Botswanan President Terms Covid-19 Covax Facility A ‘Scam’

Botswanan President Terms Covid-19 Covax Facility A ‘Scam’

GABORONE, Botswana — Botswana’s President Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi has termed Vaccine Global Access Facility, commonly known as Covax, through which African countries access the Covid-19 vaccines, a “scam”.

“The Covax facility, which poor African countries were made to believe would help them once they contribute money to it, was merely meant to deceive us,” Masisi said when visiting health facilities in the capital, Gaberone, on July 22, 2021.

“This was just a scam. Only a few vaccines were given to us. As you are aware, lately we had a shortage of AstraZeneca. This is a hoax we are talking about”.

Masisi’s comments came at a time when Covid-19 cases are rising in the Southern Africa nation. As of Aug. 11, the country had recorded 1,832 deaths and 130,771 cases.

Botswana has contributed more than $10.3 million to the pooled procurement facilities of Covax and the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team by February 2021, according to the Minister of Health and Wellness, Edwin Dikoloti.

Botswana’s President Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi gets his first jab of the Covid-19 vaccine. (Office of the President| Republic of Botswana. @BWPresidency/Twitter)

“To date, the government has paid a further $8,932,000 directly to the manufacturers, making a total investment of $19,234,882 for Covid-19 vaccine procurement,” Dikoloti told parliament on July 30.

“I also wish to acknowledge that contrary to our expectations of timely delivery of the vaccines, this has not come to pass despite the payments. This delay is due to high global demands for the vaccines which far outstrip supply.”

Botswana is experiencing a shortage of the second dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, forcing authorities to source for Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.

In an emailed response to Zenger News about Masisi’s accusation, Gavi, which administers Covax, said the facility faces global supply challenges. It singled out the second wave of the pandemic in India, which caused delays in deliveries from the Serum Institute of India.

“Despite this, through the combined efforts of Covax, Africa CDC, AVATT, and the African Union, Covax is on course to deliver 520 million doses to the African continent by the end of the year and remains committed to enhancing equitable access to vaccines, contributing to the AU target of vaccinating at least 60 percent of the African population,” said Gavi.

“To facilitate this goal, we need countries and manufacturers to prioritize supply to Covax to ensure life-saving vaccines reach the people that need them the most.”

However, the main opposition party, Umbrella for Democratic Change spokesperson Moeti Mohwasa, said the vaccine shortage “represents a monumental failure of the Masisi administration”.

“We only struck a deal to purchase vaccines in April 2021,” Mohwasa told Zenger News.

“There wouldn’t be so many deaths if our government put in place necessary equipment and vaccines. It is a question of poor planning and failure to have priorities right. We didn’t place orders for vaccines on time. He [Masisi] should know that we are talking life and death.”

The Ministry of Health and Wellness told Zenger News that the government procured 940,800 doses through Covax, while the rest were procured in April directly from manufacturers.

Botswana is experiencing a shortage of the second dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, forcing authorities to source for Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

“What has led to the delay in vaccine arrivals is the high global demand for vaccines which has now outstripped supply,” Christopher Nyanga, the ministry’s spokesperson, told Zenger News.

“Delay in arrival of vaccines is not unique to Botswana. We have paid $3.2 million to Covax as part of the payment for these vaccines. Botswana has received 19,890 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 62 400 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine through the Covax facility. Botswana finalized its purchase of Covid-19 vaccines through the Covax in October 2020.”

Nyanga said that Botswana had not received 1,152,654 doses of Johnson &Johnson vaccines procured in April 2021 through the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team.

“So far, $11,525,640 has been paid to AVATT as part payment for the 1,152,654 Johnson & Johnson doses procured through this facility. We expect the first consignment to arrive between August and September 2021,” Nyanga said.

The minister of health and wellness, Edwin Dikoloti, updates parliament on the Covid-19 vaccine acquisition. (Ministry of Health and Wellness, Republic of Botswana)

The ministry denied recent media reports that it had agreed to purchase 500,000 doses from American manufacturer Moderna.

“The ministry wishes to state for a fact that its agreement with Moderna for the supply of 500,000 doses still stands,” said Nyanga in a press release on July 30.

“The two have a legally binding agreement that remains in force. The ministry further states that it has not reneged on making any payments to the company. Instead, the ministry has paid a total of $4,332,000 as part payment for the 500,000 doses procured.”

Nyanga said the country expected the first consignment of the Moderna vaccines in August and September 2021.

He said that Botswana is also expecting 100,000 doses of the Covaxin vaccine in October 2021. The government procured the doses through bilateral negotiations with Bharat in India.

Nyanga said that Botswana also received 30,000 AstraZeneca shots from the Republic of India and 200,000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine from the People’s Republic of China.

Botswana should have prioritized building the capacity of the public health system to handle the pandemic, said Lesedinyana Odiseng, the director of Moso Clinics in Gaberone.

“The government should have done so last year,” he told Zenger News.

“The second priority should have been preparing infrastructure for mass vaccination. The government should have paid for the vaccines as soon as they were available. I do not know how Botswana paid for vaccines, but I found the initial policy of relying on donations irresponsible.”

(Edited by Kipchumba Some and Amrita Das)

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One Language To Unite Them All: Can Swahili Be Africa’s Lingua Franca?

One Language To Unite Them All: Can Swahili Be Africa’s Lingua Franca?

NAIROBI, Kenya — When Chinese national Lin Xiao, 30, applied in 2015 for a public relations officer job at a Chinese-owned project in Eldoret, 164 miles west of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, she thought it wise to learn Swahili.

Then, she worked in Tanzania, where she enrolled in ten-week Swahili classes at the Confucius Institute, University of Dar es Salaam, to prepare for her Kenyan job.

“I chose to study Swahili in Tanzania because of their love for the language,” she told Zenger News.

“Their Swahili culture also made it much easier for me to grasp the language’s basics. My Swahili is improving every day because of the daily interactions with the workers here in Eldoret. It makes my work much easier.”

A Bantu language with Arabic influences, Swahili is spoken by 5-15 million people as a first language, but as many as 150 million people speak it in much of Southeast Africa.

In the pre-colonial era, it emerged as a lingua franca, a language used for communication between groups of people who speak different languages.

Most foreigners enroll for Kiswahili classes at the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. (Courtesy of University of Dar es Salaam)

Besides East African countries, other states of Africa, such as Malawi, Somalia, Zambia, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and part of the Comoros Islands, speak Swahili.

Julius Sello Malema, the South African opposition leader, has rallied Africans to adopt Swahili as the continent’s lingua franca, saying African leaders who have introduced Mandarin at the expense of African languages have “misplaced priorities.”

“Why should we force our children to learn Mandarin at the expense of our African languages such as Swahili?” he told Zenger News.

For Africa to unite and develop, leaders should encourage Swahili and not colonial languages, especially English and French, widely spoken across the continent, Malema said.

“The African Union recognizes Swahili as an official language. However, we want the United Nations to recognize it, too. Most African languages have borrowed Swahili words or vice-versa, and this makes it easier for people across the continent to understand each other.”

The United Nations has six officially recognized languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish.

Wallah Bin Wallah, a Kenyan Swahili author, said neocolonialism is “killing” African culture, including native languages.

“Our indigenous languages are slowly fading away,” he told Zenger News.

Julius Sello Malema is a South African politician and activist who has been rallying Africans to embrace Swahili as Africa’s lingua franca. (Courtesy of Julius Malema)

“As a Swahili advocate, I feel proud because some Africa countries such as South Africa are now offering Swahili as an optional subject in schools. We are on the right track.”

However, Wallah said the dream of an African continent united by a single language might never materialize due to foreign influences.

“Currently, Africa is relying so much on China for financial support. In return, China is taking advantage by introducing Mandarin in most African countries, such as Kenya. That’s some Africans speak fluently Mandarin than native languages.”

The author, whose books are used in schools across East Africa, said African leaders have the biggest role in uniting the continent through Swahili.

“Our leaders should implement good policies that favor Swahili across the continent. If Chinese, Americans, and the rest of the world are learning it, why should we not embrace it? This is our native language. All schools in Africa should have it as an optional subject,” Wallah said.

In March 2021, the 16-member Southern African Development Community endorsed it as a working language during a council of ministers meeting.

The African Union is pushing for Swahili usage across Africa through the African Academy of Languages, an African Union institution that promotes African languages.

The continental organization has played a vital role in adopting Swahili across Africa, said Peter Mutuku Mathuki, the East African Community secretary-general.

“Following our partnership with the African Union in 2019, the language has gained momentum in many countries,” Mathuki told Zenger News.

“We have seen South Africa introduce it in schools, and this is a good gesture. So far, southern African leaders have shown goodwill towards the language. By so doing, other parts of Africa will also join the [Swahili] bandwagon.”

Peter Mathuki is the secretary-general of the East African Community. The East African Community has been liaising with the African Union to spread Swahili across the African continent. (Courtesy of East African Community)

There is an ongoing project by African language experts under the African Academy of Languages to produce a Swahili course in schools across the continent.

“The course is at its final stages, and we will distribute it in African countries interested in using Swahili as an optional language,” Mathuki told Zenger News.

However, Africa’s geopolitical differences could work against Swahili becoming the continent’s lingua franca, according to Peter Githinji, who teaches Mandarin at the Confucius Institute at the Nairobi University.

“In politics and academia, North African countries associate themselves with the Middle East than the rest of Africa,” Githinji told Zenger News.

“Take, for instance, Morocco. It benefits a lot economically and politically from its proximity to Europe. Although the African Union recognizes Swahili—which has some Arabic words—as one of the continent’s official languages, it will be hard for Morocco to adopt it over Arabic or European languages they use for trade and communication.”

If Africa does not pride itself in Swahili, foreign countries will speak the language, said Shisia Wasilwa, a Germany-based Swahili author and researcher.

“I have been privileged to live and work with Germans and Chinese,” he told Zenger News.

The African Union recognizes Swahili as one of its official languages. (Courtesy of African Union)

“A good number of them who want to come to Africa to learn the language. Some non-Africans speak fluent Swahili than native speakers. Nick Reynolds, alias Bongo Zozo, is a Briton who speaks better Swahili than most East Africans. We have Chinese journalists specializing in the language and are giving local reporters a run for their money.”

Swahili is taught widely in the United States, Asia, and Europe, said Carol Nafuna, a Swahili scholar based in the United States.

“In my research, I found that a good number of Americans who want to visit or invest in Africa enroll for Swahili classes first,” she told Zenger News.

“A Swahili phrase such as Hakuna Matata—meaning there is no problem—is commonly used by foreigners. They are learning Swahili words, which shows how the language has gone international.”

The Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary recently added nyama choma, a popular Swahili term for grilled meat, especially among Kenyans, to the English dictionary.

Before this, the word safari, meaning a journey in Swahili, entered the English language long ago, popularized by foreign tourists coming to Africa to travel or hunt wild animals.

(Edited by Kipchumba Some and Amrita Das)

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Russian Expat Cashes In On Cashmere Clothing Business In Kenya

Russian Expat Cashes In On Cashmere Clothing Business In Kenya

NAIROBI, Kenya — Elena Kuoni, 49, a Russian-born German citizen, always imagined Africa to be a continent of endless sunshine when she first arrived in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in 1994, before moving to Conakry, Guinea.

So she mistakenly believed that she wouldn’t need warm clothing on her maiden-trip to Kenya in July 2005.

“Shock on me!” she told Zenger News.

“I arrived in July in the middle of the cold season, and I wasn’t prepared at all. I needed to buy warm clothes for myself. I mean sweaters, scarves, cardigans, and shawls. I moved around Nairobi in search of good-quality clothes. Although I found a few, they were not 100 percent cashmere.”

As she concentrated on her job, Kuoni, a mother of two, designed a business plan for a high-end clothes business but put it on the back burner.

That chilly experience has translated into a thriving high-end cashmere clothing business in Nairobi, KSHMR by Kuoni, a boutique based at the Village Market in Nairobi.

Kuoni initially worked with her husband on school projects funded by the German government in Kenya as a finance manager with Kuoni Architects but always had her luxury clothes business at the back of her mind.

Elena Kuoni’s boutique, KSHMR by Kuoni, at the Village Market in Nairobi. (Elizabeth Okwach)

She took a break from work in 2015 just as the school projects ended to reflect on what to do next. She remembered someone she had met from Mauritius who owned a linen factory who helped her actualize her fashion dreams.

She then started importing clothes and selling them at bazaars to close friends and colleagues until she quit her job in 2016 to concentrate on her business.

In 2017, inspired by her love for fashion and Nairobi’s chilly July weather, Kuoni ventured into the fashion business, selling products made from 100 percent cashmere.

“Our selling point is luxury,” she told Zenger News.

“Our products include sweaters, ponchos, scarfs, gloves, baby blankets, cashmere dresses, caps, shawls, and other warm apparel. The prices range between $175.59 and $231.05.”

Kuoni said the Village Market, strategically located between the diplomatic missions and the middle-class residential areas, gives her a solid customer base of expatriates and high net-worth individuals.

“My yarn is produced in Scotland because I am sure that it is certified. When you order products from China, you are not sure that you are getting 100 percent cashmere. It is possible to get cashmere silk or cashmere wool mixture, making the product less expensive. Since I want to have the best quality product, I need to have a factory that processes only cashmere products, and I found it in Mauritius.”

Sylvia Omina Otsieno, founder of Omina Otsieno, showing her sustainable apparel accessories at her boutique in Nairobi, Kenya. She says Kenya’s fashion industry has experienced tremendous change, but the niche market like Elena Kuoni is doing is the way to go. (Elizabeth Okwach)

Kuoni said business looked promising at the beginning of 2020 before the Covid-19 pandemic ravaged the world. However, the business has picked up again, even though she was reluctant to reveal the turnover information.

She retails online, mainly on Instagram.

“I ventured into online marketing, but it is not yet as strong in Kenya as in Europe,” she told Zenger News.

Kenya was ranked 56th globally and second in the continent after Mauritius in the ease of doing business report by the World Bank.

Kenya generated $0.5billion in luxury apparel, ranking second in the continent below South Africa, according to Africa Wealth Report 2017.

Isaac Wasamba, a lecturer at the Faculty of Business and Management Sciences at the University of Nairobi, said Kenya’s growing middle-class offers a ready market for luxury goods.

“We have high consumption marked by heavy spending on high-end luxury goods including top-of-the-range cars, clothes, and whiskeys which has taken root in Kenya,” he told Zenger News.

“In addition, the country’s geopolitical positioning in East and Central Africa makes it ideal for luxurious items. When a luxurious brand becomes successful in Kenya, expanding into the region is very easy.”

Jamil Walji (center), Kenyan designer and founder of Jamil Walji Couture, says people create shopping trips for high-end clothing, forgetting that Kenya, too, produces luxury items. (Jamil Walji Couture, @jamilwaljicouture/Facebook)

Nairobi is East Africa’s economic hub and one of the fastest-growing cities in the world, according to the Africa Wealth Report 2021 by New World Wealth.

The report said Kenya is showing significant growth in wealth totaling $47 billion, with 6,000 high net worth individuals and 250 multimillionaires, ranking fourth in the continent after South Africa, Egypt, and Nigeria.

However, Jamil Walji, 36, couturier designer for Jamil Walji Couture and former lecturer of fashion and retail design in Lomkokwing University, Malaysia, said Kenya’s luxury clothing market is minimal.

“Kenyan shoppers need to first support the ready-to-wear designers before going for luxury brands,” he told Zenger News.

“The market lacks the eye for fashion, and some believe wearing international designer clothes is better than Kenyan-made products. People create shopping trips for high-end clothing, forgetting that Kenya, too, produces luxury items. These are handmade goods, which gives them a personal touch. Shoppers often disregard little things like these.”

He said online marketing for luxury products proves that Kenya has a lot to offer in the luxury brands segment.

“Besides luxury clothes, Kenya also has growing textile and leather industries. The country has a great potential to serve the global, domestic, and regional markets with its pool of designers who makes luxurious items.”

(Edited by Kipchumba Some and Anindita Ghosh)

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Nigeria’s Lagos City Named The Second Most Stressful City In The World

Nigeria’s Lagos City Named The Second Most Stressful City In The World

LAGOS, Nigeria — Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, is characterized by frenetic energies of survival and the undying resilience of its more than nine million inhabitants.

A thriving seaport, vibrant culture, and a rapidly emerging tech industry contribute to its global fame. The city is the country’s manufacturing hub and a pan-African financial sector. It has booming music, fashion, and film industries with a global reach.

However, the city’s emergence as one of the worlds’ top capitals has been largely overshadowed by less pleasant aspects.

Rapid population growth, dire traffic conditions, air pollution, and insecurity have taken a shine off Africa’s largest city.

“It is certain that if you live in Lagos, you will lose a significant portion of your weekly working hours due to traffic,” Damilola Dada, a manager in New Generation Bank, told Zenger News.

“And the city motorists’ aggressive driving methods worsen the situation.”

Governor of Lagos State Babajide Olusola at the groundbreaking ceremony and commencement of civil works for the Lagos Rail Mass Transit Red Line Project on April 15, 2021. The Red Line is one of seven rail lines specified in the state’s Strategic Transport Master Plan for mass commuter mobility to alleviate chronic traffic congestion and reduce pollution. (Jubril A. Gawat, @Mr_JAGs/Twitter)

Another city resident, Richard Okotie, a management consultant, believes the problem in Lagos is simple: too many cars on tiny, degraded, and overused roads.

“In Lagos, traffic congestion can be so severe that a short commute from any one point of the city to the next that ordinarily would take 20 minutes might take up to an hour,” he told Zenger News.

“I even once contemplated abandoning my car in gridlock and walking home or to work, but this is Lagos, not the United States. You may never find the car if you do so.”

Created in May 1967, Lagos is Nigeria’s smallest state, covering 3,577.28 square kilometers [7, 951, 654 miles], out of which 779.56 square kilometers [377, 615 miles] is a wetland.

The city was ranked the second most stressful city globally after Mumbai, India, in the 2021 Least and Most Stressful Cities Index, commissioned by the German wellness brand Vaay and released in May 2021.

The study consists of four broad categories — governance, city, finance, and citizens’ health — each made up of individual stress indicators that determine how stressful a city is to live in.

Safety and security, socio-political stability, population density, air, light, noise pollution levels, traffic congestion, and weather conditions are among the factors considered.

“Our objective with this study is to show what cities can achieve for their citizens through effective governance, robust environmental policies, and well-resourced social welfare systems,” Vaay co-founder Finn Age Hänsel said in a statement.

“The Cost of Air Pollution in Lagos”, a recent World Bank study, estimates that disease and untimely deaths caused by ambient air pollution cost $2.1 billion in 2018.

“With over 5 million cars and 200,000 commercial vehicles on the roads [when the national average is 11 vehicles per kilometer or 0.621 miles], Lagos daily records an average of 227 vehicles per every kilometer of road,” according to the governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s office.

Ada Nobi, an asthma patient, said the air pollution in the city worsens her condition.

“I have asthmatic allergies, and during traffic in the evenings on my way home from work, it becomes difficult for me to breathe,” she told Zenger News.

“By the time I arrive home, I’m still coughing and exhaling soot.”

Lagos Rail Mass Transit Red Line Project, a 37 -kilometer (18.6 miles) rail transport capable of moving one million commuters daily once it’s complete by October 2022. (Jubril A. Gawat, @Mr_JAGs/Twitter)

According to the World Bank, air pollution is responsible for about 11,200 premature deaths in Lagos—the highest number in West Africa, making ambient air pollution a pressing challenge.

The director-general of the Nigerian Conservation Foundation, Muhtari Aminu Kano, said the city’s residents must change their attitudes and behavior, and organizations and enterprises must change the way they do business on an institutional level.

“I believe that to sustain a green society and economy, the mindset must adopt changes at all levels,” he told Zenger News.

“We should engage in smart planning, prudent use of natural resources, increased use of renewable energy, responsible production and consumption, sustainable agriculture, recycling, and habitat conservation to address the issues posed by air pollution.”

The Lagos State Traffic Management Authority general manager, Olajide Oduyoye, told local media that traffic management is tricky because the city relies on traffic personnel instead of electronic control.

While comparing the traffic situation in New York, Chicago, Moscow, and a few other cities with chaotic traffic problems to Lagos, Gbenga Omotoso, Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, sees no basis for ranking Lagos as the world’s second most stressful city.

“Every day, Lagos roads are clogged with approximately 5.7 million private and commercial vehicles,” Omotoso told Zenger News.

“As a result of heavy road usage, many of the state’s 6,000 roads fall into disrepair, and with that, inhabitants are bound to be inconvenienced.”

Several projects are underway to widen existing roads and build new ones. However, Omotoso said the city’s nightmarish traffic could not be controlled overnight.

“Residents are encouraged daily to adopt new attitudes that will address the impunity that makes traffic regulations meaningless in the city. Technology, management skills, and other resources have already been brought in to redress the situation.”

The Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority, in April 2021, initiated the Lagos Rail Mass Transit Red Line Project, a 37 -kilometer (18.6 miles) rail transport capable of moving one million commuters daily once it’s complete by October 2022.

“The Red Line is one of seven rail lines specified in the state’s Strategic Transport Master Plan for mass commuter mobility to alleviate chronic traffic congestion and reduce pollution,” Abimbola Akinajo, the managing director of the Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority, told Zenger News.

Following a recent spate of insecurity in the state, the Lagos State government teamed up with the Department of State Security to enhance security through the Lagos State Neighborhood Safety Agency.

A general view of the traffic in central Lagos, Nigeria. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Lagos State Governor Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu also ordered the demolition of shanties and abandoned automobiles.

“This clean-up exercise would continue even as we seek to assure the creation of jobs and economic possibilities that will remove them off the streets and provide them the means to afford proper housing,” said Sanwo-Olu while addressing a security stakeholders town hall meeting in Ikeja on May 10.

In addition to the rising insecurity levels, Lagos has been rocked by political protests that have attracted international attention in recent years.

During the October 2020 anti-police brutality protests—especially a notorious police unit called the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, known by its acronym SARS—demonstrators camped around the Lekki Toll Gate located on a major thoroughfare running through an affluent part of the city.

After two weeks of generally peaceful protests dubbed #EndSARS, the state authorities imposed a total curfew on the city on Oct. 20, 2020. Hours later, armed officers fired at the demonstrators at Lekki Toll Gate, killing at least 12 people, which sparked widespread looting and destruction.

The Police Service Commission promised to investigate suspected police misconduct during the #EndSARS protests after receiving a damning report in May 2021 from the Action Group on Free Civic Space in Nigeria.

“We get a lot of complaints from the public about police personnel all the time,” Musiliu Smith, the chairman of the Police Service Commission, told local media.

“I believe #EndSARS was triggered by substantial wrongdoing on the part of some of our personnel. I recommend that we assess the procedures we’re putting in place to investigate such incidences. We must also ensure that investigations are comprehensive and that whoever is indicted is punished by the law. With this, public complaints will reduce.”

(Edited by Kipchumba Some and Amrita Das)

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ISIS, Al-Qaeda Expanding In Africa: United Nations

ISIS, Al-Qaeda Expanding In Africa: United Nations

NEW YORK — The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and Al-Qaeda terror organizations pose a growing threat in Africa, the United Nations has warned.

A report to the Security Council by the United Nations team charged with tracking worldwide jihadi threats said that terror groups are not only resilient but are also expanding across the globe.

The report warns that Africa is now “the region most affected by terrorism”—with Al-Qaeda and Islamic State-aligned groups inflicting higher casualties there than anywhere else. 

In many areas, these groups are gaining support, threatening more territory, getting better weapons, and raising more money, according to the report. 

The report suggests a consistent pattern: wherever pressure on jihadi terror groups is absent or negligible, they thrive. 

In Somalia, the report says that American military withdrawal and the partial drawdown of the African Union Mission have left Somali special forces “struggling to contain” the Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Shabaab.

In Mali, the report says that Al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists have consolidated their influence and are “increasingly claiming populated areas” as France winds down its counter-terrorism mission.

In Mozambique, the report said, “the absence of significant counter-terrorism measures” has transformed the Islamic State affiliate in Central Africa into a “major threat.”

Jihadi terror attacks have declined in Europe and North America—but the United Nations experts say this is temporary because terrorist violence has been “artificially suppressed by limitations in traveling, meeting, fundraising and identifying viable targets” during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

At the same time, they believe the risk of online radicalization increased during the lockdowns.

The report makes for disturbing reading at a time when the United States and its allies— exhausted by the pandemic and keen to focus on economic recovery and standing up to China and Russia—have all but called an end to the 20-year “War on Terror.”

In Afghanistan, where the United States says it will complete its military withdrawal by Aug. 31, 2021, the report warns of a potential “further deterioration” in the security situation.

With the Taliban making rapid gains across Afghanistan, there is widespread concern the group will seize control of the country and allow it to become a platform for international terror once again.

The Islamic State has “reasserted itself somewhat in Iraq” in 2021 in the face of “constant counter-terrorism pressure,” the report says. 

The group claimed a bombing in Baghdad that killed at least 30 people on July 19, 2021.

The United Nations monitors say that according to member states, the Islamic State still has the “intent and capability to sustain a long-term insurgency in the Syrian Desert” that borders Iraq.

Despite being weakened in parts of eastern Afghanistan, the United Nations experts warn that the Islamic State’s regional affiliate “has moved into other provinces” and “strengthened its positions in and around Kabul, where it conducts most of its attacks.”

Two decades after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks in the United States, the ability of Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State to threaten the West is currently lower than it has been.

But the report shows that the danger posed by international jihadi groups has metastasized and that they are entrenched in under-governed areas just as Western powers are preoccupied with other issues.

(With inputs from ANI)

Edited by Amrita Das and Kipchumba Some

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