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DJ Emerging and Growth Markets, February 6th 2021

· 02/07/2021 16:50
-- Video: What we know about Myanmar's military coup.-- Aung San Suu Kyi, the generals, and how Myanmar's democracy hopes collapsed.

By Dan Keeler

Note: This is a web-version of the WSJ's weekly Emerging & Growth Markets newsletter. The newsletter is a companion to Strategic Intelligence (https://www.wsj.com/pro/strategic-intelligence/), an information resource focused on emerging markets that brings together the global news coverage of The Wall Street Journal with the analysis of market intelligence firm FrontierView. Click here to receive the newsletter in your inbox.

Africa

Nigeria plans to vaccinate 70% of population against Covid-19 by 2022. Nigeria intends to vaccinate 70% of its population against Covid-19 by 2022, Obafemi Oredein reports. "Our intention is that in 2021 we will vaccinate at least 40% of the population and in 2022 vaccinate another 30% of the population," Boss Mustapha, chairman of the Presidential Task Force on coronavirus and secretary to the federal government, said.

Nigeria has a population of over 200 million and will take delivery of 100,000 doses of mRNA Pfizer Covid-19 vaccines between late January and early February, according to the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency. As of Friday afternoon, Nigeria had 136,030 confirmed cases of Covid-19 with 1,632 deaths from the disease, according to the Nigeria Center for Disease Control.

Tanzania rejects Covid-19 vaccines. Tanzania's government said it had no interest in accessing Covid-19 vaccines, cementing its status as an outlier in the world's fight against the pandemic, as most other African countries scrambled to secure shots, Nicholas Bariyo reports. The country's President John Magufuli has rejected lockdowns and other social-distancing measures and instead urged Tanzania's 60 million citizens to pray in churches and mosques against a "satanic" virus.

In May, when it had confirmed 509 Covid-19 infections and 21 deaths, the government stopped reporting cases to the World Health Organization, after Mr. Magufuli insisted that Tanzania had conquered the pandemic and that test kits showing positive results were faulty.

This week, Tanzanian Health Minister Dorothy Gwajima said the country had no intention of importing Covid-19 vaccines, including free doses it could get from the global Covax initiative, which aims to supply shots to poor and middle-income countries. "We are not yet satisfied that those vaccines have been clinically proven safe," Dr. Gwajima said at a news conference, flanked by unmasked government health officials.

The only other African countries that have opted to forgo the free Covax vaccines are Burundi, Eritrea and the island state of Madagascar, according to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which manages the initiative along with the WHO.

Libya forms transitional unity government after years of conflict. Libya's two main warring factions elected a new transitional government at a United Nations-organized summit, taking a tentative step toward political unity after years of conflict that have devastated the North African country, Jared Malsin reports.

Delegates at the summit in Geneva on Friday elected a businessman, Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, as Libya's prime minister, the U.N.'s acting special envoy for Libya said. He will serve alongside Mohammad Younes Menfi, a former ambassador to Greece, who was elected head of Libya's presidency council.

The country has been split between several governments and multiple militias since 2014, when a transition to democracy that began after the ouster of dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011 unraveled.

The formation of the new government comes months after the end of a 14-month war between the rival factions, which are backed by foreign powers with competing interests that brought them to the brink of direct conflict last year.

U.S. backs Nigeria's former finance minister for next WTO director. The Biden administration on Friday said the U.S. would support Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria as the next director-general of the World Trade Organization, Yuka Hayashi and Eun-Young Jeong write. The Biden administration's decision is the last hurdle standing in the way of Ms. Okonjo-Iweala assuming the top job at the WTO, after South Korea's Yoo Myung-hee pulled out.

Ms. Okonjo-Iweala was supported by a majority of WTO members, but the Trump administration backed Ms. Yoo, saying she was better qualified. In a statement, the U.S. Trade Representative's office said that Ms. Okonjo-Iweala "brings a wealth of knowledge in economics and international diplomacy from her 25 years with the World Bank and two terms as Nigerian Finance Minister."

Asia

Myanmar military seizes power in coup. The head of Myanmar's military took charge of the country from its civilian-run government this week, after civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other members of her party were detained in a Monday morning raid, Niharika Mandhana, Feliz Solomon and Sabrina Siddiqui report. The coup marks a major blow to the country's transition from military rule to democracy, which began about a decade ago.

Tensions had been rising for days over the results of a November election that Ms. Suu Kyi's party won by a landslide. Only the second truly contested and democratic vote since the end of military rule in the Southeast Asian country, it was called fraudulent by the army-backed opposition party, which alleged false names on voter lists. Myanmar's Union Election Commission has denied that claim.

The takeover, coming against the backdrop of a deepening U.S.-China rivalry, pits the foreign-policy strategies of the two powers against each other, Niharika Mandhana, Warren P. Strobel and Feliz Solomon report. The U.S. officially declared the move a coup, which forces it to cease providing assistance to the Myanmar government, and said he was planning "appropriate action" that could include sanctions.

China took a muted stand, expressing hope that all sides would "properly manage their differences."

Indonesia's economy contracted in 2020 for first time in two decades. Indonesia last year posted its first annual contraction since 1998, as the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic weighed, Yi Wei Wong writes. The Southeast Asian country's economy shrank 2.07% in 2020 according to its Central Statistics Agency.

Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati had forecast a gross domestic product contraction of between 1.7% to 2.2% for 2020, as people spent less amid the pandemic.

The economy grew 5.0% in 2019.

Middle East

Biden launches fresh effort to end civil war in Yemen. President Joe Biden launched a new initiative to end the six-year civil war in Yemen, appointing a personal envoy to work on peace efforts and announcing an end to remaining U.S. offensive support for the Saudi-led military campaign there, Warren P. Strobel reports.

In his first major foreign policy speech as president, Mr. Biden said that he was appointing Timothy Lenderking, a career diplomat with long experience in Gulf and Yemen affairs, to advance peace talks to end the war, which has sunk Yemen into the world's worst humanitarian crisis. The president, speaking at the State Department, also said U.S. support for offensive operations in Yemen would end, "including relevant arms sales."

He added the war has created "humanitarian and strategic catastrophe."

The president's actions on Yemen include his recent decision to halt U.S. arms sales of precision-guided munitions to Riyadh, White House National security adviser Jake Sullivan said, but it won't affect counterterrorism operations against al Qaeda in the region.

Iran launches new rocket, showing advances in potential missile technology. Iran tested a new rocket on Monday with improved technology that could be used in its missile program, Sune Engel Rasmussen. The move appears to be an attempt to raise the stakes for the Biden administration ahead of potential negotiations over a new nuclear deal.

The new rocket, named Zuljanah, was developed under a government-backed program to send civilian satellites into orbit 310 miles above ground, according to a spokesman for the Iranian Defense Ministry's Space Department. The technology is easily transferable to Iran's military missile program run by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, experts say.

Iran over the past 18 months has sought relief from U.S. sanctions -- reimposed by the Trump administration after it withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal in 2018 -- by breaching key provisions in the accord. Tehran has stockpiled more low-enriched uranium than the deal allows, restarted uranium enrichment at 20% purity and announced that it would prepare production of uranium metal.

On Friday the Journal reported that U.N. inspectors have found new evidence of undeclared nuclear activities in Iran.

Latin America

Fast-spreading Covid-19 variant surges in Brazil. A new coronavirus variant from the Amazon is alarming scientists and overwhelming overcrowded hospitals in northern Brazil, raising the prospect of a prolonged outbreak in a country that has secured only a fraction of the vaccines it needs, Samantha Pearson and Luciana Magalhaes report. The P1 variant was first identified by researchers in mid-January among Japanese visitors to the Amazon, and it has since spread to another seven countries, including the U.S.

It is likely more contagious and better able to reinfect people, according to researchers studying its mutations. Doctors fear it could also be more deadly.

While researchers are still in the early stages of investigating the Amazonian variant, epidemiologists say it is at least partly responsible for a more than fourfold rise in cases in the past month in Manaus, the city of two million in the heart of the rainforest. They also say it may explain a puzzling rise in serious cases of the disease among younger patients, echoing early findings on the U.K. variant.

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February 07, 2021 16:50 ET (21:50 GMT)

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