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Africa’s first COVID-19 vaccine plant suffers low patronage as orders drop

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Africa’s first COVID-19 vaccine plant, Aspen Pharmacare located in South Africa, is on the verge of closing down following low patronage as orders have continued to drop drastically.

According to BBC Africa News, there is growing pressure on countries across Africa to buy Covid-19 vaccines from Aspen, the first company to produce the vaccines on the continent.

However, the company has issued a warning that it may have to stop producing Covid vaccines as countries have failed to place orders in recent months.

The deal which allowed Aspen to produce and sell Aspenovax was seen as an important step in helping to improve equal access to Covid vaccines.

But the head of the Africa’s leading public health body, the Africa CDC, is however, urging Covax, the international scheme which many African states rely on for Covid vaccines, to buy from the plant so as to keep it from going under, while
Aspen’s group senior executive, Stavros Nicolau, said Covax had not bought a single vaccine made in Africa.

Meanwhile, South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa, says he was working with counterparts in four African countries to try and save Aspen’s Covid vaccine production line.

But the head of the Africa CDC says that choosing to buy from Africa “is a political decision.”

In a statement defending its position, Covax said though it was “committed to diversifying global supply specially in Africa” but it argues that lack of demand means it is not in a position to buy large quantities of vaccines.

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Emerging African enterprise, Harvest Group, spreads reach to Zambia, launches fillings stations, foundation

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One of Africa’s emerging conglomerates, Harvest Group of Companies Limited, has made bold its announced plan to expand its business reach by opening a chain of filling stations in Zambia.

The Group, which has business interests across sectors like energy, e-commerce, logistics, hospitality, and infrastructure development had announced that it would open forty filling stations in the East African country by year-end 2022.

Speaking recently at the commissioning of Harvest retail outlet on the International Airport axis in Lusaka, the Group’s chairman, Ugo Ikoro-Ngadi remarked that “Harvest Group is making huge strides that are not only bolstering our bottom line and transforming the Zambian and sub-Saharan African economy but also improving lives of people.”

The chairman, Ikoro-Ngadi further revealed that the group’s commitment to human development has birthed the Harvest Foundation through which it aims “to incubate at least 50,000 small businesses across Africa in the next half decade “through mentoring, knowledge-sharing and financial support.”

“As a responsible corporate entity, we will keep our promises to impact communities around us, especially vulnerable African women and youths” he added.

He also admitted the group’s understanding of the challenges that may lie ahead in its recent quest but reiterated that as perceptive entrepreneurs, they see bright prospects.

“Our convictions are guided by market intelligence which shows Africa’s youths as an emerging powerhouse, and the continent as an investment destination.” He added.

With over $10 million in annual revenue and the capacity to handle other non-oil offerings that are associated with filling stations, Harvest has the vision is to be the most innovative distributor of quality refined petroleum products in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Petroleum products contribute 9.4% to the total national energy demand in Zambia. The country imports all its petroleum products, that is, petroleum feedstock and finished products.

But the distribution line is largely local, a turf which players like Harvest Group of Companies hope to dominate. The products are distributed to various government-owned depots where Oil Marketing Companies lift the finished products and distribute them to their own depots, service stations, and commercial customers.

Zambia’s Minister of Energy, Peter Kapala while speaking at the commissioning in Lusaka, said that the government was keen on reforms in the energy sector and formulation of policies that are targeted at specific areas of interest for the private sector and centred on the ease of doing business.

The minister also mentioned that such investments are products of “deliberate and intentional private sector-supporting policies fully and meaningfully employed” by the government.

Harvest Group’s investment in Zambia is capable of “empowering the mass of underserved African women and vulnerable youths” in the country.

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Nigeria: Despite high oil theft, fuel subsidy rises to ₦525.714 billion in August

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Nigeria’s oil subsidy regime has continued to bleed the country of public funds as subsidies rose to 525.714 billion nairas ($1.22 billion) in August.

According to figures submitted to the government by a state oil company, Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC), the August number brings the total spent in 2022 to 2.568 trillion Naira,

Reports say oil production in August averaged 1.18 million barrels per day, well below the nation’s OPEC quota of 1.8 million bpd, due in large part to theft from pipelines that has curtailed production.

Nigeria’s oil auditing agency, NEITI, indicated that in 2019, the West African country lost 42.25 million barrels of crude oil to oil theft, valued at $2.77 billion.

Despite her increasing debt profile, Nigeria’s government in January postponed its planned removal of subsidy on petroleum products till further notice. Petrol subsidy payments reportedly gulped overN1.15 trillion 2021 alone, resulting in low revenue for federal, state, and local governments to cater to developmental projects.

The Finance Minister, Zainab Ahmed in July revealed that West Africa could spend up to 6.72 trillion nairas ($16.2 billion) next year on subsidies.

Although Nigeria is one of the largest oil producers in the world, the West African country does not refine crude oil locally. State-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has four refineries, two in Port Harcourt (PHRC), and one each in Kaduna (KRPC) and Warri (WRPC) but none has worked to capacity for years despite several investments to succinate the refineries.

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