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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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Binance in talks with Nigerian govt over executive’s detention

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Following the arrest of Binance’s head of financial crime compliance by Nigerian authorities last month, the company’s CEO said Thursday that the company was working very closely with Nigerian officials.

The trial against Tigran Gambaryan, the executive, and another Binance employee, who are accused of moving more than $35 million, had been put off until May 2 in Nigeria, the country’s anti-corruption body said on April 8.

“What I can say is we are working very closely with the Nigerian authorities to try to resolve the matter,” CEO Richard Teng said, speaking about Gambaryan’s case during the Token2049 crypto conference in Dubai.

Former executive, Nadeem Anjarwalla, a British Kenyan who works as a regional manager for Africa, escaped detention in Nigeria last month. While in Nigeria, Anjarwalla and Gambaryan were arrested by the country’s anti-corruption body, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), after arriving on February 26, after which the country banned several websites that traded cryptocurrencies.

Before they were arrested, the head of Nigeria’s central bank said that Binance was being investigated in Nigeria because of “suspicious flows” of cash through Binance Nigeria in 2023. The Securities and Trade Commission of the United States and other government agencies have susbsisting restrictions on bitcoin trade.

Besides the case brought by the EFCC, the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Nigeria’s tax office, has also charged Binance and the executives with tax evasion.

Sacheendran declined to comment on the charges against the company but stressed that “This was a one-off. It’s never happened to us before”. The Binance head of regional markets told Reuters on the sidelines of the Dubai conference when asked about the detentions.

Additionally, Binance revealed on Thursday that it had obtained a license from VARA, Dubai’s regulatory body. This will enable the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange to target regular people in addition to qualified and institutional ones.

Bloomberg reported earlier Thursday, citing sources, that parts of VARA’s process to give the license included Changpeng Zhao, the founder and former CEO of Binance, giving up vote control of the Dubai unit.

“That’s pure speculation. Again, we don’t comment on media speculation… Our relationship, our dealings with regulators are confidential,” Teng told journalists.

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IMF says South Africa needs to do more to cut spending, lower debt-to-GDP ratio

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A top official from the International Monetary Fund has revealed that South Africa needs to do more to cut spending and lower its debt-to-gross domestic product ratio. The multilateral body stressed that the ratio is expected to rise from 74% in 2022 to almost 86% by 2029.

Era Dabla-Norris, deputy head of Fiscal Affairs, said that the government could cut back on transfers to state-owned businesses, make cuts to subsidies that don’t help specific companies, and make big changes to the way the economy works to boost growth.

She told a news conference that South Africa’s energy and logistics problems had to be fixed right away.

A Statista study shows that between 2023 and 2028, the South African national debt was expected to keep going up by a total of 163.3 billion U.S. dollars, or 59.99%.

The national debt is expected to hit a new high point of 435.46 billion U.S. dollars in 2028, after going up for ten years in a row. Notably, the national debt has steadily risen over the past few years.

The IMF says that the general government’s gross debt is made up of all its debts that need to be paid back with interest and/or capital at some point in the future.

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