Tag Archives: Africa

Chinese Tecno phones with built-in malware that steals users’ data on sale in Africa

Malware which signed users up to subscription services without their permission has been found on thousands of mobiles sold in Africa.

Anti-fraud firm Upstream found the malicious code on 53,000 Tecno handsets, sold in Ethiopia, Cameroon, Egypt, Ghana and South Africa.

Manufacturer Transsion told Buzzfeed it was installed in the supply chain without its knowledge.

Upstream said it was taking advantage of the “most vulnerable”.

“The fact that the malware arrives pre-installed on handsets that are bought in their millions by typically low-income households tells you everything you need to know about what the industry is currently up against,” said Geoffrey Cleaves, head of Upstream’s Secure-D platform.

The Triada malware found by the firm on the Android smartphones installs malicious code known as xHelper which then finds subscription services and submits fraudulent requests on behalf of users, doing so invisibly and without the user’s knowledge.

If the request is successful, it consumes pre-paid airtime, the only way to pay for digital services in many developing countries.

In total, Upstream found what it described as “suspicious activity” on more than 200,000 Tecno smartphones.

According to research firm IDC, Transsion Holdings is one of China’s leading phone manufacturers and in Africa it is the top-selling mobile manufacturer.

In response Tecno Mobile said that the issue was “an old and solved mobile security issue globally” to which it issued a fix in March 2018.

“For current W2 consumers that are potentially facing Triada issues now, they are highly recommended to download the over-the-air fix through their phone for installation or contact Tecno’s after-sales service support for assistance in any questions,” the firm told the BBC in a statement.

It added that it is attached “great importance to consumers’ data security and product safety”.

“Every single software installed on each device runs through a series of rigorous security checks, such as our own security scan platform,” it added.

At the beginning of the year, security firm Malwarebytes warned that similar pre-installed apps were found on another Chinese Android phone – the UMX U686CL. This handset was offered to low-income families in the US via a government scheme.

And in 2016, researcher Ryan Johnson found that more than 700 million Android smartphones had malware installed.

Google, which developed the Android operating system, is aware of the issue.

In a blog written last year it blamed third-party vendors, used by manufacturers to install features such as face unlock, for pre-installing Triada malware.

It said it had worked with manufacturers to remove the threat from devices.

BBC

Why are Africa’s coronavirus successes being overlooked?, by Afua Hirsch

Remember, early on in the Covid-19 pandemic, the speculation as to how apocalyptic it would be if this disease hit the African continent? I do. There was deep anxiety about what it would mean for countries with lower income populations, dominant but harder-to-regulate informal economies and far fewer healthcare facilities than the UK or Italy.

There have been coronavirus mistakes and misjudgments, and deaths, and each one is a tragedy. And no one knows the course the pandemic may take next – the continent, like the rest of the world, isn’t out of the woods yet. But what has also happened is that many African nations, realising early on that large-scale, expensive testing and hospitalisation was not an option for the populations, had no choice but to take a more creative approach.

Take the two African countries I have called home – Senegal and Ghana. Senegal is developing a Covid-19 testing kit that would cost $1 per patient, which it is hoped will, in less than 10 minutes, detect both current or previous infection via antigens in saliva, or antibodies. It’s hard to know exactly how this compares with the price of Britain’s tests, but many of them use polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, to detect the virus, and cost hundreds of dollars. And I can testify that a leaflet that came through my door in London this week offered me a private testing kit for £250.

Senegal is in a good position because its Covid-19 response planning began in earnest in January, as soon as the first international alert on the virus went out. The government closed the borders, initiated a comprehensive plan of contact tracing and, because it is a nation of multiple-occupation households, offered a bed for every single coronavirus patient in either a hospital or a community health facility.

As a result, this nation of 16 million people has had only 30 deaths. Each death has been acknowledged individually by the government, and condolences paid to the family. You can afford to see each death as a person when the numbers are at this level. At every single one of those stages, the UK did the opposite, and is now facing a death toll of more than 35,000.

Ghana, with a population of 30 million, has a similar death toll to Senegal, partly because of an extensive system of contact tracing, utilising a large number of community health workers and volunteers, and other innovative techniques such as “pool testing”, in which multiple blood samples are tested and then followed up as individual tests only if a positive result is found. The advantages in this approach are now being studied by the World Health Organization.

Across the African continent, the lack of access to expensive pharmaceutical products, not to mention a well-founded historic lack of trust, has fuelled interest in whether traditional herbal remedies have anything to offer. One plant in particular – Artemisia annua, or sweet wormwood, which belongs to the daisy family – is drawing particular attention after the president of Madagascar, Andry Rajoelina, claimed it was a “cure” for Covid-19.

That may sound Trumpian, and the WHO has cautioned that further trials are needed before it can be advocated as a treatment for the disease. But I contacted the respected Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces in Germany, which is currently conducting clinical trials on a different breed of the same plant, in this case grown in Kentucky.

This specially grown, more potent variety of sweet wormwood is being tested on cells to determine its effectiveness in fighting coronavirus infections and the results so far, the institute’s director, Prof Peter Seeberger, told me, are “very interesting”. Human clinical trials are likely to follow.

More than 20 African countries have already ordered the Madagascan version, a vote of confidence for Rajoelina, who has taken to showing up at meetings and TV appearances with a bottle of a brown herbal drink made from the plant, touting its benefits.

The reason you probably haven’t heard about this, he says, is because of patronising attitudes towards African innovation. “If it was a European country that had actually discovered this remedy, would there be so much doubt?” he asked on French TV. “I don’t think so.”

The scientists will have to say whether his “cure” actually works (among those calling for better evidence of its safety and effectiveness is Madagascar’s own National Academy of Medicine). But on Eurocentric attitudes, he has a point. The African continent has a stellar history of innovating its way out of problems – just look at how mobile money and fintech has turned it into one of the most digitally savvy regions in the world.

It has been well documented how a patronising attitude towards east Asia is what allowed European countries to be caught by such surprise at the spread of this disease. Now a similar mindset seems set to ensure we don’t learn the lessons Africa has to offer in overcoming it.

• Afua Hirsch is a Guardian (UK) columnist

‘Why Africa is least affected by deaths from COVID-19’

The predictions were sombre and the statistics scary. A calamity of immense proportion would hit the continent, leaving it worse off than other regions of the world. But months since COVID-19 struck, Africa with its notorious poor health infrastructure has recorded the least deaths.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) had in April predicted: “Anywhere between 300,000 and 3.3 million African people could lose their lives as a direct result of COVID-19.”

The World Health Organisation (WHO) warned African countries to “prepare for the worst”, while Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, in a CNN interview, said: “It’s going to be horrible in the developing world. And part of the reason you’re seeing that case numbers don’t look very bad is because they don’t have access to very many tests…Look at Ecuador. Look at what’s going on in Ecuador. They’re putting bodies out on the street. You’re going to see that in countries in Africa.”

Latest figures from the World Health Organisation show that Africa has the least number of cases (58,663) and deaths with (1,710) compared to the Americas with the highest numbers of cases (1,966,932) and deaths (118,799).

This is closely followed by Europe with 1,874 075 cases and 166,121 deaths; Eastern Mediterranean with 326,568 cases 9,841 deaths; Western Pacific with 167,546 cases and 6,730 deaths; and South-East Asia with 134,531 cases and 4,351 deaths.

The most impacted countries worldwide as of May 17, 2020 showed the United States topping the chart with 1,486,757 cases and 89,562 deaths; Russia, 281,752 cases and 2,631 deaths; United Kingdom, 244,995 cases and 34,716 deaths; Brazil, 241,080 cases and 16,122 deaths; Spain, 230,698 cases and 27,563 deaths; Italy, 225,435 cases and 31,908; France, 179,693 and 28,111 deaths; Germany, 176,369 cases and 7,962 deaths; Turkey, 149,435 cases and 4,140 deaths; and Iran, 120,198cases and 6,988 deaths.

In contrast, in Africa, South Africa is worst hit with 14,355 cases and 261 deaths. It is distantly followed by Algeria with 6,821 and 542 deaths. Others include: Ghana, 5,735 cases and 29 deaths; Nigeria, 5,621 cases and 176 deaths; Cameroon, 3,047 cases and 139 deaths; and Guinea with 2,658 cases and 16 deaths.

While the argument that low testing indicates many African countries are yet to encounter the monster, the absence of mass deaths or hospitalisation seem to suggest something is ticking favourably for the continent.

A consultant pharmacognocist and President, Bioresources Development Group, Prof. Maurice Iwu, agreed that Africans might have some form of protection from the coronavirus.

“An issue is high humidity in most African countries, not just hot temperatures. Because of the density of the virus in tropical Africa, it cannot travel far. That means the recommendation of two metres of social distancing does not apply here because the virus cannot go far.”

Iwu also raised the diet factor. “Our food has more antioxidants. We take a lot of phytomedicines. A lot of our diets contain zinc, vitamin C and other antioxidants. People take all these on a daily basis without even thinking about it,” he said.

There’s also the social exclusion of Sub-Saharan Africa. He explained: “We are excluded from so many socio-economic activities going on in the West. The number of people who travel from just Milan to New York on a daily basis far outnumbers the air travels in most parts of Africa. So, the socio-economic exclusion from the global picture has protected us from the quick spread of the virus through frequent business travels and inter-continental movements.”

Iwu further cited the issue of seasonal flu vaccines common in most European and American countries. “Most of these countries use flu vaccine. Once you take the flu vaccine and a new strain comes in, it will cause all the defence mechanisms to relax. This scenario makes most countries that use the flu vaccine more vulnerable to COVID-19,” he said.

Indeed, a recent study published by Chinese researchers from Beihang University (BUAA) and Institute of Economics, School of Social Sciences, Tsinghua University, demonstrated how high temperature and high humidity reduce the transmission of COVID-19.

The study was published in the journal SSRN. The researchers explained: “The paper investigated the influence of air temperature and relative humidity on the transmission of COVID-19. After estimating the serial interval of COVID-19 from 105 hand-collected pairs of the virus carrier and the infected, we calculate the daily effective reproductive number, R, for each of all 100 Chinese cities with more than 40 cases. Using the daily R-values from January 21 to 23, 2020 as proxies of non-intervened transmission intensity, we find, under a linear regression framework, high temperature and high humidity significantly reduce the transmission of COVID-19, respectively. One-degree Celsius increase in temperature and one per cent increase in relative humidity lower R by 0.0225 and 0.0158, respectively.

“This result is consistent with the fact that the high temperature and high humidity reduce the transmission of influenza and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). It indicates that the arrival of summer and rainy season in the northern hemisphere can effectively reduce the transmission of COVID-19.”

Also, The Guardian’s investigation revealed that most countries in malaria endemic regions/Sub-Saharan African nations have lower cases and deaths from COVID-19.

According the WHO Malaria Map and COVID-19 Map, most countries in Sub-Saharan Africa are endemic to malaria and are equally least affected by the coronavirus.

In 2018, six countries accounted for more than half of all malaria cases worldwide: Nigeria (25 per cent), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (12 per cent), Uganda (five per cent), and Côte d’Ivoire, Mozambique and Niger (four per cent each).

The WHO Malaria Map shows that more than 90 per cent of countries worst hit by COVID-19 are not endemic to malaria including France, United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Spain, Italy, and Iran among others.

Unconfirmed report suggests that no sickle cell anaemia patient has died of COVID-19 because they are invulnerable to malaria. Africa is endemic to sickle cell anaemia. In fact, more than 90 per cent of all sickle cell anaemia cases exist on the continent.

A leader of the team of medical experts managing some of the COVID-19 isolation centres in Lagos, Prof. Akin Osibogun, told The Guardian yesterday that although he could not confirm the malaria-COVID-19 map claim, it was logical and worth investigating.

“No study has looked at that. Although it sounds logical but there is no scientific backing. What I think might explain why more black people in the United States and United Kingdom are dying from COVID-19 is because of the social inequalities that exist between whites and blacks in those societies. Whites are more likely to have health insurance and more likely to get urgent attention for ambulance service. Also, the blacks are more likely to lead bad lifestyles and take drugs. Another argument is that the BCG vaccination, which most Africans had may be offering some protection.”

Meanwhile, “predictions of mass deaths in Africa are problematic for reasons beyond inaccuracy,” write Caleb Okereke and Kesley Nielson in ‘The Problem with Predicting Coronavirus Apocalypse in Africa’.

“They (the West) assume that nothing that African countries do can mitigate the spread of the disease and prevent high death tolls. They presuppose that Africans will be just passive victims of yet another viral outbreak.

“But many African countries have long experience in dealing with infectious diseases and by now have developed know-how that many Western countries might not have. And many African leaders are also not unaware of their fragile healthcare systems – unlike some of their Western counterparts.

“This might, in fact, be the basis on which a lot of the continent’s proactive response is founded. Just as someone who is diabetic knows to avoid sugar, African governments understand that their most effective strategy in the battle against COVID-19 is prevention and applying lessons learned from previous and/or ongoing outbreaks.”

The duo added: “Why do we not see the same broad strokes applied to continents like Europe and North America? Western countries are able to recognise nuance and complexities within themselves, acknowledging that no two countries are exactly alike. If outcomes of this epidemic in Europe and North America vary greatly from country to country, why is it not possible to assume that the same would be the case in Africa?

“The view that all Africans think the same way and that all African countries will suffer the same fate is deeply rooted in colonial ideology, which dismisses an entire continent as inherently backward and dysfunctional.”

The Guardian

WHO: COVID-19 may not spread widely in Africa as it has elsewhere

Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organisation (WHO) regional director for Africa, says COVID-19 may not spread widely on the continent like it has elsewhere.

As of May 8, Africa had recorded 54, 434 cases, 2,080 deaths, and 18,857 recoveries.

But citing a new study by the regional office for Africa, Moeti said 83, 000 to 190 000 people could die of the virus in Africa within the first year if measures to contain it fails.

Shee added that about 29 to 44 million people in Africa could get infected with COVID-19 in the first year of the pandemic.

Moeti said the research, which is based on prediction modelling, looked at 47 countries in the WHO African region with a total population of 1 billion.

Algeria, South Africa and Cameroon were listed as countries that were at a high risk if containment measures are not prioritised.

“While COVID-19 likely won’t spread as exponentially in Africa as it has elsewhere in the world, it likely will smoulder in transmission hotspots,” she said.

“COVID-19 could become a fixture in our lives for the next several years unless a proactive approach is taken by many governments in the region. We need to test, trace, isolate and treat.

“The importance of promoting effective containment measures is ever more crucial, as sustained and widespread transmission of the virus could severely overwhelm our health systems.

“Curbing a large scale outbreak is far costlier than the ongoing preventive measures governments are undertaking to contain the spread of the virus.”

She said the predicted number of cases that would require hospitalisation would overwhelm the available medical capacity in much of Africa.

Moeti said the report estimated 3.6 million to 5.5 million COVID-19 hospitalisation, of which 82 000 to 167, 000 would be severe cases requiring oxygen, and 52,000 to 107, 000 would be critical cases requiring breathing support.

Such a huge number of patients in hospitals, he said, would severely strain the health capacities of countries.

The study recommended that countries across Africa need to expand the capacity particularly of primary hospitals and ensure that basic emergency care is included in primary health systems.

Covid-19 could kill 300,000 Africans, WHO warns leaders

WHO has warned that Africa could be the next epicentre of the deadly Covid-19.

They also said it’s likely that at least 300,000 people would die in Africa and 30 million will be pushed to poverty.

So far this continent has seen 1,000 deaths and almost 19,000 infections, much better than other regions like Europe and Asia. But it has seen a sharp rise in infection cases last week, reports BBC.

The UN Economic Commission for Africa – which warned 300,000 could die – called for a $100bn (£80bn) safety net for the continent, including halting external debt payments.

The WHO says the virus appears to be spreading away from African capitals. It has also highlighted that the continent lacks ventilators to deal with a pandemic.

More than a third of Africa’s population lacks access to adequate water supplies and nearly 60% of urban dwellers live in overcrowded slums – conditions where the virus could thrive.

North Africa is the worst affected region. Algeria, Egypt and Morocco have all had more than 2,000 cases and at least 100 deaths. Algeria has had the most deaths, with 348.

Elsewhere, South Africa has also had more than 2,000 cases, with 48 deaths, while the continent’s most populous nation, Nigeria, has had 442 cases and 13 confirmed deaths out of a population of some 200 million.

There has been lot of talks around, “inadequate testing” throughout Africa.

WHO Africa director Dr Matshidiso Moeti said, “If you look at the proportion of people who travel, Africa has fewer people who are travelling internationally,” she said.

But now that the virus is in within Africa, she says that her organisation is acting under the assumption that it will spread just as quickly as elsewhere.

There are around 15 African countries where the virus has not spread far so, if these countries adopt strong social distancing measures, they could contain the virus, she added.

Find out the African countries with  largest military personnel

China currently has the largest military personnel in the world with about 2.18 million, while India ranks 2nd place with 1.36 million and the United States ranks 3rd place with 1.28 million, according to Global Firepower estimates.

In Africa, Egypt’s military personnel is the largest boasting 440,000, while Morooco comes second place with 310,000 and South Sudan with 197,500, according to the estimates.

In the info graphic below, Techloy highlights the top ten countries with the largest military manpower in Africa as of 2019.

Egypt also has a PowerIndex score of 0.187 (ranked 9th in the world), well ahead of South Africa and Nigeria.

Today’s Proverb

If there had been no poverty in Europe, then the white man would not have come and spread his clothes in Africa.  ~Ghanaian Proverb

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Oshiomhole warns against illegal deforestation

Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State has warned against illegal activities in the forests saying that nobody has the right to trespass into the forest reserves in the state and begin to do things that are inimical to public health, public welfare, and public interest.
Speaking while playing host to members of Okpamakhin Initiative who paid him a courtesy visit in the Government House, Benin City, the Governor Oshiomhole government must always be on the side of the people, and if individuals abuse public interest, it is the duty of government to call such individuals to order.
He said: “I listened to your complaint and promised to look into it. I have carried out investigations thereafter, and I found that like you rightly said, the land that was given to Iyayi was purely for him to regenerate and to farm, not for him sublet, not to talk of selling it to another party, and that party selling. But we have since revoked it, and I have ordered that Okomu should be stopped from planting or interfering because there is a public authority, there is a public interest.
“In addition to all the issues you mentioned about preservation and protecting special species, and all the other interests, it is also the fact that there are laws of the land. Nobody has the right to just trespass into the forest and begin to do things that are inimical to public health, public welfare, and then public interest.”
He said, “So, in spite of this order, they are still doing some illegal activities in the forest, we will have to review the measures we have already put in place and reinforce them, but be assured that if they are still working there, they don’t have our approval. Convey this fact to the community, and the Chief of Staff will cause a letter to be written to Okomu to draw their attention that we are aware that contrary to our previous communication, they are still carrying out illegal activities in that forest. We will do what has to be done to protect the public interest.
According to Oshiomhole, “The constitution is very clear about ownership of land, and the fact that land is vested in the government of the state, and when the state has revoked, you can’t proceed to speculate, and do the sort of things you said the people are still doing. So, that culture of impunity is at the heart of the anti-corruption war that Buhari is fighting, and for which I am a strong subscriber and a believer.
“So, convey to your communities that I appreciate them, that we have revoked, and it stands revoked, and that Okomu does not have the right to trespass that forest, and that they should not allow anybody to violate the forest.”
Earlier in his address, the spokesman of Okpamakhin Initiative, Comrade Anthony Erha said, “Part of the land was given many years ago to Iyayi Group of Companies. And most of the land was acquired while Governor Igbinedion was in office. Most of the land, we got to know, was given to Iyayi for regeneration, having deforested the land through excessive logging.
“About two and half years ago, we were surprised that that same land and so many others were sold to A and Hartman Limited which in turn sold it to Okomu Oil Palm Company Plc for the establishment of palm plantation.
“Sir, we came here in March 2014 to protest to you and you wrote us that you were going to look into the case. Sir, your looking into that case, and even writing us has gone to show what is largely believed that you are a man of justice and that you and your government are very environment-friendly.”
Mr. Erha added, “because they destroyed all the fringes of the forest, today that forest is very fragile. Perhaps, sir, I would like to tell you some of the species and animals that are there. We have the one they call the white-coated monkey that has the closest relationship and same brain structure with humans, and we also have the African forest elephant that is only found in Edo State in the whole world. Now, we had those in the forest and tourists come from all over the country to see them.”

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