Controlling Covid-19 and its Origin: A Tale of Two cities.

By Allawi Ssemanda and Shemei Ndawula

 

“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times” a phrase from the Victorian dystopian novels ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ by Charles Dickens. This phrase can also be seen to apply to the two largest economies in the world in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. For the past two years the world has been ravaged by the pandemic bringing global economies to their knees. Arguably, in context of containing covid-19 pandemic, the People’s Republic of China is among countries that have largely emerged as the world leaders in fighting this pandemic; first with its rigorous domestic campaign to neutralize the virus within its borders setting benchmarks for the world with its massive treatment center projects and citizen relief during the lockdown.

Meanwhile, the United States of America (U.S) first responded to the pandemic through what many analysts described as denial, then dismissal, panic, disputing science logic and now they are looking for a scapegoat to cover own inadequacies. A deeper analysis of this; one can argue that China has proven a timely ally of many; first with the timely aid – providing aid to various governments with equipments necessary for containing the virus as well as restructuring loans to various economies. Needless to say, China is currently at the forefront of the Covid-19 vaccination not only in Africa but the wider Global north donating several million vaccine doses on top of pledging support to the COVAX initiative aimed at providing vaccines to developing countries.

In contrast, the U.S first chose to hoard most of its domestic vaccines whilst critiquing Beijing for the so-called vaccine diplomacy. Consequently, Washington which often branded Beijing’s diplomats of practicing the so-called “wolf diplomacy” because of their assertiveness, it has now adopted what seems to be “blackmail diplomacy” as a major element amplifying the theories around Coronavirus origins with some people in Biden administration going against the position of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and scientists who support world health organization’s (WHO) first results contending a natural origin to the virus. Indeed, president Biden gave U.S’ CIA 90 days to ‘look into the possibility’ of the virus having originated from a lab in Wuhan, which rises several questions;

Why America? First, we are aware there’s’ an earlier comprehensive investigation into the origins of the Coronavirus headed by the WHO which concluded that; the possibility of the virus having originated from a lab is “highly unlikely”. Considering the fact that in WHO report, a follow up research was indicated to look into the possibility of there being an intermediary species in the transfer of Coronavirus from bats to humans, isn’t it redundant carrying out both investigations parallel to each other?

Why the lab theory? Most of the evidence quoted by believers of the lab theory is quite circumstantial due to the presence of the viral research institute in Wuhan. In addition, there’s been proven research into natural transfer in the previous SARs viruses that have broken out so it would be incredulous to abandon such precedent for an unproven theory especially if was rendered highly improbable by the world mandated body (WHO).

As Carl Sagan, a renown American scientist taught us; “the suppression of uncomfortable ideas maybe common in religion or in politics, but it is not the path to knowledge and there is no place for it in the endeavor of science.” In the wake of Covid-19, American leadership ignored health experts and scientists’ advice in favor of politics. As China aggressively adhered to health experts’ and scientist’s advice such as wearing masks and tight lockdown which temporarily made several Chinese cities empty for several weeks, Washington opted to playdown efforts China employed branding them draconian despite scientific proof that these methods like lockdown and wearing mask were very effective.  An argument can therefore be made that after ignoring science and health experts’ logic and embracing political game(s) in containing Covid-19 pandemic, the U.S which is recovering from covid-19 wreckage must find someone to blame for the death of over 600,000 Americans who would have probably survived had Washington swallowed pride and followed science and “draconian measures” China employed in containing the virus.

Since Covid-19 hit the U.S, politicians in Washington have always tried to find who to blame. As the world raced to develop coronavirus vaccines, some politicians in the U.S were busy blaming China for what they called stealing of their knowledge in vaccine development despite showing zero proof. It was actually partly this issue that saw Trump administration closing China’s Consulate in Houston, Texas. When China produced their Covid-19 vaccines, because Beijing had already contained local transmission at home, and in what could be Xi Jinping’s cherished ideology of a shared prosperity for mankind, China decided to distribute vaccines to almost all countries especially in developing countries. This happened as the U.S and some other developed countries embraced vaccine nationalism by buying and booking all future productions for their citizens, leaving all developing countries to survive arguably on China’s mercy as Beijing supplied them with several tens of thousands of their vaccines. Surprisingly, Washington branded this gesture political, so-called China’s vaccines diplomacy.

Put differently, the U.S has always been ready to discredit China’s efforts not just in containing the spread of coronavirus but from measures of containing virus spreading, vaccine development, vaccine distribution and now after failing, they are trying to change the narrative by taking over WHO’s ongoing duty of investigating coronavirus origins. Such confusion reveals a disconnect with one country seemingly having so much to say about the virus and another (China) having so much to do about the virus, hence, a tale of two cities.

To sum it up, president Biden’s ordered inquiry in origins of covid-19 is nothing but political and blaming China, president Biden is reading Donald Trump’s old playbook – blame China for all your failures, your support back home will rise. What’s clear is that Americans are more divided than ever along political lines. Last year, Republican Party polling consistently indicated that “China-bashing” was very popular among Trump supporters that at one time, top republican officials indicated that “blame-China” theme could help Trump get re-elected since it was one of major tricks that could help offsetting some of the disdain several Americans had for his poor handling of the country’s COVID-19 crisis. It can be argued that president Biden knows that Trump had over 74 million supporters who voted him in 2020 elections. To please them and probably bring them to his side, it is possible that Biden believes doing what they like to hear (bashing China) will see them switch allegiance to him which would be a political score. Therefore, no matter diplomatic words Biden administration put behind his ordered CIA inquiry on origins of Coronavirus, the move is nothing but a cobweb of politics.

Allawi Ssemanda and Shemei Ndawula are Research Fellows at Development Watch Centre, a Foreign Policy think tank.

Politicizing Covid-19 on global stage is very dangerous.

By Allawi Ssemanda.

In 1907, then United Kingdom’s ambassador to the United States of America (US), Lord Bryce is quoted to have observed; “The subject of foreign policy in the United States is like the subject of snakes in Ireland. There are no snakes in Ireland.” This statement has been described by several foreign policy scholars to have meant that in the US, foreign policy making has no style, and a designed process but rather national interests which is purely politics of promoting US’ global hegemony.

Indeed, after several hours of closed-door meeting with Russian president, Vladimir Putin on 16th June, 2021, US president Joe Biden told journalists that there are no secret codes to foreign policy, that it is all about personal relationships, and about human nature. In the same week, shortly after the G7 summit in the United Kingdom, president Biden told journalists that he had given Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) 90 days to investigate the origin of Coronavirus. Biden supported this arguing that in the US, there are two elements of the intelligence community one believing the virus had a natural origin while the other leaned towards a lab leak theory.

Important to note is that while president Biden ordered CIA led inquiry on origins of Coronavirus, an on-the-ground investigation lead by experts from World Health Organization (WHO), a body mandated to carry out such inquires earlier this year concluded their phase one findings, observing that it was “extremely unlikely” that coronavirus started in a laboratory.   Upon this background, one can reason that with WHO primary report out and their investigations ongoing, any country to announce a parallel investigation lead by political appointees should not only worry us but inspire us to ask more questions.

As Indira Ghandi taught us, questioning is the basis of all progress, and those who don’t question are condemned to live in bondage. With that in mind, we must question president Biden’s intentions and interest in ordering a parallel inquiry.  Is it that the Biden administration does not trust WHO which the US joined on his first day in office after reversing his predecessor’s decision to withdraw U.S membership? How can we trust CIA report which receives orders from only Washington? Whose interest will their report be? Is President Biden continuing Trump era policy of America first which he often denounced for Isolating the US from international community? Is he declaring that anything done by international experts but without full say and control of the US is null and void?  Is it that the US knows the origins of Corona virus and want to influence the findings to hide those “facts”? These are some of questions that we should put before the US for their uncalled-for path. There are several reasons to look at the move with scepticism;

First and foremost, president Biden’s ordered inquiry exposes hypocrisy in Washington and casts doubt in their readiness to support the world in confronting the pandemic. It should be recalled that shortly after taking over office, president Biden wrote to the Secretary General of the United Nations (UN) withdrawing his predecessors’ decision to withdraw US’ membership from WHO. It was actually on his first day in office when he wrote and informed UN SG that; “The United States intends to remain a member of the World Health Organization, …the WHO plays a crucial role in the world’s fight against the deadly covid-19 pandemic as well as countless other threats to global health and health security.  The United States will continue to be a full participant…,” read his letter in parts.  Isn’t it surprising that just months later, the president is discrediting the very organization he praised?

Secondary, during his campaigns and his first days in office, president Biden promised the world that “America is Back” as he criticised his predecessor, Donald Trump of Isolating the U.S from international community which is exactly what he is doing by setting a parallel investigation against international community supported inquiry which is ongoing under WHO.

The other important issue we should note is that CIA which president Biden ordered to do investigations cannot be trusted to do an independent investigation free from lies and political influence. For example, during a Q&A discussion at Texas A&M university on 15th April 2019, then Secretary of state Mike Pompeo, told his audience that; “I was the CIA director. We lied, we cheated, we stole… we had entire training courses.” After an outburst of laughter from his audience, secretary Pompeo added: “It reminds you of the glory of the American experiment.” With Pompeo’s admission’s that at CIA lying, stealing and cheating are part of their “training courses,” one wonders if their inquiry won’t be full of lies. It is not a surprise that the weapons of mass destruction CIA told the world that Iraq had to date cannot be traced.

All the above points at one key factor; politics. The U.S has always wanted to appear superior in global affairs. Put differently, they suffer from Libido dominandi, a Latin or the urge to dominate everything that they see a WHO lead inquiry with experts may not give exactly what they want. When covid-19 broke out, as Beijing took tough steps in containing the spread of the virus, Washington branded their efforts draconian measures. Instead of learning from measures China employed in containing the coronavirus, the US chose denial and as tens of thousands of people lost lives to covid-19, some pundits and politicians started blame game possibly to divert people from critiquing their weakness in containing the virus. After assuming office, president Biden promised to vaccinate 100 million Americans in his first 100 days – a figure they missed. Instead of focusing on producing more vaccines and supporting efforts to contain the spread of the virus not just in the U.S but also in developing world, Biden administration is now choosing to concentrate on finding origin of coronavirus – work which is already in progress by respectable and mandated organization, WHO. Could it be that the administration is trying to hide from their failure to deliver on vaccinating 100 million people in 100 days? 

Lastly, according to Dominic Dwyer, an Australian immunologist and a member of WHO’s team of expert, there is no evidence backing the “lab leak” theory and lab leak narrative is political and plays in interests of some countries.  From the views above, a conclusion can be made that as president Biden announced that “America is back,” let Washington come back joining the world in fighting the spread of covid-19 by supporting other countries by making vaccines readily available, and supporting research and science.

Allawi Ssemanda is a Research Fellow with Development Watch Centre; a foreign policy think tank.

 

 

Vaccine nationalism poses a major threat to Africa as the West gobbles up supplies – we need to up our game

By David Monyae and Sizo Nkala counsel

The race to inoculate world populations against Covid-19 has begun in earnest and Africa is losing it. According to The New York Times, as of 4 February 2021 a total of 107.3 million vaccine doses had been administered to individuals across the world. North America leads with 6% of its population having been vaccinated, Europe is on 3.6%, Asia is on 0.9%, South America is on 0.7% and Africa lags far behind with fewer than 0.1% while Oceania has none.

In Africa, only four countries have begun administering vaccines to their populations. Morocco is ahead of the pack having administered 200,081 doses, Seychelles is a distant second on 30,861, Egypt has managed 1,315 while Algeria is fourth with a measly 30 vaccinations. South Africa will soon roll out its vaccination campaigns after receiving one million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines (ED: Doubt has now been cast on the efficacy of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to protect against what is commonly called the South Africa strain).

The latest numbers paint a gloomy picture for the continent, which has recorded just under 3.6 million cumulative cases, more than 407,000 active cases and 92,391 deaths. South Africa has been the hardest hit on the continent with more than 1.4 million confirmed cases to date and 44,946 deaths making up 48% of the continental total. Even more worrying is that the Covid-19 death rate has spiked from 2.1% in July 2020 to 2.5% at the moment, and in 21 African countries the rate is above the global average of 2.2%.

This is compounded by the emergence of a new coronavirus variant first identified in South Africa known as 501.V2 which reportedly spreads faster than the original virus and may undermine the efficacy of the current vaccines. The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) has said that the continent needs to inoculate at least 60% of its population to achieve herd immunity. As such, Africa needs access to Covid-19 vaccines as soon as possible.

However, vaccine nationalism presents a formidable challenge as developed countries rush to hoard the available vaccines, leaving nothing for developing countries.

According to the Bloomberg vaccine tracker, rich countries have ordered vaccines from manufacturers multiple times their own population. Canada has ordered 123.8 million doses, which is more than 330% of its population. The United Kingdom ordered more than 201 million doses, which is about 302% of its population, and the United States has placed orders for 555 million, which is 169% of its population.

More than 4.5 billion vaccine doses have been reserved under bilateral pre-purchase contracts with various manufacturers – 46 African countries account for only just over 189 million (4%) of the doses under the pre-purchase contracts of which more than 128 million (67%) are due to Morocco and Egypt.

With vaccine prices ranging from $10 (R148) to $60 (R890.50) per dose, most African countries have been effectively priced out of the market. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine costs $19 per dose, Moderna and the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccines cost $25-$37, Johnson & Johnson is priced at $10, Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine also costs $10 and China’s Sinovac is the most expensive at $60.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is also the African Union chairperson, decried the hoarding of the vaccines which is “being done to the exclusion of other countries in the world”. The African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team set up by Ramaphosa in August 2020 has reportedly secured an additional 270 million doses from Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson to be supplied later in 2021.

African countries are also relying on the 600 million doses to be distributed through the World Health Organisation’s Covax initiative, which will cover about 20% of the population.

The shameless and irrational hoarding of vaccines by Western nations has shown that when it comes to survival, the ever-busy Western supply chains will suddenly grow cold. Africa’s long-standing relationship with the West has historically necessitated a Western-inclined approach to African problems. This historical bias needs to be scrutinised. Over-dependence on the West can undermine the continent and its people’s survival when supplies of essential medical products like the vaccines become nationalised as they have been.

Just recently the European Union announced that it will institute export controls on vaccines made in European factories, further constricting already fragile supply chains. Even the notion of multilateralism, so fervently proselytised by the West, seems to be only viable in good times. In the rush to survive the pandemic, it is quickly cast out of the window.

The Covax initiative, which promises fair and equitable access to vaccines and which presents many poorer nations’ best chance to get the vaccines, has also been beaten to the market by the developed countries, some of which are even part of the initiative. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, only three countries in Africa (Gabon, Libya and South Africa) have made financial contributions to the Covax facility. The rest of the countries joined the initiative under the Advance Market Commitment (Covax AMC) which relies wholly on donations through official development assistance. This reinforces Africa’s dubious distinction as an aid-dependent continent.

The emergence of China’s Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines and Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine will diversify the supply chains to the advantage of Africa and other poor regions. Indeed Egypt, Morocco and Seychelles are inoculating their populations with China’s Sinopharm vaccine while Algeria is using Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine. The vaccines are less of a logistical nightmare as they can be stored in standard refrigerators whereas Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna need to be stored at between -70°C and -20°C.

In a diplomatic offensive, China has already offered $2-billion to Africa and pledged to make the vaccine available to the continent. While this is a welcome offer, it is not sustainable as it makes Africa dependent on the goodwill of others for lifesaving medicine.

The continent should harness and develop manufacturing and research and development capacities of its own so as to cut the dependency on foreign-controlled supply chains, especially for pharmaceutical products. Although there are fairly vibrant pharmaceutical industries in Egypt, Kenya, Morocco and South Africa, the continent depends on foreign suppliers for 80% of its pharmaceutical and medical supplies. Chronic shortage of human resources, lack of capital and modern technology, and the Balkanisation of African markets are some of the factors that have to be addressed urgently to stimulate the growth of the all-important pharmaceutical industry in Africa.

The implementation of the new African Continental and Free Trade Area – especially the elimination of tariffs and non-tariff and technical barriers to trade and the application of the rules of origin – may give a new lease of life for the pharmaceutical industry. The establishment of the Africa CDC in 2016 to boost the continent’s public health policies is also a step in the right direction.

While Africa welcomes the assistance in the construction of its CDC by its strategic partner, China, it nonetheless raises questions about the ability of its leaders to invest in health infrastructure. It certainly does not inspire confidence that the AU will be able to independently source the funds to support the activities and the work of the CDC.

Moreover, there is a need for a paradigm shift in the understanding of national security among African leaders. African countries spend between $8 and $129 on health per capita per annum, far below the $4,000 average spent in high-income countries.

While Africa carries 23% of the disease burden, it accounted for only 1% of global health spending in 2015. Major countries like Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana spent 0.5%, 2.1% and 1.1% of their budgets on healthcare respectively in 2017, which is way below the 15% threshold recommended at the 2001 Abuja Declaration.

Yet military spending has gone up 20% in the past 10 years. As such, there is a need to move away from a traditional understanding of national security as military spending, to embracing a holistic view of security as inclusive of poverty reduction and, much more importantly, public health preparedness. With a shift in budget priorities, Africa can build a robust public health system and wean itself off foreign supply chains whose sudden nationalisation has crippled the continent’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, putting the very survival of its people in jeopardy.

Dr David Monyae is the Director for the Centre for Africa-China Studies at the University of Johannesburg and Dr Sizo Nkala is a postdoctoral fellow at the same centre.

Source: This article was first published in Daily Maverick

 

 

China has promised millions of coronavirus vaccines to countries globally. And it is ready to deliver them.

By David Culver and Nectar Gan.

Inside a gray warehouse at the Shenzhen International Airport in southern China, a row of white chambers sits in a cordoned-off corner, each fitted with a display screen showing the customised temperature inside.

A security worker in face mask, surgical gown and rubber gloves stands guard. Anyone entering this part of the warehouse has to either complete two weeks of quarantine or wear a head-to-toe hazmat suit.

These climate-controlled rooms, totalling an area of 350 square meters (3,767 square feet), are soon to be filled by rows and rows of Chinese-made Covid-19 vaccines — after they receive approval from the country’s drug regulators. From there, they’ll be loaded onto temperature-controlled compartments of cargo jets and flown to continents around the world.

The climate-controlled chambers at Shenzhen’s international airport will soon be filled with Chinese-made coronavirus vaccines.

In the coming months, China will be sending hundreds of millions of doses of coronavirus vaccines to countries that have conducted last-stage trials for its leading candidates. Chinese leaders have also promised a growing list of developing countries priority access to its successful vaccines.

The climate-controlled chambers at Shenzhen’s international airport will soon be filled with Chinese-made coronavirus vaccines. Courtesy Photo

 Article Source CNN

Chinese peacekeepers Boast South Sudan’s police with supplies to fight COVID-19.

Central Equatoria, South Sudan

The Chinese peacekeepers have donated supplies to help South Sudan’s Central Equatoria regional police to contain COVID-19.

According to information posted on Chinese embassy in South Sudan, Chinese UN police (UNPOL) serving in the United Nations mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) also shared best practices and experience in mitigating the pandemic.

Monydhang Deng Kuol, Central Equatoria’s police commissioner, lauded the donation and praised the Chinese UNPOL’s assistance and support to the state police in capacity building and COVID-19 containment.

“China is a great country with hardworking people. I believe the bilateral relations between the two police forces will be reinforced through mutual cooperation and exchanges in the future,” Kuol said in a statement issued by the embassy.

He added that Central Equatoria’s police would do their best to protect the safety of the people, including the local Chinese community.

The eighth Chinese UNPOL contingent has been in South Sudan for the UN mission since December 2019.

The 21 members of the contingent have served in UNMISS sectors in Juba, Wau, Bor and Malakal, carrying out the duties of protecting civilians, promoting human rights, supporting humanitarian issues, facilitating the peace process and preventing sexual and gender-based violence.

China has almost supported all African countries with medical supplies in combatting covid-19. The country also dispatched hundreds of medical experts to African countries to help in containing the diseases. Some of the countries benefited include Uganda, Kenya, Ghana, South Africa, Burundi, Ethiopia among others.

Magufuli, Magufulism, and Tanzanians Fading Hopes For Free and Fair Presidential Elections.

By Kalisa Aziz and Ssemanda Allawi.

Gearing up for its 6th general election since the restoration of multi-party politics in 1992, Tanzania should be abuzz with political campaigns and the usual hubbub seen in an African presidential election: Political rallies, mass gatherings, empty political promises, and the occasional catchy campaign songs. Not in 2020 but rather expect a landslide victory by president John Pombe Magufuli the Bulldozer, thanks to his unlevelled political playground writes DWC’s fellows Kalisa Aziz and Ssemanda Allawi.

One could blame Tanzania’s looming gloom on the Covid-19 global pandemic International Monetary Fund branded The Great Lockdwon but the reasoning would not stand for the United Republic of Tanzania. President John Pombe Magufuli, (one of the few presidents that refused to implement a lockdown of its state borders) recently declared the country 100% covid free and thus continues to cover up   the true extent of the Corona virus in his nation to the utter dismay and disbelief of the international health experts.

As the country prepares for elections scheduled for 28th October 2020 and with a total of 30 million registered voters so far and a cash infusion of 331 billion Tanzania shillings (142 million US dollars) from the coffers of the central government, the biggest issue facing the parliamentary and presidential elections is the sitting government itself. Despite not closing the country’s boarders as a measure of containing Covid-19, president John Pombe Magufuli known as “bulldozer” instead effectively shut down avenues of ensuring fundamental rights and political freedoms targeting his political opponent.

Declining Freedom of Expression and Media Intimidation in Tanzania.

In 1970s throughout 1980s, countries like Uganda, Kenya, DRC and Rwanda were under dictatorial leadership characterized by media censorship and intolerance to political dissent.  During this time, Tanzania was considered a model and most liberal country in the region. The country’s newspapers often carried cartoons with political messages which under president Magufuli today is slowly and steadily fading as the president is increasingly attacking freedom of expression.

The president armed with a majority in the house of parliament, has weaponised the laws of his nation and imposed repressive and restrictive legislation with very broad provisions. Critics contend that the purpose is to stifle dissent ahead of next week’s polls. Indeed, the country has passed several restrictive laws analysts argue are repressive and affect freedom of expression in Tanzania. Such legislations include among others;

  • Statistics Act

Perhaps the most commonly contested law is the Statistics Act that was amended in 2015. The act criminalises the publication of statistics without the approval of the government. The interference of government in collection of data was heavily criticised by the World Bank (WB) expressing “deep concern” because the act contravenes International standards and would compromise the reliability and dissemination of information from Tanzania. In a statement, WB noted:

The World Bank is deeply concerned about the recent amendments to Tanzania’s 2015 Statistics Act, which are out of line with international standards such as the UN Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics and the African Charter on Statistics…”

The government has ridden the wave of the statistics act by having journalist arrested, suspended and fined for reporting on covid-19 or any other report that is critical of regime.

  • The 2020 Basic Rights and Duties of Enforcement Act.

On 10 June 2020, Tanzania’s National Assembly passed a restrictive law, the Written Laws (Miscellaneous Amendments Act (No. 3) of 2020), which amended 13 laws. The law gravely undermining solidarity lawsuits requires an individual making a claim under the Basics rights and Enforcement Act to submit an affidavit showing that the violation of the Enforcement Act has affected the claimant personally. The overly broad wording limits civil society organizations’ ability to pursue legal aid and law-based activities where they have not been personally harmed. The ramifications of this law (intentional or otherwise) have been to silence those who either cannot afford the cost of litigation or who do not seek justice themselves for fear of reprisal. This law is a match stick to ignite the fire that is a human rights violation. The Tanzanian government has also tabled a bill that will prevent human rights defenders and organizations from filing lawsuits on behalf of, or for the benefit of, victims of human rights violations.

  • 2020 miscellaneous amendment act

The constitution now grants the government powers to suspend civil society organizations and political parties and interfere in their internal operations. Following this legislation, political rallies have been banned or interrupted with claims of concern over the spread of the Corona virus. Arrests have been made over bogus and tramped up charges against political rivals in key electoral districts in order to influence the vote in favour of incumbent members of parliament. The right to free speech and freedom of peaceful assembly have been completely ignored.

Just three weeks to polls, opposition leader Tindu Lissu’s political campaign was suspended for 7 days by the ethics committee of the National Electoral commission. This went on as Ruling party’s candidate traversed the country canvassing support.

In June 2020, Zitto Kabwe, leader of the opposition Alliance for Change and Transparency (ACT), was arrested along with eight senior officials for allegedly violating the blanket ban on gatherings and holding illegal assembly.

The government has not only reigned terror on the opposition but has also attacked the watchdog media that is responsible for protecting the rights of the citizens by reporting crimes committed against them. Under the guise of preventing the spread of false information to prevent vocal dissent and limit the reach of the opposition parties. The government has suspended or completely shutdown newspapers, radio and television stations. The complete disregard for media in Africa by incumbent leaders is per the course but Tanzania is taking it to a new level.

Currently ranked 124th in the world according to the 2020 annual freedom index by reporters without borders organisation, Tanzania has had a precipitous fall from the 80th position and all this in a period of 5 years since Magufuli took office. In June, The Tanzania Daima, an opposition-leaning Swahili newspaper had its operating licence withdrawn for apparently publishing false information against the government and reporting about government’s response to coronavirus.

Mwananchi Newspaper was suspended for six month and fined five million after the media group posted a photo of Tanzanian president in a crowded market which sparked a debate and criticized government handling of coronavirus.  In the same month, Tanzania Communication Regulatory (TCRA) suspended Kwanza online TV for 11 months for what government called “generating and disseminating biased, misleading and disruptive content.” The TV had shared US’ embassy heath alert on Instagram which questioned government’s failure to publish coronavirus figures in the country.  On 10th August, TCRA put Radio Free Africa on a three-month probation for airing a BBC interview with opposition presidential candidate. TCRA claimed the interview was not balanced.

There have also been reports of government blocking access to social media applications like WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter that are fundamental to online activism. This regulation was passed by the CCM – controlled government in August. The regulation criminalises the organisation, planning or support of any form of demonstration on these online platforms.

A deeper search into the media’s relationship with Magufuli Regime reveals a much darker side. In 2017, Azory Gwanda, a freelance-investigative journalist working in rural Tanzania was abducted from his home while investigating mysterious killings in his community. To this day, his whereabouts are unknown. The Tanzanian government has not lifted a finger to investigate the circumstances of his disappearance. Once, the Foreign Minister referred to Gwanda as ‘dead’ but later recanted his statement after an outpouring of discontent from the citizens.

Not long after his death, an opposition member, Godfrey Luema a land’s rights defender also working in rural Tanzania was also murdered outside his home by assailants.

Another prominent victim of Magufuli’s authoritarian regime is Erick Kabendera an investigative journalist stationed in Dar es Salaam. Kabendera published several articles criticizing the government, it’s economy and its failure to weed out corrupt members of the executive. He was arrested in July 2019 and spent 7 months in custody. The charges brought against him were changed 3 times and the court never examining his case because the prosecution kept on requesting more time to prepare for ‘further investigation’.  The judicial branch’s inability to stand up to the big classroom bully that is the executive sent a rather loud, ominous and chilling message to journalists.

Just four days to general elections, the government issued a directive to mobile telephone providers suspending bulk messaging and bulk voice calling services in the country, a move many saw as the ruling party’s effort to frustrate opposition party by interrupting communication. A letter signed by Director General of Tanzania Communication Regulatory Authority James Kilara; “Considering the adverse impact that abuse of bulk short messaging services or bulk voice calling services might have on the general elections, and in accordance with rule three of the second schedule in the Tanzania communication Regulatory Authority Act of the Laws of Tanzania, the authority hereby directs you to temporarily suspend offering of bulk short messaging and bulk voice calling from October 24 2020 to November 11 2020.”

In total, Tanzania has closed over 15 media outlets over the course of 4 years and constantly threatening to withhold state advertising from privately-owned media, the government has imposed a climate of fear in which self-censorship is growing.

Opposition candidates barred from campaigning.

Arguably, in Africa vote rigging and candidate are not new. In Tanzania, Magufuli and the CCM have shown that they are not above rigging an election. This follows a sharp decline in the popularity of the man himself and his cronies. President Magufuli presented himself as a humble servant of God and always preached the gospel of putting God first in all activities be it economic, political or judicial. He promised justice for all people regardless of political party and social standing but like all seasoned politicians produced nothing but smoke. Due to claims of tyrannical rule, his popularity sank to leading to a popularity vote of only 58% of the total voting population. Whispers of voter intimidation and rigging were not lost to the media.

During the local government elections of November 2019, CCM won 99% of seats which elicited an outpouring of discontent from Britain and the United States of America.

The incidences of human rights violations and political persecution, both documented and undocumented, over Magufuli’s first term are numerous. “Do not test me” were the menacing words Magufuli used when he banned rallies a few months into his presidency. This is the restrictive environment in which Tanzania’s October 28, 2020, presidential elections are to be held. The opposition party CHADEMA has borne the brunt of these brutalities. CHADEMA claims that they have been treated unfairly and are often not invited to seat at the table to discuss and/or debate key legislation affecting the citizens of Tanzania with the president often co-opting institutions and legislative committees.

Furthermore, the party members are in constant fear for the safety of their families and for their own lives. Under the current president, security forces have been accused of the murders of political rivals to the government including Daniel John, a local leader of the opposition political party, CHADEMA. He was found beaten to death in his car amidst a heated local election in the district.

In September 2017, Tindu Lissu – the chairman and flag bearer of CHADEMA was shot a total of 16 times at his home in Dodoma. He was later flown to Belgium for treatment and subsequently sought asylum there. To this day, no one has been tried for the attack on Tindu Lissu’s life.  He returned in July for the first time since to run for presidency.

The latest victim is Mbowe Freeman the current leader of opposition in the Tanzanian parliament and current party leader of CHADEMA. He was beaten coincidentally the day after announcing his intention to run against Magufuli.

There have also been claims of kidnapping, disappearances and torture of political opponents while in police custody. In addition to these brazen acts, parliamentary and local election candidates have been dubiously disqualified and voters openly bribed or threatened to vote CCM.

The lack of trust in government to hold free and fair elections by the citizens is quite clear and the natural and predictable outcome is protests, sporadic incidents of violence and localised disruption is likely in urban areas.

Due to the poor economy and civil unrest, a lot of human rights are being neglected and abused by the government. Cases of hunger, unemployment and political arrests are rising steeply. Amnesty international and the European Union have voiced their disappointment about the state of human rights in Tanzania directly caused by the election period. Amnesty International has reported on the effect of the newly enacted laws in Tanzania having a restrictive and repressive effect on the civil society. In 2019 the government of Tanzania passed laws that required NGOs to disclose their sources of funding which is a direct interference with the freedom of Association. This law was used and on 12 August 2020, where Tanzanian government froze bank accounts of the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC) which paralyzed their operation.  After blocking THRDC’s Coordinator, Onesmo Ole Ngurumwa was arrested by Tanzanian police to explain organization’s failure to submit its contractual agreements with donors to the State Treasury, citing 2018 regulations. Police later released him on a police bond, with two sureties each guaranteeing 200 million Tanzania shillings (USD 86206.90) which is too high for any ordinary Tanzanian. Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa, Deprose Muchena, urged Tanzanian authorities that in order to reverse the decline in civil freedoms in Tanzania, authorities ensure that civil society organisations carry out their work freely and independently without any fear of reprisals.

However, cries of strife by opposition parties, media and the international community are falling on the deaf ears of the sitting Tanzanian government. Magufuli, who took office in 2015 promised a crack down on corruption and weeding out bad elements from the system has often come under fire himself from human rights groups urged the country to hold itself above the rest and avoid insults and violence.

The opposition is indeed attempting an uphill climb of the Everest. The giant that is the CCM has unwavering support in rural areas where most voters reside and is running multimillion-dollar campaigns with enough air time which the opposition can never counter. This will allow Magufuli and the CCM to secure victory at the October polls. All the above, though is being paid for by the tax payer. The government is ringing the little man for all his worth just so the CCM party can have a majority in parliament come next week. The government has been criticized for its careless spending considering the global health and economic situation right

The incumbent leaders are only able to strut around because of the amendment’s tables in June of this year. Many of the amendments were written to protect the big wigs of the CCM from prosecution during the electoral season.

For example; Proposed amendments to the LAW REFORM (FATAL ACCIDENTS AND MISCELLANEOUS PROVISIONS) ACT, (CAP. 310) and to the BASIC RIGHTS AND DUTIES ENFORCEMENT ACT, (CAP. 3) similarly state that all suits against the President, Vice-President, Prime Minister, Speaker, Deputy Speaker or Chief Justice cannot be brought against them directly but instead must be brought against the Attorney General. But by preventing individuals who hold these offices from being held directly accountable in a court of law, the amendments serve to erode accountability in the country for crimes committed during the election period. Experience from around the world shows that individual direct accountability is critical in ensuring great performance by leaders and also discourages wrong doing. The principle of equality ensures that every citizen regardless of political standing, be fought to justice and be held equally accountable for breaking the law. Despite president Magufuli having promised a free and fair elections for all political parties, these amendments reduce the possibility for holding specific groups directly responsible for their actions during this election process.

Indeed, with less than 24 hours to polls, president Magufuli has ensured unfavourable media coverage of elections by arresting journalists, finning and revoking licence to media outlets the government considers critical of the regime, requiring Foreign reporters to be supervised by selected government officials, banning local elections observers from monitoring polls,  and very restrictive laws to local groups and NGOs, one can confidently say that president Magufuli has already won Wednesday’s vote widely viewed as flawed and unfair.

 

 

 

 

Africa and China Share Common Approach to Climate Change.

By David Monyae

Weather patterns across the globe are signalling that climate change will bring about catastrophic calamities to all of us.

Increasingly, droughts, heatwaves, wildfires, rising sea levels, warming oceans, thawing permafrost, changing rain and snow patterns are adversely heart-rending.

Africa and China joined the rest of the world at the UN’s 75th anniversary last month to highlight the urgent need for global responses to climate change.

Prior to his address to the UN, President Cyril Ramaphosa warned the world must “swiftly reduce carbon emission and adapt to the effects of climate change, we will be facing one state of disaster after another for many years to come”.

President Xi Jinping of China avoided playing games demonstrated by his counterpart President Donald Trump on climate change.

Instead, he pledged that China will achieve carbon neutrality by 2060, a move that has been commended and welcomed all over the world.

Although there are many notable differences in appearance, style, and approach among Africans themselves, on one hand, and China, on the other, they share a common position on climate change. The reason Africa and China shared a common position at the UN on climate change is because it receives high priority within the Forum on China-Africa Co-operation.

At the Beijing Summit in 2018, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres highlighted the increased co-operation between Africa and China.

He furthermore noted how Africa and China are pursuing what he considered as the “two mutually compatible road maps”, thus, AU’s Agenda 2063 and the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in pursuance of the Belt and Road Initiative.

It is in this context therefore that Africa and China committed themselves to being environmentally friendly in the construction of mega-projects across the continent.

There are also many lessons Africa can learn from China’s rapid rise. China is the only country in the world that has uplifted more than 700 million out of poverty in four decades.

While Africa aspires to follow some aspects of China’s development model, it ought to be mindful of the environmental impact of its development.

China achieved its development at a very high cost to the environment, but President Xi Jinping’s commitment to the Paris Agreement and setting clear targets of carbon neutrality by 2060 has made China a leading global champion on climate change along with the African continent.

It must be recognised that Africa is the smallest producer of CO2 emission yet it is one of the most affected by climate change. In recent years, Africa has had endless calamities caused by climate change.

East Africa experienced swarms of voracious desert locusts amid Covid-19, threatening food security.

The city of Cape Town was on the verge of reaching “Day Zero” in 2018 due to a lack of rainfall.

Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Malawi are still recovering from Cyclone Idai.

Farther afield, Ethiopia and Egypt are facing simmering tensions over the Grand Ethiopia Renaissance Dam on the Nile River.

Indeed, Africa should work with China and the rest of the world to prevent President Ramaphosa’s prophecy from becoming a reality.

 

Africa Must Look East to Revive Economy Post Covid-19

By David Monyae

The African economy has been severely impacted by the ravaging pandemic and a reeling world economy.

It has driven economies into recessions and reversed many developmental plans, with more people left unemployed.

This begs the question, where can Africa look for lessons to kick-start its economy? China, more than any country, has made remarkable strides in containing the coronavirus.

In a letter to the organisers of the 2020 China International Fair for Trade in Services (Ciftis), President Xi Jinping said: “With the deepening of economic globalisation, trade in services has become a key part of international trade and an important area for economic and trade co-operation among nations, injecting new impetus into world economic growth.

“China cannot develop itself in isolation from the world, and the world needs China for global prosperity.”

China’s economy defied the downward trend in most economies across the world. Despite Covid-19 and natural calamities that brought unprecedented floods in the southern provinces of Hunan, Jiangxi, Guangxi, Guizhou, Sichuan, Zhejiang and Yunnan, the Chinese economy grew by 3.2% in the second quarter.

This impressive economic growth takes place at a time when the World Trade Organization warned that global trade is expected to fall by 13-32% this year. South Africa’s economy shrank by 51% on an annualised basis in the second quarter. These are tough times that should compel the government, business and civil society to think differently in search of pragmatic adjustments in our relations with China and all other partners.

How can South Africa and the African continent take advantage of the trade opportunities in China in postCovid-19? As it stands, Africa remains on the periphery of changes taking place in the global economy.

Given the well-established diplomatic relations between Africa and China through the Forum on China-Africa Co-operation (Focac), Africa must respond to President Xi Jinping’s assertion that “the world needs China for global prosperity”.

How can the continent tap into Chinese service trade that is growing at 7.8% per annum and contributing about $775.6 billion (R12.9 trillion)to its GDP?

As the US-China trade war is expected to continue beyond the 2020 electoral cycle, Africa must be an alternative source for the much-needed goods in the booming service sector in China.

Relations between China and Australia, for instance, are in a downward spiral. Africa should, and must, expand trade in products such as wheat, beef, wine and other agricultural products. Plans should be under way in Africa on how to create a conducive environment for tourism in post-Covid-19.

Therefore, Africa’s tourism sector must co-ordinate in transforming how it attracts a large Chinese middle class. The endless power shortage in South Africa and many African countries must be speedily addressed.

Similarly, questions about crime and unreliable modes of transport across the continent need urgent attention. Lastly, African countries must improve the visa issuing process in line with a changing world in post Covid-19. Perhaps sub-regions such as the SADC, EAC and Ecowas must issue common visas to maximise the flow of tourists across regions.

Views expressed in this article do-not necessarily represent DWC.

Politics of Pandemic: How Zimbabwe is Using Covid-19 to Stifle Human Rights.

Harare, Zimbabwe.

Arguably, no country has not been affected by the outbreak of the novel Coronavirus pandemic. But for Zimbabwe, many believe Covid-19 presented an opportunity for authoritarian regime to use Coronavirus measures and entrench itself while grossly violating fundamental freedoms.

Strict measures characterised by one of Zimbabwe’s tough lockdown which authorities say are meant to slow the spreading of the virus saw majority of Zimbabwe’s 16 million people already suffering a parsimony economy face unprecedented hardships as many got trapped into the city as a result of lockdown which police enforced sometimes mercilessly.

The July 21st dusk to dawn curfew indefinite curfew and strict travel restrictions announced by President Emmerson Mnangagwa was resulted into a debate and many critics claimed was regimes effort to curtail opposition and dissenting voices against economic hardships and corruption cases in the country. Indeed, Tendai Biti, the vice president of Zimbabwe’s major opposition party, claims that government’s restrictions had nothing to do with controlling Covid-19 adding that; “It’s madness. You can’t impose a state of emergency, he has no right to declare state of emergency, it’s a serious curtailment of rights. You need parliament [to rectify the declaration].”

Emergency Powers, Political Tensions and Arbitrary Arrests.

Arguably, Covid-19 has provided political leaders especially authoritarian regimes across the globe a rare opportunity to dismiss critics and entrench their leadership through different measures in hiding behind the fight against Coronavirus. In Europe for example, prime minister Viktor Orbán Used the Coronavirus to Seize More Power as he maintained and justified state of emergency rule.

Arguably, Covid-19 has provided political leaders especially authoritarian regimes across the globe a rare opportunity to dismiss critics and entrench their leadership through different measures in hiding behind the fight against Coronavirus. In Europe for example, prime minister Viktor Orbán Used the Coronavirus to Seize More Power as he maintained and justified state of emergency rule, while in the U.S, Trump Administration’s history of attempting to avoid institutional checks left Americans shocked as he used Covid-19 to achieve this. Though the possibility of politicians using coronavirus excuse to grab more power seems to be a global phenomenon, in Africa where institutions lack independence, as was indicated in 2019 Democracy Index which reported half of 44 governments in sub-Saharan Africa as authoritarian with the other 22 categorised as hybrid regimes or flawed democracies, is a clear signal that more African states are likely to use coronavirus for political reasons which analysts argue will hinder democracy and entrench dictatorship.

In Zimbabwe, president Mnangagwa who came to power through a 2017 coup against Robert Mugabe, his regime has used covid-19 measures to deny opposition political space and arrested journalists and critical voices and forced many into hiding — highlighting how a man who came to power promising renewal has in the eyes of the opposition, slipped from bad to worse compared to president Mugabe many linking him to corruption, financial missteps, teetering economy, and authoritarian rule.

Activists and opposition politicians argue that Zimbabweans charged with a form of treason during Mnangagwa’s three years in office is already much higher than during Mugabe’s 37 years tenure, according to research by a coalition of 22 Zimbabwean rights groups, a signal that Mnangagwa is not ready dissenting voices.

By mid-July, over 105,000 had been arrested for what police say they had violated regulations aimed at controlling the spread of the virus which critics deny branding arrests as government’s tricks of using the measures to target the opposition and arrest activists.

International bodies such as United Nations and Human Rights Watch have all criticized politicians in Harare for using Covid-19 to stifle human rights and called on African Union and regional bloc SADC to denounce human rights abuse in Zimbabwe.

Journalist and writers targeted

Journalists and writers have also not been spared as authorities intensify crackdown on critics. Hopewell Chin’ono, a Zimbabwean journalist and documentary filmmaker was arrested after exposing corruption in government. He was later charged with incitement to commit public violence and has been severally denied bail while country’s health minister, Obadiah Moyo whose $60 million corruption case Hopewell exposed was granted bail.  Mduduzi Mathuthu, an investigative journalist has been in hiding for fear of being arrested for doing his work. Lawyers contend several journalists have been targeted for exposing theft of public funds by some government officials including corruption scheme involving the country’s top officials.

Mathuthu told The Associated Press he decided to hide for he was fearing for his life as many journalists and critics have been detained, or abducted and tortured by state operatives. “The president has labeled us terrorists and has spoken of flushing us out, and that has dark connotations because it gives me a picture of an animal being startled and chased into the open to be killed,” Mathuthu noted. His sounded his fears after Zimbabwe’s Emmerson Mnangagwa’s vowed to continue with the clampdown against those he described as threatening the countries peace and calling his critics “dark forces,” “Opposition terrorists groups” and “a few bad apples” that should be “overcome.”

Zimbabwean Human Rights activists and lawyer, Doug Coltart decried president Mnangagwa’s language tweeting that; “When @edmnangagwa talks of “opposition terrorist groups” destabilizing the country what he means is: •Students carrying the Zimbabwean Flag • Journalists investigating corruption • Nurses asking PPE and a living wage • Citizens exercising their Rights. #ZimbabweansLivesMatter,” while Dewa Mavhinga, the Southern Africa Director, Human Rights Watch investigating Zimbabwe, South Africa, eSwatini and Malawi tweeted photos of alleged “victims abducted & tortured by elements in the Zimbabwe security forces” who visibly looked frail and tortured.

Author, Tsitsi Dangarembga who has also been critical of corruption in the country was detained by police just three days after her novel “This Mournable Body” was listed for Booker Prizes Award.

Western diplomats have also consistently accused Harare of poor human rights record. Several western countries including United States of America have amplified their voices against what they described as using covid-19 to stifle human rights and argued president  Mnangagwa to keep the inauguration pledge he made in 2018 to respect human rights.  The ruling party described diplomats warning as “rubbish” arguing there is no human rights abuse and all those arrested have cases especially violating regulations meant to counter covid-19.

Zimbabwe has registered over 6,388 cases of covid-19 with 195 deaths which includes high profile officials such as agriculture minister Perrance Shiri, army spokesperson among others officials. The country is struggling with cases as health workers protests over poor pay, and lack of personal protective equipment while handling covid-19 cases.

If you are in Zimbabwe and want to contribute to this analysis send your comments or message to info@dwcug.org or WhatsApp message to +46729349395.

 

 

Sickening thy neighbour: Export restraints on medical supplies during a pandemic

By Simon Evenett

Given the centrality of China to many international supply chains, there is considerable interest in the impact of COVID-19 on global trade flows. And a troubling trade policy dimension is now coming to light. This column reports on and assesses a finding of the Global Trade Alert that 24 nations have recently imposed export restrictions on medical supplies.

In our interconnected world, whenever a global crisis occurs governments must decide whether discriminating against foreign suppliers is part of the solution, or whether foreign knowhow and resources can be tapped for mutual advantage. Decisions to sacrifice open borders on the altar of some other goal are typically influenced by the steps – real or perceived – taken by other governments. At such times, written and unwritten international rules are tested, with consequences that can last well after the crisis dominated headlines. The coronavirus pandemic is no exception.

Given the centrality of China to many international supply chains, there is considerable interest in the impact of the COVID-19 on global trade flows (Baldwin and Tomiura 2020) and on the value and location of foreign direct investment (UNCTAD 2020). However, there is a troubling trade policy dimension that is now coming to light. To appreciate its significance, recall that the Director-General of the World Health Organization has argued that “[w]e can’t stop COVID-19 without protecting health workers” (WHO 2020). Those workers require gloves, medical masks, respirators, face shields, gowns and the like. And as the Coronavirus has spread, glaring shortages have arisen. Consequently, WHO has called on governments to increase production of protective equipment by 40% and to roll back export restrictions.

Drawing upon a recent analysis by the Global Trade Alert (2020), in this column I assess one of the key findings, namely, that a growing number of governments have been sickening their trading partners by banning or limiting the export of medical supplies. Here medical supplies are taken to mean protective medical equipment (such as masks) as well as medicines and their ingredients.

Resort to export restrictions since the beginning of this year

It is important to appreciate that governments can restrict exports of medical supplies in many ways. Not all of them are as salient as a publicised export ban. For example, a government can decree that all relevant medical equipment supplies produced in a country must be sold to the state, which in turn decides not to make any product available to foreign buyers. Governments can also tinker with intellectual property rights legislation, effectively frustrating the sale of a medicine abroad. Ministers may threaten local medical suppliers if they ship goods abroad. Lastly, governments may insist that a local supplier ship a maximum percentage of its production abroad or require tedious paperwork to be filled before approval to export is given. All of these means – some more transparent than others – have been deployed by governments since the beginning of the year.

That these export restrictions are biting is now evident. In early March 2020, the German authorities stopped delivery of 240,000 masks to a Swiss buyer, prompting the government in Bern to carpet the German Ambassador (NZZ 2020). In addition, a French requisition order has prevented Valmy SAS from fulfilling a contract with the British National Health Service to supply millions of masks (Euronews 2020). Similarly, North American buyers of Chinese medical supplies report that orders were not fulfilled once the coronavirus began to spread (CNN Business 2020).

Sorting through press reports, it was possible to identify 24 nations that have imposed either a formal export ban, a de facto export ban, or an export limit on some form of coronavirus-related medical supply. Figure 1 reveals the identities of those nations. That no export restrictions have been found in North America, one in South America, and relatively few in Africa suggests that at this time, distance from China may be a contributing factor.

The pace at which governments are resorting to export restrictions is accelerating. Of the 27 instances of export restrictions imposed by these 24 nations since the beginning of the year, 16 were implemented in the first ten days of March 2020.

Completeness requires acknowledging that India has reversed some of its export restrictions on masks in early February, allowing some to be exported to China. Turning over a new leaf this was not – New Delhi followed up later in the month by banning the export of 26 pharmaceutical ingredients and some of the products made with them, such as paracetamol. Also, very recently Taiwan temporarily lifted an export ban on facial markets. Still, overall, export policy became more restrictive.

Five adverse consequences of limiting exports of medical supplies

The last time export restraints were the focus of much economic research was after many government limited food exports during the commodity price spikes of 2006-8 (e.g. Anderson and Jensen 2017). In that case, export limits were found to raise the level and volatility of world prices while doing little to depress domestic prices, which were driven in part by other factors. As means of ensuring food security, such export limits were of dubious value.

The parallels to recent export bans on medical supplies are inexact. In the present case, the nub of the matter is availability rather than price. Health professionals are in the front line in the fight again the Coronavirus and to reduce the risk of themselves getting sick – or to delay the moment when that happens – they need protective medical kit. Export bans on masks, for example, erode the capability of trading partners to cope with the spread of the coronavirus. Rather than beggar-thy-neighbour, this amounts to sicken-thy-neighbour.

Denying foreign buyers medical suppliers is costly for the imposing nation too for four reasons. First, recall that the purpose of such export limits is to increase the supply available to local hospitals, etc. Whatever temporary gain there is in limiting shipments abroad, the loss of future export sales will discourage local firms from ramping up production and investing in new capacity, which is exactly what WHO has called for. In practical terms, this means that during a pandemic an export ban ‘secures’ certain currently available domestic medical supplies at the expense of future locally produced supplies.

Second, the fiscal inducements that governments will have to deploy to persuade domestic firms to expand production will have to be larger in the presence of an export ban. What may sound like an expedient policy response to a health pandemic actually increases the burden on the public finances at exactly the wrong time.

Third, export bans jeopardise cooperation with other governments. Erosion of trust between trading nations need not be confined to medical supplies and cooperation on health matters. Plus retaliation by harmed trading partners cannot be ruled out – the extensive supply chains in medicines and medical equipment imply that pretty much every nation is vulnerable to some forms of retaliation.

Fourth, one nation’s export ban is a political gift to nationalists and populists in affected trading partners. Calls for protectionist industrial policies are the result – as demonstrated by the recent remarks of Mr. Peter Navarro, the Director of President Trump’s Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy (Financial Times 2020) – implying that the nation that imposes an export ban may find that conditions of competition abroad have worsened well after the coronavirus pandemic has been tackled.

Less-damaging policy alternatives exist

Proposals for export limits should be tested against alternatives that do not impede foreign purchases. Governments concerned that subsidising domestic production will benefit disproportionately foreign buyers should consider setting price floors for medical devices sold to the state. Such minimum prices could apply to a pre-announced limit of government purchases. Local producers would then be assured of a guaranteed amount of revenue for supplying the state with critical medical supplies.

Where practical, consumption subsidies should be considered as well. If there are concerns that minimum prices or subsidies cannot be afforded by some developing countries, then the World Bank and IMF should stand ready to advance the sums necessary. What matters is that production of critical medical supplies is stimulated globally and that trade policy facilitates their expeditious distribution.

Source: Vox EU

 

DWC

Development Watch Centre

Kampala - Uganda

ADDRESS

Plot 212, RTG Plaza,3rd Floor, Office Number C7 - Hoima Road, Rubaga

CONTACT

+256 703 380252

info@dwcug.org

FOLLOW US
© DWC - All rights reserved - Cookies Policy - Privacy Policy