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Congo:Denis Christel Sassou Nguesso Rules Out 2021 Presidential Run
September 24, 2018 | 0 Comments

-Says he will work for his father’s re-election

-Defends actions of his Foundation Perspective D’Avenir

By Elie Smith

Denis Christel Sassou Nguesso says he will not run in the 2021 presidential elections

Denis Christel Sassou Nguesso says he will not run in the 2021 presidential elections

The publication of a book,a seat in Parliament , and the growing tentacles of his foundation across Congo have fueled speculation that Denis Christel Sassou Nguesso is nursing plans to succeed his father as President when elections come up in 2021. In the interview that follows, with Denis Christel Sassou Nguesso, MP, says unequivocally that, he has no plans to succeed his father but instead working for his re-election in 2021.

 Elie SMITH: Since the publication of your book, there are rumors circulating in the Congo and beyond that, your book is actually your political manifesto for the 2021 presidential race. Can you confirm or deny here your 2021 presidential ambitions?

Denis Christel Sassou Nguesso: No, I am not a candidate in the presidential election of 2021. I wish the President of the Republic, Denis Sassou Nguesso, should and I have been working with others for a few months now, to actualise our goal of helping him to be reelected. To say that my book: “What I believe” is a political manifesto is wrong.  Readers will find in it that, there are no promises, no electoral statement, but a vision of what Congo could be in areas where, the Fondation Perspective D’Avenir that I created can boast of a solid record with less favored citizens of our country.

Elie SMITH: What do you do make of  accusations from some Congolese, who think that your father is encouraging you to run for the 2021 presidential election, even though you have refuted the claims,   simply because he wants political power to stay within the Nguesso family?

Denis Christel Sassou Nguesso: These are allegations from Congolese who don’t know who the President of the Republic truly is. These repeated rumours; most often offends him because they are untrue. He has a different idea of ​​his function. The facts still contradict the rumor. If he had encouraged me to run for the 2021 presidential election as the rumour mill claims, why then have I taken this solemn commitment that, I won’t run for the 2021 presidential election, but support him?

Elie SMITH: You are a member of parliament for Oyo, why carry out humanitarian actions in other places like Kouilou or Niari, which are way out of your constituency? Don’t you think that, it will be difficult to convince people that all you are doing is not because you want to run in the 2021 presidential election?

Denis Christel Sassou Nguesso: This last question is like an obsession. I answered it. For the rest, I did not create this fondation, Fondation Perspective D’Avenir, in order to make a career, but because my natural empathy has always led me to turn toward others. I enjoy helping or coming to the aid of the less privileged.  When I was elected MP in 2012, the after, that is  2013 I did something similar, so there is no link between my mandate and these humanitarian actions, which could or is being be interpreted as laying the ground work for my presidential ambitions.  Granted that, I am a member of Oyo, but I am an elected representative of the nation, therefore, of all Congo. My actions are the constitutional rights of a member of parliament, which is a national representation and not sectional. Let me use this opportunity to recall what our actions and our record are, we have carried out: large-scale vaccinations, community health campaigns, qualified professional training projects and offered scholarships to young people and those from less privileged backgrounds. I have always had as guideline that, the Foundation will intervene wherever there are needs and these simply means all over the national territory. In doing so, I or May I say, we are refusing acts of ethnocentrism or regionalism. Why will I focus everything in Oyo under the guise that I am an MP for Oyo, whereas I could help nationally? Is it bad what Fondation Perspective D’Avenir   is doing nationally? Please I will glad to know.

Elie SMITH: Thanks to your foundation, you have awarded scholarships, paid hospital bills and carried out many other generous actions in the country. Where did you get the money when the country cannot pay medical staff or pensions?

Denis Christel Sassou Nguesso: I thank you for qualifying the Foundation’s actions as generous. But I must restore a number of truths. We are autonomous, independent of the State, even if we act complimentarily. It is wrong to say, for example, as you have just done, that we pay hospital bills. We have a mobile hospital, with all the latest technologies. These equipments are gift from our partners in Brazil and Morocco. When we vaccinated 130,000 girls against cervical cancer, the vaccines were offered to us by partners. As President of this foundation, I am constantly looking for sponsors and new partners.

Elie SMITH: As a Congolese, what is your view on the country’s economic situation?

Denis Christel Sassou Nguesso: We are having difficulty diversifying our economy and we are too dependent on the oil and oil revenues. I am also aware that, we can’t overnight change an economy that has relied for decades on Oil. But also I think humbly that, we did not go far enough in what we undertook to develop an alternative economy in order to get out of the oil business. Diversification paths are possible. I mention them in my book. The government is committed to the development of certain sectors such as:  transformation   agriculture, forestry, livestock breeding, developing tourism or creating industrial zones, all of which contribute to job creation. It is necessary for the government to be resolute in its plans to diversify the economy, without which we won’t be able fight unemployment and maintained sustained economic growth. My role as MP, like that of the majority that supports the President of the Republic is precisely to help improve the situation even if much has been done under his leadership. It is also to provide solutions to help solve the problems facing Congolese, correct what does not give us complete satisfaction, because do not forget, this is the work of a politician and nothing else.

Elie SMITH: You left the SNPC, was it because of the pressure of the IMF, as some Congolese claim or as a result of a family quarrel?

Denis Christel Sassou Nguesso: When our leaders negotiate with the IMF, I can assure you that the issues and questions are not at the level of the people. So there was no pressure for my appointment in 2011 and parallelism of forms making, there was none so, when I left.  I move to another professional opportunity. It is as simple as that.  As for the other questions, they do not even deserve me to answer them.

Elie SMITH: What doing you make of the recent accusations by Pascal Tsaty Mabiala in parliament, where he claimed Prime Minister Clément Mouamba is afraid of leading a global fight against corruption? And also that, your name protect you from investigations? Denis Christel Sassou Nguesso: Mr. Tsaty Mabiala is forgetting even the internal rules in parliament, he must in my opinion have a selective indignation or a variable geometry, which in Congo is often, dictated either by “belly politics” or when we are remote controlled by a major player of the presidential majority who wants to mess someone up. But let me reassure Tsaty Mabiala that I am doing very well, and that, the actions that, I am taking with my international partners with my foundation in favor of our fellow citizens from difficult backgrounds will continue because what we are doing is just right.

Elie SMITH: What do you make of accusations by a former trader with the Swiss based company that, between 2010 and 2011 you were paid through a certain Maxime Gandzion the sum of $ 15million for the sale of 13 million tons of crude oil? 

Denis Christel Sassou Nguesso: It is an affabulation. I don’t know why my name or that of my family must always appears in such cases. The SNPC has specific and responsible managers handling dealings with external companies or traders. And on the specific case of Gunvor, I think Thierry Mongalla has already responded to it in the newspaper La Tribune D’afrique and I support his declaration and may I repeat what he said: “there was no case of corruption at the SNPC in connection with that company. If anyone has proves, let the person produce them”.

Elie SMITH: Thank you very much

Denis Christel Sassou Nguesso: It is my pleasure

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Africa’s Oil Sector Continues to Rebound and Strengthen its Voice Through the African Energy Chamber
September 24, 2018 | 0 Comments
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African Development Bank, mariner investment group, and africa50 price landmark $1 billion impact securitization
September 20, 2018 | 0 Comments
Structured as a synthetic securitization by Mizuho International, Room2Run transfers the mezzanine credit risk on a portfolio of approximately 50 loans from among the African Development Bank’s non- sovereign lending book, including power, transportation, financial sector, and manufacturing assets
MONTREAL, Canada, September 19, 2018/ —

  • With “Room2run,” AfDB Launches Securitization Market for Multilateral Development Bank Sector
  • Transaction is in Direct Response to G20 Action Plan for Mdb Balance Sheet Optimization
  • AfDB Commits to Reinvest freed up Capital into New African Infrastructure Lending, Making Room2run one of the Largest Impact Investments ever
  • Transaction is supported by New European Union Guarantee Tool (European Fund For Sustainable Development)

The African Development Bank (www.AFDB.org), the European Commission (http://EC.Europa.eu/growth/industry/innovation/funding/efsi_en), Mariner Investment Group (www.MarinerInvestment.com), LLC (Mariner), Africa50 (www.Africa50.com), and Mizuho International plc  (www.Mizuho-EMEA.com) today announce the pricing of Room2Run, a US $1 billion synthetic securitization corresponding to a portfolio of seasoned pan-African credit risk. Room2Run is the first-ever portfolio synthetic securitization between a Multi-Lateral Development Bank (MDB) and private sector investors, pioneering the use of securitization and credit risk transfer technology to a new and previously unexplored segment of the financial markets.

Structured as a synthetic securitization by Mizuho International, Room2Run transfers the mezzanine credit risk on a portfolio of approximately 50 loans from among the African Development Bank’s non-sovereign lending book, including power, transportation, financial sector, and manufacturing assets. The portfolio spans the African continent, with exposure to borrowers in North Africa, West Africa, Central Africa, East Africa, and Southern Africa. Mariner, the global alternative asset manager and a majority-owned subsidiary of ORIX USA, is the lead investor in the transaction through its International Infrastructure Finance Company II fund (“IIFC II”). Africa50, the pan-African infrastructure investment platform, is investing alongside Mariner in the private sector tranche. Additional credit protection is being provided by the European Commission’s European Fund for Sustainable Development in the form of a senior mezzanine guarantee.

“Room2Run gives us fresh resources to invest in the projects Africans need most,” said Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank Group. “Africa has the most promise, the greatest natural resources, and the world’s youngest population. But we also have the world’s most persistent infrastructure deficits. The African Development Bank has the strategy to address these infrastructure finance gaps—and Room2Run gives us the capacity to make it happen.”

Structured as an impact investment, Room2Run is designed to enable the African Development Bank to increase lending in support of its mission to spur sustainable economic development and social progress. In connection with Room2Run, The Bank has committed to redeploy the freed-up capital into renewable energy projects in Sub-Saharan Africa, including projects in low income and fragile countries.

“On the Impact scale, Room2Run is off the charts,” said Dr. Andrew Hohns, Lead Portfolio Manager and head of the Mariner Infrastructure Investment Management team. “Room2Run answers the call of the G20 for private sector participants to step in and facilitate development finance, providing a template for attracting significant private sector capital into urgently needed projects in developing economies.”

Raza Hasnani, Head of Infrastructure Investment at Africa50 commented, “Room2Run provides an innovative and commercially viable solution to the African Development Bank’s risk management and lending objectives, while paving the way for commercial investors to support and benefit from the growth of infrastructure on the continent. Africa50 is very pleased to participate in this landmark transaction, which is in line with our mandate to drive increased investment in infrastructure in Africa, and to create pathways for long-term institutional capital to flow into this space.”

Room2Run enjoys the support and participation of the European Commission with an investment from the European Fund for Sustainable Development, in the form of a senior mezzanine guarantee. “Only a few days after announcing our renewed Alliance with Africa for sustainable investments and jobs, I am very happy to announce that we are, together with the African Development Bank, launching Room2Run,” commented Neven Mimica, the European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development. “This initiative is a perfect example of what we are doing to support investments in African low income and fragile countries through the External Investment Plan. Through Room2Run, we provide an additional protection to investments in the field of renewable energy. Through our Guarantee, investments under Room2Run will translate into extending supply to many people currently without electricity whilst creating much-needed new jobs.”

Room2Run also directly responds to calls by the G20 that MDBs use their existing resources to full capacity, as articulated in the 2015 G20 MDB Action Plan to Optimize Balance Sheets, as well as calls for greater MDB efforts to crowd-in private investment. The G20 has called on MDBs to share risk in their non-sovereign operations with private investors, including through structured finance, mezzanine financing, credit guarantee programs, and hedging structures.[1],[2]

The Government of Canada has been a global leader in advocating for MDBs to use their existing resources more efficiently and to mobilize private capital for global development. The goal of the G20 MDB Action Plan to Optimize Balance Sheets is to catalyze significant new development financing from the MDBs throughout the real economy in key development regions.  “Attracting more private capital into global development efforts is critical to building economies that work for more and more people around the world,” said Bill Morneau, Canada’s Minister of Finance, “that’s why Canada and our G20 partners have been calling on multilateral development banks to use their existing resources as efficiently as possible, and to look for new ways to attract more private capital.  We are pleased to see the African Development Bank come forward with a transaction that directly responds to both of these objectives.  Room2Run is an innovative solution to a long-standing challenge.”

Juan Carlos Martorell, Co-Head of Structured Solutions at Mizuho International, adds, “Compared to other synthetic securitizations, a major achievement of Room2Run has been to ensure that ratings agencies, and in particular S&P, reflect the merits of the risk transfer into their rating assessments for multilateral development banks. The Bank’s leadership through this transaction has now set the stage for broader adoption of the instrument throughout the MDB community.”

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of African Development Bank Group (AfDB).

 

Media contacts:

AfDB: Nafissatou Diouf, Manager, Media Relations, N.Diouf@AFDB.org
Mariner Investment Group, LLC: David Press, Tel: (917) 721-7046, David@FeverPress.com
Africa50: Fleur Tchibota, Tel: +212666171099,F.Tchibota@Africa50.com
Mizuho International plc: Gayle Rodrigues, Corporate Communications, Tel: +44 207090 6213,
Gayle.Rodrigues@UK.Mizuho-sc.com
European Commission: Carlos Martin Ruiz de Gordejuela, Tel: + 32 229-65322

About the African Development Bank Group

The African Development Bank (AfDB) Group (www.AFDB.org) is the premier development finance institution in Africa with a mandate to spur sustainable economic development and social progress in the continent, thereby contributing to poverty reduction. The Bank Group achieves this objective by mobilizing and allocating resources for investment in the continent; and providing policy advice and technical assistance to support development efforts. The African Development Bank’s authorized capital of around USD 100 billion is subscribed to by 80 member countries made up of 54 African countries and 26 non-African countries.

www.AFDB.org

Media contacts:

AfDB: Nafissatou Diouf, Manager, Media Relations, N.Diouf@AFDB.org
Mariner Investment Group, LLC: David Press, Tel: (917) 721-7046, David@FeverPress.com
Africa50: Fleur Tchibota, Tel: +212666171099,F.Tchibota@Africa50.com
Mizuho International plc: Gayle Rodrigues, Corporate Communications, Tel: +44 207090 6213,
Gayle.Rodrigues@UK.Mizuho-sc.com
European Commission: Carlos Martin Ruiz de Gordejuela, Tel: + 32 229-65322

About the African Development Bank Group

The African Development Bank (AfDB) Group (www.AFDB.org) is the premier development finance institution in Africa with a mandate to spur sustainable economic development and social progress in the continent, thereby contributing to poverty reduction. The Bank Group achieves this objective by mobilizing and allocating resources for investment in the continent; and providing policy advice and technical assistance to support development efforts. The African Development Bank’s authorized capital of around USD 100 billion is subscribed to by 80 member countries made up of 54 African countries and 26 non-African countries.

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Remittance income will drive economic growth for Africa
September 20, 2018 | 0 Comments
Despite an economic slowdown, most African countries are reported to have a positive economic outlook. This is according to ICAEW’s (the institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales) latest report. In Economic Insight: Africa Q3 2018 launched today, the accountancy body
NAIROBI, Kenya, 19 September 2018, -/African Media Agency (AMA)/- The report, commissioned by ICAEW and produced by partner and forecaster Oxford Economics, provides a snapshot of the region’s economic performance. The regions include; East Africa, West and Central Africa, Franc Zone, Northern Africa, Southern Africa.
According to the report, East Africa continues to be the continent’s best performing region with a GDP forecast at 6.3%. This positive outlook is due to the region’s economic diversification and investment-driven growth. Ethiopia remains the region’s powerhouse, with growth forecast at 8.1%, thanks to the recent reforms under new prime minister Abiy Ahmed.

In Central and West Africa, growth is forecast at 2.9%. The constrained growth in the region is due to subdued non-oil economic activity by Nigeria – the region’s powerhouse. Ghana by contrast is the best performing country in the region with a forecast growth of 6.5%.

Michael Armstrong, Regional Director, ICAEW Middle East, Africa and South Asia said: “Despite the recent growth slump; all regions in Africa are projected to report a positive economic outlook, with remittance income expected to be a key economic booster in the coming months.”

Growth in the franc zone is forecast at 4.6%, largely driven by a boost of 7.4% in the region’s biggest economy, Ivory Coast, where investment is driving rapid expansion.

North Africa’s Egypt is forecast at 5.3%, as a result of structural and policy reforms, which have boosted manufacturing and investment. The county’s tourism sector has also continued to recover. Likewise, Libya is expected to record a growth of 16.5%, owing to posted improvements in oil production after the civil conflict.

Southern Africa has been affected by continued slow growth by the regional heavyweight South Africa, forecast at 1.5%. Angola, the region’s other economic leader, has the same forecast of 1.5%. Strong growth in both Botswana and Zambia is said to have little effect on the region’s overall performance.

Remittance income was emphasized in the report as a major economic factor for most African countries. Nigeria was the biggest receiver of remittances on the continent. The West African economic powerhouse received 29% ($ 22bn) of total remittances flowing to the continent in 2017, mostly from the gulf, the US and United Kingdom.

Egypt was the second biggest receiver of remittances on the continent with $20 billion of remittances. One of the countries highlighted where remittance flows continues to play an important role in terms of external accounts is Ghana. According to the world bank, remittance inflows amounted to $2.5bn in 2014: equal to roughly 18.6% of total exports that year. However, in 2017 the remittance inflows subsequently declined to $2.2bn equivalent to 15.8% of exports.

Uganda’s economic growth was reported to have recovered markedly last year. The country is expected to post a surplus of about 5.6% of GDP this year, supported by project aid and remittances inflows.

The report notes that despite remittances playing an important role in African economies, policies should focus on reducing the cost of remitting funds.

The full Economic Insight: Africa report can be found here: https://www.icaew.com/technical/economy/economic-insight/economic-insight-africa

Media enquiries:
Jamie Douglass, ICAEW press office, +44 (0)20 7920 8718 or email James.Douglass@icaew.com

Joel Chacha, Tell-Em Public Relations East Africa, +254 20 260 9990 or email joel.chacha@tell-em-pr.com

ICAEW is a world leading professional membership organisation that promotes, develops and supports over 144,000 chartered accountants worldwide. We provide qualifications and professional development, share our knowledge, insight and technical expertise, and protect the quality and integrity of the accountancy and finance profession.

As leaders in accountancy, finance and business our members have the knowledge, skills and commitment to maintain the highest professional standards and integrity. Together we contribute to the success of individuals, organisations, communities and economies around the world.

Because of us, people can do business with confidence.

2. ICAEW is a founder member of Chartered Accountants Worldwide and the Global Accounting Alliance.
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African Development Bank President Adesina urges Canada to be present at Africa’s investment table
September 20, 2018 | 0 Comments
Adesina made the call while meeting with 80 leading representatives of the Canada-Africa Chamber of Commerce in Toronto
Adesina

Adesina

TORONTO, Canada, September 19, 2018/ — African Development Bank President (www.AfDB.org), Akinwumi Adesina, on Wednesday urged Canadian business leaders to “be part of the action and seize investment opportunities on the continent.” Adesina made the call while meeting with 80 leading representatives of the Canada-Africa Chamber of Commerce in Toronto.

Promoting the Bank’s upcoming Africa Investment Forum (AIF), scheduled for 7-9 November 2018 in Johannesburg, South Africa, Adesina said, “Canada must not be missing at Africa’s investment table. It is time to change the lens through which Africa is perceived and to make clear distinctions between perceived and real risks.”

AIF will bring together global private capital and investment funds, sovereign wealth funds and the private sector, for what is primarily being billed as a transactional marketplace to bridge Africa’s $68 – $170 billion infrastructure gap.

Stella Kilonzo, Senior Director of the Africa Investment Forum; Timothy Turner, African Development Bank Group Chief Risk Officer; Garreth Bloor, Managing Director, Glenheim Venture Capital; Chris Clubb, Managing Director, Convergence Blended Finance; Hakan Gunay, Senior Director of Finance, Skypower Global, were among panelists  discussing investment and blended finance options in Africa at the event.

Addressing participants, Bank Executive Director, David Stevenson explained that the Forum was “about deals and getting things done and not a talk shop.”

Adesina, who is leading a high-level delegation alongside Stevenson, Executive Director for Canada, China, South Korea, Kuwait and Turkey, also met with Reeta Roy, President/CEO of the MasterCard Foundation, to discuss synergies for supporting youth employment and access to finance for women entrepreneurs in Africa.

Earlier in Ottawa on Tuesday, Adesina announced a $1 billion synthetic securitization transaction at Canada’s National Press Theater.

Although securitization is routine for commercial banks, it is cutting-edge for development finance institutions. The African Development Bank is the first Multi-Lateral Development Bank (MDB) to use this game-changing innovative financing mechanism. Room2Run, structured as an impact investment, will enable the Bank to increase its lending to spur economic development and social progress across the continent.

“Africa has the most promise, the greatest natural resources, and the world’s youngest population. But we also have the world’s most persistent infrastructure deficits. The African Development Bank has the strategy to address these infrastructure finance gaps—and Room2Run gives us the capacity to make it happen,” Adesina said.

The landmark transaction was concluded with the Mariner Investment Group and Africa50.

At Global Affairs Canada (GAC), Adesina exchanged views with Diane Jacovella, Deputy Minister of International Development and Leslie E. Norton, Assistant Deputy Minister, Sub-Saharan Africa Branch at Global Affairs.  The two parties explored areas for further partnership between the Bank and Canada, including support for the Bank’s Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA) initiative.

In a keynote address at the Global Affairs Canada in Ottawa on Africa’s economic situation, President, Adesina said, “Some ask the question whether the Africa rising story is over. Well I don’t think Africa was ever down.”

Adesina told partners and employees of Global Affairs, “The continent is not different from other parts of the world that pass through episodes of growth spurts and dips. The narrative on Africa should not be determined outside of Africa. Africa must control its own narrative,” he noted.  The event was hosted by David Morisson, Canada’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Later, meeting with African ambassadors, the Bank President commended Canada’s leadership role in helping advance Africa’s economic agenda. He acknowledged the ambassadors’ collective commitment and support in promoting Africa as an investment destination of choice.

Adesina wrapped up the Ottawa stop with a bilateral meeting with Jim Carr, Canada’s Minister of Internal Trade Diversification, where he again made the case for increased investment on the continent and urged Canada to look to Africa as a new trade destination in line with its diversification agenda.

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National Disaster Declared By Nigerian Government in the Wake of Devastating Floods
September 20, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Prince Kurupati

The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) has declared a national disaster in Nigeria in the wake of devastating floods that have killed 100 people so far leaving hundreds homeless.

Every year, the May to September tropical rainfall leads to inevitable flooding in the country. However, this year’s flooding is the worst since 2012, the year which saw hundreds of people lose their lives.

The heavy rains which were received in the country in the past couple of weeks led the Benue and Niger Rivers to burst their banks in the process inundating homes and farms. Also, the rains trapped thousands of people in their homes.

The torrential rains which have already caused massive suffering among the Nigerian people led NEMA to declare a national disaster in four states namely Niger, Anambra, Delta and Kogi. Sani Datti, the spokesman from NEMA said that they have placed eight other states on a watch list as more rainfall is expected in the coming days.

According to the statistics collected by NEMA thus far, Sani Datti said that 100 people have lost their lives in the 10 affected states. Though NEMA does not have a definite figure, Datti said that over a thousand people have been rendered homeless by the flooding in the 10 affected states.

Among the 10 affected states, Kogi State is the worst affected as its capital, Lokoja which lies at the confluence of the Benue and Niger Rivers has been virtually submerged by the rising waters. At the present moment, NEMA said that the water levels have risen to 11.06 metres in Lokoja. However, the water levels can easily rise considering that the Nigeria Meteorological Agency is forecasting more rains in the coming week.

Delta and Anambra State in the south have also been hit hard with most streets turned into small streams.

NEMA puts the ranks the current floods as the worst since 2012. The flooding in 2012 was regarded as the worst flooding in the country in five decades. Over 350 people lost their lives while over two million others were rendered homeless in the floods which affected 30 out of the 36 states in Nigeria.

In response to the devastating floods, President Muhammad Buhari approved the release of three billion naira (the equivalent of $8.2 million) to buy relief and medical supplies. He also stated that military personnel and equipment had been seconded to help the relief effort, as well as the evacuation of trapped residents from their homes.

While flooding is an annual problem for Nigeria, very few efforts have been taken by the government to address the situation. Lax control of new infrastructure is still the norm while local governments have not taken any significant steps to construct good drainage infrastructure.

While the loss of lives is the biggest worry of the government in the wake of the floods, the country also loses a lot of money as a result of the floods as business comes to a standstill. For hours, days and sometimes even weeks, businesses wait for the streets to drain before carrying on with their day to day business.

NEMA has created five emergency operation centres to coordinate search and rescue operations from. The centres are also used for providing humanitarian support for those who have been displaced by the floods.

NEMA advises all residents in flood-prone areas to evacuate their homes at the earliest.

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Tanzanian President Says No To Birth Control
September 20, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Prince Kurupati

Magufuli

Magufuli

The Tanzanian President while speaking at a rally in Meatu, in the Simiyu region recently sparked an uproar in the country after stating that women should not use birth control pills. President Magufuli said that the use of contraceptives is a sign of laziness.

President Magufuli said the remarks in reference to the ‘hardworking’ people of Meatu. He said, “You people of Meatu keep livestock. You are good farmers. You can feed your children. Why would you opt for birth control? These are my views, but I don’t see any need for birth control in Tanzania.” In light of this, Magufuli said that people who opt to use contraceptives do so because they are lazy to feed a large family.

The president also lambasted outsiders saying that they were the ones who are giving bad advice to Tanzanian people. Magufuli went further to state that outsiders were badly advising Tanzanians on birth control whereas in their own countries they are battling a sharp decline in population especially among the productive age group owing to the use of birth control methods.

The remarks by Magufuli angered a lot of people both locals and foreigners.

Members of the legislature who spoke to the media soon after Magufuli’s rally said that it is sad to see the president encouraging people to stop taking birth control pills. Cecil Mwambe, one of the vocal MPs in the Tanzanian Parliament said that the remarks from the president are ignorant and unwise more so considering the time in which they came. Mwambe said that currently the country’s health insurance scheme can only accommodate a maximum of four children from one family and encouraging women to stop taking contraceptives will only worsen the strain being faced by the health sector in the country.

The biggest worry for Tanzanians as relayed by Judy Gitau, regional coordinator for Africa for the charity Equality Now is that often times in Tanzania a statement such as the one given by Magufuli end up becoming a law. Gitau said, “From past experiences whenever the president issues a statement on a given issue, in practice it becomes policy, and so we can expect ramifications.” Rapping Magufuli’s remarks, Gitau went further to state that “We (Tanzania) will end up with women having unplanned children, huge families and unable to sustain their lives.”

Having already spearheaded the creation of some unconventional laws in the country such as banning miniskirts, it will not be much of a surprise if Magufuli leads from the front in formulating a policy which rewards women who do not take birth control pills.

The Speaker of Parliament who is a personal friend of the president, Job Ndugai, however, said that there is no need to worry as far as policy change is concerned because the president’s comments were advisory and did not represent a governmental position.

Tanzania is a signatory to the Maputo Protocol which gives women the power to control their fertility and chose any method of contraception. The Maputo Protocol currently influences the country’s sexual and reproductive health policy.

Statistics from the UNFPA state that only a third of Tanzanian women do use family planning. A lot of women especially those in rural Tanzania do not use family planning methods. It is for this reason that the country has one of the highest rates in the world as on average one woman has five children.

In another event which angered many women across the country, the Parliament with the blessings of Magufuli recently banned all female legislators from wearing artificial nails and false eyelashes. The decision was reached after a ‘health official’ advised the Parliament of the health problems posed by artificial nails and fake eyelashes.

 

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Africa could learn a lot from India to address its sanitation challenges
September 20, 2018 | 0 Comments

…….Mahatma Gandhi International Sanitation Convention to share India’s
sanitation and hygiene success
By Wallace Mawire

Parameswaran Iyer, secretary in the ministry of drinking water and sanitation and an erstwhile World

Parameswaran Iyer, secretary in the ministry of drinking water and sanitation and an erstwhile World

African countries could learn a lot from India which has taken massive strides towards achieving universal safe sanitation. The number of people without access to toilets in rural India has gone down from 550 million in 2014 to less than 150 million today, through an intensive behaviour change campaign, the Swachh Bharat Mission, which has become a people’s movement. India is on track to achieve
open defecation free status by 2019, significantly contributing to the global achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 6 on Clean Water  and Sanitation and improving health, educational and other outcomes for millions of people.

The Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Government of India,with support from UNICEF, is organizing the Mahatma Gandhi International Sanitation Convention, MGISC (www.mgiscindia.org) in New Delhi. The convention will bring together ministers and other leaders from over 50 countries around the world in order to both showcase India’s progress and learn about the best Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) practices across the globe.

The MGISC is a four-day international conference scheduled to be held  from 29 September-02 October 2018 in New Delhi and is being organized by the Government of India’s Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), or Clean India Mission, the world’s largest sanitation programme. WSSCC is pleased to be involved in the event as a convenor of the Technology and Innovation session during the MGISC. The session focuses on the various technologies and innovations in the field of rural sanitation.

A rural sanitation technology competition was organised in the run-up to the MGISC, and the session also consists of presentations by the top five finalists of the competition and selection of the top innovation by the jury. WSSCC is also supporting general communications and outreach for the meeting.

At a briefing last week, Mr. Parameswaran Iyer (IAS), Secretary, Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Government of India said

“India has taken massive strides towards achieving universal safe sanitation. The Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) was launched on 2 October 2014, with an aim to build a Clean and Open Defecation Free (ODF) India by 2 October 2019, as a befitting tribute to the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.”

Dr. Yasmin Ali Haque, UNICEF India Representative, added, “Safe water, effective sanitation and hygiene are critical to the healt child and every community – and thus are essential to building stronger, healthier, and more equitable societies. SBM is a unique programme, it is the largest such programme in the world and represents a mass movement. Swachh Bharat has captured the attention of the people across the globe. The convention will be a platform to exchange ideas and foster collective effort to ensure that every girl and boy has access to safe drinking water and sanitation.”

Since the inception of the SBM program, the rural sanitation coverage of India has increased significantly, from 39 per cent in October 2014 to over 92 per cent as of end of August 2018. The number of people without access to toilets in rural India has gone down from 550 million in 2014, to less than 150 million today. According to the latest real-time data, over 83.9 million household toilets have been constructed under the Swachh Bharat Mission. As a result, 21 States/Union Territories, 450 districts, and approximately 450,000 villages have declared themselves as free from open defecation.

India is on track to achieve open defecation free status by 2019, significantly contributing to the global achievement of SDG 6. Open defecation can have debilitating impact on the economy. A UNICEF report in 2017 found that if a family invests in a toilet, it will save Rs. 50,000 a year in India. The study conducted across 10,000 households in 12 states, to measure the economic impact of sanitation
at a household level, discovered that a single rupee invested in sanitation, allows a family to save Rs. 4.30 by averting medical costs.

Sanitation is not just about building toilets but about changing behaviour. Open defecation means that diseases such as cholera, polio, and hepatitis are spread more easily. It means that children are at a higher risk of diarrhoea, which in turn leads to malnutrition. Women are the worst affected due to lack of sanitation facilities. A huge number of pregnant women or new mothers die annually in India from
preventable causes. This includes haemorrhage, eclampsia, sepsis and anaemia. Many deaths occur due to poor nutrition and improper sanitation.

The success of the Clean India Mission will undoubtedly have a significant impact on the global achievement of SDG 6.2. India is the only country which received special recognition in the Joint Monitoring Programme 2017 update by the WHO and UNICEF. The MGISC aims to share sanitation success stories and lessons from the participating countries and culminates with the launch of the Mahatma’s150th birth year celebrations in India, as SBM enters its final year of implementation.

The MGISC will be attended by over 50 minister-led delegations from high, middle, and low-income countries including Brazil, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Japan. Participants will gain practical knowledge on key challenges, successes, failures and opportunities, share experiences across regions and with other government decision-makers, and accelerate progress towards ending open defecation as part of the broader effort to achieve SDG Target 6.2 by 2030. Participants will go home
stimulated, motivated and empowered as part of a broader sanitation and hygiene movement.

A parallel exhibition of sanitation innovations will be held at the meeting venue.

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Africa: U.S. is Africa’s ‘Ideal Partner’ for Promoting Democratic Institutions & Economic Growth – Tibor Nagy
September 19, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Tibor P. Nagy, Jr.*

Tibor Nagy

Tibor Nagy

After having the honor of serving my country as a diplomat for more than 30 years – 22 of them in eight different African countries – this week I have the opportunity for the first time to underscore U.S. interests in and commitment to the continent at the United Nations General Assembly.

In dozens of meetings and conversations in New York, I will highlight the importance of a continued and strong U.S.-Africa partnership that prioritizes the following goals:

  • Promoting stronger trade and commercial ties between the United States and Africa by establishing a level playing field across African markets;
  • Harnessing the potential of Africa’s tremendous youth bulge as a force for economic ingenuity and prosperity, which is a counter narrative to violent extremism and despair;
  • Advancing peace and security through robust partnerships with African governments via bilateral and regional mechanisms; and
  • Most importantly, reemphasizing that the United States has an unwavering commitment to Africa.
 Far from being mutually exclusive, these priorities are mutually reinforcing. Our failure or success depends on a “whole of government” approach in working with international partners, civil society, and the large African diaspora in the United States, towards a future which leads to peace, stability and prosperity – now and for future generations across Africa.

My experiences in both diplomacy and academia have convinced me that Africa truly is at a critical crossroads, and the direction it takes in the next few years will have a major impact – for good or ill – not only on the continent, but across the world.

 Everyone who follows trends in Africa knows that a demographic sea change is coming between now and 2050, when the continent will double its population to more than two billion and the percentage of Africans younger than 25 years of age will surpass 75 percent. These millions and millions of young Africans will have high aspirations for employment and quality of life – no different than young people anywhere in the world. With the proliferation of social media, African youth have a clear window into the countless possibilities that the world has to offer, but more importantly can compare their own circumstances with those of their peers around the globe.

Africa’s leaders are beginning to understand that their most important challenge is to create meaningful and lasting jobs for their youth. And I plan to do all I can to help, since the United States is the ideal partner for supporting Africans in building and strengthening democratic institutions and the type of business environments which attract investment that foster economic growth.

The fact is that a more prosperous and democratic Africa offers enormous commercial and trade opportunities for the United States.  As the global economy becomes increasingly intertwined and Africa represents a larger share of global trade, I firmly believe that American companies can and should have deeper ties to the continent, which can also lead to our values and way of doing business becoming the standard in Africa.

American businesses put an emphasis on the rule of law, transparency, recourse for investors, and a level playing field.  Our companies also prioritize training and employing Africans for the jobs they should be doing in their countries. This operating model is the underlying secret to our entrepreneurial culture and thriving economy.

As we look to Africa’s future and try to ensure the youth bulge is an asset for the continent rather than a hindrance, it is important to keep several critical factors in mind:

  • The growing number of young people requires an exponential increase in jobs;
  • Job creation requires growing economies driven in part by increasing foreign direct investment;
  • Foreign companies won’t invest in the absence of a welcoming investment climate, a level playing field, and an educated work force; and
  • Finally, African governments which are most open to partnership with the private sector, especially U.S. business, will reap the benefits of knowledge transfers and skills building among their people.

My career has shown me the enormous potential and abundant opportunities for Africa’s future.  As Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, I will be guided by my overarching belief that we must look at Africa through the windshield, and not through a rear view mirror.

I call on U.S. business to take on this challenge as well, and for those with little or no experience on the continent to embrace the vast opportunities that Africa offers.  I am deeply humbled that President Trump and Secretary of State Pompeo are entrusting me with the honor of leading the Bureau of African Affairs, and helping lead our engagements in Africa at this most crucial time in the continent’s history.

*The Piece was originally published at Allafrica.com.Ambassador Nagy is Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairsin the United States Government. He is a retired career Foreign Service Officer who spent 32 years in government service, including as the U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia (1999-2002) and Guinea (1996-1999), as well as the Deputy Chief of Mission in Nigeria (1993-1995), Cameroon (1990-1993), and Togo (1987-1990). He received his B.A. from Texas Tech University and M.S.A. from George Washington University.

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The Center for Human Rights and Democracy (CHRDA) condemns Cameroon governments travel permits requirements and restrictions in Anglophones regions
September 19, 2018 | 0 Comments
These kinds of action not only harm the future prospects of individuals and peace, but also diminishes our own reputation and performance as an outward-looking community
 

Felix Agbor Anyior Nkongho

Felix Agbor Anyior Nkongho

YAOUNDE, Cameroon, September 18, 2018/ — Calls on government to start an all-inclusive dialogue to end the deadly crisis; Calls on all Anglophones and Francophones in Cameroon and the international community to speak out against this hateful policy 

The Center for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa (CHRDA) (www.CHRDA.org), the leading human rights organization working to realize human rights in Cameroon,  strongly condemns the decision by the government of President Paul Biya through its Regional Delegate of Transport in the Northwest Region, to issue a travel restriction among Anglophones in the North west region.

This policy amounts to nothing less than a xenophobic and counterproductive action by the government and it should be repealed immediately.

This tragic decision by the government violates the best traditions of Cameroon’s constitution as well as in direct contravention of international humanitarian and human rights laws. We implore President Paul Biya, and those around him, to consider the ramifications of the travel restrictions on Anglophones.

In a time when the country is faced with its worst crisis since independence many citizens and law enforcement personal losing their life’s, Cameroonians are looking to their government for many things including leadership, all-inclusive dialogue, guaranteeing their rights and ending the violence.

These kinds of action not only harm the future prospects of individuals and peace, but also diminishes our own reputation and performance as an outward-looking community.

This policy by the government does not make Anglophone and Francophones safe; rather, it makes us less safe by breeding negative sentiments around the country, stifling opportunities, escalating violence,  interfering with cross-cultural relationship building, and making it more difficult to provide assistance and protection to those who need it most especially the refugees I visited in Nigeria and Internally displace persons CHRDA tries to assist on a daily basis.

In the midst of an escalating war in the country, this is a significant setback for those who are obviously in need of protection and those who are finding peaceful solution to the crisis. The Cameroon government must live up to its international obligations and provide protection for those fleeing persecution and conflicts in the Anglophone region and not restrict travel.

We call on all Anglophones and Francophones in Cameroon and the international community to join us in speaking out against this hateful policy, which sends an official message of intolerance, undermines the Cameroonian people, and threatens the lives of thousands of people who desperately and urgently need sanctuary in our country—while doing nothing to bring peace to the Anglophone region.

Felix Agbor Anyior Nkongho,Founder and Chairman,

Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa

 

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Silent Cries – Is Anyone Listening? Experiences of Parents & Children Living with Disabilities in African Diaspora Communities.
September 17, 2018 | 4 Comments

By Nkeu-ndum  Giddeon N.Angafor

Giddeon & Claris with their two boys, Lesra and Gicles

Giddeon & Claris with their two boys, Lesra and Gicles

I am not sure about you, I do not know your personal thoughts, beliefs, convictions and approach to disability. All I can say, and with certainty too is that most African communities in the diaspora hold varied and diverse views about disability.  Some see disability negatively, noting that it is a subject not to be discussed, especially in public.  For others, disability and disabled persons are generally portrayed stereotypically, seen either as a curse, the result of a sinful act committed by their family or a burden to society. Some, like me, see it as a positive challenge, a unique opportunity to usher in new concepts, convictions and a shift in some of the thought processes about disability and the disabled within our communities. I am acutely aware, based on experience, that some families of African descent in the diaspora who have children living with disabilities experience uncountable daily challenges. That some of the issues which they encounter, and which they find difficult to articulate are the results unconscious and sometimes deliberate actions of the people in their communities.  As a parent, caring for a child with autism and disabilities, some of the views elaborated above, and the actions alluded to can cause overwhelming distress. These cause some families affected by disability to constantly cry out, albeit silently, asking to be heard, seeking to be understood, wanting to be accepted, especially by those they call family, their African diaspora communities.

As parents of a child with autism and other disabilities, we have learnt, over the past 13 years, that some of our kin and kindred find it hard to accept, let alone embrace, articulate and celebrate the reality of disability.  Such a lack of understanding and failure to recognise and accept that disability is a fact of life, even by some who have family and friends living with disabilities is a bigger challenge than caring for the person living with a disability. Due to these and other difficulties, some parents of children with additional needs find it hard to go out in public for a number of genuine reasons. This has come to light, over and over in our support network for parents and families of disabled children. Many of them recount examples of when they and their disabled child have been looked at as if they do not have a right to belong. Many parents of disabled children of African descent that we encounter have experiences of when adults, especially those of ‘high status’ within their communities, who they expect to be understanding have pulled their child away from a child with a disability as if they were something contagious. Some of these negative actions and approaches to disability by some members of African communities in the diaspora stem from their families, communities and cultural approaches to disability, which are not only negative, but I dare say outdated. Needless to say that their effects can be quite hurting for those at the receiving.

Being parents of African descent in the diaspora, whose child lives with disabilities, my wife and I understand the origin of these views, however, we do not condone them. Unfortunately, this is not true of all the parents in our situation as our interactions indicate that some find it difficult to accept, let alone understand that some can still hold such views. This is true of our Ugandan friend who cannot reconcile the fact that many in his diaspora community work in the medical or care profession, looking after adults and children with disabilities. In spite of that, they fail to accept and accommodate one of theirs in a similar situation. What is more worrying for our friend is the fact that some in his diaspora community make jokes and negative comments about disability in his presence. In doing so, they are failing to recognise the hurt and psychological trauma it brings to his family. Many of us can come to terms with the fact that this is happening, however, we should refuse to give these views our blessing. The key question here is WHY should we say NO to such attitudes?

Claris and Lesra at a Community event

Claris and Lesra at a Community event

The first and natural reason why we should shun these views for me is personal, the fact that we are the parents of a handsome young 13-year-old, who is living with autism and other disabilities. A son who did not ask to be born, a life that we made, and one that we have a duty and a responsibility to love, care for, appreciate and celebrate, irrespective of whether they are disabled or not. Secondly, our experience and that of other parents and families of African background, who are in similar situations teach us that our communities’ approach is driven by fear, ignorance and in some cases, a culture which we have failed to hold accountable. (Especially as most of the views and approaches about disability in these cultures have no sound scientific backing).  We are afraid to let go of our deep-rooted, false assumptions and traditional beliefs; that disability is a curse or the result of witchcraft. Believing that if we dare to associate with ‘such’ then we will be contaminated or cursed. We forget that these children are individual and different, that they live a different reality, one which we should seek to understand and appreciate instead of judging and stigmatising them.

Giddeon and Lesra

As a community, we are not only invited but challenged to share the reality of these parents and their children. A reality which calls us to come out of our comfort zones and dare to journey with them, seeking to understand them, especially their lives and their stories, so that we can better appreciate and communicate what it means to have a disability. If we do this, we can experience how it feels to be the family, friend and community member of a person who lives with disabilities. Doing this will enthuse those from African backgrounds, who see disability as a tragedy for the child and their family to start seeing it as an opportunity to share our common humanity with them. An occasion to challenge views which encourage a culture of ‘us’ and them, creating an impression in some that they do not belong in our circles. When we embrace this new approach our communities will keep fear aside and start seeing disability as an occasion to prove our collective ability. They will engage in build platforms imbued with love, support and understanding for children, parents and families of those living with disabilities. By so doing, our communities will gain a new impetus, one in which we can all stand together and be each other’s keeper, acting positively and morally, in a way that is dignifying to all with additional needs.

As I draw to a close, it is fair to note, that everyone, including the rich and famous, has their own challenges. It is also important to ascertain that some of the challenges faced by parents and siblings of children living with disabilities within African communities stem from misconceptions, a lack of understanding and sometimes actions of their peers which are not deliberate. Despite that, our experience of being at the receiving end teaches us that in communities where people accept, embrace, articulate and celebrate disability, the burden is less cumbersome for those in these situations. This explains why it is important that our communities should cultivate cultures which show kindness and consideration to those facing any disability challenges. Recognising that a child with special needs is ‘somebody’, not a ‘nobody’. They are someone’s child, a brother or sister, who is loved, treasured and celebrated, even if just by one person. They are not a ‘retard’, ‘ngombe’, ‘craze thing’ or a ‘troublemaker’ as they are sometimes called in our communities.

Giddeon skydiving to raise autism and disability awareness

Giddeon skydiving to raise autism and disability awareness

It is my fervent wish and hope, that together we can tease out, and find ‘ability’ in disability (this ability). That as individuals and African communities in the diaspora we can blossom together, supporting and enabling our community members with children with disabilities to thrive and fulfil their God-given talents. That together we can deploy and manifest our ‘abilities’ which are that which is life-giving and empowering. Together we can accept, embrace, articulate and even celebrate disability as part of the realities of life, it is not enough to just see it as a taboo.

*Nkeu-ndum Giddeon N. & Claris N. Angafor are the founders of CAN-Abilities Foundation, a family run foundation and advocacy charity which creates disability awareness amongst ethnic minorities and other communities in the UK. You can find them at www.canabilities.org or follow them on Facebook to keep abreast with their activities.

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Rainwater storage and smarter farming is making life easier for Niger’s farmers
September 16, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Thin Lei Win*

Men buying and selling goats at the market in Dargue village in Maradi Region in south central Niger on Aug 16, 2018. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Thin Lei Win

Men buying and selling goats at the market in Dargue village in Maradi Region in south central Niger on Aug 16, 2018. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Thin Lei Win

DARGUE, Niger, Sept 14 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Grappling with desert conditions, insurgency and decades of political instability, Niger has long struggled to feed its rapidly growing population. But experts say efforts to change that are bearing fruit – and may even be a model for the region.

Four out of five of Niger’s people eke out a living through farming or fishing, yet three-quarters of the landlocked west African country on the southern edge of the Sahara is arid.

Among them is 35-year-old Boukari Lawali, who struggled to produce enough food for his family from his six-hectare plot before 2015, when the United Nations launched a pilot scheme to help farmers in his village use rainwater more effectively.

“Before, the produce from my farm would be enough for only three months, now we have food for seven months,” Lawali told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in Dargue, a dusty village in the south of the country.

“Before, if there was rain, the plants would be washed away. Now they are not,” said Lawali, a father of six who grows millet, sorghum and beans.

Lawali’s farm was transformed using an ancient technique that involves digging half moon-shaped trenches to allow rain to soak into the soil during the wet season instead of running off the hard-baked surface.

The simple technique is helping to restore land that was once fertile but has been degraded by erosion, deforestation, overgrazing and climate change.

Since 2015 nearly 20,000 hectares of agricultural and pastoral land has been restored in this way with the help of the U.N., which has also provided farmers with better seeds and built markets to make it easier for them to sell their produce.

The impact has been transformative.

Villagers say malnutrition has all but disappeared and school attendance in the village and surrounding areas has more than doubled.

The head of the World Food Programme – one of the U.N. agencies running the project – said Niger could be a “model for all of Africa” if this scheme and others like it were rolled out across the country.

“Niger can be an effective role model where when we work together, we can end hunger, we reduce migration, teen pregnancies, birth rates, conflict as well as recruitment by extremist groups,” David Beasley told journalists during a recent visit to Niger.

CONFLICTS

Niger, a former French colony with a population of about 20 million, is one of the world’s least developed countries with among the highest fertility rates.

Conflicts in neighbouring Mali and Nigeria have pushed thousands of refugees into the country in recent years.

With food production struggling to keep pace, the government has set out ambitious plans to restore 1 million hectares of degraded land over the next four years and boost irrigation.

Currently just three percent of all irrigable land in Niger is irrigated.

“We want to scale this up, not just with the U.N. partners but with others too,” said Ali Bety, who heads Nigeriens Nourishing Nigeriens (3N), a government initiative to combat hunger and poverty.

“In Niger it doesn’t rain very much, but when it does rain it is quite intense, so we need to find a way of harvesting all of that water so we can irrigate and grow for a longer period,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The Millennium Challenge Corporation, the U.S. government’s main development fund, is investing $254.6 million to rehabilitate and develop three large-scale irrigation systems.

On a smaller scale, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is introducing cisterns to help people harvest and store rainwater in Niger, where desertification claimed 100,000 hectares of land every year.

Bety said he wanted to end the cycle of “constant food insecurity” that has left 1.6 million Nigeriens reliant on food handouts according U.N. estimates.

Last year the 3N initiative was credited with halving the number of people suffering from hunger in Niger since 2011 in a U.N.-backed award for the world’s best policies to combat desertification.

The regional head of mission for the U.S. government’s aid programme USAID, Lisa Franchett, said there had been “substantial improvements in the prevalence of hunger, poverty and stunting” in the areas where it works with the government.

Near Dargue lies an area of pastoral land where people from surrounding villages have been paid to build half moon pits around which small plants are now starting to grow.

Issoufou Bizo, who is overseeing the restoration project, thought the land had been left permanently barren after a severe drought in 1984. Now he brings his sheep here to graze.

“I remember when there used to be a forest here. There were trees everywhere. There were also birds and animals,” said the 42-year-old. “I feel very happy to see this green again.”

* Courtesy of Thomson Reuters Foundation

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