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South African group under fire for lobbying US for white rights
May 15, 2018 | 0 Comments

A group representing many white Afrikaners has gone to the US to lobby for the interests of white farmers.

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According to Afriforum, a "disproportionately high number" of white South African farmers have been killed [File: Themba Hadebe/AP]

According to Afriforum, a “disproportionately high number” of white South African farmers have been killed [File: Themba Hadebe/AP]

New York City  A South African organisation that represents many white Afrikaners, has come under fire over their decision to travel to the United Statesto lobby for the interests of the Afrikaner community.

The group, Afriforum, who describe themselves as a civil rights group, but who have also calledapartheid a “so-called historical injustice”, are currently in the US to lobby government officials about the murders of white farmers and to warn investors about the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party’s proposed plan to expropriate land without compensation.

Max du Preez, a veteran journalist and author based in Cape Town, said the idea that a tiny lobby group like Afriforum made up of around 200,000 paid members, could attempt to pressure the US government into deciding how South Africa resolves its land issue, was ridiculous.

“It’s like an organisation from the US coming to [South African] President Cyril Ramaphosa and asking for help with [US President] Donald Trump’s gun control laws,” du Preez told Al Jazeera.

 

Since early May, Kallie Kriel and Ernst Roots, the CEO and deputy CEO of Afriforum respectively, have traveled across the US to meet think-tanks, policymakers and journalists.

Last week they met John Bolton, the national security adviser to the US president, staffers with Republican Senator Ted Cruz, and spent time on Tucker Carlson’s show on Fox News.

For many South Africans, the group’s decision to take this issue to the US government and caution foreign investors was outrageous enough; the decision to meet Bolton or Cruz, was ample confirmation that the group was a mouthpiece for racist Afrikaners.

“Their role is to create a panic, peddle in fear. They say the government is going to take away all farms. It is a fundamentally racist group of people,” du Preez said.

On social media, others berated the group for its meetings in the US. In a tweet, Adam Habib, Wits University vice-chancellor, said Afriforum’s “associations in the US prove what disgusting human beings you truly are”.

But Afriforum denies they had met with white supremacists in the US.

 

“We do not know the entire background of the people we have met, but none of the people we have spoken with have said anything that could remotely be interpreted as an expression of white nationalism,” Roots of the Afriforum told Al Jazeera.

When pressed on who else the group had met on their visit, Roots wouldn’t say.

 

“I am unfortunately not at liberty to provide you with a list of people we spoke with, for reasons of confidentiality.”

 

The question of land

White South Africans, who make up 8.9 percent of the population, own 73 percent of agricultural land. The ANC-led government is regularly berated by civil society and opposition parties for its slow land reform policy.

The question of land, especially in a climate of heightened inequality, unemployment and poverty, has become highly politicised. President Ramaphosa calls the forced dispossession of land during colonialism as the “original sin” that must be resolved.

In December, the ANC announced that it would be seeking expropriation of land without compensation. But in order to give effect to this new policy, government would need to amend Section 25 of the constitution. As of now, it is unclear when the constitution will be changed, if at all.

Elmien du Plessis, an associate professor in law at the North-West University in South Africa, told Al Jazeera that the way in which Afriforum has framed the question of land is what has caused the outrage.

“In South Africa, we are busy with a democratic process of looking at whether we need to change the constitution (to provide for the expropriation of land without compensation) in order to fulfill the constitutional obligation of land reform.

“It is a very precarious process, but the table has been opened and all parties invited, and the brief is fairly wide. This is an inclusive process, and the feeling is just that we as a country are trying to solve this process inclusively, while the perception is that Afriforum looks at their members’ interest in isolation, and in a way that excludes,” du Plessis said.

Roots says that the Afriforum “supports land restitution – correcting of injustices through a process of land claims, based on historical accuracy and compensation”, it had little confidence in the process currently being pursued by the government.

 

“The South African government has made it clear that they have no interest in considering the views of minority communities and that the current consultation process regarding the changing of the constitution to allow for expropriation of private property without compensation is merely window dressing,” Roots said.

The question of farm murders

In an interview with The New American, Roots said he was also in the US to highlight the “persecution of South Africa’s minorities.” He also accused the South African government of being “complicit in these attacks [on white farmers] through creating a political climate in which these attacks are romanticised”.

He also claimed the attacks on farmers were taking place on “a disproportionate level”.

 

Between 2016/17, there were 19,016 murders in South Africa. This means the murder rate was 34.1 people per 100,000 people of the population.

During the same period, police statistics show that there were 74 farm murders.

According to Afriforum, the murder rate translates to 156 commercial farmers killed per 100,000 people.

 

Fact checking website Africheck says that given that it is not clear how many people live and work on farms, this estimate is fundamentally flawed.

Gareth Newham, head of the governance, crime and justice division at the Pretoria-based Institute for Security Studies, told Al Jazeera that some within the white farming community tend to think that they are specifically targeted and forget that crime is a national issue.

The move to court right-wing groups or individuals is not altogether new. A narrative of a “white genocide” has repeatedly made the rounds on social media over the past five years.

In 2016, Mike Cernovich, a renowned American white supremacist, tweeted that “white genocide is real” in South Africa. In March 2018, Peter Dutton, Australia’s minister of home affairs, recommended that “persecuted” South African farmers be given special visas to flee “horrific circumstances” in the country.

Though the idea has been debunked, the myth of “white genocide” continues to recirculate outside the country.

Afriforum does not use the term white genocide, but du Preez says the group is quite happy to have their members use the phrase or for them to exaggerate numbers if it helps garner support.

“It is dangerous to be a farmer [but] there is no genocide going on, there is no ethnic eradication going on. There is no political or racial targeting of white people in South Africa, whatsoever.

“[Black] people living in Khayelitsha or Elsies River are much more likely to die in [violent] attacks than farmers,” Preez said.

The problem, du Preez says, is that Afriforum has positioned itself as representing the Afrikaner people, who speak the Afrikaans language, in what he describes as irresponsible and objectionable.

“They have bullied their way into becoming the most dominant voice among Afrikaans people and there are many Afrikaners, like me, who don’t want them to speak for me,” du Preez said.

*Al Jazeera

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South Sudanese using wrestling as a tool to promote culture of peace and unity
May 15, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Deng Machol

Wrestlers from Jonglei and eastern lakes region take part in the South Sudan national wrestling competition for peace at Juba stadium, South Sudan, on April 20, 2016. South Sudan is holding a “wrestling for peace” tournament, bringing together athletes from around the country. Carl de Souza/AFP

Wrestlers from Jonglei and eastern lakes region take part in the South Sudan national wrestling competition for peace at Juba stadium, South Sudan, on April 20, 2016. South Sudan is holding a “wrestling for peace” tournament, bringing together athletes from around the country. Carl de Souza/AFP

Juba – Hundreds of passionate wrestling fans in South Sudan thronged the capital Juba to witness the end of the country’s national wrestling competition among competitors from the various ethnic groups.

The wrestling was organized by South Sudan Wrestling Federation in collaboration with the ministry of culture, youth and sports with an aim to promote culture of peace and unity among the communities. That has drew hundreds of spectators including government officials.

The wrestling is a very popular sport among the Dinka, Mundari and Lotuka tribes of South Sudan.

The sport is seen as an avenue in bringing together people from the various warring tribes together.

On Saturday, May 12, 2018 the national wrestling march saw giant wrestlers from Terekeka States, Mundari ethnic – tribe emerging victors over their rivals – Dinka Bor from Jonglei States.

The Terekeka State’s wrestlers has managed wrestled down three Jonglei State’s wrestlers in row consecutively, secured a clear win, though Jonglei State gained momentum at the middle of wrestling, which 12 wrestlers from both side took part, but they didn’t manage handle Terekeka State’s wrestlers.

The game ended 5:3 in favour of Terekeka wrestlers who have been crowned champions for the 2018 wrestling federation.

The Jonglei State’s team has once been crowned champions since the wrestling took it shape in Juba stadium followed the independence of South Sudan.

Despite that Majok Jokriir, retired giant wrestler, who is currently coach of Jonglei State wrestling team, describes it as significant to the citizens of South Sudan and also significant to the ongoing peace process, urging South Sudanese to embrace peace and tranquility among themselves.

Wrestling is fought in all ethnic communities of the country has a very large fan [s] base.

Some excited fans urged organisers to consider a monthly wrestling tournament to bring people together.

“Wrestling is an amazing sport. It should be commercialist and should be weekly like European football leagues,” said one of the excited fan.

The Mundari, Dinka and others are Nilotic tribes, that are cattle oriented and they practice wrestling as part of their culture and tradition. They have seasonal initiation ceremonies, a stage of passage to adulthood in which they conduct activities like wrestling, use of sticks and facial scarification consisted on their foreheads.

These ethnic – tribes still want to maintain their culture around the world, showing off their traditional customs in spite the ongoing conflict.

The wrestlers wore leopard print skirt flapping and as well as feathers of ostrich on their heads.

More so, as the youngest country in East Africa, South Sudan is in the middle of a civil war which has claimed the lives of thousands of people while rendering millions homeless, elites are trying to forge peace through social activities.

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Nigeria is leading on pan-African free trade despite not even signing up to the deal, bank chief says
May 15, 2018 | 0 Comments
  • Nigeria is in a position of leadership on a pan-African trade deal despite not signing up, the managing director of Ecobank Nigeria told CNBC.
  • The African Union is proposing a continent-wide trading bloc that would result in the largest free trade area in terms of participating countries since the formation of the World Trade Organization.
    • Kenya and Ghana ratified the agreement last week, while Ethiopia’s Prime Minister has said that his country is ready to follow suit.

    By  *

     

    The Egina floating production storage and offloading vessel, the largest of its kind in Nigeria, is berthed in Lagos harbor on February 23, 2017.Stefan Heunis | AFP | Getty Images

    The Egina floating production storage and offloading vessel, the largest of its kind in Nigeria, is berthed in Lagos harbor on February 23, 2017.
    Stefan Heunis | AFP | Getty Images

    Nigeria is in a position of leadership on a proposed Africa-wide trading bloc despite not having signed up to the agreement, the managing director of commercial lender Ecobank Nigeria told CNBC.

    Nigeria has “shifted the balance of power,” and “put itself in the situation where they now have the call,” Charles Kie said in an interview Friday.

    In March, 44 members of the 55-nation African Union signed up to the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA), an agreement which proposes a common market across the African continent. The new bloc would result in the largest free trade area in terms of participating countries since the formation of the World Trade Organization.

    But Nigeria and South Africa, the region’s two largest economies, did not get on board, citing concerns over safeguarding jobs and cheap Chinese goods flooding the market.

    The summit took place in the Rwandan capital of Kigali. Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame is also chair of the African Union for 2018. Meanwhile, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari did not attend the event.

     “When you are the largest economy on the continent, and it’s a tiny, small country like Rwanda who is leading the conversation on the CFTA, there’s a very simple question that you ask yourself: ‘Where is your leadership?'” Kie said.

    By initially turning down the deal, Nigeria has the “leverage” to “get some of the conditions that they think are critical for the economy to now be put on the table,” Kie explained. “They (won’t) just absorb the impact of the decision that was taken, but they’re also part of the solutions that are going to come.”

    “I’m just making a pure and basic analysis of the powers in presence, and I’m looking at what it entails,” he said. “All of this is political, it’s the heads of state that sign these agreements.”

    Kie was confident that Nigeria would eventually subscribe to the deal.

     “I don’t have any doubt that Nigeria will join” the free trade agreement in its own time, he said. “Nobody will doubt the interests of this for the continent.”

    Kenya and Ghana, both African economies boasting strong fundamentals, ratified the agreement last week. Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who leads the east African powerhouse economy which has seen double-digit GDP (gross domestic product) growth as recently as 2017, said on Monday that his country is ready to follow suit.

    Intra-African trade currently comprises less than 20 percent of the continent’s total, with countries often focussed on exporting commodities to former colonial powers instead. It is hoped that the new free trade deal will shift emphasis away from this and towards manufacturing.

    The African Union posits the agreement as uniting a market of 1.2 billion people with a combined gross domestic product of $2.5 trillion.

    “We have to make sure that the rules of engagement when it comes to the free trade area are clearly defined,” both in terms of protecting national economies and establishing their manufacturing capacities, Kie said. “It’s not going to come overnight.”

     *CNBC
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The developing world is an easy target for populists – Kofi Annan
May 15, 2018 | 0 Comments
Kofi Annan

Kofi Annan

Kofi Annan was secretary-general of the United Nations from 1997 to 2006 and is a co-recipient with the U.N. of the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize. He sat down with The WorldPost editor-in-chief Nathan Gardels for an interview, which has been condensed and edited for clarity. This interview originally appeared in the Washington Post on 10 May 2018.

There has been much debate about democratic dysfunction in the advanced world due to paralyzing polarization exacerbated by fake news and social media manipulation. Isn’t this also an issue in the fledgling democracies of the developing world, from Malaysia to Kenya, Nigeria and elsewhere?

Kofi Annan: Yes. Inequality and the aftermath of the financial crisis, in which many have been left behind, is driving polarization in other parts of the world, including the countries you mention, just as it is in the West.

In both advanced and developing nations, we are threatened by forces exploiting fears and misgivings for political gain, and they are driving communities apart. As long as inequality and other social problems plague us, populists will try to exploit them. A report my foundation just released on Southeast Asia identifies populism, illicit electoral financing and the politics of identity as the biggest threats to democracy locally and regionally. Social media certainly acts as a catalyst and booster for such polarization, but it is often just as present in traditional media.

WorldPost: If even long-standing Western democracies are struggling with their own legitimacy and the appeal of demagogues or authoritarian leaders, aren’t the challenges all the greater in the developing world?

Annan: Developing and newer democracies are much more susceptible to the tactics of populists and demagogues — they often do not have strong institutions, free press or the infrastructure required to defend their nascent democracies.

That is why we need to safeguard the institutions that have been built to prevent blatant twisting of truths that erode trust in our elections and ultimately in democracy itself. My primary focus these days is promoting the legitimacy of democracy by ensuring the integrity of elections, whether from traditional threats, such as too much money in politics, or newer threats arising with the digital age.

If citizens do not believe they can change their leaders through the ballot box, they will find other ways, even at the risk of destabilizing their countries.

WorldPost: You visited Silicon Valley last week to look at how to curb the negative impact of social media on democracy. What was your takeaway?

Annan: No single solution or actor can deal with the complex and interrelated challenges to electoral integrity arising from manipulated data, hate speech and fake news.

These phenomena are not new; they have been part of electoral cycles since the advent of democracy. However, the unique manner in which social media and other technologies are being used to amplify the impact of these tactics in electoral cycles across the globe is a real concern. The speed, reach and volume that social media gives to fake news, disinformation and hate speech erodes trust in institutions and even in the electoral process itself.

It was also clear to me that these developments are challenging the fundamental social contract between voters and those who govern them. We require new mechanisms and frameworks — partly regulatory, partly based on new technologies and partly educational — to restore trust in electoral processes and elected leaders. That trust can only be built if political figures, tech leaders and citizens themselves work together to design these frameworks.

To give just one example, when I spoke before an audience at Facebook, I suggested they should organize a sort of a rapid response team to be called into a situation when it is clear that bots, trolls or fake news are evident. The team could alert electoral commissions or other authorities to offer advice on how to stop the problem before it gets out of control.

The challenge for all of us is to harness the opportunities of the digital age while mitigating the risks. I am encouraged by the people I met in Silicon Valley who were supportive of the idea of creating a commission supporting electoral integrity in the digital age. My foundation will soon launch such a global commission to address these urgent issues in all democracies.

*Source: Kofi Annan Foundation

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Exclusive: Nigeria’s Abubakar to Privatize Parts of State Oil Firm if Elected
May 13, 2018 | 0 Comments

BY ALEXIS AKWAGYIRAM and Paul Carsten*

FILE PHOTO: Presidential aspirant and Nigeria's former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar speaks as he presents his manifesto at All Progressives Congress (APC) party convention in Lagos early December 11, 2014. REUTERS/Akintunde AkinleyeREUTERS

FILE PHOTO: Presidential aspirant and Nigeria’s former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar speaks as he presents his manifesto at All Progressives Congress (APC) party convention in Lagos early December 11, 2014. REUTERS/Akintunde AkinleyeREUTERS

ABUJA (Reuters) – Nigeria’s former vice president Atiku Abubakar will privatize parts of the country’s state oil company and allow the naira currency to float to attract foreign investment if elected as head of state, he told Reuters.

Abubakar also confirmed that he intends to run in next year’s presidential election, becoming the biggest opposition heavyweight to say he will take on Muhammadu Buhari.

The winner of February’s poll will lead Africa’s top oil producer and most populous nation, which is central to regional stability as it battles Islamist militants in the northeast.

Abubakar, a former key ally of President Buhari whose resources helped propel him to power, quit the ruling party in November and re-joined the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) a month later.

He has long enjoyed support from the business elite in Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos for his conservative-capitalist ideals and, as vice president in a PDP administration from 1999-2007, he implemented a program of liberalization in areas including telecoms sector.

NEXT STEPS

Abubakar said he would go further if elected president.

“I am also going to expand it to include the oil and gas sector which have not been touched at all and other major sectors of the economy like mining, solid minerals,” he said.

Abubakar said he would privatize parts of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) which has been beset by decades of mismanagement and is crucial to the OPEC member’s economic fortunes. He did not specify the parts that would be privatized.

“I am a strong believer in very, very small government and also the private sector,” he said.

A drop in crude oil prices from late 2014 pushed Nigeria into its first recession in 25 years in 2016, spawning chronic dollar shortages because oil receipts make up two-thirds of government revenue and most of the country’s foreign exchange.

The economy moved out of recession last year but growth remains weak and multiple exchange rates remain in place, imposed by the central bank to support Buhari’s insistence that the naira should not be allowed to float.

“I will allow the naira to float because I believe that is one of the ways foreign direct investment can be encouraged to come in,” said Abubakar, who hopes to replicate Buhari’s 2015 feat of winning a presidential election at the fourth attempt.

NORTH POLL

Buhari, who took office in 2015, and whoever becomes president next will face challenges ranging from weak economic growth to communal violence between semi-nomadic herdsmen and farmers, as well as the Boko Haram insurgency.

Abubakar – who, like Buhari, is a Muslim from the north – said voters would welcome someone who could revive their fortunes, adding that of his three previous presidential campaigns he was only once rejected by the electorate. He was not selected as a party candidate on the other two occasions.

Parties must select their candidate by Oct. 7. The next president should be a northerner, under an unofficial power-sharing agreement under which the presidency alternates between the north and south after every two four-year terms.

Bismarck Rewane, chief executive of Lagos-based consultancy Financial Derivatives, said the former vice president’s familiarity and age could be a disadvantage.

“To upset the Buhari candidature, you need something different: someone young, energetic and charismatic. You need something distinct from the current leadership,” he said.

Abubakar lacked Buhari’s popularity in northern states and at 71, just four years younger than the president, would struggle to generate “inter-generational appeal”, Rewane said.

The UN estimates that the median age in Nigeria is 18.

 *Culled from U.S News
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World including many African countries not on track to meet SDG 7 on sustainable and modern energy for all by 2030
May 12, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Wallace Mawire

Lisbon, Portugal-One of the major highlights of the Sustainable Energy for All forum held in Lisbon, Portugal on 2 to 3 May, 2018 has been the launch of the Tracking SDG7 energy progress report where experts and panelists presented the findings from the SDG7 Tracking Report, including an update on global progress and challenges on energy access, energy efficiency and renewable energy.

The development of the energy progress report was through collaboration between five SDG7 custodian agencies, specially constituted in a steering group comprising the International Energy Agency, World Bank, International Renewable Energy Agency, World Health Organisation and the United Nations Statistics Division.

The steering group was also supported by an advisory group composed of many global organisations keen to deliver on sustainable development issues. A candid outcome of the report presented to at least 1000 delegates from  across the world, including developing countries especially from Africa  reveals that the world is not currently on track to meet Sustainable  Development Goal 7 which calls for ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all by 2030.

Stakeholders and development partners working to improve on sustainable development issues have been urged to redouble their efforts in order to meet the intended targets.

The report notes that current progress falls short on all four of the  SDG7 targets which encompass universal access to electricity as well as clean fuels and technologies for cooking.

A call for the doubling of the rate of improvement of energy efficiency plus a substantial increase in the share of renewables in the global energy mix has been made at the highly successful summit. On a rather positive note which raises hope for concerned stakeholders, the report notes real gains which have been made in certain areas such as expansion of access to electricity in poorer countries.

It says that expansion of access to electricity in poorer countries has recently begun to accelerate with progress overtaking population growth for the first time in sub Saharan Africa.

Other positives include energy efficiency which is reported to be continuing to improve driven by advances in the industrial sector.

Renewable energy is said to be making impressive gains in the electricity sector although it is added that these are not being matched in transportation and heating, which together account for 80% of global energy  consumption.

According to the report, lagging furthest behind is access to clean cooking fuels and technologies, an area which is said to have been  typically overlooked by policymakers.

It adds that use of traditional cooking fuels and technologies among a large proportion of the world population has serious and widespread negative health, environmental, climate and social impacts.

The report concludes by saying that more encouraging than global trends are the strong performances evident within specific countries, across both the developed and developing worlds.

It says that these national experiences provide valuable lessons for other countries.

It is concluded that evidence is mounting that with holistic approaches, targeted policies and international support, substantial gains can be made in clean energy and energy access that will improve the lives of millions of people.

The energy progress report provides a global dashboard on progress towards SDG7. The report tracks global, regional and country progress on the four targets of SDG7>energy access (electricity, clean fuels and technologies for cooking), renewable energy and energy efficiency, based on statistical indicators endorsed by the UN.

The report updates progress with the latest available data up to 2016 for energy access and 2015 for clean energy against a baseline year of 2010. A longer historical period back to 1990 is also provided by way of reference .

The energy progress report is a successor to the earlier Global Tracking Framework published in 2013,2015 and 2017) which was co led by the IEA and World Bank under the auspices of the UN Sustainable Energy for All (Se4ALL) initiative and builds on the same methodological foundation.

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White House taps nominees for major Africa posts
May 11, 2018 | 0 Comments
Illinois state Sen. Kyle McCarter was picked as ambassador to Kenya. | Seth Perlman/AP

Illinois state Sen. Kyle McCarter was picked as ambassador to Kenya. | Seth Perlman/AP

The White House sent several State Department and diplomatic nominations to the Senate on Thursday, including two prominent Africa positions that were sitting unfilled.

Tibor Nagy, recently a vice provost at Texas Tech University and former ambassador to Ethiopia and Guinea, was tapped to be assistant secretary of state for African affairs. Illinois state Sen. Kyle McCarter was picked as ambassador to Kenya.

The announcement came the same day that the Pentagon released a summary of its final U.S. Africa Command report on an October ambush in Niger that killed four U.S. troops and others.

The Trump administration has come under fire for what critics called a lack of diplomatic engagement with Africa. Major countries like South Africa and Tanzania remain without an American emissary. President Donald Trump provoked an uproar in January when he reportedly called African and other nations “shithole” places. And the rising threat of terror groups in West Africa, along with ongoing conflicts in South Sudan and Somalia, has sparked calls for the U.S. to do more.

The White House was reported to have selected J. Peter Pham for the assistant secretary post last year, but Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) reportedly threatened to scuttle that choice over a Western Sahara disagreement.

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South Sudan accuses US of blocking path to country’s peace
May 9, 2018 | 0 Comments

 

  • By SAM MEDNICK*
File Picture .South Sudan President Salva Kiir meets U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley in Juba

File Picture .South Sudan President Salva Kiir meets U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley in Juba

South Sudan’s government on Wednesday lashed out at the United States after the Trump administration threatened to cut off hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian aid amid the country’s grinding civil war, calling the U.S. “a real obstacle” toward achieving peace.

The statement from President Salva Kiir’s office also accused the Trump administration of “naked direct interference” in South Sudan’s affairs ahead of peace talks that resume May 17 in neighboring Ethiopia, mediated by a regional bloc.

The U.S. is the top aid donor to South Sudan, but in a sharply worded statement on Tuesday it said it would review its assistance if the East African nation’s conflict grinds on. The U.S. says it has given over $3.2 billion in humanitarian assistance since the conflict broke out in December 2013.

The absence of aid would have a devastating impact on more than seven million South Sudanese facing severe hunger as aid workers say famine could return.

International frustration has been rising with South Sudan’s warring sides, especially after a cease-fire late last year was violated within hours. Tens of thousands of people have been killed and more than 2 million people have fled the country, creating Africa’s largest refugee crisis since the Rwandan genocide in 1994.

While the South Sudan statement accused the armed opposition of blocking the path to peace by putting forward what it called impractical proposals, it noted that Kiir has invited former deputy and opposition leader Riek Machar to return to the country and given him 45 days to do so in an attempt to “reconcile with opposition leaders.” Machar fled during renewed fighting in 2016.

“Without a genuine peace Machar is not coming,” a spokesman for Machar’s group, Lam Paul Gabriel, told The Associated Press.

A new collection of opposition parties, which doesn’t include Machar’s supporters, on Wednesday commended the U.S. statement and accused South Sudan’s government of “tirelessly working to undermine the prospect” of peace.

One South Sudan conflict expert urged both sides to stop the attacks.

“The United States’ statement was a bit harsh but there’s no way the government of South Sudan should fight with them,” Jacob Chol, professor of comparative politics at the University of Juba, told the AP. “What should happen is more engagement instead of antagonistic fighting back. It’s not good for the welfare of the South Sudanese.”

*AP

 

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Ethiopia’s new Prime Minister says the country needs more time to catch up with other countries
May 9, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Prince Kurupati

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed

Ethiopia’s new Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed says the country needs more time if it is to compete with other economic and political powerhouses both on the African continent and abroad. Ahmed aired these sentiments while addressing the local business community at a hotel in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa.

Ahmed who was sworn into office on April 2nd said that Ethiopians need not expect much change in the short term as he needs time to correct past mistakes and injustices. Ahmed is the first Prime Minister hailing from the Oromo region where the capital is located; this is the region where most protests have originated including the one which ultimately led to the declaration of a state of emergency a day after the resignation of Hailemariam Desalegn, Ahmed’s predecessor. The Oromo region is home to a third of Ethiopia’s population of about 100 million. This region has had grievances (others leading to violent protests) with past Prime Ministers arguing that they are marginalised and excluded from benefitting from the country’s resources.

The areas that Prime Minister Ahmed will be focusing and prioritizing on first include unifying the country and helping advance the country’s economic fortunes. It’s these two areas that the Prime Minister needs more time addressing.

Unifying the nation

Ethiopia has for a long time battled with ethnic tensions and civil unrest. Though this challenge at one point looked like it was about to go away, in the last two years, it emerged showing its ugly face once again. Most of the protesters were from the Oromo region and they protested against what they saw as marginalisation by the then Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn. The pressure finally took its toll on Hailemariam Desalegn as he stepped down after nearly 5 years in power.

Ahmed knew at his swearing-in ceremony that he was inheriting a country deeply divided and on the verge of a civil conflict thus he stated, “We need to address existing inequalities that led to recent unrests.” While at the time he failed to outline the steps he was going to take to address these existing inequalities, he finally did during his meeting with the local business community in Ethiopia.

The first step that Ahmed is going to take is to root out corruption in the public sector. Ethiopia’s economy is run in the same way as the Chinese economy in which the state is the major actor. Most state enterprises are monopolies in their fields thus they were some top executives and managers who used their position to rip off citizens and syphon public funds.  Ahmed said that a public sector reform is looming where the government will review the operations of all state enterprises and remove all unfit individuals.

Ahmed then touched on improved investments in education, health and the agriculture sectors. Ahmed said that his administration is going to ensure that everyone especially the youth and women does have access and opportunities in farming and also that the education and health sectors are going to be developed in order to cater for everyone’s needs.

While acknowledging that these are the top areas his administration need to focus on if the country is to move past civil unrests, Ahmed informed the public that this is no easy feat as he needs time to implement his plans thus change may not be visible in the short term.

Improving Ethiopia’s economic fortunes

Even though Ethiopia has been battling with civil unrest over the past few tears, the country’s economic fundamentals have remained in place. The country has been posting 10 percent economic growth rates each year over the past decade and is one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies. Despite this supposedly impressive economic performance, Ahmed said the country still has a huge rich-poor gap and it is this gap which has resulted in civil unrests.

To curtail the huge rich-poor divide, Ahmed said that his administration is going to tackle the foreign exchange shortage first. In his words, Ahmed said “The crisis with hard currency will not be solved today, nor in the next 15 or 20 years. There is an urgent need for more cooperation with the private sector to find a solution.” While this statement may not inspire confidence to the millions of Ethiopians on the streets of Addis Ababa and other towns, it is indeed to a larger extent true as it will take time to combat the crisis.

Ahmed said the first feasible step in addressing the foreign exchange shortage will be to encourage more remittances from Ethiopia’s diaspora communities. Ethiopia’s remittances have dwindled over the past couple of years largely owing to the unstable political environment. However, with an improved political environment, Ahmed hopes that it will lead to an increase in remittances.

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Merck Foundation supports the training of Thirty Future Oncologists in Africa through one and two-year Oncology Fellowship Program
May 9, 2018 | 0 Comments
Twenty candidates from Uganda, Zambia, Ethiopia, Namibia, Ghana, South Africa, Botswana, Liberia, Tanzania, and Kenya have enrolled in the Merck Africa Oncology Fellowship Program
 

NAIROBI, Kenya, May 8, 2018/ —

  • Merck gives back to society through Merck Foundation’s programs to build Cancer Care Capacity in Africa.
  • Merck Foundation provides Africa with Thirty New Oncologists through Merck Africa Oncology Fellowship Program established in India, Kenya, Malaysia, and Egypt.
  • SDG 3 calls us to sustainably invest in building Healthcare Capacity to improve access to equitable healthcare solutions.
Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO Merck Foundation meets the future Oncologists, who are undergoing Merck Oncology Fellowship Program in India

Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO Merck Foundation meets the future Oncologists, who are undergoing Merck Oncology Fellowship Program in India

Merck Foundation (www.Merck-Foundation.com), the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA (www.Merck.com) Germany, continues the second stage of their Africa Oncology Fellowship Program that started in 2016 with the aim to increase the limited number of oncologists in Africa.

In June 2017, BIO Ventures for Global Health (BVGH), and the African Organization for Research and Training in Cancer (AORTIC) released a white paper on the African continent’s emerging cancer crisis.  Over 20% of African countries have no access to cancer treatments at all, while access is limited and sporadic in other countries. Later-stage diagnosis in African patients contributes to poorer outcomes. For example, 5-year female breast cancer relative survival rates are 46% in Uganda and 12% in The Gambia, compared with around 90% in developed countries, the report cited.

Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation emphasized, “One of the main objectives of Merck Foundation is to build a strong platform of qualified medical, paediatric and surgical oncologists across the continent through the Merck Africa Oncology Fellowship Program.”

“Twenty candidates from Uganda, Zambia, Ethiopia, Namibia, Ghana, South Africa, Botswana, Liberia, Tanzania, and Kenya have enrolled in the Merck Africa Oncology Fellowship Program in partnership with African Ministries of Health, the University of Nairobi, Kenya, Tata Memorial Centre, India, and Cairo University, Egypt. We are very proud of our contribution, to lead Africa to a better future through changing the landscape of Cancer care in the continent.” Rasha Kelej added.

In partnership with Ministries of Health and Academia across Africa, the Merck Africa Oncology Fellowship Program provides one-year and two-year oncology fellowship programs and a three-year master degree in medical oncology at Tata Memorial Centre, India, University of Nairobi, Kenya, University of Malaya, Malaysia, and Cairo University, Egypt, respectively.

Launched in 2016, with the aim to increase the limited number of qualified oncologists in the continent, three medical doctors from Sub-Saharan African countries Kenya, and South Africa were granted a two-year Africa medical oncology fellowship training at the University of Nairobi. Also, Merck Foundation supported another two African doctors from Ghana and Tanzania for the Paediatric and Adult.

Medical Fellowship program that is conducted annually at Tata Memorial Centre, India.

In 2017; Merck Foundation partnered with more African countries such as; Rwanda, Liberia, Zambia, Ethiopia, Botswana and Uganda to provide ten candidates with the one-year oncology fellowship program in India and three candidates from Liberia, Ghana and Namibia to conduct a master degree in clinical oncology at Cairo University, Egypt.

“In 2018, We will continue to enroll more candidates and engage other countries on this program as we firmly believe this is a vital component of improving the quality and accessibility of cancer care in Africa. We have received requests from countries such as; Niger, guinea, Gambia, the Central African Republic to partner with them through their First Ladies’ offices and Ministries of Health to provide our fellowship program to their doctors with the aim to improve access to quality cancer care in their countries and across the continent. Merck Foundation will continue their long-term commitment to further partner with more Sub-Saharan African Countries to realize their vision to create a strong platform of future trained oncologists “, Rasha Kelej added.

The partnership between Merck Foundation and The African First ladies’ organization has been established in Jan 2018, to cooperate in building healthcare capacity with the special focus on cancer, Diabetes and fertility care in their countries with the support of their Ministries of Health.

Merck Foundation has supported the African governments to define their strategies, to emphasize on building professional capacity and focus on long-term training, with the aim to develop trained oncologists and not only relying on Drug or equipment donation, which will help them to be independent and would overcome their major challenge, which is the lack of skilled oncologists and healthcare professionals in general.

Merck Foundation strongly believes that building professional healthcare capacity is the right strategy to improve access to quality and equitable cancer care in Africa.

Merck Foundation makes History:

Merck Foundation will train the first medical Oncologist in some Sub- Saharan African Countries such as the Gambia and Guinea Conakry where they never had an oncologist or cancer care facility, we are making history there, and through them, we will transform people’s lives every day.

The annual platform of Merck Foundation- Merck Africa Asia Luminary and Solutions for Cancer Access:

Since 2013, Merck Africa Asia Luminary features a workshop dedicated exclusively to improve access to cancer care through Capacity building through Merck Foundation, www.merck-foundation.com. It convenes key players from the global, regional and local cancer network, health ministers, and First ladies, with the goal of encouraging dialogue among stakeholders, raises awareness of the issues, explores partnership opportunities to generate ideas for potential solutions to existing challenges.

Merck Foundation Vision and Call for Action: 

“A world where everyone should lead a healthy and fulfilling life, this is Merck Foundation ‘s vision. We are working together to achieve the Sustainable Development goals- SDGs. The SDG 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages, calls us to sustainably invest on building healthcare capacity to improve access to safe, effective, quality, and affordable healthcare solutions for all by 2030.”  Kelej emphasized.

Background:

The African Union has targeted by 2063, every citizen will have full access to affordable and quality health care services, and integrated and comprehensive health services and infrastructure will be in place, where services are available, accessible, affordable, acceptable and of quality.

The Merck Foundation (www.Merck-Foundation.com), established in 2017, is a philanthropic organization that aims to improve the health and wellbeing of people and advance their lives through science and technology. Our efforts are primarily focused on improving access to innovative healthcare solutions in underserved communities, building healthcare and scientific research capacity and empowering people in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) with a special focus on women and youth. All Merck Foundation press releases are distributed by e-mail at the same time they become available on the Merck Foundation Website. Please go to www.Merck-Foundation.com to read more and/or register online to interact and exchange experience with our registered members.

Merck (www.Merck.com) is a leading science and technology company in healthcare, life science and performance materials. Around 50,000 employees work to further develop technologies that improve and enhance life – from biopharmaceutical therapies to treat cancer or multiple sclerosis, cutting-edge systems for scientific research and production, to liquid crystals for smartphones and LCD televisions. In 2016, Merck generated sales of € 15.0 billion in 66 countries.

Founded in 1668, Merck is the world’s oldest pharmaceutical and chemical company. The founding family remains the majority owner of the publicly listed corporate group. Merck holds the global rights to the Merck name and brand. The only exceptions are the United States and Canada, where the company operates as EMD Serono, MilliporeSigma and EMD Performance Materials.

 

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Africa Investment Forum endorsed as a game changer for financing Africa’s infrastructure development
May 9, 2018 | 0 Comments

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, May 8, 2018/ — By 2050, just 32 short years from now, Africa’s growing population will tip the scales at a whopping 2 billion, with a youth of 840 million. In the process, the continent will overtake the populations of China and India combined.

Financing Africa’s development needs will require an estimated US $600-700 billion per annum. According to the African Development Bank’s (www.AfDB.orgAfrican Economic Outlook 2018 , of this, about US $130-170 billion a year in infrastructure will be needed.

To address these challenges, the African Development Bank has launched the Africa Investment Forum , a platform to mobilize private equity funds, sovereign wealth funds and the private sector to facilitate infrastructure projects with the capacity to transform the continent.

The Premier of Gauteng Province, Africa’s seventh largest economy, David Makhura, endorsed the Forum as a game changer for financing Africa’s infrastructure development at the launch of the African Investment Forum in Johannesburg.

“It’s an honour to receive a vote of confidence from one of the most influential, respected and credible institutions of our continent. I want to assure the African Development Bank, and members of the African and global investor community that we are ready to host a highly successful Africa Investment Forum in November. We have an impeccable track record of hosting continental and global events of the magnitude and significance represented by the Africa Investment Forum,” Makhura said at the formal launch of the Forum.

The Bank and the Government of Gauteng Province on Tuesday signed a memorandum of agreement to host the inaugural edition of the Africa Investment Forum   from November 7 to 9, 2018 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Makhura referred to the Africa Investment Forum as more than a Davos of Africa, stating that “we as the Gauteng Provincial Government are very pleased to have won the bid to host this biggest and unparalleled investment platform on the African continent. It’s a great platform that will translate Africa’s professed potentials into real opportunities and progress.”

He added, “The November Inaugural Africa Investment Forum fits very well with the investment drive of President Ramaphosa and will be one of the most important platforms for our government and local businesses to pitch for greater levels of investment. Gauteng-based investment companies have already invested more than $30 billion in different regions of Africa. We have a 15-year infrastructure masterplan with a portfolio of bankable projects that require more than $150 billion over 10 years.”

While Africa is the next investment frontier, there is an urgent need to bridge the gap between available capital and bankable projects, said African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina, noting the Africa Investment Forum will help make Africa a place where its young people want to live and thrive in.

“The overall Investment gap for Africa to achieve overall economic development is actually much higher and stands at $200 billion to $1.2 trillion a year. Impediments to bankable projects must be resolved to create win-wins for governments, development finance institutions and other relevant stakeholders. Africa must invest in its own development if it wants others to do so,” he said.

“This is the essential reason for the new approach of the Africa Investment Forum, a multi-stakeholder, multi-disciplinary platform that will incentivize collaboration for the economic and social development of Africa. This will primarily be about transactions and investment deals for Africa’s economic development and not a talk shop.”

Adesina noted that financing Africa’s development is and has always been a collective and cooperative task, requiring broad-based partnerships with the private sector.

“We know that the money is there. By 2020, there will be close to $111 trillion assets under management globally that are invested around the world often at very low interest rates. Within Africa, the assets under management of domestic institutional investors will rise to $1.8 trillion by 2020, tripling from $634 billion in 2014. Most of this money isn’t invested in Africa. But Africa should invest in its own development if it wants others to do so.”

Key industry leaders have endorsed the Forum as a unique opportunity for the private sector to invest in transformative projects across key sectors of strategic interest in Africa.

Investor Relations and Communication Executive at Harith General Partners, Pule Molebeledi, described the investment guarantee component of the AIF as a game changer.

“This will be a major catalyst for projects that are currently stuck in the pipeline,” he said.

The African Development Bank is committed to working with other multi-lateral development partners, private equity funds, sovereign wealth funds, insurance funds, private sector and stakeholders to ensure that the Africa Investment Forum becomes Africa’s key springboard for African investment and for meeting the continent’s massive infrastructure and development needs. This is the first time ever that several multilateral development banks will come together on a single platform designed to bring a major pipeline of bankable projects to completion.

The African Development Bank Group (AfDB) (www.AfDB.org) is Africa’s premier development finance institution. It comprises three distinct entities: the African Development Bank (AfDB), the African Development Fund (ADF) and the Nigeria Trust Fund (NTF). On the ground in 37 African countries with an external office in Japan, the AfDB contributes to the economic development and the social progress of its 54 regional member states.

*AFDB

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Ethiopian Airlines to step up expansion with more deals and jets
May 8, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Aaron Maasho*

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Even by its own standards, Ethiopian Airlines’ ETHA.UL recent growth has been fast — so fast that it revised the ambitious 15-year strategy set in 2010 and plans to buy more planes to step up its expansion.

Its plan had been to more than double its fleet to 120 and become Africa’s biggest airline by 2025, but it already has 100 planes flying to dozens of destinations from Asia to South America, including four U.S. cities.

The state-owned carrier has also outpaced regional competitors Kenya Airways (KQNA.NR) and South African Airways to become Africa’s largest airline by revenue and profit, according to the International Air Transport Association.

“We have expanded more than we planned,” said Chief Executive Tewolde Gebremariam. “We had to revise the objective to make it 150 airplanes or more by 2025.”

It now plans to place orders this year for 13 additional Boeing (BA.N) 787 jets and six more Airbus (AIR.PA) A350s, he told Reuters.

The airline has come a long way from when it was established in 1945 as a joint venture with now-defunct U.S. carrier Trans World Airlines (TWA).

In its 2016/17 financial year Ethiopian Airlines generated $2.7 billion in revenue, Tewolde said, up more than 11 percent from the previous year. Passenger numbers climbed by more than 18 percent to 9 million while net profit was $233 million, up from a little more than $220 million.

DEAL-HUNGRY

In 2013 Ethiopian Airlines acquired a minority stake in Malawi Airlines to serve as a base for its southern Africa operations.

That kicked off a series of deals including January’s agreement with Zambia’s government to relaunch that country’s national carrier, shut down more than two decades ago.

The strategy is aimed at gaining a “competitive advantage” against rivals such as those in the Gulf, Tewolde said.

With Africa’s aviation industry still hampered by government protectionism and high taxes, Tewolde said that setting up or taking stakes in small carriers is a way around the restrictions.

Ethiopian Airlines aims to create a new airline in Mozambique that it will fully own, he said, adding that it is also in talks with Chad, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea and Guinea to set up carriers through joint ventures.

“Going forward, it will be difficult for us to compete with only one hub in Addis Ababa.”
But it isn’t all clear skies for the fast-growing carrier.

The economic downturn in Africa caused by the collapse of oil prices in 2014 has indirectly hit the continent’s airlines, and Ethiopian is unable to repatriate more than $145 million in profits from Angola, Sudan and Zimbabwe because of foreign exchange shortages, Tewolde said.

“Running a business needs cash flow,” he said. “Here in Africa, we have a huge problem with this.”

*Reuters

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