Jihadists freed by Mali, the great unknown

In at least three places, the release of four hostages in Mali, Thursday, October 8, was celebrated: on the tarmac of the Villacoublay air base, near Paris, where Sophie Pétronin’s family came to wait for him the next day. ; in Bamako, around the residence of Soumaïla Cissé, the freed Malian opposition leader; and somewhere in the desert, near the border with Algeria, where the Tuareg leader Iyad Ag Ghali was giving a banquet to celebrate the jihadists that the junta in power in Mali had let go.

→ ANALYSIS. How Sophie Pétronin’s release in Mali became possible

On the side of Soumaïla Cissé, “The day of his release, we received friends until five in the morning”, specifies his wife joined by The cross. “My husband is fine. He was keen to meditate first on the grave of his bodyguard who was killed during his kidnapping six months ago. Then, he went to offer his condolences to the families of the members of his party who died of the coronavirus, during his captivity. “

“All of Bamako remembers the attacks on the Terrasse or the Radisson”

But it is the image of the “banquet”, available on social networks, that most moved Aimé, a Christian Malian from Bamako: “Iyad Ag Ghali showed his strength with this couscous and these grapes that made you want. He taunted the State of Mali by treating all these ex-prisoners involved in attacks, like those of the Radisson Blu or La Terrasse, which all of Bamako remembers. They are very dangerous individuals. “

More than 200 prisoners were freed by the junta and taken by plane to the north of the country. No exact count, no precise list is available concerning them. We rely on the photos of the banquet. On one of them, Aliou Mahamane Touré. The former head of the Islamic police of Mujao, in Gao, “Was arrested in 2013, tried in 2017, released two years later, before being handed over by the French soldiers of Operation Barkhane again to the Malian authorities”, says Drissa Traoré, of the Malian Association for Human Rights (AMDH).

The other releases could not be confirmed and remain shrouded in mystery. Since that of the hostages, Drissa Traoré is working to account for the releases decided by the junta. “A year ago, there were 200 jihadists detained in Bamako central prison. Last year, eleven were tried, this year four, including two in absentia ”, he recalls.

“The important thing was the release of Soumaïla Cissé”

The scenario of the outcome, almost a week later, seems relatively clear to Serge Michailof, author of Africanistan (1). “It was Iyad Ag Ghaly, a Tuareg leader affiliated with Al-Qaida, who negotiated with the Malian junta. He is quite close to the Algerian security services and has spent a long time in Saudi Arabia. The important thing was the release of Soumaïla Cissé. Sophie Pétronin was incidental in the negotiations ”, he said.

→ READ ALSO. The ex-hostage in Mali Sophie Pétronin, a humanitarian carried by faith

Fulani leader Amadou Koufa, also attached to Al-Qaida, active in the center and the south of the country, is not affected by the agreement, according to Serge Michailof, and has not seen his supporters released. As for the forces claiming to be Daesh, they do not intend to negotiate and are active in the region of the three borders (Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso) where “It seems that currently the French soldiers of Barkhane are concentrating their efforts to neutralize them”, he adds.

“Double language, double face”

The ruling junta in Bamako made the bet of negotiation with Iyad Ag Ghaly, the only one ready to hear the Malian soldiers, even if he had said that he would only compromise “The end of the racist and arrogant occupation of the French crusaders”. The Malian soldiers had to be helped for this dialogue by Iman Mahmoud Dicko, who can count on three ministers in the government.

“Subtle and clever, he is not an extremist, even if it was he who torpedoed the family code a few years ago”, summarizes Serge Michailof. Since Bamako, Aimé is less optimistic: “These Muslim leaders have a double talk, a double face. They are also driven by their financial interests, and there may be some in these releases. Their goal will always be for their religion to be truly applied in Mali. “


The fate of the hostages

With Sophie Pétronin and Soumaïla Cissé Father Pier Luigi Maccalli, abducted in 2018, and Nicola Chiacchio, abducted in February 2019, were released.

Sophie Pétronin indicated that during her detention, Béatrice Stöckli, a missionary from Basel, was dead. She worked in Timbuktu and was kidnapped four years ago.

A Colombian nun Gloria Cecilia Argoti, seen on a video with Sophie Pétronin, would still be alive. She was forcibly taken away on February 7, 2017 by armed men who entered the grounds of her congregation in Karangasso.


Used cars are sweeping New York … and the reason is “Corona”

Used cars are sweeping New York … and the reason is “Corona”

Friday – 29 Safar 1442 AH – October 16, 2020 CE

Used Cars For Sale In New York (AFP)

New York: “Middle East Online”

An increasing number of New Yorkers are buying cars because they are avoiding public transportation due to the emerging corona virus; This led to a boom in the used vehicle market, but dashed hopes of reducing congestion in this state, according to “Agence France-Presse.”
Julian Genesto, 35, did not own a car when he lived in Lyon, Rome and San Francisco, and he spent five years in New York without needing one. “Using a car in the city is a nightmare,” he said. It has traffic jams, and finding a place to park it takes hours to search. ” “For me, owning a car was not practical at all, but now it has become necessary, unfortunately,” he added.
A few weeks ago, Genesto bought a family car from a used-car site that enabled him to leave New York with his three children after all cultural activities had stopped there.
“You cannot live in New York when you cannot do something, you have to get out of it,” the businessman explained.
Genesto has replaced weekends in Central Park with trips to Rockaway Beach, and he is not the only one who recently bought a car, but the last in a group of friends who bought cars when none of them had one before the pandemic.
The Mannheim Used Car Value Index, which tracks price trends in the United States, reached an all-time high of 163.7 in August, compared to 141.3 a year ago.
In early June, used-car dealer Chris Styliano was close to emptying his inventory, something that has come close to achieving in his 30-year career. “People used to buy cars only to avoid public transportation,” he said. “Any vehicle in good condition will do the trick.”
Although sales of new cars have increased since June, it is still significantly lower than 2019 for all major manufacturers.
And epidemiologist Magdalena Serda, who bought a BMW Station for $ 35,000, noted, “With a car rental contract with an option to buy, you have to commit to three years.” “When you buy a new car, you lose a lot of money once you get it out of the parking lot,” she said. Buying a used car looked like a better investment. ”
Serda, a mother of a seven-year-old girl, wanted a temporary alternative because she hoped New York City would one day return to normal and be able to ride the subway safely again.
“Everyone hopes that it will be temporary,” Gennesto agrees. “If the situation returns to normal, I think we will sell the car.”
The “Transportation Turnovers”, a non-profit organization working to reduce the number of cars on New York’s streets, indicated in September that traffic was only 9 per cent lower than a year ago, even though most New Yorkers work from their homes. The group has warned that the city could become cramped, blocked and suffocated with cars if no action is taken.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has declared himself a hero in the fight against pollution, has not put in place any plan to prevent congestion caused by the “Covid-19” epidemic. A plan to ease congestion in midtown Manhattan put in place before the epidemic has also been postponed. The implementation of the plan was scheduled for January 2021, but a new date was set for at least the end of 2021.
“The rush to buy cars today is evidence of the failure of the city’s public transport policies,” Genesto said.


The new corona virus


Alpha Condé aims for a third presidency, in a high-risk election

The opposition and the street could on Sunday contest the result of an election which seems to have been decided in advance.

Guinean President Alpha Condé addresses his supporters on Monday at a meeting in Kissidougou.
Guinean President Alpha Condé addresses his supporters on Monday at a meeting in Kissidougou. CAROL VALADE / AFP

President Alpha Condé has long maintained a false suspense about his intentions. In March again, at Figaro, he declined to say whether he planned to run for a third term. No one really doubted it and the announcement of his candidacy for the presidency of Guinea at the beginning of September only had the effect of confirmation. Alpha Condé will target his own succession during the presidential election on October 18. “We knew it, and what we fear now is the ballot and especially its consequences», Slips a diplomat stationed in Conakry.

The referendum to adopt a new Constitution, organized last March, had already largely lifted the veil and blocked political dialogue. The new text allows the outgoing president to seek his succession. This measure was strongly opposed by the opposition, united within the National Front for the Defense of the Constitution (FNDC).

90 dead in the fall of 2019, during demonstrations against the possibility of a third term for Alpha Condé

In the fall of 2019, the demonstrations were linked, often degenerating violently in Hamdallaye or Bambéto.

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“Green” hydrogen from the Congo: energy transition at Africa’s expense

Germany wants to generate “green” hydrogen with electricity from the hydropower plants on the Congo River. Africa would need the electricity itself.

The Congo River with the two existing Inga dams. Inga III would be ten times bigger Foto: Thierry Charlier / Camera Press / laif

BERLIN / BRUSSELS taz | “Green hydrogen is the energy source of the future,” said Federal Minister of Economics Peter Altmaier at the start of the EU hydrogen summit in Brussels on October 5th. It was about the EU hydrogen strategy, one of the most ambitious components of the project to make the EU climate neutral by 2050.

It became clear that Europe would have to import large quantities of “green” hydrogen from other parts of the world. Altmeier said he wanted to push this forward with international partners “with all his might”.

The partners are apparently mainly in Africa. In July Morocco signed a letter of intent with the German government on a German-Moroccan hydrogen alliance.

Next up is the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In August, a German business delegation caused a sensation in the desperately poor country. The potential investors held talks at the highest level in Kinshasa and also visited the Inga dams on the Congo River.

Then the Congolese media reported that the Germans wanted to build a plant in the Congo to produce hydrogen. Overall, it was said in the Congo, the Germans had promised investments of up to 50 billion euros – more than Congo’s gross domestic product. Prestigious names like Siemens and Deutsche Bank were dropped, astonished Congolese contacted the taz and asked: “Is that true?”

“Günter Nooke was the first”

Since then there has been no talk of such gigantic investments. But the hydrogen project on the Congo River remains current, pushed by the Chancellor’s Africa Representative, Günter Nooke. He claims that this is his idea: “Apparently Günter Nooke was the first to come up with the idea of ​​using the excess electricity to generate green hydrogen,” he writes on his own website.

The Inga dams have been the focus of the global energy industry for decades. You are there where the Congo River, the mightiest river in Africa, after thousands of kilometers across Central Africa’s rainforests, lets its masses of water shoot with tremendous force through the mountains that separate the Congo Basin from the Atlantic.

Inga has been producing water power on the rapids since the 1960s. The current flows through a line several thousand kilometers long in Congo’s mining district in Katanga; a part is exported from there to South Africa.

So far, the two Inga dams have only used a few percent of the capacity of the river. A third dam, Inga III, has been in planning for decades and with around 11 gigawatts of capacity is expected to increase power generation tenfold. But in January the Spanish-Chinese consortium that was supposed to build Inga III fell apart.

This is where the German project started. In the summer, a German working group on Inga III was founded in Leipzig. Also on board: Nooke and the German entrepreneur Gernot Wagner, former Congolese honorary consul and head of the Evagor company. According to the company, it specializes in “structuring particularly economical, complex, international investment projects in the field of technology and construction as well as financing”.

Wagner and his colleagues traveled to Kinshasa and even spoke to Head of State Félix Tshisekedi, who had sought German investors on a visit to Berlin a year ago. According to the Congo’s Minister for International Cooperation, Pépin Guillaume Maniolo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is set to become the EU’s most important hydrogen supplier thanks to German investments, with an annual production of two million tons.

But is the project, called “Congo Green H” in the Congo, even realistic?

Inga electricity has long been sold

A production of hydrogen from the Inga dams would require investments in the billions, say experts in Belgium, who have long taken the subject under the microscope: You would need a power line from the dams to the Atlantic port of Banana, an electrolysis factory in Banana to break down the water into its components, a deep-sea port for the gigantic tankers that are supposed to bring the frozen hydrogen to Germany.

And last but not least: The Inga III dam would first have to be built – in such a way that enough electricity remains for Germany and not just for Africa.

But the electricity from Inga III has long been sold. In the state treaty between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Africa from 2013, the legal framework for all Inga investor talks, South Africa undertakes to purchase 2,500 megawatts.

The rest should mainly benefit the Congo itself: The government says it wants to use 6,000 megawatts of Inga III for its own land, for industrial mining and for the chronically undersupplied capital Kinshasa with at least 12 million inhabitants, which is not far from Inga . The list of other interested parties in Inga-Strom ranges from Angola to Nigeria.

All of that would be at risk if the electricity instead flows into hydrogen production for Germany. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has now founded an “Inga Unit” to defend the South African claims. A new Inga III consortium has emerged, 75 percent Chinese, and now wants to build the originally planned 11,050 megawatts again, which were briefly in question at the beginning of the year.

In the end, the construction of the dam is likely to be financed by China, regardless of German desires. There is talk of a cost of at least 14 billion US dollars – more than double the Congolese national budget. For comparison: Evagor has total assets of 13 million euros.

Evagor should already build a power plant

The Leipzig company does not have the best repute in the Congo. In 2012 Evagor proposed a coal-fired power plant in Luena in the Katanga mining district to the Congolese state copper and cobalt miner Gécamines. Gécamines commissioned a feasibility study from the German company for $ 15 million.

It was never delivered. Instead, according to Gécamines, Evagor made the original 540-megawatt power plant for 660 million US dollars into a power plant that was only half the size, but which should now cost 2.7 billion. Now Gécamines is looking for new partners.

Inquiries from taz to Evagor about the hydrogen project went unanswered. The German federal government is cautious.

The hydrogen project is “interesting”, but “challenging”, explains the Federal Ministry of Economics at the request of the taz: “If German companies submit a viable economic concept for the project and submit a corresponding application, the Federal Government will examine the extent to which the project will participate in the usual procedure Foreign trade promotion instruments and possibly other funding instruments can be supported. “

The Federal Development Ministry, to which Günter Nooke is assigned, responded even more succinctly to a request from Left MP Eva-Maria Schreiber. It says: “The Federal Government is following the activities of the German economy with interest.”


Surprise! satellites counted more trees west of the Sahara and the Sahel than previously thought

Data collected by satellites enabled researchers to inventory trees west of the Sahara and the Sahel with a level of detail never equaled over such a large area. And against all odds, they listed more than they had imagined. Soon, thanks to artificial intelligence, the location and size of every tree on Earth can be mapped.

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Southern Sahara and the Sahel are home to more thantrees previously thought, playing a “crucial role” for the biodiversity and the lives of populations, according to a study published Wednesday in the revue Nature.

The international team of researchers has developed a pattern recognition program by artificial intelligence for count trees with a plant surface of more than three square meters, from more than 11,000 images satellite High Definition.

Over an area of ​​1.3 million km2 (i.e. two and a half times the area of ​​metropolitan France) in the south of the Sahara, the Sahelian strip (semi-arid zone south of desert) and sub-humid areas in Africa from the west, they were able to count more than 1.8 billion trees. Or an average of 13.4 trees per hectare, with a median plant cover of 12 m2.

An astonishing density of trees

This vegetation, certainly sparse, ” plays a crucial role for biodiversity and forecosystem as storage of carbone, food resources and shelter for human and animal populations, note the researchers. Although the total vegetation cover is low, the relatively high density of isolated trees challenges the prevailing idea of desertification dry areas, and even the desert offers a surprising density of trees ».

The density increases as it descends towards the wetter zones in the South, from 0.7 trees per hectare in the “hyper-arid” zones, to 9.9 in the arid zone, 30.1 in the semi-arid zone 47 trees per hectare in a sub-humid zone.

AI to identify every tree on Earth

In addition to this census, the study offers a new method for studying the presence of trees outside dense forest areas, and in particular their possible role in matter of climate change and therefore potentially poverty, through their contribution to the agricultural systems, the authors say.

« This kind of data is very important to establish a base. And in two or ten years, we could repeat the study to see if efforts to revitalize [la végétation] are effective “, Explained in a press release one of the researchers, Jesse Meyer, of the American space agency. Nasa.

The AI ​​technique used further suggests “ that it will soon be possible, within certain limits, to map the location and size of all trees, [une connaissance] fundamental to our understanding ofecology worldwide Said Niall P. Hanan and Julius Anchang of the American University of New Mexico, in an analysis of the study commissioned and published by Nature.

This video allows you to see the scientific work. © NASA

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African free trade zone: raw materials instead of industrial products (neue-deutschland.de)

Ghana, Tema: Containers stand stacked in the port of Tema near the Ghanaian capital.

Photo: Gioia Forster / dpa

A project should start in May 2020 that could become a milestone for Africa’s future: The African Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). Due to the corona, the start was postponed to the beginning of 2021. This tackles an obstacle to development that has made Africa the world’s latecomer to this day. While elsewhere it is mainly neighboring states that trade with one another – in Europe and Asia, up to 70 percent of foreign trade is accounted for by intracontinental exchange – the African states mainly trade with non-African countries; the degree of internal trade integration is 15 percent.

Jörg Goldberg is editor at »Z.  Journal of Marxist Renewal ”.

Jörg Goldberg is editor at »Z. Journal of Marxist Renewal ”.

Photo: private

This is particularly problematic because the 55 African countries – with the exception of Nigeria and South Africa – have very small internal markets. The establishment of a national processing industry – the only way to economic development and sustainable jobs – often fails because national sales markets are too small. An African free trade area would be a huge step forward.

The second condition is the ability and possibility of the African states to implement a long-term oriented and nationally coordinated industrial policy, which would be easier in a free trade area. Global free trade, on the other hand, would be counterproductive. It does not help if Federal Development Minister Müller calls on the European Union to exempt African food exports from duty if, in return, Africa is to open its markets and refrain from promoting African productions. It is about more processing stages in Africa – the states of the continent should export chocolate and not raw cocoa.

It will certainly take a long time before Africa reaches a level of integration such as East Asia or Europe for comparison. The road to a functioning free trade area is long. But that does not justify the reluctance of Germany and the EU towards this important project. Although this is not openly criticized, Germany and Europe continue to place emphasis on the conclusion of the controversial Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between individual African countries and the EU as well as on a trade agreement with the 79 members of the Organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (ACP- States), which is supposed to replace the Cotonou Treaty. Trade agreements between individual African countries or regional groups on the one hand and Europe or other non-African economic zones on the other hand involve the risk of trade diversion at the expense of intra-African trade. They could hinder the process of African integration. Even if this were not the case, trade policy would continue to focus on relations with non-African powers.

The noticeable reluctance in Europe and Germany towards AfCFTA is not surprising. The “Science and Politics Foundation”, the German government’s foreign policy think tank, believes: “Any consideration of adapting the European Union’s trade policy towards Africa … is, however, premature.” she is skeptical about the project: “The AfCFTA can only be understood as a very long-term project.” The EU should only invoice the project once the free trade area has been completed: “However, this is not to be expected in the long term.”

It is obvious that a free trade zone that strengthens “African bargaining power” is not in the interests of Germany and the EU. The economic powers outside of Africa are primarily interested in the raw material continent, which has not yet been developed, the exchange of raw materials for industrial products is the focus of European, US and Asian interests. All the more so since a large part of the metals necessary for the digitization of the economy come from Africa and are suspected there. An African free trade area with its own industry, in which trade flows within the continent, appears to be more of a danger.


Neymar’s hat-trick leads Brazil to another victory … and Argentina unravels the “La Paz knot”

The two ancient teams led the South American qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup

Neymar da Silva led Brazil to confirm his strong start and achieve the second successive victory by scoring a hat-trick against Peru (4-2), while Argentina broke a 15-year-old knot in La Paz by beating its host Bolivia 2-1 in the second round of the South American qualifiers. Qualifying for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Brazil and Argentina took advantage of the stumbling of their former partners in the lead, Colombia and Uruguay, the first by drawing with its host Chile 2-2 at the top of the round, and the other by losing to host Ecuador 2-4, to move two points from Colombia and three points from Uruguay.

In the first match, the French striker of Paris Saint-Germain, Neymar, imposed himself a star by scoring a hat-trick in which he became the second-best scorer in the history of the Brazil national team with 64 goals after the phenomenon surpassed Ronaldo, who stopped his score at 62 goals in 98 matches, including the double winning the fifth and final World Cup Which was crowned by Brazil in 2002 at the expense of Germany (2 – zero).

Neymar commented on his achievement in a tweet in which he praised Ronaldo, saying, “All my respect to you – Fenomeno – (the phenomenon)”.

“King” Pele tops the list of historic scorers for the Brazilian national team, with 77 goals in 92 international matches. Neymar scored the first tie for Brazil in the 28th minute, with a penalty kick that he got himself after the visitors led the goal of Saudi Al Hilal striker Andre Carrillo in the sixth minute with a shot from inside the area.

The Paris Saint-Germain star gave his country the lead for the first time in the match when he scored his second and third personal goal for Brazil in the 83rd minute from a penalty kick that he also got himself, before securing his victory with Hatrick, he scored the fourth goal in the last minute of his 103 international match when he used a rebound From the post after a powerful shot by the substitute Everton Ribeiro.

Peru advanced for the second time in the match with the goal of Celta Vigo midfielder Renato Tapia in the 59th minute, with a powerful shot that hit Brodrigo Caio and hugged the net, and Everton striker Richarlison equalized when he followed the header of Liverpool striker Roberto Firmino after a corner kick that Neymar set off.

Brazil received a painful blow early, hitting its defender and Paris Saint-Germain Marquinhos in the thigh, and was forced to leave his place. On the other hand, Peru spoke to nine players in the last minutes after Carlos Cassida was sent off in the 86th minute and Carlos Samprano in the 89th, noting that she played the match in the absence of her players, Raul Ruydiaz and Alex Valera, due to infection with the new Corona virus.

Brazil repeated its victory over Peru in its last visit to Lima in the qualifiers for the World Cup 2018, when it came out with two clean goals in the twelfth round, and also avenged its defeat by Peru 0-1 in a friendly in Los Angeles in September of last year, which saw them confront them three times. Among them, twice in the Copa America finals in Brazil, and the landlords won twice: 5-0 in the first round, and 3-1 in the final match, before Peru achieved a moral 1-0 victory in an international friendly match in Los Angeles, USA.

It is the second consecutive victory for Brazil in the current qualifiers after the first crushing victory over Bolivia 5 – zero in the first round, so it was the only one to lead with six points on goal difference in front of Argentina, who won over Bolivia 2-1.

Argentina defied difficult conditions by playing at an altitude of 3,600 meters above sea level and loosened a 15-year knot in La Paz.

Lautaro Martinez scored in the 45th minute and Joaquin Correa (79) scored the two goals of Argentina, and Marcelo Moreno (24) scored the goal of Bolivia.

It is the first victory for Argentina to host Bolivia in their own home since 2005, specifically on March 26 in the 2006 World Cup qualifiers, when they beat them 2-1. It is only the fourth victory for Argentina in La Paz in the history of confrontations between the two teams.

Argentina lost twice in the last three trips to La Paz without tasting the taste of victory, including a historic loss 1-6 in the 2010 World Cup qualifiers led by coach Diego Armando Maradona on April 1, noting that it lost the last match between them in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers when it fell. With a clean double in La Paz in the 14th round, she sacked coach Edgardo Bautsa and appointed Jorge Sampaoli in his place.

Argentina put an end to its suffering when it came to Bolivia at the Olympic Stadium, “Hernando Silis”, at an altitude of 3600 meters, and scored a precious second successive victory in the qualifiers after the unconvincing first over its guest Ecuador 1-0 in the first round. Brazil came to the top of the standings with six points. .

On the other hand, Bolivia suffered its second consecutive loss after the first humiliating defeat to its host Brazil, 0-5.

The summit of Chile and Colombia ended in a 2-2 draw. Colombia was the first to score by English midfielder Jefferson Lerma in the 7th minute, and Chile turned the table with two goals for Inter Milan stars Arturo Vidal (38) from a penalty kick, and Alexis Sanchez (42), but the captain Veteran Colombia and Galatasaray goalscorer Radmil Falcao equalized for Colombia in the last minute.

It is Chile’s first point in the qualifiers after losing to Uruguay 1 – 2, while Colombia raised its tally to four points after its 3-0 victory over Venezuela.

Ecuador hit hard with its big victory over Uruguay 4-2, and the landlords advanced with a clean quarter, which took place in the 15th minute by Moses Caicedo, Michael Estrada (45 and 53) and Gonzalo Plata (75), before Uruguay responded with two goals from Atletico Madrid striker Luis Suarez in the two minutes. (The 83rd and the 90th penalty kicks) without avoiding the first loss. Ecuador compensated for its loss against Argentina in the first round 0-1. Paraguay achieved its first victory after it drew with Peru 2-2 in the first round, by defeating its host Venezuela, with the goal of Gaston Jimenez, which followed the second loss to the owners of the land.


Why does Africa have fewer Covid-19 deaths than other continents?

Kevin Marsh/Moses Alobo



When the threat of a pandemic of Covid-19 at the beginning of the year, many feared their effects in Africaa. Concerns about the combination of overburdened and underfunded health systems, and the already existing burden of infectious and non-infectious diseases, have often been talked about in apocalyptic terms.

However, that has not been the result. On September 29, the global death toll surpassed one million (the true figure will, of course, be higher). That same day, the death toll in Africa reached a cumulative total of 35,954.

Africa accounts for 17% of the world’s population, but only 3.5% of reported Covid-19 deaths. All deaths are significant, we shouldn’t discount seemingly low numbers and the data collected is of variable quality, but the gap between predictions and what has actually happened so far is staggering. There has been a lot of discussion about why this gap is due.

As leaders of the Covid-19 team of the African Academy of Sciences, we have followed the development of events and presented various explanations. In many African countries, the transmission has been high, but severity and mortality have been much lower than the original predictions, based on the experience of China and Europe.

We argue that Africa’s much younger population explains a large part of the apparent difference. The remaining part is probably due to the lack of reliable data on what happens, although there are other plausible explanations: climatic differences, pre-existing immunity, genetic factors or behavioral differences.

Given the enormous variability of conditions across the 55-state continent, the exact contribution of any of the factors is likely to change from country to country. But the bottom line is that what initially seemed like a mystery is now less puzzling as more scientific evidence emerges.

The importance of age

The most obvious influencing factor in low mortality rates is the age structure of the population. In many countries, the risk of death from Covid-19 for people aged 80 and over is approximately 100 times higher than for people in their 20s.

This is best appreciated with an example: as of September 30, the UK had accounted for 41,980 deaths from Covid-19, while Kenya had accounted for 691. The UK population is about 66 million people, with an average age of 40 years. The population of Kenya is 51 million and the average age is 20 years.

Taking into account the size of the population, the number of deaths in Kenya would have been estimated at about 32,000. However, if also corrected for population structure (assuming the UK age-specific deaths apply to the Kenyan population structure), around 5,000 deaths would be expected. There is still a big difference between 700 and 5,000. How can it be explained?

Other possible factors

One possibility is the lack of identification and registration of deaths.

At the beginning of the pandemic, Kenya, like many countries, had little testing capacity, and the specific recording of deaths is complex. However, Kenya quickly developed its analytical skills, and the specific attention paid to finding deaths makes it unlikely that a difference of this magnitude can be fully explained by the missing information. Explanations based on other factors have not been lacking.

High temperatures and humidity

A recent study in Europe reported significant declines in mortality due to higher temperatures and humidity. The authors proposed that this phenomenon could be due to the fact that the mechanisms by which our airways clear the virus work better in warmer and more humid conditions. This means that people may be getting fewer virus particles in their bodies.

It should be noted, however, that a systematic review of global data, while confirming that hot and humid climates appear to reduce the spread of Covid-19, also indicated that these variables alone cannot explain the great variability in the transmission of the disease. It is important to remember that there is considerable climatic variation on the African continent. Not all climates are hot and humid, and even if they were, they may not be constant throughout the year.

Other hypotheses include the possibility of pre-existing immune responses due to previous exposure to other pathogens or BCG vaccination, a tuberculosis vaccine applied at birth in most African countries. An extensive analysis – involving 55 countries, representing 63% of the world’s population – showed significant correlations between increased BCG vaccine coverage at an early age and better outcomes from Covid-19.

The genetic factors they can also be relevant. A recently described haplotype (group of genes) associated with an increased risk of severity and present in 30% of genomes in South Asia and in 8% of Europeans, is almost absent in Africa.

The role of this and other factors (such as potential differences between social structures or mobility) are the subject of ongoing research.

A more effective response

Another important possibility is that the response of the public health system by African countries, prepared by previous experiences (such as outbreaks or epidemics), was simply more effective than in other parts of the world in controlling transmission.

However, in Kenya it is estimated that the epidemic reached its peak in July, with around 40% of the population in urban areas infected. A similar picture is emerging in other countries. This implies that the measures put in place had minimal results in viral transmission, although it raises the possibility that the group immunity now play an important role in limiting transmission.

In addition, there is another important possibility: the idea that viral load (the number of particles transmitted to a person) is a key determinant of severity. Masks have been suggested to lower viral load and that their widespread use may limit the chances of developing serious illness. While the WHO recommends wearing masks, their compliance is uneven and lower in many European countries compared to many parts of Africa.

So is Africa free of suspicion? Obviously not. There is still a lot of virus left and we do not know what can happen as the interaction between the virus and people advances.

Still, one thing is clear: the after-effects of the pandemic will be a real challenge for Africa. We refer to the severe interruptions of economic and social activities, and the potentially devastating effects of the reduction of care services that protect millions of people, such as routine vaccinations and malaria, tuberculosis and disease control programs. HIV

Research agendas

Among the main implications of the new landscape is the need to re-evaluate African research agendas related to Covid-19. While many of the originally identified priorities remain, it is likely that their relative importance has changed. The key is to deal with problems as they are now and not as they were imagined six months ago.

The same is true of public health policies. Of course, Basic measures like hand washing remain essential (regardless of Covid-19) and should continue to be used masks while there are high levels of transmission of the coronavirus. However, other measures with broader effects, especially restrictions on educational or economic activities, must continue to be monitored.

The key now is to increase vigilance and ensure that responses are flexible and based on quality data in real time.

Kevin Mars is a senior advisor and co-leader of the African Academy of Sciences’ Covid-19 team. He is also Professor of Tropical Medicine and Director of the Oxford Initiative for Africa at the University of Oxford.

Moses Alobo is the director of the Grand Challenges Africa program at the African Academy of Sciences and co-leads the Covid-19 initiative. Become part of the Tutu Fellowship.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.

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Major fire on Kilimanjaro – flames continue to blaze – world –

German researcher is convinced: rain could help.

On Africa’s highest mountain, around 500 fire fighters and helpers faced a blazing fire roller at an altitude of almost 3,000 meters.

On the southern flank of Kilimanjaro, they tried to extinguish the flames with the device available to them up there. A helicopter came to help, Tanzania’s national park authority Tanapa announced in a statement on Tuesday.

We will use the helicopter to identify vulnerable areas from the air and to be able to intervene quickly if the fire spreads to these regions, “said the authorities. The flames have now shifted to the eastern part of the mountain range and migrated to the Rombo district .

Flames move downhill

Because of strong winds, the fire destroyed a large area of ​​heather and moorland. After observations by residents, the flames were now moving downhill, towards the rainforest below. According to the national park administration, the fire broke out on Sunday evening. The cause is still unknown.

Last fire in October 2016

The last time there was a fire on Kilimanjaro was in October 2016. The German biologist Andreas Hemp, who has been researching changes in the sensitive Kilimanjaro biotope for more than three decades, has observed an increase in fires on the mountain range. Together with the melting of the summit glaciers, he attributes this to climate change, among other things. “It is typical of the East African mountain landscape that heather zones exist as a link between the rainforest and the rocky mountain zone,” he said. Among other things, this has an impact on the water balance on the mountain, as the heather plants with their leaves can catch the moisture in the fog and feed it into the groundwater.

Tree line moved 800 meters down

“But they have the property that they burn very easily – and if there is a fire, you can hardly extinguish them.” His research has shown that the tree line on Kilimanjaro has shifted down by around 800 meters since 1976. “Climate change certainly plays a role in interaction with the impact of local people,” he says. With the current fire, he is betting on the onset of the rainy season. “We are at the end of the dry season, so the onset of rain could help to put out the fire. Gorges or dried up rivers could also stop it.” In the coastal city of Dar es Salaam, about 450 kilometers away, where he is currently staying, it is already raining heavily.

Difficult ascent to the source of the fire

Kilimanjaro with its 5,895 meters is not only considered Africa’s highest mountain, but also Tanzania’s landmark. Extinguishing the fire at great heights turned out to be difficult because the long ascent to the source of the fire is difficult and equipment has to be dragged along. On an amateur video from the scene of the event, helpers were seen trying to cut aisles in the heathland with hoes in front of the blazing flames. The mountain flank was still covered by a thick cloud of smoke on Tuesday afternoon.

In normal times, Kilimanjaro is climbed by tens of thousands of mountaineers from all over the world. Because of the Corona restrictions, tourism is currently on the ground. Nevertheless, mountaineers in the mountain range are still on their way to the summit of Kilimanjaro, confirmed Tanapa spokesman Pascal Shelutete. You will be redirected via other, safe routes.