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The Akatsi-Akanu road project stimulates trade and improves livelihoods in Ghana and Togo – report
August 14, 2020 | 0 Comments

The reconstruction of the Akatsi-Akanu road, completed in 2013, has stimulated trade between Ghana and neighbouring Togo, helping to alleviate poverty. More importantly, it has improved the livelihoods of many women living along the international route, according to a report by the African Development Bank, which funded the project.

This road is an important international route that needed urgent attention to facilitate regional integration between the two neighbours. The Bank provided a concessional loan of $27.8 million for the reconstruction.

The project’s scope initially included two sections, comprising a 30 km Akatsi-Dzodze-Akanu stretch in south-eastern Ghana and Akanu-Noepé in south-western Togo. This was later reduced to cover only the Akatsi-Dzodze-Akanu portion and a bridge over the Aka River along the border.

The works included the construction of a 30 km two-lane asphalt concrete road with a 7.3m carriageway. It incorporated improvements to road safety and two 2-meter wide shoulders from Akatsi to Akanu in addition to the concrete bridge over the Aka river.

The new road has yielded a 55% reduction in transport costs and a 20% decrease in travel time. Motorists using the road say their vehicles no longer break down as often. The costs of vehicle repairs incurred by commercial transport operators are usually passed on to passengers. 

“Merchants have indicated that due to the reduction in travel time, they can sell their goods in several centers over a week. This road could become the favored means of transporting merchandise to and from Togo, Benin, and Nigeria,” the report noted.

The report shows there are residual benefits from the project. “Women have benefited greatly from the project, given the numerous markets that it yielded along the road, and the high number of women that are engaged in the sale of food products such as vegetables, fruit, fish, and handicrafts. It has also improved vehicle availability to health centers and educational facilities, as well as markets,” the report states.

The Akatsi-Dzodze-Akanu road is part of the ECOWAS transregional highway network (Abidjan-Lagos corridor). It supports national, regional, and international traffic, and promotes economic development and regional trade and integration.

*AFDB

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Sierra Leone: $13.5 million project to assist Ebola-hit communities kicks off
August 14, 2020 | 0 Comments

The African Development Bank and the government of Sierra Leone have launched a project to support 3,000 Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) survivors and orphans, and other vulnerable sectors of society in the country.

Through the Post Ebola Recovery Social Investment Fund Project (PERSIF), the Bank is providing $13.5 million in grants from the African Development Fund and the Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Initiative Trust Fund. Affected communities have been further hit by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic devastation caused by resulting lockdowns.

The 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone took a heavy toll on communities, education, health care infrastructure and basic social services, said Sierra Leonean President Julius Maada Bio at the official project launch, held on 30 July 2020.

“Vulnerable populations including orphans, elderly people, physically challenged, the sick, women and children were significantly affected,” President Bio added. “It is my pleasure to thank the Africa Development Bank for providing this grant with an extra care of hands.”

The support will target youth, women, men, children, people with disabilities and the elderly. Health workers, community volunteers and social protection officers will also benefit from the scheme as well as 2,000 micro and small entrepreneurs including cross-border traders.

A representative of the Ebola survivors, Randa Sesay, also thanked the Bank for providing assistance. “The project will ensure that,  as survivors, we have the right access to basic social services. We are optimistic that it will benefit and improve our lives, especially women and children.”

Sierra Leone’s Minister Finance, Jacob Jusu Saffa offered assurances that the government would effectively support project implementation. “This project will go a long way to support citizens abandoned for years. We are ready to provide counterpart financing,” he added.

The Bank’s Country Manager for Sierra Leone, Dr. Peninah Kariuki, describing the project said, “the objective is to enhance resilience in communities that bore the brunt of Ebola”. She also noted that “ today’s COVID-19 crisis only poses further challenges. The Bank stands with you as you address the economic, health and social challenges that have emanated from the pandemic.”

*AFDB

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Awakening the entrepreneurial spirit of every young African is key to continent’s future, development leaders agree
August 14, 2020 | 0 Comments

The African Development Bank joined a number of development leaders in calling for greater support of youth entrepreneurship during a virtual event organized by the Tony Elumelu Foundation. The webinar was timed to coincide with International Youth Day, which fell on Wednesday 12 August, 2020.

“Africa is young, and we need to do whatever it takes to empower our youth because they are the future of the continent,” said the Bank’s Acting Vice President for Agriculture, Human and Social Development, Wambui Gichuri, a featured speaker.  “Entrepreneurship is an essential part in addressing Africa’s employment challenge and where we need to put our focus.”

The webinar, themed Investing in Africa’s Future: Youth Empowerment Through Entrepreneurship, invited a range of private and public sector representatives to discuss the challenges young African entrepreneurs face, and more broadly the continent’s economic future, in light of the ongoing pandemic. The event was part of an ongoing series the Foundation has been hosting.

The population of Africans aged 18-35 is expected to hit 830 million people by 2050, creating a youth bulge which experts predict could create a corps of young workers to fuel the continent’s long-term economic growth, but also poses immense job-creation challenges.   

“Africa is the epicenter for the economic devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now is the time to come together and rethink and reimagine our commitment to young African entrepreneurs,” said Ifeyinwa Ugochukwu, the Foundation’s CEO and panel moderator. “Investing in our future means awaking the entrepreneurial spirit of every young person on the continent.”

Also on the panel was 22-year-old Leroy Mwasaru, founder of Greenpact, a Kenyan alternative renewable energy startup. An alumni of the Elumelu Foundation’s Entrepreneurship Program, Mwasaru expressed a desire to see greater communication and sharing of lessons learned among small and medium enterprises.   

The Entrepreneurship Program, which offers job skills, mentoring and funding to African entrepreneurs, in 2019 agreed a partnership with the Bank, which has provided $5 million in seed capital for the initiative. The Bank’s Director of Human Capital, Youth and Skills Development, also on the panel, praised the role of such partnerships in creating jobs on the continent:

“The Bank’s investment enabled the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship program to scale up and reach an additional 1,000 entrepreneurs in 38 African countries,” said Director Martha Phiri. “Let us give skills to our youth and also provide them with the necessary support to prove their business concepts, so that they can start, grow and scale their businesses in order to create jobs – not just for themselves, but for others.”

Phiri also mentioned the Bank’s AfricaVsVirus ideathon, which will provide training, mentoring and investment opportunities to African youth who developed the most promising solutions to address COVID-19 pandemic related challenges.

Joining Gichuri, Phiri and Mwasaru on the panel were: Shoroke Zedan, Chairperson, World Skills Egypt; Bilikiss Adebiyi-Abiola, Founder of Wecyclers Nigeria and Ebube Emodi, Tony Elumelu Foundation Events Manager and Executive Associate.

*AFDB

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The African Development Bank and partners’ digital Coding For Employment program is ensuring African youth are competitive in the global digital economy
August 14, 2020 | 0 Comments
Martha Oyanta Daniel- co-founder of Eagles Advocacy
Martha Oyanta Daniel- co-founder of Eagles Advocacy

With the passing of UN International Youth Day this week, we take a look at a bold initiative for Africa’s youth bulge

Nigerian Odetola Olashile Oluwapelumi has filled out her share of job applications. The young, new mother graduated with a Communication and Language degree, but says finding work that put her education to use was a struggle.

“I’ve gone for different [job] interviews, but in the long run – they just find something to disqualify you and that’s it,” Oluwapelumi says.

Then, the 31-year old heard about a digital skills training program through her church, that offers youth demand-driven internet and communications technology skills (ICT), then links them to ICT and ICT-related job opportunities. The African Development Bank and Microsoft’s Coding for Employment was set up to be available online, on mobile devices, as well as in centers of excellence classrooms in Kenya, Rwanda, Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire – and in Nigeria.

Oluwapelumi signed up for the Coding for Employment platform, completing a selection of free technical courses such as web development, design, data science and digital marketing. Soon after, she says, she got hired to do remote work for an online image company.

“The training has been beneficial to me,” Oluwapelumi says. “As a nursing mother…[being] able to work online from home…has helped me to be able to support the family.”

Oluwapelumi is one of more than 23,000 youth who have completed Coding For Employment’s month-long courses since its launch in 2018. The initiative is the Bank’s response to global digital transformation moving at such a fast pace that disadvantaged communities, including African unemployed youth, are at high risk of exclusion and marginalization. And the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t deterring the program from its mission: to help bridge the ICT skills gap among unemployed youth and help them be innovators in the global digital economy.

“The impact of COVID-19 is challenging the convention of a 9-to-5 office job – pushing the world to adapt to remote work driven by digital communication,” says Martha Phiri, Director of the Bank’s Human Capital Department. “Digital skills offered through Coding 4 Employment are equipping African youth with the tools to be more attractive job candidates, and the initiative is part of the solution helping African nations build back better, post-pandemic,” she added.

COVID-related school closures, national lockdowns and restriction of movement  led Coding for Employment to adapt its in-person training classes to an online eLearning platform. The program collaborated with Microsoft to train online class facilitators. Last week, Coding for Employment celebrated its first group students in Nigeria who completed the online program with a virtual graduation ceremony.

*AFDB

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‘Africa’s outlook is positive,’ African Development Bank tells Indian investors and officials
August 14, 2020 | 0 Comments

The groundwork has been laid for Indian investors who are looking to invest in Africa.

During a recent virtual conference hosted by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and its partners, officials called for Indo-African partnerships to go beyond government-to-government cooperation and promote private sector participation in order to accelerate Africa’s development.

The Conference on Innovative Financing Mechanisms for Doing Business with Africa took place on 30 July 2020 and attracted more than 600 participants from over 45 countries. Besides Africa and India, there were also participants from the Middle East, Europe, and Asia, representing businesses, governments, financial institutions, and business promotion agencies.

Akhilesh Mishra, India’s Additional Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs, urged the private sector to consider investing in youth and startups because those sectors have enormous potential for employment generation.  He noted that, aside from the long-term funding traditionally provided as official development assistance, African countries will require more targeted short-term financing.

Bajabulile Swazi Tshabalala, Acting Senior Vice President and CFO of the African Development Bank Group, highlighted business potential in Africa, noting that the continent had great prospects for investors, with a growing consumer market that Indian firms cannot afford to miss.

“The positive outlook for Africa is reinforced by the establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which seeks to deepen regional integration across the continent and allow the free movement of people and trade across borders,” Tshabalala said.

Tshabalala said there was a tremendous opportunity for Indian industry to work together with the Bank in sectors such as power generation and transmission, energy, agricultural transformation, healthcare and pharmaceuticals, technology, transportation, and industrialization.

The Bank is seeking to expand the number of bankable projects in Africa and has set aside $100 million for project preparation activities in low-income countries. It is also keen to mobilize greater private sector participation in these projects from all countries, she added.

David Rasquinha, Managing Director of the Export-Import Bank of India, underscored the need to expand Indian financial inflows to Africa by expanding the Indian banking network. He said India and Africa could work together in areas such as healthcare and pharmaceuticals, the financial sector and infrastructure development.

Nana Spio-Garbrah, chief financing analyst from the African Development Bank’s syndications, co-financing and client solutions department, spoke on the Bank’s capacity to mitigate risk for foreign investors, especially during this era of COVID-19.

Spio-Garbrah also talked about the Bank’s Partial Risk Guarantee (PRG) and Partial Credit Guarantee (PCG), which has been upgraded to meet client needs better. She mentioned the Bank’s syndication services, particularly the A/B loan product, which allows B-lenders to benefit from the Bank’s Preferred Creditor Status. She also mentioned the Co-Guarantee Platform – a new cooperative of four risk mitigation providers and the African Union, which collectively pools their capacities to de-risk African projects. 

Takashi Hanajiri, head of the African Development Bank’s Asia External Representation Office made a presentation on the partnership between India and the Bank, and the Bank’s COVID-19 Response Facility. Hanajiri pointed out the huge potential of the Africa Investment Forum and encouraged Indian partners to participate to find investment opportunities in Africa.

The panelists also included representatives from ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development, and ABSA Bank, who introduced their financial services and products. Escorts Limited, one of India’s leading engineering companies, talked on the trilateral partnership between India, Japan, and Africa in the agriculture sector.

The conference was supported by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, the African Development Bank, the Export-Import Bank of India, and other organizations.

The African Development Bank and India have a long-standing strategic partnership dating back almost 40 years to 1982, when India first joined the African Development Fund (ADF), the concessional arm of the Bank Group. A year later the country became a shareholder of the African Development Bank.

*AFDB

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Presidency Shuts down COVID-19 hits highest echelons of Namibian Government
August 14, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Andreas Thomas

The decision to shut down the Office of the President comes after a Presidential Advisor, Mrs Inge Zaamwani-Kamwi tested positive for COVID-19 on 13 August
The decision to shut down the Office of the President comes after a Presidential Advisor, Mrs Inge Zaamwani-Kamwi tested positive for COVID-19 on 13 August

Windhoek – The COVID-19 pandemic has infiltrated the top echelons of the Namibian government, after the Presidency on Friday announced a temporary shutdown after a senior official tested positive for coronavirus.

The decision to shut down the Office of the President comes after a Presidential Advisor, Mrs Inge Zaamwani-Kamwi tested positive for COVID-19 on 13 August.

Zaamwani-Kamwi is President Hage Geingob’s advisor on constitutional affairs and private sector interface.

The Office noted in a public notice that Zaamwani-Kamwi, who remains asymptomatic, is in self- isolation, and was infected after coming in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case.

 “The Presidency will be disinfected over the weekend and staff members will work from home for the coming seven day period. Only essential staff will report for duty. The Presidency wishes to thank you, the Namibian public for your understanding during this period,” the presidency said in a statement.

Earlier in the week, President Geingob undertook a precautionary COVID-19 test on 11 August, of which the results came out negative on Wednesday, 12 August 2020.

“I felt I was exposed by some of my kids, and also not feeling well because of old age and I was feeling something in my chest, and I am a close person to doctors, because I believe in early detection, so that prompted me to get tested,” Geingob said in the capital on Wednesday, while explaining his decision to get tested.

Cabinet Secretary Dr George Simataa who also works closely with President Geingob this past week came out publically to disclose about his coronavirus status and is currently in isolation.

Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila and her deputy, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, who also doubles as the minister for international relations and cooperation, are also in self-isolation after coming into contact with confirmed coronavirus cases.

This was revealed by Health and Social Minister Dr Kalumbi Shangula, who also said he will, undergoes mandatory tests after several staff members at his ministry tested positive for COVID-19.

Shangula told media this week that the health ministry’s head office in Windhoek has been closed for a week to be fumigated and that staff members will be tested including members of the ministerial executive.

Several deputy ministers have been in isolation after they took a working visit to Erongo region, the epicenter of coronavirus pandemic in the country.

The group led by Hafeni Ndemuula, the Deputy Minister of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment Creation was dispatched to the central-western region to assess the situation in the hardest-hit coastal towns of Walvis Bay and Swakopmund.

The coronavirus community transmission has been on the rise in the southern African country, which prompted the government to introduce a nighttime curfew in hotspot areas including the capital, Windhoek.

President Geingob on Wednesday announced 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew that will last for 16 days, to curb the transmission of COVID-19.

The whole country has also reverted to Stage 3 of the COVID-19 State of Emergency from Stage 4.

As of Thursday, 13 August, Namibia has 3544 confirmed cases of coronavirus of which 2669 are active, 848 recoveries and 27 fatalities.

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Tanzania promises to help Mozambique fight the terrorists
August 14, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Jorge Joaquim

The restoration of peace and security on the border between Tanzania and Mozambique is now the top priority for diplomatic relations between the two countries, said the new Tanzanian High Commissioner, Phaustine Kasike.

Since October 2017 islamist terrorists have staged raids and destroyed villages across several districts in the northern province of Cabo Delgado. Several of the terrorists who have been detained, including leading figures, have turned out to be Tanzanian nationals.

Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi urged greater coordination of efforts between Tanzania and Mozambique in the fight against terrorism.

Speaking to reporters minutes after the audience Nyusi granted to the Tanzanian diplomat, Foreign Minister Veronica Macamo claimed that both countries face the same problem, and that they have agreed to pay greater attention to defence and security, both in Cabo Delgado and in southern Tanzania.

“I really believe that what was discussed in today’s audience will result in something important for the two countries”, said Macamo.

Asked about the detention in Tanzania of people who allegedly wished to join the ranks of the terrorists, Macamo said the government has taken note of this claim and will investigate further to see if there is any truth in it.

She described the bilateral relations between Mozambique and Tanzania as “excellent” and hoped that, during Kasike’s term of office, the two countries could focus on the management of natural resources, cross-border conservation areas, and the integrated management of the basin of the Rovuma river.

According to a Tanzanian press report, the southern brigade of the Tanzanian Defence Force has announced that it will launch an offensive against insurgents hiding in forests near the border with Mozambique.

A senior Tanzanian officer was quoted as saying “there are criminals in these forests and we have come here to work. We shall start with Ruvuma, and then we shall go to Mtwara and then to Lindi because there are people carrying out criminal activities and they are in these forests”. It is believed he was referring to the same islamists who operate in Cabo Delgado.

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Poor Kenyans to suffer more as prices of kerosene soar by Sh.18.20
August 14, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Samuel Ouma

Kenyans will have to dig deeper into their pockets to cater for the cost of petroleum products in the next 30 days.

In the latest review, the Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (EPRA) announced the increase in the prices of fuel.

The rise in the costs of the products has been attributed to an increase in the price of fuel imports in the last month.

“The changes in this month’s prices are as a consequence of the average landed cost of imported super petrol increasing by 14.18 per cent, diesel increasing by 10.3 per cent and kerosene by 127.87 per cent,” EPRA said in a statement released on Friday.

Super petrol, diesel and kerosene prices increase by Sh. 3.47, Sh. 2.76 and Sh. 18.20 per litre respectively.

Following the increment, a litre of super petrol will cost Sh.103.95 in Nairobi while diesel is expected to cost Sh.94.63.

A litre of petrol will be sold at Sh.83.65 from Sh. 65.45 in Kenya’s capital. 

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Ex-MP Benson Mutura replaces Elachi as Nairobi County Assembly speaker
August 14, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Samuel Ouma

Former Makadara legislator Benson Mutura is the new speaker of the Nairobi County Assembly.Photo credit Photo/PD/JOHN OCHIENG
Former Makadara legislator Benson Mutura is the new speaker of the Nairobi County Assembly.Photo credit Photo/PD/JOHN OCHIENG

Former Makadara legislator Benson Mutura is the new speaker of the Nairobi County Assembly.

Mutura trounced his opponents in the elections that were held on Friday, August 14, 2020. The elections took place on zoom in line with social distancing as part of measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

He garnered 99 votes out of 123 after he was backed both by the Jubilee party and Orange Democratic Movement (ODM).

Other contestants were Abdi Ali Abdi, Ken Ng’ondi, Washington Makodingo, Allan Chacha Mang’era, and Mike Obonyo Guoro.

Former speaker Alex Ole Magelo withdrew his candidature on Friday morning to support Mutura.

He was sworn in by acting speaker John Kamangu.

“I hereby declare Mr. Benson Mutura the new Nairobi County Assembly Speaker, having attained more than the required two-thirds majority votes,” Kamangu announced.

The seat fell vacant following the resignation of ex-speaker Beatrice Elachi whose tenure was marred with incessant fights.

Elachi tendered her resignation on Tuesday, August 11, over what she termed as power tussle, life-threatening incidences, frustrations, and interference by Governor Mike Sonko.

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Covidhero: Zimbabwean Lady Feeds Thousands Of Hungry Children
August 13, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Prince Kurupati

Samantha has provided food to people in thousands during the lockdown in Zimbabwe.Photo credit Jekesai Njikizana,AFP,Getty Images
Samantha has provided food to people in thousands during the lockdown in Zimbabwe.Photo credit Jekesai Njikizana,AFP,Getty Images

Heroes often emerge during tumultuous times. In Zimbabwe, the COVID-19 pandemic has seen one heroine emerging. Her name Samantha Nyasha Muzoroki. With the little that she has, Samantha has been feeding thousands of families mostly children every day since Zimbabwe put in place a national lockdown in the early months of 2020.

In her own words, Samantha says, “Feeding thousands of families in my hometown, Chitungwiza, on the outskirts of Harare, has become my life since the start of the lockdown in Zimbabwe. Seeing smiles on the faces of women and girls is fulfilling.”

Samantha says her relief kitchen initiative really started modestly. With the sole aim of giving children a good start to their day, she decided to serve free porridge to the vulnerable in her community. As soon as she started, more and more children began to visit her home each morning for a scoop of her nutritious porridge. In no time, adults also started trickling in. Assessing the situation that most of these people were in, Samantha quickly decided to serve two meals each day, breakfast and supper. For breakfast, she continued serving porridge (and occasionally bread when porridge runs out) and for supper she serves sadza (Zimbabwe’s staple food).

As the national lockdown continues dragging for long, the numbers of people who are dependent on her meals continue increasing. In the early days, hundreds were served but now, Samantha’s kitchen now serves close to 3000 each day.

At the very first, Samantha says she “started with a 2kg packet of rice and 500g of beans.” As the numbers of those in need of a meal increased by each day and as her savings were dwindling, she had to barter her jeans and sneakers with food supplies.” Her compassion however has since encouraged the corporate world and some individuals to chip in and help her with food supplies.

Bread Company Lobels has chipped in on occasions donating bread. Other companies that have made donations include EzuluFoods, Chicken Hut, N. Richards Group, Clean City, Quick Fresh, Health Factor Zimbabwe and Fresh in a Box.

Other individuals have also been inspired by Samantha and they have since launched their own relief kitchens’ in their respective communities. In Victoria Falls, some officers in the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, local municipality officers, members from the business community and other individuals have joined hands to launch the Victoria Falls Children’s Feeding Scheme. The Scheme has one aim which is to provide every child with a hot, nutritious meal 5 days a week.

The diplomatic community has also been inspired by the work being done by Samantha. The Chamber of Chinese Enterprises in Zimbabwe made a donation of hand sanitizers and pairs of gloves.

For all those who have chipped in, in helping her with the relief kitchen, Samantha said she is thankful. “I am thankful for the community of Chitungwiza and the world wide community.”

In the early days, Samantha did encounter some challenges as she was shut down by the local council authorities for operating an illegal relief kitchen. However, the differences were ironed out and her relief kitchen is now registered as Kuchengetana Trust. In an interview with a local publication VUKR, Samantha said that she will take her initiative beyond the lockdown when lifted, “Definitely, we are now registered as a trust ‘Kuchengetana Trust’. There is no way I could ever turn back on what we have built in the last couple of months. I have dreams so pronounced I am eager to deliver. I plan to make self sustenance the order of the day. I get goose bumps when I think about it. Social development projects and facilitation of them are my main objectives.”

Children queue for food outside the kitchen of Murozoki in Zimbabwe.Photo CNN
Children queue for food outside the kitchen of Murozoki in Zimbabwe.Photo CNN

With regards to self sustenance, Samantha says she “envision a future where a woman is self-sufficient. I have been talking with some of the women about ideas to help start income generating projects.” She does acknowledge that this is something which requires a lot of resources especially financial resources but is hopeful the desired resources will come.

Samantha is helped by willing volunteers in her relief kitchen. Some prominent individuals including renowned Urban Grooves musician Rockford Josphats aka Roki have helped her serve meals to the thousands who visit her relief kitchen on each day of the week. Some who visit her kitchen in need of a meal often are moved by her work and they end up staying to volunteer. One such person is Anastencia Hove. After visiting the relief kitchen for a meal, Anastencia Hove says she “was moved by her (Samantha) love. It is rare to find people who think about others. So I said as a token of my appreciation for her support, I should volunteer. This lockdown has not spared us at all, so people are suffering. The number of people I see here shows that many are hungry.”

Samantha is an immigration lawyer by profession and a business lady.

*Culled from August Issue of PAV Magazine

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Tightening Lockdown in Zimbabwe: A Case of Restricting Civil Liberties or Just a Desire to Save Lives
August 13, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Prince Kurupati

President Mnangagwa sees the lockdown as an effort to curb the spread of COVID, his critics think he wants to stifle civil liberties
President Mnangagwa sees the lockdown as an effort to curb the spread of COVID, his critics think he wants to stifle civil liberties

In the past days, the number of positive corona virus cases being recorded in Zimbabwe has been rising exponentially. On average, the country has been recording 100 new cases in the past couple of weeks. This is certainly a major cause of concern for both the government and the general populace.

While both the government and the general populace view the exponential rise of COVID-19 positive cases as worrisome, differences have emerged over how to salvage the situation so as to prevent the worst from occurring.

On one hand, there is the argument by the government that the only way forward to salvage the situation and potentially flatten the curve is to tighten the lockdown restrictions. On the other hand, there is the call by the general populace as spearheaded by the media and civil society to force the government to be more responsible, proactive and accountable in its handling of the pandemic. The basis of the argument being that by tightening the lockdown regulations, the government simply wants to restrict civil liberties owing to the prevailing precarious security situation.

It’s all about flattening the curve – Government

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa during his nationwide tours to mining companies around Zimbabwe has bemoaned the exponential increase in the number of positive COVID-19 cases. In response, the President made it clear that his government is looking to tighten the lockdown restrictions with the aim of flattening the curve.

President Mnangagwa’s address on 21 July, 2020 to the nation in which he announced tighter lockdown restrictions, therefore, did not come as a surprise. In his address, the President said that only the working population is allowed to move within cities and towns. The non-working population must remain indoors except for the purposes of securing food, water and health services. All gatherings including church gatherings which had previously been allowed but under strict measures were banned with the exception of funerals. Business operating hours were cut from 08:00 am-16:30 pm to 08:00 am-15:00 pm.

Perhaps the most glaring regulation was the enactment of a dusk to dawn curfew. “With effect from tomorrow Wednesday 22 July 2020, all our security services must enforce a dusk-to-dawn curfew set to come into force daily between 1800 hours and 0600 hours.”

The tighter lockdown regulations according to the President “are being taken for our (citizens) collective safety. As Zimbabweans, we have to win the war against the COVID-19 pandemic.” He said it was prudent to implement such difficult measures so as to curb the spike in local infections. “Another worrisome development is that more and more cases of local transmissions are being reported at places of work. COVID-19 is thus no longer a problem out there, far and beyond our borders, rather it is now here amongst us and in our communities.”

Drawing comparison with the neighbouring South Africa, President Mnangagwa said that now is not the time to be complacent. South Africa, Zimbabwe’s neighbor to the south has been recording an exponential rise in cases, and now ranks fifth globally in terms of infections. Mnangagwa said the tighter lockdown regulations are justified so as to prevent against going the same route as South Africa.

A case of restricting civil liberties – civil society, private media and the general populace

 During the days leading to the President’s 21 July address and as it became more and more apparent that the lockdown restrictions were going to be tightened, civil society, private media and members of the general populace began to raise concerns that the government was looking at tightening the restrictions so as to restrict civil liberties and not to address the spike in COVID-19 cases.

The big question raised by government critics pertains to the issue of striking doctors and nurses. A couple of months back, investigative journalists in the country unearthed a massive scandal dubbed the CovidGate scandal in which government procured personal protective equipment (PPE) at overly inflated prices from a shelf company. Details emerged that the company had links to the First Family and as such, it was being used by the First Family and other linked officials to siphon money from the country.

Soon after the expose, nurses and doctors declared that they were going to undertake industrial action as they were working in the frontline under terrible conditions while others were corruptly benefitting from money meant for frontline workers. Since they embarked on industrial action over two months back, the government has remained quiet. The big question being asked by the critics is why the government is remaining quiet during a pandemic which requires nurses and doctors to be at the forefront fighting against COVID-19. The government’s reluctance to address the concerns of the health workers therefore paints a worrisome picture that it does not care about the health of the nation.

Concerns have also been raised by some saying the time that the country has started recording exponential rises in positive cases is suspicious. Several weeks back at the height of the CovidGate scandal, an opposition leader Jacob Ngarivhume of Transform Zimbabwe announced that his party in collaboration with others will be holding a nationwide protest on July 31. As many people were riled up by the corruption scandal, Jacob Ngarivhume quickly found sympathizers and his call for protests soon became an ‘anthem’ on social media platforms. It is at that same time that the Ministry of Health began to announce an exponential rise in COVID-19 cases. Government critics therefore argue that the rise in COVID-19 cases is a deliberate ploy by the government to prevent the protests as it under the impression of preventing the spike in positive cases would tighten lockdown restrictions and in turn, make it impossible for the protests to take place.

Jacob Ngarivhume is under arrest
Jacob Ngarivhume is under arrest

The recent arrests of Jacob Ngarivhume and journalist Hopewell Chin’ono who exposed the CovidGate scandal thus prove that the concerns of government critics may not be far-fetched. The imposition of the dusk to dawn curfew also partly vindicates the claims of government critics. This is because the protests will be hard to conduct during a curfew. Breaking the curfew will give the security forces legit reasons to clamp down on people as they will be judged to have violated the curfew. Regardless of the opposing views, the neutral view is that local infections are contained while at the same time; civil liberties are to be guaranteed.

*Culled from August Issue of PAV Magazine

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Africa Energy Forum 2020 joins forces with the African Utility Week & POWERGEN Africa and Oil & Gas Council’s Africa Assembly to host Digital Energy Festival for Africa
August 13, 2020 | 0 Comments

The event will take place online from 20th October – 26th November 2020. The digital platform will allow attendees to access content and networking offerings across all three market leading events with one point of entry, making it the largest ever energy event for the African continent marketed to a combined energy database of over 200,000.

Following the impact of the pandemic on the energy sector in Africa, the event will seek to address critical issues such as pivoting to digital, new financial models and innovative power generation sources to allow attendees to make decisions and formulate recovery plans.

Under the theme ‘The 5th Industrial Revolution,’ the Africa Energy Forum agenda will look ahead to the digitalisation of the energy sector.

Managing Director of EnergyNet Simon Gosling commented; “The impact of Covid-19 has clearly magnified the need to be able to deliver energy in times of crises. The 5th Industrial Revolution theme will explore the relationship between energy and technology with purpose and inclusivity, seeking to understand how technological innovation can work hand in hand with humans to enhance energy security, sustainability and energy access in a post-covid future. We want to help our community harness this potential so the continent doesn’t just recover, it recovers better.”

Over 10,000 attendees are expected to register for the Africa Digital Energy Festival, which will employ AI technology to match attendees with relevant content and networking opportunities allowing for a personalised event experience over the four-week period.

As well as over 120 programme experiences the event will also feature an online marketplace of products hosted by sponsors and exhibitors.

For more information about the Digital Energy Festival:

Head of Marketing: Amy Offord

Event dates: 20 October – 26 November 2020

Event location: Online

Organisers: EnergyNet

Email: events@energynet.co.uk | Tel: +44 (0)20 7384 8068

Visit: www.africa-energy-forum.com

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