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Roll up your sleeves and start thinking BIG – how to get ICT in Africa right
March 20, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Murray Steyn*

Whether one subscribes to the Africa Rising narrative (a term perhaps coined by this analysis of Africa’s prospects, published by The Economist in 2011)) or a more moderate outlook for the continent, the fact is that the ICT sector has the most to gain from Africa’s economic advancement, and the most to contribute to it too.

There isn’t a single industry – from mining to manufacturing, education to entrepreneurial endeavours of every flavour, from city construction to individual actualisation – that will not be advanced by reliable, affordable access to the Internet. I don’t think there’s another sector in the world that can make such a momentous promise.

The opportunity for ICT companies of all sizes – from neighbourhood ISPs to cross-national carriers – is significant, particularly for home-grown ICT operations that surely know our continent and its markets better than any imported from overseas. Increasingly, local ICT players are collaborating to offer competitively-priced and technologically-sound solutions that are outperforming those presented by international competitors.

Many of these would only be possible through wholesale product offerings by large network operators like Internet Solutions. This may appear to be a counter-intuitive business model but for those that invested in the infrastructure and licences on which new competitors grow their market share, there is a lot of opportunity to be had in reallocating network capacity.

Below are some of the trends we’re seeing in the wholesale ICT sector, specifically looking to Africa:

Local carriers are also entering partnerships with third-party service providers

The days of operators owning the entirety of their own networks – from first- to last-mile – are over. And that’s fine. As I’ve mentioned, where some licensees have adopted business models based on owning their infrastructure, other operators have opted to partner with existing network players to bring innovative services to the market faster.

What is interesting is that even at a very local level, where one could argue that infrastructure investment is fairly contained, ISPs are recognising the benefit of outsourcing network, data centre and other assets to experienced partners. By concentrating on what they do best, which is likely servicing their customers, even the smallest ISP has the means to build a thriving business.

Red tape and regulation still hampers cross-border operations

Africa is the continent with the most countries – 54 to be exact. It’s comprised of countless tribes, innumerable languages, political instability, infrastructure challenges and more than enough regulation to go around.

The fact is that African policy-making has not been able to keep up with the exponential growth of technology, devices and their applications. As such, regulation is reactive rather than supportive, and appears to handicap development rather than encourage it.

Perhaps the solution is that foreign companies – even African ones – get closer to policy-makers in their new markets to better mitigate the risks of changing policy. Perhaps more involvement, lobbying, and monetary and other investment from the get-go will lead to better mitigation of the risks associated with policy change.

Asian operators have their eyes on Africa too

China and India are two Asian markets that not only survived the global recession but thrived despite it.

Their respective population bases, and size of their economies, provide economies of scale that are driving the growth of their ICT sectors, while the number of science and engineering students in both countries looks to sustain this growth and innovation well into the future – and into foreign territories like Africa.

Perhaps it’s true that many African ISPs lack the financial and experiential muscle of Asian competitors, but how many of these can boast genuine pan-African development agendas, and partnerships with local companies to overcome infrastructure challenges?

As Ayanda Dlamini, Business Development Manager at LGR Telecommunications, said recently: “Africa has both the resources and the resourcefulness to develop a thriving ICT sector delivering solutions fit for purpose in Africa.  The outlook is very healthy. All we need to do is take action and seize the opportunity.”

Beware of competing on cost

When it comes to Internet connectivity and access, cheapest is not necessarily best. Consumers want speed. In our experience, the arguments against unreliable connections are about as vociferous as those against high data costs.

The fact is that the speed vs. cost debate comes down to the market one is serving. A less sophisticated market has yet to learn that fast becomes cheap, whereas an experienced market of users with more high-end devices and applications comes to realise that if they can’t get data at the price they’d prefer to pay for it (i.e. free), then speed and bandwidth capacity is something they simply won’t compromise on.

My advice to ISPs entering new African territories – whether into a new country or a new neighbourhood – is to research your market thoroughly to understand who your consumers are and what they need. Then structure and price your offering accordingly.

Doing business in Africa is complicated, but it’s far from impossible. After all, Internet Solutions has been doing so for more than 20 years. We have invested in long distance and last-mile networks – the latter is especially challenging given that customers are geographically dispersed and often in underdeveloped locales.

Importantly, we have built and maintained relationships with trusted, in-country service providers. We understand exactly how consumers use data and can project future usage patterns as populations grow and disposable income increases.

What remains is the increasingly vital component of customer service, which we entrust to our wholesale clients

*Murray Steyn, Executive Head: Wholesale at Internet Solutions

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In Africa, Trump’s firing of Tillerson a new sign of neglect
March 20, 2018 | 0 Comments

By RODNEY MUHUMUZA*

Former Secretary of State Tillerson with President Buhari of Nigeria

Former Secretary of State Tillerson with President Buhari of Nigeria

Ask some Africans what they think of President Donald Trump and they just shake their heads. That sense of indifference appears to have deepened after Trump fired his secretary of state at the end of Rex Tillerson’s first Africa tour last week.

Tillerson’s visit was widely seen as a Trump peace offering after the uproar over his reported vulgar remarks about African nations and his administration’s neglect of the world’s second most populous continent. The former secretary of state had been seen as a restraining influence on Trump and had clashed with the president over several foreign policy matters.

Now many Africans are tamping down their expectations of Trump even more. The U.S. president has rarely spoken about any priorities for a continent where many of its 50-plus nations have long relied on U.S. support for everything from health care to security.

Tillerson’s trip to Africa, including to the headquarters of the continent-wide African Union, had been widely seen as an effort to repair damage to relations. Now, with his firing, some in Africa feel they are starting anew with the Trump administration.

Tillerson’s departure is a sharp indication of Trump’s less-than-positive attitude toward the continent, some say.

“That, in my opinion, is adding insult to injury,” said Ted Alemayhu, an Ethiopian-born American who is running for Congress to represent California’s 39th District.

While in Africa, Tillerson tried to project a more positive image of the continent, saying its rapid economic growth and fast-growing populations mean its future is increasingly linked to America’s.

He visited some of Africa’s most prominent economies in Nigeria, Kenya and Ethiopia and highlighted U.S. security issues with stops in Chad and Djibouti, the site of the only permanent U.S. military base on the continent.

Tillerson also sought to reassure African nations that aid would continue even as the Trump administration pursues deep cuts in foreign assistance, announcing at the end of his visit $533 million in humanitarian aid for countries such as South Sudan and Nigeria.

Nigeria’s foreign affairs minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, told The Associated Press that “we don’t see any change happening” in relations with the U.S. after Tillerson’s firing.

Unlike Trump, recent U.S. leaders engaged substantially with Africa.

Bill Clinton created a signature trade program known as the African Growth and Opportunity Act, and George W. Bush launched an HIV treatment program, PEPFAR, that has boosted the quality of life for hundreds of thousands of AIDS patients across Africa.

Barack Obama enjoyed goodwill throughout the continent, even though some in Africa felt he fell short of expectations as the son of Kenyan man.

Trump has not indicated any possible initiatives for Africa.

Trump “has no need, as he has discovered,” to engage with the continent, said Timothy Kalyegira, a prominent social critic in Uganda. “The feeling is that he is a free agent. If he wants to visit Africa, it’s fine. If he doesn’t want, it doesn’t matter.”

Trump has not named an assistant secretary of state to oversee the continent, nor an ambassador to key countries like South Africa. And Africa got a mere seven paragraphs on the very last pages of Trump’s National Security Strategy.

That lack of attention has left room for other countries such as China to step up their influence.

With its offers of concessional loans that help finance the ambitious infrastructure projects of some African governments, China’s footprint is widening. And African leaders like Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni have said they would rather do business with a partner who does not lecture them about good governance and respecting human rights, giving China the thumbs-up.

In Djibouti, China’s development of its first overseas military base just a few miles from the U.S. base has illustrated the broader competition between the U.S. and China playing out across the continent.

Even as some argue that the Trump administration’s focus on Africa is notable in counterterror efforts if not in other issues, some Africans say they have given up on the U.S. president.

“Africans have nothing to take Trump seriously,” said Befekadu Hailu, a prominent Ethiopian blogger. “He already proved himself ethno-centrist and exclusivist, no friend to Africa.”

*Fox News/AP

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Buhari puts off ACFTA free trade deal signing
March 20, 2018 | 0 Comments

“This is to allow more time for input from Nigerian stakeholders”.

Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari arrives for the 30th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Heads of State and Government of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia January 28, 2018 [Photo/Tiksa Negeri/Reuters]

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari arrives for the 30th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Heads of State and Government of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia January 28, 2018 [Photo/Tiksa Negeri/Reuters]

Nigeria has officially put off signing the framework agreement for establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA) following protests by major labour unions, which warned that the deal would harm the local economy.

The country’s foreign ministry spokesman said in a statement Sunday night that President Muhammadu Buhari has cancelled his trip to the Rwandan capital Kigali, where African heads of state were scheduled to ink the agreement this week.

Cancelled trip

“President Buhari has cancelled his trip to Kigali, Rwanda, to attend an Extra-Ordinary Summit of the African Union on Tuesday, March 21, to sign the framework agreement for establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area,” according to the statement by Tope Elias-Fatile, the foreign ministry spokesman.

“This is to allow more time for input from Nigerian stakeholders,” it added.

The Nigerian federal cabinet last week approved the signing of the deal, which it said would boost the country’s export, “spur growth and boost job creation as well as eliminate barriers against Nigeria’s products and provide a Dispute Settlement Mechanism for stopping the hostile and discriminatory treatment directed against Nigerian natural and corporate business persons in other African countries.”

ACFTA

ACFTA, a brainchild of the African Union to deepen regional integration, had been in the works since January 2012 – with Nigeria as one of its major promoters. However, local labour unions and big corporations have always been against it.

Last week, Nigeria’s trade and investment minister Okechukwu Enelamah acknowledged the continuous opposition to the deal, but he added that efforts were afoot to get the buy-in of all the stakeholders before the signing.

*Al Jazeera

 

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Zimbabwe crowns first ‘Miss Albino’ in bid to tackle stigma
March 18, 2018 | 0 Comments
Miss Albinism Zimbabwe 2018 winner Sithembiso Mutukura poses for a picture with her crown after a beauty contest featuring people with albinism in Harare, Zimbabwe, on March 16, 2018. (Photo: Aaron Ufumeli, EPA)

Miss Albinism Zimbabwe 2018 winner Sithembiso Mutukura poses for a picture with her crown after a beauty contest featuring people with albinism in Harare, Zimbabwe, on March 16, 2018.
(Photo: Aaron Ufumeli, EPA)

Sithembiso Mutukura beat 12 other contestants to claim the crown at Zimbabwe’s first-ever Miss Albinism beauty contest — an achievement she hopes will inspire others living with the rare disorder.

“We must continue to advocate for our rights and I hope my win will empower the girl child,” the 22-year-old social work student said.

“I have gone through a lot, but I want people living with albinism to be brave and persevere in life.”

During the event in Harare on Friday night, the contestants had to respond to questions on stage and model a range of gowns and traditional African robes. Mutukura was awarded $85 in prize money after being named the winner.

Pageant organizer Brenda Mudzimu said a lack of funds had made it difficult to get the initiative off the ground. In the end, the contest only attracted one sponsor, but Mudzimu says she hopes to one day make the event international.

“This will be an annual event which will later be advanced to Miss Albinism Africa and Miss Albinism World because we want to reach all corners of the world,” she said.

In many African countries, people with albinism routinely face discrimination and persecution because of the way they look. The genetic disorder prevents skin cells from producing melanin , resulting in abnormal pigmentation of the skin, hair, and eyes. People with the condition also suffer from vision problems and are susceptible to skin cancer.

“The pageant aims to instill confidence in girls living with albinism in Zimbabwe as well as reduce the stigma,” Mudzimu said.

Tapuwa Muchemwa, a Zimbabwean government representative who was the guest of honor at the pageant, said the country’s leaders “strongly advocate that people with albinism deserve their right to life and security and to be protected as well as the right not to be subjected to torture and ill-treatment.”

The rate of albinism in Africa is much higher than in other parts of the world. Communities in some countries believe albinism can bring magical powers, wealth and good fortune — a superstition that has led to attackers kidnapping and murdering albinos to sell their body parts to witch doctors on the black market.

According to the United Nations, there have been over 600 attacks on people with albinism documented in 28 countries in sub-Saharan Africa over the past decade. Many more cases are thought to go unreported.

*USA Today/DW.com

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UNAIDS Regional Director now President/CEO of ARDN
March 18, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Hassan Zaggi*

Regional Director for West and Central Africa and Senior Adviser to the Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), Dr. Djibril Diallo,

Regional Director for West and Central Africa and Senior Adviser to the Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), Dr. Djibril Diallo,

The Regional Director for West and Central Africa and Senior Adviser to the Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), Dr. Djibril Diallo, has been appointed as the President and Chief Executive Officer of African Renaissance and Diaspora Network, Inc. (ARDN). The appointment takes effect from March 25, 2018.

Dr. Diallo has held several management positions with the United Nations (UN) for more than three decades

ARDN is an internationally operating NGO headquartered in New York, with the status of a United States 501(c)(3) public charity.

ARDN’s mission, according to findings, is to accelerate the attainment of the African renaissance by advocating for and supporting UN programs, such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Reacting to the appointment of Dr. Diallo, the UNAIDS Executive Director, Michel Sidibé, promised to continue to work closely with him to enable him succeed in his new task.

“We look forward to continued close collaboration between UNAIDS and ARDN with Djibril in the lead,” Michel Sidibé said in a message to all UNAIDS staff.

According findings by The AUTHORITY, Dr Diallo in his capacity as the chief executive officer of ARDN, will lead the organization’s “Pathway to Solutions” initiative, which aims to popularize the UN SDGs and to also increase public understanding of the role and functions of the UN.

On his part, Constance B. Newman, a Senior Fellow of the Africa Center at the Atlantic Council, disclosed that after over 9 months of extensive consultations, the “A Pathway to Solutions” strategic plan was presented to the UN Deputy-Secretary-General on 19 December 2017, at a coordination meeting held at the UN headquarters.

Newman further noted that: “Dr. Diallo’s expertise in international relations, diplomacy and human development will be critical at a time when the international community is pursuing, in tandem, the SDGs, the implementation of the International Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024), and the African Union Agenda 2063.

“We are confident that under his leadership, ARDN will be well-poised to contribute to the world we want – one defined by peace, justice, freedom, respect, social progress, equal rights and human dignity, tolerance, solidarity and sustainability – starting with Africa and the African diaspora.”

Speaking on his appointment, Dr. Diallo said that he was deeply humbled by the trust and confidence placed in him.

“I’m deeply humbled by the trust and confidence that has been placed in me. I’m excited to see what I can do in this new capacity to advance the United Nations’ hope and vision of a better world.

“When we talk about Africa and the diaspora, we’re ultimately talking about the entire world. ARDN is built on the fundamental principle that we are stronger together.

“Today, more than ever, it’s important that we remember and reflect on this. This planet earth is the only home we have, and we are one human family,” Dr Diallo further noted.

With over 35 years of experience at the UN, Dr. Diallo’s work for peace, sustainable development and protecting the most vulnerable has been recognized by numerous national and international organizations.

A steadfast supporter of youth, Dr. Diallo initiated the first-ever UN Youth Leadership Summit in 2006, bringing together youth leaders from 192 countries, with a vision toward gender parity in participation. He speaks twelve languages.

*Authority NIG

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2026 World Cup: Morocco promise ‘compact’ tournament after presenting bid book
March 18, 2018 | 0 Comments
Football fans celebrated in the streets in November after Morocco qualified for its first World Cup since 1998

Football fans celebrated in the streets in November after Morocco qualified for its first World Cup since 1998

Morocco have promised a “compact” tournament if they are named the host nation for the 2026 World Cup.

The North African nation presented its bid book to Fifa on Friday and is the only rival to a joint bid from Canada, Mexico and the United States.

All the host cities are within a 550km radius (342 miles) of Casablanca and a maximum 75 minutes flight time apart.

A ‘Legacy Modular Stadium’ concept also means that some of the stadia can be downscaled after the tournament.

The 2026 World Cup will be expanded to feature 48 nations, at least 60% of which will be located within three hours of Morocco’s time zone, Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), making the bid more attractive to the European audience and sponsors.

This is Morocco’s fifth attempt to host the World Cup after making bids for the 1994, 1998, 2006 and 2010 finals. The host for the 2026 tournament will be decided in Russia on 13 June.

*BBC

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Mauritius President Gurib-Fakim to resign – lawyer
March 18, 2018 | 0 Comments
Ameenah Gurib-Fakim became the first woman to be appointed president in 2015

Ameenah Gurib-Fakim became the first woman to be appointed president in 2015

Africa’s only female head of state, Mauritian President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, has resigned and will leave office on Friday, her lawyer says.

Ms Gurib-Fakim has been engulfed by an expenses scandal.

She denied any misconduct amid claims that she made large personal purchases on a charity bank card.

But on Saturday, just days after she rejected any idea of resigning, her lawyer Yusuf Mohamed told local media she would be stepping down.

The president has issued no statement.

The country’s prime minister had originally said she would stand down last Monday.

When Ms Gurib-Fakim failed to do so, this led to fears of a constitutional crisis on the Indian Ocean island nation.

Local L’Express newspaper reported in February that the country’s first female president, a renowned scientist, had used a credit card given to her by the Planet Earth Institute (PEI) in London to buy jewellery and clothes abroad.

According to the paper, she was given the card for serving as the NGO’s unpaid director and it was to be used to pay for the promotion of a doctorate programme named after the president.

Ms Gurib-Fakim’s office said she “had an identical credit card from the same bank [and] inadvertently used the card from the PEI for expenses not linked to her mission”.

It added that $27,000 (£19,335) had been refunded and Ms Gurib-Fakim would defend herself with “legal action”.

In a statement to the BBC, PEI London said that Ms Gurib-Fakim had refunded the money to its Mauritian sister organisation.

The organisation said it had given her a credit card to cover travel expenses while promoting African science, technology and innovation.

*BBC

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Nigeria is sadly still closer to Fela’s anti-feminism than to Wakanda’s women
March 18, 2018 | 0 Comments

In Nigeria, Okoye would have been warned from childhood to soften her features so she can find a man to marry her.

BY WILFRED OKICHE*

Black Panther (left). The cast of ‘Fela Kuti and the Kalakuta Queens’ (right).

Black Panther (left). The cast of ‘Fela Kuti and the Kalakuta Queens’ (right).

Marvel’s Black Panther is a rare blockbuster to have achieved both box office domination and genuine cultural significance. One of the reasons for this is the film’s unlikely but welcomed focus on feminism. Set in the fictional Afrofuturistic nation of Wakanda, Black Panther boasts a dazzling array of fabulous female characters fully in possession of their power and unapologetic about wielding it.

In Lagos, Nigeria, where the film is a huge hit, many have been touting the badassery of the women of Wakanda. Okoye, the fierce army leader embodied by Danai Gurira is a particular favourite. So is scene-stealer Letitia Wright as Shuri, the princess who doesn’t let royalty stop her realising her full potential as the technological saviour of Wakanda.

This almost unanimous show of support for Black Panther’s forward-thinking depiction of women, however, does not erase the fact that much of Nigeria still holds onto archaic patriarchal ideologies. Wakanda’s gender parity is notable for just how far away it is from the sad reality.

In much of Nigeria, Okoye would have been warned from childhood to soften her features so she can find a man to marry her. Shuri would have been discouraged from spending too much time at the laboratory for the same reasons. And as for Nakia, everyone would ask: what kind of girl chooses a high-flying career over the chance to become queen?

Women who go against scripted societal norms are frowned upon, treated as outcasts, and erased from history. In 1929, for example, thousands of women in eastern Nigeria rallied together and confronted their British colonial rulers. The movement was on a scale the colonial state had never previously witnessed and led to significant changes. However, the heroic women who led the Aba Women’s Revolt – people such as Nwanyeruwa and Ikonnia – are largely left out of mainstream history books.

Fela and the women

Also left out of the narrative until recently have been the many women that formed a crucial part of Fela Kuti’s legendary career. The Afrobeat pioneer and political activist may be Nigeria’s most famous son. He has been immortalised in the Tony Award-winning FelaThe Musical and in the 2014 documentary Finding Fela. His legacy and music have been debated endlessly in conference rooms, music festivals and bars all over the world.

However, in all this, little interest has been devoted to Fela’s women – the merry band of singers, dancers, and supporters who thronged to his “Kalakuta Republic” sanctuary, who defied societal scorn and parental pressure, who loved him and inspired his sound.

There is no Fela without the women. They cannot just be heard on countless recordings joyously chanting “open and close”. They were an intrinsic and extricable part of the artistic legacy associated with Fela. Their striking fashion statements, creative use of beads, headgear, body art and Ankara prints remain indelible in today’s culture. Their graphic representations are rendered in music videos by pop stars from Wizkid to Niniola and in glossy magazine photo spreads.

But despite this rich legacy and gorgeous imagery, the stories and lives of Fela’s women have rarely been explored.

It is this imbalance that the splashy stage musical Fela and the Kalakuta Queens seeks to redress. Premiering in Lagos last December, the three-hour production follows Fela, the women that surrounded him, and the dynamics that influenced their relationship.

“I wondered why no one was talking about these women who were a significant part of Fela’s life and I wanted to know more about them,” director Bolanle Austen Peters remarked at one of the sold out showings.

The musical is commendable in shining a light on these female artists, pioneers and musicians. We learn some of the names of Fela’s “queens”, such as Funmilayo and Laide. However, in creating a crowd-pleasing fairy tale of female loyalty and companionship, the production, backed by Fela’s estate, fails to address the singer’s noted misogyny and violence towards women.

We gain little insight into why so many remained devoted to the cause, what made them tick, and what their own dreams and aspirations were. Most problematically, the play’s climactic scene – which depicts Fela’s highly controversial wedding to 27 women in a single ceremony – is played as an act of redemption set to the swirling instrumentation of Ololufe, a rare Fela love song.

Lady no be master

This form of female under-representation, even in a piece of art aiming to celebrate women, is not uncommon. This is the case around the world and certainly in Nigeria. Culture reflects society, which is in part shaped by politics and vested interests.

In Nigeria, for example, a gender equality bill which seeks to prohibit all forms of gender-based discrimination is waiting in the Senate. It has been stalled since 2016 due to opposition by religious and traditional groups. The Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development has a national strategy to end child marriage, but according to UNICEF, 12 out of Nigeria’s 36 states are yet to enact the child rights act adopted at the national level in 2003.

In Lagos, the city that was both home and hell for the singer, Fela’s music blares out of speakers at night clubs, at parties, and on the radio. One of the songs one hears frequently is the classic Lady in which Fela castigates African women for daring to fancy themselves equal to men. “She want sit down for table before anybody, she want a piece of meat before anybody”, he complains scathingly.

That song was released in 1972, but for all the progress Nigeria has made on gender equality over the past half a century, Lady could have been released last week. Wakanda’s gender relations in Black Panther seem so far off, they could be from a thousand years in the future. Less than 6% of Nigeria’s lawmakers are women, the lowest proportion in Africa. Women own just 20% of enterprises in the formal sector. A third of women have experienced physical abuse.

 

 

One hopes that the women of Wakanda can inspire Nigeria’s women and girls, along with their male allies, to see things differently and transform gender relations in the country. But for now, it is sadly apparent that a girl born in the North is more likely to be married off at childhood than lead an army like Okoye, devote her life to study like Shuri, or unabashedly pursue her own calling like Nakia.

Black Panther may provide an aspirational blueprint, but for now, Fela won’t be worried. Nigeria is still a long way off before “Lady na master”.

*Source African Arguments. Wilfred Okiche is a reader, writer, medic, culture critic and occasional ruffler of feathers. He works in a health centre in Lagos but manages to find the time to pursue other interests. His writing has appeared on various print and online platforms. He tweets from @drwill20.

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Standard Chartered Bank Launches its First-Ever Digital Bank in Africa
March 17, 2018 | 0 Comments
Côte d’Ivoire marks the pilot launch of the digital bank
ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast, March 16, 2018/ — Standard Chartered Bank (www.SC.com) today announced the official launch of its digital bank in Côte d’Ivoire. This marks the Bank’s first digital bank in Africa and the first-of-its-kind to open in Côte d’Ivoire.

Mr. Bruno Nabagné KONE, Minister of Information technologies and communication of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire, was the guest of honour at the official launch event. The event was attended by dignitaries, business leaders, clients and senior management, as well as sporting legend and Ivorian icon, Didier Drogba. As the Bank’s Digital Ambassador, Drogba shared his experience on the ease of opening an account using his mobile phone. He is the first person in Côte d’Ivoire to open a digital account at the Bank.

Commenting on the launch, Sunil Kaushal, Regional CEO, Africa and Middle East said: “We are pleased to launch our first digital bank in Africa with the support of the Government of Côte d’Ivoire. This is a key milestone on our digital journey as a Bank and underlines our commitment to investing and growing in the market. We have been steadily investing in expanding our footprint in Africa over the years, and this will continue to be a priority moving forward. Digitising Africa remains at the heart of our business strategy for the region, and we look to implement our Côte d’Ivoire model across other markets in the coming months.”

Commenting on the launch, Jaydeep Gupta, Regional Head of Retail Banking, Africa & Middle East, said: “Our new digital bank was developed with our clients in mind. We have taken into consideration the feedback received by our clients at each stage of the design process and have incorporated innovative technology to allow them to execute all banking activities from a mobile device. This includes 70 banking services through the app.”

“In addition, for the first time, the client onboarding journey has been digitised and in under 15 minutes a client can open a new account through the app. What has also been introduced is the ability for clients to track and trace a request submitted, which is a first for Standard Chartered. This is something we are very proud of.”

Isaac Foly, Chief Executive Officer, Côte d’Ivoire, said: “I’m pleased to have launched the Bank’s first digital retail bank in Côte d’Ivoire and proud to see the progress the country has made over the past decade. We have seen how digital transformation has contributed to economic development and will continue to do so, in line with the country’s National Development Plan. Our partnership with Didier Drogba has helped raise awareness, not only for our digital offering, but for enhancing financial literacy and improving accessibility to financial services across Côte d’Ivoire. Promoting the social and economic wellbeing of communities is a key component of our strategy to support sustainable development and our digital bank is certainly another step in the right direction.”

The bank’s digital services are available by downloading the Standard Chartered mobile application. New clients can execute all of their banking activities right from their mobile devices, starting by opening their bank account in less than 15 minutes. They can also provide all verification documents by uploading to the application and fully complete their onboarding process within minutes.

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Africa, Latest Theater in America’s Endless War
March 17, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Joe Penney*

Emin Ozmen/Magnum Photos Security forces passing near a refugee camp for Nigeriens displaced by Boko Haram attacks, Niger, 2017

Africa. Niger. Toumour. 2017. Nigerien security forces pass near Toumor refugee camp where 47 thousand Nigerian refugees and internally displaced Nigerians took shelter in southeastern Niger. According to the UN last report (August 2017) 2,3 million people displaced in Lake Chad Basin and 129 thousand Nigeriens internally displaced in Niger after Boko Haram attacks in the region since 2015.

Last October, four American soldiers, four Nigerien soldiers, and a Nigerien translator were killed in combat on Niger’s border with Mali while looking for the jihadi militant Doundoun Cheffou. For the most part, the fallout concentrated on President Trump’s mangled call with the widow of Sergeant La David Johnson. But the incident also called attention to a dangerous development at multiple levels of US politics. From a small village in rural Niger all the way to the White House, the US military has increasing influence over American foreign policy in Africa.

American Special Forces have been operating in Niger since at least 2013, when President Obama authorized forty troops to aid the French intervention against jihadist groups in Mali. At the time of the Tongo Tongo attack, four years later, there were 800 US soldiers in Niger. The American engagement there remains the second largest on the continent, after Djibouti. Special Forces are stationed around the country and carry out missions against jihadist targets and drug traffickers with their Nigerien counterparts. The US Air Force is building a $110 million drone base that is technically the property of the Nigerien military, although it is paid for and built by the Pentagon, and access for Nigerien soldiers is currently restricted.

A senior Nigerien military commander told me that the American military has an expansionist agenda in the country and constantly pushes for more missions on the ground. According to a Nigerien soldier who participated in the operation on October 4, the American soldiers involved in Tongo Tongo had ignored the advice of their Nigerien colleagues, putting their unit in danger. In Niger, buoyant, proactive, and well-resourced security institutions like the Department of Defense, Africa Command, and Special Operations Forces have led policy at the expense of a demoralized and downgraded State Department.

Defense cooperation between the US and Africa took off after George W. Bush established Africa Command in 2007. Since then, the Command, known as AFRICOM, has established a constellation of American forward-operating bases and runs training programs and exercises with nearly every country on the continent. Under Obama, the use of Special Forces expanded to the point where they are like “a command within a command” in Africa, according to Matthew T. Page, a former diplomat and current associate fellow with the Africa program at the British-based foreign policy institute Chatham House. Special Forces can fund and train foreign elite units under a legal precedent set by Section 1208 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2005. By 2017, the 1208 authority budget has swelled to $100 million.

Niger is just one of the many countries around the world in which the US has trained elite military units in the name of counterterrorism. But as Lauren P. Blanchard, an analyst at the Congressional Research Service, told me, “The problem with training elite units is that those forces may be first and foremost in charge of regime protection versus civilian security.” American and host government interests align when jihadist groups are the security priority, but if a government feels that its power is more threatened by democratic protesters, or members of an opposition party, it often employs its special forces in ways the Americans did not envision in their training programs.

For example, the US trained Mali’s elite parachute regiment, known as the red berets, for years in order to fight the growing terrorism problem in the country’s northern regions. Jihadist veterans from Algeria’s civil war had established themselves there throughout the early 2000s, and recruited in the desert areas. But in 2012, lower-ranking soldiers carried out a coup d’état after soldiers in the Kati military camp briefly detained the defense minister, who was visiting them to quell concern over conditions of their colleagues fighting in the north. The soldiers then seized munitions and took control of the presidential palace. The red berets were suddenly out of power, and they launched a counter-coup that failed. In the ensuing violence, almost two dozen red berets were killed. “It was a presidential protection unit and, at the end of the day, [the American training] didn’t professionalize that unit,” said Page. “When this coup attempt happened, half the regiment turned its guns on the other half, killed them and buried them in a mass grave.” In the chaos that followed, jihadist militants took control of the north of the country.

In Burkina Faso, the US worked closely with the Régiment de Sécurité Présidentielle, the feared presidential guard whose chief, Gilbert Diendéré, was also the country’s top intelligence officer. When popular protests forced his boss, former President Blaise Compaoré, to flee the country aboard a French military helicopter in 2014, the government that was then elected began investigating Diendéré and his unit for killing protesters. Diendéré and his soldiers responded by launching a coup, which was eventually put down peacefully by the rest of the military.

A US Army News Service article points to a dilemma faced by soldiers in northern Cameroon, who are stationed there to aid Cameroon’s fight against the militant group Boko Haram. The American soldiers are carrying out a diplomatic role that is not normally within their purview. “With no State Department personnel stationed in the area, soldiers are often placed into a warrior-diplomat role, representing the American government wherever they go.” But even AFRICOM seems worried by the mission creep that inevitably takes place when a solider becomes a “warrior-diplomat.” Posted by AFRICOM to its official website, the article notes that “any misconduct by a soldier could spark controversy and put the nascent relationship between both countries in jeopardy.”

In Cameroon, American Special Forces work closely with the Brigade d’intervention rapide, an elite, Israeli-trained unit that fights Boko Haram. Last year, Amnesty International found that on a small base in Salak, near the border of Nigeria that the American soldiers shared with the B.I.R., at least sixty people “were subjected to water torture, beaten with electric cables and boards, or tied and suspended with ropes, among other abuses.” Some of the B.I.R. soldiers have now been deployed to put down an uprising in Cameroon’s Anglophone region on the border with Nigeria. Reports of human rights abuses in the area are rife, and the Internet has been shut down there for the past year.

Yet, little seems to weaken AFRICOM’s vision of its work as inherently good. “Within US policy circles, or within US training and assistance community, or within the Special Operations community, there are these beliefs in cardinal truths, that US training and engagement makes these units more professional, that we ‘have to do something’ to help them fight terrorism,” said Page, the Chatham House researcher. “This failure to appreciate the consequences of these day-to-day things that we’re doing and what long-term implications they may have… characterizes US foreign policy in the Sahel.”

There is little hope that the US will stop putting heavy emphasis on military solutions in Africa, or, for that matter, elsewhere in the world. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who had no prior experience in diplomacy, is essentially charged with taking apart his own agency. State’s budget has been slashed, and Tillerson has overseen the exit of an entire echelon of senior diplomats from the department. In the meantime, Secretary of Defense James Mattis has secured ever more resources for the Defense Department.

Trump’s choice for Senior Africa Director on the National Security Council is Cyril Sartor, who was the Deputy Assistant Director of the CIA for Africa. There has not been a permanent Secretary of State for African Affairs since January 2017, but in December, the Defense Department named Alan Patterson its new Deputy Assistant Secretary for African AffairsPatterson is another CIA alum, who was previously in charge of clandestine operations in Africa. That former CIA officers occupy two of three leading positions for US engagement in Africa is dismaying. In earlier decades, the CIA was implicated in the assassination of Congo’s independence leader Patrice Lumumba, the coup d’état that overthrew Ghana’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah, and the arrest by the apartheid South African government of Nelson Mandela. More recently, in 2011 the CIA armed rebels fighting Muammar Qaddafi in Libya. The agency’s history of disruptive actions is not a promising backdrop to the general contours of American strategy today on a continent of countries that the US president has labeled “shithole.”

The gap left by the US’s (and, to some extent, Europe’s) lack of economic and political engagement with Africa has led the continent to turn its attention elsewhere for trade and investment. “Essentially, the entire non-military agenda in Africa of Africa’s outside partners has been ceded to China,” said Columbia professor Howard French, author of China’s Second Continent, a study of Chinese involvement in Africa. The lack of engagement is to the detriment of both Africa and the US, he argued.

Abou Tarka, a brigadier general in Niger’s military whose brother-in-law was recently named chief of staff of the country’s armed forces, told me that Niger won’t end up like Yemen, where the US has killed at least 103 civilians, because the relationship between the country’s government and the American military is strong. “The situations are different,” Tarka said. “In Yemen, Americans are belligerent; they don’t cooperate with the government.” A top Nigerien military commander, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to talk to the press, told me that he doesn’t believe the drones will make mistakes because they are only authorized for use in defensive situations.

But this is the same authorization that the US employs elsewhere for manifestly offensive operations. Jennifer Gibson, a lawyer who researches American drone strikes for the nonprofit group Reprieve, explained: “We’ve seen this malleable definition before, most recently in Yemen and Pakistan, where a program that started as ‘defensive’ wound up striking people simply because their behavior ‘looked’ suspicious. Hundreds of innocent men, women and children were killed as a result.”

I asked a Nigerien civilian who works on the drone base what the forces there think about their mission. “The American soldiers themselves don’t know why they’re here,” she said, but the local population is anxious about whether the US will make the same mistakes in West Africa as they have elsewhere in the world. “The Americans are on a balance,” she said. “It’s up to them as to which way they will tip the scale.”

Trump was elected on a platform that pledged to break with past US interventionism, arguing “we cannot commit American troops to battle without a real and tangible objective.” But the latest iteration of the endless global “war on terror”—this time, as a war in Africa with little civilian oversight, dangerous consequences, and ballooning budgets—undermines that resolve. And while America is making war in Africa and military engagement morphs into a proxy for foreign policy run by the Pentagon, China is doing business.


*Source NYR Daily .Reporting for this article was facilitated by a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

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Sao Tome, Solomon Island others sets to graduate from poorest nations
March 17, 2018 | 0 Comments

…As Angola, Vanuatu are scheduled for graduation over the next three years

By Olayinka Ajayi

a picture of one of the many beach resorts in Sao Tome and Principe

a picture of one of the many beach resorts in Sao Tome and Principe

Following the strictly observation of the Committee for Development Policy CDP,  Bhutan, Kiribati, Sao Tome and Principe and the Solomon Islands have been spotted to soon graduate from the ranks of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable nations.

Speaking , Jose Ocampo, chairman of the CDP, said these countries has increased their national earning power and improved access to health care and education, which make them eligible to exit the group of least developed countries (LDCs).

He however stated that only five countries had graduated since the UN established the LDC category in 1971.

According to him: “LDCs are assessed using three criteria: health and education targets; economic vulnerability; and gross national income per capita. Countries must meet two of the three criteria at two consecutive triennial reviews of the CDP to be considered for graduation.The committee would send its recommendations to the UN economic and social council (ECOSOC) for endorsement, which would then refer its decision to the UN general assembly.”

Meanwhile, Diane Elson, a member of CDP and professor at the University of Essex in the UK, added that the announcement was good news for millions of women in rural areas.  “The success of the countries that are graduating reflects things like the improvement of the health and the education of the population, which extends to rural women, and the increase in incomes in the country, which extends to rural women,” she said.

Elson further opined that the countries require continued international support because they remained vulnerable to external shocks, including the impact of climate change, currently evident in Pacific Island states such as Kiribati.

According to the UN Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, globally, there are 47 LDCs. Thirty-three are in Africa, while 13 can be found in the Asia-Pacific region, and one is in Latin America. In the 47 years of the LDC category’s existence, only five countries – Botswana, Cabo Verde, Equatorial Guinea, Maldives and Samoa – had graduated.

The CDP said two more countries, Vanuatu and Angola, were scheduled for graduation over the next three years.

Nepal and Timor-Leste also met the criteria but were not recommended for graduation at this time, due to economic and political challenges.

According to Ocampo, that decision would be deferred to the next CDP triennial review in 2021.

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Israel court suspends plan to deport African migrants
March 16, 2018 | 0 Comments
People from Eritrea and Sudan make up a significant number of migrants in Israel

People from Eritrea and Sudan make up a significant number of migrants in Israel

Israel’s supreme court has suspended a controversial government plan to deport tens of thousands of African migrants who entered the country illegally.

It gave the state until 26 March to provide more information on the plan.

In January, the migrants – mostly from Eritrea and Sudan – were offered $3,500 (£2,510) and a plane ticket to leave Israel voluntarily by the end of March.

Otherwise, they faced detention and subsequent expulsion. The UN refugee agency criticised the plan.

The Israeli court issued its ruling on Thursday, following a legal challenge by a group of migrants from Eritrea and Sudan.

The government now cannot deport African migrants until the court receives additional information.

Israeli authorities say there are currently more than 40,000 African migrants in Israel, describing them as “infiltrators”.

Most of them entered from Egypt several years ago, before a new fence was built along the desert border. This has almost ended illegal crossings.

Only single young men are affected by the government plan.

It exempts children, women, parents of dependent minors and victims of slavery and human trafficking.

The authorities have said the migrants’ return will be humane and “voluntary”.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has claimed that an unchecked influx of African migrants could threaten Israel’s Jewish character.

*BBC

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Somalians, Gabonese happier than Ghanaians – World Happiness Survey
March 15, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Papisdaff Abdullah

Ghana has been ranked as the 108th happiest country in the World, according to the 2018 World Happiness Report.
Ghana ranked lower than African countries such as Nigeria (91), Cameroon (99), Gabon (103), South Africa (105) and Ivory Coast (107).

Somalia which has long been plagued by suicide bombing and constant attacks by terrorist group Al-Shabab ranked 98 on the report, much higher than Ghana.
The report comes at a time the government claims that the living conditions of most Ghanaians have improved.
Burundi in East Africa, scarred by bouts of ethnic cleansing, civil wars and coup attempts, is the unhappiest place in the world. Strikingly, there are five other nations – Rwanda, Yemen, Tanzania, South Sudan and the Central African Republic – which report happiness levels below that of even Syria.

The 2018 World Happiness Report also charts the steady decline of the US as the world’s largest economy grapples with a crisis of obesity, substance abuse and depression.

The study reveals the US has slipped to 18th place, five places down on 2016. The top four places are taken by Nordic nations, with Finland followed by Norway, Denmark and Iceland.Finland overtook Norway to become the happiest nation on earth, according to a UN report.

“Finland has vaulted from fifth place to the top of the rankings this year,” said the report’s authors, although they noted that the other three Nordic countries (plus Switzerland) have almost interchangeable scores.
The report, an annual publication from the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, said all the Nordic countries scored highly on income, healthy life expectancy, social support, freedom, trust and generosity. The rankings are based on Gallup polls of self-reported wellbeing, as well as perceptions of corruption, generosity and freedom.

In Britain, figures from the Office for National Statistics suggest people have become happier in recent years. But the UN ranking places the UK in a lowly 19th place, the same as last year but behind Germany, Canada and Australia, although ahead of France and Spain.

The UN report devotes a special chapter to why the US, once towards the top of happiness table, has slipped down the league despite having among the highest income per capita.

“America’s subjective wellbeing is being systematically undermined by three interrelated epidemic diseases, notably obesity, substance abuse (especially opioid addiction) and depression,” said Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University in New York, and one of the report’s authors.

Despite African countries getting the worst happiness scores, one West African nation has bucked the trend. Togo came bottom in 2015 but was the biggest improver in the 2018 report, rising 18 places. Latvians and Bulgarians are also reporting higher levels of happiness.

Venezuela recorded the biggest fall in happiness, outstripping even Syria, although in absolute terms it remains a mid-ranking country. The report notes that Latin American countries generally scored more highly than their GDP per capita suggests, especially in contrast to fast-growing East Asian countries.

Latin America is renowned for corruption, high violence and crime rates, unequal distribution of income and widespread poverty, yet has consistently scored relatively highly in the happiness report.
The authors attributed this to “the abundance of family warmth and other supportive social relationships frequently sidelined in favour of an emphasis on income measures in the development discourse”.

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Egyptian ministry of civil aviation to host aviation Africa summit 2018
March 14, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Wallace Mawire

The Egyptian ministry of Civial Aviation will host the third edition of the Aviation Africa 2018 exhibition and summit covering the full aviation and aerospace spectrum across the African continent in Cairo on April 17 to 18 2018, according to the organisers.

It is reported that the summit will be hosted under the theme ‘Securing Strategy for Africa’s Success.’It is also added that the two-day summit will focus on the key drivers to grow business and opportunities across Africa in the aviation sector. Also, alongside the summit will be an exhibition area featuring more than 70 exhibitors.

Topics at the summit will include understanding the framework for aviation across Africa, understanding the threat and the solutions both in the cyber world and the real one,profit, competition, security or passengers? What keeps CEOs awake at night? airline business – challenging the status quo: Bringing low cost,regional and charter operations and new models to market and surviving surviving accidents and incidents with reputations intact, developing infrastructure and support for Africa’s aviation future on the ground and in the air and on human capital, developing and inspiring future generations to solve people shortage.

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New Federal Roads Bill Will Improve State of Nigerian Roads And Strengthen FERMA – Hon. Toby Okechukwu
March 14, 2018 | 0 Comments
By, Uchechukwu Ugboaja – Abuja
House Committee on Works In Session

House Committee on Works In Session

The House Committee on Works Chairman Hon. Toby Okechukwu has recently stated that the new bill before the House of Representatives Committee on Works is not aimed at reducing the operational capability of FERMA as the Federal agency responsible for the maintenance of all Federal roads but will actually enhanced its efficiency as soon as it is passed into law.

This was made known during the committee’s consideration of the Federal Roads Bill that was referred to the House of Representatives by the Senate for concurrence.
It would be recalled that the House of Representatives have recently called for the federal government to declare a state of emergency on Nigerian roads as a result of level of decay it has suffered over the years despite being budgeted for in successive budget appropriations, which have resulted to the death of many Nigerians.
In his view, “this legislation is a revolutionary one, it is a reform legislation for the entire road sector which goes beyond creating an institution for the development of the road sector.”
“It also creates a framework for the regulation of the road sector which has never been there before, it also gives us an opportunity to have a road sector that will build the capacity to maintain and develop the roads in Nigeria.”
He further claimed that this bill is not a FERMA bill as you know FERMA deals solely with road maintenance, but this bill goes beyond road maintenance, it is a more all encompassing institution that will be created to deal with construction and maintenance.
According to him, it is an anomaly where you will have the ministry embarking on the award of contract and so now we have a ministry and other agencies, where the Ministry is to focus on policy matters while the agency focuses on the actual work on the roads which is to keep them motorable.
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SOUTH AFRICAN AIRWAYS APPOINTS MARLENE SANAU AS NEW VICE PRESIDENT OF SALES, NORTH AMERICA
March 14, 2018 | 0 Comments
Marlene Sanau

Marlene Sanau

Fort Lauderdale, FL (March 13, 2018) – South African Airways (SAA), Africa’s most awarded airline, has announced the appointment of Marlene Sanau as the new vice president of sales, North America, based at the airline’s North America Regional Office in Fort Lauderdale.

In this role, she will be responsible for implementing sales strategies to strengthen and grow business relationships with SAA’s travel trade partners, online travel agency distribution channels, corporate customers, and key tourism industry organizations. She will also oversee SAA’s team of sales development directors located throughout North America, along with the Business Development and Inside Sales Departments in Fort Lauderdale.

Marlene joins the South African Airwaysleadership team in North America with an extensive international airline background having spent over 25 years with Lufthansa German Airlines serving in several sales and  operational management positions in the U.S., Germany, Australia, and South Africa. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Central Michigan University.

“We are delighted to have Marlene join South African Airways and lead our sales team with her in-depth knowledge of the airline industry and revenue development strategies,” said Todd Neuman, executive vice president – North America for South  African Airways. “Marlene brings a wealth of experience that will be a tremendous benefit to SAA
and our trade partners. She possesses the skills and expertise that will be critical to expanding and enhancing SAA’s presence in the very competitive North America to Africa market.”

South African Airways offers the most daily flights from the U.S. to South Africa with daily nonstop service from New York-JFK Airport and daily nonstop service from Washington, DC-Dulles Airport to Accra, Ghana or Dakar, Senegal, with continuing service to Johannesburg. our Johannesburg hub, SAA links the world to over 75 destinations across the African continent and Africa’s Indian Ocean islands. Onboard, SAA provides an in-flight experience designed for pure comfort for long-haul travel. Our customers enjoy a spacious Economy Class cabin, gourmet cuisine and a selection of complimentary spirits and award-winning South African wines and generous checked baggage allowance. Also included are individual audio /visual entertainment systems that deliver an extensive menu of first-run movies, music choices,and games.

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CAN THE BLEAK FUTURE OF AFRICA’S SMALLHOLDER FARMERS BE MADE BRIGHT?
March 13, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Moses Hategeka*

“Our Son, our farms soil fertility have for years been drastically declining and so is our farms yields and thus we are poor and food insecure and unable to feed our families well. We have no collateral to access credit to enable us, purchase fertilizers, inputs, and agricultural equipment like walking tractors for use in tilling our lands. As you can see, most of us are elderly and less energetic and yet the traditional tools we currently use requires energetic and young people, who unfortunately have all run to cities in search of better income generating jobs/businesses” Says, a group of women smallholder farmers, in Karonga district, Malawi, during, our practical on farm training workshop that included training farmers in Karonga district in modern tilling, planting, and fertilizer application techniques.

When asked what makes it difficult for them to access credit, Their Leader responded that, “The patriarch setup of our society and cultural norms here, are too discriminative, as they don’t allow women to own land. She went on to say that: Women here don’t own the lands on which they farm and therefore cannot present land a collateral to seek credit from banks”.

The average age of smallholder farmers in Africa is 65 implying that the smallholder farming is dominated by aging, who in most cases, are traditionally oriented and finds it hard to easily grasp and adopt modern farming techniques.

Agricultural policy makers in Africa, must begin addressing questions such as’, Why is it that agricultural sector in Africa is not attractive to the youth and what can be done to make farming enjoyable and profitable to the youth?

This bleak situation is prevailing in all African countries and needs to be resolved, if African countries are to attain rural transformation and sustainable development that is all inclusive factoring in the fact that, agriculture in Africa is dominated by smallholder farmers.

Smallholder farmers in Africa, needs money to acquire suitable new agricultural technologies to boost their farm yields but continues to face huge dilemma, in accessing agricultural credit financing due to lack of collateral and the matter is made worse by traditional norms in some communities, where land is communally owned and one cannot even dare to claim ownership over it and cannot therefore present it anywhere to seek agricultural financing loan.

But let us ask ourselves a question. Why is it that African countries have failed and are still failing to develop an agricultural financing model to replace land as collateral and what needs to be done?

I have extensively traveled in rural communities of several African countries, especially, Eastern, Southern and Western African countries, training smallholder farmers, in new evolving methods of profitable farming, and practically witnessed, the absence of agricultural technologies, knowledge transfer, and lack of access to credit, predicaments which the smallholder farmers are facing. This scenario is making it hard for them to jump out of food insecurity and poverty trap.

What then needs to be done? African governments together with banking institutions operating in African countries, must develop a financing model, that replaces land as collateral, which would be like in form of the governments depositing an evolving agricultural development fund, in selected banking institutions, for disbursement on an interest free basis, to mapped out smallholder farmers, who on after harvesting and selling their produce, must return back, the interest free borrowed funds, to these selected banks, so that the other smallholder farmers can be covered in an evolving scheme.

This must be done hand in hand, with governments organizing smallholder farmers, into cooperatives and giving them a production enhancement morale, initially, for example, by constructing for them postharvest storage and small scale value addition facilities. This will make them not only to avoid postharvest losses, but to also be in better position, to negotiate for better prices for their produce.

African governments, must also seriously persuade global leading manufacturers of agricultural equipment like AGCO, John Deere CLAAS, among others, to massively begin producing products for smallholder farmers too, and not only for large scale farmers, who for decades have been and still are their main target market. African smallholder farmers need suitable equipment such as, A70-100 PS tractors and not A600 PS tractors.

One year back, while on, a practical field learning tour of, CLAAS factory, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of Agricultural machinery, with corporate headquarters in Harsewinkel, Westphalia, Germany, with production facilities worldwide, in countries such as, Hungary, Nebraska, USA, Southern Russia, India, and China, I only witnessed  monster agricultural machinery, suitable only for very large scale farming.

However the good news is that, these global agricultural equipment manufacturing brands, have all set foot in African countries, and have appreciated the need to start producing products for smallholder farmers too, and some are in fact, producing walking tractors, which a few small scale farmers are finding it easy in using, in boosting their production. These walking tractors, are still out of reach, for millions of smallholder farmers in Africa, and the onus, is therefore on African governments to develop a funding model that will enable their smallholders farmers to get these much needed suitable equipment.

In sum, the skyrocketing Africa’ population, which is expected to double from current 1.2 to 2.4 billion people by 2050, necessitates, that, the continent, must devise food production strategies, that will, rapidly result into massive production of food, on sustainable basis, in the next 20 years, failure of which, will leave a greater percentage of its people trapped in food insecurity and poverty scenario, with resultant impact of widened unrest, wars, and crime increase, and to avert such catastrophes, African government must do, whatever it takes, to help its smallholders farmers access suitable equipment and inputs, to boost their farm yields.

*Moses Hategeka, is a Ugandan based Independent Governance Researcher, Public Affairs Analyst and Writer.

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BMCE Bank of Africa launches its 4th edition of the African Entrepreneurship Award (AEA) supporting innovative entrepreneurs in Africa
March 13, 2018 | 0 Comments
The African Entrepreneurship Award will fund $1 million USD to African entrepreneurs with scalable and sustainable businesses in 2 new categories: Sports and Innovation
CASABLANCA, Morocco, March 12, 2018/ — BMCE Bank of Africa is proud to announce the March 1st opening of the 4th edition of the African Entrepreneurship Award (www.African-Award.com).

The Award was announced by President Othman Benjelloun in 2014 at the Marrakech Global Entrepreneurship Summit and illustrates BMCE Bank of Africa’s ambition to encourage entrepreneurship across borders in Africa by rewarding talent and technology.

This initiative aims to support talented entrepreneurs from Africa or Africans in the diaspora whose ideas create jobs and improve lives on the continent. The competition remains open for entries until April 30th.

During the past 3 years the Award was dedicated to projects in Education, Environment, and Uncharted categories. Over 12,000 entrepreneurs applied from 132 countries. Mentors selected 112 Finalists and the Presidential Jury selected 33 winners to receive funding to launch or scale their business.

Volunteer mentors from all over the world support entrepreneurs with free, online business advice. These mentors are entrepreneurs, academics, and leaders from all continents who assist the applicants throughout each stage of the contest.

This year, the African Entrepreneurship Award will fund $1 million USD to African entrepreneurs with scalable and sustainable businesses in 2 new categories: Sports and Innovation.

The first round is open to all entrepreneurs to apply, from every country in Africa. Rounds two and three question entrepreneurs on the scalability and sustainability of their idea. Applicants are asked to support their project with an uploaded video or document.  At the end of the journey, Finalists are flown in to Morocco for a Boot Camp, before they pitch in front of the Presidential Jury for their chance at $ 1 million.

BMCE Bank of Africa operates in nearly 20 countries over the continent. With this fourth edition of the AEA, BMCE Bank of Africa reasserts its commitment to support and encourage young entrepreneurs in their efforts to create jobs and improve lives in Africa.

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MIT and Mastercard Foundation Launch 2018 Zambezi Prize for Innovation in Financial Inclusion
March 13, 2018 | 0 Comments
Applications Open to Find Africa’s Most Innovative Start-ups Meeting the Greatest Financial Inclusion Challenges

CAMBRIDGE, United States, March 12, 2018 -/African Media Agency (AMA)/- The Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), in collaboration with the Mastercard Foundation, today announced the launch of the 2018 edition of the Zambezi Prize for Innovation in Financial Inclusion. The prestigious competition, awarding a total of $200,000 in prizes, was established to discover Africa’s most promising and innovative early-stage start-ups that promote and advance financial inclusion on the continent.

There are multiple awards and opportunities available for finalists. The grand prize winner will be awarded $100,000 and the two runners-up will each receive up to $30,000.The top 10 finalists are guaranteed to each receive up to $5,000 in cash prizes as well as VIP tickets to the Zambezi Award ceremony, cohort-building activities, international media exposure, and personalized introductions to the MIT Legatum network of investors and mentors. Past Zambezi finalists have led projects ranging from agricultural finance for the small dairy farmer to an employee-centric boda boda taxi business model.

The top three winners will also be invited to attend the Zambezi boot camp during the MIT Inclusive Innovation Challenge (IIC) gala on the MIT campus in Boston and fast-tracked to the global grand prize with up to $1 million available. The IIC event is part of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy and, along with the MIT Legatum Center’s initiatives, examples of MIT’s global commitment to the future of work.

Munyutu Waigi, Co-Founder and Chief Customer Officer of Umati Capital receives the 2015 Zambezi Prize

Munyutu Waigi, Co-Founder and Chief Customer Officer of Umati Capital receives the 2015 Zambezi Prize

This year’s competition will be supported by the MIT Legatum Center’s annual Open Mic Africa tour, a cross-continent tour in search of Africa’s most innovative entrepreneurs that will debut in Spring 2018. The Legatum Center, with support from Techpreneur Africa and the late Bolaji Finnih, hosted the premiere event of the 2017 Open Mic Africa tour in Lagos, Nigeria.

The Zambezi Prize and the Open Mic Africa tour are pillars of the Legatum Center’s Africa Strategy – a global vision to leverage MIT’s ecosystem to improve lives through principled entrepreneurial leadership. The Legatum Center’s Africa strategy is also a core component of MIT-Africa – the initiative that encompasses the Institute’s global priority for collaboration with the continent.

The Zambezi application is now open for early-stage African tech start-ups who are furthering financial inclusion in Africa. Applicants will be judged on their ability to solve one of the financial inclusion challenges put forth by the Prize; their current and potential impact on the local ecosystem; the scale of their innovation; and the feasibility of the solution.

The Zambezi application closes in June, 2018. Potential applicants can find more information and apply at http://www.zambezi.mit.edu/ or contact the MIT Legatum Center at info@zambezi.mit.edu.

About Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship at MIT

The Legatum Center was founded on the belief that entrepreneurs and their market-driven solutions are critical to tackling the world’s greatest challenges and driving global prosperity. Based at MIT Sloan School of Management, the Center leverages expertise and research across campus to equip future leaders with the skills, values, and critical thinking they need to succeed as entrepreneurial change agents. The Center’s capstone initiative is the Legatum Fellowship Program which provides aspiring entrepreneurs with a world-class education and substantial tuition support.  The Legatum Center also conducts a set of global activities to strengthen pathways between MIT and leaders of change in frontier markets. 

The Mastercard Foundation works with visionary organizations to provide greater access to education, skills training and financial services for people living in poverty, primarily in Africa. As one of the largest, private foundations, its work is guided by its mission to advance learning and promote financial inclusion to create an inclusive and equitable world. Based in Toronto, Canada, its independence was established by Mastercard when the Foundation was created in 2006.

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Capital injection into infrastructure development projects decreasing in Africa-AIIM’s Roman Py
March 13, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L & Prince Kuripati

Roman Py says that countries that want to grow and rise in the near future need to be able to attract value and create capital as it is the only way forward

Roman Py says that countries that want to grow and rise in the near future need to be able to attract value and create capital as it is the only way forward

On the sidelines of the recent Power Africa Summit in Washington,DC,PAV caught up with  recently caught up with Roman Py, Head of Transactions with the  African Infrastructure Investment Managers (AIIM),to discuss infrastructure development in Africa .

Introducing  AIIM, Romain Py said it was  a private equity firm whose interests is in investing capital into development projects mainly targeting infrastructure development. AIIM’s main target areas include telecoms infrastructure, mainstream energy, transport and power i.e. both thermal and renewable.

AIIM was formed 18 years ago and has subsequently grown in leaps and bounds ever since ,Romain Py said. To date AIIM has managed assets worth over 2 billion dollars and is currently managing other million dollar assets and operations in 15 countries mostly in West Africa.

Explaining how they take on projects, My Roman Py stated that AIIM has a two-fold criteria it uses in selecting which projects to pursue and which projects not to pursue. The first criteria AIIM employs covers the country as a whole, AIIM looks at the prevailing socio-economic-political environment to determine the suitability of running projects in a country. As is the case with any other investment, Mr Roman Py said that AIIM assesses whether it’s feasible to invest in a country considering the current investment climate. If the environment is unstable owing to political disturbances and the likes, AIIM takes the decision not to invest in that particular country. The same also applies to the economic aspect, if the economy of the country is fragile, then it’s unfavourable for AIIM to invest in that country.

The second aspect pertains to sector specific investment climate. Mr Roman Py stated that on occasions, the overall socio-economic-political environment maybe stable but when one looks closely, it’s possible to see that in one area for instance energy, the legal framework covering that area maybe vague and ambiguous while the legal framework for investing in telecoms infrastructure maybe clear and favourable for investment. In this instance, AIIM will then make a decision on investing in the one area that is investor friendly and disengage from the other unfavourable investment sectors.

During its 18 years in existence, AIIM has had some big successes according to Mr Roman Py. While AIIM’s operations have seen the company working in various countries around the continent, it is in West Africa that AIIM has managed to record massive success. Mr Roman Py says AIIM’s first big success story came in 2014 when the firm managed to finish a 240 megawatt Independent Power Producer (IPP) plant in Ghana. This was soon followed by a 450 megawatt gas fired plant a year later in Nigeria. In 2017, AIIM also finished another 90 megawatt IPP power plant in Mali, the first of its kind in the country. In the same year, AIIM also won a bid for another IPP power plant in Ghana. AIIM has other IPP power plants still in progress in Kenya and in Cote d’ voire.

As is the norm when running a business, AIIM encounters operational challenges in its line of business. Though there are quite a number of challenges, Mr Roman Py stated that their two biggest challenges include the ever-changing socio-political environment in African countries and power shortages. He said that while AIIM diligently assesses each country before starting projects, there are cases where the environment quickly changes from stable to unstable owing to unforeseen circumstances. Also, AIIM encounters power challenges as most African countries have unreliable power supplies which makes it difficult for AIIM to operate as most its projects require high amounts of power.

Roman Py went on to state that the amount of capital being injected into infrastructure development projects has sharply decreased in recent years .He attributed this  to the investment climate which is slowly deteriorating.  Roman Py said that Africa saw massive capital injection in the last 10 years, but that has since stagnated in the past two years. To Roman Py, this is as a result of the failure by African governments in particular and also private entities to close projects. He said that there are many ‘ground-breaking’ ceremonies in Africa where Heads of State and Government launch major projects but abandon them soon afterwards leaving a trail of unfulfilled mega-deals.

This problem can be rectified however as Roman Py said African countries need to move away from signing too many deals that ultimately fail, but rather focus on  projects that they can fulfill and close.  Roman Py said that “success breeds success” and as such once the first project succeeds, then it sets a good precedent for the next project to succeed in the end culminating in a permanent  circle of successful projects.

Roman Py also took time to comment on AIIM’s relationship with the Chinese. He said the relationship is more of a complementary relationship rather than a competitor relationship. This he explained saying Chinese come to Africa as contractors aiding government development projects and operate as contractors when on the ground. However, AIIM doesn’t operate as a contractor as it mostly conducts its business and operations separate from the government, it is more of a private entity.

Roman Py said that countries that want to grow and rise in the near future need to be able to attract value and create capital as it is the only way forward,citing Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Senegal as encouraging examples.

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Ex-Fifa chief Blatter expresses support for Morocco World Cup bid
March 10, 2018 | 0 Comments
Former Fifa president Sepp Blatter says his 'heart still beats for Africa'

Former Fifa president Sepp Blatter says his ‘heart still beats for Africa’

Former Fifa president Sepp Blatter believes Morocco should stage the 2026 World Cup because of the logistical challenges thrown up by the joint bid from Canada/Mexico/United States.

Blatter told reporters this week that joint bids are a “nightmare”.

“If Morocco is able to organise this World Cup with 48 teams, then it must be chosen,” said 82-year-old Blatter.

“After the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea, we (concluded) that co-organisation was a nightmare,” he said.

“We decided that as long as we had a single nomination, it would be privileged.”

There has never been a co-hosted World Cup since, with Germany, South Africa and Brazil all staging by themselves in 2006, 2010 and 2014 respectively.

Under the proposed plans of the triple bid, the United States would host 60 of the 80 matches, with Canada and Mexico hosting 10 games each.

The United States will stage all knock-out games from the quarter-finals onwards.

Morocco, meanwhile, is set to emphasise its compact nature and small travelling distances when it hands over its formal bid book later this month.

Both Morocco and the United States/Canada/Mexico must submit their 2026 World Cup bid books by 16 March.

The 2026 finals will be the first to feature 48 teams, 16 more than the tally that will contest both this year’s tournament in Russia and the 2022 event in Qatar.

The North African nation is making a fifth bid to host the World Cup, having failed to land the 1994, 1998, 2006 and 2010 editions.

Since none of the bidding nations are eligible to vote, Morocco will need to win 104 votes when the decision on who will host the 2026 finals is made in Russia on 13 June.

Earlier this week, the joint Canada-Mexico-US bid announced a reshuffle of its leadership, emphasising diversity as its leaders seek to attract voters.

The leaders of the US, Canada and Mexico federations will now serve as co-chairs of the bid, replacing former United States Soccer Federation chief Sunil Gulati, who steps down.

United 2026 said the changes reflect the “unity” at the highest levels of the joint bid, while some have seen the change in leadership as a strategic move to shift the perception of the bid as being a largely American-driven enterprise.

Blatter, who led Fifa for 17 years before being barred for ethics violations (that he is contesting) in 2015, was a central figure in organising the rotation system that eventually took the World Cup to Africa for the first time in 2010.

His extensive reign was ended when he was barred for ethics violations amid the biggest corruption scandal that world football’s governing body had ever seen.

The Swiss still hopes that Fifa’s ethics committee will reconsider his case and lift his six-year ban from the sport.

 *BBC
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Mauritius President Gurib-Fakim to resign over financial scandal
March 10, 2018 | 0 Comments
Ameenah Gurib-Fakim became Mauritius's first elected female President in 2015

Ameenah Gurib-Fakim became Mauritius’s first elected female President in 2015

Mauritian President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, Africa’s only female head of state, is to quit over a financial row.

She has been accused of using a bank card provided by a charity to make personal purchases worth tens of thousands of dollars.

She is to step down after ceremonies to mark the 50th anniversary of the island’s independence next week.

Denying wrongdoing, she said she had refunded all the money, Reuters news agency reports.

Ms Gurib-Fakim is a renowned scientist and in 2015 became the first woman to be appointed to the ceremonial position of president of Mauritius.

“The president of the republic told me that she would resign from office and we agreed on the date of her departure,” Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth told reporters without giving the chosen date.

“The interest of the country comes first, and I am proud of Mauritius’s image as a model of living democracy in the world.”

He added it would take place before parliament returned at the end of the month.

The Mauritian daily L’Express published bank documents purporting to show Ms Gurib-Fakim had used a credit card given to her by the Planet Earth Institute (PEI) in London to buy thousands of dollars worth of clothes, jewellery and other personal items.

According to the paper, the card was given to her as part of her work as an unpaid director for the charity.

One of the organisation’s directors is Angolan businessman Alvaro Sobrinho who, the paper says, secured a permit to found an investment bank in Mauritius, prompting allegations of favouritism.

The BBC has approached the PEI for comment.

*BBC

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How to build Wakanda: Lessons for African leaders from ‘Black Panther’
March 10, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Taa Wongbe*

The king of Wakanda Chadwick Boseman and Lupita Nyong'o.

The king of Wakanda Chadwick Boseman and Lupita Nyong’o.

As “Black Panther” nears a billion in box office worldwide, many Africans have flocked to theaters, sporting traditional African attires with pride to watch their brothers and sisters portrayed as superheroes, a narrative that has been lacking in popular culture.

With the World Bank’s Global Economic Prospects reporting that three of the ten fastest growing economies are in Africa, “Black Panther” provides a vision of what African countries could look like if some things are done right.
The movie is filled with many lessons that African leaders and government officials can take to promote sustainable economic growth, peace and prosperity to build their Wakanda. Here are five:
Empower and elevate women, and ensure you surround yourself with them.
There is no escaping the power of women in “Black Panther.” The newly crowned Prince T’Challa, played by Chadwick Boseman, surrounds himself with powerful women, who he leaned on for guidance, wisdom and strength.
Africa has seen many women leaders — Winnie MandelaMiriam MakebaWangari Maathaiformer President Joyce BandaNgozi Okonjo Iweala and my own former President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf— who have played critical roles in shaping their countries’ destiny.
When women are empowered, they promote the well-being of society by championing health, education and peace. To build Wakanda, African leaders must put more women in positions of leadership.
Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education is key.
For me, Princess Shuri was the coolest and most inspiring character in the movie; no one could resist her intellect. She reinforced the power of STEM education. Because of the film’s success, Disney donated $1 Million for STEM education for young boys and girls in the US.
Education can change everything, and technology has the power to be the great equalizer. Because of this, African leaders should focus on STEM at an early age so Africa does not fall behind in the technology sector. Leading this charge for STEM education in Africa is Rwanda.
The country has a strategic plan to transform its economy by 2020 and STEM education is at the nexus. Investing in STEM education will not only confront the rampant unemployment challenges we have, but it will also address the gaps in human resources in Africa to build infrastructure, manage natural resources, and control diseases.
African leaders must take immediate steps to ensure STEM is included in national curricula.
Use natural resources to develop your country, and keep them in the people’s hands for today and tomorrow.
We have heard horror stories about the resource curse in Africa, but in Wakanda, Prince T’Challa and his late father fought to protect their natural resources. The Wakandans added value by developing technologies and did not export their resources hastily.
Few countries in Africa have avoided the curse, but one success story is Botswana, one of the world’s largest producersof diamonds. The nation has pursued economic diversification and has developed sound fiscal policies to regulate diamond wealth and government spending.
Botswana also invested diamond revenues for future generations using a sovereign wealth fund called the Pula Fund. Botswana is paving the way for their youth to become educated and empowered, and their society to prosper. Other nations must learn from this, it’s the Wakanda way.
Respect cultures and traditions while modernizing and allow them to coexist with the basic tenets of democracy.
Democracy is essential for every country to aspire for. But it comes in many forms — it is not a one size fits all system. In Wakanda, culture and traditions were important.
The Wakandans followed them while evolving their country. They did not simply accept a new form of government because it worked for other societies. Africa has seen charismatic leaders elected democratically and celebrated by the West only for those leaders to change the rules to fit them.
Democracy can be manipulated. We saw that recently in Rwanda, and in Uganda for years. Wakanda seems to embrace and exhibit some of the basic tenets of democracy while respecting their culture and tradition. For example, while there were no elections, certain citizens could challenge the king to win the throne.
This was their form of election and it was valued and respected. While we modernize and develop our society, we should remember the positive traditions and cultures that got us here and preserve them as we modernize. This is a firm lesson for African leaders.
Embrace the natural habitat of the land while developing and building up.
In Wakandan architecture, we saw red dirt and market places while alongside super railways and skyscrapers.
Many roads in Africa are built with asphalt which is highly expensive and difficult to procure. Wakandans built using the natural habitat, and fortunately, this is possible in Africa. For example, the Nubian Vault technique has been used since the ancient kingdom of Nubia, located in the Nile Valley in Egypt and Sudan. Environmentalists laud this as environmentally friendly and sustainable, and can help mitigate the effects of climate change.
African leaders must support architectural innovation with their natural habitat.
“Black Panther” inspired me to imagine what Africa could be if our leaders take some bold and collective actions.
It also inspired me that we should all be a part of this Wakanda-like development journey by developing leaders, specifically in the public service, that will passionately serve their people, protect their natural resources, embrace innovation and preserve cultures and traditions that are worth preserving.
*Source CNN.Taa is a Liberian Entrepreneur, Advocate and Philanthropist and the founder and CEO of the Khana Group, a leading social impact research and consulting firm in Africa. Taa has consulted with McKinsey, Deloitte and other consulting firms and was recently awarded the Business Leadership Excellence Award and inducted into the African Leadership Magazine’s CEO Hall of Fame.
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South Sudan Media Authority Suspends UN Radio Station
March 10, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Deng Machol

FILE (VOA)- Radio Miraya host Lubna Lasu broadcasts the Betna Weekend Edition program in the southern Sudanese city of Juba, April 10, 2010.

FILE (VOA)- Radio Miraya host Lubna Lasu broadcasts the Betna Weekend Edition program in the southern Sudanese city of Juba, April 10, 2010.

Juba – South Sudan’s media authority has suspended the UN – run known as Radio Miraya and ordered its frequency to be switched off in the country, citing failure to comply with directives to register in accordance with the provision of the media regulatory body.

This was announced in the press conference on Friday by Media Authority, asked the National Communication Authority to withdraw the frequency 101FM assigned to the UN radio station for non-compliance with conditions set for acquiring licenses for operation in the country.

The media regulatory body established by the government said the popular radio station should stop broadcasting with effect from today (Friday, March 9, 2018).

The media regulator accuses the UN- backed radio of non-compliance and refusing to be regulated under the country’s media laws.

Mr. Elijah Alier, managing director of the South Sudan Media Authority told a news conference that the radio station operated by the United Mission in South Sudan, UNMISS has failed to obtain a valid operation license.

Alier further says Radio Miyira journalists will not be allowed to cover stories until the suspension is lifted.

He denies criticism that the suspension of the radio station amounts to media censorship.

“This is to inform the public and media houses that the media authority has suspended the operation for persistent non-compliance and refusal to be regulated under the media laws in the Republic of South Sudan,” letter reads in part seen by Panafricanism.

According to the Media Authority’s suspension letter, the decision was taken following notifications starting on June 2017, September, 2017, November 2017 and February 2018.The management of Radio Miraya, the letter alleges has failed to respond in what authorities equate to violation and non-compliance with the media authority orders.

The suspension also came after the Country’s Information Minister and Government Spokesperson, Michael Makuei Lueth, who then sanctioned by the UN, had been threatened to shut down the station, earlier saying he would not be afraid to close down the UN-owned radio station meant for peace building.

However, UNMISS spokesperson Francisca Mold says the management of Radio is till in talks with government and that UN – radio will continue to operate.

Since the conflict erupted in 2013, the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and the government lead by President Salva Kiir have not been good terms, government has several accused the UNMISS of supporting the country’s rebels lead by former first vice President Dr. Riek Machar.

According to a UN human rights report released last month, Press freedom in South Sudan has been affected by the ongoing conflict.

In July 2017, South Sudan’s authorities said blocked access to some websites such as Sudantribune,  Radio Tamazuj, Paanluel and others accusing them of “hostile” reporting.

In the aftermath of conflict, journalists in South Sudan were often complain of harassment and arbitrary detention by the security forces.

According to the Media Authority Act 2013, no one is allowed to provide broadcasting services in the country without valid license.

Moreover, the media body earlier this month, prevented a journalists who have not registered with them to cover a press conference held by the country’s Information Minister.

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Ugandan author wins $165k prize
March 9, 2018 | 0 Comments

The Manchester-based author who’s won a life-changing $165k book prize

Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi moved to the UK from Uganda at the age of 34

Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi moved to the UK from Uganda at the age of 34

A Manchester-based author whose debut novel was initially rejected by British publishers has won one of the world’s richest literary prizes.

Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi – who’s from Uganda and moved to the UK 17 years ago – has won one of the Windham Campbell Prizes from Yale University in the US.

She will receive $165,000 (£119,000). “I haven’t been earning for a long, long time,” she says.

“I really put everything into writing. So for this to happen is unbelievable.”

The prize money is more than double the amount that the Booker Prize winner gets, and organisers say it’s the richest award dedicated to literature after the Nobel Prize.

Makumbi is one of eight writers to receive Windham Campbell Prizes this year spanning fiction, non-fiction, drama and poetry – and is the only winner to have published just one full-length work.

Two other British writers are also on the list, both for non-fiction – Sarah Bakewelland Olivia Laing.

‘Too African’

The prizes were created by writer Donald Windham and also carry the name of his partner Sandy M Campbell. They were first awarded in 2013 to “provide writers with the opportunity to focus on their work independent of financial concerns”.

Makumbi said news of the award came out of the blue. “It’s American, and normally it’s people who have got so many books [behind them],” she said. “So I’m surprised how I was one of them.”

Makumbi’s debut novel Kintu was first published in Kenya four years ago after British publishers rejected it for being “too African”. It was finally released in the UK this January.

Cover of Kintu by Jennifer Nansubuga MakumbiImage copyrightONEWORLD PUBLICATIONS

The author said British publishers and readers like to have something they can relate to – be it Western characters or familiar settings and storylines – if they’re reading about Africa.

But she describes Kintu as “proper, proper Africa”.

The book conjures myths and legends to tell the story of a Ugandan family who believe they have been cursed over 250 years.

“I had really locked Europe out,” Makumbi says. “But it was a little bit too much – the language, the way I wrote it – they [Brits] were not used to that kind of writing. But they are beginning now to open up I think.

“Readers are realising, OK, if I want to explore Africa I’d rather be told from an African point of view rather than being told things that I’m expected to want to know.”

‘It’s about getting a paycheque’

Makumbi was a high school teacher before moving to the UK to pursue her dream of a writing career. She began by studying creative writing in Manchester, then wrote Kintu while doing a PhD in Lancaster.

The Windham Campbell Prize will help spread the word about the book – but for Makumbi, for now at least, the prize money will be the thing that changes her life.

“I would like to say it’s more about getting to be known and whatever, but mainly it’s about getting a paycheque,” she admits.

“It’s mainly about [doing] ordinary things that other people do that have a job. I have a partner but he’s not earning much and I’ve not been really pulling my weight.

“I’ve just been taking and taking, and we are a working class family, so it’s huge. And then, of course, now I can go and do research in different countries for my next project.”

‘Shocked’ by British life

She didn’t have to travel far to research a short story collection that will come out next January. It’s title is Love Made in Manchester.

“I write the stories as a way of writing back to Ugandans, informing them what happens to us,” she says. “I’m telling them, ‘You want to come to Britain? Hang on a minute. First read my story.'”

So what impression will Ugandans get of Britain if they do?

“It’s not the world that they’ve been told it is. When you’re in Uganda, Britain is the London Eye, Buckingham Palace, The Savoy, The Ritz – because this is how Britain markets itself.

“You never see the working class. That is what takes you by surprise. It’s just shocking.

“You come here and see the working class and you’re like, I should have paid attention to Dickens!”

*Source  BBC

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Merck Foundation marks ‘International Women’s Day’ with the First Lady of Niger
March 9, 2018 | 0 Comments
Merck Foundation discusses their commitment to building healthcare capacity with the President of Niger
NIAMEY, Niger, March 8, 2018/ —

  • Merck Foundation, in partnership with the First Lady of Niger builds healthcare capacity in the country with special focus on Cancer, Diabetes and Infertility.
  • Merck Foundation appoints the first Lady of Niger, as an Ambassador of Merck More than a Mother.
  • Merck Foundation discusses their commitment to building healthcare capacity with the President of Niger.
Merck Foundation appointed the First Lady of Niger H.E. Mrs. Aissata Issoufou Mahamadou as an Ambassador of 'Merck More Than a Mother'

Merck Foundation appointed the First Lady of Niger H.E. Mrs. Aissata Issoufou Mahamadou as an Ambassador of ‘Merck More Than a Mother’

Merck (www.Merck.com) launched their Merck Foundation (www.Merck-Foundation.com) in Niger in partnership with the First Lady of Niger and their Ministry of Health (www.NigerStateMoH.org). During the launch event Merck Foundation, a non-profit organization and a subsidiary of Merck KGaA Germany, marked ‘International women’s Day’ in Niger to empower infertile women through “Merck More Than a Mother” campaign.

During the event, Prof. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp, Chairman of the Executive Board of E.Merck KG and the Chairman of Merck Foundation Board of Trustees emphasized, “We are very proud to launch our Merck Foundation in partnership with the First Lady of Niger and Ministry of Health to build healthcare capacity, improve access to Cancer and Diabetes care and to empower infertile women in the country.”

Dr. Rasha Kelej CEO of Merck Foundation explained, “We are very proud to appoint H.E. Mrs. Aissata Issoufou Mahamadou, the First Lady of The Republic of Niger, as an ambassador of ‘Merck More Than a Mother’ campaign, to work closely with Merck Foundation in defining interventions to break the stigma around childless women across the country. Through our partnership, we will transform the lives of those unprivileged women, women who suffered all their lives from the Infertility stigma.”

L-R) Prof. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp, Chairman of the Executive Board of E.Merck KG and the Chairman of Merck Foundation Board of Trustees, Her Excellency, the First Lady of Niger, H.E. Mrs. Aissata Issoufou Mahamadou and Dr. Rasha Kelej, the CEO of Merck Foundation

L-R) Prof. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp, Chairman of the Executive Board of E.Merck KG and the Chairman of Merck Foundation Board of Trustees, Her Excellency, the First Lady of Niger, H.E. Mrs. Aissata Issoufou Mahamadou and Dr. Rasha Kelej, the CEO of Merck Foundation

Her Excellency, the First Lady of Niger, H.E. Mrs. Aissata Issoufou Mahamadou emphasized, “I truly value our partnership with Merck Foundation. I firmly believe that building professional capacity is a good strategy to help our government to improve access to healthcare in our country. I will also work closely with Merck foundation to break the stigma around infertility at all levels by raising awareness, training the skills of local experts and by supporting childless women in starting their small businesses.”

She added “Currently, we don’t have any oncologist or fertility specialists in Niger, we even do not have cancer care facility and fertility clinic in the country. Merck Foundation makes history in the Niger, through its ‘Merck Oncology Fellowship Program’ and ‘Merck More Than a Mother’. They will provide training to the first oncologists and fertility specialists for Niger.

L-R) Dr. Rasha Kelej, the CEO of Merck Foundation, Prof. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp, Chairman of the Executive Board of E.Merck KG and the Chairman of Merck Foundation Board of Trustees discussed long-term commitment to healthcare capacity building with the President of Niger H.E. Mahamadou Issoufou

L-R) Dr. Rasha Kelej, the CEO of Merck Foundation, Prof. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp, Chairman of the Executive Board of E.Merck KG and the Chairman of Merck Foundation Board of Trustees discussed long-term commitment to healthcare capacity building with the President of Niger H.E. Mahamadou Issoufou

“As per the information received from the Ministry of Health, for 22 Million population, Niger has only six oncologists, one hematologist, and 12 radiotherapists. This gap is of course not enough to give proper access to quality and equitable cancer care across the country. We hope we can significantly increase the number of oncologists in the next three years.” Rasha Kelej added.

Merck foundation is committed to providing one-year to two-years Oncology Fellowship Programs and Clinical Fertility Management Training to four candidates from Niger in 2018 and is determined to provide training to more candidates in the future.

Merck Foundation met the President of Niger H.E. Mahamadou Issoufou to discuss and underscore our long-term commitment to healthcare capacity building, and empowering women and youth in Niger through our impactful programs; Merck Cancer Access Program and Merck More Than a Mother in partnership with the First Lady of Niger H.E. Mrs. Aissata Issoufou Mahamadou

Merck Foundation met the President of Niger H.E. Mahamadou Issoufou to discuss and underscore our long-term commitment to healthcare capacity building, and empowering women and youth in Niger through our impactful programs; Merck Cancer Access Program and Merck More Than a Mother in partnership with the First Lady of Niger H.E. Mrs. Aissata Issoufou Mahamadou

Moreover, Merck Foundation is committed to contributing toward advancing Diabetes Care in Niger, by providing online Diabetes Management Diploma in the French language, for medical postgraduates in Niger and other Francophone African countries, so that they can learn more about diagnosis and treatment of diabetes. The course is accredited by ‘Royal College of General Practitioners’ in the UK.

About Merck Foundation in Niger:
Merck Foundation is going to provide the oncology and clinical fertility training to the following healthcare professionals from Niger:

Oncology
1.    Dr. Mamadou Oumarou Ramatou- Adult medical oncology
2.    Dr. Mahamadou Aichatou- Paediatric Oncology
3.    Dr. Alhousseini Alhassane Laila- Radiation oncology
4.    Dr. Moussa Soffo Issa- Radiation technician

Clinical Fertility Management Training
1.    Dr. Abdoulaye Maiga
2.    Dr. Barkire Fatoumatou
3.    Dr. Lawali Chekarao Mamadou.

So far, candidates from Uganda, Zambia, Ethiopia, Namibia, Tanzania, Ghana, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Botswana, Liberia, Rwanda, Kenya, Chad, Niger, Guinea, Gambia, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Nepal have benefitted from Merck Foundation’s training programs in fertility or oncology fellowships. Merck Foundation aims to expand to more African and Asian countries soon.

(L-R) Hon. Dr. Idi Illiassou Mainassara, Minister of Public Health for Niger, Prof. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp, Chairman of the Executive Board of E.Merck KG and the Chairman of Merck Foundation Board of Trustees and Dr. Rasha Kelej, the CEO of Merck Foundation discussing Merck Foundation's long-term commitment to building healthcare capacity in Niger

(L-R) Hon. Dr. Idi Illiassou Mainassara, Minister of Public Health for Niger, Prof. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp, Chairman of the Executive Board of E.Merck KG and the Chairman of Merck Foundation Board of Trustees and Dr. Rasha Kelej, the CEO of Merck Foundation discussing Merck Foundation’s long-term commitment to building healthcare capacity in Niger

The Merck Foundation (www.Merck-Foundation.com), established in 2017, is a philanthropic organization that aims to improve the health and wellbeing of people and advance their lives through science and technology. Our efforts are primarily focused on improving access to innovative healthcare solutions in underserved communities, building healthcare and scientific research capacity and empowering people in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) with a special focus on women and youth. All Merck Foundation press releases are distributed by e-mail at the same time they become available on the Merck Foundation Website. Please go to www.Merck-Foundation.com to read more and/or register online to interact and exchange experience with our registered members.
Merck Foundation is a subsidiary of Merck KGaA Germany

About Merck
Merck (www.Merck.com) is a leading science and technology company in healthcare, life science and performance materials. Around 50,000 employees work to further develop technologies that improve and enhance life – from biopharmaceutical therapies to treat cancer or multiple sclerosis, cutting-edge systems for scientific research and production, to liquid crystals for smartphones and LCD televisions. In 2016, Merck generated sales of € 15.0 billion in 66 countries.
Founded in 1668, Merck is the world’s oldest pharmaceutical and chemical company. The founding family remains the majority owner of the publicly listed corporate group. Merck holds the global rights to the Merck name and brand. The only exceptions are the United States and Canada, where the company operates as EMD Serono, MilliporeSigma and EMD Performance Materials

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Africa a world leader in women business owners: Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs
March 8, 2018 | 0 Comments

Index shows Ghana has the highest percentage of women business owners worldwide. Uganda is third overall.

 Africa – 8 March 2018 – Following the release of the Mastercard Index of Women’s Entrepreneurship (MIWE) today, it was revealed that 46.4 percent of businesses in Ghana are owned by women, making it one of the top performing African countries highlighted in the index.

The MIWE is a weighted index that helps to better understand and identify factors and conditions that are most conducive to closing the gender gap among business owners in any given economy. The three factors include Women’s Advancement Outcomes, Access to Knowledge and Financial Services, and Supporting Entrepreneurial Factors. The Index examined 57 different economies around the globe, including Botswana, Ethiopia, South Africa and Uganda; with Ghana, Nigeria and Malawi as new additions.

Nigeria and Ghana scored particularly well in terms of advancement outcomes: the women entrepreneurial activity rate was 100 percent, with overall scores in this regard coming in at 62.4 percent and 59.1 percent respectively. African countries also scored highly in women labour force participation – with Malawi at 100 percent, Ghana at 96.1 percent, and Ethiopia at 86.6 percent.

South Africa excelled in sharing knowledge assets with women and providing financial access, with a score of 84.3 percent– coming in 6th out of 57 countries. Botswana followed closely with a score of 73 percent.  Botswana and South Africa were the highest scoring African countries in the Index overall with scores of 66.5 percent and 64.2 percent respectively.

When compared to other African markets surveyed Botswana leads the charge with the highest rate of Supporting Entrepreneurial Conditions, at 68.1 percent, this is an increase of 2 percent from last year. Indicating that the country has positive Cultural Perceptions of Women Entrepreneurs and Quality of Governance. The continent scored highly in terms of women Financial Inclusion with South Africa at 98.7 percent, Ghana scoring 84.6 percent, and 77.1 percent in Ethiopia.

The Index results revealed that female entrepreneurs in developing countries are driven by grit and determination, along with a desire to provide for their families. The findings reinforce that women entrepreneurs are the backbone of economic growth and powerful engines of development and financial inclusion, especially in Africa.  The Index also showed an interesting contrast: women’s progress and advancement as entrepreneurs is not necessarily aligned to the pace of their own country’s economic growth and wealth. In fact, the highest rates of ownership are seen in developing economies where entrepreneurship is typically necessity-driven.

Women entrepreneurs in Africa and other developing markets have proven to be equally vibrant, resourceful and innovative in finding opportunities to improve their own lives as well as create a better future for their children.

“Botswana, Ghana and Uganda shine as examples of women’s determination to provide for themselves and their families and Africa excels at creating strong women entrepreneurs with the drive to succeed even in the face of financial, regulatory or technical constraints,” says Beatrice Cornacchia, Head of Marketing and Communications, Middle East and Africa, Mastercard.

An interesting outcome of the Index is that cultural perceptions of women entrepreneurs in Africa are predominantly positive – at 69.1 percent in Uganda and 67.2 percent in Nigeria, this is well above their Middle Eastern counterparts.

According to the Index, some women’s inclination towards business ownership may be undermined by limited access to education, financial and entrepreneurial opportunities. These are by no means only African – or developing – countries challenges, however. Women entrepreneurs even in developed nations face cultural and gender biases that restrict them from opening or expanding their own businesses.

These constraints are acting as barriers preventing women from starting businesses in the majority of the 57 countries surveyed. In New Zealand, the top ranked country overall for example, results revealed that society is less receptive towards female entrepreneurs because they are not perceived as having the same level of know-how as men. In Portugal, which ranked 6th on the Index with a score of 69.1 percent, women are not only constrained by a lack of cultural acceptance, but difficulties in getting bank loans, insurance, or trade finance. Even Botswana – which emerged as the top ranked African country on the Index at 14 with a score of 66.5 percent – has seen an increasing gender bias that acts as a barrier to women opening businesses.

This indicates that changes need to be implemented not just within society itself, but at economic, financial and political levels. “This requires collective action from public and private sector partners to implement initiatives that provide African women with the necessary education, training and mentorship to develop financial literacy to start and run successful and sustainable businesses,” Cornacchia concludes.

The full report is available here: https://newsroom.mastercard.com/mea/digital-press-kits/mastercard-index-of-women-entrepreneurs-2018

Methodology

The Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs tracks female entrepreneurs’ ability to capitalize on opportunities granted through various supporting conditions within their local environments and is the weighted sum of three components: 1) Women’s Advancement Outcomes (degree of bias against women as workforce participants, political and business leaders, as well as the financial strength and entrepreneurial inclination of women), 2) Knowledge Assets and Financial Assets (degree of access women have to basic financial services, advanced knowledge assets, and support for small and medium enterprises), and 3) Supporting Entrepreneurial Conditions (overall perceptions on the ease on conducting business locally, quality of local governance, women’s perception of safety levels and cultural perception of women’s household financial influence).

The Index uses 12 indicators and 25 sub-indicators to look at how 57 economies across Asia Pacific, Middle East & Africa, North America, Latin America and Europe, representing 78.6 percent of the world’s female labour force, differ in terms of the level of the three components.

Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs – Top 10 markets with the strongest supporting conditions and opportunities for women to thrive as entrepreneurs

  1. New Zealand – 74.2
  2. Sweden – 71.3
  3. Canada – 70.9
  4. United States – 70.8
  5. Singapore – 69.2
  6. Portugal – 69.1
  7. Australia – 68.9
  8. Belgium – 68.7
  9. Philippines – 68.0
  10. United Kingdom – 67.9

Women business owners as a percentage of all business owners – Top 10 markets

  1. Ghana – 46.4%
  2. Russia – 34.6%
  3. Uganda – 33.8%
  4. New Zealand – 33.0%
  5. Australia – 32.1%
  6. Vietnam – 31.3%
  7. Poland – 30.3%
  8. Spain – 29.4%
  9. Romania -28.9%
  10. Portugal – 28.7%

 

About Mastercard

Mastercard (NYSE: MA), www.mastercard.com, is a technology company in the global payments industry.  Our global payments processing network connects consumers, financial institutions, merchants, governments and businesses in more than 210 countries and territories.  Mastercard products and solutions make everyday commerce activities – such as shopping, traveling, running a business and managing finances – easier, more secure and more efficient for everyone.

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Ugandans claim Wakanda
March 8, 2018 | 0 Comments
Daniel Kaluuya in a kanzu

Daniel Kaluuya in a kanzu

Ugandans, who have two actors featured in Black Panther – Daniel Kaluuya and Florence Kasumba – have been busy showing why the African country Wakanda is actually Uganda, since the movie premiered on the continent two weeks ago.

With some scenes from the movie shot on location from Mountain Rwenzori and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest national park, in southwest Uganda, who can blame them for staking their claim?

Ugandans are also not taking the rhyming of Wakanda with Uganda for granted, nor have they glossed over the fact that Kaluuya’s character in the movie is called W’kabi, (read, Wakabi).

And the British-born actor himself put a Ugandan seal on the movie when he turned up for the world premiere of the box office record-breaking movie dressed in a traditional kanzu. Some have already taken to social media, wooing the world to come vacation in Uganda and see more of Wakanda.

Africans just cannot get enough of the first Marvel superhero movie with a predominantly black cast. In Ugandan cinemas, tickets are still selling out like hot cake, as even those who have watched it claim to return for second screenings of the movie that casts Africa and Pan-Africanism in positive light.

Hollywood movies set in Africa often depict the continent as a war-torn environment filled with poverty and suffering. Black Panther has received rave reviews from critics and cinemagoers that have flocked its premieres in Uganda, Nigeria and South Africa, among others.

Some of the cast flew to South Africa for the premiere, with Kenyan-born actress Lupita Nyong’o, tweeting “the excitement is spellbinding”.

In Nigeria’s commercial capital, Lagos, film fans, Nollywood stars and comedians were dressed in traditional robes and gowns, with some opting to wear specially-made attire in keeping with the film’s futuristic take on African garments. Kaluuya had set the fashion pace at the world premiere with his kanzu worn with a maroon velvet jacket.

“Black Panther is a film that celebrates black excellence…it is especially exciting,” said Bolaji Kekere-Ekun, a 33-year-old filmmaker. “The people who made the film were very specific about the references they used in relationship to Africa. They are pulling from the best fashion and art.”

Wakanda

Black Panther is set in the fictional African nation of Wakanda. It tells the story of the new king, T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), who is challenged by rival factions.

“We put our heart and soul into it because we knew it was a great opportunity,” Boseman, 41, said during a Twitter Q&A. “But to see how people have responded to it, it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen. It’s crazy.”

The fictional African country is depicted as a verdant land with stunning waterfalls where spacecraft designed like tribal masks soar over a modern metropolis.

Directed by black director Ryan Coogler and featuring actors including Michael B. Jordan, Angela Bassett, Nyong’o and Forest Whittaker, the film has received widespread critical acclaim after years of criticism about the under-representation of black people in Hollywood.

Black Panther scored the largest box office debuts ever in West Africa and East Africa, generating about $400,000 and $300,000, respectively.

Big-screen company Imax Corp said its theaters in Kenya and Nigeria had their biggest results ever with Black Panther.

With more than five million posts, Black Panther is also the most tweeted-about movie of 2018 – ahead even of Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Various analysts said they expect Black Panther to do for ethnic diversity what last Warner Bros smash hit Wonder Woman did for women – which was to persuade film executives that blockbuster movies don’t need white male leads to sell tickets.

The film’s release comes less than two months after US president Donald Trump was quoted calling African countries “shitholes”.

*The Observer

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Africa’s Year of Opportunity
March 8, 2018 | 0 Comments

By CAROLINE KENDE-ROBB*

In many corners of the world, 2018 is shaping up to be yet another disappointing year, with inequality and poverty continuing to fuel anger and populism. While Africa will not be entirely immune from such developments, its inhabitants have at least eight good reasons – far more than most people elsewhere – to be optimistic.

GENEVA – We are still near the start of 2018, and already it feels like tension and disorder will be the year’s defining characteristics. From anti-immigration policies in the United States to flaring geopolitical hotspots in the Middle East and East Asia, disruption, upheaval, and uncertainty seem to be the order of the day.

But at least one metric offers reason for cautious optimism: economic growth. The International Monetary Fund estimatesthat global growth will reach 3.7% this year, up from 3.6% in 2017. As Christine Lagarde, the Fund’s managing director, put it in a speech in December, “The sun is shining through the clouds and helping most economies generate the strongest growth since the financial crisis.”

It was fitting that Lagarde made that observation in Addis Ababa, because it is in Africa where the rays of prosperity are shining brightest. In fact, I predict that 2018 will be a breakout year for many – though not all – African economies, owing to gains in eight key areas.

For starters, Africa is poised for a modest, if fragmented, growth recovery. Following three years of weak economic performance, overall growth is expected to accelerate to 3.5% this year, from 2.9% in 2017. This year’s projected gains will come amid improved global conditions, increased oil output, and the easing of drought conditions in the east and south.

To be sure, growth will be uneven. While nearly a third of African economies will grow by around 5%, slowdowns are likely in at least a dozen others. Sharp increases in public debt, which has reached 50% of GDP in nearly half of Sub-Saharan countries, are particularly worrying. But, overall, Africa is positioned for a positive year.

Second, Africa’s political landscape is liberalizing. Some of Africa’s longest-serving presidents – including Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, Angola’s José Eduardo dos Santos, and the Gambia’s Yahya Jammeh – exited in 2017. In South Africa, Jacob Zuma’s resignation allowed Cyril Ramaphosa to become president. In January, Liberians witnessed their country’s first peaceful transfer of power since 1944, when former soccer star George Weah was sworn into office.

*former chief adviser to the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity, is a senior fellow at the African Center for Economic Transformation. This piece was originally published in Project Syndicate

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China, Russia Mounting Growing Challenge to US in Africa
March 8, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Jeff Seldin*

Ethiopia's Minister of Foreign Affairs Workneh Gebeyehu (center R) walks the red carpet with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as he arrives to begin a six-day trip in Africa, landing at Addis Ababa International Airport in Addis Ababa, March 7, 2018.

Ethiopia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Workneh Gebeyehu (center R) walks the red carpet with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as he arrives to begin a six-day trip in Africa, landing at Addis Ababa International Airport in Addis Ababa, March 7, 2018.

China and Russia are working to expand their influence across Africa, hoping to outspend or out-compete the United States, U.S. officials warn, describing it as part of a larger effort by both countries to reshape the world order.

For months, top national security officials have been talking about the reemergence of what they describe as a great power competition, calling out China and Russia as the two countries doing the most to counter the United States.

FILE - Chinese workers pose at the inauguration site of a train linking Addis Ababa to Djibouti, 20 kilometres from the centre of Addis Ababa, Oct. 5, 2016.
FILE – Chinese workers pose at the inauguration site of a train linking Addis Ababa to Djibouti, 20 kilometres from the centre of Addis Ababa, Oct. 5, 2016.

Officials say the efforts by Beijing and Moscow are both regional and global, with both pursuing strategies to deny the U.S. access to conflict zones in times of crisis and to commercial markets in times of peace.

And in Africa, both are trying to portray themselves as viable, if not essential, alternatives to the United States.

On Tuesday, the commander of U.S. forces in Africa told lawmakers it is now critical for African countries to know Washington can and will remain a steadfast partner.

U.S. Marine Corps General Thomas Waldhauser holds a news conference at Camp Lemonnier in Ambouli, Djibouti, Apr. 23, 2017.
U.S. Marine Corps General Thomas Waldhauser holds a news conference at Camp Lemonnier in Ambouli, Djibouti, Apr. 23, 2017.

“It’s important that we’re there, that we’re present and that the African people see our commitment,” U.S. Africa Command’s Gen. Thomas Waldhauser told the House Armed Services Committee.

China’s expanding influence

Concerns about China’s ever-expanding reach into Africa are not new. U.S. intelligence warned this past September (2017) that Beijing’s first overseas military base, at Doraleh, in the east African nation of Djibouti, was likely to be the first of many.

FILE - Chinese People's Liberation Army personnel attend the opening ceremony of China's new military base in Djibouti, Aug. 1, 2017.
FILE – Chinese People’s Liberation Army personnel attend the opening ceremony of China’s new military base in Djibouti, Aug. 1, 2017.

“China seeks to build [military bases] around the world, creating new areas of intersecting, and potentially conflicting, security interests between China and the United States,” an intelligence official said at the time.

For U.S. Africa Command, perhaps no situation is as concerning as the one in Djibouti, home to Camp Lemonnier, the only permanent U.S. military installation on the African continent and a hub for U.S. counterterror operations.

FILE - In this image released by the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Marines and sailors prepare to board a KC-130J Marine Super Hercules at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti.
FILE – In this image released by the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Marines and sailors prepare to board a KC-130J Marine Super Hercules at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti.

Gen. Waldhauser described the Chinese military base at Doraleh as, “right outside our gates.” And despite some efforts to work with the Chinese, in areas like medical aid and training, U.S. defense officials remain wary.

“We are not naïve,” said Waldhauser Tuesday. “We are taking significant steps on the counterintelligence side so that we have all the defenses that we need.”

But China’s military might in Africa, including its approximately 2,500 peacekeepers, is not what has U.S. defense, intelligence and diplomatic officials most concerned.

Rather, they point to the way Beijing relies on economic aid and promises of development to bring countries like Djibouti into its sphere of influence.

A Chinese naval base and U.S. base Camp Lemonnier, in Djibouti
A Chinese naval base and U.S. base Camp Lemonnier, in Djibouti

“The Chinese there are building facilities. They’re building a shopping mall. They built a soccer stadium,” Waldhauser said. “They built the infrastructure for communications in Djibouti.”

“When we talk about influence and access, this is a classic example,” he added. “We’ll never outspend the Chinese.”

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday went as far as to accuse China of “encouraging dependency” in its approach to the continent.

“Chinese investment does have the potential to address Africa’s infrastructure gap but its approach has led to mounting debt and few, if any, jobs in most countries. When coupled with the political and fiscal pressure, this endangers Africa’s natural resources and its long-term economic, political stability,” noted Tillerson in a speech hours before leaving on a five-country African trip.

Other U.S. officials have also raised concerns about the high levels of debt some nations are incurring as they increasingly accept Chinese loans. By some U.S. estimates, Djibouti, which is home to the U.S. military base, owes more than $1.2 billion to Beijing.

That has sparked fears among some U.S. lawmakers that China could make a play to take control of Djibouti’s key port, the Doraleh Container Terminal.

Djibouti took control of the port citing a contract dispute with the former operator, Dubai-based DP World.

“Reports that I’ve read say that they didn’t seize it for purposes of operating it for profit, but that they actually intend to gift it to China,” Republican Representative Bradley Byrne (from Louisiana) said during Tuesday’s hearing with Africa Command’s Gen. Waldhauser.

“The Chinese aren’t there for purely charitable reasons,” Byrne said. “We all would recognize that.”

U.S. defense officials admit that if China does take over the port and decides to impose any restrictions, the consequences could be significant – impacting the military’s ability to refuel ships and to resupply Camp Lemonnier and other outposts across Africa.

Russia’s focus on Africa

Russia, too, is making Africa more of a focus.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visits Africa this week, starting with a stop in Zimbabwe, where Moscow has been cultivating economic ties, including a $3 billion investment in platinum mining, while also pursuing deeper military ties.

There has also been extensive Russian outreach to northern African nations, particularly countries like Libya which border on the Mediterranean.

“Our concern would be their ability to influence and be on the southern flank of NATO, and also them to kind of squeeze us out, if you will, by them taking a prominent role,” said U.S. Africa Command’s Waldhauser.

Russian officials say they have no plans to back down.

“African countries view the development of cooperation in the military and technical sphere as an instrument of ensuring their sovereignty, independence and countering the pressure of Western countries,” Andrei Kemarksy, director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Africa Department told the Tass news agency last month.

“We are training both military and police personnel for peacekeeping operations,” Kemarksy added.

*Source VOA

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