Africa nears 8.6 Million confirmed cases of COVID-19

COVID-19 has reached epic proportions across Africa with confirmed cases of the pandemic from 55 African countries crossing  8,583,223 while over 135,670,394 vaccinations have been administered across the continent. Reported deaths in Africa reached  221,592 and  7,981,563 people have recovered. South Africa has the most reported cases  2,929,862 and  89,574 people died. Other most-affected countries are Morocco (948,923), Tunisia (716,262), Ethiopia (370,200), Libya (367,811), Egypt (350,397) and Kenya (254,710).

Africa nears 8.6 Million confirmed cases of COVID-19

Meanwhile, South African COVID-19 cases are soaring with the positivity rate of tests increasing and an analysis of wastewater shows that the disease is once again becoming more prevalent in some areas. The rise in cases comes days after the National Institute for Communicable Diseases said that the incidence of COVID-19 was increasing in wastewater samples of some areas of Gauteng, the most populous province. South African Medical Research Council data show that excess deaths, the number of deaths over a historical average, have been rising in recent weeks.

There are currently far fewer cases of COVID-19 in Africa than in Europe but experts fear that the tide could turn if vaccination drives are not sped up. They say richer countries should not stockpile vaccine doses. Most African countries depend on vaccine doses from abroad, even if there are efforts to build up local production centers. But, as the number of cases rises in Europe, supplies to Africa will likely suffer. Germany, for example, has already made a decision to retain vaccine doses that were destined for poorer countries.

Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda carriers in expansion mode

Regional carriers Air Tanzania, Uganda Airlines and RwandAir are growing by leaps and bounds and eating away at the market share of East Africa's leading carriers Ethiopian Airlines and Kenya Airways as they struggle with financial and political instability.

Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda carriers in expansion mode

This was evident at the recently concluded 2021 Dubai Air Show, where Uganda Airlines and Air Tanzania signed deals that prepare them for the battle for the skies with Ethiopian Airlines and Kenya Airways. They signed aircraft and spare parts supply deals with leading manufacturers Airbus and Boeing to ensure seamless services in the region and beyond.

In the meantime, RwandAir has signed a codeshare agreement with Qatar Airways that allows the Kigali-based airline to use the Qatari carrier's huge network to bring competition right to the doorsteps of ET and KQ. The falling fortunes of Kenya Airways and Ethiopian Airlines come amid a financial squeeze, which has seen KQ survive on government bailout, while the Addis-based carrier has lately gone into an austerity regime. 

The change in fortunes has seen the Ugandan, Tanzania and Rwandan national carriers, backed by the state, shift their models to expansion, both on aircraft and routes, as they seek to pick up business lost by their bigger, older rivals, and set up their own hubs.

Kenya Airways has nine Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners and Ethiopian has more than 20. But the Tanzanian government, which owns one, is ramping up the competition. On Wednesday, Dodoma placed a $726 million order of four Boeing freighters and passenger jets to boost the airline's capacity.

Gambia secures $50 million World Bank funding to improve health care

The World Bank Board approved $50 million additional financing from the International Development Association (IDA) to improve the quality and utilisation of essential health services in Gambia. The Essential Health Strengthening Project will finance the construction and equipment of a national emergency treatment center intensive care unit, emergency observation and treatment center, national public health laboratory and training center, and national blood transfusion center.

Gambia secures $50 million World Bank funding to improve health care

The project will support the expansion of health facilities nationally, that is, to increase the existing geographical coverage of the five rural regions to cover the entire country by including the two western regions. This additional financing will enable the expansion of performance-based contracting of health facilities to cover the entire country and implementation of the National Health Insurance Bill that was passed by the National Assembly last week.

A recent survey revealed that some health facilities have asbestos roofing sheets, which are leaking and releasing dangerous asbestos fibers into the air. This additional financing will support the safe removal of the damaged asbestos roofs and the renovation of selected facilities. "Since April 2020, the World Bank has allocated nearly $100 million to support the Government's long-term efforts toward making a sustained and comprehensive health care delivery system in The Gambia," said Ms. Feyi Boroffice, World Bank Resident Representative for The Gambia.

"These investments are geared towards ensuring that the poor have access to quality health services and, by reducing the maternal mortality ratio and under-five mortality rate." said Dr. Samuel Mills, the World Bank Task Team Leader for the Project.

The World Bank's International Development Association (IDA), established in 1960, helps the world's poorest countries by providing grants and low to zero-interest loans for projects and programs that boost economic growth, reduce poverty, and improve poor people's lives. IDA is one of the largest sources of assistance for the world's 74 poorest countries, 39 of which are in Africa. 

Resources from IDA bring positive change to the 1.3 billion people who live in IDA countries. Since 1960, IDA has provided $458 billion to 114 countries. Annual commitments have averaged about $29 billion over the last three years (FY19-FY21), with about 70 percent going to Africa.

Mercedes-Benz EQB all-electric compact SUV a family car

Whether it's for a large nuclear family or a small extended family - as a seven-seater, the new EQB offers space for many family configurations and a wide variety of transport needs. This gives it an exceptional position among compact electric cars. The two seats in the third row can be used by people up to 1.65 metres tall, and child seats can also be fitted there.

Mercedes-Benz EQB all-electric compact SUV a family car

The new EQB will launch in Europe and China at the end of the year, followed by the US market launch in 2022. After the EQA, it is already the second all-electric compact car from Mercedes-EQ. The powerful and efficient electric drive, clever recuperation and predictive Navigation with Electric Intelligence are just some of the features that link it to the EQA.

The electric initiative from Mercedes-Benz Cars is accelerating as fast as the Mercedes-EQ models themselves: with the EQA, EQB, the electric business saloon EQE and the luxury saloon EQS, a total of four new models from Mercedes-EQ are being introduced in 2021, plus the Concept EQT as a harbinger of a new high level of quality in the small van segment. 

The Mercedes-Benz plug-in hybrid family, currently consisting of more than 20 model variants, is being renewed with electrified derivatives of the C-Class and the S-Class. For 2021, Mercedes-Benz Cars expects to increase the xEV share, i.e. of plug-in hybrids and fully electric vehicles, to around 13 percent. In addition, mild hybrids with a starter-generator and 48-volt system are conquering the product range, especially of the Group's luxury vehicles.

In Europe, the all-electric compact SUV will be launched as the EQB 300 4MATIC (combined electrical consumption NEDC: 16.2 kWh/100 km; combined CO2 emissions: 0 g/km) with 168 kW and as the EQB 350 4MATIC with 215 kW (combined electrical consumption NEDC: 16.2 kWh/100 km; combined CO2 emissions: 0 g/km)1. The ranges according to WLTP are 419 kilometres in each case. Further variants to meet specific customer requirements will follow, including a particularly long-range version.

The EQB enriches the successful Mercedes compact car family and is closely related to two models in particular: to the EQA, whose advanced drive technology it shares, and to the GLB compact SUV. This is where the long wheelbase (2829 millimetres), the spacious and variable interior and the optional third row of seats with two additional individual seats come from.

The dimensions of the five-seater: 4684/1834/1667 millimetres (length/width/height). Space is generous. The headroom in the first row of seats is 1035 millimetres, in the second it is 979 millimetres for the five-seater. At 87 millimetres, the knee space in the rear of the five-seater reaches a comfortable level. 

The boot is level and spacious: the load volume of 495 to 1710 or 465 to 1620 litres (figures for five- and seven-seaters respectively) has the qualities of a Mid-range station wagon. The backrests of the seats in the second row can be adjusted in several stages as standard, and this row features fore/aft adjustment of 140 millimetres as an option. This enables the boot to be enlarged by up to 190 litres and put to versatile use.

As an option, the EQB has a third row of seats comprising two extra individual seats. The seats offer people up to a height of 1.65 metres a comfortable amount of space. Extensive safety features include retractable head restraints, seat belts with belt tensioners and force limiters on all outer seats and a side window-bag that also covers passengers in the third row. A total of up to four child seats can be fitted in rows two and three, plus one more in the front passenger seat. To increase luggage space, the third-row seats can be lowered flush into the load floor.

The EQB interprets Mercedes-EQ's Progressive Luxury in an edgy and particularly characterful way. It features the characteristic Mercedes-EQ black panel grille with central star. A further distinctive design feature of the all-electric world of Mercedes-EQ vehicles is the continuous light strip at the front and rear. A horizontal fibre-optic strip connects the daytime running lights of the full-LED headlamps, ensuring a high level of recognisability both in daylight and at night. The inside of the headlamps is finished to a high level of quality, detail and precision. Blue colour highlights within the headlamp reinforce the signature Mercedes-EQ appearance.

The function-oriented greenhouse with upright windscreen makes the comfortable interior possible. Circumferential and protective cladding elements structure the overall proportion. The muscular and sensuously modelled vehicle shoulder dominates the side view, which is further enhanced by the rise of the belt-line. Outwardly positioned wheels give the EQB a powerful character and confident stance on the road. Exclusive to this model are light-alloy wheels in a bi- or tri-colour design, up to 20 inches in size, in some cases with rosé gold-coloured or blue decorative trim.

The LED tail lights merge seamlessly into the tapering LED light strip. This underlines the horizontal sense of width of the EQB in the rear view. In addition, the number plate is placed on the bumper, which allows for a beautifully sculpted tailgate. The studded roof rails underline the high utility value of the new EQB.

The large body of the dashboard has a cut-out in the driver and passenger area. The driver faces a Widescreen Cockpit, with control and display via MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience). The robust character of the interior is underlined by tubular elements in an aluminium look. They sit as handles in the doors, in the centre console and in the instrument panel on the passenger side.

Depending on the design and equipment line, a spectacular backlit trim piece and rosé gold-coloured decorative elements on the air vents, seats and vehicle key provide clues to the electric character in the interior of the EQB. The instruments, with their electric car-specific displays, pick up on the same colour scheme with rosé gold-coloured and blue highlights.

The EQB achieves a very good Cd value from 0.28. The frontal area A totals 2.53 m2. Among the most important aerodynamic measures are the completely closed cooling air control system in the upper section, the aerodynamically efficient front and rear aprons, a very smooth, almost completely enclosed underbody, specially optimised Aero wheels and specifically adapted front and rear wheel spoilers.

ECO Assist offers a recuperation process optimised to the particular situation. It incorporates navigation data, traffic sign recognition and information from the vehicle sensors into its efficiency strategy. Anticipatory driving saves power, thereby extending the range.

The standard Navigation with Electric Intelligence also contributes to the effortless handling of the EQB in everyday life. This calculates the fastest route to the given destination. On the basis of continual range simulations, the system makes allowance for any necessary charging stops as well as for numerous other factors, such as the topography and the weather. It is also able to react dynamically to changes, for instance in the traffic situation or personal driving style. In addition, the Navigation with Electric Intelligence ensures that the high-voltage battery is brought to an optimal charging temperature before a planned charging stop, if required.

At home or at public charging stations, the EQB can be conveniently charged at up to 11 kW with alternating current (AC) using the onboard charger. The charging time required for a full charge depends on the available infrastructure and the country-specific vehicle equipment. Charging at a Mercedes-Benz Wall-box is considerably faster than at a domestic power socket.

And it is of course even faster at direct current (DC) fast-charging stations. Depending on the SoC (State of Charge) and the temperature of the high-voltage battery, the EQB charges at a corresponding charging station with a maximum power of up to 100 kW. The charging time is then just over 30 minutes from 10-80 percent SoC. And after just 15 minutes, electricity is recharged for up to another 150 kilometres (WLTP).For AC and DC charging, the EQB is equipped as standard in Europe and the USA with a CCS (Combined Charging Systems) connector in the right-hand side panel.

Via Mercedes me Charge, EQB drivers will be able to use one of the most extensive charging networks in the world: this currently comprises more than 600,000 AC and DC charging stations across 31 countries. Mercedes me Charge allows Mercedes-EQ customers convenient use of the charging stations of various providers, while they also benefit from an integrated payment function with simple billing processes. With the EQB, one year of Mercedes me Charge is included.

In Europe, Mercedes-Benz guarantees by means of high-quality certificates of origin that electricity from renewable energies is fed into the grid for charging volumes that flow via Mercedes me Charge. With Mercedes me Charge, customers can charge at more than 250,000 public charging stations across Europe, where Mercedes-Benz ensures subsequent compensation through green electricity.

The EQB features intelligent driving assistance systems with cooperative support for the driver. Active Lane Keeping Assist and Active Brake Assist are fitted as standard. In many critical situations, the latter has the ability to prevent a collision or reduce its severity with autonomous braking. The system is also able to brake for stationary vehicles and crossing pedestrians at typical city speeds. The enhanced functions of the Driving Assistance Package include, for example, the turning manoeuvre function, the emergency corridor function, the exit warning function alerting the driver to approaching cyclists or vehicles, and a warning when pedestrians are detected near zebra crossings.

The EQB is also a true Mercedes when it comes to passive safety. Building on the robust bodyshell structure of the GLB, the body of the EQB was adapted to the special requirements of an electric car. The battery sits within a frame made out of extruded sections. This takes on a structural function which until now was maintained by the cross members in the underfloor. A battery guard in the front area of the battery is able to prevent the energy storage unit from being pierced by foreign objects.

Production of the EQB will start in October 2021 at two locations within the Mercedes-Benz Cars global production network: at the Hungarian Mercedes-Benz plant in Kecskemét for the global market and at the German-Chinese joint venture BBAC in Beijing for the local market. Preparations, including staff qualification processes and reconstruction work, have already commenced at the plants. The EQB compact SUV will be the first all-electric production vehicle from Hungary and will complement the plug-in hybrid portfolio produced there.

Since it commenced production in 2012, the Hungarian Mercedes-Benz plant has continually increased in importance within the global production network of Mercedes-Benz Cars. In addition to digital networking, the strengths of the compact car production network include direct exchange with the lead plant for compact cars in Rastatt, Baden-Württemberg.

The battery systems for the compact Mercedes EQ models currently produced in Europe are supplied by the Mercedes-Benz subsidiary Accumotive in Kamenz and by the battery factory in Jawor, Poland. Both factories were designed to operate as CO₂-neutral facilities from the outset.

Tanzania addresses edible oil shortage in the country

The Tanzanian government has placed great emphasis on palm tree block farming in councils with vast and productive lands as it wants to address edible oil shortage in the country. Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Hussein Bashe said the government has intensified production of palm trees, to halt the import of edible oil. He said that the government is working closely with authorities in Kagera, Tanga, Coast, Katavi and Mbeya regions, to mobilise the public to engage in palm tree cultivation, as they have arable land for the crop.

Tanzania addresses edible oil shortage in the country

Prime Minister, Kassim Majaliwa has said annually the government spends over U.S.$1.7 million to import cooking oil. In 2019, the government set aside U.S.$4.3 million to boost cultivation of palm oil as part of its strategy to end importation of edible oil. A number of strategies have been put in place to enhance more production of palm oil. The government has promised to help the farmers with palm oil seeds, which has become a priority in the agricultural sector. Farmers have been cultivating the crop early from the 1920s as it continues to gain popularity.

HomePod mini is now available in three bold new colours

Apple announced HomePod mini is now available in yellow, orange, and blue, giving users more ways to express their personality and style in any space. These new colours, along with white and space gray, feature colour-matched details throughout, including the tinted touch surface, mesh fabric, volume icons, and woven power cable, for only $99.

HomePod mini is now available in three bold new colours

At just 3.3 inches tall, HomePod mini is packed with innovation to deliver unexpectedly big sound for a speaker of its size. Using computational audio to provide a rich and detailed acoustic experience and deliver peak performance, HomePod mini fills the room with rich 360-degree audio that sounds great from every angle. With multiple HomePod mini speakers, users can play the same music throughout the house, a different song in every room, or create a stereo pair for an even more immersive experience.

HomePod mini is designed to work with Apple Music, Apple Podcasts, thousands of radio stations, and popular music services like Pandora, Deezer, and others, providing entertainment for everyone. When listening to music or podcasts, or taking a phone call, users can seamlessly hand off the audio without missing a beat by bringing their iPhone close to HomePod mini.

With the intelligence of Siri, HomePod mini delivers a personalised and deeply integrated experience for iPhone customers. Siri can recognise the voices of up to six different household members, tailor music and podcasts to their preferences, and respond to personal requests. Siri also provides users a personal update for a quick snapshot of their day. Users can ask “Hey Siri, what’s my update?” to hear the latest news, weather, traffic, reminders, and calendar appointments with a single request.

HomePod mini makes controlling smart home accessories effortless, with simple voice commands for Siri to turn off the lights, change the temperature, lock the doors, set a scene, or control devices at specific times. With Intercom, users can send a voice message from one HomePod mini to another - whether in a different room, a specific zone, or multiple rooms throughout the home. 

Intercom works with iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, AirPods, and CarPlay, so everyone in the household can get notifications and send messages. Intercom offers a quick and easy way to send messages to everyone in a household - from one HomePod mini to another, or across iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, AirPods, and CarPlay.

With an entirely redesigned online store, shopping with Apple online or in-store is simpler than ever. Whether a customer is seeking personalised support and advice from an Apple Specialist, or taking advantage of Apple’s convenient delivery and pickup options or special carrier offers, the best place to buy HomePod mini and the latest Apple products is at Apple.

Africa Oil Week to drive positive change in energy sector

Africa Oil Week (AOW) 2021 has turned out to be a platform for intense discussions and decision making for the future of Africa’s energy sector through a series of keynote speeches, engaging panel discussions, National Energy Showcases and networking opportunities involving individuals and companies from all over the world that have a strong interest in the African market. 

Africa Oil Week to drive positive change in energy sector

Taken beyond the borders of the African continent and hosted in Dubai for the first time since its inception, the four-day event will conclude on 11th November. AOW will be held in its original destination of Cape Town next year. The event has witnessed attendance from more than 35 heads of government departments from the African continent and the Middle East and high-level delegations, including executives from some of the biggest global oil and gas companies.

Day two of the event was packed with numerous engaging conversations and networking opportunities, bringing together stakeholders from across the energy value chain to host a progressive discussion around sustainable energy development for the continent. It featured representatives from organisations including Wood Mackenzie, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), Eni, ReconAfrica, EITI, Herbert Smith Freehills, TotalEnergies, Africa Oil Corp, Equinor, Tullow Oil, and Fugro, among others.

Several National Energy Showcases were held as part of the event’s agenda to attract investments into the African energy sector, where countries like Uganda, Kenya, Gabon, Mozambique, Djibouti, Eritrea, Mauritania, Senegal, and The Gambia showcased investment opportunities in their respective countries, represented by their governments.

Over 24 National Energy Showcases will be hosted throughout the week, providing a dedicated investment platform for Ministers, NOCs, Utilities and Regulators to broker deals and meet new partners, where government stakeholders will present an in-depth analysis of their national energy strategies, including prospective asset and investment opportunities, geological data and analysis, bidding rounds and open tenders, fiscal and operating policies.

Speaking on the sidelines of the event, Fafa Sanyang, the Minister of Energy & Petroleum, Republic of The Gambia, said, "The Africa Oil Week is one of the most important global events now. It's at the forefront when it comes to promoting the African oil and energy sector. I have been attending the Africa Oil Week for seven years now, so I know this is a suitable event and correct platform to highlight the African energy sector.

"I'll be announcing the licensing round, so my speech will be around the importance of oil and gas in Africa and The Gambia. The revenue that we generate from oil and gas can help us accelerate our other energies and environmental issues," he added.

Abdessalam Ould Mohamed Saleh, Minister of Petroleum, Mines & Energy Islamic Republic of Mauritania, explained, "With a large number of ministers and representatives of big oil companies and others, the AOW 2021 is an opportunity to exchange on various important and hot topics, in particular energy transition. We are just out of the COP26, so I think it's fantastic to exchange perspectives with our African counterparts. We are having a really good week, and it's also excellent to hear from the oil companies from various perspectives. 

"This is a unique opportunity for all the people who matter to get together, and from that perspective, the Africa Oil Week has been a great experience. I would invite all the ministers to this platform.'' ''Hopefully, this will happen again and again with more representation from African governments and more oil and gas companies because we need that exchange of experience between the international operators, national operators and between the African nations," the minister added.

The event’s second day started with a powerful opening address by the Hon. Thomas Camara, the Minister of Mines, Petroleum & Energy, Côte d'Ivoire, followed by a speech on ‘Reimagining the African Upstream by Wood Mackenzie, which explored how the industry has responded to a changing market landscape, identifying opportunities for new players and high-value assets on the horizon, besides analysing the macro-effects of the global energy transition on the African upstream.

One of the most dominant panel for the day was the ‘Energy Transition Policies for a Changing Landscape: Stimulating National Economic Growth and Investment', which featured ministers from the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, the Republic of Ghana, Republic of Uganda, and Côte d'Ivoire. The panel included comprehensive discussions on the renewed pressure on fossil fuel-dependent African governments to improve their fiscal and regulatory terms and explore new industries or policies to diversify their economies.

Towards the end of day two, the EITI convened a closed, high-level, invite-only Africa Energy Dialogue that included discussions around critical factors that will drive the transition to a sustainable, decarbonised economy. The dialogue aimed to provide policymakers with an opportunity to exchange ideas on emerging trends and critical questions on achieving sustainable energy transition, the role of the extractive sector in revenue generation, developing policies to attract quality investment, and how can governments engage in a constructive public debate to bring about sustainable reforms, among others.

With the UAE’s investments in Africa reaching $5.64 billion in recent years, AOW will serve as a platform to fuel future collaborations and partnerships that can result in additional high-value deals in the energy sector. In a keynote address, Suhail Al Mazrouei, Minister of Energy and Infrastructure in the UAE, emphasised the UAE’s long-standing ties with African nations and highlighted the country’s position as an emerging global financial hub.

Catering to Africa’s energy needs Over the next couple of days, AOW will include a power-packed agenda with discussions on key topics like energy transition and energy access, policies and regulations in the market, green economy, ESG practices in the sector, onshore exploration, the role of digitalisation and technology in Africa’s future energy mix, opportunities, and challenges in the sector in the post-pandemic world, achieving a clean and competitive energy future for the continent, among others.

Wamkele Keabetswe Mene, Secretary-General, Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), said, "It is an honour to be a part of AOW this year as the event is being held in Dubai, UAE. The host country has gained a global financial and economic hub with a rich oil and gas history. Through strategic discussions and collaborations, we hope to utilise the nation's expertise to help us in our united drive to eradicate energy poverty as part of the African Union 2063 and boost trade in the energy sector. We are certain that our talks with heads of governments from Africa and the UAE will facilitate the development of the local market and improve Africa's competitiveness both in its markets and globally, while also attracting quality foreign direct investment."

Besides discussing the impact of digitalisation in the oil and gas sector, the event serves as an ideal platform for experts to design an economic blueprint for developing the African energy sector. It will also help governments and key organisations formulate their approach towards achieving a clean energy future for the continent, thus enabling the transition to a green economy.
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