Eswatini protests, modernization of Rwanda’s health system and updates on energy and environment
Eswatini citizens demonstrate for democracy
On Tuesday, June 29, SABC News reported that King Mswati III fled Eswatini for South Africa amid protests for democracy across the country. However, as of this writing, the location of King Mswati III of Eswatini is unclear, as the government denies that the king left the country: Following the allegations, the Eswatini government tweeted: “His Majesty King Mswati III is in the country. and continues to lead by working with the government to advance the goals of the Kingdom.
Ongoing pro-democracy protests began in May following the death of law student Thabani Nkomonye allegedly at the hands of the police. The demonstrators demand democratic reforms and accuse the king of repression. In Mazini, the country’s largest city, protesters barricaded roads and torched businesses owned or linked to the royal family. In response, on Tuesday, Eswatini’s government imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew. The army and the police were also deployed, which led to violent clashes between the authorities and the demonstrators. According to Amnesty International, political activism has been systematically suppressed in the Kingdom of Eswatini, the last absolute monarchy on the African continent, due to the country’s repressive laws. These laws include the Sedition and Subversive Activities Act 1938 (SSA Act) and the Suppression of Terrorism Act 2008 (STA). Political parties were banned in 1973. In addition, the current status of political parties is not clear in the 2006 constitution.
The controversial King Mswati III has been in power since 1986, and many African pundits have criticized him in the past for his extravagant lifestyle. See, for example, the 2012 commentary by former AGI Director Mwangi S. Kimenyi, “The Human Development Cost of the King of Swaziland’s Lifestyle and his ‘Bevy’ of Wives. ”
Rwanda receives EU funding to boost vaccine production capacity
Rwanda and the European Union (EU) on Thursday signed a $ 3.6 million deal to help the East African country improve its laboratory capacity, acquire modern laboratory equipment and attract investors to manufacture mRNA vaccines against COVID-19. The agreement also provides funding to strengthen the Rwanda Food and Drug Administration’s quality control capacity for medical products, specifically enabling the country’s medical regulator to qualify for World Health Organization certification. (WHO). WHO certification, a necessary qualification for vaccine production, will also boost investor confidence in Rwanda’s manufacturing and regulatory capacity. Rwanda-EU deal follows a joint EU-G-20 World Health Summit initiative to allocate $ 1.1 billion in funding for vaccine manufacturing capacity in Africa, as well as improvements health technologies and access to vaccines.
In other news from Rwanda on Thursday, the country’s legislature legalized the use of medical cannabis. The new ministerial decree defines the legal criterion for the cultivation, processing, import, export, research and use of cannabis for medical purposes. The Rwandan government predicts that the new high value-added agriculture and agrifood sector will generate substantial employment opportunities and export earnings. The 2018 African Hemp and Cannabis Regional Report valued the African cannabis market at $ 37.8 billion and estimates that the continent accounts for 11% of the global legal cannabis market. Recreational drug use remains illegal.
Nigeria Passes Oil Industry Reform Bill, South Korea Signs Energy Deal with AfDB
On Thursday, July 1, the Nigerian Senate passed an Oil Industry Reform Bill aimed at overhauling nearly all aspects of oil and gas production in the country. The bill has now been passed by both houses but is still awaiting enactment by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The Oil Industry Bill (GDP) has been debated for nearly two decades and, according to the Senate Speaker’s spokesperson, is a “historic feat”, intended to provide new tax incentives, as well as simplify taxes and royalties for oil companies working in Nigeria. The GDP also aims to help underdeveloped local communities cope with environmental damage caused by oil production by allocating communities hosting an oil facility 3 percent of the facility’s operating budget. A report by Financial Derivatives Company Limited argues that this bill can save Nigeria more than $ 15 billion a year, as it could once again attract potential former investors who have approached other countries instead.
In other energy news, on Tuesday, the Korean Ministry of Economy and Finance and the Import-Export Bank of Korea signed a $ 600 million agreement with the African Development Bank to co-finance various energy projects in all of Africa. The agreement was concluded as part of the Korea-Africa Energy Investment Pact and will direct financing towards the production, transmission and distribution of renewable energy. Specific projects within the agreement focus on the deployment of off-grid home systems, mini-grids and solar with the aim of accelerating rural electrification. Korea’s Ministry of Economy and Finance said the deal “should help African countries switch to green energy while simultaneously improving energy access.”
Meanwhile, as Ghana’s capital Accra battles heavy plastic pollution, a plastic manufacturing company called Nelplast has started building houses with plastic bricks. Since their debut in 2019, plastic bricks have been a more sustainable and affordable alternative to cement. The company aims to use discarded plastic, especially plastic bags, which were accused of causing a flood by clogging the city’s storm sewers in 2015. According to Nelson Boateng, CEO of Nelplast, the new prototype of house built in plastic can address housing deficit in Ghana, enabling low-income people to have affordable housing. Notably, the effort also offers employment opportunities for women: around 98 percent of Nelplast employees are women.