Category Archives: Africa

WHO asks for more COVAX funding

COVAX, is the abbreviated term for the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access from the World Health Organisation (WHO). It is the organised effort by the global health authoritative body on the fight against the ongoing crisis of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic across the world. Not only does COVAX work with companies to secure vaccine doses for developing and low income countries, but also with developed, high income countries to find the funding needed to purchase and distribute said doses.

For many nations and their peoples around the world, the COVAX vaccine programme might be their only chance of accessing a vaccine. Lower income countries are unable to secure high amounts of the vaccine by themselves, and for many nations the vaccine rollout has been slow and limited so far to frontline and healthcare workers. The WHO has repeatedly stressed the need for a coordinated and united world approach to solving the COVID-19 pandemic, but it has fallen on deaf ears in many places. 

Countries such as the United Kingdom, United States of America and Israel, have all been accused of stockpiling the vaccine. Reports in the United Kingdom suggest the government has used the British manufacturing of the Pfizer vaccine to ensure there is even a spare dose available for British nationals. This caused tension with countries in the European Union, which the United Kingdom has only recently left, who accused the small island of a selfish and ultimately stupid approach. 

WHO has now come out to ask for over two billion United States Dollars in extra funding for the COVAX programme. COVAX vaccines were first delivered to Ghana on the African continent on the 24th February, 2021. Since then the programme has reached over 100 economies with the life-saving vaccine. Through the COVAX programme, an estimated 38 million doses so far have reached individuals, protecting them from the deadly virus. However, there will be much more support required from higher income countries if the programme is to continue successfully.

Giant shipping container blocks global trade routes on Suez Canal

The grand Suez Canal in Egypt has been blocked by one of the world’s largest shipping containers this week. In an extraordinary (almost) turn of events, the ship has been caught in the side of the canal as it tried to turn around. 

The news is not good for the global shipping industry which runs around 10 percent of its trade via the canal. As a result, the waterway is one of Egypt’s top earners in foreign currency, and one the country has invested in much over the years. The most recent investment in the canal’s structure by Egypt was in 2015 when the government of Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi authorised a substantial expansion in the canal’s width to allow for it to accommodate larger vessels – like the one currently stuck. 

The Suez Canal provides one of the only direct routes from East to West and vice versa for trade shipping. The canal has been a crucial link in the global industries for natural gas, oil and shipping containers since it opened in 1869. The stuck ship comes only as the latest disruption to these international trades that have been already severely affected over the past year due to the global coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. 

The stuck ship is called the MV Ever Given and originated from Panama. It often carries trade between Europe and Asia via shipping container and is considered one of the world’s largest. The humongous container ship was grounded on Tuesday of last week, blocking traffic along the waterway ever since. 

The ship was trying to turn sideways in the canal although the reasons for why have remained a mystery to the Suez Canal Authority. The boat suffered a ‘blackout’ whilst in transit but the logistics company in charge of the ship have declined further comment. As of Saturday 27th March 2021 the ship remains blocking trade via the canal. 

The value of money: Malawi sensitises citizens to currency care

The value of money has been a long time mystical notion since its first conception thousands of years ago. The practice of ascribing value to objects and imbuing them with value is an almost magical practice that continues to inspire markets today from the art market to new digital currencies like bitcoin. However, the value of money, or any form of currency, relies on a collectively agreed notion of its worth from a community, without which the object is devoid of its value and made again effectively worthless. 

In Malawi however, the government and national bank are struggling to encourage citizens to care and respect the national currency Kwacha. Dramatically, the Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) has estimated an average currency loss of over 12 billion Kwacha annually from misuse by the population. 

The maltreatment of the paper banknotes comes from a tendency by people to fold and place banknotes, often in wet places, causing irreparable damage to the notes. Mistreatment of the notes is said to happen most at markets – especially wet ones selling items such as fish – and more likely to occur during large celebrations such as engagement, wedding and anniversary parties according to Merlyne Yolamu, the commissioner responsible for the Central West Region. 

Yolamu went on to describe the police’s role in continuing to sensitize the public to care for the national currency, and make people more aware of their responsibility in preserving the notes. In a statement she shared how: “We must spread the message on the care of currency in order to save billions of kwacha that are lost by the reserve bank annually through banknotes replacements.” 

With the first credit card in use in 1946, digital banking has been steadily on the rise. As digital currency and contactless payments continue to gain traction throughout the world, it remains to be seen how long Malawi will keep paper banknotes in use before transitioning to more technological formats.