In this week's Pulse...
377mn new global customers for African ecommerce, multi-actor interim government in Libya, Africa’s new medicines agency and fake drugs, Rwanda putting humans over identity to vaccinate refugees, Nigerian bus-booking platform Plentywaka to show America how it's done, and does African music need Americanisation to achieve global recognition?
Effective internal and regional security, and foreign policy
Will foreign powers stop meddling in Libya? A transitional government has assumed power in Tripoli, initiating a short UN-designed democratisation process poised to end with elections later this year. The success of the outsider-led process that has largely side-lined African actors could hinge on whether foreign players stop meddling in oil-rich Libya. Since 2011 when Libya was plunged into chaos after a NATO-backed uprising toppled long-time ruler Muammar Gadhafi, the warring factions there have used earnings from oil fields under their control to enlist over 20,000 mercenaries - further escalating insecurity. Additionally, UAE, France, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Syria and the US all continue pursuing unilateral interests in Libya. If and when the foreign players go, the AU needs to fill the power vacuum by regaining its diplomatic clout in Libya and start influencing what was once one of its leading financiers and supporters.
Can a billionaire help Africa capture the value of its football? Having being selected as the president of the Confederation of African Football (CAF), South African mining magnate Patrice Motsepe, now faces the greatest challenge of his illustrious career in attempting to make African football profitable, rid the game of corruption, fight the trafficking of African footballers abroad, poor pay for players, restore confidence in the Continental governing body, and cultivate managerial efficiency. But Motsepe’s credentials might make him the right candidate for the job. With a net worth of $2.9bn, he is expected to leverage his business connections to attract investment to African football. Owning a successful football club in Mamelodi Sundowns, the record winners of the South African league, Motsepe understands profitable football management. However, having assumed the position through a FIFA-brokered deal, Motsepe ought to be wary of potential external influence and focus on African interests.
Will an African medicines agency improve drug production and efficacy? The creation of the African Medicines Agency (AMA) is in high gear, as Covid-19 validates the need for the Continent to have its own body tasked with improving the production and harmonisation of pharmaceutical products. Sound regulatory systems are critical for protecting public health against use of medical products, which do not meet international standards of quality, safety and efficacy. As such, AMA would enable African companies to tap into the global pharmaceutical market, whose revenue totalled 1.25trn in 2019. Ultimately, it would also help control counterfeit medicines. Globally, the trade in counterfeit pharmaceuticals is worth up to $200bn annually, with Africa among the most affected regions. About 42% of all fake medicines reported to the WHO between 2013 and 2017 were from Africa. The quicker the AMA is operationalised, the better for the health of Africans.
Essential infrastructure, personal living-space & utilities
Humanity over identity. Rwanda vaccinates refugees and asylum-seekers against Covid-19. Across the world, social infrastructures instrumentalise identity to discriminate against foreigners in the consumption of emergency public goods. Not in Rwanda. Whilst many countries are prioritising nationals over non-nationals in Covid-19 inoculation programmes, Rwanda is vaccinating refugees and asylum-seekers too, becoming the first African nation to do so. The refugees received the vaccine on the basis of their vulnerability to the virus, just like nationals. They were among high-risk groups such as health workers, teachers, elderly people with chronic health issues, those aged over 65 years, and other frontline workers. To beat the virus, other countries may want to consider impartially for vaccination, irrespective of nationality and other social statuses.
High value skills development and talent repatriation
Nigerian bus-booking platform expanding to solve a global challenge. After facilitating 300,000 rides in just over a year since launch, Lagos-based bus-booking start-up Plentywaka, is looking to scale its operations across Africa and North America, starting with the Canadian city of Toronto in late 2021. In doing so, it provides another example of how an African solution can be applied across the world. Plentywaka, which operates an “Uber-for-buses'' model connecting commuters with buses via an app, is a timely intervention in Africa’s inefficient and obsolete public transportation system. By acting as an aggregator, it enables commuters to explore options of various transport companies, compare fares and make a competitive booking. But as private sector players like Plentywaka are trying to fix Africa’s transportation, governments need to facilitate the creation of enabling backbone infrastructure.
Proportional representation in politics, business and community leadership
The legacy of Tanzania’s president Magufuli. The death of Tanzania’s president John Magufuli has been attributed to a long-standing heart condition, but many will still suspect that he succumbed to Covid-19. He was hailed for his anti-corruption stance, championing austerity, and hands-on style that endeared him to a population that had given up on the idea of a visionary like Julius Nyerere, who stood up to foreign powers. He was a patriot who cancelled foreign trips for public servants, slimmed the cabinet, renegotiated extractive mining contracts with foreign firms, insisted on his wife receiving treatment in a local public hospital, cleaned the public payroll, rejected expensive Chinese loans, cancelled independence day celebrations over costs, constructed more roads than all his predecessors combined, skipped UN general assemblies to save money, did not travel beyond East Africa, and made impromptu visits to public facilities. He has also been credited for transitioning Tanzania to a lower middle-income country. Whilst the West may remember him as a Covid-19 sceptic, at home and in East Africa, he is celebrated as a patriot who stood up to imperialism.
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