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Botswana leaders’ fight blights Africa’s democracy poster child
March 25, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Khonani Ontebetse

The fight between former President Ian Khama and current President Mokgweetsi Masisi is threatening the image of Botswana as a leading democracy in Africa
The fight between former President Ian Khama and current President Mokgweetsi Masisi is threatening the image of Botswana as a leading democracy in Africa

Botswana’s reputation as one the least corrupt countries on the continent is under renewed scrutiny as the tension between the immediate former and current administration boils over.

There are no indications that former Botswana President Ian Khama and his chosen successor and current President Mokgweetsi Masisi may find themselves sitting side-by-side as part of their reconciliation efforts.

This was not helped by Khama’s decision late last year to quit the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) which was founded by his father in the 1960s and has been ruling the southern African nation since independence from Britain in 1966.

It is understood that hopes of Khama and Masisi smoking a peace pipe were dashed when Khama founded the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) together with some disgruntled BDP members, a few months before the general election last year.

Initially, the rumblings of displeasure and growing agitation behind the scenes between the two men was swept under the carpet a few months after Khama handed his chosen successor the baton. Masisi’s administration tried to play down the tension between the two men. But it exploded into the public domain during the build up to the October general election held last year when Khama accused Masisi of failing to provide effective leadership.

Masisi and Khama have never made the reason for their fallout public except that the latter accused the former of reversing some of his policies such as the hunting ban and alcohol levy. On the other hand, Masisi accused Khama of trying to force him to do him favours which were outside the precincts of the law.

“I have met a couple of times with the mediators and expressed my sentiments regarding the conflict with Masisi, but I have never received any feedback following our meetings,” he was quoted as saying in March this year.

For his part, Masisi has since informed Parliament that relations between him and Khama is so bad that he has asked former president Festus Mogae and former Speaker of the National Assembly Patrick Balopi to mediate between them, but to no avail.

The tension between the two men took a new twist late last year, when Khama and some BPF members did not attend Masisi’s inauguration. Before that, at one point Khama even advised opposition coalition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) leader Duma Boko to investigate what the BPF termed grand election fraud that was allegedly done by the BDP in last year’s tightly contested election. Prior to the poll day, Khama even campaigned for the UDC and opposition in general as he sought to oust Masisi whom he also accused of being undemocratic and drunk with power.

While the BDP won the general election after securing 38 of 57 seats and UDC garnering 15 seats, BPF three seats and Alliance for Progressives managing one seat, Khama and UDC insisted that the elections were rigged. The UDC even went to the extent of challenging the outcome of the general election as it accused the BDP of rigging the election aided by the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) and the Independent Electoral Commission. The UDC petitioned the High Court lost the case on technical grounds as among other things it did not file the petitions within 30 days as prescribed by the law.

Still the UDC and Khama insist that the elections were rigged, something that observers say makes it difficult for Khama and Masisi to reconcile.

Recently, Khama reacted angrily to thin veiled insinuations by Masisi that he is the invisible hand behind the escalating rhino poaching crisis in the country.  Khama said Masisi was to blame because when he occupied office, he withdrew arms of war from the anti-poaching unity on the grounds that it was illegal for the unit to be armed with such guns.

President Masisi is firmly in control and is expected to deliver positive results .Photo AFP
President Masisi is firmly in control and is expected to deliver positive results .Photo AFP

Masisi’s government has also taken a decision to sideline Khama as former head of state who should be invited to important and official government events. Under normal circumstances, former heads of states are invited to come and commemorate special events such as the annual commemoration of the fallen heroes and heroines that is organized by the Botswana Defence Force and the Office of the President.

There is no evidence to suggest that the Office of the President extended invitation to Khama just like it happened last year.

In a previous interview with this reporter last year, Khama said over the phone “I was not invited. I don’t understand why I was not invited because as a former commander of the Botswana Defence Force it is within my right,” he said. Khama added that does not necessarily mean that not being invited would stop him from commemorating the fallen heroes.

While President Masisi officiated at the commemoration of the fallen heroes and heroines at the Central Business District by laying a wreath for the fallen BDF heroes and heroines, Khama also had a parallel commemoration whereat he as was accompanied by his younger brother and former Tourism Minister Tshekedi Khama. Tshekedi has also quit the BDP and he is representing BPF in Parliament.

While former president Khama was in March this year quoted as having adopted a reconciliatory tone, he had used the commemoration of the fallen heroes and heroines to take a swipe at Masisi’s administration.

“We will continue fighting to restore democracy in Botswana,” Khama told his audience, mostly former soldiers from his influential tribe called Bangwato.

Last year BDF spokesperson Tebo Dikole confirmed that the former President was not invited. When asked why they did not invite Khama since he was not only a former president but also former commander of the armed forces, Dikole explained that the designation of former president precedes that of former commander hence the reason Khama did not receive a an invitation.

Commenting on the ongoing feud and reports of escalating corruption, political analyst, Mpho Mojaki said “Botswana has long been regarded as a diamond –rich nation, corruption-free, democratic, prosperous, and peaceful. Smooth transfer of presidential power, meaning that the incumbent vacates office a year before his chosen predecessor occupies office and normally that is before the general elections.” He added that “with these tension and other cases of corruption, the country’s image is at risk.”

As the tension between Khama and Masisi rages on, they have also been linked to a $25 USD million money laundering case. The prosecution claims that the money siphoned off from the National Petroleum Fund was meant to build fuel storage facilities across the country but was diverted by the former Directorate of Intelligence and Security Isaac Kgosi to buy military equipment from Israel. Some of the accused persons who had acted as middleman have since claimed that Khama and Masisi benefitted from the money. The two men have since distanced themselves from such accusations. 

*Culled from March Issue of PAV Magazine

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S Sudan bans international flights, mass gatherings over the fears of COVID – 19
March 25, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Deng Machol

A man walks in front of the departure gate of the new terminal building at Juba International Airport in Juba, South Sudan, on October 29, 2018. – (Photo by Akuot Chol / AFP)

Juba – South Sudan has banned on inbound and outbound flights, mass gatherings, include church services in an attempt to prevent the spread of COVID – 19.

The 14 days’ self – paid mandatory quarantines was granted to those who arrived in the country recently.

The decision was reached by the recently formed high-level committee for Covid-19 chaired by First Vice-President Riek Machar on Monday, March 23 in Juba, comes after all South Sudan neighbors confirmed cases of the corona-virus.

As of on Tuesday, March 24, Uganda has 9 cases while Kenya confirmed 16.

The virus, which was first reported in China in December last year, is said to be spreading to the whole world through international travels.

Most of the coronavirus patients in Africa tested positive after returning from European and Asian countries, including Italy, Germany and United Arab Emirates.

The directive from the coronavirus high-level committee takes immediate effect and comes after reports that the ban announced by President Salva Kiir and the Ministry of Health last week was not being observed.

The Committee issued a series of restrictions including the closure of Juba airport and all border entry points.

Committee secretary, also Undersecretary in the Ministry of Health, Makur Matur Koriom says the tightened measures are to protect the people of South Sudan from infection.

“All international flights destined for South Sudan – Juba international Airport – are advised to cease their operation by midnight, on Monday, 23 March 2020,” said Dr. Makur.

However, Dr. Koriom further siad that there are exceptions, including cargo planes importing food items and medical supplies.

The committee also urged law enforcement agencies to implement earlier orders announced by President Salva Kiir, encouraging social distancing, to disperse all illegal gatherings to prevent coronavirus.

On March 16, 2020, President Salva Kiir banned all gatherings, including sporting and religious events, weddings, and political activities due to Coronavirus fears.

But these orders were violated at the weekend when some church services and traditional wrestling match were conducted in Juba.
“The taskforce…instructs the law enforcement agencies – the police, military and National Security forces – to take immediate actions to enforce these orders,” Makur added.

On the same development, Rev Dr. Justin Badi Arama, Primate of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan, suspends the church services across the country.

“On Sundays, all christians should remain at home and pray from home with their own families until we get directives from the government that it is safe to congregate again,” Archbishop Badi told press in Juba on Monday. “Although the corona-virus has disabled our fellowships, social life and physical touch, we should continue to touch each other’s hearts with words of encouragements and prayer through phone calls.”

So far, several coronavirus cases have been confirmed in most African countries, including the neighboring Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, and DR Congo.

The tally continent-wide thus stands at 1,400 and over with 40 plus deaths. Nigeria, The Gambia and Zimbabwe have reported their first deaths as of today. In all, 43 countries have registered cases with Egypt’s 294 followed by South Africa and Algeria with 274 and 201 respectively.

According to WHO, you can protect yourself and family from coronavirus by washing your hands frequently with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rub kills viruses that may be on your hands.

The UN health agency also advises that you must practice respiratory hygiene; this means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze, then dispose of the used tissue immediately.

On the other hand, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan has put a seven-day freeze on staff travelling into South Sudan as part of the peacekeeping mission’s support for national-led COVID-19 prevention efforts.

The decision will apply to all personnel except those who are critical to continuing UNMISS operations. Cargo flights will continue. The decision was effective last night.

Rotations of military peacekeepers were stopped on 4 March 2020 – well before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic – and all upcoming rotations have been put on hold.

Flights for UNMISS staff moving between different field locations within South Sudan have been limited to essential movements only.

“UNMISS peacekeepers are doing a very important job. Many people’s lives depend on us and the Mission is committed to maintaining its activities to protect civilians and build durable peace to the best of its ability given the challenges posed by COVID-19,” said in the statement. “UNMISS will continue to respond proactively and rapidly to support South Sudan government efforts, while protecting its own personnel and the people that we are here to serve,” it added.

But these measures do not an initially address the complex reality in the world youngest nation, a country with limited health services, struggling to emerge from six years of civil war that broke out in 2013 after two years of her independence from Sudan on July 2011, with many population groups at heightened risk – including displaced people and prisoners.

Over 1.5 million people remain internally displaced as a result of conflict, including close to 200,000 living in cramped United Nations Protection of Civilians’ sites across the country.

Also, thousands who fled recent intercommunal fighting in the country are already in dire need of aid, including sanitation and health services.

Meanwhile, the country’s prisons continue to be overcrowded, insanitary, and with inadequate health centers, which need immediate attention in order to combat the virus.

To alleviate the risk to local populations, South Sudan’s unity government, should ensure public outreach on how to COVID – 19, by ramps-up sanitation and health services, clean drinking water, especially in towns, displacement sites, prisons, and detention facilities, including military training centers across the country.

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COVID 19-Sierra Leone Declares A State Of Emergency
March 25, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Uzman Unis Bah

President Julius Maada Bio

Freetown, Sierra Leone – President Julius Maada Bio on 24 March 2020 has declared a one-year long State of Public Emergency in a bid to prevent the coronavirus (COVID-19) incidence in the country

“The rapid global spread of the corona virus poses great risk to human life and can cause enormous socio-economic disruption in Sierra Leone. This situation therefore, requires effective measures to prevent, protect, and curtail the spread of the corona virus diseases in Sierra Leone,” said president Bio.

This declaration comes as a measure to provide rapid response to the threat posed by the Coronavirus, the president affirmed; he said that, the disease could bring huge challenge to many Sierra Leoneans and the economy.  

He also restates that, this is an effort to show government’s determination in blocking a potential Coronavirus outbreak in the country; Sierra Leone counts among three countries in West Africa that are yet to record a case. “As I have stated before, I reaffirm the determination of my government to do everything necessary to protect the life of every Sierra Leonean,” Bio said.  

The State of Public Emergency gives the president powers that make it flexible to introduce measures deemed necessary by the president to foil or to tackle a possible outbreak of COVID-19. “This is not a lockdown and nobody must use this as an excuse to hoard goods, hike prices, or engage in acts of lawlessness; this public emergency is not meant to make the lives of Sierra Leoneans difficult or unbearable,” he proclaimed.

“We will continue to deploy the armed forces and Police, as necessary, to enforce compliance with all public health directives.” The president reaffirmed.

This declaration comes amid the closure of the country’s international airport, the regulation of numbers of passengers in public transport, the banning of all sporting activities and the limit of numbers in gatherings. “We believe that the actions that we take as a Government will have an impact to the well-being of our beloved nation.” Bio declared.

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Malawi: Rerun of Presidential Elections Set for July
March 25, 2020 | 0 Comments

By James Mwala

It will back to square one for incumbent President Mutharika whose victory was annulled.

The South African nation will now hold its ordered fresh presidential elections on 2nd July this year, the electoral body has said.

This follows the launch of the electoral calendar.

The Constitutional Court had in February this year ordered for the nullification of the results in which Peter Mutharika was declared the winner.

Now, the Malawi Electoral Commission has indicated people will vote early July, a decision that is however being protested by opposition parties under the banner of the Malawi Congress Party and UTM.

Former President Joyce Banda’s Peoples Party has also joined the fold which in total has nine parties.

The parties insist that the commissioners should step down and not lead the elections following their admonishment by the Constitutional court and an appointments committee of parliament.

MEC Chairperson Jane Ansah however told the media that the commission ready to oversee the elections.

In the calendar, people will register their names in the roll from 4th April to 7th June, a task they say will be in four phases.

The commission will then start the official campaign period from 2nd May to 30th June.

The elections will be managed with funds amounting to K34 billion, although Ansah sees it rising due to disruption of activities as there is a public gathering ban due to corona virus fears.

President Mutharika recently denied to assent to the electoral bills and threw out demands to axe the commissioners.

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New dawn for Somalia: Arrears owed to the African Development Bank Group cleared
March 24, 2020 | 0 Comments
The Bank Group will immediately provide a new policy-based operation to help boost economic growth and accelerated development of Somalia

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast, March 24, 2020/ — Arrears on loans owed by Somalia to the African Development Bank (www.AfDB.org) Group have been cleared following the payment in full of $122.55 million by the governments of the United Kingdom and the European Union, marking the end of sanctions and the resumption of full re-engagement between the Bank Group and the East African nation. 

The long road to resolution of Somalia’s debt arrears began in 2014 and included the completion of three Staff Monitored Programs of the International Monetary Fund, and significant advances on a fourth program.

The process saw the high level of political commitment and consistent engagement of Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed ‘Farmaajo’, and Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khayre. This translated into the implementation of reforms that gave confidence to international financial institutions, including the African Development Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Speaking on behalf of the Somali government, Minister of Finance, Abdirahman Beileh, said: “The settlement of the arrears of Somalia to the African Development Bank, is a new beginning for us in Somalia. We stuck with our reforms, we were persistent, and it has paid off”.

In response, Bank President Akinwumi Adesina noted that it was a historic moment for Somalia. “I am absolutely delighted that the African Development Bank provided the leadership needed to push for and successfully negotiate the arrears clearance for Somalia. It was a reflection of the power of partnerships and consensus building,” Adesina said.

Adesina further noted, “I commend the government of Somalia for their diligence in implementing reforms, and the UK government and the European Union for paying off Somalia’s arrears to the African Development Bank Group. Together, we got it done for the people of Somalia.”

The Bank Group will immediately provide a new policy-based operation to help boost economic growth and accelerated development of Somalia.

The Bank’s current portfolio in Somalia totals $135 million, covering operations in the agriculture, water and sanitation, transport, social and energy sectors, and capacity building for multiple sectors of the economy.
 
About the African Development Bank Group:
The African Development Bank Group (www.AfDB.org) is Africa’s premier development finance institution. It comprises three distinct entities: the African Development Bank, the African Development Fund (ADF) and the Nigeria Trust Fund (NTF). On the ground in 37 African countries with an external office in Japan, the Bank contributes to the economic development and the social progress of its 54 regional member states

*AFDB
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Energy Law Firm offers support to businesses affected by the Covid-19 Pandemic and the oil industry crisis
March 24, 2020 | 0 Comments

Our firm will offer assistance to local services companies in our countries of operation on contractual disputes, employment issues and compliance matters

Zion Adeoye, Managing Director of Centurion Law Group.
Zion Adeoye, Managing Director of Centurion Law Group.

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, March 24, 2020/ — Recognizing the toll that the Covid-19 Pandemic has taken on the oil and gas industry, Centurion law Group  will assist small and mid-sized African businesses that are currently dealing with the economic impact of the Coronavirus, which is hitting many African countries. With our strong African footprint, we believe it is an opportunity to give back to a continent that has given so much to us.
 
Our firm will offer assistance to local services companies in our countries of operation on contractual disputes, employment issues and compliance matters. We will also extend our support to multinational entities at significantly discounted rates.

“While we believe that the industry will bounce back from this and come out even stronger and more united, we feel a great sense of duty at this time when the worst effects of the crisis are being felt on a daily basis,” stated Zion Adeoye, Managing Director of Centurion Law Group. 
 
In this regard, we are joining hands with the African Energy Chamber in its call for relief measures and tax incentives for oil and gas companies to ensure that jobs are protected, and business can rebound.
 
Across Africa, more than 130 lawyers working for our clients have already been set up to work remotely and will continue supporting our oil and gas clients and service companies through this Coronavirus crisis.

About Centurion:
Centurion (https://CenturionLG.com/) is a leading pan-African legal and energy advisory group with extensive experience in the oil and gas sector. The group provides outsourced legal representation and covers a full suite of practice areas for its clients, including arbitration and commercial litigation, corporate law, tax and anti-corruption advisory and contract negotiation. Centurion specializes in assisting clients that are starting or growing a business in Africa with offices and affiliates in Ghana, Cameroon, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, South Africa, South Sudan, Nigeria, Gabon, Angola and Senegal

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Ventures Platform and Lagos State Government Partner in Fight Against Covid-19
March 24, 2020 | 0 Comments

– #COVID19InnovationChallenge Final Call for Applications

Ventures Platform Team

Monday 23rd March 2020. Abuja, Nigeria. Ventures Platform, the Africa-wide network that supports entrepreneurs and innovators to succeed, today announced a partnership with the Lagos State Government through its agency, The Lagos State Science Research and Innovation Council (LASRIC), in a bid to find tech-enabled solutions to address the current Coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic. Ventures Platform and LASRIC will provide funding and rapid operational assistance to the selected teams and startups alongside technology and business industry experts, including LoftyInc, ACIOE, Wennovation, Flutterwave, AGS Tribe, SilverChip Consulting, Bluechip Technologies, IROKOtv, Lakunle Runsewe, Manasseh Egedegbe, and also supported by Facebook. 

Applications for the #COVID19InnovationChallenge has been extended to Monday 23 March 2020, as the Ventures Platform team continues to search for hackers, developers, enthusiasts or founders to build solutions for the pandemic and  experienced professionals in technology, public health and pandemic research, healthcare investment, public sector engagement, digital experience management, virtual care, entrepreneurship development, and support. 

Ventures Platform opened applications for their #COVID19InnovationChallenge to find tech-focussed ideas around heat mapping, preventative or information bots, solutions to assist with lifestyle adjustments, COVID-19 reporting and more. The mission for the cross-community collaboration is to rapidly build and scale solutions that will have a significant positive impact on the current pandemic, not only in Nigeria but across the continent. 

Six successful applicants will be selected by Ventures Platform and LASRIC to participate in the #COVID19InnovationChallenge and will receive a $2,000 equity-free grant, opportunity for further funding, as well as access to virtual workspace and mentorship from some of Africa’s top, healthcare, business, and technology leaders, including; Rebecca Enonchong, Alexis Roman, O.O Nwoye, Seun Onigbinde, Titi Akinsanmi, Dr. Ola Brown,  Dr. Ifeanyi Nsofor, Dr. Ebi Ofrey and Dr. Femi Kuti. 

On launching the #COVID19InnovationChallenge, Kola Aina, Ventures Platform founder, says, “Due to the rapid spread of Coronavirus, we really do not have a moment to lose, which is why we are grateful to have assembled such a talented and influential group of program partners and mentors, as we look to move on this very quickly. Our partners, like us, understand the need for action today. We know the talent is out there, now our job is to provide an enabling environment as well as access to mentors and funding so that our chosen companies and innovators can focus on building the best solutions for this big challenge in support of the NCDC and other actors. 

“We are especially pleased to welcome on board LASRIC as a partner; challenges like the one we are currently faced with will only be solved through a proactive and dynamic collaboration between the private and public sectors. When LASRIC approached us, to partner on our #COVID19InnovationChallenge, we were delighted to accept. Their ability to mobilize support at such short notice, speaks highly of their commitment to protecting the people of Lagos State, Nigeria and the rest of Africa and we cannot thank them enough”. 

African nations have, so far, not recorded the same volume of COVID-19 infections as other countries. However, Governments across the continent are taking more preventive measures, as they start planning for the pandemic to take more hold within their countries. The Ventures Platform  #COVID19InnovationChallenge is part of the wider global push to apply technology and innovation to curb the spread and prevent future outbreaks. 

Olatunbosun Alake of LASRIC adds, “The Lagos State Science Research and Innovation Council is partnering with Ventures Platform as we look to solve issues around the current COVID-19 pandemic. It is important that the State tackles issues around the pandemic in areas such as tracking, managing and solving related problems even for various health issues at large. We believe that this partnership and the Venture Platforms’ stellar record in delivering such projects, the breadth of their technology and business networks, will help us source a number of products and services that will help vast swathes of our population stay healthy and protected. We also believe that what works here in Lagos will help the rest of Africa”.

Aina concludes, “The response we have received to-date has been astonishing. Such as the level of interest been, we have even extended the deadline to close of play on Monday 23 March, in order to review as many strong applications as possible. The entire Ventures Platform team is ready to select the top six applicants, and get to work with them straight away so that together, we can get ahead of the curve and build products and services that benefit millions of people not only in Nigeria but across the whole of Africa too”. 

About Ventures Platform Hub

Ventures Platform Hub is a catalyst for innovation & entrepreneurship across Africa. It provides smart capital through its early-stage fund, Ventures Platform Fund, it provides infrastructure and nurtures communities of entrepreneurs and innovators through Ventures Park and it builds pipeline by providing capacity and ecosystem support through its not-for-profit – Ventures Platform Foundation. More information about Ventures Platform Hub is available at www.venturesplatform.com.

About Lagos State Science Research and Innovation Council

The Lagos State Science Research and Innovation Council is Lagos State’s semi autonomous Research and Innovation promotion and funding agency. It’s primary mandate is to create and promote a culture of problem solving through Research and Innovation. LASRIC manages a percentage of Lagos States capital budget for the purposes of resourcing cutting edge research and enabling the industries of tomorrow.

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International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation Recognized as Best Islamic Financier at the International TFG Trade Awards 2020
March 24, 2020 | 0 Comments

Hani Salem Sonbol, CEO ITFC
Hani Salem Sonbol, CEO ITFC

(Jeddah, March 23, 2020) – The International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC), a member of the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) Group, has been named ‘Best Islamic Financier’ by the trade finance platform, Trade Finance Global, in cooperation with BAFT.

The international work carried out by banks, financial institutions and technology vendors to enable trade has never been more important, particularly in an age of rapid digitization, interconnected supply chains and increased competition.

The winners were selected by an independent steering committee of industry experts from around the world.

Commenting on the achievement, ITFC CEO, Eng. Hani Salem Sonbol, said: “ITFC is proud to have been recognized as the Best Islamic Financier. This prestigious accolade is a testament to the effectiveness of the Corporation’s strategic approach to advance trade and improve lives in all OIC member nations. The recognition also underscores the relevance and viability of ITFC’s unique blend of trade finance and trade development solutions that are designed to support the strategic sectors of member countries, thereby enabling them to improve their trading capacity”.

ITFC’s overarching goals are directly aligned with the UN SDGs aimed at creating greater inclusive prosperity in the developing world. A key component of the Corporation’s strategic focus is to work through partnerships with banks, financial institutions and key stakeholders who have long-term vested interest in the socio-economic development of Member Countries. This allows ITFC to develop Integrated Trade Solutions with Trade Finance and Trade Development components to help remove barriers to trade while providing stronger access to the financing of new trading opportunities.

Mark Abrams, Director at Trade Finance Global and a member of the Awards Steering Panel said: “A core aim of TFG is to help companies access information and education around trade finance. It is important to highlight those leading the way in trade and receivables finance, whether that be from the perspective of financiers, insurers, logistics, law firms or tradetechs.”

“Continuous innovation is needed from within the trade industry, to support businesses around the world, as they navigate the changing landscape of trade finance in uncertain times. We are delighted to be cooperating with BAFT on this industry initiative.”

“At a time when companies face significant challenges fulfilling cross-border trade, it is critical that banks are able to demonstrate leadership in providing financing and innovative solutions that evolve with the changing needs of their clients,” said Tod Burwell, President & CEO, BAFT.  “We congratulate the organizations being recognized for their leadership and commend TFG for showcasing these institutions.”

In 2019, ITFC approved US$ 2.1 billion of financing to Least Developed Member Countries, representing 36% of its total portfolio. Of this, US$ 565 million went towards the food and agriculture sector, including pre-export financing in key value chains, such as cotton and groundnuts and import of key commodities for the food security of member countries. ITFC’s financing has provided incomes and contributed to better livelihoods for over 480 000 farmers.

Around US$ 4.5 billion of financing was extended to support a sustainable supply of energy inputs in member countries, which provided an estimated 13 million people with access to electricity. Additionally, in 2019 ITFC strengthened its support to the private sector by channelling US$ 821 million of financing to private sectos and SMEs through 16 partner banks.

About the International Islamic Trade and Finance Corporation (ITFC)  

The International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC) is a member of the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) Group. It was established with the primary objective of advancing trade among OIC Member Countries – a key contributor to the ITFC’s overarching goal of improving the socio-economic conditions of people within OIC member countries and those living in other trading nations.  

Commencing operations in January 2008 (Muharram 1429H), ITFC has since consolidated all trade finance businesses that used to be handled by various windows within the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) Group. ITFC has earned an A1 rating by Moody’s, reflecting its efficacy in service delivery by responding swiftly and responsibly to customer needs in a market-driven business environment. 

Since 2008, ITFC has provided more than US$51 billion to OIC Member Countries, making it the leading provider of trade solutions for the Member Countries’ needs. With a mission to become a catalyst for trade development for OIC Member Countries and beyond, the Corporation helps entities in Member Countries gain better access to trade finance and provides them with the necessary trade-related capacity building tools, enabling them to successfully compete in the global market. 

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Prominent UAE investment banker takes on new venture with SKYCAP Investment Management Limited
March 24, 2020 | 0 Comments

Saikat Kumar to steer global financial services industry to new era with a world-class one-stop-shop for investors

Saikat Kumar, SKYCAP
Saikat Kumar, SKYCAP

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

SKYCAP Investment Management Limited, a diversified financial services firm, has officially soft launched in the UAE.  Touted to be a one-stop-shop for global investors (Middle East, Africa, India, South East Asia, US and UK investors), SKYCAP seeks to disrupt the banking and finance industry by providing trusted advice and access to best-in-class investment products and services to support its clients’ goal of wealth preservation and growth.

From its base in Dubai, SKYCAP will offer a wide range of financial products and services, which are mutually reinforcing and can be tailored to a client’s specific needs.  Among the firm’s core offerings include Advisory (including Government, M&A, and Capital Raising/Restructuring), Private Equity (Fintech and Special Opportunities), Asset and Wealth Management Advisory, Credit Opportunities Funds, as well as Digital, Forensic, IT Risk Management and BPO services.

SKYCAP has been founded by Saikat Kumar, one of the most respected names in the Middle East banking and financial industry.  He is now the Founder and CEO of SKYCAP Investment Management Ltd., after completing his stint as Partner and Senior Executive Officer of Al Masah Capital Limited.  With over 23 years of banking and finance expertise under his belt, Kumar has amassed a proven track record in strategy planning, distribution management, client management, risk and compliance, business development, and product management.  He has also worked with a number of internationally-recognized firms, to name a few, Fullerton Fund Management (Temasek Singapore), ABN AMRO, Standard Chartered, ICICI Bank and ANZ Grindlays, as well as leading nationalized banks.

“Although the market is in for tough times, given the extraordinarily challenging situation happening across the globe, I believe in the half year onwards, the market will offer investors excellent opportunities to invest in good quality blue chip stocks across the world at cheap valuation and prices. With interest rates at all time low, stocks would offer best upside,” Kumar said.

Despite growing demand and turbulent growth factors, however, the SKYCAP founder said that the supply of credit to the private sector is considerably lower than developed markets such as the USA and UK.  Underpinned by very strong values and principles to deliver the best possible outcome for clients, Kumar brought to fruition his vision of a trusted and innovative diversified financial services firm that truly understands and services its clients with utmost transparency and integrity.

“My goal is to always be client-centric and be driven to provide financial solutions and services designed to execute effectively our clients’ vision at the highest level, ultimately delivering on their financial ambitions.  Whilst SKYCAP is a new venture, we have all the capabilities that can meet all the investment needs of its shareholders in addition to retail, HNI, UHNI, institutional, family office, SWFs and pension fund investors.  Our company is differentiated by a core value of integrity and transparency through a strong, global regulatory framework. Moreover, with an international strategy complementing a global roll-out plan – plus a robust core investment team that is backed by a competent support services function – I am confident that SKYCAP will go on to be the partner of choice for the most discerning investors,” Kumar concluded.

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Combat Covid 19: Top Gambian Artists Release Songs to Educate Public
March 24, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Bakary Ceesay

Jizzle and ST two award winning Gambian artists

Jizzle, Multiple awards winning Gambia’s Afro- pop artiste and ST, also awards winning Gambia’s finest Afro rap sensational have released songs songs to educate and sensitize the public on the Coronavirus.

They partnered with  Office of the First Lady and UNICEF The Gambia.

Fatoumata Bah Barrow, First Lady of The Gambia  hailed the collaboration with UNICEF and the two artists as an important milestone in the country’s fight against the Coronavirus.

She explained: “communication is vital to the containment of the spread of the Coronavirus. These songs will educate, inform and raise the awareness of the general public especially the youth and vulnerable members of society about the preventive measures and the symptoms of the virus.”

Since the Coronavirus was declared a global pandemic, First Lady Madam Fatoumatta Bah Barrow has made a personal commitment to reach out to Gambians with proper information about COVID-19 and how they can protect themselves.

“We need the power of positive thinking more than ever before and I hope that these songs will be shared, and that the messages contained therein would naturally address any element of doubt or misperceptions that people may have about the pandemic.”

UNICEF The Gambia Country Representative Sandra Lattouf believes the songs have the potential to awaken the public to the realities of the Coronavirus and motivate people to take action to fight the virus and keep The Gambia safe.

“These songs contain strong messages on preventive measures against the Coronavirus. We are confident that people will learn from these messages and be inspired to take action to protect themselves and others around them.”

UNICEF and the UN system in The Gambia continue to work with The Gambia Government and partners to keep the public informed about preventive measures and how they can contribute to the containment of the Coronavirus.

“As members of the national COVID-19 taskforce, we have identified strategic priorities to support the government in keeping the people safe from the virus. We are strengthening risk communication, supporting in proper coordination, case management and logistics to contain the Coronavirus and protect Gambians from the disease.”


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COVID-19 Mai Fatty Calls On Gambian Leader To act Quickly to avoid Potential Crisis
March 24, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Bakary Ceesay

Mai Ahmad Fatty

Mai Ahmad Fatty, former special adviser to President Adama Barrow has  called on the Gambian leader to exhibit decisive leadership over the coronavirus crisis that is threatening to run the whole world over.

Gambians are unhappy with the way and manner the government is taken the preventive measures in curbing the Coronavirus which many describes the quantine facilities as poor facilities and lack of human capacity and lack of daily update from ministry of health. No implementation of President declaration on ban of public gathering and other preventive measures. 

However, on  Tuesday, the former interior minister wrote on his official Facebook page, at times directly addressing the president: “I commend the Government for the initiatives thus far. Yet we are not doing enough. President Barrow, work with the National Assembly and declare a State of Emergency without delay. Impose a sensible curfew regime with other effective measures to enforce new public health directives. Deploy microscopic monitoring of the 500 million Dalasi emergency fund, ensuring that monies are being prudently spent to curb the novel corona virus pandemic.

“Reach out to businesses and NGOs for partnership and exploit our international goodwill to secure urgent help for our country. Engage and involve municipal councils, as veritable partners in grass-roots community containment and prevention measures. Put politics aside. Lives are at stake.

“Hospitals, clinics and healthcare workers are still poorly equipped. Communities are still without auxiliary support. The peril intensifies with each passing day. The fact that we do not know how and where the first corona casualty contracted the virus is dangerously troubling. We do not know how many people may have been infected by him with the multiplier effect.

“There could be more infections out there. We shouldn’t wait for more fatalities. With the typical nature of Gambian society, we need more measured response and utter decisiveness. This is a time for bold leadership. Act Mr. President. Declare a State of Emergency. Impose a sensible curfew that is both realistic and enforceable. This is a time when citizens must be protected against themselves


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African court suspends 56TH ordinary session due to coronavirus outbreak
March 24, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Wallace Mawire

President of the African Court, Hon Justice Sylvain Oré

The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights which began its 56th Ordinary Session on 2 March 2020 at its Seat in Arusha, Tanzania, has cut-short its proceedings on Friday, 20 March 2020, because of the outbreak of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). The Session was due to end on 27 March 2020.

The President of the African Court, Hon Justice Sylvain Oré, said that the measure was absolutely necessary to prevent any risk of contracting COVID-19 by the Judges and the Staff.

‘’The Court has decided to act decisively in the interest of health and safety of all Judges, Staff and residents of Arusha and beyond,’’ he stressed.

Among other emergency measures adopted by the Court, he said, was to decongest the Court by ordering all non-essential staff to work from home and key departments with limited staff to carry out their duties on shift-basis until further notice.

The President of the Court has urged the staff to take maximum precaution during this difficult period by ensuring that they adhere to all hygienic conditions, including use of sterilisers, frequently wash their hands and abstain from crowded places, among others.

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