Nigerian regulators at it again 👀

Meet Zambia’s new president, Nigerian regulators showed up this week, what would it take for Africa to make its own Vaccines?

Our hearts and prayers go out to the people of Afghanistan, who’ve had a crazy week.🙏 ❤️️

Here's everything you need to know about what's happened there this week.

Nigerian regulators at it again

This week the Nigerian government showed up in style.

First, a proposed draft bill by the Nigerian Information and Technology Development Agency (NITDA) aimed at tech startups was leaked, then the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) obtained a court order to freeze the bank accounts of four fintech companies for six months.

Tell me more

Leaked draft bill: Although the announcement was made earlier in March, on Tuesday the leak of the draft bill reignited conversations surrounding the proposed amendments.

The amendments include provisions for new license categorizations, licensing fees, 1% profit-before-tax levies for companies with revenues higher than ₦100,000,000 ($243,831), and prison sentences for defaulting parties.

Key issues: If the bill passes, Nigerian tech companies with revenues over ₦100,000,000 ($243,831) will have to pay levies worth 1% of their annual profit-before-tax revenue.  An additional tax burden on the companies.

If they default on paying this levy, these companies would pay an additional 0.5% of the amount for every day they default in payment. There are also fines for failure to adhere to some of the new amendments, ₦3,000,000 ($7,315) for individuals, and ₦30,000,000 ($73,149) for corporate bodies.

Frozen accounts: On Wednesday, the CBN got a court order to freeze the bank accounts of Nigerian fintech platforms Risevest, Bamboo, Trove and Chaka for the next six months. The reason for this move as stated by the CBN’s lawyer was that the foreign exchange deals done with these companies were making the Naira weaker to the United States dollars.

Notably, all four companies affected by this action have gotten licenses from Nigeria’s Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to operate as digital platforms for buying and selling stocks.

The affected companies have come out to say that they’ve been law-abiding so far and will work out whatever difference they have with the CBN. 

Big Picture: Since 1972, the naira has lost an average of 32% of its value every year, it’s no wonder Nigerians would rather keep their earnings in foreign currency.

Nigerian companies are plagued with two evils: bad government regulations and unpredictable government regulations. I’ll say the latter is worse as it's difficult to mitigate against.

Meet Zambia’s new president

Until last week’s election, Hakainde Hichilema contested and lost every election held in Zambia since 2006. After five unsuccessful attempts, he has finally achieved his goal of becoming president of Zambia, let’s look at how it all started.

Backstory: Hichilema who is a year shy of turning 60 describes himself as an ordinary "cattle boy", who herded his family's livestock in his youth before going on to become one of Zambia's richest men. 

He studied economics at the University of Zambia on a scholarship, and later graduated with an MBA degree from the University of Birmingham in the UK. 

He made most of his fortune from property, ranching, healthcare and tourism

Approach to election

As BBC Africa, “He told voters that they needed a successful businessman to understand how to get the economy moving in the copper-rich nation, where there is high unemployment. He also used his agricultural roots to appeal to the country's farmers, saying he could turn Zambia into a food basket for the region.” 

Looking ahead: Hichilema’s win is a big win for democracy in Zambia and Africa. It’s not every day, you hear of a rather free and fair election.

After all the celebration is over, Hichilema faces the tough task of turning around Zambia's economy which is riddled in debt.  It’ll be interesting to see how he plans to revive the economy without borrowing and without raising taxes.

Read more: Hakainde Hichilema: The Zambian 'cattle boy' who became president

What would it take for Africa to make its own Vaccines?

“We are in the race of our lives but it’s not a fair race, and most countries have barely left the starting line.”

— Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General

Out of the 1.6 billion vaccine doses administered to date, only 0.4% have been administered in lower-income countries, which includes many African countries.

The reason? African countries rely on receiving vaccines and so far Africa has received vaccines to vaccinate just 3% of its population.

Why can’t they just manufacture the Vaccines? Good question. Well, first off, only five African countries —  Egypt, Morocco, Senegal, South Africa, Tunisia —  have the facilities to make vaccines.  This means they have companies that can package and label these vaccines but none of them can do end to end manufacturing — creating the vaccine from the start to when it’ll be distributed for administration.

But wait, we might be getting ahead of ourselves here.

Before we even think about manufacturing, these African companies have to get a patent waiver on the vaccine’s intellectual property from big pharmaceutical companies that own them. These big pharmaceutical companies which have spent millions of dollars in research and development of the vaccines are covered by a patent. Creators use Intellectual Property rights to prevent others from using their creations or to negotiate payment in return for permission to use them. 

Is there anything stopping them from getting the patent waivers?

Yup! Out of the G7 countries, only the US and France have agreed to support waiving patents on vaccine technology. The UK, Germany and the EU as a bloc are opposed to it.

The issue here? Big pharmaceutical companies and countries including the United Kingdom, Canada and Germany have opposed the plan, citing potential harm to innovation and a lack of viable manufacturing sites needed to boost production.

On the other hand, manufacturers in Bangladesh, Canada, Denmark, and India have said they have the capability to produce vaccines, but they aren’t able to do it due to the lack of licenses from Big pharma.

Looking ahead: The good news is that firms like Pfizer have already agreed to participate in a program set up by the WHO to facilitate the sharing of intellectual property and technology. However, there’s a lingering question of whether African countries have the know-how (talents with the skill sets) to even produce vaccines.

Dig Deeper: How could Africa produce its own vaccines?

Worth reading 📚

Quote 💭

“No matter what people will tell you, words and ideas can change the world.”

— Robin Williams