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AU Trade Commissioner Muchanga on the Game Changing Prospects of the AfCFTA
October 26, 2019 | 0 Comments

–Unprecedented Political Will Across Africa To See AfCFTA Succeed

By Ajong Mbapndah L

It is a new dawn for Africa with the AfCFTA says AU Trade and Industry Commissioner Albert Muchanga

The AU could not have sent a better person to the USA to discuss the African Continental Free Trade Agreement with the diaspora. The schedule was hectic, at every stop, and at each event, Trade and Industry Commissioner Albert Muchanga had an infectious smile on his face. He listened attentively, addressed concerns, and responded to questions as best he could.

With its wealth of knowledge, networking, and finance, the African diaspora has a huge role to play in the African Continental Free Trade area, says Commissioner Muchanga. Speaking with confidence, Commissioner Muchanga indicated that things were on track for the market to go operational by July of 2020.

When reminded that the problem of Africa has never been in the treaties or projects but rather implementation, Mr. Muchanga said things are different this time around. The political will is so strong and the leaders, and people across Africa are keenly aware of the stakes, he said. The rapidity with which countries signed and ratified the AfCFTA gives every reason to hope for the best, Commissioner Muchanga said.

You attended the Making African Trade Easy event. How did the event go? And what message did you bring to the African Diaspora from the AU?

Commissioner Muchanga: The event went on very well. Basically, the key issues were on the emerging developments in the African continent and the diaspora are very happy because they see a role for themselves. We are saying that for us to implement the agreement we need all stakeholders to play their part – the African Diaspora needs to play their part, they are a  source of knowledge, networking, and  finance, so they can organize themselves to see how they can contribute to the success of the African Continental Free Trade Area. It is the biggest and most ambitious development program so far. It lays the foundation for present and future generations to develop an Africa they want.

The speedy adoption and ratification of the AfCFTA by African leaders shows tremendous political will says Commissioner Muchanga

Specifically, with the Continental Free Trade Area, where are we at this point?

Commissioner Muchanga: Our target is to start trading on 1st July 2020, and we are going to hit that target. At the national level, countries are producing trading documents which are going to be distributed to all the corners where there will be trading. We are sensitizing the business communities in their respective countries to be ready for the market. At the level of the African Continental Free Trade Area as a target we are finalizing work on tariffs schedules, land tariffs monetary systems, and the African Trade Observatory. We are also engaging the regional economic communities so that we collaborate effectively on all matters on facilitating trade across all Africa. We are very confident that come 1st July 2020, the market will start operating.

Expectations are so high; it has been billed as a game changer. Can you tell us about the potential, and what it will take for this Free Trade Agreement to make the desired impact you want to see on the continent?

Commissioner Muchanga: First requirement is that each and every African country should become a state party to the agreement. 54 countries have signed, and we are left with one which is Eritrea and we are sure they will sign. 28 countries have already posted the instruments of ratification and we are remaining with 28 including Eritrea, and we are in discussion with all these 28 countries and we are confident that come July 1, 2020, all of them will sign and ratify the agreement. So, the first requirement is that we create one African market by having all the 55 African countries be part of it.

Secondly, it is a task involving many stakeholders, the African governments are involved (they are coming up with the legal frameworks, the legal documents and policies), the African private sector also has a role to play (we want investments from them so they can supply the huge market we are creating), the academia also have a role to play (they need to come up with educational materials at appropriate levels so that all Africans from kindergarten to Universities ,everybody is involved with the AfCFTA), the CSOs have a role to play. The AfCFTA must filter down to the lowest level.

You are confident that Africa will succeed but Africa has not had a shortage of ideas, or projects, but there seems to be a problem with implementation. What makes you confident that the Continental Free Trade Agreement will work?

Commissioner Muchanga: First and foremost, there is a huge political will for the AfCFTA. When we started negotiations a lot of people expected the negotiations to take a minimum of six years but we were able to complete negotiations within two years which shows the huge political will. When the agreement was opened for signature, we were told it takes another five years for an AU legal instrument to be ratified, but with the support of member states we did our work in advocating for early ratification – within a period of one year we were able to get a minimum of 22 ratifications. The governments said we cannot end here and let us open the operational phase and they agreed that it should be July 1, 2020. They have said on the day we launch the operational phase it will be called the African Integration Day which is 7 July each year.

We are also working on a Secretariat which will be given enough resources- human and financial to be able to capture the whole of Africa. That inspectorate will collaborate with the regional economic community. We are coming up with a framework of collaborations so that there is alignment of operations, transparency, and confidence with each other.

What mechanisms are there to make sure that smaller countries do not get swallowed up by big ones?

Commissioner Muchanga: The first one is political. We are bringing to the attention of leaders that as we build the AfCFTA there should be a shift in the mindset. The new domestic market for Africa is the AfCFTA, the national market is receding, and all of us should work around the AfCFTA. When the mindset is changed, the issue of working in isolation will no longer work. One of the earliest steps we took was to come up with a protocol which is undergoing signatures so that we create a common African identity so that we ensure that Africans move in the continent without any restrictions. We are also creating an adjustment facility. It will take some time to come up with a fully fledge functional institutional arrangement. We are also working with the Afreximbank they have put aside $2.5 billion  for five regions in Africa – East, Central, Southern, Western, and Northern. Each one of them is going to be allocated $500 million so that companies that want to scale up productions will be able to produce to the scale of the AfCFTA. We are putting enough things to achieve win-win outcomes.

With the advent of the Continental Free Trade, what impact will it have on trade with external partners?

Commissioner Muchanga: We are going to transform African trading with external partners. Historically Africa has always been a trader of raw materials. Now we are going to add value to the ones already in Africa with the development of value added chains. When we do that, there are two things that will be involved – the products will have greater values and the companies that invest in value addition are going to produce to the scale of the AfCFTA. With that huge scale, they will be in a better position to be able to export to the world, and Africa is going to emerge as an exporter of manufactured goods to the rest of the world.

Commissioner Muchanga with Ajong Mbapndah L of PAV , the AfCFTA is a vehicle to build the Africa we want, he says

When you look at AGOA, there are two key problems that are faced in Africa. One is the standard (but a lot of Africa countries have not been able to meet that standard) and the other is the scale (quite a number of producers in Africa have not been able to satisfied the big US market). All of these are going to be resolved by creating the AfCFTA.

You travel the continent regularly; do you really think that African leaders and Africans get it and are willing to put in their all to make AfCFTA work?

Commissioner Muchanga: They are willing to make it work. One of the biggest problems we have in Africa is youth unemployment and Africa has a young population and the minimum age is about 19 years. Each leader knows that for them to create credibility in the eyes of the young population they should deliver decent lives to the people. It is not just about creating jobs but engaging the youths to really be entrepreneurs in their own rights. The youths are very knowledgeable with ICTs and each and every country should come up with incentives and structures to bring foreign investment to the continent.

 Your boss the AU chairman was giving a Diaspora award. How much support are you getting from him?

Commissioner Muchanga: I have a very positive relationship with the chairman. Whenever I need support, I go to him and he has never said no. when the award came, he said he won’t be able to make it but said I would be able to represent him. When I get back, I am going to his office to present the award to him not just in his honor but the AU commission he heads. It is recognition from the Diaspora that our African body is producing good results. We are a Commission with 10 elected officials, and I also have a good working relationship with the other officials. Trade is about creating industries, it is about agro processing. One of the first things I did before coming from Nigeria was producing a matrix of the functional relationship between the Secretariat of the AfCFTA and all the departments of the AU so that they are going to see how we work. So, we are working as a team.

What expectations do you have from Nigeria and South Africa which are supposed to be leaders of the continent, Nigeria joined the AfCFTA late, and recently South Africa had this wave of xenophobic attacks, are the two continental giants playing their role?

Commissioner Muchanga: Nigeria said they needed to take a very broad-based stakeholder consultation. They went to the federal states, businesspeople, academia, youths and several people so it took them a while to undertake the process. After that they were caught up with elections and when they were ready, they signed and hopefully they are going to ratify in no distant time. With the case of South Africa, I said authorities needed to arrest the perpetrators and prosecute them so people do not think they can do anything they want. The issue is not just about foreigners as even South Africans were attacked.

Looking at everything, at what point should the everyday Africans expect to start getting the benefits of the AfCFTA?

Commissioner Muchanga: My vision is very clear. Come day one which is July 1. 2020, I will like to see a very active market and when that market is very active people should be able to say I am buying a product from country X. When they buy those products there should be two things the price is lower and the quality is very high. I also expect the business community to respond heavily by ensuring that they invest to produce to the scale of the AfCFTA. Without the investment of the private sector, we will achieve nothing. According to the International Chamber of Commerce, only 12 per cent of investment across Africa is accounted for by the African private sector. They need to scale up. Once we do that, we are on our way to creating the market that we want.

Any particular events surrounding the launch in 2020?

Commissioner Muchanga: I am meeting the Ministers this October where they are going to guide me on how the event will look like. I think there will be a symbolic launch.

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Russia and Rwanda agree to construct the first Centre of Nuclear Science and Technology in Rwanda
October 26, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Wallace Mawire

Russia and Rwanda agree to construct the first Centre of Nuclear Science and Technology in Rwanda By Wallace Mawire  
Russia and Rwanda have signed an agreement to construct the first Centre of Nuclear Science and Technology (CNST) in Rwanda with participation of ROSATOM. The signing ceremony took part at the Russia-Africa Economic Forum.

Rosatom is the company behind the Centre of Nuclear Science and Technology under construction in Chongwe, Zambia, under the 2018 engineering, procurement and construction contract signed in 2018 between the Zambian government and Rosatom.

The CNST, which will not generate electricity, will provide a wide range of applications of radiation technologies in medicine, agriculture and industry, which include a technological industry platform to enhance national industry development. The CNST will also promote the enhancement of national education and science through the training of highly qualified experts in various fields.
The agreement to construct Rwanda’s first Centre for Nuclear Science and Technology (CNST) was signed by ROSATOM Director General Alexey Likhachev, and Rwanda’s Minister of Infrastructure Claver Gatete.

The CNST will become a modern platform for carrying out a whole range of scientific research and practical application of nuclear technologies. It will allow the production of radioisotopes for widespread use in industry and agriculture as well as in healthcare, thus addressing the issue of lack of cancer treatment. Moreover, the Centre will facilitate the analysis of elemental composition of ore and minerals and environmental samples, train highly qualified local personnel for the nuclear industry, contribute to digital technologies research and many others.  

The CNST is expected to comprise of a multi-purpose research water-cooled reactor with up to 10 MW capacity. It will be equipped with laboratories, systems and functional units necessary for safe operation.
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Cameroon gains one spot in Latest FIFA Rankings
October 25, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Boris Esono Nwenfor

Cameroon National squad still on 8th spot in Africa

The Cameroon National Football Team better known as the Indomitable Lions have gained one spot in the latest ranking released by World football governing body, FIFA.

According to the October classification, the indomitable lion moved up one spot from 53rd in the world during the September rankings to the 52nd position (1409 pints, 11 matches played according to FIFA) in the World. Cameroon has however failed to gain more spot in the African ranking as they remain stagnant. During the September ranking, Cameroon was placed 8th in Africa, a position they still hold in this latest ranking.

Despite having played just a single game in two months, Cameroon has been ranked ahead of the DRC and the Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire amongst others. This might be a good omen for the news head-coach Antonio “Toni” Conceicao who separated on zero all tie with Tunisia in his first game in charge on October 12.

The narrow leap from 9th to 8th comes to cheer the fans of the indomitable Lions after they witnessed a continuous deep in Cameroon’s ranking from the porous AFCON tourney in Egypt, earlier this year, reports Kick442.com.

Algeria who won the 2019 edition of the Africa cup of Nations in Egypt in July has however failed to break the barrier of becoming the best team in Africa. The side is placed on the 3rd position, only behind the Super Eagles of Nigeria and the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia. Morocco is placed fourth, Egypt 6th, Ghana 7th, Cameroon 8th, DR Congo 9th and Ivory Coast rounding off the top 10 teams. Senegal who finished runner-up in the AFCON is only placed on the 20th spot. 

In the world, France has failed to topple Belgium of the top spot as the team stays second while Belgium still leads the rankings. Brazil is third, England fourth and Uruguay rounds off the top five teams. 

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Russia and Ethiopia sign cooperation agreement on peaceful use of atomic energy
October 25, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Wallace Mawire

Russia and Ethiopia have signed an intergovernmental framework agreement on cooperation in the field of peaceful uses of atomic energy.

It is reported that the document was signed on the side-lines of the Russia-Africa Economic Forum by ROSATOM Director General Alexei Likhachev on behalf of Russia, and by Ethiopia’s Minister of Innovation and Technology Getahun Mecuria Kuma, the on behalf of Ethiopia.
  Rosatom is the company behind the Centre of Nuclear Science and Technology (CNST) under construction in Chongwe, Zambia, under the 2018 engineering, procurement and construction contract signed in 2018 between the Zambian government and Rosatom.
   It is added that the CNST, which will not generate electricity, will provide a wide range of applications of radiation technologies in medicine, agriculture and industry, which include a technological industry platform to enhance national industry development.

  The CNST will also promote the enhancement of national education and science through the training of highly qualified experts in various fields.
   The intergovernmental agreement will serve as a springboard for starting active dialogue between the two countries in the field of nuclear technologies and practical implementation of specific projects within the framework of cooperation.
Alexei Likhachev noted: “We are glad to provide Ethiopia with access to more than 70 years of experience in the peaceful use of nuclear technologies in Russia and hope that our cooperation will contribute to the sustainable development of Ethiopia and improve the quality of life of the nation.”
   The Intergovernmental agreement creates a legal framework for establishing cooperation between Russia and Ethiopia on a wide range of areas.

  These areas include: fine tuning the projects for construction of the Center for nuclear science and technology (CNST) and nuclear power plant (NPP) on the territory of the Republic of Ethiopia, developing nuclear infrastructure in accordance with international recommendations; applying nuclear and radiation safety regulations; implementing fundamental and applied research for peaceful uses of nuclear technologies; producing and using radioisotopes in various industries, healthcare and agriculture; cooperating in the field of radiation technologies and nuclear medicine applications and education, training and retraining of specialists for the nuclear industry.

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Africa-Russia relationship is bound for an upturn – Russia-Africa Economic Forum
October 25, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Uzman Unis Bah

Sochi, Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin has hosted the Russia-Africa Economic Forum; the summit is an important and much-anticipated milestone in laying foundations for the promotion and enhancement of economic relations amongst the African member states and the Russian Federation.

In his welcome address, host President Vladimir Putin said economic issues were vital and a tangible priority of Russia’s relations with the African countries. He said that emerging close trade ties would serve mutual interests, contribute to the sustainable growth of all countries, help to improve quality of life and solve numerous social problems.

“Joint projects are underway in extractive industries, agriculture, healthcare and education,” Putin said in his opening remarks.

“We currently export to Africa $25 billion ($22.5 billion) worth of food — which is more than we export in arms, at $15 billion. In the next four to five years I think we should be able to double this trade, at least,” Putin said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, welcomes Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi during their meeting in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia, Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019. (Sergei Fadeyechev, TASS News Agency Pool Photo via AP)

The two-day forum, annals the history of the promotion and improvement of trade and economic relations among the economies across the African continent; enabling the diversification and deepening of economic collaboration between Russia and Africa.

He noted that lot of efforts went into the preparations of the Forum saying that multiple events on specific fields of Russian-African cooperation had been held over the past year. He also reiterated that African countries were becoming increasingly attractive for Russian businesses largely because Africa was becoming a global economic growth center.

“Integration processes unfolding in Africa provide additional opportunities for cooperation. We welcome the creation of the African Continental Free Trade Area as part of the African Union and are willing to work with this new entity. We support establishing close working contacts between the EU Commission and the Eurasian Economic Commission. As an active participant in the EAEU, Russia will do its best to facilitate the convergence of trade regimes in the African Free Trade Area and the EAEU common market,’’ Putin assured.

The Chairman of the African Union and co-chair of this Forum, His Excellency President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, registered appreciation for the attention given by the Russian Federation to reinforce the cooperation between Russia and Africa.

The summit is the first-ever Russian Africa summit held by the Kremlin; which seeks to rebuild deserted relationships; forging a platform to develop a relationship for mutual investments and cooperation between Africa and Russia.

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Cameroon: Three Power Plants Financed by the African Development Bank to Reduce Power Cuts
October 25, 2019 | 0 Comments
With an estimated 23,000 MW hydroelectric production capacity, Cameroon has the second largest hydroelectric potential in Africa and the 18th largest worldwide
ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast, October 24, 2019/ — For many years, Cameroon’s national electricity supply has been notoriously unreliable and subject to power cuts. The last significant electric system outage, which lasted eight hours, occurred last March and affected several of the country’s regions (the Far North, North, Littoral, Adamaoua, South and Centre regions).

However, three projects financed by the African Development Bank (https://www.AfDB.org) for $121.4 million in 2010-2011 are at last starting to provide long-suffering Cameroonians with much more reliable electricity.

Completion of work on transport lines, line maintenance and especially the replacement of wooden electricity transport poles with concrete poles are all part of the system improvements, whose goal is to increase the quality and reliability of public access to electricity.

The Lom Panga storage reservoir project is complete, but the dam’s generating plant is still under construction. In the meantime, two other power plants, Kribi and Dibamba, have begun working to strengthen Cameroon’s generating capacity.

In November 2011, the African Development Bank awarded $62.9 million for the construction of Lom-Pangar, the hydroelectric generation’s ‘lungs’ in the country’s East region. The project included the construction of a reservoir (6 billion cubic meters of water retained) for regulating the Sanaga’s flow and optimising generation during low water periods at the Song Loulou plant (335 MW) and the Edea plant (224 MW). The production from these two plants has grown from 450 MW in 2011 to 729 MW now.

A 30 MW hydroelectric generating plant is under construction at the base of the dam. It will be linked to the Bertoua thermal plant by a 105 km 90kV line that should start to work in May 2021 following the installation of an evacuation station and the construction of its four turbines. Lom-Pangar will provide electricity to 150 locations in the region and will significantly reduce power cuts in the area.

“The Lom-Pangar dam will help save water in other reservoirs,” said Theodore Nsangou, the General Director of the Electricity Development Corporation (EDC), in an interview with a government publication in March 2018.

The 216 MW capacity Kribi gas-fired generating plant began to work in 2013 after receiving $32.8 million from the African Development Bank in July 2011 for an expansion project. Its production goal is 330 MW. Currently, the power plant has a 100 km 225 kV transport line connecting it with the Magombe substation in the Edea region in the country’s South region. The plant operates with natural gas (with light fuel oil as emergency backup) from the Sagana South offshore gas field.

During the dry season, the Kribi plant and its nine simple cycle gas turbines are truly the system’s “oxygen”, maintaining the country’s energy flow, particularly to the South’s interconnected system, which receives its electricity from Kribi.

The Kribi gas-fired generating plant and the Dibamba generating plant provide access to electricity for close to half of Cameroon’s population.

The Dibamba heavy fuel oil generating plant was also designed to meet the serious problem of power cuts during the dry season. It was the first of the three plants to receive financial support from the African Development Bank of $25.6 million in April 2010. Built to mitigate the country’s shortage of electricity, high demand quickly outpaced its capacity the day after it began operations.


Located in the outskirts of Douala, Cameroon’s second largest city, Dibamba is an 86 MW thermal generating plant with a 2 km 90 kV transport line linked to the network serving the most remote and densely populated areas in the country’s West region.

With an estimated 23,000 MW hydroelectric production capacity, Cameroon has the second largest hydroelectric potential in Africa and the 18th largest worldwide. The country plans to complete the development of its hydroelectric industries by 2035. Construction of the Nachtigal hydroelectric generating plan began in 2019 and will be complete in about five years, with an estimated generating capacity of 420 MW.

The African Development Bank has awarded a funding package of $154.8 million for the completion of this generating plant. Other development partners, such as the World Bank, the European Investment Bank and Proparco, are also involved.

The African Development Bank Group (https://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 41 African countries with an external office in Japan, the Bank contributes to the economic development and the social progress of its 54 regional member states. For more information: https://www.AfDB.org

*SOURCE African Development Bank Group (AfDB)
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Barriers to Business Success and How to Overcome Them
October 25, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Bruce Hakutizwi*

businessman success hiking on the peak of rocks mountain at sunset, success,winner, leader concept

Whether you are starting a new business or even looking to buying one, there are going to be obstacles that you are faced with. How you deal with these obstacles will determine whether your business succeeds or fails.

We have a look at some of these barriers to success and how to overcome them.

Money

In order to buy or even expand on your current business raising finance can always be a challenge. Building your business slowly and steadily rather than all at once can minimise the need for large amounts of capital.

Focusing on generating small amounts of money rather than large lump sums can be a much easier task. You will also have time to develop systems and grow your customer base and, hopefully, fund yourself along the way.

Cashflow

Cashflow can become a problem in any business. Small businesses will, more often than not, need to keep an especially keen eye on cashflow.

Make sure that you know who your clients are so that you can be sure that you trust that they will pay. It can be difficult to turn customers away, particularly in the early stages. However, refusing to do business with a company with a dodgy credit history could benefit you in the long run.    

You must also always have well established payment terms and conditions in writing.

Hiring employees

Another challenge for business owners is the hiring of employees. It is a process that can takes days- or even weeks- and deciding on the people that you want to have working with you can be difficult.

There are so many factors that you need to consider and judging these from someone’s CV and interview is not always possible. And, once you have found the right person, there isn’t a guarantee that they will take the job or that they will stay with you for very long.

The best way to deal with this is to be as specific as possible with what you want from a candidate. Not only do you need to be sure about this in your mind, but you also need to convey this in the job ads that you post.

Include the details of candidate qualifications as well as the day to day work that the job will come with. Targeting the exact type of employee that you want can help you to avoid wading through a lot of less than ideal candidates.

Once you have interviewed and selected a candidate, you should be clear and open about what both of you expect from each other. If both parties know what is expected of them, there is more chance of a long-term and rewarding relationship.

Self-doubt and fear

Finally, the most threatening challenge to any business’s success is your own fear of failing. Doubting yourself will put you on the back foot before you’ve even begun.

Keep looking forward by setting goals. Having a list of short-term goals to accomplish can keep you from getting too overwhelmed. Perseverance is going to be one of your best tools as an entrepreneur.

Having goals and a plan will also keep you going in the right direction. Keeping to a plan will lead you to success. Remember why it was that you started this endeavour in the first place!

No barrier to business success is insurmountable. Approach each obstacle one step at a time and you will be able to overcome them.

*Bruce Hakutizwi is Director of North America for BusinessesForSale.com, the world’s largest online marketplace for buying and selling small and medium size businesses.

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Rights body calls for unconditional release of Burundian journalists
October 24, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Jean-Pierre Afadhali

Photo credit Iwacu Media Group

Human Rights Watch has called for the immediate and unconditional release of four Burundian journalists and their driver arrested on October 22, 2019 while they were on reporting trip, following a rebels attack in Bubanza province, the west of the central African Country.

The journalists working for Iwacu Media Group had travelled to Bubanza to report on the fighting between Burundian armed forces and assailants that reportedly came from the neighboring DR Congo earlier this week amid increasing security concerns, violence ahead of 2020 elections.

According Human Rights Watch, the journalists had informed the authority of their plan to the area but, a police chief of operations arrested them while they were doing their jobs.

“Journalists play a vital role shedding light on incidents of public interest and should not be prosecuted for legitimate work,” said Lewis Mudge, Central Africa director at Human Rights Watch in a statement released on Wednesday 23, 2019. “The authorities should reverse the current crackdown on media freedom and, as a first step, immediately release the journalists and their driver who are being detained for doing their jobs.”

The four journalists – Christine Kamikazi, Agnès Ndirubusa, Egide Harerimana, and Térence Mpozenzi – and their driver, Adolphe Masabarakiza, were arrested in Musigati around midday and are being held in the Bubanza police station. On October 23, they were questioned by a judicial police officer at the police station in the presence of their lawyer. Iwacu media group said they have not yet been charged.

The rights body said Burundian government pressure on the news media has been growing. The National Communication Council (CNC) suspended the Voice of America (VOA) in May 2018 and renewed the suspension in March 2019. It also withdrew the British Broadcasting Corporation’s (BBC) operating license in March, who closed down their office in Burundi in July.

“These draconian moves were among a series of government attempts to prevent the world from knowing about serious human rights abuses happening in Burundi.” Said Human Rights Watch in its statement released from Nairobi, Kenya.

Since 2015 political crisis that followed President Pierre Nkurunziza’announcement to run for a controversial third term, hundreds of Burundian journalists fled Burundi and a number private radio stations have been closed.

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65th ACPHR: Gambia’s VP Says Gov’t Committed to Upholding Democratic Principles
October 23, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Bakary Ceesay

Dr. Isatou Touray, Vice President of The Gambia

Dr. Isatou Touray, Vice President of The Gambia has reiterated government commitment to upholding the principles of good governance as major policy objectives.

“We stand firm in our conviction but without good governance there cannot be a durable peace for economy growth, for us good governance bring peace and it is therefore the fundamental pillar upon which other success are made it provide a conducive socially and politically environment that allows government to put in place policies and strategies that upholds human rights and justice for economic growth and give us the ability to provide basic services to the people,” Dr. Touray said during  the opening ceremony of 65th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACPHR) on 21st October, 2019  at Kairaba Beach Hotel in Kololi.

ACHPR on 21st October- 10 November, 2019 has brought together state parties, civil society member and human right defenders across the world to discuss on human rights and development across Africa. It is been held under the theme: “The year of refugees, returnees and internally Displaced Persons: Towards Durable Solutions to forced Displacement in Africa”

She pointed that within two and half years the government has made some progress into civil and political rights and there has been an improvement in restoring the rights of people in the Gambia to participate in political discussion, to exercise the rights to freedom of expression, right to dignity, life, integrity, security and access to justice and equal protection before the law.

 On Gambia, she said after witnessing difficult periods of human rights violations for the past 22 years the new government of The Gambia has usher in significant and meaningful reforms to transforms the Gambia from a dictatorship to a democracy where the rule of law and constitutionalism will flourish.

“The government priorities a new and resilient architecture to uphold  the highest standards when it comes human rights justice and rule of law premise on creating a Gambia free from arbitrary arrest, police brutality, suppression of the press and detention without trial among other forms of violations,”

She added that it is for these reasons that the new administration of The Gambia has focus a substantial part of its attention on limited resources on governance as a means on attainment of sustainable peace in the country.

Soyata Maiga, chairperson of ACHPR Okayed the transition process that has put the tiny West African on the path to democracy.

She commended Gambia government for facilitating the participation of a good number of human rights defenders coming from various corners of the globe.

Hannah Forster, Executive Director African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS), explained that eight country-resolutions were adopted as well as four thematic resolution and three recommendations.

In reviewing the human rights conditions on the continent, she said the NGOs Forum took note on the ongoing challenges Africans are confronted with when it comes to enjoying human rights.

She further explained that in many African countries, human rights violations of freedom of assembly and association remain a major cause for concern, citing Algeria, Burundi, Cameroon, Egypt, Republic of Guinea, Kenya, Lesotho, Mauritania, South Africa, Togo and Zimbabwe.

She also deplored that there are some states that have never submitted a report since the ratification of the African Charter in 1980.

“We call on the Commission to encourage the submission of states report,” she voiced out.

 More than 200 none-governmental organisations coming from 36 countries, held 10 plenary panels and 13 special-interest groups, covering the state of human rights on the African continent.

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How Europe’s Greedy Lending to Africa Is Driving the Migration Wave That Fuels the EU’s Xenophobic Politics
October 23, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Vijay Prashad*

Cameroon’s President Paul Biya (2L) speaks with French President Emmanuel Macron (C) next to Togo’s President Faure Gnassingbe (L), Luxembourg’s President Xavier Bettel (3L), Gabon’s President Ali Bongo (3R), Portugal’s Prime Minister Antonio and Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame (R) as leaders pose for a family photo during the 5th African Union – European Union (AU-EU) summit in Abidjan, on November 29, 2017..Ivory Coast President opened a Europe-Africa summit on November 29, calling for “all urgent measures” to end migrant abuses, including slave trading in Libya. / AFP PHOTO / ISSOUF SANOGO (Nov. 28, 2017 – Source: AFP)

If you ask an African migrant in Europe who came across the Mediterranean Sea in a boat if they would make the journey again, most of them would say “yes.” Many of them had been on vans and trucks that took them across the dangerous Sahara Desert, and many of them had beenon board vessels that struggled to get across the choppy waters. They might have seen their fellow migrants die of thirst or of drowning, but none of that halts their conviction that they’d cross the sands and the seas again.

Harsh treatment by European border guards and an overwhelming experience of racism inside European society do not bring regret or suggest that they would not do it again.

“It was all to earn money,” said Drissa from Mali. “Thinking of my mom and my dad. My big sister. My little sister. To help them. That was my pressure. That’s why Europe.”

Myths About African Migrants

A UN Development Program report, released on October 17, shows that 97 percent of the nearly 2,000 African migrants in Europe interviewed would take the same risks to come to Europe again knowing what they know now about the danger of the journey or what life in Europe would be like. What is powerful about this UN report is that it dispels the many myths about African migration.

There is a terrible view that Africans are somehow “invading” Europe, even worse “swarming” into Europe. Anti-immigration rhetoric speaks of building fences and creating a Fortress Europe. It is as if there is a war, and Europeans must arm themselves against invaders. A year ago, the UN’s Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng warned that European politicians fan the flames with hateful rhetoric that “is legitimizing hatred, racism and violence. While extremists spread inflammatory language in mainstream political discourse under the guise of ‘populism,’ hate crimes and hate speech continue to rise. Hate crimes constitute one of the clearest early-warning signs for atrocity crimes.” At the UN in Geneva this May, Dieng—a Senegalese lawyer—said, “Big massacres start always with small actions and language.”

The UN report shows that the hatefulness around the African migrant is misplaced. The reasons for major flows of migration to Europe actually come from within Europe itself. Those leaving war zones—Syria and Afghanistan in West Asia, but also Eritrea and Libya—come in expected numbers as they flee bombs that are often produced inside Europe. These numbers are much higher than for those Africans who come to Europe for work.

FILE: Migrants seen aboard a wooden boat on the Mediterranean sea. Picture: AFP.

In fact, more than 80 percent of African migrants stay on the continent. The proportion of African emigration out of the continent compared to Africa’s population “is one of the lowest in the world,” says the United Nations. Most of the migrants who go to Europe, according to European data, come by regular channels—with a visit to the embassy, an application for a visa, the granting of the visa, and then a flight into the country; irregular arrivals, many of whom might come by boat, are far fewer than those who come with a valid visa. It is racism that fails to acknowledge this reality.

Remittances

If you dig into the numbers from the UNDP report, you find that 58 percent of the African migrants in Europe were either employed at home or in school when they decided to leave; most of the migrants had jobs and earned competitive wages. What drove them is the insecurity in their countries, and the fact that they felt they could earn more elsewhere. More than half of the migrants had been supported financially by their families to make the journey, and 78 percent sent back money to their families.

World Bank statistics show that remittances to African countries are growing. In line with the global trend, sub-Saharan Africa received more foreign exchange from remittances than from foreign direct investment (FDI).

In 2018, according to the World Bank, remittances to sub-Saharan Africa totaled $46 billion—almost 10 percent more than in 2017. The countries that received high remittances were Comoros, Gambia, Lesotho, Cabo Verde, Liberia, Zimbabwe, Senegal, Togo, Ghana, and Nigeria.

The total FDI flow into sub-Saharan Africa, according to the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), was $32 billion, up by 13 percent from 2017, but a significant amount less than the remittance flows.

Migrants who send money home are more important than the corporations and banks that bring investment dollars into these countries. It’s too bad the bankers are treated better than the migrants.

African Debt Crisis 2.0

Africa is on the threshold of a major debt crisis.

The last debt crisis was in the 1980s, as part of the broader Third World debt crisis. In the decolonization period, Africa—looted of its wealth by colonialism—had to borrow money for development; these funds were large, but worse was the manipulation of dollar-denominated debt by the London Interbank Borrowing Rate (LIBOR) and by the U.S. Treasury’s interest rates. Skyrocketing debt in the 1980s produced a long period of austerity and suffering. That debt simply could not be paid as long as multinational corporations effectively stole Africa’s resources and refused to pay taxes on that drain of wealth. This was the reason why initiatives such as the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) and Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI) were created by the World Bank and the IMF in 1996 and 2005, respectively. By 2017, these initiatives provided $99 billion to reduce Africa’s debts from a debt-to-GNI (Gross National Income) ratio of 119 percent to 45 percent.

No change in the structure was made—no assault on transfer mispricing and base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS), mechanisms used by Western-based multinationals to continue their plunder of the African continent. When the 2014 commodity price shock came, many African countries slipped gradually toward a new debt crisis. The new debts are not all government debt, but they include very high proportions of private sector debt, which has tripled from $35 billion (2006) to $110 billion (2017) according to World Bank figures. Debt repayments have risen dramatically, which means that investments in health and education have declined, as has access to capital for small-scale private sector businesses.

Currently, according to World Bank numbers, half of the 54 states in Africa struggle with high debt-to-GDP (Gross Domestic Product)—with many of these over the 60 percent threshold that signals a crisis. The rate of increase of this debt has set off alarms across the continent.

What does this mean?

It means that if there is any financial crisis in the West, it will draw away financing from Africa, plunge the region into another major debt crisis, and set millions of people in search of better earning opportunities. Families and countries in Africa have come to rely upon these remittances. They are part of the structural fabric of finances.

Racism against the migrant is an enormous problem, and it must be tackled in itself.

But deeper than that is another problem that has grown as a result of no effective post-colonial policy—the structural problem of the ongoing theft of resources from Africa, and of the lack of financing for the continent to develop its own potential. Allowing multinational firms to steal African resources, and allowing foreign banks to lend to Africa at virtually usurious conditions, simply creates a cycle of crisis that results in migration and remittances as the band-aids.

Europe does not have a refugee or migration crisis. The real crisis is in Africa, where the thief—often a European firm—continues to undermine the continent’s ability to breathe.

*This article was produced by Globetrotter, a project of the Independent Media Institute.Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor and journalist. He is a writing fellow and chief correspondent at Globetrotter, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He is the chief editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He has written more than twenty books, including The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World (The New Press, 2007), The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South (Verso, 2013), The Death of the Nation and the Future of the Arab Revolution (University of California Press, 2016) and Red Star Over the Third World (LeftWord, 2017). He writes regularly for Frontline, the Hindu, Newsclick, AlterNet and BirGün.

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Merck Foundation to conduct their UNESCO-Merck Africa Research Summit–MARS 2019 in Accra, Ghana
October 23, 2019 | 0 Comments
UNESCO Together with Merck Foundation will continue to build research capacity in the African Research Community in the fields of science and sustainability
ACCRA, Ghana, October 23, 2019/ — Merck Foundation (www.Merck-Foundation.com), the philanthropic arm of Merck Germany plans to conduct the New Edition of their “UNESCO – Merck Africa Research Summit (MARS) 2019” in partnership with African Union in ACCRA, GHANA on 30th of October 2019 during their annual conference “Merck Africa Asia Luminary”

Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation and Chairperson of UNESCO-MARS explained “The Summit aims to contribute to building research capacity in African research community and discuss challenges, opportunities & proposed strategies to support health decision making that address Health and Sustainability challenges in low-and middle-income countries. The end objective is to empower African young researchers & women researchers, advancing their research capacity and promote their contribution to STEM”.

The scientific committee of the UNESCO MARS 2019 include Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation & Chairperson of UNESCO-MARS; Mr. Diallo AbdourahamaneUNESCO Director to Ghana; Dr. Ahmed Fahmi, Chief of Section, Division of Science Policy and Capacity Building, UNESCO; Dr. Ahmed Hamdy, African Union – Scientific, Technical and Research Commission and Prof. Elijah Songkok, Assistant Professor, Department of Medical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases College of Medicine, University of Manitoba, Kenya.

The UNESCO MARS 2019 will host high level participants that include many African Ministers of Health, Science and Technology, Education, information and Gender and African Researchers.

“This high-level roundtable meeting will also provide networking opportunities to strengthen the research community and their impact on African society and media communication” concluded Dr. Rasha Kelej.
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Central African countries optimistic about halving deaths from malaria, but major challenges remain
October 22, 2019 | 0 Comments

Malaria experts are very concerned that climate change could increase the threat of malaria in the region
ABUJA, Nigeria, October 22, 2019/ — Central African countries surveyed in new opinion study believe that halving malaria deaths is more achievable than elimination by 2030; Malaria experts are very concerned that climate change could increase the threat of malaria in the region: Surveillance and programme delivery need to improve to drive progress.

Central Africa is fighting to maintain momentum in its battle with malaria in the face of other health challenges, climate change and other threats, according to a new report issued at an RBM Partnership to End Malaria conference in Abuja today.

The report was the latest extension of the Malaria Futures for Africa (MalaFA) study, commissioned
by Novartis, which has already conducted similar research across 15 countries, including Nigeria, to survey African malaria stakeholders on progress and challenges towards global malaria targets. The new report involved interviews with 23 politicians, senior civil servants, malaria programme directors, researchers and NGOs in Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Republic of Congo, and Rwanda. All four are countries that have a significant malaria burden and differing policies in place to fight the disease.

In Rwanda, respondents were mainly positive about the country’s fight against the disease, citing high levels of political support and funding. In Cameroon, DRC and the Republic of the Congo respondents shared the view that halving deaths by 2030 was more achievable than elimination.

Respondents in Cameroon, DRC and the Republic of the Congo were concerned about access to health services, inadequately trained personnel, substandard or falsified antimalarials and self-treatment without diagnosis – which could potentially accelerate development of resistance to treatment. These concerns are shared in many other countries previously surveyed.

Unlike countries previously surveyed in West, East and Southern Africa in early 2018, Central African respondents saw climate change as more of a threat. One respondent in Rwanda worried that malaria was creeping up into highland regions which had previously been free of the disease, and others discussed how changing rainfall patterns could have an impact on mosquito breeding seasons.

More domestic and international funding was also cited as critical, with respondents from Cameroon, DRC, and Republic of Congo saying more support is needed. Earlier this month, at the recent Replenishment conference for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, world leaders increased funding for programmes addressing these diseases with pledges totaling $14 billion for the period 2020-2023, meeting the Global Fund’s funding target. Rwanda pledged $2.5 million, DRC, Congo and Cameroon also made domestic resource pledges of $6 million, $5.5 million and $5 million, respectively.

Dr Richard Nchabi Kamwi, Ambassador for the Elimination 8 countries and a co-chair of the study, said: “Maintaining momentum against malaria requires strong political leadership, resilient health systems and securing additional resources. The pledges made at the recent Global Fund replenishment are heartening signs that critical resources are forthcoming.” Dr Kamwi continued:
“It’s also important that Cameroon and DRC have been identified by the World Health Organization and RBM Partnership as “high burden to high impact” (HBHI) countries, ensuring these countries will benefit from increased attention and investment from the international community.” The other study co-chair is Professor Bob Snow, KEMRI-Wellcome-University of Oxford Collaborative Programme
in Kenya.

HBHI is an initiative supported by the RBM Partnership to End Malaria and the World Health Organization to build international support and country-led responses to reignite the pace of progress in the global malaria fight. Respondents associated with malaria control programmes in the two HBHI countries in the study were aware of the strategy and believed that with sufficient resources it would be highly beneficial.

Interviewees in the DRC saw the country as particularly hampered, having to fight a major Ebola outbreak while also bearing the second highest burden of malaria in the world. Inconsistent and variable funding from some donors and domestic sources was highlighted, as well as the need to translate national political will into increased domestic financing.

Several of those interviewed also mentioned the need for effective disease surveillance and better
use of surveillance data. Rwanda, for instance, implemented a three-year bednet study in 2017 to examine the physical durability and insecticide residual efficacy of insecticide-treated nets. The results from this study were used by the country to revise its bednet distribution strategy and make it more cost-effective. This showcases the importance of collecting data to help prioritise resource allocation, targeting, and monitoring of resistance to treatment and insecticides. Solid data will be critical to the success of HBHI and in the wider fight against malaria.

“Progress against malaria has stalled, and we need a renewed sense of urgency – and funding –
to accelerate the fight against this devastating disease,” said Kolawole Maxwell, West and Central Africa Programmes Director for Malaria Consortium. “In central Africa and beyond, we need to boost domestic funding, build stronger malaria surveillance systems, and enhance operational research and the development of new tools.”


Novartis commissioned the MalaFA studies as part of a two-year effort to understand the views of national and regional experts across Africa and Asia on progress and challenges toward malaria elimination.

Parfait Touré, Head, Access Programs West and Central Africa for Novartis Social Business, highlighted: “In Africa, there are still over 200 million cases of malaria every year, and over
400,000 deaths, mostly young children. This research shows there are many challenges still to
be overcome. But ensuring the voices of those at the front line are heard is essential.”
 The Elimination 8 (E8) initiative brings together eight Southern African countries which aim to eliminate malaria by 2030.
They are Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe. For more information: https://MalariaElimination8.org

The Malaria Futures for Africa (MalaFa) study was commissioned by Novartis (https://www.Novartis.com/) to help guide domestic and donor commitments toward malaria elimination in the face of increasing challenges. In this Central African arm of the study, 23 interviews were conducted in Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of Congo, and Rwanda. This follows 72 interviews for the previous MalaFA report conducted in Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. The original intention was for Rwanda to be part of the earlier research conducted across East Africa and published in 2018, but fieldwork in Rwanda completed too late for that report so the country has now been included in this Central African extension. The research was developed in consultation with the co-chairs, RBM Partnership to End Malaria, Malaria No More UK, Malaria No More US, the Malaria Consortium and the African Leaders Malaria Alliance. The co-chairs are Dr. Richard Nchabi Kamwi, Ambassador for the Elimination 8 (E8) countries, and Professor Bob Snow, of the KEMRI-Wellcome Trust programme, Kenya and the University of Oxford, United Kingdom. It is important to note that the contents of the report reflect only the views of the respondents, and are not the views of the co-chairs, sponsor or partner organisations.
*APO

 
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