Don't Destroy Wealth Created Under Mahama - Duncan Williams To Prez

Image - Archbishop Duncan Williams
Archbishop Nicholas Duncan Williams, founder of Action Chapel International

President Akufo-Addo must not allow bitter appointees to use his government to settle personal scores with businesspeople who made wealth under the erstwhile National Democratic Congress (NDC) administration, Archbishop Nicholas Duncan-Williams has said.

The founder and leader of the Action Chapel International believes too many private businesses have been collapsed due to a change in government and that trend must stop.

Addressing a congregation during a sermon on Sunday, April 22, he said he has observed that successive governments target businessmen who prospered under previous administrations and go after them.

The presiding Archbishop and General Overseer of the Action Chapel International Ministry, Archbishop Nicholas Duncan-Williams

According to him, although it is good to fight corruption, governance must not be used as an excuse to settle personal scores.

He, therefore, advised President Akufo-Addo not to allow such a thing happen under his tenure, describing it as a “vicious cycle” that needs to be checked.

“It’s time to cry for mercy, it’s time to pray for mercy because too much is at stake. And please don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying we shouldn’t check corruption, but if we come to office and to power – I’ve been preaching for 40 years in this country and I’ve seen governments come and go, from CPP, my father’s government, and NDC and NPP, they are here, I’ve seen them over the 40 years – and this thing where we come into office with vindictiveness and bitterness because of the way we’ve been mishandled and mistreated.

“And and we target people to go after them, settle scores, I pray that during the reign of Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, because of the fight and the betrayals and the suffering and the pain he went through to become president, he will not allow his presidency to be used by people who have problems with others and their opponents to settle scores, but that during his watch and his reign, that vicious cycle would be broken in the name of Jesus; that every Ghanaian, irrespective of your political party, if you’re doing the right thing, you’ll prosper,” he said.

He noted that the destruction of private businesses is a common thing in Africa, saying “until we understand what we are dealing with in its entirety and attack it from the roots and stop dealing with it from the branches, we will never create wealth in this country.”

He further lamented: “We’re not creating wealth as a people. We destroy wealth every four years and every eight years. And it’s not just Ghana, you watch Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria, La Cote d’Ivoire, similar incidents there because I’ve churches there, I’ve networks all over these places and I deal with businessmen and women and politicians in all these places.

“Anytime there is a new regime, the new regime comes and will destroy anyone that was connected to the old regime and benefited from the old regime, they’ll destroy all their wealth, forgetting that you’ll be in office for only four years or maximum eight years. And then another regime comes and will destroy anyone that benefited from the old regime, so, every four to eight years, we kill and destroy those who have created wealth.”

The Archbishop added that such a vicious cycle must be checked, else West Africa may soon be witnessing its own version of the Arab Spring.

“The Arab uprising is something that is in the pipeline and it’s coming to West Africa. Between the next five and 10 years, it is coming to West Africa, write it down. I’m talking as a student of history, prophecy, and paradigms.

"We have a very serious situation here and we have to look at it long-term. The private sector is not creating wealth because for whatever reason, we are destroying the private sector through this vicious cycle. If you go to the bank to take a loan, you’ll pay 30 percent interest, so, it’s difficult to go take a loan to create wealth because of the interest, you can’t pay anything. For whatever reason, the private sector in other countries is helping to develop the country.”


2 Shot Dead In Daylight Bank Robbery At Nabdam

Two people were shot dead by some suspected armed robbers at the Pelungu market in the Nabdam District of the Upper East Region around 12 noon on Friday.

The suspected robbers, who were said to be on two motorbikes, allegedly attacked and robbed a First Allied bank branch at Pelungu of an unspecified amount of money and later shot indiscriminately, killing the two people.

Although the police are yet to confirm the incident, the Assembly Member for the Damola-Tindongo Electoral Area, Mr. Emmanuel Seluk told Graphic Online that the bodies of the deceased one of whom hailed from his electoral area have been conveyed to the Bolgatanga Regional Hospital mortuary.

Reports indicated that the robbers allegedly beat up some workers of the bank and made away with monies and further moved to another shop where they picked some computers and money.

The robbers were said to have fled the scene after the robbery.

When contacted the police in Nabdam and the Bolgatanga Municipality told Graphic Online they were still investigating the matter and would brief the press on the incident later.

Source: Graphic Online

Police, FDA Arrest Tramadol Dealers In Tamale

Image - FDA approved Tramadol 50mg
Excessively higher doses of Tramadol are now sold as over-the-counter medicines

Personnel of the Police Service aided by staff of the Food and Drugs Authority and Pharmacy Council, have arrested two persons who deal in the sale of Tramadol in Tamale.

The suspects, Sulemana Abdul Fatawu and Abubakari Nuhu had offered to sell 250 milligrams of the banned painkiller when the officers went undercover to buy the drug over the counter, JoyNews' Martina Bugri reports.

The volume approved by the FDA to be sold is 50mg and 100mg, therefore, selling 250mg over the counter suggests, the drugs were smuggled into the country.

Approved by FDA

Four others were also arrested for operating pharmacists without appropriate licenses. They are Abdul Rahman Hardi, Adam Haruna, Abdul Rafique Yakubu and Zakaria Musah.

Crime Officer of the Northern Police Command, Superintendent Kusi Appiah said a search is yet to be conducted on the premises of the suspects.

Supt. Appiah said the police is currently mobilizing men to move to the area while the FDA has put its locks to secure the place.

Tramadol, a restricted medication used to treat moderate to moderately severe pain, has become almost “a street drug” for the treatment of a normal pain like a headache, sometimes with approval from health practitioners.

A mental health expert, Dr. Yao Mfodwo, recently called for urgent action to discontinue the increasing abuse of strong pain reliever, Tramadol, which has become very popular among the public, particularly the youth.

Speaking on Joy FM, Dr. Yao Mfodwo, a Consultant Psychiatrist at The Brain Clinic at Abokobi in Accra, fears continued use and abuse of the drug can lead to physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms.

“It is as bad as a very silent Ebola or a very silent Lassa fever,” he lamented.

Source: Myjoyonline

‘Gov’t clears GHC1 billion out of GHC1.2 billion NHIS inherited debt’ – Akufo-Addo

Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, president of Ghana
The President of the Republic, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has revealed that his administration is reviving the strength of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), which, under the Mahama government, was being strangled by debt.

According to President Akufo-Addo, “of the GH¢1.2 billion debt we inherited, the equivalent of $300 million, we have paid, in the last 15 months, GH¢1 billion, the equivalent of $250 million.”

He added that payments to service providers, since his government took office in January 2017, are current.

As a result, “the Scheme is regaining its effectiveness, so that for a minimum amount, subscribers can have access to a wide range of medical services.”

President Akufo-Addo made this known on Saturday, 21st April, 2018, when he delivered the keynote speech at the London School of Economics’ Africa Summit, on the theme “Africa at Work: Educated, Employed, Empowered.”

Addressing a packed gathering, President Akufo-Addo noted that the urgent responsibility confronting the continent is to make African countries attractive for African youth, and for them to see the Continent to see as places of opportunities.

“It means we must provide education, quality education and skills training. It means our young people must acquire the skills that run modern economies,” he said.

The President indicated that with the African Union’s Agenda 2063, titled The Africa We Want, calling for an education and skills revolution to meet the human resource needs for inspiring Africa’s socio-economic development, he noted that the AU has, quite correctly, placed high premium on science, technology and innovation as critical ingredients to the achievement of Agenda 2063.

“The provision of education for our young people should not become an ideological tussle. We should never have to make a choice between basic education or higher education. We should never have to rely on the World Bank or any other institution to decide for us where the emphasis should be in our education needs,” the President said.

Whilst stressing that education is the key to Africa’s development, he noted that African countries must run their economies to be able to fund the education of African children.

“We should not get into arguments with donor agencies about our priorities. We must set our own priorities, and we must accept that we should provide the funds to translate our plans into reality,” he said.

The President continued, “That is why, despite the bleak economic situation my government inherited, we decided to implement immediately the pledge we had made about providing Free Senior High School education. The most dramatic aspect of its implementation has been that 90,000 more students entered senior high school in September last year, the first term of the policy, than in 2016.”

He was confident that “if we stop being beggars, and spend Africa’s monies inside the continent, Africa would not need to ask for respect from anyone. We would get the respect we deserve.”

President Akufo-Addo also revealed further that, in Ghana, whereas the indications are that the economic dividends are on the horizon, there are other areas where the nation is thriving.

The media in Ghana, he said, has come into its own, and what used to be called the culture of silence has been replaced with a cacophony that now worries some.

“I have said it before, and I believe it bears repeating, I would much rather put up with a reckless press than a monotonous, praise-singing one. A democracy has no place for a media that does not keep public authorities on their toes,” he added.

He stressed that “I am a firm believer in a strong and vibrant media, and I have no doubt that it is a force for good, no matter how irritating and how irksome they can be and often are. They provide the avenue for the other point of view.”

In concluding, he indicated that “our success story and changed narrative come with building our economies that are not dependent on charity and handouts. Then we shall put an educated, employed and empowered Africa to work, and repudiate the recent culture of failure. We shall then take our rightful place in the world.”

Source: Ghanaweb

Anti Ghana-US Military Agreement Demo Hits Tamale

Image - Ghana - US military deal protestors
Some of the Tamale protestors in red and black attire with placards
The Ghana First Patriotic Front, a group made up of opposition political parties, especially members of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) on Saturday embarked on a demonstration in the Tamale Metropolis to protest against the Ghana-US Military Cooperation agreement.

According to the group, the Ghana-US Military Cooperation agreement threatens the sovereignty of Ghana as an independent country.

Clad in red and black apparels, the protestors marched through some principal streets in the metropolis to drum home their demand on President Nana Akufo-Addo to cancel the military deal.

Leading members of the group are scheduled to address the demonstrators at the Tamale Jubilee Park, where the protestors would converge after the march.

About three weeks ago, the group embarked on a similar demonstration in Accra.

Some of the leading members of the NDC who joined the march include Mr. Johnson Asiedu Nketiah, the General Secretary of the NDC; the Minority Leader and MP for Tamale South, Mr. Haruna Iddrisu; the MP for North Tongu, Mr. Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, and the Northern Regional Chairman of the NDC, Sofo Azoka.

"I Am No Magician, Give Me Time" - Kotoko Coach Begs

Image - Paa Kwesi Fabin
Paa Kwesi Fabin - Kotoko SC coach

Coach Paa Kwesi Fabin has asked agitated fans of Kumasi Asante Kotoko to remain calm as he strives to steer the club out of the stormy waters.

Fabin, who replaced Steve Polack following the Porcupine Warriors’ exit from the CAF Confederation Cup, believes two months in charge of the Garden City club is too short a time to ensure any significant transformation.
The former national under-17, team trainer said he wasn’t a magician to turn around the fortunes of the club overnight, but insisted he was committed to working hard to ensure Kotoko return to their glorious days.

Since his appointment, Coach Fabin has won thrice — Dwarfs 2-1, Inter Allies 1-0, and Eleven Techiman Wonders 1-0 — out of eight league games, while drawing two (1-1 with both WAFA and Chelsea) and losing three (Medeama 0-1), (Dreams FC 0-1) and (Ashgold 0-2).

"It's about two months into the job but I am not a magician to turn things around in two months and therefore we're working towards making the team a fearsome one," he said after Kotoko’s draw with Chelsea.

"It will be an illusion to say we will win the league. It's a work in progress. I am just entering the second month in the team."

"It's impossible to turn things around in just two months. I don't think even Pep Guardiola can do that," Coach Fabin insisted.

On Sunday, he is expected to lead his charges to Wa to play Wa All Stars who are rooted at the foot of the league table and require victory to lift them from the bottom.

Rivals, Accra Hearts of Oak, are equally in a difficult situation as their fans are calling for the head of Coach Henry Wellington, whose assistant, Edward Nii Odoom, is expected to lead the team to the Baba Yara Stadium in Kumasi to encounter Bechem United.

In other matches, league leaders, Ashantigold, will battle Inter Allies at the Len Clay Stadium, Eleven Wonders welcome Medeama to the Nana Ameyaw Park at Techiman, while WAFA trek to the Cape Coast Stadium to contend with Ebusua Dwarfs.

Dreams FC and Aduana Stars are expected to set the Dawu Park agog with a thriller, Chelsea FC plays host to Liberty Professionals at the Baba Yara Stadium, while sensational Karela FC host Elmina Sharks at the Aiyinase CAM Park.

Source: Business Gh

Uncertainty Surrounds Plastic Waste Fund; GH¢724m or GH¢909m?

Mr. Ebbo Botwe, the President of the Ghana Plastic Manufacturers Association has said a fund set up in 2011 for plastic waste management has accrued a total of GH¢724 million as at March 2018, but the sector Minister says differently.

He said the money which was formerly 20 percent taxation on all plastic products, and upon amendment of the Act that established it in 2015, was reduced to a 10 percent taxation, has not been used for any plastic waste management.
Image - Plastic waste in Ghana
Plastic waste
He said the money was collected into the consolidated fund, and that the nonexistence of a Legislative Instrument (Li) to set up an independent fund authority to distribute the money for plastic waste management is solely responsible for the unaccounted money.

Mr. Botwe who doubled as the Chairman of the Plastic Waste Management Program Ghana and was speaking at the second Annual General Meeting of the Environmental Service Providers Association (ESPA) demanded the release of the money by the government to enable the organization control the use and add value to plastics in Ghana.

“We decided and suggested to government that it should set up a special tax called ‘add value tax’, which was 20 percent, and this was imposed on sachet water, plastic water, and plastic production, that was from 2011, and the idea was to set up a fund that will sustain plastic management”, he said.

“From 2011 to 2015, that fund accrued over GH¢44.3 million, all this money was being kept in the consolidated fund, I quote the figures from Dr. Edward Larbie Siaw, a Tax Policy Advisor at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning”, he added.

He said the objective was to have a sustainable financial resource to tackle the plastic menace by establishing a plastic waste recycling fund, providing financial support to agencies and institutions involved in plastic waste management, and provide supplementary funding to plastic waste management companies in Ghana.

“The fund would have also provided support to the plastic waste collector to undertake plastic waste collection programs, put up at least 50 percent of the fund into plastic recycling, and to support and finance the operations of members of ESPA. All this was according to the amended ACT 863 in 2015”, he noted.

However, Mr. Kofi Adda, the Minister for Sanitation and Water Resources says as at September 2016, a total of GH¢909 million has been collected but that money cannot be accounted for.

He said the money has been collected over the years and that; “unfortunately where the money is gone to cannot be traced by the government”.

He said the ministry of Finance initially was not aware of the missing fund when the matter was brought up for investigations.

M Adda said that the Ministry of Finance was now putting mechanisms in place to make sure that if the money was collected, it goes into a specific account meant for sanitation.

Source: GNA

Lost Talents: How Ghanaian Graduates Survive In China

Many Ghanaian students who have successfully completed their studies at various universities in China prefer to stay and work in the East Asian country rather than return home and contribute their quota to the economic development of their home country.

These students – whose education in the world’s second-largest economy were either funded by the Chinese government as part of the ongoing cooperation between China and Ghana in the area of education, or by the government of Ghana-funded Scholarship Secretariat – opt to teach English in the Asian country for a bigger pay cheque instead of returning home.

Daniel Asare, who graduated from a medical school in Hainan – a province in China, tells B&FT that he prefers to teach English Language in Sanya, a city in Hainan Province, rather than come to Ghana to practice as a physician.

His reason? “I teach Chinese children English as a private worker; but trust me, I make double the salary a medical doctor makes in Ghana. So, tell me why I should go back home?

“I make between 10,000 Yuan (GHȼ7,040) and 15,000 Yuan (GHȼ10,000) every month through teaching, but how much is a medical doctor’s salary in Ghana? So, I prefer to teach than to practice medicine in Ghana,” he said.

His colleague, Emmanuel Asamoah, had a similar story to tell. He is not convinced that he can make it in Ghana because of how much he is earning in China.

The two medical school graduates are just two of the over 80 Ghanaian students schooling and or working in Hainan Province alone.

The number of Ghanaian students and professionals living and working in Beijing, the capital of China, who have refused to come back home after their various studies is far higher.

Some have lived there for six years after completing their university education and have been able to integrate into Chinese society.

Anthony Kwami, an IT specialist who successfully completed his master’s degree in a university in Beijing and has successfully registered his business here in China, says the opportunity to make a decent income is higher in Beijing than Accra.

Kwami, who has a valid work permit, was quick to say though it is not easy to make a living here, it is better than doing business in Ghana.

“China has a population of about 1.4billion, so imagine if you have even 0.01 percent of that population as your customers; you can survive better than doing business in Ghana, where getting a market for your products and services is always difficult.

“China has the market, so no matter what services or product you bring to the market, you will get people to patronize it. Remember, too, that Internet penetration is huge here; so, there is a market for IT professionals,” he said.

China is the second-largest economy in the world with a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of over 82.7trillion Yuan and boasts a robust manufacturing sector that is creating jobs for millions of its citizens.

Source: Myjoyonline

Operation Vanguard Storms Aisha's Galamsey Site

Image - Operation Vanguard
Operation Vanguard

Ashanti Forward Operating Base (FOB) of Operation Vanguard on Wednesday, April 18, conducted operations at illegal mining sites in Asuogya-Gyaman, Nyamebekyere-Gyaman and the environs of Bepotenteng in the Amansie Central District of the Ashanti Region.

Intelligent report revealed that the site was linked to Aisha Huang who is standing trial for illegal mining.

Colonel Amoah-Ayisi, the Commander of the Joint police/military Task Force of Operation (JTF) Vanguard revealed this after the operation and admonished Ghanaians to stop aiding the illegal miners to deplete Ghana’s forest reserves and river bodies.

He said, the team could not arrest any person on the field, but managed to secure expired Non-Citizen Republic of Ghana Identity Card of two Chinese Nationals who managed to escape.

The two identity cards had same name with different images - Lu Qiuying and Suspects’ identity would be given to the appropriate security body for further investigations.

Colonel Amoah-Ayisi said two excavators, five industrial generators, five changfans and other earth moving equipment were immobilised and items seized included five water pumping machines, three generator sets and other mining equipment.

Concurrently, the riverine team of the Joint Task Force also was on the Ofin River and immobilised 24 Changfans on the river along the Dominase general area in the Central Region.

He called on patriotic Ghanaians not to betray the state with the little stipends issued them as compensation for feeding the illegal miners on the movements of the JTF.

Colonel Amoah-Ayisi bemoaned the extent to which some Ghanaians listened to lies peddled by the galamseyers and made a lot of media storm out of it.

The propaganda does not help our course and tends to thwart the efforts of the JTF.

“Peddling untruths about operations of the JTF and personnel will not deter us and we will continue to work for a better future that will ensure our environment is sanitised.

He advised that in the case of any unprofessional conduct, involving any personnel of operation vanguard; the public should report to the relevant institutions such as the Police, Bureau of National Investigation (BNI), Defence Intelligence (DI), any Public Relations unit of the security services, CID’s including all other recognised institutions empowered by the state to investigate public officers. “Appropriate sanctions shall be applied on those individuals when allegations are found to be true,” he assured.

The Commander of JTF re-iterated that some individuals were using the name of Operation Vanguard to extort monies from illegal miners and they were tracking them and would soon be arrested for the law to deal with them, he added.

Colonel Amoah-Ayisi urged the illegal small-scale miners to remain patient for government to roll out appropriate measures to sanitise the mining sector to operate in peaceful and sustainable environment.

On logistics, the Joint Task Force Commander disclosed that each FOB can perform three to four patrols per region in a day.

At present, he said they could only manage one patrol at a time due to lack of vehicles. Government is constrained with resources for Operation Calm Life, Cow Leg and other Security Institutions.

He further called on well-meaning institutions and individuals to support the effort of government with vehicles, drones, and Global Positioning Systems (GPS) among other related equipment for the JTF.

He was confident that when issued with adequate logistics, it would lead to much success to restore Ghana’s forest reserves and river bodies.

Source: GNA

Ghana Is Broke - Ken Thompson

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Dalex Finance, Ken Thompson, has given his plain diagnosis of the state of Ghana's macroeconomy, describing it as frail.

Speaking at the CIMG-hosted event, Ken Thompson engaged in a hypothetical conversation with the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta where he sought to show that the cedi was overvalued using the Big Mac Index -- published by The Economist to measure purchasing power parity (PPP) between two currencies.
Mfoni mbuayɛ ɛma ken thompson
Ken Thompson, CEO of Dalex Finance
According to the Dalex Finance CEO, the overvalued cedi made Ghanaian exports expensive and non-competitive, while imports were relatively cheap.

He notes that this development results in stunted economic development and unemployment.
Ken Thompson makes the case that the trickle-down effect of the overvalued cedi will jeopardize most, if not all government policies including the“Planting for Food and Jobs” programme.
He said the polices are likely to be non-competitive because of the overvalued cedi.
Ken Thompson argues that the state of Ghana’s economy started experiencing challenges since 2017.
“We spent almost 100% of all our revenue including grants on three line items as follows: compensation to employees, interest payments, and, statutory payments, example GETFund, District Assemblies Common Fund, and NHIS."

Mr. Thompson also raised concerns over the rise in government expenditure which he described as worrying.

“Since we spend over 100% of our revenue on these 3 items, all our other expenditure is done from monies borrowed. We are borrowing to fund consumption and not to fund investment.
"Our debt is piling up (70% of GDP), and, we may not be in a position to repay in future. Even before then, any natural or man-made disaster could send us into a default tailspin of government obligations causing intolerable hardship, widespread business failures, and mass unemployment,” he stated.


Touching on the solutions that the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori Attah, should take to rescue the “sinking ship”, Ken Thompson stated that increasing taxes and reintroducing property rates could deal with the issues of revenue generation once and for all.

“We are not likely to reduce our expenditure on salaries in the short term, and even though there has been some capping of statutory obligations the net effect is negligible. Our only hope is to increase revenue in the short to medium term in order to fund consumption expenditure,“ he stated.
He is, therefore, expecting the government to get the informal sector to start paying individual taxes, enforce evidence of tax payment on property registration, for example, vehicle registration, company registration, land title registration and increase taxes across board especially property taxes.

"That is our hope in the short term, and reduction in profligate spending, example stopping the purchase of numerous Toyota Land Cruisers that cost over GHC 600,000 each,” he admonished.

Ghana May Struggle to Repay Lenders' $1.3 Billion Cocoa Loan

Ghana Cocoa Board may struggle to fully pay back loans of $1.3 billion as this season’s harvest will likely be smaller than first anticipated, according to the head of the industry regulator.

The world’s second-biggest grower signed for the loans with lenders such as Credit Agricole SA and Natixis SA prior to the start of the annual harvest in October to pay farmers for their beans. Ghana will probably not meet its target of 850,000 metric tons due to dry weather and plant disease, Joseph Boahen Aidoo, chief executive officer of the regulator, said Monday in an interview in the capital, Accra.

While recent rains may improve yields in the smaller harvest that runs from June to September, they may not be sufficient to make up for losses suffered in the main harvest that continues until then, he said. He declined to give a new forecast for the crop.

“We are only praying that we’ll be able to meet our collateralized facility because the crop wasn’t as good as anticipated,” Aidoo said. “We just started paying the first installment” in February, he said.

On Tuesday, Aidoo said the board does expect to meet its financial obligations for the crop year.

“We have shown over the past 25 years that Cocobod is credible and has never defaulted and will not default this year,” he told reporters.

The board purchased 625,111 tons of cocoa for the season through Feb. 22, compared with 640,075 tons for the same period in the previous crop, according to a person familiar with the matter.

While Ghana may not achieve its forecast for the season, it’s already selling cocoa at a loss after it chose not to lower prices for farmers even as global prices slumped by a third from July 2016 through the end of last year. The regulator is losing the equivalent of about $600 for every ton sold this season, it said in February.

The board is in talks with the government on ways to pay for operational expenses and liabilities as the cost of debt on local markets is too expensive, Aidoo said on Monday. Over the past year, it sold bills and notes at rates of as much as 22 percent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“We are still discussing with government and we’ll find some solutions,” Aidoo said.

For the next harvest, the cocoa board will target a harvest of 900,000 tons and again seek to raise $1.3 billion in syndicated loans, he said. Last month, the International Cocoa Organization forecast a 900,000 ton harvest for this season.

Use Ebola Outbreak To Build Better Public Health System - Africa Urged

The Ebola crisis of 2014–16 mobilized unprecedented financial assistance for West Africa to strengthen outbreak surveillance to prevent another crisis. The region has developed an ambitious blueprint over the last two years, but the effort has now reached a tipping point for success.  Careful and transparent transition planning and sensitivity to the unique diversity of the region will be key to realizing the potential and offering an excellent model for Africa in the future.
Image - Health workers carrying an Ebola patient
Health workers carrying an Ebola patient
The West African region is recognized by the global public health community as being particularly vulnerable to infectious disease outbreaks, including those caused by diseases that jump the species barrier from animals. This is critically important both to the region and rest of the world. The challenge in the wake of Ebola has been to ‘build back better’, that is not only to replace the frail systems that failed the community in the past but to reinforce them to assure the health security of the population for the years to come.

Both financial resources and political will were abundant immediately after the Ebola crisis. Among the extensive international funding, the World Bank made a notable contribution of more than $400 million to improve infectious disease surveillance. This funding is dedicated to enhancing surveillance in the region to improve detection, alert and response to outbreaks in the 15 countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The money is unique in that it is directed only towards building public health surveillance systems and not the usual disease-focused approach. It is brokered through the health arm of ECOWAS — the West African Health Organization (WAHO).

During extensive consultations across the region, led by the WAHO, an ambitious blueprint evolved. Each country with a national coordinating institute is to share surveillance data systematically with a regional hub. All 15 countries are to be networked into a Regional Centre for Disease Surveillance and Control (RCDC), located in Abuja, Nigeria. The countries, in turn, are to benefit from enhanced resources in data analysis, laboratory services, rapid response and disease investigation and ‘One Health’ expertise from the RCDC. This regional center is part of a pan-African system of five centers linked to the African Union Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. West Africa currently provides the most advanced of these centers.

Prospects for long-term success

As global attention on West Africa wanes, this effort is reaching a tipping point. National governments must move quickly to designate and empower their coordinating institutes, but at the last report, just nine of the 15 countries had designated their national coordinating institute.
At the core of the vision is the new RCDC. The plan is for it to be fully staffed in early 2018. However, the management challenge in the context of West Africa is complex and should not be underestimated. For example, donor agencies often have their own agendas, some favoring approaches that are not entirely aligned with the overall regional planning by WAHO. In addition, within WAHO each line of work tends to be carried as an independent brief. Therefore, integration under the RCDC by the end of this year presents a serious challenge.

Consultations over the past two years have invited extensive country input into the planning process. This has helpfully produced a plan tailored to the culture and national interests of West Africa — one of the most diverse regions in the world. Informal disease surveillance networks from around the world have been included in discussions. It is now time to move from words to action.

Beginning construction

In November, Chatham House partnered with the RCDC to convene a roundtable in Abuja on information and material sharing. The immediate nature of the challenge of operationalizing the network was a key driver of these discussions. Participants from across the region were eager for more transparency in the process and strongly advocated the inclusion of informal as well as formal networks to ensure success and sustainability. This informal participation, including regular communication using both technology and physical meetings, is essential to building trust.

Challenges are legion, but the approach is feasible. However, careful and transparent transition planning on the part of WAHO and its national and regional partners will be important, and complex management of this kind has not historically been a particular strength of WAHO. Above all, sensitivity to the unique diversity of the region will be vital.

The opportunity to build a system that protects a very vulnerable part of the world from threats such as that posed by the 2014–16 Ebola crisis must be seized. Success would provide an excellent model for Africa in the future. The coming months will define whether it arrives.

Don't Destroy Wealth Created Under Mahama - Duncan Williams To Prez

Archbishop Nicholas Duncan Williams, founder of Action Chapel International President Akufo-Addo must not allow bitter appointees to us...