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Nigeria considers request for debt relief as debt stock climbs

Ministers of Finance from African countries have requested for debt relief from bilateral, multilateral and commercial partners to cushion the negative impact of the coronavirus.

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FG runs N1.14 trillion budget deficit in three months , Nigeria cannot beat ECOWAS single currency deadline, here’s why , Nigeria considers request for debt relief as debt stock climbs

There were news reports that the Ministers of Finance from African countries have requested for debt relief from bilateral, multilateral and commercial partners to cushion the negative impact of the coronavirus pandemic gradually gaining momentum in the continent. Some of the organisations they are seeking debt relief from include; International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank Group, European Union (EU) and other key commercial partners.

The debt relief being requested is expected to grant African countries more fiscal space and flexibility in combating COVID-19. We note this was one of several decisions reached by the Economic Commission for Africa after its second virtual meeting.

For Nigeria in particular, this appears like positive news as it is coming at a time when the Debt Management Office (DMO) recently announced that the Nation’s debt stock was up 4.5% q/q to N27.4 trillion at the end of Q4 2019 from N26.2 trillion at the end of Q3 2019. Breakdown of the data revealed that domestic debt stood at N18.3 trillion (67.1% of total debt stock) while foreign debt stood at N9.1 trillion (32.9% of total debt stock). The Federal Government’s share of the total debt stock was N21.7 trillion comprising; N7.5 trillion external debt and N14.2 trillion domestic debt.

In recent times, Nigeria’s debt profile has gained widespread attention, owing to slower growth in governemnt revenue when compared to the increase in debt stock. This has resulted in a deterioration in debt servicing cost/revenue ratio, one of the key indicators to assess debt sustainability. The country’s debt service to revenue ratio remains precariously high at c.60%.

[READ MORE: Power: NERC applies “brakes” on hike in tariffs)

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This is expected to deteriorate further, owing to the outbreak of COVID-19 which is expected to reduce non-oil revenue as economic activities slow down, but more importantly, the sharp downturn in oil prices is expected to undermine oil revenue. The rather gloomy picture on government revenues has made key credit rating agencies to downgrade the country’s external debt rating, making it more expensive for the government to raise finance via the issuance of Eurobonds.

In our opinion, the debt relief will come in handy for Nigeria and other African countries in this period of crisis. The global economy is currently experiencing a synchronised slowdown with expectations of a global recession. Oil-based economies in West Africa like Nigeria and Angola are prime victims of the slump in global crude prices.

On the other hand, tourism-based East African countries have seen a slump in tourist visits as several countries continue to impose bans on airspace movement. Thus, we think the debt relief could not have come at a better time than now.

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That said, we do not believe a debt relief should stop the Federal government from articulating a workable plan to diversify the Nigerian economy away from oil. The heavy dependence on oil revenue means oil prices will remain an extraneous and unpredictable factor in the country’s revenue plan. Tourism, Agriculture and Mining are all sectors that hold tremendous opportunities.

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Coronavirus

Covid-19: African Union in talks with China and Russia over vaccine

The AU and Africa CDC have revealed that they have reached out to both China and Russia over the possibility of vaccine partnerships.

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Covid-19: African Union in talks with China and Russia over vaccine

The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and the African Union announced they have been in talks with China and Russia over the possibility of vaccine partnerships to ensure that Africa is not left behind when vaccines become available.

This was disclosed by John Nkengasong, Africa CDC Chief, at the Bloomberg Invest Africa online conference.

Mr. Nkengasong said that Africa would not limit itself to only one vaccine partner and that Africa was willing to work with as many partners as possible to provide a vaccine for its 1.2 billion people.

“We are not limiting ourselves to any particular partner. As a continent of 1.2 billion people, we are willing to work with any partner who adheres to our strategic plan for vaccine development and access in Africa.

“The continent is taking the access and development of vaccine very, very seriously. We really need to see clinical trials being done on the continent, so they address issues like background infections from other diseases.”
He disclosed that the Africa CDC resumed talks last week with China, to discuss partnerships with Chinese Drug Manufacturers and also clinical trials in Africa. He added that Russia has been approached with a similar plan.

He said that the WHO Covax programme only covers 20% of the population, but Africa will need 60% of its population vaccinated to achieve herd immunity.

There are multiple avenues being explored now to make sure Africa has the appropriate doses of vaccines and also that we have that in a timely fashion, not in a delayed manner,” Nkengasong said.

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He revealed that the AFREXIM Bank agreed to finance vaccine procurement with $5 billion and is waiting to see how much it will receive from World Bank’s $12 billion vaccine procurement fund for developing nations.

What you should know 

Nairametrics reported earlier this month that Pfizer Inc. disclosed that its experimental vaccine, which is jointly developed with BioNTech, was more than 90% effective in preventing COVID-19, based on initial data from a large study in the ongoing phase 3 trials.

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(READ MORE: COVID-19: AstraZeneca vaccine could be 90% effective against the virus)

Last week, a pharmaceutical company, Moderna Inc., stated that its COVID-19 vaccine was 94.5% effective in treating coronavirus, after preliminary analysis of a large late-stage clinical trial.

The G-20 nations also announced a pledge to pay for vaccine distribution to developing nations that could not afford it. The leaders also unveiled a debt extension programme to developing nations during the weekend’s G-20 summit.

The Federal Government of Nigeria also announced through the Ministry of Health, that it would inaugurate an 18-man Covid-19 Vaccine Task Team, in a bid to ensure vaccine security In Nigeria.

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Coronavirus

Covid-19: EU considers skipping vaccine patents to boost vaccine access

The EU has disclosed plans to increase its access to Covid-19 vaccines by offering financial incentives to vaccine production companies.

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AstraZeneca suspends COVID-19 vaccine final stage trial over safety concerns, COVID-19: J&J starts vaccine trials on humans after success on monkeys

The European Union says its planning emergency measures to increase its access to Covid-19 vaccines including sidestepping patent rights and offering financial incentives to vaccine production companies to move production to Europe.

This was revealed in an EU document on Wednesday and reported by Reuters. The Document says the EU may create an emergency coordination mechanism to be issued at short notice when the EU needs a vaccine license, which is different from fully patent waivers, discussed in the WTO last week.

The EU says the new move will ensure faster procedures during a pandemic, which will enable generic production in the EU without the consent of patent holders.

The Commission sees the need to ensure that effective systems for issuing compulsory licenses are in place, to be used as a means of last resort and a safety net, when all other efforts to make IP (intellectual property) available have failed,” the EU’s document said.

The EU’s actions may be triggered by its inability to access the antiviral drug, remdesivir, during the pandemic, as the United States ordered most of the stock.

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The EU also disclosed that it will begin a consultation process with pharmaceutical companies next year to address issues in its pharmaceutical value chains. They added that measures could be imposed to encourage manufacturers to move pharmaceutical production to Europe from China and India.

“The Commission calls on member states to ensure that the tools they have are as effective as possible; for instance, by putting in place fast-track procedures for issuing compulsory licenses in emergency situations,” the EU said.

They added that it is urgent “to assess whether manufacturing capacity for certain critical medicines may be required in the EU.”

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“We need to be able to rely on ourselves, not on others,” the Commission’s Vice President, Margaritis Schinas said. He disclosed that the EU is working on more compliance with drug supply need and increased stock levels by 2022.

What you should know

This comes as surprise considering the EU rejected a World Trade Organization (WTO) proposal last week to waive the intellectual property rights needed for the manufacturing of Covid-19 vaccines. The waiver would have made the vaccine access cheaper for developing nations.

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ENDSARS

#EndSARS Sanctions: Nigeria has reached out to the UK Government – Foreign Minister

Onyeama has stated that the FG has reached out to the UK Government over the parliamentary debate on the #EndSARS protests.

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Chinese Visa Restriction: Ministry of Foreign Affairs issues clarification, London evacuation flight rescheduled to July 14

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama, said that the Nigerian Government has reached out to the UK Government over the parliamentary debate on the #EndSARS protests.

The Minister disclosed this to Newsmen at the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting on Thursday, which was recorded by Channels TV.

He added that the UK Parliament did not speak for the UK government, and that the UK had heard the Nigerian government’s side regarding the incident at Lekki.

“On the issue of the UK parliament, yes, we have reached out to the UK government on this question. The meeting that took place was of Parliamentarians, they don’t speak for the UK government and the UK government which acts for the United Kingdom has also heard the side of the (Nigerian) government regarding everything that happened.

“So we are in touch with them and engaging with them. But, of course, as in any democracy, the Members of Parliament are able to also air their views, but what is important is that a balanced picture is made available to them all before they take any decision,” Onyeama said.

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What you should know 

Nairametrics reported earlier this week that the British Parliament had announced it would consider a petition by some groups and individuals, asking it to apply sanctions against the Nigerian government and officials for alleged human rights violations during the #EndSARS protest and Lekki shooting incident.

Also, the presidency earlier disclosed that the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, had a meeting with the UK Special Envoy for Humanitarian Affairs, Nick Dyer, accompanied by the UK High Commissioner to Nigeria.

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