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Choosing Peace For The Horn Of Africa
August 8, 2018 | 0 Comments

 By Canice Chinyeaka Enyiaka*

Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki, second left, and Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, center, hold hands as they wave at the crowds in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Sunday July 15, 2018. Official rivals just weeks ago, the leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea have embraced warmly to the roar of a crowd of thousands at a concert celebrating the end of a long state of war. A visibly moved Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki, clasping his hands over his heart, addressed the crowd in Ethiopia’s official language, Amharic, on his first visit to the country in 22 years. (AP Photo/Mulugeta Ayene)

Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki, second left, and Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, center, hold hands as they wave at the crowds in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Sunday July 15, 2018. Official rivals just weeks ago, the leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea have embraced warmly to the roar of a crowd of thousands at a concert celebrating the end of a long state of war. A visibly moved Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki, clasping his hands over his heart, addressed the crowd in Ethiopia’s official language, Amharic, on his first visit to the country in 22 years. (AP Photo/Mulugeta Ayene)

The Horn of Africa and the global community witnessed two dramatic events on July 8 and July 14 as the leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea visited each other respectively. The smile and the big hug exchanged by the Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and his Eritrean counterpart President Isaias Afwerki on Sunday, July 8 surprised many people who have followed the bitter conflict and sour relationship between the two countries in the last few decades. The two historic visits we have witnessed these past days express the joy and hope that come with ‘choosing peace.’ To further the peace process, the embassy of Eritrea in Ethiopia was opened once again on Monday July 16.

From the UN general assembly vote to make Eritrea a central component of Ethiopia in 1952 to the formation of Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF) in 1958 and the decades following the two events, the two countries have had turbulent relationship especially few years after the independence of Eritrea in 1993. Between 1998 and 2000, the crisis reached its pick and had continued these past two decades with attendant human, economic, mutual distrust, political and social losses.

The Ethiopian and Eritrean crisis negatively impact the Horn of Africa as is evident in   Djibouti and Somalia. The area has been affected by years of famine, disease, low economic development, weak governance, corruption, inefficiency, inadequate social services and the growth of different militia groups. These threats to human well-being and peace in developing countries that should apply their little resources to promote the dignity of persons and communities torn apart by avoidable conflicts show the nobility in the decision of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and President Isaias Afwerki a noble one.  A careful and committed completion of this process will reassure the return of peace and development in the region. It is a movement of courage because order requires courage to say no to violence.

In a time when African peace is continuously threatened locally and regionally from South Sudan to DR Congo, Burundi to the Central African Republic, Cameroon to Nigeria, etc., with untold hardship, deaths, displacements, and starvation, every step towards peace and reconciliation must be appreciated. In a time in the continent when millions of children die of malnutrition and diseases of all sorts resulting from violent conflict situations, when women and their daughters are mercilessly raped and violated by security agents and militia groups alike, when the Mediterranean sea and the desert have become the graveyard of African youths fleeing their continent in search of life and hope, peace ought to be pursued with every sense of urgency. The destruction of human, social, moral and economic fabric and resources of Africa through violent conflicts invite us to use nonviolent initiative for peace as a way of life.

The gesture of the two leaders represent what it means to choose peace as they bear eloquent testimony to the words of the Psalmist, “how good, how delightful it is to live as brothers all together”(Psalm. 133: 1, The New Jerusalem Bible). The above was illustrated when the Ethiopian Prime minister’s chief of staff said to the President of Eritrea, ‘welcome home President Isaias.’ Peace is possible when we make the courageous choices and understand that “it is by considering our peers as brothers and sisters that we will overcome wars and conflicts” (Francis, 2016). Peace is possible when we understand that we are ‘one family under God’ irrespective of our religious, political, ethnic, social and cultural identity and affiliation.  Peace benefits all just as war destroys all.  The gesture of the two leaders is a sign of hope for the millions who have waited for the day of peace in the region. The day of order introduced by this brilliant move must be appreciated as we look back to the cost of conflict suffered the two countries and their neighbors as well as humanity at large.

It is important to remind ourselves that in the last two decades, the conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea has caused among other things 80,000  deaths, more than 600,000 displacements of people, and a massive damage to the economy of both countries and their neighbors( (Negash & Tronvoll, 2000;  (Bazebih, 2014). Thus, “the war left ineffaceable imprints in the minds of the schoolchildren in Mäqällä. The inhumane killing of innocent children in Aydär is still fresh in the minds of many residents and families of the victims. The Eritrean leadership claimed that the bombing was targeting a military site but in reality, it was the Aydär Elementary School’s 58 pupils and civilians that lost their lives and 185 were injured by cluster bombs (Tronvoll, 2003). Most shockingly, “at the height of the war, Ethiopia increased the total size of its army from 60,000 to 350,000 and increased its defense expenditure from $95m in 1997/98 to $777m in 1999/2000. Overall, the cost of the war for Ethiopia was nearly $3bn. In the meantime, the size of Eritrea’s army increased to 300,000 (almost 10 percent of the population) through National Service Conscription following the outbreak of the war, and the government has been using the intractable stalemate between the two countries as a justification not to demobilize the unsustainably high number of troops for a small nation like Eritrea” (Allo, 2018).

Rev Fr Canice Chinyeaka Enyiaka

Rev Fr Canice Chinyeaka Enyiaka

What the bitter truth about the two countries and all of us must deal with is that in the destructive conflict, the two developing countries lavished hundreds of millions of dollars on the war. Thus, the resources could have been used to fight diseases, poverty and other development issues that threaten the dignity, existence, and freedom of the poor citizens of the countries and their neighbors. From the thirty years of war with the Mengistu regime to the present times, the two countries have known the harsh cost and consequences of war.

Looking back to the loss of the two countries in the last two decades, Abiy and Afirkwi in the previous few days re-affirm by their action that , “violence is wrong  that we can live in peace, that peace works, that peace is possible, indeed  that peace is the only way for the human family to live and survive.” (Dennis, 2018). The two leaders have recognized that “of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes … known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.… No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare” (Madison, 1795). Both countries cannot regain what they lost in war, but they can avoid more losses by refusing to adopt the culture of war and violence. Precious lives were cut short in the conflict of the last two decades putting families and communities in pain and sadness.

The two leaders by this act are chatting a new path for Africa and the global community. They teach us to embrace nonviolence initiative as a way of life. This is a unique moment in African history. A moment to reawaken the consciousness that peace is about dealing with our differences in a nonviolent manner as ‘build bridges, fight our fears and pursue a style of dialogue that is open and sincere seeking the good of all citizens” (Francis, 2015). This special moment invites African leaders, stakeholders and all people of good will to see from the lens of John Paul 11 that, “war is a lie….because it destroys what it says it wants to defend”(John Paul 11, 2002). For two decades, war has lied to Ethiopia and Eritrea, and by their noble gesture, Ahmed and Afwerki say no to the lies war.

What if we say no to the lies of war and conflict in other parts of Africa where millions of our people have lost their lives?  How many lives do we defend by killing our people? How can we not see the pain of the child whose ribs can be counted because of the lies of war? How can we not know the agony of the woman who walks hundreds of miles with her children and loads on her head in search of shelter and peace because of the lies of war? How can we not feel the tears of the young girl who has been raped and violated many times because of the myths of war? How can we not see the lies of war in the child soldier who has been forced to carry the gun, kill and be traumatized all his life? How can we not see the destruction of Africa with our own hands at this time? A friend of mine from Ethiopia told me last Monday that he cried when he saw how the people of Eritrea came out to the streets to receive this good news of peace. He said to me, ‘the common man does want war, war is designed by the arrogance and interest of the elites’.  It is evident that, “for much too long, powerful people and political decision-makers have been promoting a paradigm that justifies enormous loss of human life and widespread destruction of the planet in pursuit of an elusive peace, false security, national geopolitical interests and tremendous profit for few people and companies”(Dennis, 2018). The poor people in Africa ask our leaders for just a peaceful environment as they struggle to survive.

African elites who have become conflict entrepreneurs ought to listen to the voices of citizens as we saw in Eritrea and Ethiopia this last week. African elites need to see in the action of Abiy and Afwerki a call to embrace ‘active nonviolent action’ as a tool for social change and African transformation.  A peaceful environment where justice and dignity of all are upheld enlarges people’s freedom and choices. The poor citizens in Africa are mostly affected devastatingly by wars, not the elites. African political leaders and elites need to appreciate that peace starts from within just as these two leaders have shown. The goodwill, the resolve, the process and implementation ought to begin from within not neglecting external contributions.

Is the world listening to these two voices from the Horn of Africa? .Because we do not hear the sounds of bombs and guns in the Horn of Africa, the view of peace echoed by these two leaders may be ignored. Gestures such as the two leaders made this last week must be encouraged in Africa as effort must be made stop supplying arms to Africa thereby reducing African citizens to objects for money making by transnational companies and their governments. Arms and we open of war do not build peace. Disarmament should be encouraged and promoted by local and global policymakers.  Are the warmongers and those who specialize in increasing military spending, building and bragging for nuclear weapons armament listening to these two leaders? Are governments, global and regional regimes, transnational co-operation who see Africa as a money making a machine for weapon transaction listening to these voices re-affirming that we spend much less to build peace than to embark on war?

What if we choose peace and promote the path to nonviolence as Abiy and Afwerki have demonstrated? The action of these two leaders is at the core of the Nonviolence initiative of Pax Christi International encapsulated in the understanding that various forms of violence at the cultural, structural, systemic levels that affect interpersonal, social and international relationships can be transformed without resorting to violent means (Dennis, 2018). What we witnessed from the two leaders is a statement that says no to more than two decades of war as a means of addressing differences. They have seen that “Peace is the only true direction of human progress – and not the tensions caused by ambitious nationalisms, nor conquests by violence,nor repressions which serve as the mainstay for a false civil order”(Paul VI, 1968)

Our hope is that the step initiated by these two leaders and all people of goodwill restores peace in the Horn of Africa.  The global community is urged to embrace the ‘Nonviolence Initiative’ of Pax Christi International, make it a lived experience and approach for sustainable peace because war no matter how just it looks is always “a defeat of humanity” (Francis, 2013). It is the position of nonviolence initiative of Pax Christ that extraordinary steps such as the one taken by Abiy and Afwerki can heal and reconcile peoples and the planet more than any weapon war of war. Battle defeats us. War diminishes us and questions our moral fabric.

*Rev. Fr. Canice Chinyeaka Enyiaka is a Roman Catholic Priest. He is a Doctoral Candidate at Howard University in Washington DC.

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Akufo-Addo to downsize ministers
August 8, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Papisdaff Abdullah

Energy Minister Boakye Agyarko (left) was fired by President Akufo Addo

Energy Minister Boakye Agyarko (left) was fired by President Akufo Addo

President of the Republic of Ghana Nana Addo Danquah Akufo-Addo is expected to downsize his ministerial list in his maiden reshuffle likely to take place soon.

Sources close to the seat of government – the Jubilee House – have hinted at least 15 ministers will be sacked from the “Elephant-size government.” The size of ministers is likely to drop to about 80 or 90 from the original 110.

The major casualties,, is learning will be deputy ministers and a few substantive ministers “who have performed below average in the eyes of the president.”

Some of the affected ministers, according to whispers from the corridors of power, will be re-assigned to spearhead government policies in different capacities.

Deep throat sources have revealed major changes could hit the Ministries of Information, Trade and Health.

The reshuffle according to sources will be done in phases as the president plans to brief his ministers on the way forward with two years left to end his first term.

The long-awaited reshuffle follows the sacking of Energy Minister, Boakye Agyarko over the replacement of the agreement covering the Ameri Energy project.

The dismissal of Mr. Agyarko comes after the President was allegedly misled into approving the new AMERI deal which had been deferred by Parliament.

The novation and amendment agreement was seeking to buy out the deal Ameri Energy had with the government of Ghana under President John Mahama and handed over to a third party Mytilineos for 15 years. Ghana would have ended up paying over Ghc1 billion under the new arrangement.

The joint committee on Finance and Energy of Parliament rejected the new deal because it had no signatures from the Attorney General and Finance minister.

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Help Trigger Necessary Political Will in Africa -Akufo-Addo To Moot Court Participants
August 8, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Papisdaff Abdullah

President Akufo Addo

President Akufo Addo

Ghana’s President Nana Addo Danquah Akufo-Addo has charged participants at this year’s Human Rights Moot Court Competition to use the academic exercise to trigger the necessary political will in their respective countries on the African continent to deepen respect for human rights.

Delivering the keynote address at the 27th African Human Rights Moot Court Competition at the Great Hall, University of Ghana Monday, President Akufo-Addo said that on the 19th of December, 2018, the world would be celebrating the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The declaration, according to the President, has since been the basis of considerable advancement in the universal protection of human rights. The enforcement of the global instrument in Africa, however, cannot be said to have been fully achieved yet.

President Akufo-Addo thus said the inhabitants of the African continent have a sacred task to ensure that the fight for the protection and respect of human rights remains a constant one.

Quoting from, Nelson Mandela, former President of South Africa, President Akufo-Addo said, “One could hardly think of a better way to advance the cause of human rights than to bring together students who are the leaders, judges and teachers of tomorrow, from different countries, with Chief Justices and Professors, to debate some of the crucial issues of our time in the exciting and challenging atmosphere of a courtroom, where they can test their arguments and skills against one another in a spirit of fierce but friendly competition.”

On that score, President Akufo-Addo urged the “mooters” to argue out their views on human rights strongly to catch the attention of the leaders of the continent for their necessary action.

Representative of the Organizers

The Director of the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria, (organizers of the Moot Court Competition), Professor Frans Vilijoen, in his address expressed the excitement of the organizers over the kind of energy and preparation being invested into the competition by all 19 countries who are participating in this year’s challenge.

He also commended the University of Ghana for the tremendous investment they have made in ensuring that the competition goes on smoothly.

The Moot Court Competition

The African Human Rights Moot Court Competition is the largest gathering of students, academics and judges around the theme of human rights in Africa.

This annual event brings together all law faculties in Africa, whose top students argue a hypothetical human rights case as if they were before the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

The competition continuously prepares new generations of lawyers to argue cases of alleged human rights violations before the African Court.

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Mnangagwa In Firm Control As President Elect Basks In Glow of Congratulatory Messages
August 8, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Prince Kurupati

President Mnangagwa  has been basking in the glow of congratulatory messages

President Mnangagwa has been basking in the glow of congratulatory messages

On Monday the 30th of July 2018, Zimbabweans residing in the country went to cast their votes to choose their representatives in local government and the House of Assembly as well as to elect a ‘new’ president.

On Election Day, there was no report of any election-related violence, a stark contrast to what happened in previous elections when numerous election-related violence cases were recorded. Almost all polling stations closed at 7 pm on Election Day with a few closing later as there were still people queuing to cast their votes.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) started announcing its election results the following day, first to be announced both by ZEC and at District Command Centres were local government election results. Next, to be announced, this time by ZEC only were House of Assembly election results. After all the House of Assembly results were announced, ZEC took a few hours (nearly a day) before announcing the Presidential election results.

Emmerson Mnangagwa, the president of ZANU (PF) was declared the President-Elect assuming the mandate of leading Zimbabwe for the following five years.

Soon after the announcement of the results, congratulatory messages from all corners of the world started to pour in for Emmerson Mnangagwa. Below is a rundown of the congratulatory messages directed to president-elect Emmerson Mnangagwa from different world leaders and global influential persons.

A high number of influential people and leaders from across the globe took turns to congratulate Emmerson Mnangagwa on his victory. Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Snr in a statement said that he congratulates “His Excellency Emmerson Mnangagwa as the democratically elected President of The Republic of Zimbabwe.” He went on to thank the majority of Zimbabweans who “voted in peace, demonstrating their determination to strengthen democracy in their country.”

The President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko sent a message to president-elect Emmerson Mnangagwa stating that he is confident that the leadership of Mnangagwa will “contribute to the prosperity of the country and the quality of life of people.” He went further to state that he expects the cordial relations between his country and Zimbabwe to strengthen.

From South Africa, the African National Congress (ANC) which is the ruling party sent a message which reads, “We want to take this opportunity to congratulate ZANU (PF) for having won a majority of seats in the Zimbabwean National Assembly. We also congratulate Mr Emmerson Mnangagwa on his election as president of Zimbabwe.” ANC President and also the President of The Republic of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa tweeted, “Congratulations to His Excellency Emmerson Mnangagwa on his election as President of Zimbabwe. We urge the people of Zimbabwe to accept the outcome of the election, or follow the legal route should they wish to challenge it. We look forward to great working relations with you.”

According to several media outlets, Cyril Ramaphosa also called Emmerson Mnangagwa and directly congratulated him.

Also from South Africa, the Economic Freedom Fighters, a party led by Julius Malema sent a congratulatory message which reads, “The EFF congratulates the newly elected President of Zimbabwe, Emmerson Mnangagwa of ZANU (PF)… We take this opportunity to wish him well in his tenure as new President in a Zimbabwe free of Mugabe’s autocratic leadership… We call on all Zimbabweans, in particular, the opposition parties, to accept the electoral outcome and continue to build the new Zimbabwe based on peace and stability.”

From Burundi, President Pierre Nkurunziza tweeted, “Dear Mr President @edmnangagwa, on behalf of the Burundian People and on my own behalf, I would like to extend my sincere congratulations on your election as President of Zimbabwe. I wish you much success and good health for the prosperity of your country and Africa.”

President John Magufuli from Tanzania tweeted, “Cde. Mnangagwa On behalf of the Government and people of Tanzania, I convey my sincere congratulations on your victory in the Presidential Election of Zimbabwe. Your victory is a reflection of the confidence reposed in you by the people of Zimbabwe in leading them to prosperity.”

Inside the country, the president-elect Emmerson Mnangagwa also received congratulatory messages from The Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs in Zimbabwe, Cdes Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri (national chairperson), Pupurai Togarepi (Secretary for Youths Affairs), Marble Chinomona (Secretary for Women’s Affairs), Engelbert Rugeje (Political Commissar), Obert Mpofu (Secretary for Administration) and Simon Khaya Moyo (Secretary for Information and Publicity) among others.


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Tanzania appoint former Nigeria winger Amuneke as head coach
August 7, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Andrew Jackson Oryada*

Emmanuel Amuneke represented Nigeria at the 1994 World Cup

Emmanuel Amuneke represented Nigeria at the 1994 World Cup

Tanzania have appointed former Nigeria winger Emmanuel Amuneke as the new head coach of the national team.

Amuneke, who was most recently coach of Sudan Premier League side Al Khartoum SC, has signed a two-year contract.

“I am happy to start this new job and work hard so that we can achieve a lot together,” Amuneke told local media.

His first competitive game in charge of the senior Taifa Stars will be their 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in Uganda in September.

Amuneke, 47, replaces local coach Salum Mayanga who had been in charge of Tanzania since last year.

Wallace Karia, president of the Tanzania Football Federation (TFF) told the BBC that Amuneke will also oversee the other Tanzania teams, including the U-17 and U-20 groups.

“We shall have coaches for the other teams, but Amuneke will be the head starting with the 2019 African U-17 qualifiers which kick-off in Dar es Salaam this weekend.

“We are happy to have Amuneke who has played at the top and has a lot of experience as a coach. We have picked our very own from Africa,” added Karia.

Amuneke was the assistant coach when Nigeria won the Fifa U-17 World Cup trophy for a record fourth time in the United Arab Emirates in 2013.

Two years later Amuneke led Nigeria to a fifth U-17 World Cup title in Chileand, revered as a proven youth manager, he was swiftly promoted to coach the U-20 side the Flying Eagles.

As a player, he was a key part of the Super Eagles team, scoring both goals at the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations in Tunisia where Nigeria beat Zambia 2-1 to secure their second African title.

He also played at the 1994 World Cup – scoring memorable goals against Bulgaria and Italy.

He scored the winner again as Nigeria stunned Argentina 3-2 in the 1996 Olympic football final in Atlanta to become the first African football nation to win Olympic gold.

His clubs included Egyptian side Zamalek, and he played at European football heavyweights FC Barcelona and Portugal’s Sporting Club.

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Trump to host Kenyan president at White House
August 7, 2018 | 0 Comments


President Uhuru Kenyatta shakes US President Donald Trump's hand before a performance by the La Scala Philharmonic Orchestra in the ancient Greek theatre as part of the G7 Summit in Taormina, Sicily, Italy, May 26, 2017. PHOTO: TWITTER

President Uhuru Kenyatta shakes US President Donald Trump’s hand before a performance by the La Scala Philharmonic Orchestra in the ancient Greek theatre as part of the G7 Summit in Taormina, Sicily, Italy, May 26, 2017. PHOTO: TWITTER

President Trump is scheduled to host Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta later this month to discuss trade and security, the White House announced Monday.

Kenyatta will visit the White House on Aug. 27, marking his first trip to Washington, D.C., since Trump took office.

“The meeting between the two leaders will reaffirm the longstanding relationship between the United States and Kenya as a cornerstone of peace and stability in Africa and the broader Indo-Pacific region,” the White House said in a statement.

 Trump inflamed tensions with African countries earlier this year when he reportedly asked during a closed-door meeting with lawmakers why so many immigrants were coming to the United States from “shithole countries” including some African nations, Haiti and El Salvador.

The White House did not directly deny he made the comments. Trump later tweeted that he used “tough” language in the meeting.

The remarks sparked outrage from Democrats and some Republicans, who condemned the language as racist.

Prior to running for president, Trump incited blowback and accusations of racist rhetoric when he falsely claimed that former President Obama was born in Kenya.

Obama, who was born in Hawaii and never lived in Kenya, visited the African nation last month, where he urged its leaders to celebrate the nation’s diversity.

Obama, who was in the country for the opening of an educational center run by his half-sister, praised Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga for improving rifts between ethnic groups and encouraged them to see diversity as a “strength.”

*Culled from The Hill

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Paylater, the mobile app providing Nigerian consumers with access to credit, has reached 1 million downloads
August 6, 2018 | 0 Comments
Paylater is issuing loans to Nigerians completely digitally, without seeing or speaking to customers

LAGOS, Nigeria, August 2, 2018/ — In Nigeria, a country of nearly 200 million people, 61% of the adult population is un- or underbanked. Fintech companies like Paylater represent a tremendous opportunity to get formal banking services in the hands of Nigerian consumers to provide much needed liquidity for entrepreneurial investment, personal development, or unexpected expenses.

Consumer credit is nearly non-existent in Nigeria. But, Paylater ( is issuing loans to Nigerians completely digitally, without seeing or speaking to customers. Customers can receive funds in their account in as little as 5 minutes, with no need for paperwork, collateral or guarantors. Digital financial services platforms have been well received by consumers and it appears that fintech platforms like Paylater are here to stay.

The evidence is in the numbers. With over 800,000 registered users, across every Nigerian state, Paylater has loaned over $17M USD to Nigerian consumers in 2018 so far. The technology platform has supplemented that loan growth with very strong early adoption of its bill payments ( and investments ( features as well.

“We are very excited by the market adoption of Paylater and we believe there is still a significant growth opportunity ahead for digital financial services” – Co-founder and CEO Chijioke Dozie

Before Paylater, only commercial banks — with physical branches nationwide and extremely large capital bases — had the reach, stability and customer trust to offer financial services to a variety of people. Unfortunately, these same institutions turned record profits by taking deposits from average consumers, and reserving actual ‘banking’ services like loans and investments for large corporate entities and high-net worth individuals.

Access to credit is a fundamental human need and the foundation on which most modern economies are built. Pioneers like Paylater have embraced the difficult task of unlocking the power of financial access for the underserved, and so far, it looks like they are winning.

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Defections and deflections: Who now holds the balance of power in Nigeria?
August 6, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Lagun Akinloye*

Dozens of politicians, including the Senate President and three governors, have defected from the ruling party. There could be more to come.

More and more politicians are leaving Nigeria’s ruling APC, but what does this mean for 2019?

This week, another tremor ran through Nigeria’s turbulent political landscape as Senate President Bukola Saraki walked out of the ruling party. Explaining why he had left the All Progressives Congress (APC), the country’s third most senior politician said his position in the party had become untenable. “All governance principles which were required for a healthy functioning of the party and the government were deliberately violated or undermined,” he wrote in a letter.

In departing, Saraki followed in the footsteps of the 14 senators and 37 members of the House of Representatives who dramatically left the APC last week. They too complained of being side-lined and criticised different aspects of President Muhammadu Buhari’s governance over the party and country.

The APC has been quick to hit back at the defectors. Just hours after Saraki’s announcement, the party’s National Working Committee signed a resolution accusing the Senate President of having brought the APC into disrepute, including by “presiding over anti-APC activities”. Information Minister Lai Mohammed said the party had lost nothing from his departure since “Saraki has behaved all along as a member of the opposition”.

In response to last week’s mass defection, the party had similarly tried to downplay the developments. Presidential spokesperson Garba Shehu described the events as “a seasonal occurrence”, while APC chair Adams Oshiomhole suggested the defectors were simply motivated by selfish political interest. Mohammed had previously told African Arguments: “If anybody defects from the APC, I don’t think it’s going to affect the fortunes of the party”.

The APC begins to unravel

Despite this bluster, however, the ruling party will be concerned. Overnight, the embattled party became a minority in the Senate and saw its majority in the House of Representatives significantly slashed.

The APC has always been riven with divisions, reflecting its origins in 2013 as a coalition of smaller opposition parties. But since it achieved its founding aim of coming to power in 2015, its leadership has struggled to keep its members content and in line, whether through the carrot or the stick. It was long expected that several politicians would defect as the 2019 elections approached.

The first significant move came this June when Buhari’s former ally Buba Galadima announced a breakaway faction of the ruling party called The Reformed APC (R-APC). “The APC has run a rudderless, inept and incompetent government that has failed to deliver good governance to the Nigerian people,” he said.

A month or so later, many more followed suit. Most have crossed the floor to the main opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP), which now leads an alliance of 38 parties. Known as the Coalition of United Parties (CUPP), this conglomeration is dedicated to changing the government, somewhat reminiscent of the APC before 2015.

CUPP has gained in strength with defections and high-profile endorsements. These include former president Olusegun Obasanjo and former vice-president Atiku Abubakar, who returned to the PDP in late-2017 and is the frontrunner to be the opposition grouping’s presidential candidate.

The key defectors

With the 2019 elections, scheduled for February and March, fast approaching, the political momentum is clearly with the opposition. But overall, the balance of power remains finely poised. Some analysts argue the APC remains the dominant party, but suggest that Nigeria’s state governors will be particularly important going forwards. Under the country’s federalised system, these politicians are highly influential and are key to delivering votes.

“The PDP have definitely been emboldened by the defections, but as long as Buhari retains his most influential governors and can get a couple of opposition governors to work for him, he will not be troubled,” says Japheth Omojuwa, chief strategist at Alpha Reach Consulting.

Political analyst Remi Adekoya echoes this. “Roughly two-thirds of the country’s 36 governors are currently affiliated with APC. If they stick with the party, then it could hold on to power,” he says.

Worryingly for the APC, it has already lost three crucial governors. Firstly, Samuel Ortom of Benue State defected last week, citing the government’s failure to address the conflict between herders and farmers.

Secondly, Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara State returned to the PDP this week having criticised the government openly in recent days. Ahmed’s announcement came shortly after Saraki’s declaration. Both men are allies from Kwara and their joint defection is likely to bring the key swing state closer to the PDP.

And finally, Aminu Tambuwal, the governor of Sokoto, decamped just last night, citing the APC’s failures in government. He is reportedly frustrated with the ruling party’s internal discord and is understood to harbour presidential ambitions that cannot be realised within the ruling party with Buhari set to run for a second term.

On top of those three governors, the ruling party is also likely to be particularly concerned about the loss of Rabiu Kwankwaso. Although now a senator, he was governor of Kano in 2015 when he helped Buhari win the state by an overwhelming landslide. With Kwankwaso’s support, Buhari picked up by far more votes in Kano than in any other state. But now, the former governor’s return to the PDP has put Nigeria’s second most populous state back into play.

Who will be next?

As Nigeria gets closer to the elections, observers anticipate more defections and are keeping a particular eye on certain influential individuals. Speaker of the House of Representatives Yakubu Dogara, for example, is expected to leave the APC before too long.

With regards to many other defections, however, much rests on how well the ruling party can persuade its members that their ambitions are better served within rather than outside the party. Both the PDP and APC are offering inducements to politicians to either stay loyal or switch allegiances.

Following the recent defections, for example, a group of politicians who stayed in the APC claimed that the PDP had made attractive offers to lure their colleagues into its ranks. The expressed surprise that the opposition hadn’t managed to persuade even more. This group then demanded that the ruling party consolidate its membership by guaranteeing loyal lawmakers that they will automatically be on the APC’s ticket in the upcoming elections.

APC chair Oshiomhole rejected their request and responded with fighting talk. He said that the party would not induce members with “dollars” or “automatic tickets” to stop them leaving, adding that defectors should know that their “access to the CBN [Central Bank of Nigeria]…and NNPC [Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation] has been cut off”.

It remains to be seen if this strategy will work in stemming the flow of defectors to the growing opposition.

The balance of power

In 2013, dozens of lawmakers fundamentally altered Nigeria’s political constellation as they decamped from the once all-powerful PDP to the newly-formed opposition coalition. The alliance lacked internal coherence, but its members were united in their desire to remove the PDP from power. Fast-forward five years and the defections are now happening in reverse. The APC is the one unravelling and the PDP is trying to hold together disparate strands and personalities, hoping that the objective of replacing Buhari is enough to hold the assorted whole together.

As before, the elite horse-trading and deal-making that defines Nigeria’s unpredictable politics has left things finely balanced with both main parties trying to seek the advantage. With its new numbers in the National Assembly, the PDP could now decide to disrupt the running of government. Meanwhile, as the benefits of incumbency diminish, the APC could decide it needs to raise even higher sums of money to contest these ever-tighter elections.

Either way, it is, as always, ordinary Nigerians that will pay the price of this form of politics.

*Lagun Akinloye is a Nigerian journalist and political analyst. Follow him on twitter at @L_Akinloye. Article originally published in African Arguments.

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Foretia Foundation Gets Special Consultative Status with the UN.
August 6, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Prince Kurupati

This is a strong recognition of the work we have been doing on the ground says Dr Denis Foretia, Foundation Chair

This is a strong recognition of the work we have been doing on the ground says Dr Denis Foretia, Foundation Chair

The past recent months in Cameroon have been turbulent as the country continues to battle its demons. However, it’s not all doom and gloom as several individuals and institutions are taking it upon themselves to change and turn the prevailing situation into something better, in turn, uplifting the lives of Cameroonians. One such institution is the Denis & Lenora Foretia Foundation Inc. whose efforts and work in bringing much-needed change and development to Cameroon were recognised by the United Nations on the 24th of July this year.

On the 24th of July 2018, the Denis & Lenora Foretia Foundation Inc. became one of the very first institutions in the history of Cameroon to be bestowed with the prestigious Special consultative status. The Special consultative status is a special grant that’s bestowed to organisations which are doing incredible work in the field of economics, social development and governance.

Speaking after the historic decision by the United Nations, Foretia Foundation co Chair, Dr Denis Foretia could not hide his happiness. In his own words, Dr Denis Foretia said that “Becoming an organisation in special consultative with the United Nations is a strong recognition of the impact of the work the Foundation has been doing in uplifting Cameroonians and seek Cameroonian solutions to Cameroonian problems. This recognition serves as a major encouragement to our team, to continue open doors for many and seek ways of improving the livelihood of fellow citizens.”

In order to have a better appreciation of the reasons that motivated the United Nations to grant the Foretia Foundation the Special consultative status, it’s imperative that we first take a look at the work being done by the organisation.

Work that’s being done by the Foretia Foundation to uplift the lives of Cameroonians

Foretia Foundation is involved in a number of activities in Cameroon all of which are aimed towards improving the standard of living in the country as well as uplifting the great nation of Cameroon. The first program that’s being run by the organisation is the Sustainable Development Program. Under this program, the organisation crafts and formulates alternative policies meant at ensuring equitable economic growth today and for future generations. The organisation drafts alternate policies in a number of fields including education, public health, and private-sector growth as well as government policies.

The Foundation has been consistent with programs that inspire and empower young Cameroonians

The Foundation has been consistent with programs that inspire and empower young Cameroonians

Secondly, the organisation runs a Governance & Democracy Initiative. The aim of this initiative is to encourage Cameroonians to actively take part in governance issues. Foretia Foundation views citizen participation as a key tool in building robust democratic institutions and as such it organises regular policy forums, workshops, debates with the masses in an effort to arouse the interest in active citizenry.

Thirdly, Foretia Foundation believes that “Small businesses help drive economic growth by creating employment and allowing the growth of a veritable middle class.” As such, the organisation runs a program termed the Small Business & Entrepreneurship program. The main focus of this problem is to empower young people and women to venture into entrepreneurship as a way of reducing the high unemployment rate. The foundation empowers young women and people in a number of ways including improving access to market opportunities, reducing the problem of information asymmetry by providing real-time information of business opportunities, facilitating collaboration with various stakeholders and promoting a strong business culture in the country.

The organisation also works hard to tackle the significant health challenges that are faced in Cameroon. Through different strategies some of which include formulating alternative health policies that focus on food security and childhood illnesses among many others.

Foretia Foundation also has its own think-tank, the Nkafu Policy Institute. This think-tank covers a lot of areas and its work is not confined to Cameroon alone but it also provides independent, in-depth and insightful policy recommendations that advance the economies of other sub-Saharan countries.

Lastly, the foundation plays its part in reducing the high unemployment rate in the country as it has an internship program that ‘employs’ and imparts undergraduates, graduates or professional students with relevant skills which will make them succeed in their future endeavours in the corporate world.  Among other things, the interns at the Foretia Foundation assist the Nkafu Policy Institute with extensive research, analysis, briefing and report writing for current initiatives and in preparation of policy briefs, reviews and analyses, assist with administrative responsibilities relating to the daily operations of the institute, and they are also responsible for developing the content for all foundation events such as lectures, panels, conferences and forums.

Celebrating the Mandela Centennial

Celebrating the Mandela Centennial

What the Special consultative status means for the Foretia Foundation.

Marc-André Dorel, the Acting Chief NGO Branch Office of Intergovernmental Support and Coordination for Sustainable Development Department of Economic and Social Affairs was the official entrusted by the United Nations to relay the message in a letter that the Foretia Foundation had been granted the Special consultative status.

In his letter, Marc-André Dorel stated what the Foretia Foundation stands to benefit as a special consultative partner to the United Nations. Firstly, the consultative status enables the organisation to actively engage with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and its subsidiary bodies, as well as with the United Nations Secretariat, programmes, funds and agencies in a number of ways. This means the foundation will be able to consult with the Member States and the United Nations system at large, based on the nature and scope of work that it undertakes.

Before ECOSOC relays its agenda to the public, the foundation will have the privilege to be informed about the provisional agenda of ECOSOC. After reviewing ECOSOC agenda before its release to the public, the foundation will also have the privilege to request the Secretary-General, through the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations, to place items of special interest in the provisional agenda. However, the final and binding decision lies with Secretary-General whether to incorporate the request/s or to ignore them.

Foretia Foundation also now can attend meetings and have direct access to the United Nations. The foundation is free to either designate official representatives to the United Nations Headquarters in New York and the United Nations offices in Geneva and Vienna (permanent) or sit as observers at public meetings of ECOSOC and its subsidiary bodies, General Assembly, Human Rights Council and other United Nations intergovernmental decision-making bodies (temporary). For the former, nominated representatives are required to collect their grounds passes in person at designated locations in New York, Geneva and Vienna.

In addition to providing written statements to ECOSOC, the Foretia Foundation now as a result of its consultative status can present oral presentations before the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations.

Additionally, as a consultative status, Foretia Foundation now has the privilege of using United Nations facilities including accommodation for conferences or smaller meetings related to the work of ECOSOC, facilities for obtaining documents during public meetings of the General Assembly that deal with matters in the economic and social and related fields, access to United Nations press documentation services, and the use of United Nations libraries.

In return to the above privileges, Foretia Foundation is required to fulfil its own set of responsibilities. These responsibilities include submitting quadrennial reports as and when they are required i.e. once every four years. Failure to abide by these responsibilities will lead to the suspension and withdrawal of the consultative status.

Other notable factors which may lead to the suspension and cancellation of the consultative status include involvement either directly or through its affiliates or representatives acting on its behalf, clearly abuses its status by engaging in a pattern of acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and if there exists substantiated evidence of influence from proceeds resulting from internationally recognized criminal activities. In addition, the organisation has to refrain from entering into business arrangements on behalf of the United Nations or misuse the United Nations’ name or logo for endorsement of an organization’s activities in any way.

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Will Djibouti Become Latest Country to Fall Into China’s Debt Trap?
August 6, 2018 | 0 Comments
The African country houses a key U.S. military base, making it a particular concern for Washington

People's Liberation Army personnel attending the opening ceremony of China's new military base in Djibouti. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

This photo taken on August 1, 2017 shows Chinese People’s Liberation Army personnel attending the opening ceremony of China’s new military base in Djibouti.
China has deployed troops to its first overseas naval base in Djibouti, a major step forward for the country’s expansion of its military presence abroad. / AFP PHOTO / STR / China OUT (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON D.C., United States of America, August 1, 2018/ — Djibouti lies more than 2,500 miles from Sri Lanka but the East African country faces a predicament similar to what its peer across the sea confronted last year: It has borrowed more money from China than it can pay back.

In both countries, the money went to infrastructure projects under the aegis of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Sri Lanka racked up more than $8 billion worth of debt to Chinese sovereign-backed banks at interest rates as high as 7 percent, reaching a level too high to service. With nearly all its revenue going toward debt repayment, last year Sri Lanka resorted to signing over a 70 percent stake and a 99-year lease to the new Chinese-built port at Hambantota.

Djibouti is projected to take on public debt worth around 88 percent of the country’s overall $1.72 billion GDP, with China owning the lion’s share of it, according to a report published in March by the Center for Global Development.

It, too, may face the possibility of handing over some key assets to China.

As Chinese President Xi Jinping continues to push lending to developing countries, policy analysts are sounding alarm bells about the fate of smaller nations biting off more than they can chew—and the strategic possibilities opening to China as a result.

Xi’s Belt and Road Initiative, which aims to revive and expand the ancient Silk Road trade routes on land and at sea, has become the crown jewel of his foreign policy since 2013, shortly after coming to power. Government officials regularly talk up the initiative and state media outlets give it broad coverage.

But many of the projects have stalled in the early stages of planning, and the dollar amount attached is left vague.

More importantly, the countries involved are often seduced by the appeal of large infrastructure projects that are financially destabilizing. Eight of the 68 countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative currently face unsustainable debt levels, including Pakistan and the Maldives, according the Center for Global Development’s report.

Its vulnerability notwithstanding, Djibouti has been keen to work with Beijing. It partnered with China Merchants Ports Holdings Company, or CMPort—the same state-owned corporation that gained control of the Hambantota port in Sri Lanka—to build the Doraleh Multipurpose Port. That project was completed in May 2017.

Earlier this month, Djiboutian President Ismail Omar Guelleh described the new Djibouti International Free Trade Zone, a $3.5-billion venture with China, as a “hope for thousands of young jobseekers.”

But the most noteworthy development in Djibouti—and the most worrying for the United States—is China’s first overseas military base, which is located 6 miles from the U.S. military’s only permanent base in Africa. From Camp Lemonnier, where about 4,000 U.S. troops are stationed, the United States coordinates operations in “areas of active hostilities” in Somalia and Yemen.

In the past year, U.S. diplomats and generals have grown increasingly concerned that the base will provide China a foothold at the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, a strategic chokepoint in international maritime trade. About 4 percent of the global oil supply passes through this waterway connecting the Gulf of Aden with the Red Sea each year.

Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, who commands the U.S. Africa Command, said in a testimony before the House Armed Services Committee in March that the United States was “carefully monitoring Chinese encroachment and emergent military presence” in Djibouti. Local relations between the two great-power rivals have become especially strained in 2018, with each lodging grievances against the other.

China, for its part, maintains that the naval facility will serve as a logistics hub for its anti-piracy, humanitarian, and emergency evacuation missions. The live-ammunition drills conducted at the base should be interpreted as “legitimate and reasonable” exercises for counterterrorism operations, a commentator told the state-owned Global Times.

But satellite images of the People’s Liberation Army base may reveal its true purpose. A retired Indian Army intelligence officer noted last September that the 200-acre facility includes at least 10 barracks, an ammunition depot, and a heliport. Four layers of protective fences surround the perimeter; the two inner fences are eight to 10 meters tall and studded with guard posts. The purported logistical support base is rather a fortress that may accommodate thousands of soldiers. More than 2,500 Chinese peacekeeping personnel are already stationed in countries such as South Sudan, Liberia, and Mali.

“There is nowhere else in the world where the U.S. military is essentially co-located in close proximity to a country it considers a strategic competitor,” said Kate Almquist Knopf, the director of the Defense Department’s Africa Center for Strategic Studies.

“This is not something the Pentagon is used to,” she said.

One concern is that the Djibouti government, facing mounting debt and increasing dependence on extracting rents, would be pressured to hand over control of Camp Lemonnier to China.

In a letter to National Security Advisor John Bolton in May, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), two members of the Senate Armed Service Committee, wrote that President Guelleh seems willing to “sell his country to the highest bidder,” undermining U.S. military interests.

“Djibouti’s now identified as one of those countries that are at high risk of debt distress. So, that should be sending off all sorts of alarm bells for Djiboutians as well as for the countries that really rely on Djibouti, such as the United States,” said Joshua Meservey, a senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation.

“Policymakers are becoming more and more aware of this. The challenge is that there isn’t a strong sense of how to effectively push back or compete with China on some of these issues.”

Meservey says there are simple steps the United States could take to start balancing out China’s expanding influence, including institutionalizing the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit—a one-off event in 2014 hosted by President Barack Obama. The U.S. government should also incentivize private sector investment in Africa, he said, thus creating competition with Chinese state-backed dollars on the continent.

Other analysts believe China’s debt-driven expansion could backfire on Beijing. Jonathan Hillman, a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said one “underappreciated dimension” of China’s predatory lending projects in Africa was the uncertainty that Beijing takes on by doling out trillions of dollars abroad.

“If these projects do not go well, there is a financial and reputational risk to China,” Hillman said.

“The port in Sri Lanka gets a lot of attention, but not too far from the port is an airport that now no plane flies into. That’s not a good advertisement for Chinese soft power or China’s strength or reliability as a partner.”

*This article was first published on Foreign Policy:  Amy Cheng is an editorial intern at Foreign Policy. @Amy_23_Cheng


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AccorHotels Expands Presence in Nigeria
August 6, 2018 | 0 Comments

-New project signings mark the launch of MGallery and Pullman brands in Nigeria

Engr Kola Ogundayo, Managing Director of Tom Hawksworth Limited  and Olivier Granet, CEO, AccorHotels Middle East and Africa

Engr Kola Ogundayo, Managing Director of Tom Hawksworth Limited and Olivier Granet, CEO, AccorHotels Middle East and Africa

AccorHotels, the world’s leading travel & lifestyle group, today announced the beginning of a new partnership with TomHawksworth Limited, a prominent property and real estate developer, with the signing of Pullman and MGallery Ikoyi in Nigeria. The signings mark the launch of both in the country and are expected to open in late 2020.

The 100-room MGallery and 204-room Pullman, situated in the prime neighbourhood of Ikoyi, are both in close proximity to the business area of Victoria Island. The MGallery Ikoyi benefits from easy access to the upmarket residential neighbourhood of Ikoyi and Banana Island. The Pullman Ikoyi, located on Ojora Road, enjoys prime visibility and direct access to destinations such as the Lekki Area.

Following the signing, Olivier Granet, Chief Executive Officer of AccorHotels Middle East and Africa (MEA), commented: “Since opening our very first hotel in Nigeria almost 20 years ago, we believed in the long term potential of the destination having witnessed incredible growth as one of the largest economies in Africa. As the market continues to evolve, there is a need for international brands and it is our commitment to fill this gap with two of our leading upper upscale brands – MGallery and Pullman.”

“With today’s signings with TomHawksworth Group, our valued partner, we are delighted to be entrusted with such an ambitious project. It not only reinforces our regional presence within Abuja and Lagos, but throughout West Africa and the entire continent, as well. Our leadership position in the luxury and upscale segment has taken shape with a growing interest for Pullman with over 15 hotels in our Africa and Middle East network as well as our storied collection of boutique hotels under the MGallery brand, with a property in Addis Ababa to open within the year.”

Engineer Adekola Ogundayo, Managing Director of TomHawksworth Limited said: “The signing of these two landmark agreements reflects our vision and mission to become one of the leading property developers and managers in Nigeria. Through our partnership with AccorHotels, we are delighted to introduce a boutique brand like MGallery and a cosmopolitan upper upscale concept such as Pullman to Nigeria. We look forward to working with AccorHotels to develop and manage what will undoubtedly become flagship hotels.”

MGallery Ikoyi features innovative restaurant and lounge concepts including an all-day dining restaurant, fine dining restaurant and lobby bar, all helping to establish MGallery as a lifestyle destination within Lagos. Drawing inspiration from its surroundings in Ikoyi, MGallery will offer a members’ only club, providing for an exclusive experience in an enviable location. Leisure and fitness based amenities also include a fully equipped gym, swimming pool and a well-appointed spa.

In-line with Pullman’s appeal to cosmopolitan travellers, Pullman Ikoyi features an eclectic range of dining options, including an all-day dining restaurant, pool bar, fine dining restaurant and lobby bar. Retaining the brand’s values of comfort and immersive design, the Pullman Ikoyi serves as an urban refuge with a spa, gym and pool. Pullman Ikoyi includes dedicated meetings and events facilities which will become available following the completion of a second phase of development, including a ballroom and state-of-the-art meeting rooms.

A collection of inimitably enchanting, unique boutique hotels, the debut of MGallery in Nigeria, is a milestone in the expansion of the brand across Africa. MGallery places story making at the heart of the services, amenities, décor and dining concepts across each hotel. Offering a mix of Heritage, Serenity and Signature hotels, MGallery hotels provide one-of-a-kind moments, spirited by local experiences, lively food and beverages and customized discovery tours. MGallery Ikoyi will join four other MGallery hotels located in Africa.

Pullman Hotels & Resorts is a cosmopolitan collection, delivering a modern, upscale, upbeat and immersive experience with global zeitgeist. Pullman is a pioneering travel brand with a remarkable history, dating back more than 150 years. Pullman has become a prominent upper upscale brand in Africa with five properties located across gateway cities and far-flung destinations such as Marrakech, Douala and Kinshasa. Existing flagship Pullman properties in Dakar and Abidjan are also undergoing extensive refurbishments to elevate the brand further within the continent. The brand will make its debut in Nairobi and Addis Ababa in the near future.

AccorHotels has eight hotels in operation and in the pipeline in Nigeria. Following the successful reopening
of the fully renovated Pullman Dakar and Pullman Abidjan, the committed network (operational and pipeline) of AccorHotels in the Middle East and Africa is over 300 hotels, representing 80,000 rooms across 30 countries in the region.

AccorHotels is a world-leading travel & lifestyle group and digital innovator offering unique experiences in more than 4,300 hotels, resorts and residences, as well as in over 10,000 of the finest private homes aroun d the globe. Benefiting from dual expertise as an investor and operator, AccorHotels operates in 100 countries. Its portfolio includes internationally renowned luxury brands such as Raffles, Sofitel Legend, SO/, Sofitel, Fairmont, onefinestay, MGallery by Sofitel, Pullman and Swissôtel, the mid-range boutique hotel brands 25hours, Novotel, Mercure, Mama Shelter and Adagio, and very popular budget brands such as JO&JOE, ibis, ibis Styles and ibis budget, as well as the regional brands Grand Mercure, The Sebel and hotelF1. AccorHotels provides innovative end-to-end services across the entire traveler experience, notably through the acquisition of John Paul, world leader in concierge services. With an unmatched collection of brands and rich history spanning close to five decades, AccorHotels, along with its global team of more than 250,000 dedicated women and men, has a purposeful and heartfelt mission: to make every guest Feel Welcome. Guests enjoy access to one of the world’s most rewarding hotel loyalty programs – Le Club AccorHotels. AccorHotels is active in its local communities and committed to sustainable development and solidarity through PLANET 21, a comprehensive program that brings together employees, guests and partners to drive sustainable growth.


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Chad: Austerity measures killing students’ dreams and ambitions
August 6, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Balkissa Ide Siddo*

Students protesting in Chad

Students protesting in Chad

The wind blew and coloured the landscape in dusk-like orange as we settled to meet with a group of university students under a neem tree in a poor neighborhood on the outskirts of Chad’s capital, N’Djamena.

It was about 5.30PM. My colleague and I were part-way through a field mission to investigate the devastating impact of government-mandated austerity measures on ordinary people, and we were eager to hear from some of the many students whose bright futures were now in doubt.

16 public university students from different parts of the country had gathered to discuss, to describe to us the financial hardships they have faced since the government decided in August 2016 to scrap the US$53 (XAF 28,000) monthly scholarships for all students, except for those enrolled in medical schools, at vocational universities or studying abroad.

After an introduction about the objectives of the meeting, one of the students stood up and set the tone:

“These decisions are unfair and contradictory to the authorities’ claim according to which education is a key priority […]. They did not consult us,” he said.

“They said they will reinvest the money saved (from cancelling the scholarships) to improve our study conditions through the university student welfare centre… Nothing was done. Our study conditions are dire. Did you visit the Toukra University? We don’t have electricity it’s been over a year now and water on the campus is scarce […]. When we protested against the decision, we were beaten up, arrested and some of us were imprisoned”.

One by one, the students took turn to speak. We listened to their disappointment and sometimes anger over the austerity measures that have sparked numerous protests over the past two years. Even the wind calmed down, as if lending an ear to their testimonies.

Many scholarships scrapped

Besides healthcare, education has been a major casualty of the government’s severe spending cuts. Almost one third of all higher education students in Chad have been affected by the government’s abolition of the monthly scholarships. This is especially crippling for students from marginalized communities such as those from rural areas and poor family backgrounds.

Most of the students that spoke to us under the neem tree come from rural areas and used their scholarships to pay their rent, food, transportation to the university and other bills. Now that these have been scrapped, many students are finding themselves in a dire situation.

“I have six months’ rent arrears and I do not know where to go for support,” said Bachir, and orphan whose family live in a village.

“Before, I used the scholarship – even though it came late – to pay my rent and other needs. Now it doesn’t exist. Since it was cancelled by the authorities, I don’t know what to do.”

Jobs are scarce in Chad 

Some of the luckier students have been able to find jobs as security guards, selling cellphone credit cards or driving motorcycle taxis. But then they struggle to combine work and study, with the majority too often forced to miss classes to earn a little more to make ends meet.

Officials from the Ministry of Higher Education have told us that they plan to reintroduce scholarships for disadvantaged students and to increase the budget of the student’s welfare centre to improve study conditions, but they admitted that none of this had happened and could not confirm when it would.

Piling on further misery – increasing registration fees

In October 2017, the authorities made students’ lives even more difficult by doubling the registration fees for public universities – except for students at medical and vocational schools. A new student now has to pay US$94 to enrol (XAF 50,000). A new re-registration fee was introduced for returning students who must now pay US$53 (XAF 28,000) to continue their studies. Previously, re-registration fees were subsidized by the government.

These higher fees have made it even more difficult for students to pay for their courses and their bills. Most of the 16 students we met told us they feared not being able to continue their studies.

They particularly worried about their friends from rural areas and poorer backgrounds because this new measure would stop people from embarking on the path to higher education, denying them a better future.

Peaceful protests are met with violence and prison 

In protest at the negative impact the government’s austerity cuts have had on their lives and hopes of academic success, many students have taken to the streets in peaceful demonstrations. On several occasions they faced police violence, beatings, and arrests and in some cases imprisonment. Three of them and a 21-year old high school student who joined our discussion later, were arrested and sentenced to prison after taking part in protests against the impact of austerity measures on education.

From January to March 2018, Amnesty International has documented the arrest of at least 150 people for “engaging in unauthorized protests” and “public disorder”. The majority of those arrested were students, at least 42 of them were sentenced to prison terms ranging from one to four months.

Balkissa Ide Siddo

Balkissa Ide Siddo

There is a different way

Instead of using measures that are hitting some of the poorest hardest whether in the education or health sector, the Chadian government should look for alternative ways of balancing their budget. Closing tax loopholes and tackling corruption would have been not just fairer but more effective options in addressing the revenue gap. According to the IMF, Chad lost US$1.09 billion to tax evasion in 2013. This amount is nearly double the country’s total education and health care spending in the same year, which was US$555 million before cuts were applied.

Keeping promises and meeting legal obligations

I can’t help but think about what President Idriss Deby Itno said during the global Partnership for Education Financing Conference in Dakar in February 2018.  Referring to poverty, underdevelopment, conflict and terrorism, President Itno said: “The only sure way to combat these scourges in a sustainable way is to ensure that all children, including the most marginalized, have a good education.”

During the same summit, he also announced that the Chadian government is committed and determined to increase the share of the national budget for education to 20 per cent of the national budget by 2020.

After nightfall, we left the group of students after a few words of encouragement. On our way back to our hotel, my colleague and I were silent. One question remained in my mind: Will the commitment made by President Idriss Deby Itno during the 2018 global Partnership for Education Financing Conference be a reality one day for all these Chadian students yearning for accessible quality education and a better future?

It’s in the hands of the authorities to improve the prospects of all young people in the country.

As a start the authorities need to carry out an assessment of the impact of austerity measures on the rights of Chadian people to access education and other sectors such as health and social services. Such an assessment should be used to guide the law and policy reform needed to ensure that Chad meets its legal obligations to guarantee that everybody has the opportunity to enjoy their economic and social rights.

On 16 July, Amnesty International launched a report to highlight the consequences of the austerity measures on the population’s economic, social and cultural rights.

*Balkissa Ide Siddo, Amnesty International Central Africa Researcher

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