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Africa: Botswana Condemns Remarks Made by President Trump
January 12, 2018 | 0 Comments
Earl R. Miller, U.S. Ambassador to Botswana with President Khama

Earl R. Miller, U.S. Ambassador to Botswana with President Khama

The Ministry of International Affairs & Cooperation wishes to inform the public and the international community that the Government of Botswana, today summoned the US Ambassador to Botswana to express its displeasure at the alleged utterances made by the President of the US, Donald Trump, when he referred to African countries and others as “shithole countries” during a meeting with a bipartisan group of lawmakers at the White House on Thursday 11 January 2018.

The Botswana Government has also enquired from the US Government through the Ambassador, to clarify if Botswana is regarded as a “shithole” country given that there are Botswana nationals residing in the US, and also that some of Batswana may wish to visit the US. The Government of Botswana is wondering why President Trump, must use this descriptor and derogatory word, when talking about countries with whom the US has had cordial and mutually beneficial bilateral relations for so many years.

Botswana has accepted US citizens within her borders over the years and continues to host US guests and senior government officials, including a Congressional delegation that will come to Botswana at the end of this month; that is why we view the utterances by the current American President as highly irresponsible, reprehensible and racist.

Botswana calls on SADC, the AU and all other progressive nations across the world to strongly condemn the remarks made by President Trump.

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Nigerian baby born on migrant rescue ship inspires song for Eurovision contest
January 12, 2018 | 0 Comments
Baby Mercy and mother aboard migrant ship

Baby Mercy and mother aboard migrant ship

AN electro-pop song called “Mercy” by French duet Madame Monsieur is competing to represent France in the 63rd edition of the European song contest Eurovision in May. The piece tells the unique story of a toddler born on a rescue boat in the Mediterranean Sea.

“I am all those children taken by the sea”. There’s a stirring story behind the lyrics (originally in French) of this unreleased new song from Paris-based electro-pop band Madame Monsieur: one of a migrant baby born onboard a rescue ship a few months ago.

“Mercy is a positive song that intends to show that there’s always hope even when it all seems lost, as long as we keep a bit of humanity,” wrote duet’s Emilie Satt and Jean-Karl Lucas on their Facebook page on 1 January. They also proudly announced that the song was entering the competition to represent France in the famous European song contest Eurovision next May in Portugal.

Baby Mercy let out her first cry on 21 March 2017, on board the Aquarius. This humanitarian ship, operated by the two NGOs Doctors Without Borders and SOS Méditerranée, had just rescued 945 migrants and was about to dock at Catania’s port in Italy when the baby girl was welcomed to the world.

“What a memorable moment of emotion for the entire crew”, recalls French journalist Grégory Leclerc who was then reporting alongside the rescue team.

“Taiwo, her Nigerian mum, is doing well”, he said back then, adding that the captain of the Aquarius had signed the birth certificate himself “with great emotion.”

Births are quite unusual onboard rescue ships furrowing the Mediterranean sea. It was only the fourth one on the Aquarius, which started its operations in February 2016.

Mercy’s mother made the journey alone. As for her dad, he was still in a Libyan prison at the time of the birth. “We haven’t got any news since then”, said SOS Mediterranée on a Facebook post.

Madame Monsieur’s song will be fully unveiled late January on French TV. The band will be participating in a show to try to convince a jury and the public that Mercy has what it takes to win the European contest nest May in Portugal.

*African Courier/Real News

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Bell backs Cameroon’s preparations for 2019 Afcon
January 12, 2018 | 0 Comments

By John Bennett*

Bell (left) has backed Cameroon to deliver despite being an outspoken critic in the past

Bell (left) has backed Cameroon to deliver despite being an outspoken critic in the past

Former international Joseph-Antoine Bell says Cameroon will be ready to host the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, ahead of an inspection visit by the Confederation of African Football (Caf).

Caf is set to tour the various host cities from Friday onwards, amidst long-standing concerns about the country’s preparations.

“Being on track is definitely the truth – Cameroon is on track,” Bell told BBC Sport.

Caf president Ahmad has repeatedly said that an alternative host will be found if Cameroon is not ready on time.

In August, the Malagasy said Cameroon would ‘have to work to convince Caf’ of its ability to host the finals, which expanded from 16 to 24 teams in July.

“I’m not convinced Ahmad wants any problem with anybody,” added the former goalkeeper, who has worked on occasions with the Caf president since his election last March.

“He said Cameroon wasn’t ready but this is because Cameroonian people – especially the press – were leaking such bad news.

“But remember Cameroon hosted the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations and they succeeded like nobody before, so why not trust them to do something wonderful.”

Cameroon hosted the Women’s Nations Cup in 2016 to widespread acclaim as vast numbers of spectators turned out for matches in the eight-team tournament.

Cameroon are the reigning African champions, having triumphed in Gabon last year

Cameroon are the reigning African champions, having triumphed in Gabon last year

The inspection visit, which will be carried out by independent business consultancy Roland Berger, will start in Yaounde on 12 January before trips to Garoua, Bafoussam, Douala and either Limbe or Buea.

It will end with a visit to the Caf Centre of Excellence in Mbankomo on 23 January.

“People are behaving like this will be the first and the last inspection,” said Bell, who won two African crowns with Cameroon (in 1984 and 1988).

“This is just the first inspection and it’s coming to see step-by-step how far you are in the preparation of the Nations Cup.

“So it’s not like tomorrow morning they will tell us they will take away the organisation from Cameroon. I know people have talked about this before but it doesn’t work like that.”

“They do not have to be ready now, they have to be ready in at least March 2019. I’m totally convinced Cameroon will be ready.”

The 2019 tournament will take place in June and July after Caf moved the timing of the tournament from January and February.

Morocco, which will host this month’s African Nations Championship, has said it will step in as host should Cameroon be unable to stage Africa’s most prestigious sporting event.

 *BBC
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AFC & Harith Appoints Inaugural CEO of Anergi
January 12, 2018 | 0 Comments
Enos Banda, CEO of Anergi

Enos Banda, CEO of Anergi

LONDON, United Kingdom, 11 January 2018,-/African Media Agency (AMA)/- Enos Banda has been appointed Chief Executive Officer of Anergi, the major African power company established through the joint venture between Africa Finance Corporation (“AFC”) and Harith General Partners (“Harith”).

 
Anergi was established through the merger of the power investments of AFC and Harith, the two pre-eminent institutional investors based in Africa, bringing their experience and expertise together to create a new entity that combines both renewable and non-renewable power assets in Africa.
 
The joint venture has over 1,786 MW of gross operational and under-construction capacity which will supply reliable energy to  over 30 million people in 5 African countries.
 
Anergi comprises AFC’s interests in Cenpower, owner of the Kpone Independent Power Project under construction in Ghana, and Cabeolica, a wind farm that provides 20% of Cape Verde’s energy needs, with those of the Pan Africa Infrastructure Development Fund (PAIDF) which is managed by Harith. The Harith interests include the Azura Edo IPP in Nigeria, the Lake Turkana Wind Power Project in Kenya, Kelvin Power Station in South Africa and the Rabai Thermal project in Kenya. Collectively this portfolio represents some of the largest recent independent power projects in Africa’s energy sector.
 
Enos began his career as a member of the New York Bar, working with White & Case LLP, a prestigious international law firm for which he helped establish a successful presence in South Africa, where he is also an Advocate of the Supreme Court. He is also an investment banker, having served as Sub-Saharan Africa Head for Global Investment & Corporate Banking and Country Head for two leading global investment banks.  He has advised on major infrastructure projects, including a major electricity industry operator listed on the London Stock Exchange in relation to significant IPP bids and capital raising. 
 
Enos’s experience in the electricity sector includes serving as the regulator of the South African electricity industry and, serving as CEO of Eskom Enterprises (Pty), the asset formation and maintenance arm of the Eskom Group, the largest producer of electricity in Africa. Eskom Enterprises is responsible for non-regulated electricity, supply industry activities, electricity supply and served as a generation and transmission utility outside South Africa. This includes project development, construction, operations, maintenance and energy solutions across Sub Saharan Africa including Nigeria, Uganda and Tanzania as well as Libya. He was responsible for a nine-fold net profit turnaround in his first year as CEO. This experience has also accorded him with a track record of operating at key ministerial and government levels across Africa.
 
Andrew Alli, President and CEO of AFC and Chairman of the Board of Directors at Anergi commented on the announcement: “We are thrilled to welcome Enos as CEO of Anergi. In addition to an impressive record in Africa’s infrastructure finance space, Enos has also served as CEO of Africa’s largest producer of electricity.
 
“It is precisely because of this experience that we believe he is best positioned to become the inaugural CEO of our joint venture with Harith. Whilst generation is steadily increasing, access to power remains one of the major barriers to economic prosperity in Africa. This venture will play an important role in closing this gap.”
 
Tshepo Mahloele, CEO of Harith General Partners also commented on the announcement: “The energy deficit Africa faces calls upon all of us to expedite and increase our efforts in closing this gap. Key to doing this is pulling together experienced pairs of hands together with substantial capital and other existing assets.
 
“An experienced pair of hands is precisely what Enos brings to the table. A confident, well established, self-starter, Harith is delighted to have him on board, and look forward supporting him in maximising the potential of Anergi in development power projects across the continent”.
AFC, an investment grade multilateral finance institution, was established in 2007 with an equity capital base of US$1 billion, to be the catalyst for private sector-led infrastructure investment across Africa.  With a current balance sheet size of approximately US$3.5 billion, AFC is the second highest investment grade rated multilateral financial institution in Africa with an A3/P2 (Stable outlook) rating from Moody’s Investors Service. AFC successfully raised US$750 million in 2015 and US$500 million in 2017; out of its Board-approved US$3 Billion Global Medium Term Note (MTN) Programme. Both Eurobond issues were oversubscribed and attracted investors from Asia, Europe and the USA. 
AFC’s investment approach combines specialist industry expertise with a focus on financial and technical advisory, project structuring, project development and risk capital to address Africa’s infrastructure development needs and drive sustainable economic growth.  AFC invests in high-quality infrastructure assets that provide essential services in the core infrastructure sectors of power, natural resources, heavy industry, transport, and telecommunications. To date, the Corporation has invested approximately US$4 billion in projects within 28 countries across North, East, West and Southern Africa.
Follow us on Twitter – @africa_finance
 
About Harith General Partners: www.harith.co.za
Harith General Partners is the leading Pan-African fund manager for infrastructure development across the continent. With offices in Johannesburg and Cote d’Ivoire; Harith manages Africa’s first and only 15-year US$630m infrastructure fund, the Pan African Infrastructure Development Fund (PAIDF) 1 and recently announced the first close of the US$435m PAIDF2.
The funds are invested in a number of major projects in diversified sectors such as energy, transport, information and telecommunications, and water and sanitation. Harith recently added health care as a sector.
PAIDF is supported by African capital raised from state pension funds, development finance institutions, top investment banks and financial institutions.
Harith is also in a partnership with Asset and Resource Management Company Ltd (ARM), a leading Nigerian financial services company which currently manages over US$2.7bn of assets, to form the ARM-Harith Infrastructure Fund (ARMHIF). ARMHIF invests in infrastructure projects in West Africa.
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Kenya Airways starts ticket sales for its non-stop daily flight to New York
January 11, 2018 | 0 Comments
Kenya Airways becomes the first airline to offer a non-stop flight between East Africa and the United States of America
Kenya Airways Group Managing Director and CEO Sebastian Mikosz

Kenya Airways Group Managing Director and CEO Sebastian Mikosz

NAIROBI, Kenya, January 11, 2018/ — Kenya Airways (www.Kenya-Airways.com) today marks a great milestone with the launch of a non-stop flight from Nairobi to New York. The national carrier starts selling today tickets for the inaugural flight which is scheduled for October 28th this year.

Kenya Airways becomes the first airline to offer a non-stop flight between East Africa and the United States of America.

The airline already serves Africa, Europe, Middle-East, Indian sub-continent and Asia. The opening of the US destination completes an essential piece for Kenya Airways’ network, cementing its position as one of the leading African carriers.

“This is an exciting moment for us. It fits within our strategy to attract corporate and high-end tourism traffic from the world to Kenya and Africa. We are honored to contribute to the economic growth of Kenya and East Africa.” said Kenya Airways Group Managing Director and CEO Sebastian Mikosz.

With over 40 American multinationals located in Nairobi and many more across Africa, the launch of daily flights is expected to further spur trade between America and Africa.

Kenya Airways will offer its customers a unique travel experience between two great gateways. It will be the fastest connection from East Africa to New York, with a 15 hours duration eastbound and 14 hours westbound. The ultra-long-haul flight, unique to Kenya Airways network, will require 4 Pilots and 12 Flight attendants as well as 85 tons of fuel each way, making it an exceptional operation.

The airline will operate its state of the art Boeing 787 Dreamliner with a capacity of 234 passengers. The flight will depart every day from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport hub in Nairobi at 23:25 arriving at JFK airport in New York at 06:25 the following day. From New-York it will depart at 12:25 landing at JKIA at 10:55 the following day. Its duration will be 15 hours east bound and 14 hours west bound.

This convenient schedule will allow connections to and from over 40 African destinations through Kenya Airways hub in Nairobi.

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Botswana shuts ‘miracle’ pastor Shepherd Bushiri’s church
January 11, 2018 | 0 Comments
Shepherd Bushiri

Shepherd Bushiri

Botswana has shut down the church of a controversial Malawian self-styled prophet, who claimed to walk on air.

The government confirmed the closure of Shepherd Bushiri’s Enlightened Christian Gathering Church (ECG) in Gaborone, reportedly due to concerns over so-called “miracle money”.

Malawi24 reports that the church has appealed against the decision, taken less than a year after he was in effect banned from entering the country.

He had been due to attend a conference.

However, Botswana minister Edwin Batshu announced in April 2017 that Mr Bushiri – who now lives in South Africa – would need a visa to enter, despite Malawians not usually needing one, according to AllAfrica.com.

 

https://youtu.be/T1JQY8_Uj_0

Who is Shepherd Bushiri?

  • Malawi-born “prophet” who now runs churches from Ghana to South Africa
  • Claims to have cured people of HIV and brought people back from the dead, South Africa’s Mail & Guardian says
  • Predicted the UK would split, “states” would fight and it would descend into “chaos”, the Maravi Post said in a report
  • Appeared to walk on air in a video shared widely on social media
  • Told Zimbabwe politician Kembo Mohadi he would get “the crown” before he was named vice-president, according to New Zimbabwe
Presentational grey line

The government has now announced that the church will be shut for good, with the Botswana Gazette obtaining a letter informing management the “registration” had been cancelled.

The newspaper further reports it was the church’s use of “miracle money” – promises of money appearing as if by magic – which broke the country’s laws.

Mr Bushiri – who has more than 2.3 million likes on Facebook and filled Johannesburg’s FNB Stadium on New Year’s Eve – and his church have yet to respond publicly.

The church leader is known as much for his lavish lifestyle as for his successful ministry, which stretches across Africa.

He came under fire last year after it emerged he was charging between 1,000 and 25,000 rand ($80-2,000; £60-1,500) to attend a gala dinner with him, South Africa’s News24 reported.

*BBC

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Is it time for Africa to regulate Bitcoin?
January 10, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Prince Kurupati

In a continent that has for long been dogged by cash and liquidity challenges, one would think any probable solution would be welcomed and embraced as it emerges but alas in our beloved Africa, we tend to wait until everyone else (and I mean everyone) adopts something before we do.

Bitcoin is a digital currency anonymously founded in 2009 that works in as much the same way as conventional currencies. Since 2009, Bitcoin has been rising in value steadily before astronomically hitting dizzy heights in the second half of 2017. In its first couple of years, many people around the world were sceptical on Bitcoin but as the years passed, many started to embrace and adopt this digital currency.

Despite Bitcoin’s high uptake rate among individuals and corporates globally, only a few namely Canada, Malta and at one stage China regulated and accepted Bitcoin as a legal medium of exchange. However, as countries such as the US, UK and Australia have the highest rates of Bitcoin uptake; we are inclined to forgive the governments of these countries as they have some of the world’s most stable economies and strong currencies. The same however cannot be said of Africa, a continent that has struggling economies at various stages of underdevelopment and a continent that has some of the world’s most highly volatile and inflatable currencies, others like Zimbabwe not even having their own currencies.

Countries in Africa cite different reasons they have not and are currently not considering adopting Bitcoin. However, one of the most cited reasons is that Bitcoin opens up avenues for inter alia the financing of terrorism and money laundering. Notwithstanding the fact that terrorism and money laundering are two evils that need to be weaved out especially the former in North and West Africa, it seems in this case that the positives far outweigh the negatives.

Bitcoin and its underlying technologies’ positives include the potential to facilitate faster transactions, reduce payment costs, reduction in third-party seizures, fully compatible with mobile and allow user anonymity. Juxtaposition the positives and negatives, one would say it’s now time for Africa to start regulating Bitcoin.

A case-by-case study reveals that most African states haven’t yet formulated policies, laws or regulations specifically relating to Bitcoin. Below we look at some selected countries and how their governments view Bitcoin and its underlying Blockchain technology.

South Africa

Just like most states, South Africa has not explicitly restricted or banned Bitcoin but it has shown some disdain by issuing a public notice through the South African Reserve Bank warning the public on the dangers of using Bitcoin. The South African government, however, became a signatory to the Bitcoin Scaling Agreement in August 2017 and many Bitcoin investors saw this as the first step by the government in warming up to Bitcoin.

Kenya

Kenya took the same step taken by South Africa in issuing a public notice warning the public from using Bitcoin. It went a step further by explicitly restricting banks from providing loans to start-ups with interests in Bitcoin or any other cryptocurrencies. Despite all this, Kenya remains the largest volume trader of Bitcoin on the African continent.

Zimbabwe

Officials from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe insist that transacting using Bitcoin in Zimbabwe is illegal though there are no legal provisions to that effect. This has left a gap exploited by many people in this country that has been bedevilled by years of hyperinflation, a weak currency and a limited access to financial access. Zimbabwe’s Bitcoin adoption ranks as one of the highest in Africa.

Swaziland

Bitcoin is unregulated in Swaziland but the government of Swaziland recently made it clear that it will soon be opening up the Swaziland market for Bitcoin. Majozi Sithole, the country’s Central Bank Governor while speaking at the Swaziland Economic Conference in 2017 said that the government is seeking expert opinion relating to Bitcoin and soon the digital currency will be open for everyone to use.

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SOUTH AFRICAN AIRWAYS VACATIONS® ANNOUNCES 10 % OFF ALL PACKAGES TO AFRICA FOR TRAVEL IN 201
January 8, 2018 | 0 Comments

Air-Inclusive Packages on Sale through February 28th*

Fort Lauderdale, FL (January 8, 2018) – South African Airways Vacations® (SAA Vacations®), the leisure division of South African Airways, kicks off the New Year with savings on all of their air-inclusive vacation packages. SAA Vacations® is offering 10% off their array of affordable luxury holidays to a wide variety of destinations throughout Africa. From trendy hotels in cosmopolitan cities to opulent safari lodges, this special discount applies to all SAA Vacations® packages booked by February 28, 2018, for travel in 2018.

“SAA Vacations® is excited to start off the New Year with great savings on our entire product portfolio of air inclusive packages to destinations throughout Africa, “said Terry von Guilleaume, president of SAA Vacations®.

Any package booked by February 28th for travel in 2018 will offer special savings of 10% off. Now is the time to visit one or more of the many exciting destinations Africa has to offer. SAA Vacations® specializes in providing an amazing African experience and travelers can have full confidence that they are getting the best value for their money.”

Travel packages customized by SAA Vacations® are inclusive of round-trip air transportation on award-winning South African Airways, hotel accommodations, ground transportation, sightseeing excursions, wine tours, and wildlife safaris and with extra amenities, such as personalized assistance throughout the journey. With first-hand experience on travel to Africa, no one knows the destination better than SAA Vacations®.

This special discount is available for new reservations made by February 28, 2018, for any air-inclusive package offered by South African Airways Vacations®. To take advantage of the 10% discount or for more information, travelers should contact their professional travel consultant or call 1-855-359-7228. South African Airways Vacations® offers vacation options for all budgets, with African Specialists on hand to ensure clients experience the vacation of their dreams. For a complete overview of vacation packages to Africa, visit www.flysaavacations.com.

A division of South African Airways (SAA), South African Airways Vacations® (SAA Vacations®) is highly regarded for its wide array of affordable luxury packages to Africa and uses SAA’s extensive route network to create packages for travel throughout South Africa,Botswana, Victoria Falls, Namibia, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Tanzania, Senegal, Ghana and the Indian Ocean Islands.

Offering more than 80 air-inclusive packages, which range from value to superb luxury. Our specialty-themed programs offer unique experiences, whether you are interested in safaris, culture, cuisine, romance and adventure. The program is managed and fulfilled by DSA Vacations, founded in 2001, and offers an extensive portfolio of tour programs with a variety of hotels, game lodges, and safari companies throughout Southern Africa.

South African Airways (SAA), South Africa’s national flag carrier and the continent’s most awarded airline, serves over 75 destinations worldwide in partnership with SA Express, Airlink and its low cost carrier Mango. In North America, SAA operates daily nonstop flights from New York-JFK and direct flights from Washington D.C.-IAD (via Accra, Ghana and Dakar, Senegal) to Johannesburg. SAA has partnerships with United Airlines, Air Canada and JetBlue Airways, American Airlines, Virgin America and Hawaiian Airlines, which offer convenient connections from more than 100 cities in the U.S. and Canada to SAA’s flights. SAA is a Star Alliance member and the recipient of the Skytrax 4-star rating for 15 consecutive years.

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NEPAD/ACBF sign MOU to support Africa’s transformation and implementation of Agenda 2063
January 6, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Wallace Mawire

Professor Emmanuel Nnadozie

Professor Emmanuel Nnadozie

The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and the African
Capacity Development Foundation (ACDF) have signed a Memorandum of
Understanding (MOU) to build partnerships for supporting the
implementation of Africa’s socio-economic transformation.

According to Professor Emmanuel Nnadozie, Executive Secretary of the
ACBF, the two parties now endeavor to engage more strategically on
areas of common interest based on Africa’s emerging capacity needs. He
also added that that is why the two organisations are now formally
renewing and stepping up their level of engagement.

According to Professor Nnadozie, ACBF’s relationship with NEPAD
dates back to January 2004 when the two parties engaged into an MOU
that sought to establish a partnership between the two organisations
in matters relating to capacity building.

It is reported that a number of activities have been implemented
under the MOU, with ACBF directly investing $2 million, out of which,
NEPAD managed to absorb about $1 869 244.

The MOU will provide a framework of cooperation to facilitate
collaboration between ACBF and NEPAD focusing on the strengthening of
capacity development in Africa for the effective implementation,
monitoring and evaluation of Agenda 2063 and its 10 year plans.

Ibrahim Mayaki

Ibrahim Mayaki

Nnadozie added that priority areas of mutual focus will include
implementation, monitoring and evaluation of capacity development in
the first 10year plan of Agenda 2063 and Agenda 2030, joint
implementation of African Union AU/NEPAD 2015 to 2025 capacity
development plan for Regional Economic Communities on institutional
development for effective implementation of regional development plans
and agenda 2063, joint implementation of findings from ACBFs
assessment of Regional Economic Communities capacity needs,
partnership in the design and implementation of critical technical
skills development programmes at country and regional levels,
cooperation on development and publication of the ACBF flagship Africa
capacity reports and other capacity development knowledge products
such as tools, guides and case studies in Africa’s priority areas of
development.

The other focus will be to jointly mobilise resources for the
implementation of the areas of collaboration.
Asked by the Pan African Visions to reveal the cost of the new MOU,
Professor Nnadozie said that they were in the process of doing the
costing and would come up with the appropriate amount soon.

Dr Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, CEO of the NEPAD agency signed the MOU on
behalf of his organization.

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Africa’s Generational War
January 6, 2018 | 0 Comments

Last year was a good one for the continent’s autocrats. But young Africans have launched a democratic revolution — and they’ve got the numbers on their side.

BY 
 
TOPSHOT - People cheer a passing Zimbabwe Defense Force military vehicle during a demonstration demanding the resignation of Zimbabwe's president on November 18, 2017 in Harare. Zimbabwe was set for more political turmoil November 18 with protests planned as veterans of the independence war, activists and ruling party leaders called publicly for Zimbabwe's President to be forced from office. / AFP PHOTO / Jekesai NJIKIZANA        (Photo credit should read JEKESAI NJIKIZANA/AFP/Getty Images)

TOPSHOT – People cheer a passing Zimbabwe Defense Force military vehicle during a demonstration demanding the resignation of Zimbabwe’s president on November 18, 2017 in Harare.
Zimbabwe was set for more political turmoil November 18 with protests planned as veterans of the independence war, activists and ruling party leaders called publicly for Zimbabwe’s President to be forced from office. / AFP PHOTO / Jekesai NJIKIZANA (Photo credit should read JEKESAI NJIKIZANA/AFP/Getty Images)

NAIROBI — In Kenya, President Uhuru Kenyatta finally secured a second term on Nov. 28 after two flawed elections, outbreaks of violence, and a series of court battles. Across the continent in Liberia, the former soccer star George Weah won a presidential election after a similar court battle had delayed that country’s first peaceful democratic transfer of power since 1944. And in Zimbabwe, President Robert Mugabe was finally deposed last year after 37 years in power — only to be replaced by Emmerson Mnangagwa, a ruthless former national security minister responsible for some of the regime’s bloodiest excesses.

It has been a dizzying few months, but two important but contradictory trends have emerged. The first is the deepening of a democratic recession, made evident by the recent assault on presidential term limits in places such as Rwanda and Uganda. This process has been driven by elites’ development of new and subtle forms of political and electoral manipulation — including the use of counterterrorism laws, financial aid from Western nations, and geopolitical arm-wrestling over resources with China — to stymie the political opposition and entrench the power of ruling elites.

The second trend is the continuing resilience of political optimism among African voters, especially the youth, who overwhelmingly support democracy. Young people made up the bulk of demonstrators who battled with police in recent months from Togo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Kenya and Zambia. Their optimism has been buoyed in part by the rise of an aggressively independent media, the maturing of institutions such as the judiciary, and by the explosion of nongovernmental organizations fighting to hold governments accountable despite increasingly restrictive conditions.

Indeed, a massive generational struggle is now underway between entrenched elites and impatient youthful populations across the continent. In several countries, institutions that were once firmly under the thumb of elites are showing glimmers of independence — from the media (including social media) to the church and the judiciary. Never in Africa’s independent history has such a broad alliance stood for democracy against elites with deep financial and security ties to powerful countries in the wider world 

The question now is whether this grassroots democratic consolidation, exemplified by the massive anti-Mugabe protests and the armies of lawyers and human rights campaigners fighting for transparency in Kenya, can check or begin to reverse the tide of authoritarianism being unleashed by elites from above.

In the long term, demographic shifts make democratic change seem inevitable. Africa’s population is the youngest, fastest growing, and, in many places, the most rapidly urbanizing on the planet. The individuals driving this youth bulge are increasingly globalized in their aspirations, more digitally savvy than preceding generations, and far more impatient with the authoritarian leaders their parents long ago learned to tolerate.

But change won’t happen overnight. Political transitions in Africa have always been fraught affairs. It was far worse in the first three decades after most sub-Saharan African countries gained independence in the 1960s, when civil wars raged across much of the continent and coups were all too common. Since then, losing an election or handing over power because of constitutional term or age limits has become less of a novelty, even if the Sudanese telecoms billionaire Mo Ibrahim has found few deserving recipients for his $5 million prize for democratically elected heads of state who step down on time and with a relatively clean slate. (Since the annual Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership was created in 2006, it has been awarded only five times.)

In the 1990s, after the fall of the Berlin Wall heralded the reintroduction of multiparty politics across the continent, 48 new constitutions were promulgated in Africa. Thirty-three of them included term limits for heads of state — most of them two five-year terms. But by 2015, a dramatic reversal was underway. In at least 24 of the 33 countries with term limits, attempts were made to remove them — half of them successful, as was the case in Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi. Elsewhere, authoritarian leaders clung to power through other means — by delaying elections indefinitely, as President Joseph Kabila has done in Congo, or by rigging them cleverly enough to pass the muster of international observers, as Kenyatta has done in Kenya.

Aiding and abetting this trend toward authoritarianism were Western countries worried about the spread of Islamic extremism in Africa. The United States in particular has lavished military and counterterrorism aid on African governments with little regard for their democratic credentials — so long as they were willing to fight jihadis. In many cases, these governments grew more repressive, using anti-terrorism legislation and other legal and extralegal instruments to cow the opposition and silence dissenting voices while U.S. security assistance continued to flow. Niger experienced an erosion of political rights between 2015 and 2017, according to Freedom House, while its government deepened military cooperation with the United States. Other important U.S. allies, such as Ethiopia, Uganda, Cameroon, and Chad, have experienced democratic backsliding or were authoritarian to begin with.

Kenya’s story is particularly disappointing. It has been one of America’s most important counterterrorism partners in the troubled Horn of Africa region and also had the dubious distinction of leading the continent in extrajudicial killings by the police in 2016, according to Amnesty International. Abuses by the security forces marred the most recent election campaign as well, with more than 60 Kenyans killed by the police between the Aug. 8, 2017, election and the court-ordered rerun in October. None of these murders has been successfully investigated, and Kenyatta later praised the police for their actions during the election period.

There have also been attacks on organizations promoting human rights and good governance, many of which sought relief from the courts, which were themselves under attack by Kenyatta. Last September, Chief Justice David Maraga was forced to make a rare statement pleading for the security of his judges after the president threatened to “deal with” the judiciary, and on the eve of the election rerun the bodyguard of the deputy chief justice was shot in broad daylight in an apparent assassination attempt. Kenyatta’s subsequent victory came amid an opposition boycott and 39 percent turnout — the lowest in decades. For the first time in 50 years, Kenyans boycotted the country’s Independence Day celebrations on Dec. 12, forcing the president to address a near-empty stadium.

As leaders have rolled back democratic gains, the attitudes of ordinary Africans toward democracy and its accompanying freedoms remain robust. According to a 2016 Afrobarometer poll, 67 percent of Africans prefer democracy to other forms of government. Meanwhile, the independent media continues to blossom across the continent; whereas in the 1980s there were only a handful of countries with a free press, the media in Botswana, Ghana, South Africa, Cape Verde, Comoros, Burkina Faso, Niger, Lesotho, Kenya, Ivory Coast, and a number of other countries have become an essential part of the democratic infrastructure. Organizations that didn’t exist two decades ago have come to play a similar role in ensuring political accountability.

And although Kenya’s recent elections were deeply flawed, the government didn’t dare choke off the internet or shut down social media, as more authoritarian regimes such as Ethiopia’s and Uganda’s have done in recent years. That’s because Kenya’s oligarch class — unlike in many other countries in the region — comprises businesspeople, not soldiers. The internet and financial technology are essential to the country’s vibrant and increasingly globalized economy.

Across the continent, the trend at the grassroots level is toward more democracy, not less. Authoritarian leaders are still clinging desperately to power, and in the short term they may well succeed in halting or reversing democratic strides. But the younger, more impatient generation now coming of age has corrupt, authoritarian elites squarely in its sights. In Zimbabwe, Mugabe’s resignation is merely the beginning of the next chapter in the country’s democratic journey — one that will pit the pro-democratic youth against the corrupt old guard.

Democracy is messy, and the next phase of this generational contest will be messy, too. But Africa’s youth are redefining the rules of political engagement and will determine the continent’s future.

*Culled from Foreign Policy.John Githongo is the chief executive of Inuka Kenya Trust and a former permanent secretary to the Kenyan government on governance and ethics.

 

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Activity Expands in African Economies on Stability, Demand
January 5, 2018 | 0 Comments
 
  • PMIs show expansion in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Zambia, Uganda
  • South African index remains below neutral level of 50
Nigeria’s December PMI rose to 56.8 from 55.2. Photographer: George Osodi/Bloomberg

Nigeria’s December PMI rose to 56.8 from 55.2. Photographer: George Osodi/Bloomberg

Business activity in some of sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest economies is expanding due to increased demand and the return of political stability.

Purchasing Managers Indexes published on Thursday showed expansion in companies in Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Uganda and Zambia in December. In South Africa, the continent’s most-industrialized economy, the index fell and remained below the neutral mark of 50 for the fifth straight month as the fiscal outlook remains challenging and the risk of further sovereign credit-ratings downgrades persists.

“The PMIs indicate that sub-Saharan African economies entered 2018 on a more positive note than at the beginning of last year,” Mark Bohlund, an economist at Bloomberg Economics, said. “The South African PMI reading is in line with our expectation for the strong private consumption growth in the second and third quarters to moderate in the fourth quarter and 2018.”

Activity Expands

South Africa is the only major African economy where the PMI is below 50

While economic growth in the region almost doubled to 2.6 percent last year, according to International Monetary Fund estimates, delays in policy changes is a risk to expansion. Output levels in these economies are often sensitive to changes in commodity prices and the political environment.

Ghana held a peaceful election at the end of 2016, with a new government taking over at the start of last year. Kenya’s August vote and the rerun in October were marred by violence and while the incumbent government retained its position, the opposition disputes the outcome. South Africa and Nigeria, the continent’s two largest economies, will both hold elections next year.

Foreign-Exchange Availability

Nigeria’s December PMI rose to 56.8 from 55.2, with the fastest growth in new business received by private-sector companies since Stanbic IBTC Bank and IHS Markit started the survey in 2014. The nation has relaxed some currency controls implemented after the price of oil, its main export, crashed in 2014. That’s helped revive the economy — which contracted in 2016 — even though there are still dollar shortages and the central bank continues to operate a system of multiple exchange rates.

“The rebound in foreign-exchange availability partly due to improvements in the oil sector helped buoy economic growth in 2017,” Ayomide Mejabi, an economist at Stanbic, said in a note. This year, “we expect the Nigerian economy should continue its rebound, perhaps reaching 2.5 percent driven mainly by further improvements in the oil sector and some structural adjustments.”

Kenya’s December PMI rose above 50 for the first time since April and new business and new-export orders increased for the first time in five months. The index was little changed in Uganda at 54.3 and Ghana at 53.5. Zambia’s PMI dropped to 52.9 from 54.7.

“The PMIs indicate that East Africa will continue to outgrow other sub-regions,” Bohlund said.

*Bloomberg

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More governments should be using digital financial technologies to fight corruption
January 5, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Tidhar Wald*

Economists predict the global economy will grow by nearly four percent in 2018 – the strongest growth rate since 2011. However, if history repeats itself, as it often does, a significant portion of that growth and prosperity could be undermined by the annual cost of corruption – which is estimated to be as high as $ 2.6 trillion, or equivalent 5% of global GDP.

Corruption is not just a matter of ethics, but an issue of vital economic and political significance –being one of the biggest barriers to sustainable economic growth, and development across the globe. It is therefore unsurprising that the fight for greater transparency and to eradicate corruption is gaining momentum globally. The United Nations prioritized it in the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030, citing corruption as a major obstacle to economic and social development around the world. Similarly, last July, G20 leaders reiterated their countries’ commitment to fight corruption and create public administrations that are more resilient and transparent.

One sticky impediment to progress is the problem of cash. Every year, hundreds of billions of dollars of government payments and transfers are made in physical cash. Those take the form of government salaries, health payments, pensions or financial support for families in need. However, because they are made in cash, those payments are often difficult to trace, unsecure and inefficient. The anonymity of cash makes those payments vulnerable to skimming off the top and “ghost” recipients who don’t exist.

This is not a minor issue.  In 2016 The McKinsey Global Institute estimated that this causes over $110 billion in losses every single year in emerging economies, including countries across Africa.

Thankfully, growing connectivity and technological innovation allows for a shift from cash to digital payments, ensuring these billions of dollars either go back to state coffers or reach the intended recipient in full.

Tangible examples of governments who are leveraging digital finance technologies, in a responsible manner, illustrate the power of this shift. In India, the government has already saved $5 billion since it began paying fuel subsidies directly into citizens’ bank accounts – thereby eliminating non-existing recipients and reducing transaction costs. In Tanzania, the digitization of entrance fee payments in National Parks reduced leakages by 40 percent, resulting in more income to the government.  In Rwanda, the digitization of bus fares led to a 140 percent increase in revenues due to the reduction in leakages. In Ghana, digitization efforts, including the country’s biometric database for all civil servants, are expected to create savings of over GHS 250 million in 2017 and improve transparency.

But the benefits go beyond being good for governments.  When the shift to digital is done responsibly and responsively to citizen’s needs it can make their lives better. People from Argentina to Kenya have reported they did not have to pay bribes anymore or be asked to pay a percentage of their benefit to a middleman or a corrupt official.  Citizens are freed up of the costs of travel to a cash-collection office, saving valuable time and restoring a sense of dignity in their interaction with government.

What’s more, digital payments, when coupled with creating access to an account can unlock unprecedented economic opportunities, particularly for women who are twice as likely to be excluded from the formal financial system. Having an account can make saving more convenient and secure and lower the costs of accessing services that are critical to financial security and growth, such as insurance and credit products.

To be sure, digital payments are not a silver bullet. However, as economies and governments increasingly look for new ways to modernize, leaders must look beyond cash. The citizens they serve are increasingly adopting digital financial tools in their everyday lives—in Kenya, alone, nearly 70 percent of adults use a mobile money account. Governments cannot afford to continue to pay the cost of cash. By committing to shift their payments from cash to digital, governments can seize the potential of digital technologies to save billions and achieve better government for all.

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