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Gambia Gov’t says it has No Plans to Legalise Same-sex Marriage
June 24, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Bakary Ceesay

Government spokesperson Ebrima Sankareh
Government spokesperson Ebrima Sankareh

The Gambia Goverment has revealed that it has no plans to legalise same-sex marriage or or even entertain a review of laws on homosexuality.

Homosexuals in Gambia faced up to 14 years in prison until 2014, when ex president Yahya Jammeh signed a new law extending the term to life in jail.

An amendment to the country’s criminal code introduced the new crime of “aggravated homosexuality” for, among other categories, “repeat offenders” and suspected gays and lesbians living with HIV.

However, some Gambian gay rights actvists organisations like Save Life Gambia has been advocating for the review of this laws since the advent of the new government by petitioning the Constitution Review commission to include same-sex marriage in The Gambia Constitution but failed. They later pursued the matter to the National Human Rights Commission who later makes recommendations to the National Assembly and government to critically consider the right of gays and lesbians in Gambia.

The National Human Rights Commission’s report earlier this month also added greater steam to the debate as the government came under criticism for staying silent. There have been reports the government is mulling unbanning homosexuality.

Some accused the European Union of sparking the debate following a social media post in May.

Government spokesperson Ebrima Sankareh said in a statement on Tuesday the Gambia government “continues to be guided by the values and norms of its people, existing laws and has no plans to either decriminalize or even entertain a review of laws on homosexuality”.

He said: “In the wake of the simmering controversy surrounding gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender (LGBT) in The Gambia, The Government of President Adama Barrow wants to make it absolutely clear that neither President Barrow himself nor any member of his government, its envoy, agent or representative has ever signed, consented to, participated in or even pretended to support any deal, package, programme or agenda for the promotion of LGBT rights as is being falsely reported on news and various social media platforms. In fact, at no time had The Gambia Government ever been faced with the option to accept donor funds as bargaining chips or a conditionality for the relaxation of LGBT rights.

“Therefore, it is not only baffling but worrisome to hear some opposition and religious leaders engage in crude speculations or indulge in insinuations and wild innuendoes that cannot be substantiated. Since assuming office in 2017, President Adama Barrow has been working tirelessly to strengthening our democracy, upholding the rule of law and promoting the values of, press freedom, constitutional due process and the independence of the judiciary as evident in the most recent high-profile cases.

“Regrettably, some elements within society have seized this democratic space to sometimes indulge in malicious fabrications against the Government and then peddle these falsehoods on social media to potentially create confusion and distrust among citizens. We therefore urge the Gambian people to remain steadfast against the spread of misleading information and always with respect to Government actions, to verify their accuracy with the relevant authorities.

“Significantly, while the Barrow Government respects and protects the fundamental human rights of all citizens as circumscribed by law and enshrined in our Constitution, it is patently false to suggest that it has been corrupted, compromised or preconditioned to accept European funds to accommodate LGBT rights in our laws. This is false political propaganda orchestrated to score cheap political points.

“Accordingly, The Gambia Government continues to be guided by the values and norms of its people, existing laws and has no plans to either decriminalize or even entertain a review of laws on homosexuality.”

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Gambia Lawmakers Approves Diplomatic Status Immunities on Afreximbank
June 24, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Bakary Ceesay

Afreximbank President Benedict Oramah with Adama Barrow
Afreximbank President Benedict Oramah with Adama Barrow

The Gambian lawmakers have approved the diplomatic status, immunities and privileges to the officials of the African Export-Import Bank on Monday.

The Afreximbank vision is to stimulate a consistent expansion, diversification and development of African trade, while operating as a first class, profit-oriented, socially responsible financial institution and a centre of excellence in African trade matters.

The bank also seeks to “promote Intra-African Trade,” “Facilitate Industrialization and Export Development,” “Strengthen Trade Finance Leadership” and “Improve Financial Performance and Soundness”.

The motion was tabled by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Relations and Gambians Abroad Dr Mamadou Tangara and moved by the Chairperson of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs Sidia Jatta.

“This is a big food for thought for us. For 50 years or more we have been here as independent sovereign nations and we still go around the world begging, and we still go around importing from the rest of the world what we can provide ourselves,” the veteran politician commented as he showed appreciation to the initiative.

He recalled the vision of an African great Kwame Nkuruma about making an African Central Bank and African Investment Bank.

“He [Nkuruma] was strategically talking about this situation. The Central Bank would mean African common currency and we would not have to be having all the valueless currencies in all these countries.”

The Wuli East MP added that the bank has come precisely for value addition to promote intra-African trade and that would mean that Africa is now having its product for export.

“If we had had an African central Bank or African common currency probably, we would have been able to do such a thing but that is absent.”

Sidia believes that the afreximbank will create an enabling environment for transformation, reason they are talking about African products.

The Foreign Minister Tangara said African countries have now decided to take control of their economies.

“The banks shall be an international institution with full judicial personality under the laws of the state’s parties,” he said reacting to concerns of possible immunities raised by members.

He said immunity doesn’t mean that international staff of the bank will not be subjected to national laws of a country. 

“It’s important for us to go back to the drawing board and think strategically and see how we can break the beast of circle of development because Africa is too rich to be poor.”

According to him, independence cannot be completed without being in control of economies as political independence would not give full independence.

Both the report of the standing committee on foreign affairs and the agreement for the conferment of diplomatic status, immunities and privileges were subsequently approved to the African Import-Export Bank in The Gambia. 

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Gambia Remains Committed to ECOWAS Single Currency
June 24, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Bakary Ceesay

President Adama Barrow
President Adama Barrow

President Adama Barrow has told his colleague Heads of State and Government that The Gambia remains committed to achieving the goals of the ECOWAS single currency, the ECO.

He gave this assurance at a virtual meeting organised for Member States of the West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ) this morning on 23 June, 2020.

The Gambian leader said while the ECOWAS Authority has made progress on the proposed introduction of the ECOWAS Single Currency by the year 2020. The Francophone countries in ECOWAS, through its West African Economic and Monetary Union (UMOEA also recently announced a similar programme with opposing exchange rate monetary policies within the same region.

“There is need, therefore, to review these decisions in line with Article 15 of the 48th Ordinary session of the Authority of the Heads of States and Governments of 16th December 2015,” President Barrow told the meeting, attended by Presidents of Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea, Ghana and Nigeria.

Since 2017, The Gambia has constantly achieved three of the four primary convergence criteria, missing only the Budget deficit criterion. Similarly, on the secondary convergence criteria, The Gambia has consistently achieved one of the two criteria, missing the public debt-GDP ratio.

Decisions have been made already on the name and symbol of the future currency; the exchange rate regime, the monetary policy framework, the model Central Bank, and the name of the common Central Bank.

However, the West Africa Monetary Zone Convergence Council wrote to the ECOWAS Commission to “constructively engage” both the ECOWAS Commission and West African Economic and Monetary Union Member States on issues of concern to the Zone’s Convergence Council in respect of the Single Currency Programme earlier this year.

The Gambian President urged that the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the Zone should provide guidance on this crucial issue, calling for a review of the parallel monetary programmes in the West Africa sub region.

“I will emphasise here that The Gambia remains committed to the revised roadmap of the ECOWAS Monetary Cooperation Programme. This commitment has been translated into sustained improvements on achieving the set of macroeconomic convergence criteria,” he said.

Meanwhile, the meeting Chaired by the Chairman of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, H.E Julius Maada Bio of Sierra Leone concluded with two propositions:

1.Convene an emergency Summit of Heads of State to discuss a way forward for the two monetary unions’ decision on the ECO

2. Call on UMEOA community not to go ahead with the launch of the ECO pending the proposed meeting of Heads of State of the ECOWAS.

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UNESCO shows 40% of poorest countries failed to support learners at risk during COVID-19 crisis and urges inclusion in education
June 23, 2020 | 0 Comments

Paris, 23 June—Fewer than 10% of countries have laws that help ensure full inclusion in education, according to UNESCO’s 2020 Global Education Monitoring Report: Inclusion and education – All means all.

The report provides an in-depth analysis of key factors for exclusion of learners in education systems worldwide including background, identity and ability (i.e. gender, age, location, poverty, disability, ethnicity, indigeneity, language, religion, migration or displacement status, sexual orientation or gender identity expression, incarceration, beliefs and attitudes). It identifies an exacerbation of exclusion during the COVID-19 pandemic and estimates that about 40% of low and lower-middle income countries have not supported disadvantaged learners during temporary school shutdown.

The 2020 Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report urges countries to focus on those left behind as schools reopen so as to foster more resilient and equal societies.

“To rise to the challenges of our time, a move towards more inclusive education is imperative”, said the Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay. “Rethinking the future of education is all the more important following the Covid-19 pandemic, which further widened and put a spotlight on inequalities. Failure to act will hinder the progress of societies.”   

Persistence of exclusion: This year’s Report is the fourth annual UNESCO GEM Report to monitor progress across 209 countries in achieving the education targets adopted by UN Member States in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It notes that 258 million children and youth were entirely excluded from education, with poverty as the main obstacle to access. In low- and middle-income countries, adolescents from the richest 20% of all households were three times as likely to complete lower secondary school as were as those from the poorest homes. Among those who did complete lower secondary education, students from the richest households were twice as likely to have basic reading and mathematics skills as those from the poorest households. Despite the proclaimed target of universal upper secondary completion by 2030, hardly any poor rural young women complete secondary school in at least 20 countries, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa.

Also according to the report, 10-year old students in middle and high-income countries who were taught in a language other than their mother tongue typically scored 34% below native speakers in reading tests. In ten low- and middle-income countries, children with disabilities were found to be 19% less likely to achieve minimum proficiency in reading than those without disabilities. In the United States, for example, LGBTI students were almost three times more likely to say that they had stayed home from school because of feeling unsafe.

Inequitable foundations: Alongside today’s publication, UNESCO GEM Report team launched a new website, PEER, with information on laws and policies concerning inclusion in education for every country in the world. PEER shows that many countries still practice education segregation, which reinforces stereotyping, discrimination and alienation. Laws in a quarter of all countries require children with disabilities to be educated in separate settings, rising to over 40% in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as in Asia.

Blatant exclusion: Two countries in Africa still ban pregnant girls from school, 117 allowed child marriages, while 20 had yet to ratify the Convention 138 of the International Labour Organization which bans child labour. In several central and eastern European countries, Roma children were segregated in mainstream schools. In Asia, displaced people, such as the Rohingya were taught in parallel education systems. In OECD countries, more than two-thirds of students from immigrant backgrounds attended schools where they made up at least 50% of the student population, which reduced their chance of academic success.

“Covid-19 has given us a real opportunity to think afresh about our education systems,” said Manos Antoninis, Director of the Global Education Monitoring Report. “But moving to a world that values and welcomes diversity won’t happen overnight. There is an obvious tension between teaching all children under the same roof and creating an environment where students learn best. But, COVID-19 has showed us that there is scope to do things differently, if we put our minds to it.”

Parents’ discriminatory beliefs were found to form one barrier to inclusion: Some 15% of parents in Germany and 59% in Hong Kong, China, feared that children with disabilities disturbed others’ learning. Parents with vulnerable children also wished to send them to schools that ensure their well-being and respond to their needs. In Queensland, Australia, 37% of students in special schools had moved away from mainstream establishments.

The Report shows that education systems often fail to take learners’ special needs into account. Just 41 countries worldwide officially recognized sign language and, globally, schools were more eager to get internet access than to cater for learners with disabilities. Some 335 million girls attended schools that did not provide them with the water, sanitation and hygiene services they required to continue attending class during menstruation.

Alienating learners: When learners are inadequately represented in curricula and textbooks they can feel alienated. Girls and women only made up 44% of references in secondary school English-language textbooks in Malaysia and Indonesia, 37% in Bangladesh and 24% in the province of Punjab in Pakistan. The curricula of 23 out of 49 European countries do not address issues of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.

Teachers need and want training on inclusion, which fewer than 1 in 10 primary school teachers in ten Francophone countries in sub-Saharan Africa said they had received. A quarter of teachers across 48 countries reported they wanted more training on teaching students with special needs.

Chronic lack of quality data on those left behind. Almost half of low- and middle-income countries do not collect enough education data about children with disabilities. Household surveys are key for breaking education data down by individual characteristics. But 41% of countries – home to 13% of the world’s population – did not conduct surveys or make available data from such surveys. Figures on learning are mostly taken from school, failing to take into account those not attending.

“Inadequate data means we are missing a huge part of the picture,” says Antoninis. “It is no wonder the inequalities suddenly exposed during COVID-19 took us by surprise.”

Signs of progress towards inclusion: The Report and its PEER website note that many countries were using positive, innovative approaches to transition towards inclusion. Many were setting up resource centres for multiple schools and enabling mainstream establishments to accommodate children from special schools, as was the case in Malawi, Cuba and Ukraine. The Gambia, New Zealand and Samoa were using itinerant teachers to reach underserved populations.

Many countries were also seen to go out of their way to accommodate different learners’ needs: Odisha state in India, for example, used 21 tribal languages in its classrooms, Kenya adjusted its curriculum to the nomadic calendar and, in Australia, the curricula of 19% of students were adjusted by teachers so that their expected outcomes could match students’ needs.

The report includes material for a digital campaign, All means All, which promotes a set of key recommendations for the next ten years.

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Sierra Leone : US deportees plead with gov’t to repatriate them back to the US
June 23, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Ishmael Sallieu Koroma

Two stranded deportees from the United States of America who are in Sierra Leone,   Saren Idaho and Prince Artman Latoya have in an interview with journalists called on the government of Sierra Leone to help repatriate them back to the United States of America (USA)  after spending almost a year in the country .

The two US deportees who were speaking to journalist on Saturday 20th June  at their apartment at the Stadium Hostels , West of Freetown , said in August 14th last year, they were wrongfully deported to a country that they weren’t born stating that they have no ties with Sierra Leone as they were from the Caribbean thus been begging the government to help them get out of the country.

Speaking to journalists , one of the deportees , Saren Idaho 55, said he has been in the country wrongfully since August last year when he was deported to the wrong place stating that  he was from  originally the Dominican the common wealth in the Caribbean  and thus said he  had no ties with Sierra Leone.

“They brought us to this country on  , August 14th , 2019 , I came down from the flight and told the people at the airport that I was not from here . If America wants  to send me, they can send me to my country . My wife and children born and bred in  America. They took us in and lock us up for five and half months at the CID. They let us out of there on February 4th of  this year, ‘’he said , adding that they took them to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs  and arranged for them to stay  at the Charm Beach Hotel which he said the government  could not pay their bills.

He added that  with the intervention of the BBC’s Umaru Fofana , he helped settled their  bill  at the hotel, fed them and did his best  during their stay at the hotel and even advised the government to provide  them the hostels at the National Stadium  for them live as it was less costly.

“  I am going to be plain , this is a simple thing why should it take a nation a whole year , to take me out in their country .  Get me out! We are almost by August that I have been in this solitary confinement,’’ he lamented.

He said he was originally , from Dominican the Commonwealth and has been in the United States of America for a very long time adding that he has a family and properties in the States thus saying it was crazy for him to be sent he doesn’t even know in his entire life.

“They tried to send me  to Dominican the Commonwealth on their own , that is government of this country,  but I told them they are going to be able to do it because there is no third-party repatriation nation in the world. The American Embassy know we are here , they told the government of Sierra Leone you took them in , you cannot come back like seven months or six months later to say take this people they are your responsibility. How that works I don’t know ,’’Idaho explained.

Idaho told journalists that the American government knew his identity as they tried to deport him to his home country of the Dominican the Commonwealth which he said his nation of birth refused as they didn’t submit correct paper work to them.

‘’ I am homeless , there is not a place for me . I used to live comfortably in the US , I have my children , I have a wife . I talked to them every day despite time differences no matter . I am begging the government and the  people of this country to do the right thing . Get us out! Don’t let anybody tell you what to do in your  own house . It doesn’t make sense.’’

Idaho revealed that their predicament is a responsibility for the government of Sierra Leone  to help them as they are suffering in a nation they were not born or ever lived alleging that the US government and the government of Sierra Leone connived by falsifying their documents and identity to place they were not born.

“ I have never seen so much poverty ever in my life . I have never seen so many people disabled in my life . I have met so much wonderful people in Sierra Leone,’’

Prince Artman Latoya on his part said, it  wasn’t his intention to come to  the country alleging that it was the US government and the SL embassy  who connived to bring them in a country that they he didn’t know and ever heard about in his life.

“Now this is how it happened  in 2012, I was interviewed by Mr. Kawa in York county , Pennsylvania and Mr. Kawa told the immigration , this man is not from Sierra Leone . So,  why in 2019 , he turned around , and issue this travel documents for Americans to bring me here which means somebody got paid.  And at the same time , we  had interview  with the foreign affairs ,  with the director ONS , and  CID, Social Welfare , everybody came together . The ONS admitted that he himself flag our names and give it to Washington and said  do not bring these people ,’’he revealed.

He said he is not a Sierra Leonean and thus he didn’t belong in this part of the world adding that even upon arrival he  told the airport authorities that he wasn’t born and bread here but assured them they will sort it out only to be here now almost a year.

‘’ On the side of government, they are not doing anything , they are keeping us here in limbo  you got me , medical attention is zero ,  feeding now is a problem . It’s been over  a month they have not given us  any money to keep ourselves,’’ Latoya added.

Latoya however stressed about the challenges they were facing together his colleague adding that there is  no medical attention thus pleading to the government to help them out back to the United states  where they have families and properties.

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Gambia Opposition Slams Decriminalisation of Homosexuality
June 22, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Bakary Ceesay

Ousainou Darboe
Ousainou Darboe

United Democratic Party (UDP) one of Gambia’s biggest political party has slammed any attempts at decriminalisation of homosexuality, stressing that the the  party is against the decriminalisation of anti-homosexuality laws in The Gambia.

“Homosexuality cannot be decriminalised in this country. UDP will be among those who will fight against it. No matter what. We will not accept that law and whosoever advocates for it we will fight you with our tongues to ensure that you don’t succeed,” Ousainou Darboe, its Secretary General told UDP online Bantaba TV over the weekend.

The debate over the issue of homosexuality and the rights of LGBT persons have attracted all sorts of condemnation and threats from Gambians following attempts by the European Union representative to promote gay rights in The Gambia.

The UDP leader, a veteran lawyer, added: “If you want to help us based on these issues, then you are not helping us, you want to enslave us. But the UDP will not take support from somebody because you want to promote homosexuality. That will not happen in this country.

“Those who are saying I once advocated for the repealing of anti-gay laws – is it that they have not listened to Almami Taal’s comments or my koriteh message? Those who know me know very well that I don’t condone ungodly things.”

Mr Darboe said the onus is on the government whether to reject or accept the National Human Rights Commission  recommendations for the protection of gay rights.

“But I don’t think there will be any government in this country that will take that. This is a religious country comprised of Muslims and Christians. We will not accept that act of dogs in this country. It is anti-God,” he added.

Darboe, however, welcomed the National Human Rights Commission recommendation for the criminalisation of torture.

“Obviously torture should not happen anywhere and whosoever tortured people whether privately or as an agent of the state should be prosecuted. In this modern age, torture doesn’t have space in this country. Government has the right to arrest people and investigate them but they do not have the right to torture anyone,” he said.

Homosexuals in Gambia faced up to 14 years in prison until 2014, when  ex president Yahya Jammeh signed a new law extending the term to life in jail. An amendment to the country’s criminal code introduced the new crime of “aggravated homosexuality” for, among other categories, “repeat offenders” and suspected gays and lesbians living with HIV.

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Gambia Opposition Leader Describes Gov’t as ‘Pocket Reformers’
June 22, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Bakary Ceesay

Musa Batchilly is Secretary General of opposition Gambia Action Party (GAP)
Musa Batchilly is Secretary General of opposition Gambia Action Party (GAP)

Musa Batchilly, Secretary General of opposition Gambia Action Party (GAP) has said President Adama Barrow’s aides are only there to ‘reform’ their pockets.

Barrow government has promised Gambian with a massive institutional reforms during the five years transition period, but many argue that the government has failed to embark on major reforms as promised because of political gains.

“I respect Mr President Barrow but his surrounders are surround by corporate greed who ain’t care about Gambia, just their own pocket [sic]. They call them reformers. What are you reforming? Your pocket. For the betterment of your kids. They drive million dalasis cars,” Mr Batchilly told journalists.

The GAP leader joins the likes of Mai Fatty in savaging President Barrow’s advisers. The latter had asked the president to sack all his advisers.

According to him, ex- president Yahya Jammeh’s government is ‘far better’ than the Barrow government, calling on Gambians to come together and kick out President Barrow.

“It’s high time for you to rise up in a positive way to remove these people by what? Next election,” he said.

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President Paul Kagame of Rwanda will provide opening remarks and engage in a fireside chat tomorrow Tuesday 23rd June 2020, the first day of a 4-day Leaders Forum hosted by the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA)
June 22, 2020 | 0 Comments
President Paul Kagame of Rwanda will provide opening remarks and engage in a fireside chat tomorrow Tuesday 23rd June 2020, the first day of a 4- day Leaders Forum hosted by the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA)
President Paul Kagame of Rwanda will provide opening remarks and engage in a fireside chat tomorrow Tuesday 23rd June 2020, the first day of a 4- day Leaders Forum hosted by the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA)

Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) is the leading U.S. business association focused solely on connecting business interests in Africa.

The theme of CCA’s Leaders Forum  is “Resilient U.S.-Africa Business Engagement to Drive Post COVID-19 Recovery”. Discussions will centre around the theme of resiliency in action. Areas to be explored include: The Global Financial Response in Africa; Economic and Health Innovations in Response to COVID-19; Drivers of Growth in Post-COVID and; Sustaining Regional and Bilateral Trade Post-COVID.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the CCA Leaders Forum, is the first time Heads of State, senior USG officials, African government officials, private sector executives, and leaders from multilateral institutions will be convened around U.S.-Africa Business engagement.

In another first, the event is open to the public on Zoom or YouTube as well as live streamed across Africa, as the Corporate Council on Africa invites the people of the Continent to listen to what their leaders have to say in this distinguished 4 day forum.

Other Heads of State speaking at the forum this week include H.E. Uhuru Kenyatta President, Republic of Kenya, H.E. Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo President, Republic of Ghana, and H.E. Filipe Nyusi President, Republic of Mozambique.

Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) is the leading U.S. business association focused solely on connecting business interests in Africa. Established in 1993 to promote business and investment between the United States and the nations of Africa, CCA serves as a neutral, trusted intermediary connecting its member firms with the essential government and business leaders they need to do business and succeed in Africa. CCA uniquely represents a broad cross section of member companies from small and medium size businesses to multinationals as well as U.S. and African firms. Our members are invested in Africa’s most promising sectors including agribusiness, energy, finance, health, ICT, infrastructure, security, tourism and trade facilitation. Working closely with governments to improve Africa’s trade and investment climate CCA are committed to championing business and trade between the U.S. and Africa.
*SOURCE Corporate Council on Africa (CCA)
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African lives matter, too; Energy Policy decisions should consider their needs
June 22, 2020 | 0 Comments

By NJ Ayuk*

NJ Ayuk is Executive Chairman of the African Energy Chamber, CEO of pan-African corporate law conglomerate Centurion Law Group, and the author of several books about the oil and gas industry in Africa, including Billions at Play: The Future of African Energy and Doing Deals.
NJ Ayuk is Executive Chairman of the African Energy Chamber, CEO of pan-African corporate law conglomerate Centurion Law Group, and the author of several books about the oil and gas industry in Africa, including Billions at Play: The Future of African Energy and Doing Deals.

Too often, the discussion about climate change — and the call to leave fossil fuels in the ground— is largely a western narrative.

As African oil and gas countries struggle with Covid-19’s devastating impact on demand, two international groups seem to be celebrating it.

Earlier this month, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the International Energy Agency (IEA) described the low oil prices caused by the pandemic as a “golden opportunity” for governments to phase-out fossil fuel support and usher in an era of renewable energy sources.

“Subsidising fossil fuels is an inefficient use of public money and serves to worsen greenhouse emissions and air pollution,” OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría said in a joint OECD-IEA statement. “While our foremost concern today must be to support economies and societies through the Covid-19 crisis, we should seize this opportunity to reform subsidies and use public funds in a way that best benefits people and the planet.”

I would argue that the OECD and IEA don’t necessarily know what’s best for the people who live on this planet. Pressuring governments to stop supporting fossil fuels certainly would not be good for the African oil and gas companies or entrepreneurs striving to build a better future. And it could be downright harmful to communities looking at gas-to-power initiatives to bring them reliable electricity.

Too often, the discussion about climate change — and the call to leave fossil fuels in the ground— is largely a western narrative. It does not factor in the needs of low-income Africans who could reap the many benefits of a strategic approach to oil and gas operations in Africa: reduced energy poverty, job creation, and entrepreneurship opportunities, to name a few.

Ironically, a policy that would jeopardize Africans’ ability to realize those benefits is being recommended at the same time protesters across America are calling for equity in some of the same areas. Although police violence against people of color is at the center of the protests — a response to the horrific death of a black man, George Floyd, after a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes — the protests also point to social and economic disparities between the races in America.

While I don’t want to exploit the death of George Floyd, I do see parallels between the racial disparities in America and the struggles of Africans whose lives could be improved through oil and gas. I always see a common pattern of ignoring black and African voices.

Too often in America, the value of black lives was not given proper consideration until George Floyd’s death forced the topic to the forefront and rightly so. And on the global stage, OECD and IEA are dismissing the voices of many Africans who want and need the continent’s oil and gas industry to thrive. I would advise these organizations not to ignore the needs of poor people in African countries.

As it stands, African energy entrepreneurs, the African energy sector, and Africans who care about energy poverty are basically saying, “I can’t breathe.”

It’s time to get the knees off their necks.

The Dangers of Energy Poverty

Consider the impact of energy poverty. Approximately 840 million Africans, mostly in sub-Saharan countries, have no access to electricity. Hundreds of millions have unreliable or limited power at best.

Even during “normal times,” energy poverty is dangerous. The household air pollution created by burning biomass, including wood and animal waste, to cook and heat homes has been blamed for as many as 4 million deaths per year. How will this play out during the pandemic? For women forced to leave their homes to obtain and prepare food, sheltering in place is nearly impossible. What about those who need to be hospitalized? Only 28 percent of sub-Saharan Africa’s health care facilities have reliable power. Physicians and nurses can’t even count on the lights being on, let alone the ability to treat patients with equipment that requires electricity —  or store blood, medications, or vaccines. All of this puts African lives at risk.

That’s what makes gas-to-power initiatives so critically important: It only makes sense for African countries to use their vast natural gas reserves for power generation. And we’re already making progress on that front. Today, about 13 African countries use natural gas produced domestically or brought in from other African countries, and there’s every reason to believe this trend will grow.

In Cameroon, for example, Victoria Oil and Gas PLC already provides domestic gas for power generation, and its subsidiary, Gaz du Cameroun (GDC), has agreed to provide the government gas for a new power station with the potential to accommodate growing demand.

And in Mozambique, the Temane power plant, also known as Mozambique Gas-to-Power, is being developed now, and plans are underway to develop a second plant. Both will rely on Mozambique’s Rovuma basis for feedstock.

I have heard calls, including some from the OECD, for the development of sustainable energy solutions to meet Africa’s power needs. Great — let’s go for it. I’m all for renewable energy solutions, but Africans should not be forced to make either-or-decisions in this area. Energy poverty is a serious concern, and it’s wrong to make it more difficult for African countries to use a readily available natural resource to address it.

Investment — Not Aid

One of the benefits of oil and gas operations in Africa is they provide opportunities for both indigenous companies and for foreign ones. And as foreign companies comply with local content laws, they invest in the communities where they work. Africa needs those investments, particularly training and education programs that empower people to make better lives for themselves.

I want to be clear: Africa does not need social programs, even educational programs, that come in the form of aid packages. What’s more, offering Africa aid packages to compensate for a halt or slow-down of oil and gas operations will not do Africans any good. I tried to make that point recently during a friendly debate with Prof. Patrick Bond, a very bright man and a distinguished professor at the University of the Western Cape School of Government. He argued that Africa should keep all of its petroleum resources in the ground to minimize greenhouse gas emissions and prevent further climate change. Developed nations, the professor continued, should compensate Africa for that sacrifice, and Africa could use that money to develop other opportunities. No. This is not the time for Africa to be calling for more aid. Africa has been receiving aid for nearly six decades, and what good has it done? We still don’t have enough jobs.

Investment creates opportunities, meaning Africans aren’t receiving, they’re doing. They’re learning, working, building, growing, deciding. We, as Africans, must be responsible. Our young people should be empowered to build an Africa we all can be proud of. Relying on the same old policies of the past, relying on aid, simply isn’t going to get us there.

The truth is, no matter how you feel about the American Shale Revolution, Africans can learn from it. One of the reasons it succeeded is because you had small businesses willing to take a chance on new technology. They worked hard, and in the end, they boosted production. America became the largest crude oil producer in the world. Those companies made something extraordinary happen, and so can African businesses. We need more entrepreneurs willing to seize opportunities and, in some cases, make mistakes. That’s how we grow and learn. We need government leaders to do their part by creating a welcoming environment for foreign investors and establishing local content policies that result in opportunities for business partnerships, quality jobs, and learning opportunities for Africans.

Africa is capable of building a better future, of ending energy poverty, strengthening our economy, and improving the lives of everyday Africans. If we’re smart about it, and we work together with purpose, our oil and gas resources can help us get there.

And that’s why this is a horrible time for OECD, IEA, or any other outside organizations, to interfere with our natural resources.

Don’t Stand in Our Way

I understand and respect the OECD and IEA’s commitment to preventing climate change. But when you describe the chance to harm a major African economic sector as a great opportunity, there’s something wrong.

When you put independent African oil and gas companies at risk, you’re saying your objectives are more important than African livelihoods and aspirations.

American institutions are coming under fire for failing to recognize that Black Lives Matter and to work alongside African-American communities to create positive change.

I encourage the OECD and IEA to take a different approach.

This is an opportunity for all of us to join forces, to take a team approach to growing Africa’s energy sector, and to do it without dismissing Africa’s right to capitalize on its own natural resources.

*Source Africa Energy Chamber.NJ Ayuk is Executive Chairman of the African Energy Chamber, CEO of pan-African corporate law conglomerate Centurion Law Group, and the author of several books about the oil and gas industry in Africa, including Billions at Play: The Future of African Energy and Doing Deals.

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How Rwanda is spurring a generation of women in technology
June 22, 2020 | 0 Comments

Rwanda is renowned as a pioneer for gender equality.

In 2020, it was the only African country ranked in the top 10 of the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report.

It ranked in the top four in the Report’s political empowerment category, in recognition of the high proportion of Rwandese women lawmakers and ministers.

The country therefore seemed a natural fit for a 2018 pilot program of the African Development Bank’s Coding for Employment initiative, with Nigeria, Kenya, Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal.

The Coding for Employment flagship program is establishing 130 ICT centers for excellence in Africa, training 234,000 youths for employability and entrepreneurship to create over 9 million jobs.

Hendrina C. Doroba, Manager in the Education, Human Capital and Employment Division at the Bank, explains how Rwanda is empowering women in technology.

How has the government of Rwanda enabled women to pursue careers in technology, and STEM in general?

The government of Rwanda has been a foremost champion of women in ICT and in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (also known as STEM), by driving initiatives like the establishment of the Carnegie Mellon University-Africa campus, for which the Bank provided funding. Students from 17 different countries pursue highly specialized ICT skills at the Africa campus.

The country also hosts the African Institute of Mathematics (AIMS) which is now recruiting balanced cohorts of women and men. Lastly, the Bank-funded University of Rwanda College of Science and Technology has for many years produced women leaders in the ICT sector in Rwanda and globally.

Rwanda’s government also supports initiatives such as the Miss Geek Rwanda competition, an initiative of Girls in ICT Rwanda, which aims to encourage school-age girls, even those in remote areas, to develop innovative tech or business ideas and to generally immerse themselves in ICT. The Miss Geek initiative has now been rolled out in other countries in the region.

What role has the Bank played in supporting Rwanda’s digital strategy, especially in relation to women?

The strategy of the Bank’s Coding for Employment center of excellence in Rwanda has been to join forces with the Rwanda Coding Academy through a grant agreement to support the school’s activities, like ICT equipment, teacher training and career orientation. The Rwanda Coding Academy started in January 2019 and has so far enrolled one cohort, which is now going into their second year.

Besides the Rwanda Coding Academy, the Bank’s Coding for Employment program held a two-day masterclass for girls and young women entrepreneurs at the 2018 Youth Conneckt summit, where over 200 beneficiaries were trained in using digital tools to amplify their businesses. The session was attended by women entrepreneurs as well as students from girl schools in Kigali, including those from White Dove School, which is an all-girl school fully dedicated to training in ICT. The masterclass culminated into a pitching exercises from various groups who presented their ideas to a panel of judges.

What lessons can other African countries learn from Rwanda’s approach to the 4IR, in particular the role of women?

The government of Rwanda has been a trailblazer in using innovation to improve public services across the country using the e-governance platform Irembo, to bring government services closer to citizens. In addition, the government is driving national digital skilling campaigns by championing digital ambassador programs and platforms such as Smart Africa, which has organized the annual Transform Africa summit since 2013.

Still, gender equality remains a concern, and gender gaps are evident even in schools. Rwanda’s ambitions extend to piloting the Kigali Innovation City, also Bank-funded, to serve as the country’s knowledge and innovation hub by attracting new businesses and incubating ideas. At the same time, the country has created a business environment which is pro-entrepreneurship and welcomes global inventors to test their ideas and concepts. Zipline, a company which uses drones to deliver medical supplies in remote areas, is one example.

Lastly, Rwanda promotes women leaders in the ICT and innovation sector. The country’s Minister of ICT and Innovation is a woman, as is the CEO of the Irembo platform. Appointments such as these are helping to dispel the myth that women are not as capable as men in ICT.

*AFDB

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Private Sector Health Alliance of Nigeria (PSHAN), Aig-Imoukhuede kick off Design Phase of Primary Healthcare Centre (PHC) Adoption Programme
June 22, 2020 | 0 Comments
Mr. Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede
Under this private sector driven initiative, universal health access will be provided for low-income citizens residing in rural and urban areas through the Adopt-a-Health Facility Programme.

Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, in collaboration with the Private Sector Health Alliance of Nigeria (PSHAN) have unveiled a new initiative geared towards significantly improving Nigeria’s healthcare system at the grassroots level.

The innovative strategy, in furtherance of a vision from an earlier stakeholders’ roundtable, entails delivering one Primary Healthcare Centre (PHC) in each of Nigeria’s 774 Local Government Areas (LGAs) at global standards.

Under this private sector driven initiative, universal health access will be provided for low-income citizens residing in rural and urban areas through the Adopt-a-Health Facility Programme (ADHFP).

ADHFP, according to a release issued by the CEO of PSHAN, Mr. Sonny Nwarisi, will be sponsored by a group of Angel Investors and other institutions. These “Angels” will each take responsibility for one or more PHCs – they will build and operate the PHCs for the period of adoption under strict rules and guidelines. The ADHFP is a multi-impact initiative with several benefits including: Saving lives, Improvement in health outcomes, Job creation, and Gender empowerment

Mr. Aig-Imoukhuede and PSHAN recently initiated the ADHFP design phase which will be handled by Vesta Healthcare Partners, a global healthcare consultancy firm.

This consultancy engagement is expected to deliver key program components such as: Legal and Regulatory Framework, PPP Framework, PHC facility and management standards, Financing Arrangements, Governance Arrangements, Supply Chain Management, and Technology & Systems.

The design phase will involve active participation of notable development-focused organizations including: Global Citizen, ABCHealth, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, World Bank, International Finance Corporation (IFC), MTN Nigeria Plc, Dangote Group, Zenith Bank, Access Bank, Stanbic-IBTC Bank, PwC, Cisco, Ford Foundation, Nigerian Stock Exchange, and Flying Doctors Nigeria.

Others include Africa Practice, Cedar Advisory Partners, GBCHealth, Health Federation of Nigeria, Health Law, Eti-Osa Local Government, JNC International Ltd, Johnson & Johnson, Justice in Healthcare, Lagos State Government, MSD for Mothers, Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG), ONE Campaign, PharmAccess Foundation, Women-At-Risk International Foundation as well as the Lagos State Government and the SSA to the President on Sustainable Development Goals among others.

*Source Dangote Group
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Dangote cement sustains 54,000 jobs in 4 African countries
June 22, 2020 | 0 Comments
Dangote told the shareholders that the year 2019 was a strong year given the tough business environment across most of its operating geographics.

Nigeria, June 21, 2020/ — President of Dangote Group , Aliko Dangote has said that despite the challenging economic situation in 2019, Dangote Cement  was able to sustain 54,000 jobs in four African countries, where the company has its operations. The countries are Nigeria, Ethiopia, Senegal and South Africa.

The business mogul who disclosed this to shareholders at the company’s 11th Annual General Meeting in Lagos said that more jobs would be created as the company intensifies the export of clinker to other neighboring countries from Nigeria.

“According to our 2019 socio-economic impact assessment study specifically on our operations in Nigeria, Ethiopia, Senegal, and South Africa, we sustained 54,005 jobs (direct, indirect, induced) in these four markets in the year under review,” he said.

Dangote told the shareholders that the year 2019 was a strong year given the tough business environment across most of its operating geographics, disclosing that the group recorded volumes of 23.7 million metric tons and revenues of ₦891.7 billion.

He said: “We recorded a strong EBITDA margin of 44.3 percent. As a result of this performance, the board has recommended for your approval a dividend of ₦16.00 per ordinary 50 kobo share.”

Speaking on the local Nigerian operations, he said: “Nigeria’s cement market grew slightly in 2019. We estimate that total market consumption was up between 2 per cent-3 percent on the 20.7Mt estimated in 2018.”

Dangote explained that the modest performance was in spite of the fact that the market generally was impacted negatively by the disruptions related to the 2019 election cycles, heavy rains and the loss in land export volumes due to the border closure.

“Dangote Cement’s Nigerian operations remained at 14.1Mt in 2019, including export sales of 0.45Mt. Domestic sales in Nigeria were nearly 13.7Mt, compared to 13.4Mt in 2019. This implies a 2 percent growth mirroring the estimated GDP growth for the year. However, land exports reduced to 0.45Mt from 0.7Mt for the full year owing to the border closure in the last few months of 2019.

“The Bag of Goodies promotion, launched in July, drove strong increases in our Nigerian volumes in the third quarter”, Dangote pointed out, adding that the innovative marketing effort enabled the company to maintain its market share despite the 4.5Mt new capacity which came into the market during the year.”

He alluded to the new feat by Dangote Cement in commencing export of clinker via shipping from the Apapa and Onne ports to West and Central Africa, adding that the management was encouraged by the performance of its offshore operations.

Recall that the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, while lauding the investment drive of Dangote recently said that he was excited with the progress made at Dangote Refinery and Petrochemical plant so far, said that when it becomes operational, the refinery and petrochemical plant would increase its workforce from the current 34,000 to over 70,000.
*Dangote Group
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