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World Leaders Unite to Commit to Global Equitable Access for COVID-19 Vaccines

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World leaders joined forces at the “One World Protected”- Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC) Summit hosted by Japanese Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide and Gavi Board Chair, José Manuel Barroso to pledge their support to the Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC) securing US$ 2.4 billion, reaching a total of US$ 9.6 billion for COVID-19 vaccine procurement. In addition, donors have pledged US$ 775 million for vaccine delivery.

This funding will allow the COVAX AMC to secure 1.8 billion fully subsidised doses for delivery to lower-income economies in 2021 and early 2022. This is enough to protect nearly 30% of the adult population in AMC-eligible economies. The funds raised will also support COVAX to diversify its vaccine portfolio in times of supply uncertainty and new variant emergence and to plan the scenarios and strategy for public health needs for 2022 and beyond.

“Bringing an end to the COVID-19 pandemic is the most pressing challenge of our time – and nobody wins the race until everyone wins,” said Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi. “Today, as we looked back on one year of COVAX, we saw that global leaders clearly recognise the need for equitable access and support the principle that ability to pay should not determine whether someone is protected from this virus.”

The European Investment Bank is stepping up to support African Union countries with an additional EUR 300 million financing to access vaccines via the COVAX cost-sharing scheme – leveraging domestic resources to procure safe and efficacious vaccines through COVAX.

Werner Hoyer, President of the European Investment Bank: “Over the last year global cooperation, including advanced funding from the European Investment Bank, has enabled COVAX to deliver 70 million doses in 126 countries, but access remains a privilege. Today’s One World Protected summit is mobilising urgent action essential to tackle the significant shortfall and increase overall financing. This will ensure that the global COVAX roll-out delivers billions of vaccines in 2021 and early 2022 to tackle COVID-19, save lives and help communities and business to return to normality. As part of Team Europe the EIB is currently working to increase its financing to COVAX, alongside backing new investment to strengthen health and economic resilience to the pandemic around the world.”

President von der Leyen, President, European Commission: “To accelerate safe and effective vaccination everywhere we all need to step up efforts. This is the only way to get out of the current crisis and to prevent a new pandemic. Team Europe is investing in COVAX, both financially and by sharing vaccines. Because we believe this is the best way to ensure universal, fair and affordable access to COVID19 vaccines. Our common goal is to leave no one behind. The EU, together with the European Investment Bank, will reorient 300 million euro to COVAX. This is Team Europe’s contribution to AVATT-COVAX’s cost-sharing rapid finance scheme. This scheme will help vaccine purchases in Africa. And it will foster links between COVAX and the African Union.”

This EIB EUR 300 million financing is the path forward towards an aggregate commitment of US$ 1 billion from Multilateral Development Banks and International Financing Institutions to support a cost-sharing initiative enabling AMC-eligible economies to use domestic resources to purchase additional vaccines through COVAX. This will facilitate them to take advantage of COVAX’s global logistics system, globally negotiated volume and prices, and other critical benefits such as the No Fault Compensation Scheme.

Commitments were also made to free up supply chains and remove bottle necks that restrict or slow down the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, raw materials and components. Vaccine manufacturers have reaffirmed their support to COVAX as the only global solution to ending the acute phase of the pandemic.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General: “Vaccinating the world relies on full support for COVAX. Fully financing the Advance Market Commitment is not charity. Only by working together can we end the pandemic and start building back our global community,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “This June, we must build on the momentum from this summit to secure COVAX the doses and funds needed to overcome its immediate supply gap and continue to build a sustainable pipeline into the future.”

The Summit was an opportunity for leaders to reflect on the challenges, successes and lessons learned as Gavi COVAX AMC marks one year since its launch; and look ahead to potential scenarios to address the pandemic and bolster global health security for the future.

The pledges, commitments and support from the global community at the Summit will enable COVAX to continue working towards keeping everyone safe.

The first international delivery of doses of COVID-19 vaccines supported by COVAX arrived in Ghana on February 24. As of today, more than 77 million doses have been shipped to 127 countries across six continents. Doses shared by countries will be used to make up for COVAX’s short-term supply disruption, which is expected to last into the third quarter of 2021.

Is the CEO/Founder of Investors King Limited. A proven foreign exchange research analyst and a published author on Yahoo Finance, Businessinsider, Nasdaq, Entrepreneur.com, Investorplace, and many more. He has over two decades of experience in global financial markets.

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Travel

High Altitude, Higher Prices: Domestic Airfares Jump 150%

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Nigerian air travelers are reeling from a dramatic increase in domestic airfares with prices skyrocketing by 150% over the past year.

This surge has forced many passengers to reconsider their travel options, opting for road transport despite the risks involved.

Passengers like Dare Adepoju, who frequently commutes between Lagos and Abuja for business and family visits, have expressed frustration.

“It’s unsustainable,” he lamented. “With flights nearing N200,000 for just an hour, I’m exhausted.”

Social media is abuzz with similar sentiments. Akinloa Adejuwon tweeted about the tough choice between costly flights and unsafe roads, highlighting the dire situation many Nigerians face.

The fare increase is attributed to a limited number of operational aircraft. Airline Operators of Nigeria revealed that many planes are grounded due to maintenance needs and lack of access to foreign exchange for repairs.

The current situation sees airlines like Ibom Air and Air Peace charging up to N238,000 for a one-way ticket between major cities.

This price jump, from about N51,000 last year, reflects the severe challenges the industry faces.

Capt. Roland Iyayi, a senior member of the Airline Operators of Nigeria, pointed to the shortage of aircraft as a primary cause.

“Making forex available to airlines is crucial for resolving this crisis,” he stated.

As the industry grapples with these challenges, passengers continue to hope for relief. The aviation sector’s future hinges on addressing these issues, ensuring safe and affordable travel for all Nigerians.

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Education

Southern States Skeptical as NELFund Disburses First Loans

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The National Education Loan Fund (NELFund) officially launched on Wednesday, a significant step in providing financial aid to students across Nigeria.

However, the initiative faces skepticism, particularly from the southern states.

President Bola Tinubu inaugurated the first tranche of funds, amounting to N32 billion, aimed at empowering Nigerian youth and breaking financial barriers to education.

The NELFund portal has registered 164,000 students, with 103,000 applying for loans.

Despite the promising start, many southern states remain doubtful about the fund’s implementation.

Akintunde Sawyerr, NELFund’s Managing Director, acknowledged these concerns, citing data challenges in verifying indigent applicants as a primary hurdle.

Sawyerr highlighted the lack of comprehensive data needed for credit assessments. The fund relies on bank verification numbers (BVN), National Identification Numbers (NIN), and educational institution data to determine eligibility.

More applications have been received from northern states, where students have shown greater confidence in the fund.

Sawyerr pointed out that skepticism in the south might stem from uncertainty about the program’s viability.

NELFund offers two types of loans: educational fees paid directly to institutions and upkeep loans for student stipends.

The focus is currently on government-owned institutions to ensure a smooth rollout.

President Tinubu emphasized education as a critical tool against poverty and insecurity, linking the nation’s challenges to a lack of educational opportunities.

He reaffirmed his commitment to inclusive growth through education.

As NELFund continues its rollout, efforts to address data issues and regional skepticism will be crucial. By building trust and ensuring transparency, the program aims to support more students nationwide and foster a fairer society.

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Travel

UAE Lifts Visa Ban on Nigerians, Introduces N640,000 Non-Refundable Application Fee

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The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has officially lifted the visa ban imposed on Nigerian passport holders, effective July 15.

However, this positive move comes with a substantial caveat—a new non-refundable visa application fee of N640,000.

The announcement, made following bilateral discussions between Nigerian and UAE authorities, ends a prolonged period of restricted travel between the two nations due to diplomatic disputes and financial issues.

New Visa Regulations

Under the new guidelines set forth by the UAE government, Nigerian passport holders seeking to travel to the Emirates must adhere to several stringent requirements:

  1. Application Fee: Applicants are required to pay a non-refundable fee of N640,000 for visa processing. This fee represents a significant increase compared to the previous $100 fee before the ban.
  2. Document Verification Number (DVN): Before applying for a visa, applicants must obtain a Document Verification Number (DVN). This number is valid for only 14 days from issuance or until the visa application is processed, whichever comes first.
  3. Application Process: The application process for UAE visas remains stringent, emphasizing the importance of meeting all specified criteria to enhance the chances of approval.

Public Reaction and Outcry

The introduction of the N640,000 visa application fee has sparked widespread criticism and public outcry among Nigerians, particularly on social media platforms. Many have expressed their discontent, labeling the new fee as exorbitant and financially burdensome, especially in light of economic challenges facing the country.

Social media users have taken to various platforms to voice their concerns:

  • @firstladyship: “It is obvious the UAE don’t want Nigerians. They reluctantly unbanned the Nigerian passport, but slammed a hefty N640,000 on Nigerians. Guess what? The money is nonrefundable & has expiration date. This is see finish.”
  • @Peco3D: “This is just extortion in fine words. Shameless.”
  • @Comr_lucky1: “This is exploitation and shameful if allowed by Nigeria government.”

Government Response

Mohammed Idris, Minister of Information and National Orientation, announced the lifting of the visa ban and emphasized that Nigerian passport holders are now eligible to apply for visas to the UAE.

The government has acknowledged the concerns raised by citizens and assured them of continued engagement to address the issue.

Background

The UAE had imposed the visa ban on Nigeria approximately two years ago amid diplomatic tensions and financial disputes.

Efforts to resolve these issues included discussions and negotiations between the Nigerian and UAE governments, leading to the recent breakthrough in visa restrictions.

Despite the imposition of the N640,000 visa fee, the lifting of the ban represents a step forward in diplomatic relations between Nigeria and the UAE, potentially paving the way for enhanced bilateral cooperation and economic ties.

As Nigerian travelers navigate these new visa regulations, reactions continue to pour in, reflecting the broader impact of international relations on individual mobility and economic opportunities.

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