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54gene launches clinical research program in Nigeria
October 29, 2020 | 0 Comments

Appointed as a country partner in a global registry study of healthcare workers exposed to COVID-19.

Global healthcare.

28 October 2020. Lagos, Nigeria. 54gene, whose mission is to advance inclusive precision medicine through research, advanced molecular diagnostics, and clinical programs, has launched  its Clinical Program Services (CPS) division. The new business division will provide end-to-end clinical development services, intelligence, logistics, and infrastructure to enable successful conduct of clinical trials in Africa, starting out of Nigeria. The launch comes at the same time as the appointment of 54gene as the Nigeria country partner for the International Registry of Healthcare Workers Exposed to COVID-19 (UNITY Global) Study. In partnership with Certara, a global leader in biosimulation, 54gene will provide clinical trial management oversight and support for all aspects of the study conducted in Nigeria.

54gene’s Clinical Program Services division is focused on partnering with global pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, and multilateral health organizations to discover, develop, and commercialize new therapeutic and diagnostic products. The research division is led by Kemi Williams, VP, Clinical and Regulatory Affairs, who brings years of driving clinical excellence, delivering regulatory competency, and ensuring operational efficiency to the company.

On the launch of the Clinical Program Services division, 54gene Chief Commercial Officer, Jessica Rich said, “The inclusion of Africans in clinical programs is critical to the production of medicines and health products that are more efficacious and safe for people of African descent. It is vital that we continue to collaborate with African researchers and institutions to generate data that meets the scientific rigor found in worldwide studies and to increase African inclusion in global studies. It is essential that more research takes place on the continent and we are ready to be part of that change.

“Alongside key partners like Certara and other important stakeholders across the continent, the UNITY Global Study is a great opportunity for some of the best clinical teams across Sub-Saharan Africa to come together and ensure outcomes of any COVID-19 studies are relevant to Africans. The insights generated from this program could potentially unlock breakthrough clinical discoveries that can improve health outcomes for millions of people globally.”

The UNITY Global study aims to develop prevention policies based on real-world data collected from 10,000 healthcare workers in low and middle income countries, including Pakistan, Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Senegal, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The registry’s primary objective is to examine the link between the use of preventive treatments and the occurrence of SARS-CoV-2 infection in healthcare workers providing care to patients with COVID-19. With the nature of the virus and its impact on the global healthcare system, it is crucial to develop guidance and policies for protecting healthcare workers, who are at the frontline of combating the disease.  

The registry will collect information on a weekly basis from enrollees across a 12-week period. Data collection includes medications being taken by healthcare workers, their level of exposure to COVID-19 patients, their health status, and other factors such as the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), which would likely mitigate their risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection.  In addition, the registry will record SARS-CoV-2 antibody test results. The study is funded by a grant from the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator.* 

Roman Casciano, general manager of Certara’s evidence and access group added: “Healthcare workers have a high incidence of severe COVID-19 as they are repeatedly exposed to individuals infected with SARS-CoV-2. With limited evidence on the effectiveness of the preventative measures and treatments currently being used, collaborating with key partners such as 54gene is invaluable for expanding the current body of research.”

“Through our country partners’ support and findings from the registry, we hope to provide meaningful data to inform decision making that will help protect healthcare workers worldwide battling COVID-19 on the frontlines.”

54gene is a health technology company advancing the state of healthcare through large-scale discovery and translational research, advanced molecular diagnostics, and inclusive clinical programs for the benefit of Africans and the global population. Founded in 2019, 54gene utilizes human genetic data derived from diverse African populations, to improve the development, availability, and efficacy of medical products and diagnostics that will prove beneficial to Africans and the wider global population.

About Certara

Certara optimizes R&D productivity, commercial value and patient outcomes through its unique portfolio of model-informed drug development, regulatory science, and market access solutions. Its clients include 1,600 global biopharmaceutical companies, leading academic institutions, and key regulatory agencies across 60 countries. For more information, visit www.certara.com.

About the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator

The Therapeutics Accelerator is an initiative launched by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Wellcome, and Mastercard to speed up the response to the COVID-19 pandemic by identifying, assessing, developing, and scaling up treatments. Its partners are committed to equitable access, including making products available and affordable in low-resource settings. The COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator will play a catalytic role by accelerating and evaluating new and repurposed drugs and biologics to treat patients with COVID-19 in the immediate term, and other viral pathogens in the longer term.

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Shaking up the workplace in a matter of days
October 29, 2020 | 0 Comments

The pandemic has reaffirmed our belief that technology can make us more human, not less.

Khomotso Molabe, Chief Information Officer at Standard Bank South Africa
Khomotso Molabe, Chief Information Officer at Standard Bank South Africa

The COVID-19 crisis has shown the business world that it is possible to completely overhaul the way we do things in a matter of weeks or even days.

When the severity of the pandemic became more evident and South Africa announced a national lockdown in March – the president gave the nation a few days to prepare itself – our immediate priority was to ensure the safety and wellbeing of employees and customers.

This was a time for us to focus intensely on our purpose – driving Africa’s growth while uplifting and protecting her people. As we prepared for the new world we were about to enter, we held daily meetings with the group’s top executives to chart the way forward.

First and foremost, we had to ensure that we looked after our clients as a designated essential services provider. Finding ways to assist them became a top priority. We also immediately implemented measures to get as many Standard Bankers as possible to work from home, and to ensure that they had the resources needed to do so effectively.

As part of our preparations, we put measures in place to allow employees to report COVID-19 infections – both affecting themselves and their contacts – so that we could track the spread of the virus and contribute to containment efforts. And we launched a dedicated COVID-19 app and portal to keep our people informed.

As we scaled up our remote work capacity, office-based employees were the first to shift to working from home, followed by call-centre staff and then branch employees who do not interact directly with customers.

We also identified those customer-facing branch employees who are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19. To limit their exposure to the virus, they were granted permission to work from home or take special leave. For staff on the frontline, we provided access to personal protective equipment and sanitiser to keep them safe, among numerous other measures.

New ways of working

Within a short space of time, more than 75% of our staff were working from home – and this remains the status quo well into the second half of 2020.

Given the critical role that our IT teams were playing in enabling the shift to remote work, we froze any changes to our technology systems and made sure that funding was made available for timeous and expedited investments in systems and partnerships.

We had to scale up our remote work capacity by providing employees with remote access technologies, laptops and connectivity devices.

For one of Africa’s largest corporates, getting this right in a matter of days is no mean feat. Prior to the pandemic, we had provided around 8,600 data devices to employees. Now, about 27,800 employees have them.

And given the need for teams to remain connected, we also needed to expand our access to collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams and BlueJeans.

Before the crisis, we held roughly 30 BlueJeans meetings a month, versus 900 nowadays. And employees now hold about 500,000 Microsoft Teams meetings a month, compared to just 20, 000 before.

In fact, we have become so well versed in digital meetings that we have even hosted large-scale investor conferences online via our partnership with Microsoft, including the Africa Investors’ Conference. Encouragingly, participation was better than in previous years, when the event was held in person.

We have conducted the Standard Bank Group Annual General Meeting (AGM), all board and Executive Committee meetings online, and even hosted South Africa’s finance minister, Tito Mboweni, on a virtual panel discussion with our clients and employees.

Looking forward

Meanwhile, the bank recognised that while working from home brought certain benefits to employees – for instance, spending more time with family and less time commuting – it is not without its challenges.

Many households are not equipped for extended periods of remote work. So, where possible, we provided employees with decent office chairs and desks to make the shift easier and their workdays more comfortable.

Since we now know that working from home on a large scale is not only possible but can even enhance productivity and employee satisfaction, we are preparing for the possibility of a permanent shift in the way that we work – this could entail a combination of working from home and from the office.

However, we are cognisant of the fact that remote work is not suited to all households. Some employees might not have an environment that is conducive to it. For this reason, we will ensure that we remain sensitive to individual employee preferences and needs as we map the way forward.

Overall, the shift to digital ways of working and collaborating has been a huge success. Standard Bank has accelerated its digitisation and client-centricity drive, and we have reimagined the workplace. Like other industries, the banking sector may well have advanced five years in its digitisation journey in the space of just a few months.

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African payments for African development
October 28, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Murray Gardiner

Murray Gardiner
Murray Gardiner

African payment solutions are critical to minimising fraud while improving the free flow of funds to boost business and economic activity.

The statistics that hover uncertainty around Africa are not ones that should make the continent proud. The World Bank has estimated that Africa could potentially hold 90% of the global poor population by 2030  and has recently cut its economic growth  predictions to between -2.1% and -5.1% in 2020 from the 2.4% of 2019.

The situation has been significantly worsened by the global pandemic, as the continent hits its first recession in 25 years. But this is not the picture that defines a continent that has long defied expectation and prediction. In fact, a young population, a growing consumption market, and the rapid movement towards mobile inclusion and connectivity are shifting the conversation. Africa is poised on the cusp of change introduced by mobile and internet technology.

Africa has undergone a remarkable journey over the past 30 years. It has not only leapfrogged legacy technology and systems into a more relevant future, but it has done so in spite of challenging circumstances. This is particularly relevant when it comes to mobile – the technology, the connectivity, and the financial inclusion. To date, according to the GSMA 2019 Mobile Money Report , there are more than one billion mobile money accounts in Africa that account for 57% of mobile money transaction values. Over the next five years, also according to the GSMA , it’s expected that 84% of Africans will have access to a SIM connection and that mobile payments will play a critical role in empowering individuals, businesses and the economy as a whole. 

This is the principle that’s dominating the current approach taken by the World Bank  in an effort to provide Africa with much needed support in the wake of COVID-19. The organisation is focusing on putting women at the centre of digital payment programmes and leveraging digital technologies to improve trade, government and resource management. This underpins the organisation’s focus on national payment systems  that are secure, affordable and accessible as these are the tenets that underpin an economy that’s focused on financial inclusion and stability.

African payment solutions are critical to minimising fraud while improving the free flow of funds to boost business and economic activity. Payment technology that allows for individuals from all walks of life to manage their money securely is the equivalent of putting a bank into every person’s pocket. Digital payments equalise engagements while improving transparency and control over finances and business. They also empower the small to medium enterprises (SMEs), giving them greater scope for inclusion and access to customers and markets.

This has become particularly true in the current environment. Digital payments are now, more than ever, the key to unlocking business growth on the continent. The rigorous regulations put in place by African countries to minimise the impact of the virus have led to inventive approaches to shopping and living. Digital payment platforms are significantly safer than cash and are increasingly being leveraged by governments and organisations to improve customer access to resources and services.

According to a study released by McKinsey & Company  in June 2020, ‘innovation in payments should be one component of the industry’s response to the crisis’, and this should include promoting awareness of digital payments, partnering with other industries, and introducing new and relevant products.

In Africa, digital payments are more than just keys to open the doorways of financial inclusion, they are increasingly the steps that will take the continent out of recession and into a more dynamic and inventive future. This view is echoed by the investments made by the World Bank and organisations such as SWIFT and Bluecode Africa; programmes such as the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), and the International Monetary Fund .

Investments that include cross-border payment platforms increased commerce capacity, cost management, digital innovation, and the empowerment of individual, micro-enterprise and SME. It’s time to educate businesses and individuals as to the costs and risks of cash as opposed to digital. To showcase the value of digital payments in not just opening up new markets and opportunities, but in providing tighter cash flow control at a better price point than cash.

The continent may not be showered in stunning statistics, few continents are at this point in time, but it is hovering on the edge of a future that has the potential to transform poverty, business and economy.

Bluecode is a mobile payment solution that combines cashless payments via smartphones with value-added services and enables payments with merchant and banking apps. Founded in Europe, Bluecode has now expanded into Africa. Bluecode Africa is taking mobile payments into markets where its value as a technology payment service and scheme can make a significant difference for retailers, SMMEs and in the everyday lives of consumers. Bluecode Africa is focused on driving economic growth in the productive economy by unlocking opportunity and business potential with digital transparency.

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A Ghanaian maize farmer thrives on the ashes of destroyed forest .
October 28, 2020 | 0 Comments
Hundreds of farmers are benefitting from a project that repurposes degraded forest land.

For years, Christiana Akwabea admired the vast fields she visited in neighboring districts to buy maize for reselling and dreamed of one day owning a plot of land where she could grow the staple crop.

But there wasn’t much land for commercial farming in Seikwa in Ghana’s Bono Region, and the local soil is more suitable for cultivating cashew and yam.

In 2017, the mother of six got her wish fulfilled through forest plantation management company Form Ghana, which received a loan from the African Development Bank for a transformative forestry project.

After registering as a farmer with the Form Ghana program, Christiana received land that had once been a forest in Berekum, about 30 km from Seikwa. She harvested around 6,800 kg of maize from the 5-hectare field through intercropping, which involves simultaneously cultivating multiple crops on a particular plot farmland.

“I had always wondered about how I would get farmland for maize and even get money to clear and spray it. But now, all I wait for at the beginning of every farming season is a call from Form Ghana to complete the registration and land will be allocated to me for farming. The memory of this alone is encouraging and gives me a sense of reliability. I’m not burdened with how I will get land and money to prepare the field,” Christiana said.

Form Ghana partnered with the African Development Bank, the Forest Investment Program of the Climate Investment Funds and the government of Ghana, to undertake an innovative public-private partnership in its forest sector. The project entails the reforestation of degraded forest areas in Ghana .

The state of Ghana’s forests has been in decline since the 1970s due to severe overpopulation. Ghana now has over 300,000 ha of highly degraded forest reserve land.

To address the issue, the African Development Bank and the Forest Investment Program of the Climate Investment Funds agreed in 2016 to fund the Restoration of Degraded Forest Reserves through the Certified Plantation project, financed through a $10 million concessional loan from the Climate Invest Funds and $14 million from the African Development Bank.

In the forests managed by Form Ghana, illegal farming was widespread in the past. The company currently offers 629 farmers the option to participate in intercropping.

“Form Ghana sets an example for me as a chief. Amongst my community members, I now promote the planting of trees as a long-term investment. This will give farmers additional income,” said Ɔsabarima Ofori Mensah, Chief of Oforikrom in Berekum.

The Form Ghana project offers a replicable model for larger-scale debt finance for plantation expansion.

“This project and the collaboration between African Development Bank and Form Ghana Ltd. can be a very important step towards enabling the expansion of large-scale reforestation and landscape restoration projects in Africa,” said Paul Hol, Executive Director, Form Ghana Ltd.

The possibilities are already evident for Christiana and her household. She looks forward to doubling the size of her current acreage and has great ambitions for her family.

“I have been able to put up a two-bedroom house. I also funded my son’s trip to attend school in Europe and all my children are in school,” she said.

“I aim to expand my current residence into a full compound house with the inscription ‘Form Ghana Nti’ (‘For the sake of Form Ghana’). I also look forward to continually improving the standard of living of my family and support my children to the highest levels of education.”

Download Document: Ghana – Pioneering Public-Private Partnership in the Forestry Sector.

The African Development Bank Group is Africa’s premier development finance institution. It comprises three distinct entities: the African Development Bank (AfDB), the African Development Fund (ADF) and the Nigeria Trust Fund (NTF). On the ground in 41 African countries with an external office in Japan, the Bank contributes to the economic development and the social progress of its 54 regional member states.

*AFDB
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Total’s Second Discovery in South Africa promises Gas-led Recovery for Southern Africa
October 28, 2020 | 0 Comments
The discovery further positions Africa as a global and competitive gas frontier that continues to offer very attractive exploration and gas commercialisation opportunities.


While anticipated, Total’s second significant gas condensate discovery announced today in South Africa is nonetheless reason to rejoice after a year of deep uncertainty and struggles for the African energy sector. With partners Qatar Petroleum, CNR International and Africa Energy Corp, Total was able to start its multi-well exploration programme on Block 11B/12B only two months behind schedule, delivering what remains until now the year’s only discovery across sub-Saharan Africa.

The Luiperd-1X well was drilled to a total depth of 3,400 meters and encountered 73 meters of net gas condensate pay within the Paddavissie Fairway, which already includes the 2019 Brulpadda discovery. This second find confirms the tremendous gas potential in South Africa and is expected to be followed by the drilling of a third, a potential fourth, exploration wells on the same block.

More importantly, the discovery further positions Africa as a global and competitive gas frontier that continues to offer very attractive exploration and gas commercialisation opportunities. The upcoming Africa Energy Outlook 2021 of the African Energy Chamber identifies several such high-impact wells for 2021 and 2022 that could yield similar discoveries in South Africa and Namibia. The outlook notably identifies the southwestern coast of Africa as being home to perhaps the most anticipated wildcats globally. The prospects, if successful, could open new basins for development and trigger big new investments towards the latter half of the 2020s.

Under its 2021 projections to be released in November, the Chamber notably sees gas production and consumption increasing on the continent. More specifically, new frontiers such as South Africa are expected to increasingly consume natural gas for industrial purposes and power generation.  Such developments could be a pillar for economic recovery post Covid-19, but would require the promotion of an enabling environment providing investors with sound and attractive policy and contractual frameworks.

“The African Energy Chamber has always seen Africa as a true frontier for exploration and promoted a much bigger use of gas across our economies to create jobs and support industrialisation. The gradual opening of a new domestic gas hub in South Africa is a very welcoming development that needs to be supported with efficient and transparent policies, and quick approvals of all necessary permits and licenses for gas to be commercialised and create value for South Africans,” declared Nj Ayuk, Executive Chairman at the African Energy Chamber.

*Africa Energy Chamber
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Over 35 human rights organization weigh-in after Kumba massacre; request cease fire in Cameroon
October 28, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Amos Fofung

After Saturday’s massacre on a school in Kumba, South West region of Cameroon, some 35 human rights organizations have joined forces and are now mounting pressure on the administration of President Paul Biya and separatist leaders to cease fire.

This come after yet another attack on a school premises that left at least seven pupils death and over a dozen injured after gunmen open fire on children studying in class.

Drawn across Africa, Canada, the United Kingdom and United States, the right groups reiterate that the solution to the Anglophone crisis is not a military one.

The organizations who signed a letter published by Global Campaign for Peace and Justice in Cameroon, urged the United Nation to take steps in ensuring a cease-fire deal is reached.

“We are killing ourselves, we are killing our brothers and sisters, we are killing our kids,” said Christopher Fomunyoh, Senior Associate and Regional Director for Central and West Africa at the National Democratic Institute, NDI, who is also involved with the group that published the open letter. 

‘”We must sit around a table and discuss the grievances of the Anglophone minority that are genuine and legitimate. Unless we sit down and have this conversation, this crisis will endure… “The world is seized with the current crisis in Cameroon and I hope that this global appeal for peace and justice in Cameroon, and for the cessation of atrocities and hostilities, will resonate internationally as well as within the country,” he told DW.

The other signatories includingDoctor Denis MukwegeNobel Peace Prize 2018,ProfessorMuhammad YunusNobel Peace Prize 2006, founder of the Grameen Bank,People’s Republic of Bangladesh, the Honourable José Ramos-Horta Nobel Peace Prize 1996, formerPresident of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste the Honourable FW de Klerk Nobel PeacePrize 1993 former President of the Republic of South Africa, the Honourable Oscar Arias SánchezNobel Peace Prize 1987 former President of the Republic of Costa Rica,he Right Honourable Joe Clarkformer Prime Minister of Canada,the Honourable Ricardo LagosformerPresident of Chile, andthe Right Honourable Harriet Baldwin,Member of Parliament of the United Kingdom among others.

Recall that since 2016, conflict broke out in Cameroon’s two English-speaking regions after a dialogue between trade unionist and government went sideways. The trade unions including lawyers and teachers would later take to the streets for peaceful protest which was short-lived by government’s harsh response and the seizing of the protest by separatist.

2017 took the then revolt into an armed crisis with non-state armed groups now fighting to seperate Cameroon and create a new nation called Ambazonia from the English-speaking regions.

It is estimated that conflict has claimed more than 3,000 lives and forced over 700,000 people to flee their homes.

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What is Really Going on With Côte d’Ivoire’s Presidential Election
October 28, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Mamadou Haïdara*

It can be easy, once you have identified a trend, to view new situations through that lens as further proof of your assumption. I have witnessed this dynamic play out in the news recently when looking at the upcoming presidential election in Côte d’Ivoire. If you think the situation unfolding in Côte d’Ivoire is just another example of democratic backsliding in Africa, I urge you to take a closer look.

Côte d’Ivoire is a new democracy that has made great strides during the tenure of President Alassane Ouattara, emerging as one of the strongest economies and democracies in Africa, strengthening women’s rights and legal status, and becoming a valued trade and security partner of the United States in a region under increasing cross-border threats and attacks by militant extremists. Under his leadership, Côte d’Ivoire approved a new Constitution in 2016 that set a two-term limit for the presidency. President Ouattara is seeking a third term.

If you only read this far, it is easy to presume that this is yet one more case of a president re-writing the rules to hold on to power. But if you look more closely, the reality on the ground is a truly unique situation that does not fit our preconceived notions of African democracies backsliding. In fact, it has become increasingly clear that Côte d’Ivoire’s best chance at holding on to the freedoms and growth it has achieved over the last decade is to re-elect President Ouattara.

President Ouattara officially announced in March of this year that he would not seek another term and planned to retire from public life. Prime Minister Gon Coulibaly was then chosen to succeed him as their party’s presidential candidate. Tragically, in July, the Prime Minister died of a heart attack, leaving the party with no candidate just twelve weeks before the presidential election.

This extraordinary circumstance left a major political party with the difficult task of identifying, vetting and putting forward an alternative candidate in a matter of days or weeks — an unrealistic timetable in any country, and especially so in this young and still somewhat fragile democracy. What’s more, the political environment was growing increasingly volatile, with opposition candidates — including several past leaders who had contributed to the most destructive and violent years in Côte d’Ivoire’s history — once again vying for power and seeking to stir up ethnic divisions.

Confronted with this unforeseen predicament, President Ouattara’s decision to seek another term in office was the only viable path forward for his party and his country. And despite the false claims of his political opponents, it is legal for him to do so. The Constitutional Council, an independent institution that serves as the country’s supreme court, ruled definitively in September that President Ouattara’s candidacy is in line with the nation’s new Constitution, which was approved in 2016 and established new governing authorities and eligibility requirements for office. Many external observers, including the United States, acknowledged the Council’s sole authority to decide this matter.

The Constitutional Council also determined that three opposition candidates were eligible to run, with Henri Konan Bédié emerging as a frontrunner alongside President Ouattara. Bédié served as President of Côte d’Ivoire from 1993 until 1999 when, plagued by corruption and the jailing of political opponents, his government was overthrown by a military coup that ended a starkly different tenure than what would come later under President Ouattara.

Following the civil war and violence prior to his election, President Ouattara took determined steps to restore peace, security and economic stability to Côte d’Ivoire. As a result, the nation has emerged as one of the strongest in Africa, with region-leading growth of around 8% annually, and is a valued partner of the United States. Côte d’Ivoire has been rated as one of the ten most reforming countries in the world, undertaking in-depth economic and social improvements, including the elimination of laws that restricted women from owning or inheriting property. This proven track record of reform is one of the reasons why Côte d’Ivoire was selected in 2017 by the highly selective Millennium Challenge Corporation for a $525 million development grant by the U.S. government.

Côte d’Ivoire should not be dismissed as one more example of democratic backsliding on a continent stricken by power grabs and corruption. Rather, as the nation still mourns the loss of a promising presidential candidate, its people have a distinct choice: to continue advancing along the path of democracy, peace and prosperity that a new generation will soon inherit, or to risk reverting to discredited and harmful forces that plagued their nation in the past. On October 31, Côte d’Ivoire’s election day, Ivoirians must be allowed to make that choice.

*Mamadou Haïdara is Ambassador of Côte d’Ivoire to the United States

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No Escape to America for Immigrants until President Trump is out of White House Says Top U.S Senator
October 28, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Mohammed M. Mupenda

Senator Mark Warner

A top US Senator Mark Warner has expressed his commitment to advocate for Immigrants to have their rights to live in the United States of American and equally enjoy rights to meet, reunite, live together with their families.

Warner announced the commitment on no ban act to support immigrants last week, during the West Africa Diaspora Community Leaders meeting that was held remotely due to Coronavirus.

President Donald Trump has since presided over a crackdown on the immigration system at large with controversial policies including travel ban, visa restrictions, and reducing the cap of refugee resettlement from some African countries. More than 79,700 visas have been subject to the ban since December 2017, according to the State Department. 

Refugees have proven a particularly easy target, given that they don’t have to be deported or caged in controversial camps on U.S. soil — they can be blocked before they ever get in the U.S simply by denying visas or setting restrictions unattainably high.

Since taking office, Trump’s administration has slashed the cap for refugees each year, driving it down to the lowest levels in four decades. The maximum for 2020 is even lower.

The policy took even some of Mr. Trump’s own Department of Homeland Security officials by surprise and prompted widespread confusion at airports across the nation.

This decision has also left many immigrants living in the US waiting with no hope to have their families and the expansion of the travel ban has closed off another avenue for many seeking safety or family reunification.

President Obama set the cap for the 2017 fiscal year at 110,000 refugees as he left office, but Trump slashed it to 50,000 during his first year in the White House, followed by 45,000 in 2018 and 30,000 in fiscal year 2019, the lowest total since Congress passed the United States Refugee Act of 1980, creating the country’s modern refugee resettlement program. The Trump administration has dropped the ceiling ever further — to 18,000 refugees — for 2020.

Across the country, resettlement centers are finding themselves with excess capacity in the age of Trump.

The International Institute resettled more than 1,100 refugees in 2016 during Obama’s last year in office. In 2018, that number was just 177.  To keep up with the shift, the institute has reduced the staff dedicated to refugee resettlement to the equivalent of five full-time positions from more than 22 three years ago.

They have cut the number of English classes and are considering other ways to reconfigure their offerings if the trend continues. But smaller providers with less variety in their services are starting to drop away and others won’t last much longer, Anna Closslin, Executive Director of International Institute was quoted by RFT U.S local newspaper in 2019. 

But Trump’s policy has always been challenged by many legal entities, Democrats, resettlement agencies and activists.

“President Trump and his administration’s continued disdain for our nation’s national security and our founding ideals of liberty and justice dishonor our proud immigrant heritage and the diversity that strengthens and enriches our communities,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said in a statement early this year.

Mohamud Noor, a Somali-American activist in the Minneapolis area, home to one of the largest Somali immigrant communities, said the Supreme Court decision was devastating to many who wanted relatives in their homeland to legally join them.

“I think we were expecting the Supreme Court would stand on moral grounds,” Mr. Noor said. “We live in America. This is a land of immigrants.”

Warner said it would only be possible when the regional travel ban act is abolished. The Regional Travel Ban Act has been in existence in the USA for years despite more voices having been raised.

The Trump administration in the White House has been consistent in restricting free movement of immigrants and even his predecessor Barack Obama had tried to abolish travel bans all in vain, says Senator Warner

“Obviously, I have opposed the regional travel ban, I am also proud to sponsor the national origin based anti-discrimination travel ban act also called no ban act,” Warner told West Africa Community leaders in a zoom meeting.

According to Warner, who is also a member of Democratic Party and the Vice Chair of the senate Democratic Caucus and the Vice chair of Senate Intelligence Committee, nothing would change if the white House administration changes.

“But the truth is until we change who sits in the white house, I don’t think this policy is going to change,” he said

He stressed that the U.S senate has been willing to vote against the no ban act that would allow immigrants enjoy their rights to reunite with families among

other rights.

“But we have not had an opportunity to vote on it, the no ban act is already passed in the White House,” he noted.

Warner assured immigrants of his full support and commitment to advocate for their rights adding that he believed in their rights to live, move freely, reunite with family members among other basic rights in the USA.

President Trump earlier this year added six countries to his list of nations facing stringent travel restrictions, those African countries include Africa’s biggest country, Nigeria along with, Eritrea, Sudan and Tanzania. The move has virtually blocked immigration from Africa’s most populous nation Nigeria, where the Muslim minority is fleeing genocide.

“You have my commitment on the no ban act, you have my commitment and that needs to become a top priority,” he assured the immigrants. 

However, calls and advocacy at no ban act, the travel restrictions among the Africans countries, seem to be unheard and could be unjustified. The officials said Sudan remained a state sponsor of terrorism, even though the country has transitioned to a civilian-run government from one ruled by its military.

While Nigeria has partnered with the American military, the officials noted an “elevated risk and threat environment in the country,” when justifying the travel restrictions.

But before the announcement for this year, an American government official said the administration planned to add Nigeria and Tanzania to the list because of the number of people coming from those countries on a visa who end up staying in the United States illegally “Immigrant visas, issued to those seeking to live in the United States, will be banned for Nigeria, Eritrea and The ban will also prevent immigrants from Sudan and Tanzania from moving to the United States through the diversity visa lottery, which grants green cards to as many as 50,000 people a year,”.

The proclamation took effect on Feb. 22. But Immigrants who obtain visas before then will still be able to travel to the United States, according to DHS officials. 

Nonimmigrant visas, including those for students and certain temporary workers, as well as visas reserved for potential employees with specialized skills, will not be affected by the ban. 

Officials with the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department who briefed reporters early this year on the condition of anonymity said Eritrea, Tanzania were being added to the list because each country had either had not satisfied the administration’s information-sharing requirements related to terrorism or did not have updated passport systems.

Mr. Trump signed an executive order that closed the country’s borders to people from seven predominantly Muslim countries, making partial good on a campaign pledge “for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.”

*Mohammed M. Mupenda is a news correspondent and freelance reporter, who has written for publications in the United States and abroad. He is also a French and East African language interpreter.

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Africa Shines at the 31st FAO Regional Conference for African Ministerial Session Hosted by President Mnangagwa
October 28, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Nevson Mpofu

President Mnangagwa
President Mnangagwa

The 31st Food and Agriculture Organization [FAO] -Regional Conference for Africa Ministerial session which kicked on in Harare hosted and done on a virtual platform and coordinated from Ghana Regional office working with head offices in Italy Rome.

It drew 80 Ministers and Deputy Ministers from 45 countries in the African Region. Also invited were Agriculture civil society organizations, private sector in Agriculture and members from observer countries. The Agricultural and Rural Transformation in Africa conference has the theme ..Promoting Inclusive Agri-Business and Regional Integration for attainment of Sustainable Development Goals …

President Emmerson Mnangagwa addressed delegates on Tuesday 27 October this week urging African countries to rally behind Sustainable Agriculture and rural transformation in the region so as to promote development of Agro-based industries. He noted that Intra-Trade in Agriculture is the way-forward in addressing food production and productivity meant to address food security issues so as to end hunger and poverty.

‘’Agriculture and rural transformation in Africa must be a priority area of concern in terms of Agricultural and Economic development to end, hunger and poverty in Africa especially during this climate change era’’.

‘’ This is only possible through the promotion of inclusive Agriculture Business and Regional Integration for attainment of Sustainable Development Goals. Our main thrust is to push for effort in alleviating effects of climate change so as to win on Sustainable Development Goal 2 on Zero Hunger by 2030. Secondly to meet African Union targets on food security and nutrition. by 2025.’’

President Mnangagwa highlighted on the need for new mechanisms in the development of new Agricultural technologies that boost large scale Agricultural productivity. He further pointed out that digitalization of Africa in Agriculture is the only way to adapt to changes and adopt policies and strategies that propel the strengthening of Agricultural systems. Road and Air networks, he stretches a point are an infrastructure meant to connect rural to urban in-order to develop Agriculture for economic transformation.

‘’Africa has potential in Agriculture if it reinforces mechanisms that link technologies and digitalization of Agriculture of economic transformation. This is possible through regional integration in Agriculture and regional economic community’s co-operation. This results in Agri-based industrial growth and development of Africa.’’

FAO Director General Qu-Dongyu said Agriculture systems transformation must address socio-political, economic and environmental concerns at the heart of the people of Africa. The development must match with the Malabo Declaration on Agriculture that has a holistic framework of Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Program.

‘’Agriculture systems transformation must address socio-political, economic and environmental concerns in Africa. This shows commitment to the Malabo Declaration on Agricultural Transformation with the framework of comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Plan.

‘’A frica remains a threat to Climate -Change of which we need to fight through mitigation and adaptation in order to remain sustainable. We have had challenges in Africa. These are a big threat as we move on but let us remain vigilant to some disasters that may come.’’

‘’Africa needs modalities to fight Climate-Change in order to over come several challenges related to food-security. This can be done through mobilization of resources to come up with innovation that suits an environment meant to promote Agriculture. Mechanisms must be in place to move towards an Agricultural modernization that has production and productivity for economic growth.’’ , he concluded .

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Former Malawian minister to appeal against 5 year corruption jail term
October 28, 2020 | 0 Comments

By James Mwala

Former Minister of Homeland Security Uladi Mussa
Former Minister of Homeland Security Uladi Mussa

Former Minister of Homeland Security Uladi Mussa will this week be appealing against a 5 year term term, which came as a result of his involvement in a scandal in which foreign nationals were awarded Malawian citizenships.

Mussa was given 5 years for abuse of power and one year for negligence but will be behind bars for 5 years because the terms run concurrently.

However, his lawyer Paul Maulidi says he intends to appeal because the court erred in its ruling.

His accomplice David Kwanjana, a former regional immigrations boss was also meted out with the same years.

High Court judge Chifundo Kachale, who is also the chairman of the Malawi Electoral Commission, said Mussa, abused his public office, neglected duty and uttered false documents.

Mussa served on that role around 2012 and 2014 under the leadership of Malawi’s first ever female President Joyce Banda, when the offense was committed.

The case has been stalling ever since as Mussa served as Vice President for the Central for former ruling Democratic Progressive Party, which lost in June’s historical fresh presidential elections.

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Is it over for the Kenyan quack doctor Mugo Wairimu?
October 28, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Samuel Ouma

James Mugo Ndichu alias Mugo Wairimu
James Mugo Ndichu alias Mugo Wairimu

“The quack doctor is back with a bang “, announced James Mugo Ndichu alias Mugo Wairimu on his Facebook page on October 14, 2018, three years after he was charged with operating unregistered pharmacy business.

Mugo Wairimu, a Kenyan quack doctor came into the limelight in 2015 after an expose by local television, NTV, which filmed him operating a patient without being registered in his premise then known as Prestige Healthcare Clinic.

He was arrested and charged with running an illegal clinic, administering an unknown drug and raping his patient.

In 2018 after his charge, Mugo came back strong and daring claiming he is a gynaecologist. He also rebranded his clinic calling it Millan Medical Centre as well as using new phone numbers.

Following the public outcry, he was arrested again after being on the run for two weeks.

On Wednesday, October 28, 2020, his case was determined and the verdict issued. Senior Resident Magistrate Martha Nanzushi of Milimani Law Courts in Nairobi slapped him with a fine of Ksh1.4 million or serve three years in prison.

The court found him guilty of unlawfully operating an unregistered pharmacy, operating a medical laboratory without registration and licence by the Kenya Medical Laboratory Practitioners and operating a medical clinic without registration and license.

Mugo was also convicted of practising as an unregistered and unlicensed medic.

The Kenya National Union of Nurses secretary general Seth Panyako had distanced himself from Mugo saying the union does not recognize him as a nurse.

Also arrested in 2018 were two of his employees, 22-year-old Victor Gathiru Kamunya and 19-year-old Risper Auma Ogony who were also operating without a valid license.

However, they were released on Sh200,000 cash bail or a bond of Sh500,000 after spending in police custody.

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Statement by Commonwealth Secretary-General ahead of the 2020 General Elections in Tanzania
October 27, 2020 | 0 Comments
Commonwealth Secretary General Patricia Scotland with President Magufuli
Commonwealth Secretary General Patricia Scotland with President Magufuli
Ahead of the 2020 General Elections in the United Republic of Tanzania on 28 October, the Commonwealth Secretary-General, The Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC has issued a statement.

Speaking on the election the Secretary-General said:

“I call upon all electoral officials, political leaders and their supporters to play their part in ensuring a peaceful, transparent and inclusive process  and hope that positive lessons learnt from previous elections will inform the conduct of this year’s poll and ensure a credible and successful election for Tanzania and its people.

“I wish the country well for Election Day and reaffirm the Commonwealth’s abiding support for the people of Tanzania.

“The Commonwealth and Tanzania have been collaborating closely in promoting our shared values of democracy and development and the manner in which the forthcoming General Election will be held is of much interest to the Commonwealth.

“The Commonwealth Charter clearly provides that all citizens have the inalienable right to participate in democratic processes, especially credible elections, to shape their society.” 

The Secretary-General added:

“I encourage both the National and Zanzibar Electoral Commissions to manage all aspects of the electoral process with the transparency, inclusivity and integrity required for a successful election.

“I call on political leaders and parties to display genuine willingness to promote peace, the electorate to show confidence in the democratic process and to participate in it, and for everyone to shun violence and respect the rule of law. 

“The elections present a further opportunity for Tanzania to advance its developmental gains and aspirations, by consolidating its international, regional and national commitments to democratic principles.

“Finally, I recall the Commonwealth’s historical support in assisting the facilitation of dialogue in Zanzibar to promote unity. I call on all stakeholders in the electoral process in every part of the country to show restraint and demonstrate tolerance, especially in the period on and beyond Election Day. Any grievances should be pursued through prescribed legal channels.” Notes to EditorsThe Commonwealth is a voluntary association of 54 independent and equal sovereign states. Our combined population is 2.4 billion, of which more than 60 per cent is aged 29 or under.The Commonwealth spans the globe and includes both advanced economies and developing countries. Thirty-two of our members are small states, many of which are island nations.The Commonwealth Secretariat supports member countries to build democratic and inclusive institutions, strengthen governance and promote justice and human rights. Our work helps to grow economies and boost trade, deliver national resilience, empower young people, and address threats such as climate change, debt and inequality.Member countries are supported by a network of more than 80 intergovernmental, civil society, cultural and professional organisations.The World Health Organization recognises World Mental Health Day on 10 October every year.
*Commonwealth
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