners be pardoned. Senegal–March 23, declared a state of emergency. Ivory Coast–March 23, declared a state of emergency, imposed a curfew from 9:00 pm to 5:00 am, and shut the country’s borders South Africa—March 26, with over 900 confirmed cases, began a three-week nationwide lockdown; the lockdown is considered one of the strictest, banning alcohol sales, dog-walking, and jogging in public. In response to the COVID-19 crisis, China has sent to the African Union, 2,000 test kits to be dispersed across the continent, and is expected to send another 10,000, along with medical supplies. China has also launched a new Health Silk Road. On Sunday, March 22, African Union received 1.1 million test kits, 6 million masks, 60,000 medical protective suits and face shields, donated by Chinese billionaire Jack Ma. Lessons We Must Learn We can and should learn the following lessons from this contagious and lethal virus. Decisions made by nations for securing their future can now be informed from the very painful consequences of the global spread of COVID-19. If society, had learned the principles of the science of physical economy, instead of being seduced by the “smell of money,” we might very well have been able to avoid the worst of the tragic effects of COVID-19, which continue to plague our planet. An unprepared and underfunded national economy gives society little chance to deal with any serious crisis, much less a pandemic. *Globalization has always been a trojan horse, an Achilles heel for the security of any nation. The idea that a nation should gamble its security on the premise of buying necessary commodities from anywhere in the world at the cheapest price was always insane. Witness today’s disruption of multi-thousand mile long supply chains as proof. For example, properly understood, feeding one’s population is a matter of national security. African nations have undermined their security and sovereignty by failing to be food self-sufficient. Procuring food from other continents or at great distances across Africa is not only foolish, but totally unnecessary given the fecundity of African soil. By conservative estimates, African nations spend $35 billion on imported food. A colossal and senseless waste of foreign exchange, which contributes to a nation’s poverty. And a poor-hungry population is fertile ground for orchestrated destabilizations. Nations are ordered by institutions like the World Trade Organization to buy their food at the cheapest price regardless of domestic consequences. The alternative to globalization is obvious; each nation has the sovereign obligation to foster productive agriculture and manufacturing sectors. The current pandemic of the coronavirus has brought to the fore the perilous effects of nations dependent upon importing lifesaving products from other nations. Africa’s huge infrastructure deficit has always been a killer for Africa; literally! Many of my friends and critics alike have objected to my insistence that the most critical prerequisite for Africa’s development is infrastructure. The most essential human right, is the right to live, and to live as a dignified human being. That is impossible with pathetically low, in some cases, non-existent levels of infrastructure.
*Healthcare infrastructure is a necessity to sustain longevity of life—the essence of a human right. It embodies all components of infrastructure, manufacturing, and agricultural industries. Examine what is necessary to maintain a hospital. Abundant electricity for lights and machines, access to clean water, roads and rail lines to transport patients, advanced medical equipment, a manufacturing sector to produce all the products consumed by hospital staff, food production to feed patients and staff, colleges, medical schools to train nurses and physicians, clothing for patients and staff, protective gear, and the list goes on. Now ask oneself, how many hospitals are there per 100,000 population in Africa? How many basic hospital beds exist? How advanced intensive care units? If you look at the chart in the link below, which admittedly is several years old, you can see the huge discrepancy in hospital beds per 1,000 people in Africa compared other parts of the world. Hospital Bed per 1,000 in Africa In the years 2012-2013, the US had 2.9 beds per 1,000 people, Italy 3.9 and Spain 3. All these nations are now experiencing a shortage of beds and all are considered hot spots in this COVID-19 pandemic. Shockingly, in that same time frame, over 25 African nations were recorded to have 1 bed or less per 1,000. In 1975 the U.S. had 1.5 million hospital beds, and today has 925,000-over half a million fewer. Today the US has an average of 2.5 beds per 1,000 people, and California, Oregon, and Washington have 2 beds or less per 1,000. By contrast, before the outbreak of COVID-19, Wuhan, China had 4.3 beds per 1000, and they have added 10,000 hospital beds since the outbreak began by building several new hospitals. Think for a moment would kind of investment in infrastructure, production, and labor that would be required for African nations to even reach the insufficient US level of hospitals and beds. How many hundreds of thousands of megawatts of electricity would have to be generated to supply these new hospitals? How many million gallons of water would be required? Africa has never built up a minimum healthcare infrastructure and is woefully unprepared should the pandemic surge on the continent in the weeks and months ahead. As we are witnessing today, the West is suffering greatly from the deliberate slashing its own healthcare infrastructure over recent decades. This has been accomplished through austerity, shortsightedness, and an indecent obeisance to a desire to make fast-money by gambling on Wall Street. *State government intervention has risen to the fore during this scourge of COVID-19, despite decades maligning the role of the state. It is now clear that contrary to the false claims that the state has no role in the world of neo-liberalism, laissez-faire, and unregulated free-trade, government supervision and government credit-debt to sustain people and the economy have proofed invaluable and lifesaving. Putting aside the multi-trillion dollar bailout to the global gambling casino known as the financial system, governments have issued emergency funds necessary to maintain society. Much more government intervention will be required to save lives in the weeks and months ahead.
A New Just Economic Order Prime Minister Abiy’s column in the Financial Times beseeches the need for a coordinated global response to COVID-19: “There is a major flaw in the strategy to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. Advanced economies are unveiling unprecedented economic stimulus packages. African countries, by contrast, lack the wherewithal to make similarly meaningful interventions. Yet if the virus is not defeated in Africa, it will only bounce back to the rest of the world. That is why the current strategy of uncoordinated country-specific measures, while understandable, is myopic, unsustainable and potentially counter-productive. A virus that ignores borders cannot be tackled successfully like this. We can defeat this invisible and vicious adversary — but only with global leadership. Without that, Africa may suffer the worst, yet it will not be the last. We are all in this together, and we must work together to the end.” His comments implore the urgent necessity for an entirely different global approach to be taken by nations. We must absorb the horrible reality of today’s deadly crisis to motivate our passions to create a better future for civilization. For humanity to survive, we can no longer tolerate living in a world governed a geo-political doctrine that views other countries crudely as either friend or foe, with winners on top and losers underneath. We can no longer live in a system that values mere money above human life. Look at Sudan, whose people are suffering, while Western institutions led by the International Monetary Fund use Sudan’s $53 billion in (unpayable) debt as weapon to dictate their “reforms.” Months before COVID-19, the United Nations asked for $135 million to fight the unprecedented Desert Locust threatening the food supply in Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia. The fund is still $100 million short of that goal. The UN has called the locust swarm in East Africa “extremely alarming.” Tthe current pandemic is affecting the ability for African nations to obtain the minimal equipment and pesticides required. We must bring into creation a new model for governing. A new paradigm that values human life above all else. One that acknowledges the universal moral resemblance of all human beings. The call for a New Just World Economic Order was first articulated in the 1970s and has been echoed for decades by world leaders. All foreign, domestic, economic policy should be formulated upon the recognizable principle that all people share a common aim and destiny. We, the human race, are unified by our endowed unique quality; the power of reason-creative imagination. To resolve the multiple crises facing humanity, including a meltdown of the global financial system, it is urgent that an international conference be convened to establish a new template for economic and political relations among sovereign nations. The foremost underlying principle for such deliberations is acknowledging that the aspiration of all nations should be the elevation of human creative life. For all peoples.