Flash Briefing: SA slammed for selling Covid-19 jabs to AU; electricity ships to cost SA R220bn; Suez ships head for SA

  • The South African government’s decision to sell one million coronavirus vaccines developed by AstraZeneca to other African nations raises deep ethical concerns. That’s according to six of South Africa’s leading medical scientists, reports Bloomberg. South Africa bought the shots from the Serum Institute of India, which is making the vaccine under license. It suspended their roll out to health workers in February after a small study showed that the AstraZeneca jabs were largely ineffective in stopping mild disease caused by a virus variant first identified in South Africa late last year. The vaccines were resold to other African nations this month. “Sending the AstraZeneca vaccine to other African countries raises deep ethical concerns,” the scientists said in an editorial published in the South African Medical Journal on Thursday. “The B.1.351 variant has been detected throughout Africa and may be responsible for the devastating second wave many countries have just experienced. If the South African authorities truly believed that the AstraZeneca vaccine did not work, why was it sold on to the African Union?” The sale comes as South Africa lag elsewhere in Africa and emerging market peers in vaccinating its people, with just over 200,000 inoculated to date. The editorial was written by Shabir Madhi, a vaccinologist from the University of the Witwatersrand who led a trial of AstraZeneca’s shot in South Africa. The AstraZeneca vaccine is likely to prevent severe disease, according to the scientists. Other vaccines, including one made by Pfizer that will be supplied to South Africa, have not been comprehensively tested against the variant, they said. South Africa is the worst hit nation in Africa by the coronavirus with 1.54 million confirmed cases and over 52,000 deaths.
  • Karpowership, a unit of the Turkish Karadeniz Energy Group, is on track for its longest contract to date to supply power from vessels to South Africa in a deal worth as much as R218bn. The company that advertises a “fast, flexible, reliable” solution of floating electricity generation was named last week as a preferred bidder for three projects fueled by liquefied natural gas to provide 1,220 megawatts of electricity. The program is aimed at closing a supply gap in South Africa that’s resulting in periodic blackouts. The 20-year deal will cost as much as R10.9bn annually, according to a presentation by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, a state institution. The estimate is based on the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy’s evaluation price of the bids. It didn’t immediately reply to requests for comment. The award adds a significant amount of generation capacity from fossil fuels for two more decades as South Africa plans a move away from coal that dominates its current power supply and has made it the world’s 12th biggest source of greenhouse gases.
  • South Africans stick with their main bank for nearly three decades before switching, roughly double the time it takes Americans to move and 70% longer than UK citizens, according to a report by Discovery Bank. Younger South Africans, though, were 20% more likely to shop around than the average customer, according to the digital bank, owned by the country’s largest health insurance administrator Discovery Ltd. The bank used anonymised data from the health business to assess how long customers stayed with their lender.
  • Ship operators have started rerouting tankers and containers away from the Suez Canal — in some cases sending them on a two-week extended voyage around the southern tip of Africa — as they increasingly bet on a prolonged closing of the key waterway, says BizNews partner The Wall Street Journal. Shipping companies have reported more than 300 idled vessels on either side of the canal, which links the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea and is a crucial waterway for global trade and energy shipments.

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