|Monday 15th of March 2021
Remote working is a lifeline for Kenya’s beach resorts @TheEconomist
On beach beds under palm trees in Kenya’s Diani Beach, the usual throng of swimsuit-clad tourists dozing in the sun has been replaced by a more industrious crowd of laptop-bashers.
Over the sound of the ocean comes the murmur of business jargon. Above the gurgling call of black-and-white colobus monkeys reverberates the cry of the anguished executive: “I’ll circle back by cob.”
When covid-19 struck, it dealt a grievous blow to Kenya’s tourism industry, which generates about 9% of gdp.
With airports shut and many travellers in the rich world locked in their homes, the number of foreign tourists visiting Kenya slumped by almost three-quarters.
Najib Balala, Kenya’s tourism minister, warned that the industry was on the verge of collapse.
Yet it has been thrown a lifeline from an unexpected source: urban Kenyans who were told to work from home, but instead chose to work from a beach house.
Florin Iki, an artist and teacher, switched from teaching Italian and Spanish in person to doing so over the internet—from Lamu, an island on the north coast.
“Nairobi is a very chaotic city,“ she says. “I could spend three hours in a matatu [minibus taxi] trying to get to work in time.”
The new working patterns are changing many things. Aurelija Juchneviciute, who owns the Heavenly Garden, a rental villa in Diani Beach, says that before the pandemic 90% of bookings were for short stays. Now 90% are long-term.
The clientele has changed, too. Previously Kenyans made up only a fifth of guests. Now they are about half.
When the first covid-19 lockdown was lifted, “a lot of people just escaped from Nairobi…to breathe,” she says. “Then they realise there’s good internet.”
Another change has been a jump in the number of visitors from other east African countries.
These include Ugandans, who came to sit out violent presidential elections back home, as well as Ethiopians attracted by Kenya’s fast internet.
Local business owners who previously made a living selling to large hotels, or to visitors coming down on weekends, are now scrambling to supply the region’s new residents with fish, vegetables and even furniture.
Local services are booming, too. Michael Wendo, a Diani-based yoga instructor, says he is now teaching regulars, rather than the occasional tourist.
Telkom Kenya, a phone company, says internet subscriptions in the town have jumped by 50% since the lockdown was lifted.
Not everyone is a winner. The region’s big hotels—with their high overhead costs—have struggled to compete with cheaper cottages and villas.
After the pandemic many of these trends may reverse. But some may leave more enduring cultural changes.
For many years Kenyans would oscillate, along with economic cycles, between living in expensive cities, where there are jobs, and moving back to their ancestral villages, where costs are lower.
Now they have a third option. One that offers kitesurfing, but not too much time with mum and dad. ■
After the Apocalypse Srećko Horvat @HorvatSrecko [received from the Author]
This book started its life long before the current COVID-19 pandemic and the acceleration of catastrophes throughout the world, including climate crisis, civil wars and the enduring nuclear threat that are turning extinction not into a future event that is yet to come, but into something that might already become history once this book is published
Introduction: Nine Theses on Apocalypse
A fire broke out backstage in a theatre.
The clown came out to warn the public; they thought it was a joke and applauded.
He repeated it; the acclaim was even greater.
I think that’s just how the world will come to an end: to general applause from wits who believe it’s a joke.
Søren Kierkegaard, Either/Or, Part I, 1843
Empty streets and ghostly cities, curfew and quarantine; closed shops, restaurants, schools and theatres; closed borders between most countries in the world; around three billion people in lockdown or in some sort of isolation; thermal scanners, geolocation tracking and mass surveillance; hundreds of millions of workers unemployed; clear skies above us, a state of exception beneath; hundreds of billions of locusts swarming through parts of Africa and Asia, fuelled by climate change; the biggest wildfires ever recorded in the Chernobyl ‘Exclusion Zone’, coinciding with the anniversary of the nuclear accident and an ongoing pandemic; earthquakes and floods; authoritarian capitalism and ecofascism on the rise across the world.
When the first news of a highly contagious virus in Wuhan started to spread across the world in early January 2020, many believed – or wanted to believe – it was an epidemic that would not extend beyond China.
But the virus had other intentions. As it was already, unbeknown to us, spreading across the world through the hyperconnected networks of global capitalism (its logistics and infrastructure: airlines, trains, cruisers, subways) and through the very sociability of humans (touches, hugs and kisses),
It seems that the virus appeared as a good ‘excuse’ to many regimes, which, instead of treating the virus as a serious health risk, used it to legitimize and finally fulfil their authoritarian wet dreams.
Naomi Klein, who called it the ‘Screen New Deal’5 – namely, a future where almost everything is ‘shared’ through the screen on a mediated platform.
It is, as Klein points out, a future that employs fewer teachers, doctors and drivers, claiming to be running on ‘artificial intelligence’, but is ‘actually held together by tens of millions of anonymous workers tucked away in warehouses, data centers, content moderation mills, electronic sweatshops, lithium mines, industrial farms, meat-processing plants, and prisons, where they are left unprotected from disease and hyperexploitation’
Everything had to change, so that everything could stay the same. Or even worse.
Just before the global lockdown of early 2020, at a time when the post-apocalyptic fiction section had already been moved to current affairs,
the ‘commodification’ of the Apocalypse. This process of turning the Apocalypse into a consumerist product or experience takes various forms today, from cinema (the popular HBO Chernobyl series) and ‘post-apocalyptic tourism’ (not just to Chernobyl) to a wide range of products that reflect or materialize our current post-apocalyptic Zeitgeist.
Besides looking at Chernobyl as an example of the ‘commodification’ of the Apocalypse, this chapter reminds us of the looming danger of nuclear catastrophe and introduces the thesis on the ‘supraliminal’ character of the nuclear age.
‘The Collision: Marshall Islands are Everywhere’, starts with a speculative trip to the Marshall Islands, the most nuked place in the world as well as threatened by rapidly rising sea levels, in order to understand what happens when climate crisis and the nuclear age collide.
Here, the term ‘eschatological tipping points’ is introduced in order to warn of the interconnectivity of eschatological threats that are not only all present at the same time, but are reaching ‘tipping points’ leading to an irreversible change in the Earth system.
The ‘revelation’ of COVID-19 is the following: the alternative is no longer socialism or barbarism, our only horizon today is a profound reinvention of the world or ... extinction.
The Apocalypse already happened
In order to come closer to an understanding of our contemporary ‘revelation’, we have to embark on a post-apocalyptic journey that follows an understanding of time that is opposite to the still prevailing conception of time as chronos.
Namely, the idea – or rather ideology – of time as something ‘linear’, based on clocks, calendars and time zones, for centuries grounded in the capitalist notion of ‘progress’ and its myth that humanity is ‘progressing’ in a chronological order towards something meaningful, towards a ‘higher’ stage of civilization.
What if there is nothing coming after the ‘End-Time’ – no new epoch, no new start, no promised kingdom? a ‘naked Apocalypse’.
According to Anders, it is ‘naked’ because there is nothing but a mere downfall awaiting us. There is no kingdom to come, only an ‘Apocalypse without kingdom’, which is in opposition both to Ezekielian eschatology and the capitalist faith in ‘progress’.
Or as Anders, whose thoughts and writings on the Apocalypse will crop up throughout this book, put it:
Today, the fact that we have to live under the threat of a self-made apocalypse raises the moral problem in an entirely new way.
Our moral task does not arise from the cancellation of the expected kingdom, from God’s judgement, or from Christ (as Daniel and all other apocalypticians had expected).
Our moral task arises because we ourselves, through our own doing, are responsible (not as judges, but nonetheless) for deciding whether our world will remain or disappear.
We are the first to expect not the kingdom of God after the end, but nothing at all
Apocalypse as revelation
The submicroscopic particle called SARS-CoV-2 that spread around the world in 2020 served in a way as a sort of an apocalyptic X-ray machine that exposed all the fallacies of our current world system based on expansion and extraction
Although today, Apocalypse is commonly under- stood to mean ‘the end of the world’, the original Greek word apokalypsis (ἀποκάλυψις) reveals another reading.
Coming from the Greek word roots of apokalýp(tein), with apo- (meaning the prefix ‘un-’) and kalyptein (meaning ‘to cover or conceal’), the ‘apocalypse’ was originally understood as ‘uncovering’ or ‘unveiling’.
The most famous apocalyptic text, the final book of the New Testament, was originally called Apocalypse, the title itself deriving from the first word of the text, written in Koine Greek apokalypsis, meaning ‘revelation’.
And the same goes for the ongoing and deteriorating climate crisis that, according to scientists, even represents a new geological epoch, the so-called Anthropocene.
From the perspective of the Apocalypse as ‘revelation’, the floods that hit the Mediterranean in 2019 were not a single random event, but an indication of the floods – and major climate disruptions – to come.
The COVID-19 pandemic was a forerunner of the pandemics to come.
Perhaps, as Walter Benjamin famously warned in the fragment of his One-Way Street (1926) titled ‘Fire Alarm’, revolutions are an attempt by the passengers – namely, the human species – to activate the emergency brake on the train that is called ‘progress’.
And perhaps this is the most important warning to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic: the Apocalypse (as ‘revelation’) doesn’t have to come with a big bang, like an eruption of a super-volcano, destructive tsunami or rapid sea-level rise; it can come as an almost invisible particle, it can spread quickly and infect both the biological sphere and the semiosphere (see Thesis 3).
It can happen anywhere, at any time, and in fact it is happening all the time.
Once these multiple eschatological threats meet and trigger a nonlinear change process, we can speak of ‘eschatological tipping points’ (Thesis 6) that are becoming more and more ‘supraliminal’ (Thesis 7).
The struggle for meaning Thesis 3:
The Apocalypse is always a semiotic machine. Disaster generates meaning. Meaning often generates disaster. Humans and the planet are so intertwined
that it’s no longer possible to make a clear separation between the biosphere and semiosphere.
what is always already at play is semiosis – the process of signification and production of meaning.
In other words, the Apocalypse is never just simply a ‘revelation’ that takes place in the physical reality or the biosphere; it is at the same time a struggle for meaning in the semiosphere.
The new language (‘flatten the curve’, ‘social distancing’, ‘self-isolation’) created in 2020 as a result of the pandemic is a good illustration of how catastrophic events don’t just affect the biosphere or infect biological bodies.
The disaster takes place simultaneously in the semiosphere – the sphere of production and circulation of signs.
Contemporary capitalism can be defined as integrated world capitalism, because it tends toward a state where no human activity on the planet can escape it.
Post-apocalyptic melancholy Thesis 4
The current devastation of the planet leaves deep scars not only on the surface of the Earth, but in human subjectivity.
The overwhelming and prevailing sense of the end could be called the ‘post-apocalyptic melancholy’.
a recent study by Swiss researchers suggests that by 2050, at least half of Switzerland’s glaciers could vanish, while more than 90 per cent of glacier volume in the Alps could be lost by 2100
And how do you mourn a loss that is not merely a future loss, but loss of the future itself?
‘Normalization’ of the Apocalypse Thesis 5:
The current devastation of the world is enabled through the process of ‘normalizing’ contemporary barbarism. Instead of ‘returning to the normal’, we should treat the ‘normal’ as the true problem.
The Apocalypse is not just an eschatological event, in an epoch in which the human species became the ‘masters of the Apocalypse’; it is a political event par excellence
clapping from balconies or doorsteps in solidarity with so-called ‘essential workers’. But even this gesture of solidarity wasn’t really a gesture of solidarity; it was the ‘normalization’ of social distancing from the very (sacrificial) workers who have been on the so-called ‘frontline’, not only during the pandemic but for decades and throughout history.
Eschatological tipping points Thesis 6: Today, more than ever before, we are confronted not by just one eschatological threat, but by multiple and simultaneous threats that can function as ‘tipping points’ leading to an irreversible planetary change.
The term ‘tipping point’, widely adopted among climate scientists today, usually refers to a nonlinear rapid change in parts of the climate system, a rapid shift that happens when a system fails to cope with increasing change. The system irreversibly ‘tips’ from one state to another.
a ‘tipping point’ presents ‘a threshold at which small quantitative changes in the system trigger a non-linear change process that is driven by system- internal feedback mechanisms and inevitably leads to a qualitatively different state of the system, which is often irreversible’.
The point is to understand the complexity and interconnectedness of multiple eschatological threats – climate crisis, nuclear age, pandemics – in order to minimize the chances of a planetary cascade of ‘eschatological tipping points’.
Extinction is ‘supraliminal’ Thesis 7: The human species is capable of destroying the biosphere and at the same time unable to fully comprehend or anticipate all the repercussions of this capability. Extinction is supraliminal because it goes beyond the limits of our understanding, and even our imagination.
With the invention of the nuclear bomb, humans beings have become the ‘masters of the Apocalypse’. According to Günther Anders, at that precise moment – symbolized by Hiroshima – the history of all past epochs was reduced to ‘mere prehistory’.
In the first epoch, all people were mortal. In the second, all people were ‘killable’. In the third age, not only are people mortal or ‘killable’; all humanity is ‘killable’.
We have now reached the fourth epoch, because the critical question is no longer about whether humanity will continue to exist or not, but whether the biosphere – and all living beings – will exist at all.
Anders coined the term ‘supraliminal’ (überschwellig). Writing about the nuclear age, he states that its consequences are ‘supra- liminal’ in the sense that they exceed the limits of our understanding.
In contrast to the ‘subliminal’, which refers to the sensory stimuli that are below the threshold of conscious perception, the ‘supraliminal’ goes beyond that limit; it is literally too big to grasp
Time beyond ‘progress’ Thesis 8: We need an eschatology that will navigate us beyond the reductionist linear notion of time embodied in the capitalist understanding of ‘progress’.
Another end of the world is still possible if we are able to reinvent our understanding of time.
In January 2020, the ‘Doomsday Clock’ of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists was for the first time set at 100 seconds to midnight, or, as the scientists put it, it has been set ‘closer to Apocalypse than ever’.
In their explanation of this decision, they stated that ‘humanity continues to face two simultaneous existential dangers – nuclear war and climate change – that are compounded by a threat multiplier, cyber-enabled information warfare, that undercuts society’s ability to respond’.
The Doomsday Clock was set at 100 seconds to midnight when the virus was still thought to be only in Wuhan, just before we faced a pandemic that would further destabilize an already destabilized world order.
At the same time as when the ‘Earth stood still’, history accelerated. Everything was simultaneously both slow and rapid. coronavirus ‘quieted’ the world.
Another end of the world is still possible Thesis 9: Our only choice today is a radical re-invention of the world – or mass extinction.
original meaning of the term ‘crisis’, coming from the Greek word κρῐ́σῐς (‘krisis’). It signifies a turning point provoked by an urgent situation to which we must answer by making a decision or choice.
As May 2020 was coming to an end, with COVID-19 still on the rampage, the slogan ‘ANOTHER END OF THE WORLD IS POSSIBLE’ was sprayed in black
Une autre fin du monde est possible.
Law & Politics
For Many it has been quite a paradoxical experience, a capsule like experience tuning into the World via broadband receiving semiotic signals and trying to fathom Whether the World has in fact ended.
My concern is that Brazil which was the epicenter of the Virus in May 2020 is once again a Precursor and a Harbinger
And sure the numbers slid for around 6 consecutive weeks but they have bottomed out of late.
“I see a huge storm forming in Brazil.” Denise Garrett, vice president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute in Washington
The bottom line: P.1 is 2.5 times more transmissible than the wild-type B lineage. And way more transmissible than B.1.1.7. @bollemdb @obscovid19br
"The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function." - Professor Allen Bartlett
Exponential growth unlike any other that we have seen. Brazil is a global threat @bollemdb
Model-based evaluation of transmissibility and reinfection for the P.1 variant of the SARS-CoV-2
The variant of concern (VOC) P.1 emerged in the Amazonas state (Brazil) and was sequenced for the first time on 6-Jan- 2021 by the Japanese National Institute of Infectious Diseases.
It contains a constellation of mutations, ten of them in the spike protein.
The P.1 variant shares mutations such as E484K, K417T, and N501Y and a deletion in the orf1b protein (del11288-11296 (3675-3677 SGF)) with other VOCs previously detected in the United Kingdom and South Africa (B.1.1.7 and the B.1.351, respectively).
Prevalence of P.1 increased sharply from 0% in November 2020 to 73% in January 2021 and in less than 2 months replaced previous lineages (4).
The estimated relative transmissibility of P.1 is 2.5 (95% CI: 2.3-2.8) times higher than the infection rate of the wild variant, while the reinfection probability due to the new variant is 6.4% (95% CI: 5.7 - 7.1%).
If you have a "normal" pandemic that is fading, but "variants" that [are] surging, the combined total can look like a flat, manageable situation. @spignal
We all know by now ''viruses exhibit non-linear and exponential characteristics'
COVID19 Historic Peaks Deaths a day @brodjustice
I expect th P.1 Lineage to be dominant worldwide in 8-12 weeks notwithstanding the Focus on SARS-CoV-2 lineage B.1.1.7
My Thesis is based on the ultra hyperconnectedness of the c21st World.
Therefore, I would be tempering my COVID19 optimism and holding my horses which introduces interesting dynamics into the markets.
.@AfDB_Group African Economic Outlook 2021 #2021AEO
Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina, President African Development Bank Group
The pandemic has caused a global economic crisis. Africa’s GDP contracted 2.1 percent in 2020, continent’s first recession in half a century.
It is estimated that about 39 million Africans could fall into extreme poverty in 2021
The continent is projected to grow by 3.4 per-cent in 2021.
Yet the pandemic shock and ensuing economic crisis have had direct implications for budgetary balances and debt burdens: the average debt-to-GDP ratio for Africa is expected to climb by 10 to 15 percentage points in the short to medium term.
That means serious debt challenges might be looming, and disorderly defaults and lengthy resolutions could become a major obstacle to Africa’s progress toward prosperity.
However, debt payments are only deferred, and the initiative covers only a small fraction of Africa’s total bilateral debt.
Much larger financial support is needed, and the private sector creditors need to be part of the solution.
CHAPTER 1 AFRICA’S GROWTH PERFORMANCE AND OUTLOOK AMID THE COVID–19 PANDEMIC
Real GDP in Africa is projected to grow by 3.4 percent in 2021, after contracting by 2.1 percent in 2020.
This projected recovery from the worst recession in more than half a century will be underpinned by a resumption of tourism, a rebound in commodity prices, and the rollback of pandemic-induced restrictions.
The outlook is, however, subject to great uncertainty from both external and domestic risks
Tourism-dependent economies are projected to recover from an 11.5 percent GDP decline in 2020 to grow by 6.2 percent in 2021;
oil-exporting countries, from a 1.5 percent decline to grow by 3.1 percent;
and other-resource-intensive economies, from a 4.7 percent decline to grow by 3.1 percent.
Non-resource-intensive countries, where output shrank by 0.9 percent in 2020, are projected to grow by 4.1 percent in 2021
Downside factors that could derail recovery include a resurgence of COVID–19 infections, debt overhang, financial market volatility that impedes capital flows, low commodity prices, low tourism and remittances, extreme weather events, and social tensions.
Upside factors that could result in better-than-anticipated growth for the continent include the effective deployment of ther-apeutics and vaccines for COVID–19, especially in African countries, full implementation of ACFTA and continued progress in structural transformation, including digitalization and work-from-home arrangements
Significant currency depreciations have occurred in Africa, particularly in frontier market economies, partly as a result of the disruptions in external financial flows— including remittances, foreign direct investment, portfolio investment, and official development assistance.
Fiscal deficits are estimated to have doubled in 2020 to a historical high of 8.4 percent of GDP, leading to increased debt burdens
CHAPTER 2 DEBT DYNAMICS AND CONSEQUENCES
Since the COVID–19 pandemic began in early 2020, governments have announced fiscal stimu-lus packages ranging in cost from about 0.02 per-cent of GDP in South Sudan to about 10.4 percent of GDP in South Africa.
The Bank estimates that African governments need additional gross financing of about $154 billion in 2020/21 to respond to the crisis.
Debt to GDP projected to increase by 10 to 15 percentage points by 2021 as a result of COVID–19.
A decomposition of Africa’s debt dynamics shows that debt accumulation has been driven by exchange rate depreciation, growing interest expense,high primary deficits, poor governance, weak institutions, ambitious public investment programs, and increased defense-related expenditures.
The share of commercial creditors in Africa’s external debt stock has more than doubled in the last two decades, from 17 percent in 2000 to 40 percent by the end of 2019. At least 21 African countries accessed international capital markets between 2000 and 2020.
there has been a shift away from traditional Paris Club lenders to non-Paris Club lenders, notably China
As of December 2020, of the 38 countries for which debt sustainability analyses are available, 14 were rated in high risk of debt distress and another six were already in debt distress.
Sixteen countries have a moderate risk of debt distress, while two are considered at low risk.
However, safety margins are being eroded by COVID–19, as spending rises and revenue falls.
Policymakers should take advantage of current low global interest rates to borrow relatively inexpensive capital for high return public investments that accelerate growth
CHAPTER 3 DEBT RESOLUTION AND THE NEXUS BETWEEN GOVERNANCE AND GROWTH
Debt resolution in Africa has often been disorderly and protracted, with costly economic consequences
The current international financial architecture makes orderly sovereign debt restructuring complex to achieveThe fundamental difficulty with sovereign debt is that there are no formal bankruptcy procedures, as there are in corporate bankruptcies.
Yet, although the DSSI called on pri-vate creditors to agree to provide similar terms, if asked, the initiative does not include them. With-out all actors participating, the scope of any relief agreement is limited
East Africa seems to be the most resilient region, thanks to less reliance on primary commodities and greater diversification. It enjoyed 5.3 per-cent growth in 2019 and an estimated 0.7 percent growth in 2020. In 2021, growth of real GDP is projected at 3.0 percent, and in 2022, 5.6 per-cent.
The top performers in 2021 would be Djibouti (9.9 percent), Kenya (5.0 percent), Tanzania (4.1 percent), and Rwanda (3.9 percent).
Southern Africa is the region that was hardest hit by the pandemic, with an economic contraction of 7.0 percent in 2020. It is projected to grow by 3.2 percent in 2021 and 2.4 percent in 2022.GDP
in West Africa is estimated to have contracted by 1.5 percent in 2020, better than the initial projection of a 4.3 percent decline in June 2020, partly due to the relatively limited spread of the virus in the region.
Many West African countries maintained positive growth in 2020 thanks to more targeted and less restrictive lockdowns— including Benin (2.3 percent), Côte d’Ivoire (1.8 percent), and Niger (1.2 percent).
Other countries such as Cabo Verde (–8.9 percent), Liberia (–3.1 percent), and Nigeria (–3 percent) were in recession in 2020.
Growth in the region is projected at 2.8 percent in 2021 and 3.9 percent in 2022, as lockdowns are eased and commodity prices rebound.
In Central Africa, real GDP is estimated to have contracted 2.7 percent in 2020.
Countries significantly impacted by the crisis in the subregion include Cameroon (–2.4 percent), Republic of Congo (–7.9 percent), Democratic Republic of Congo (–1.7 percent), and Equatorial Guinea (–6.1 percent).
Growth is projected to recover to 3.2 percent in 2021 and 4 percent in 2022 in Central Africa.
The economies of North Africa contracted by an estimated 1.1 percent in 2020, propped up mainly by Egypt, which maintained 3.6 percent growth despite the relatively severe health impact of the virus in the country.
Other countries contracted significantly in 2020, including Tunisia (–8.8 percent), Morocco (–5.9 percent), and Algeria (–4.7 percent)
North Africa is projected to experience robust recovery of 4 per-cent in 2021 and 6 percent in 2022.
Tourism-dependent economies are estimated to have experienced the sharpest decline in growth in 2020, –11.5 percent for the group, which includes, among others, Mauritius (–15 per-cent), Seychelles (–12 percent), and Cabo Verde (–8.9 percent).
The fiscal stimulus packages vary from about 32 percent in Mauritius to 10 percent in South Africa to less than 1 percent in Tanzania
Non-performing loans have increased the most in Angola, Republic of Congo, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia (figure 1.15).
Prolonged forbearance of prudential rules and high levels of non-performing loans could be a major source of macrofinancial risk that could, in turn, derail the expected recovery.
FDI flows are estimated to have declined by 18 percent, from $45.37 billion in 2019 to an estimated $37.20 billion in 2020— mainly due to heightened uncertainty in the investment climate.
The decline in investment flows is broad-based, affecting all sectors, including tourism, leisure, energy, aviation, hospitality, and manufacturing.
Portfolio investments completely reversed in 2020 from a net inflow of $23 billion in 2019 to a net outflow of $27 billion in 2020, as investors liquidated their investments in search of safer assets elsewhere.
ODA is estimated to have decreased by 10 percent in 2020, from $52.88 billion in 2019 to $47.59 billion in 2020
Remit-tances to Africa declined from $85.8 billion in 2019 to $78.3 billion in 2020.
Countries with the most significant drop in remittances were Lesotho, Mozambique, and Seychelles
Africa had the world’s second-fastest growing tour-ism sector before the pandemic— it grew 5.6
per-cent between 2017 and 2018 and lagged behind only Asia and the Pacific.
In 2018, the sector accounted for 8.5 percent of Africa’s GDP and employed about 24 million people.
The pandemic virtually halted international tourism. The number of international tourist arrivals between April and June 2020 was 98 percent lower than in the same period in 2019
Building economic resilience and reducing vulnerabilities
New Ebola outbreak likely sparked by a person infected 5 years ago @ScienceMagazine @kakape
An Ebola outbreak in Guinea that has so far sickened at least 18 people and killed nine has stirred difficult memories of the devastating epidemic that struck the West African country between 2013 and 2016, along with neighboring Liberia and Sierra Leone, leaving more than 11,000 people dead.
But it may not just be the trauma that has persisted. The virus causing the new outbreak barely differs from the strain seen 5 to 6 years ago, genomic analyses by three independent research groups have shown, suggesting the virus lay dormant in a survivor of the epidemic all that time.
“This is pretty shocking,” says virologist Angela Rasmussen of Georgetown University. “Ebolaviruses aren’t herpesviruses”—which are known to cause long-lasting infections—“and generally RNA viruses don’t just hang around not replicating at all.”
Scientists knew the Ebola virus can persist for a long time in the human body; a resurgence in Guinea in 2016 originated from a survivor who shed the virus in his semen more than 500 days after his infection and infected a partner through sexual intercourse.
“But to have a new outbreak start from latent infection 5 years after the end of an epidemic is scary and new,” says Eric Delaporte, an infectious disease physician at the University of Montpellier who has studied Ebola survivors and is a member of one of the three teams.
Outbreaks ignited by Ebola survivors are still very rare, Delaporte says, but the finding raises tricky questions about how to prevent them without further stigmatizing Ebola survivors.
The current outbreak in Guinea was detected after a 51-year-old nurse who had originally been diagnosed with typhoid and malaria died in late January.
Several people who attended her funeral fell ill, including members of her family and a traditional healer who had treated her, and four of them died.
Researchers suspected Ebola might have caused all of the deaths, and in early February they discovered the virus in the blood of the nurse’s husband.
An Ebola outbreak was officially declared on 13 February, with the nurse the likely index case.
The Guinea Center for Research and Training in Infectious Diseases (CERFIG) and the country’s National Hemorrhagic Fever Laboratory have each read viral genomes from four patients; researchers at the Pasteur Institute in Dakar, Senegal, sequenced two genomes.
In three postings today on the website virological.org
, the groups agree the outbreak was caused by the Makona strain of a species called Zaire ebolavirus, just like the past epidemic
A phylogenetic tree shows the new virus falls between virus samples from the 2013–16 epidemic.
Until recently, scientists assumed Ebola epidemics start when a virus jumps species, from an animal host to humans. Theoretically, that could have happened in Guinea, says virologist Stephan Günther of the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine, who worked with one of the three teams.
But given the similarity between viruses from the epidemic and the new ones, “It must be incredibly unlikely.”
Outside scientists agree but say it hasn’t been proved that Ebola lay dormant in one person for 5 years.
“From the tree, you’d conclude that it is a virus that persisted in some way in the area, and sure, most likely in a survivor,” says Dan Bausch, a veteran of several Ebola outbreaks who leads the United Kingdom’s Public Health Rapid Support Team.
But it is hard to rule out scenarios such as a small, unrecognized chain of human to human transmission,
Bausch adds: “For example, a 2014 survivor infects his wife a few years after recovery, who infects another male, who survives and carries virus for a few years, then infecting another women, who is then seen by a nurse who dies”—the index case in the new outbreak.
The nurse was not known to be a survivor herself, but she could have had contact with a survivor privately or through her job, or she might have been infected herself years ago with few symptoms.
“Figuring out what exactly happened is one of the biggest questions now,” Bausch says.
Another ongoing outbreak of Ebola in North Kivu, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, was also started by transmission from someone infected during a previous outbreak, Delaporte notes.
(The survivor had tested negative for Ebola twice after his illness in 2020.) Taken together, that suggests humans are now as likely to be the source of a new outbreak of Ebola as wildlife, he says.
“This is clearly a new paradigm for how these outbreaks start.”
Outbreaks sparked by survivors may even become more likely, now that increasing mobility and other factors have caused each eruption of Ebola to become bigger, resulting in more survivors, says Fabian Leendertz, a wildlife veterinarian who was involved in the sequencing.
The cases raise important new research questions, Bausch says: “How do we need to change our response to escape from the cycle of outbreak-response-reintroduction-outbreak?” he asks. “Can we use new therapeutics to clear virus from survivors?”
But the most immediate question is what these results mean for Ebola survivors, who face a lot of hardship already.
Many have not only lost friends and family to the virus, but also struggle with long-term aftereffects, such as muscle pains and eye problems.
In a study published in February, Delaporte found that about half of more than 800 Ebola survivors in Guinea still reported symptoms 2 years after their illness, and one-quarter after 4 years.
Obiang, 78, has been in power since 1979, when he deposed his own uncle in a military coup. He won the last presidential election in 2016 with 99% of the vote, and has never received less than 97%. @mailandguardian @thecontinent_
President Obiang accused the military of negligence – even though he is the commander-in-chief
His son, Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue (better known as “Teodorin”), who is also the vice-president, is infamous as much for his excess as for his apparently complete inability to cover his tracks.
Tutu Alicante, a Washington DC- based human rights lawyer and the director of EG Justice, told The Continent the explosions constituted “gross and criminal negligence” by authorities.
“It is incomprehensible to me that responsible military officials would keep explosives where hundreds of civilians live,” he said.
Turning to Africa the Spinning Top
Democracy from Tanzania to Zimbabwe to Cameroon has been shredded.
We are getting closer and closer to the Virilian Tipping Point
“The revolutionary contingent attains its ideal form not in the place of production, but in the street''
Political leadership in most cases completely gerontocratic will use violence to cling onto Power but any Early Warning System would be warning a Tsunami is coming
“All students are protesting because our leader Sonko has been arrested arbitrarily. One can easily notice this is an outrageous plot by [President] Macky Sall,” Niang told @thecontinent_
Ousmane Sonko first rose to prominence as Senegal’s chief tax inspector. Then he turned whistleblower, exposing how Senegal’s elite were exploiting offshore havens to avoid paying tens of millions of dollars in tax.
He lost his job as a result, and pursued an alternative career in electoral politics instead, as founding president of the Pastef Party.
At just 44 years of age, he was the youngest person on the ballot in the 2019 presidential election, which was won by the incumbent, Macky Sall.
Sonko came third, and is considered one of the most serious challengers to the ruling party in the 2024 vote.
In early February, an employee at a beauty salon in Dakar accused Sonko of rape, and prosecutors charged him with the crime.
He denies the allegations, and claims they are politically motivated.
Last week, while he was on his way to court for a bail hearing, his supporters clashed with police in the streets of central Dakar.
Sonko was arrested, and charged with a different crime: “Disturbing public order and participating in an unauthorised demonstration.”
Tanks were deployed to discourage further protests in Dakar, and regulatory authorities suspended two television channels after accusing them of focusing too much on the protests.
Schools were closed nationwide for two weeks.
Sonko was released on bail on Monday. He walked home from the courthouse, and when he got there he gave a press conference again denouncing the rape charges as a political conspiracy.
“This is just another coup by Macky Sall, who tries to eliminate Sonko for 2024,” says Ndao.
This is President Sall’s second term in office, which means he is technically not eligible to run again. But his critics fear that he will try; and to do so he needs to keep serious challengers like Sonko out of the political life.
Most notably, in 2016 Sonko accused Aliou Sall of violating the petroleum code to facilitate the award of oil and gas concessions to foreign firms. @thecontinent_
poverty rising from 38% in 2019 to 40% in 2020, while 85% of households suffered a loss of income as a result of the pandemic.
A direct consequence of the unemployment scourge is an exponential increase in clandestine migration to Europe via the Spanish Canary Islands.
In October, it is estimated that 140 people died after a vessel sank off the coast of Senegal.
Senegal’s season of protest @mailandguardian @thecontinent_
Angry nationwide demonstrations. A deadly police response. TV stations taken off the air, schools shut, opposition figures and activists arrested. It has been a tumultuous 10 days in Senegal.
And yet in recent years, the country has been famed for its stability.
To understand exactly what has changed, The Continent reports this week from a protest in the heart of Dakar; and travels to Casamance to understand how the unrest is affecting the country’s most politically-sensitive region.
Treasury plans a $1 billion plus Eurobond after a tough debt-restructuring @Africa_Conf
Banking on the country's diversified economy and its IMF deal, finance officials are going back to the markets
Treasury officials are basing their plans for debt-restructuring and another Eurobond issue on a rapid bounce back from the pandemic's hit on tourism and commodity exports – several bank analysts predict over 4% growth this year with the government forecasting 5.8%.
This plan comes as the budget deficit is predicted to widen to 8.7% of GDP this year.
Financing this deficit will almost certainly require the government to borrow more locally and on the international markets.
Government debt is expected to exceed 66% of GDP over the next three years with debt-service taking as much up to 27% of state revenue in the same period.
The Standard & Poor's rating agency has kept its outlook at 'stable' for Kenya this week in the basis that country's diversified economy would start recovering and would be bolstered by credits from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
Like other ratings agencies, S&P have said it may downgrade Kenya if it enters into a formal debt-restructuring programme under the G-20's Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI).
This week, Haron Sirima, director of the Debt Management Office at the Treasury in Nairobi, told reporters that the government would not join the G-20 scheme.
Officials have confirmed that the Treasury will raise at least 124 billion shillings (US$1.24bn) by June 2022 on the Eurobond market.
Treasury officials say that the move is part of a planned debt restructuring of around KSh350bn ($3.5bn) of principal repayments.
The size of the Eurobond will depend on how much cash the government can raise from the World Bank, IMF and African Development Bank.
That is likely to be composed of KSh262bn from the IMF's extended credit facility and a loan of around KSh70bn from the World Bank.
The government is also reported to have secured the deferment of some $600 million in service payments on public and private debt until the end of June. So far, the ratings agencies have not yet responded.
Yet with the government having just taken control of the Standard Gauge Railway project and in the process of writing off more Kenya Airways loans as it effectively nationalises the airline, the government's debt burden and contingent liabilities, via state companies, is set to rise over the next three years.
The government's Eurobonds from 2014 and 2018, from which it raised a combined KSh410bn, started maturing last year.
Local analysts say that the government's forecast of a KSh931bn budget deficit now looks extremely optimistic and that hefty tax rises look likely. Fuel duty has already increased by Ksh8 per litre.
The government's rapid Economic Stimulus Programme and 'Post Covid-19 Economic Recovery Strategy' was supposed to help grow the economy by 5.8% in 2021.
That growth target looks unlikely to be met with some restrictions on businesses still in place and the tourism and service sectors still hit by the pandemic, although so far the central bank has kept inflation within its target range of 2.5% to 7.5% range even as transport costs rise (AC Vol 61 No 13, Rose-tinted budgets).
As the Jubilee party government enters a rocky political period ahead of the 2022 elections its economic priorities will be jobs and the cost of living, both of which have come under heavy pressure since the pandemic started a year ago.
Much will depend on how quickly the government can roll out its vaccination programme, its main tool to fight the pandemic's social and economic damage.