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D.R. Congo Announces Resurgence of Ebola

The announcement marks the start of Congo’s twelfth Ebola outbreak since the virus was discovered near the Ebola River in 1976.

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The Democratic Republic of Congo on Sunday reported a possible resurgence of Ebola after a woman died of the disease near the eastern city of Butembo.

This is coming three months after authorities declared the end of the country’s previous outbreak which infected 130 persons and killed 55.

The announcement marks the start of Congo’s 12th Ebola outbreak since the virus was discovered near the Ebola River in 1976.

The woman died in hospital in Butembo two days after showing symptoms. Health minister Eteni Longondo told state television RTNC: “It was a farmer, the wife of a survivor of Ebola, who showed typical signs of the disease on February 1,”

According to a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine, the virus can live in the semen of male survivors for more than three years.

The symptoms are high fever, muscular discomfort followed by vomiting, internal and external bleeding. Others include diarrhoea, skin eruptions, kidney and liver failure.

Outbreaks in the west of the country had overlapped with an earlier one in the east that began in 2018 and ended in June. It killed more than 2,200 people, the second-most in the disease’s history. It was worsened by unprecedented challenges, including entrenched conflict between armed groups.

The administration of Ebola vaccinations to more than 40,000 people helped control the disease. The virus that causes Ebola is believed to reside in bats.

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Burundi, Ethiopia to Strengthen Bilateral Ties

The two Presidents later released a joint communique, asking concerned sector Cabinet ministries to put in place a strategy that will revive their co-operation, through working sessions and of the joint permanent commission between both countries to be convened.

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Burundi and Ethiopia’s Presidents have met in Bujumbura, the Burundian capital to discuss the strengthening of bilateral ties, among other issues.

Ethiopia’s President Sahle-Work Zewde ended a two-day working tour of Burundi last week, as the two countries move to improve their bilateral ties.

Speaking on her arrival at the Melchior Ndadaye International Airport in Burundi, she said; “We felt something has been missing in our relations and even with this high level of delegation of Ethiopia to Burundi, none of us has visited this beautiful country before. So I’m extremely honoured to be the first.”

She was met by her counterpart President Evariste Ndayishimiye. During her tour of the capital Bujumbura, Zewde visited the manufacturing companies, and the mausoleum, before holding a closed-door meeting with President Ndayishimiye.

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The two later released a joint communique, asking concerned sector cabinet ministries to put in place a strategy that will revive their co-operation and bilateral ties through working sessions, and the joint permanent commission between both countries to be convened.

Part of the communique reads: “Both presidents stressed the need to strengthen continental, regional, and sub-regional organizations in the promotion and consolidation of peace, security, stability and sustainable development.”

Ethiopia and Burundi are among African countries contributing troops to the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) and are under the Inter-governmental partnership of the Nile Basin Initiative.

The Ethiopian president is the first to visit Burundi since Ndayishimiye was elected last year.

Over eight months in office, President Ndayishimiye’s government has prioritized mending and strengthening of diplomatic ties and relations with neighbouring countries and the international community.

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African Start-up Investments Decline for the First Time in a Decade

In a report, Partech Partners said companies on the continent raised $1.43 billion in 2020, down by 29% from a year ago, which was just two deals above $50 million closed last year compared with 10 in 2019.

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Funding for African start-ups has declined for the first time after nearly 10 years of growth as investors in the new tech scene continue to be repelled by the Covid-19 pandemic, according to venture capital firm Partech Partners.

In a report, Partech Partners said start-up companies on the continent raised $1.43 billion in 2020, down by 29% from a year ago, which was just two deals above $50 million closed last year compared with 10 in 2019.

“There were hardly any mega-rounds within the African tech ecosystem,” the Paris-based firm wrote in its annual survey of start-ups that have most of their operations in, or get the bulk of their revenue from Africa. “This sharp drop clearly marks the impact of the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns.”

According to a Pricewaterhouse Coopers/CB Insights report, Africa is now showing a reverse trend to much of the rest of the world, including the US where start-up investing reached a record high of $130 billion in 2020, up 14% from the previous year.

Data from Pitchbook pointed out that in Europe and Israel, overall funding increased although in fewer companies.

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Africa’s technology sector, though relatively small, represents one of the highest-growth areas for venture capital investment. Investment into the region increased 74% in 2019, and more than doubled in 2018.

Companies that have performed very well include those whose aim is to fill gaps such as payment platforms that make up for a lack of access to conventional banking and businesses that take advantage of increasing internet access as more people acquire smartphones.

According to Partech Africa General Partner Tidjane Deme, he said: “2021 may see a return of big deals. “Many start-ups who deferred fundraising to wait for better market conditions will be fundraised. So, the deal-flow at growth stage should be quite larger than the usual.”

Still, the region attracted some funding, despite investors’ unwillingness to chip in on larger rounds. The total number of deals rose 44% in 2020 from a year ago, according to the report. Four African countries, including South Africa and Kenya, received 80% of the funds, while Nigeria got the bulk of the equity, and Egypt signed the most deals.

Deals last year, where venture capitalists take returns, included WorldRemit Ltd.’s $500 million acquisition of Sendwave, a money transfer service founded by Somalian Ismail Ahmed. Network International Holdings Plc signed a $288 million-agreement to acquire DPO Group and Stripe Inc. acquired Nigeria’s Paystack for $200 million.

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African Countries Seek Debt Restructuring from G-20 Countries

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The economic damage wrought by the coronavirus pandemic will probably make many African countries seek debt restructuring from G-20 countries, according to the head of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, (UNECA) Vera Songwe.

Last month, Chad became the first country in the African continent to request relief under a Group of 20 initiative to help African countries cope with the economic fallout from the pandemic. Days later, Ethiopia applied, followed by Zambia, which last year became the first African country to default on its debt since the beginning of the pandemic.

Songwe said with government revenue taking strain because of the slowdown in economic growth, some countries are less equipped to meet the demands of their citizens.

She further said: “African countries don’t have the resilience buffers that we had in 2020.” “There probably will be more countries that will opt for the G-20 debt framework, because they need additional fiscal space to purchase vaccines.”

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Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo are particularly vulnerable to distress because they have high debt levels, severe economic declines and borrowed significant amounts from China using resource-backed loans, Verisk Maplecroft said in a research note last week.

The G-20 framework aims to bring creditors including China into an agreement to rework the debt of countries in danger of defaulting. China is Ethiopia’s biggest bilateral creditor, accounting for 23% of its total public debt burden of $27.8 billion, according to World Bank data.

Under the G-20 program, debtors are committed to seek similar terms of the resulting bilateral restructuring with private creditors. It’s unclear what that will mean for Eurobond-holders, said Songwe, who spent more than a decade at the World Bank before being appointed head of the UN body in 2017.

Last year, Ecuador restructured its debt with bondholders and China after updating its International Monetary Fund loan program.

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