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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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South Africa’s FM, Naledi Pandor, wants quick solution to Ghana, MTN tax dispute

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South Africa’s foreign minister Naledi Pandor wants the tax dispute between the tech company and the Ghanaian tax authorities solved.

The minister on Friday called MTN Group, which has a presence in 19 countries in Africa and the Middle East, and the Ghana Revenue Authority to find a solution to a $773 million tax dispute.

South Africa’s Department Of International Relations and Cooperation said in a statement, Minister Pandor was briefed on the issue this week and called “on the parties involved to do everything possible to find an amicable solution.”

Two weeks ago, the South African mobile operator giant revealed that its Ghanaian subsidiary has received a bill for back taxes of around $773 million. The billing came after the tax authority audited MTN for the years 2014 to 2018 and inferring that it had under-declared its revenue by about 30% during the period.

MTN said it disputes the “accuracy and basis” of the assessment and that it would fight it.

MTN Ghana is the largest company in Ghana by market capitalization as the annual data revenue of MTN Ghana (Scancom PLC) amounted to over 2.7 billion Ghanaian cedis (GHS) in 2021.

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Ivory Coast to increase cocoa processing capacity with new plants

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Ivory Coast, the largest cocoa-producing country in the world, has hinted that it will increase the amount of cocoa it processes domestically to 49%.

According to the head of the sector, the regulator said on Friday, the increase is projected to begin in production starting from October with the addition of several new plants.

The new plants will allow the country to process more than 1 million tonnes of cocoa annually, making it the world’s leading cocoa grinder,

Ivory Coast boasts of annual production of about 2.2 million tonnes with 35-40% processed in the country and the rest exported, but the government has a goal of increasing that to at least 50%.

The country recently signed a deal with the United Arab Emirates for the construction of a new plant in San Pedro with a grinding capacity of 120,000 tonnes, said Yves Brahima Kone, director general of the Coffee and Cocoa Council (CCC), who was in Abu Dhabi this month to open a new CCC office.

“This permanent representation (in Abu Dhabi) is the fruit of our new vision for Ivorian cocoa that we want to export all over the world. This office will allow us to explore markets in Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa,” he told journalists

Ivory Coast also expects two new factories financed by China to enter into production in October, with a production capacity of 50,000 tonnes each, Kone said.

In November, the two biggest cocoa producers, Ivory Coast and West African neighbour, Ghana pushed for higher prices for their farm products under the Living Income Differential (LID) and vowed to charge a premium of $400 per tonne on all cocoa sales, starting with the 2020/21 harvest.

The lack of technology and industries to process its produce has fanned discussions about Africa being a raw material economy and extractive centers for industrial western countries that are advanced, able processed and positioned to maximize the resources.

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