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Malawi: Court delivers presidential case ruling on Monday
January 30, 2020 | 0 Comments

By James Mwala

President Peter Mutharika and the Malawi Electoral Commission  are accused of rigging the last elections.Photo Credit  Lameck Masina, VOA
President Peter Mutharika and the Malawi Electoral Commission are accused of rigging the last elections.Photo Credit Lameck Masina, VOA

All eyes will be on the Constitutional Court in Malawi capital Lilongwe where a five member panel is slated to make the ruling on the presidential election case.

In the case, two top political figures, past Vice President Saulos Chilima and Malawi Congress Party leader Lazarus Chakwera petitioned the court to nullify the results.

They accuse eventual winner Peter Mutharika and the Malawi Electoral Commission of conniving to rig the polls in May 2019.
The petitioners had among other things tendered before court witnesses, whose submissions hovered around the alleged use of erasing fluid tippex, the flaws in the results management system and the alleged existence of bogus election officers.
Court Registrar Agnes Patemba has now confirmed that the ruling will be made on Monday, 3rd February 2020.

The courts say there will be tight security at the court and only certified people will be allowed to get in the court premises.
Meanwhile, various organizations are urging the citizenry to desist from any forms of violence before, during and after the ruling.

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Ahead of February 9 Twin Elections: Peter Mafany Musonge prescribes Team Spirit, Commitment, Loyalty, and Discipline
January 29, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Boris Esono Nwenfor

Officials at CPDM Party campaign launch in Buea

The Cameroon People’s Democratic Party, CPDM has set campaigns for the February 9, 2020, Municipal and Legislative elections on high gear. The CPDM party is looking to win all 31 councils in the South West Region, maintain their seats with new ones included in the Assembly.

The Regional campaign manager, Peter Mafany Musonge speaking during the Launching ceremony January 25, at the Buea Independence square popularly known as “Bongo square” said the party is heading into the elections with the legitimate determination to maintain the achievements of the New Deal, and to continue the nation-building endeavour for the wellbeing of Cameroonians.

He added that militants of the SWR have nominated 15 would be parliamentarians, and their alternates and 897 would be councillors of substance who are determined to defend the values of peace, unity, justice, tolerance, and living together.

Peter Mafany has equally called on the militants to employ various means of getting people to vote such as using traditional (door-to-door, rallies), and modern media technologies, and equally adequately cover the media landscape.

“Any locally produced election documents intended for public display must comply with the norms set by ELECAM,” he remarked. “… All the candidates should be ready to do battle with their colleagues in the field. We must be involved physically and materially in the electoral campaigns while motivating others in this exercise.”

Talking to the press Peter Mafany Musonge, Regional campaign manager said “… The population should go and vote and chose the right persons who are going to run their local government, and you know we have a special status for the North West and South West. We should participate so we use these institutions for the good of the people.”

Women ask for a level field to be helpful throughout this campaign

The women through their representative called on authorities to initiate a level field so that they too can be helpful throughout the campaign period.

Madam Zoumo nee Enow Marie, WCPDM President for Kupe Manenguba II, added that they plan to galvanize the women so that they can vote for the CPDM list. “We want the beautiful dreams of greater autonomy, liberty, progress, and peace hatched recently in our country to be championed in full by our party, CPDM”. “We the women are willing and ready to walk the road up to victory with you, yet we the ones most affected by the current crisis in our region.”

She went on to call on those in the bushes still in arms to drop their weapons and to give peace a chance. “Change is painful but nothing is as painful as staying stuck on the same spot. Our Region has suffered since this crisis started; no projects, no development, no schools for our children. The new special status giving to us may just be an indication of greater things to follow in the area of development,” She said.

The Government has done a lot for the youths – Jonas Songo, YCPDM

Jonas Songo, YCPDM section President Meme I C, Kumba III Mambanda, noted that the present government has done a lot to care for the youths such as the creation of the Ministry of Youth Affairs, the presence of the National Youth Council, the recent putting in place of the Youth Connect initiative, and others.

Addressing the present crisis in the region, he said the population is being manipulated especially by Cameroonians in the diaspora who do not have the population at heart. “We have been manipulated to carry arms against our government, we have been manipulated to stop our brothers/sister from going to school, and we have been manipulated to kill, destroy our traditional heritage. Enough is enough. Let us all say no to manipulations”.

H equally called on those still in arms to drop their weapons, follow on the examples of us who have dropped their weapons and join DDR centre in Buea, and Bamenda.

Mafany Musonge CPDM’s Regional campaign Manager

The CPDM in the South West Region is well prepared – Professor Elvis Ngole Ngole

“The CPDM in the SWR and the population, in particular, know that the stakes are high. All the six divisional delegations are present and we have been guaranteed by SW Governor that the entire region is secured for us to carry out our electoral campaign.”

“… All the teams are already in place and we know that the South West population is waiting for us,” He added

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Kenya Airways unbowed by pressure to cancel flights to China
January 29, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Samuel Ouma

Kenya national carrier Kenya Airways (KQ) has announced that it has no intention to suspend its flights to China following an eruption of coronavirus.

Despite the calls from Kenyan Ambassador to China Sarah Serem on the airline to defer its flights for the time being, the airline’s acting chief executive officer Allan Kilavuka on Wednesday said that they are still monitoring the situation and they will take an action if necessary.

“Cancellation of the flights is on the table but we are monitoring and we will take the action as soon as there is eminent danger,” said Mr. Allan.

Ambassador Serem, however, said that Kenya will not remove her citizens from China noting that authorities in the country have stepped up their efforts to contain the menace. He implored Kenyans to be at easy divulging that none of her residents has been infected.

“I prefer the Chinese government to handle the coronavirus since they are in a better position to deal with it. I do not think Kenya is ready to deal with the virus. By bringing Kenyans back, it will only expose the rest to the danger of infection,” said Amb. Serem.

A new coronavirus virus dubbed 2019-nCov has killed 132 people and left over 6000 people infected since its outbreak in the Chinese city of Wuhan. The disease was reported to have originated in a Wuhan market among workers who were selling live fish, animals and birds with the first case being reported on December 2019.

According to medical experts the disease is transmitted from animal to animal and likely from animal to human being. The deadly disease has spread to other countries such as Thailand, France, US, Singapore, Vietnam, Japan, South Korea, Nepal, Australia and Taiwan. Others countries that have also confirmed cases of coronavirus are the United Arabs Emirates, Cambodia, Germany, Malaysia and Sri Lanka.

British Airways has joined the list of airlines that have suspended their flights to the Asian country as the viruses continue to spread. Others are Air Canada (ACDVF), Air Asia (AIABF), Air India and Finland’s Finnair.

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Mozambique suspends Travel visas to China over coronavirus concerns
January 29, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Jorge dos Santos

The Government of Mozambique has decided to temporarily suspend the issuing of visas visas from the south african country to China and vice versa because of the spread of contagion by the coronavirus.

“This is one of the preventive measures” announced on Tuesday the government spokeswoman, Helena Kida. 

However, she explained that given Mozambique’s geographical location “it seems remote” the scenario of the outbreak reaching the country, but even so, measures must be taken to avoid any situation.

China has raised the death toll from the new coronavirus detected at the end of the year in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province (centre), to 106 dead and over 4,000 infected.

Beijing authorities confirmed the first death in the Chinese capital of a person infected with the new coronavirus (2019-nCoV), a 50-year-old man who was in the city of Wuhan on Jan. 8.

The Wuhan region is under quarantine, a situation that affects 56 million people.

Kida does not confirm the existence of Mozambicans in that province. “So far in relation to Mozambicans who are in China fortunately we have no case reported”.

Some countries, like the United States, Japan, France, Germany and Portugal, are preparing with the Chinese authorities the withdrawal of their citizens from Wuhan.

The World Health Organization, although it has not activated an international health alert, considers the threat “high”.

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Nigeria:KOLLYDEE performs an intimate session at BOGOBIRI HOUSE
January 29, 2020 | 0 Comments

This Saturday at “DON’T DROP THE MIC” (DDTM) the spotlight will be on the charismatic “Kolly Dee” as he performs a few songs and crowd favourites.

KOLADE TOLULOPE ALADE aka KOLLYDEE is a Nigerian singer/songwriter, composer, recording artist, performer and Medical Doctor who came into the spotlight with the release of his unique cover of DRAKE’S HOTLINE BLING in 2015 and hit R&B/POP single “One More Try” in 2016. He has been combining a career in medicine and music and this will be his first headline gig in Nigeria.

The event will be held at “BOGOBIRI HOUSE” located at 9 Maitama Sule St, Off Raymond Njoku St, (off Awolowo rd), Ikoyi, Lagos. When asked what fans should expect from KOLLYDEE, His manager, Toks Asher Young said, “nothing short of an intimate unplugged performance that will leave fans satisfied and at the same wanting for more”. He assured that Kollydee always brings the fire for all his performances and that Saturday won’t be an exception.

The theme of the night is “Almost Famous” so expect the DDTM squad to be on hand to create some epic fame inspired musicals on the spot.

The event is proudly supported by Cool FM, Jameson and The British Council, BOGOBIRI HOTEL, Nigeria Info and Lagos Theatre Festival.

ABOUT DON’T DROP THE MIC

Don’t Drop The Mic (DDTM) is a themed urban variety show where artists create songs off the cuff, freestyle, perform, battle and “improvise” on the spot. Founded by Femi Aribisala (who also doubles as host for the show), Akin Solanke and
Joshua Iyamu.

Each show is given a particular theme which is presented to the audience, and this is used to inspire ideas and suggestions that are then translated into monologues, dialogues, songs and games for educative and entertainment purposes.

The program champions social interaction; its main aim being to provide a platform whereby “improvisation” is viewed as a necessary component for social sensitisation to various issues; and as an instrument for positive change; the dissemination of ideas, thoughts, perspectives and dreams. 

Dont Drop the Mic is more than just an event, it is a philosophy that encourages people to press on and never give up.

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Remmitances are NOT Diaspora Investment
January 29, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Ben Kazora*

My favorite Diaspora definition is the one by G. Scheffer: “Modern Diasporas are ethnic minority groups of migrant origins residing and acting in host countries but maintaining strong sentimental and material links with their countries of origin—their homelands.” The term Diaspora comes from the Greek words “to sow” and “over”, as in the scattering of seed, and for them it meant the “seeding” of Greek colonies in distant lands.
Remittances are funds sent by immigrants to their home countries for various uses including paying school fees for relative, covering healthcare costs for family as well as activities such as building homes to retire. The major driving forces include insurance, investment and strategic incentives. A report titled, “Leveraging Economic Migration for Development” noted that in 2018, the number of international migrants and refugees was estimated to be 266 million persons, of whom 240 million (90%) were economic migrants. The same report highlighted that women made up the majority of the numbers with the exception of Africa and Asia. Between the years 2000 and 2018 the share of immigrants as a percent of the global population increased from 2.8% to 3.5%. The 2019 report isn’t available as of this article, but according to the World Economic Forum the 2019 global remittances are projected to be a remarkable $715Billion. The 2019 projections have the following countries leading: India ($82.2B), China ($70.3B), Mexico ($38.7B), the Philippines ($35.1B), and Egypt ($26.4B).

The Africa Diaspora Context

I posit that the remittances discussion especially in the Africa context is often misconstrued. We place almost exclusive emphasis on the flow of money from Europe and the Americas into Africa. Global reports rarely speak to the amount of funds Tanzanians in Kenya send home or that Malawians in Ethiopia send back to Malawi. As a matter of fact, about two out of every three migrants from Sub-Sahara Africa go to neighboring countries. Surprisingly, only 41 percent of emigrants from East Africa, 24 percent from West Africa, 39 percent from Central Africa, and 28 percent from Southern Africa end up outside Africa. If we consider the intra-continental flow, remittances in Africa hit the $85Billion mark in 2018. If the African Diaspora was country, we would be the 9th largest economy on the continent just behind Ethiopia with a GDP of $90.97 billion.

The 2018 remittances were more than foreign direct investment in the same year ($46B). Quartz Africa reported that Nigeria’s 2017 revenue from oil was $20B while the remittances in the same year were $22B. A more interesting observation is that remittances are more stable than all other sources of foreign exchange. Some economists have theorized that remittances can improve nations creditworthiness. Additionally, they spur spending in sectors such as education and healthcare. Recent findings have shown that Ethiopian households that received remittances are less likely to sell off productive assets such as livestock amidst hardships such as famine. With overwhelming dependence on foreign aid, it’s perhaps time for the African governments to turn to the Diaspora for economic development.

Removing the remittances bottlenecks

“High transaction fees are cutting into remittances, which are a lifeline for millions of Africans,” said Gaiv Tata, the World Bank’s director for finance and private sector for Africa. To that end, the most pressing issue with remittances today is the exorbitant cost of sending money. The global average of remitting $200 is about 7%, Asia boasts of the lowest average of 5%. Meanwhile, for Sub-Sahara Africa is as high as 9.4%. This is typically owed to the fees on the sender and recipient intermediaries as well as the exchange rate margins. In 2017 the total cost of sending remittances was about $30Billion. To put this in perspective, the requested foreign assistance funds by the USA for 2020 is $32.3B. This cost of sending money can build the Mombasa-Nairobi railway (cost $3.2B) about ten times over. Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 10.7 has a target of 3% by 2030.

Now, what causes sending money to Africa to be so expensive?
One reason for such high costs is the limited market competition for cross-border payments. Massimo Cirasino, a senior World Bank economist suggested that opening up the remittance market to competition and better information to consumers could bring remittance prices down, says
Governments in both sending and receiving countries (in Africa and elsewhere) should discourage exclusive agreements between providers of remittance services (such as commercial banks, post offices, credit and savings cooperatives, microfinance institutions, and mobile money transfer services) and international money transfer agencies, which keep costs high. As a matter of fact, a recent survey showed that 81% of post offices in Sub-Sahara Africa are located outside three of the largest cities. It’s these locations where 80% of Africans reside. On the contrary, mainstream commercial banks tend to be concentrated primarily in the bigger cities.
A World Bank report “Leveraging Migration for Africa-Remittances Skills, and Investments” noted that providing information on available remittance channels, maintaining databases of the prices charged, and promoting the financial literacy of prospective migrants can strengthen competition in the market. Over the long term, financial development should reduce remittance costs by increasing access to financial services in rural areas and poor communities and reducing the costs of opening bank accounts.

There is also a loss through converting currencies, not to mention fees and time spent waiting for transfer approvals. Another World Bank study found that fees average 7.09 percent of the amount sent. One of the proposed solutions is the use of bitcoin to these transactions, Blockchain platforms are able to reduce fees and transfer money. A 5% reduction can add $16 billion a year back in the continents’ economy. 
Additionally, governments can support this process by improving their telecommunications infrastructure; harmonizing banking and telecommunications regulations to enable mainstream African banks to participate in mobile money transfers; and—to the extent consistent with public safety—simplifying anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism (AML-CFT) regulations for small-value transfers, which would facilitate mobile-to-mobile cross-border transactions. Prior to the activation of the AML-CFT it was estimated that $2 to $4 trillion dollars was used to finance illicit activities. While, this slowed down the funding of illicit activities, it also presents a bottleneck in the remittances process.

In a nutshell, Governments and policy makers should encourage competition and fully exploit the potential of the domestic remittance market. Examples of this include the African Development Bank working with African governments to introduce policies and measures that will attract remittance flows, and the launch in January 2019 of PRIME (Platform for Remittances, Investments and Migrants’ Entrepreneurship in Africa). The aim of PRIME is to reduce the cost of remittances and increase their impact across Africa.

Calling Remittances Diaspora Investment In countries of Origin is a misnomer

For far too long African Diaspora have purported that remittances to their countries of origin is a form of investment and demand special recognition to that end. Truth is that most remittances are sent directly to family for private and personal use. Yes, local governments might experience peripheral gains from a Burundian sending money to treat his mother. But if his mother was in Bolivia, that is where the funds would actually be remitted, so the act of sending money isn’t a patriotic one, rather a personal one. Yes, a Kenyan in Dallas is building a house in his homeland to use when he retires, so does the local Kenyan in Nyahururu. These acts have been misrepresented as investments for far too long.

Diaspora Public Partnerships (DPP)

Now, let’s examine some deliberate acts that would pass the patriotic test. In April 1998, India conducted underground nuclear tests known as the Pokhran-II test. As a result, in May of 1998 the US issued sanctions on India. Shortly after the sanctions were imposed the Indian government turned to the Indian Diaspora as a source of funding by launching a sale of 5-year bond guaranteed by the State Bank of India. This bond dubbed as the “Resurgent India Bond” was set up to counter the impact of the sanctions impressed upon India. Furthermore, this bond was made more attractive by setting the interest at 2 percent higher than the US bond market. India launched an aggressive marketing campaign for the bonds in the US and Europe leading to $3 Billion dollars in just two weeks. This unprecedented fit was evidence enough that the Diaspora can serve as a viable alternative source of funding to native countries. $22 Billion, almost half of the Sub-Saharan African remittances go to Nigeria. Pose for a moment and imagine if just 10% of the remittances were converted into investments relieving the Nigerian government from foreign aide with endless strings attached. The 340KM standard gauge railroad in Ghana will cost $2.2 billion which is 10% of the Nigerian remittances for the year. In other words, Nigerians in Diaspora can fund the Ghanaian standard gauge railroad in a matter of months.

What is a Diaspora Bond anyway? A country simply issues foreign currency debt targeting the Diaspora. The intended outcome here is the country benefitting from a patriotic dividend that offers lower pricing. Given the India example we see how such funding instruments are crisis resilient. On the Diaspora side, this is an opportunity to contribute to the nation’s development. Governments can potentially enhance access to international capital markets by issuing bonds securitized by future remittance inflows. Some scholars believe that Diaspora bonds can actually improve a country’s sovereign credit rating.

A Creative Diaspora Investment Platform- Accounts Receivables and Purchasing Orders

What is an account receivable? Accounts receivable (AR) is the balance of money due to a firm for goods or services delivered or used but not yet paid for by customers. Accounts receivables are listed on the balance sheet as a current asset. AR is any amount of money owed by customers for purchases made on credit. Most common lengths of time to pay the accounts receivable is between net 30 and net 60. Imagine, John Doe delivered $1,000 worth of eggs to Hyatt Regency Hotel in Addis Ababa. Now, imagine this transaction is visible and part of a Diaspora Investment Platform. On this online platform you have four key elements. Each component of is heavily vetted prior to admission to the platform.
1. Diaspora (investor)
2. Small enterprise (the egg vendor). Typically, too small to qualify for bank loans. This comprises the majority of today’s entrepreneurs and business owners on the continent.
3. Buyer: In this example it is Hyatt Regency in Addis-Ababa
4. Local Bank in this case Awash Bank: The role of the bank of to guarantee the transaction
Now, John Doe has delivered the $1,000 worth of eggs to Hyatt Regency Hotel and is waiting for 30 to 60 days to be paid. One of the major issues of small business owners is access to capital for day to day running and/or expansion. This transaction will be visible all members of the platform as outlined above. Instead of John Doe waiting for up to 60 days for the $1,000 he now has an option to get $900 from a Diaspora investor within 24 to 48 hours at a cost of 10%. What this does is allows John Doe to quickly access capital to prepare (purchase feed, medicine, and other infrastructure needed to produce the set of eggs for delivery well under the normal time). This means that by the time the 60 days come around, John Doe would have already possibly been ready for his second supply instead of only now receiving his money to start the process again.

The Diaspora having bought this debt will instead be the one to be paid the $1,000 by the Hyatt Regency in 60 days. There are very few (if any) investments that would pay you 10% in 60 days today. Conversely, the $1,000 range is where the majority of African Diaspora fall. The role of Awash Bank is simply an insurance one. Awash Bank will take 2% of the transaction from the Diaspora. This assures the Diaspora that if Hyatt Regency doesn’t pay in 60-day, Awash Bank will remit those funds to the Diaspora and legally pursue the funds from Hyatt Regency Hotel. This simple tool has brought in more Diaspora into the investment space of their countries of origin. Small business owners have also found a low risk source of capital where banks wouldn’t consider and at a lower rate than the going interest rates for African Banks today. This win-win investment mindset and at that scale is what we as African Diaspora in partnership with local entities should be exploring.

A similar thought process can be applied to purchasing orders. Purchase orders (POs) are documents sent from you, as the buyer, to a supplier with a request for products or services as an order. Each PO will include a number for tracking the purchase order throughout the system, as well as the type of item, quantity, and agreed upon price. Given that the PO represents a promise and not a transaction that has already taken place, it implies a higher risk. To this end, the investment in PO’s will have a higher return (30% to 40%).

The Africa Brain Gain

There are more Ethiopian doctors in Chicago than in the whole of Ethiopia. Since the year 2000 out of 85 American Nobel prize winners (in either physics, chemistry or medicine), 33 have been immigrants. African diaspora have been winning Nobel prizes since Albert Camus in 1957 to Claude Simon in 1985 and Claude Cohen-Tannoudji (Physics in 1997). Examples of Diaspora contributions in their countries of residence are replete. Some common ones include the son of Abdul Fattah Jandali (a Syrian refugee), Steve Jobs who revolutionized the computer world. Valued at $115 billion, this son of a Cuban immigrant (Jeff Bezos) is the richest man in the world. Even more fascinating is the fact that 43% of the fortune 500 companies today were either founded my immigrants or their children. This trends dates as far back as the founding 1875 when todays largest telecom company (AT&T) was founded by a Scottish immigrant (Alexander Graham Bell). In 1994 a British immigrant Nigel Morris started Capital One. Sergey Brin the co-founder of Google is a Russian immigrant. Elon Must is perhaps the most famous African Diaspora. This son of Pretoria, South Africa Elon Musk is better known as the Tesla founder is also the founder of PayPal, Space X and many other highly innovative companies. Philip Emeagwali, a son of Akure Nigerian won the Gordon Bell Prize (considered as the Nobel Prize of computing) for his contribution to what we know as the internet today.

It’s evident that over the years that Diaspora have contributed in every aspect in their countries of residency. With a few exceptions such as Israel many countries have struggled to attract their Diaspora and to also use them as conduits for transfer of knowledge. In July of 1950 Israel passed the Law of Return. This law gives Jews the right to return and gain Israel citizenship. In 1970 the same privileges were extended to people with one Jewish grandparent and a person who is married to a Jew.

In the coming Senegalese parliament 10% of the parliamentarians will be members of the Diaspora. Most Diaspora do return home upon retirement and almost always demand to be buried home. Additionally, most of the family members of the Diaspora are in their country of origin. This makes their input in national matters and participation in local politics equally paramount.

Senegalese to vote for ‘expat MPs’

Senegal MPs vote to allow expatriates to run for office, expanding the size of the national assembly.

Most African government have sat back waiting for Diaspora to make a case why the top entrepreneurs, scientists, dons in developing should be allowed to continue being part of the fabric of their country of origin. It’s time these governments wake up and proactively incentivize these talented individuals to return. I am of the view that African governments should set aside budget to lure Diaspora back home or at least to maintain ties. I would set aside a fund under the ministry of foreign affairs that would facilitate expert diaspora’s visit. Kwatsi Alibaruho (Ugandan) is a flight director at National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). He is the first black flight director at NASA. Uganda should have a program that pays for his annual vacation to Uganda along with a minimum stipend. In exchange Kwatsi will dedicate time during his visit to lecture at Makerere and carrying out various workshops and consultations. Same can be applied to Bisi Ezerioha, an engineer and former pharmaceutical executive who has built some of world’s most powerful Honda and Porsche engines. The list is endless. It’s similar initiatives that will strengthen the bond between Diaspora and their countries of origin.

Conclusively, I stress the strength of Diaspora because it is essential to the development of the continent. Technology and infrastructure has made the globe virtually borderless. Today if America sneezes, Tanzania might catch a cold. African governments can no longer focus on geographical distance in the case of the Diaspora meanwhile losing sight of the forest for the trees. There is not a better partner for economic and technological development today for Africa than her own Diaspora. It’s time to cut ties with old mindsets and wholeheartedly embrace her sons and daughters and work together as partners. However fixed African government’s mindset may seem, the tide of time and events will bring surprising positive changes in the relations between nations and her Diaspora. It’s inevitable. It is now time for Africa to unleash her developmental secret weapon, her Diaspora.

*The author can be reached via email:bkazora@alumni.purdue.edu, Facebook and LinkedIn,Website: http://limitlesssoftwares.com/



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Memphis surgeon’s partnerships create better health, better doctors
January 29, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Jane Roberts*

Dr. Denis Foretia, assistant professor of general surgery at UTHSC, stands outside of his Midtown office Jan. 23, 2020. Foretia will soon head to Africa to build connections between the university’s Global Surgery Institute and West African College of Surgeons. (Patrick Lantrip/Daily Memphian)

Between his teaching and surgery schedule at Methodist University Hospital, Dr. Denis Foretia has carved out a week in February for the kind of work that feeds his soul.

He’s headed to Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, to work out formal agreements with the University of Nigeria Medical Centre and a host of hospitals in the region interested in partnering with the University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s 2-year-old Global Surgery Institute.

He is its assistant director.

In many respects, Foretia, who grew up in Cameroon and is executive chairman of the Nkafu Policy Institute, a leading think tank there, is going home. In major ways, he is always there.

As much as he planned to be a cardiothoracic surgeon after he finished medical school at Vanderbilt University, he couldn’t stop thinking about the crushing weight of the medical needs he saw all around him as a child.

“I realized that I could not be really happy in life if I didn’t take surgery abroad, outside the U.S., where we could strengthen assistance to deliver surgical care at a higher level,” Foretia said.

When he returns to Memphis, he hopes to have the beginning of a memorandum of understanding between UTHSC and the University of Nigeria Medical Centre, including ties to the West African College of Surgeons.

“It creates an opportunity for students to travel internationally and see how health care is being practiced in areas outside Memphis,” he said, ticking off the benefits, not the least of which is learning to practice medicine in the absence of sophisticated diagnostic equipment or even electricity.

“We have lost a little bit of our physical examination and history-taking skills because we can easily get a CAT scan, and we don’t need to really examine the patient,” he said. “But when our students are there, it sharpens their physical exam skills for them to become just great clinicians, where they need to sit and talk with their patients and really figure out what is happening and be able to diagnose before even getting a CAT scan.”

UTHSC has working agreements with hospitals in the Philippines and Honduras. Foretia has another in the works with Levy Mwanawasa Hospital in Zambia, a university teaching hospital in Lusaka, the capital.

The sites offer a network of placements abroad for medical students who want international experience.

Surveys of incoming freshmen medical students at UTHSC show more than 70% do. More than 50% of current students say international experience would help them.

UTHSC has nearly 3,000 students in Memphis, Knoxville, Chattanooga and Nashville, plus 1,200 medical residents and fellows in training.

Nathan Manley, now a fourth-year surgery resident, started medical school at UTHSC in Memphis after several years of public health work in Zambia and Zimbabwe. He also served in the Peace Corps in Botswana.

Stepping into surgical suites in the Philippines last fall renewed what he calls the “idealism” of medicine and the reason why he chose it in the first place.

“Working in international health, it’s all about adapting to your environment. We have a lot of resources here. There, things aren’t available,” Manley said. “You have to learn how to apply the same standards we have here but in more creative ways.

“I don’t mean that to sound funny. Really, an older technology will do the same thing.”

The time he spent in the Philippines put him in touch with the kind of training that physicians whom he admires received a generation or two ago when there were fewer “gadgets” in the operating room.

The 10 days he worked in operating rooms there changed him in ways he struggles a little to explain.

“I hadn’t been out of U.S. since 2011. It rekindled a lot of feelings of idealism that tend to get knocked out of you in life,” he said. “My thing is service, especially international service. That’s why I joined the Peace Corps. I didn’t get into medicine to make money. I love serving people where they are, and I am doing this because I enjoy it.”

Dr. Denise Wong also worked in the Philippines through UTHSC, which she says describes as an “eye-opening experience” that changed her as a physician.

“It definitely makes me very grateful for the resources we do have and that we are able to share with others,” she said. “But it also makes me more conscientious about resource management. We are not as careful as we could be.”

Wong spent a week in the Philippines; Manley nearly two.

Foretia says even a short time is enough to change a doctor’s perspective. Under the agreements he’s working on, students would spend a month in a foreign placement in their senior year of medical school.

For Dr. James Netterville, Mark C. Smith Professor of Head & Neck Oncology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, it is a “joy” to see so many young medical students with that glimmer in their eyes. 

“Thank goodness for this generation coming now and their passion and heart for making a difference in the world,” said Netterville, a UTHSC-trained physician who is a member of Vanderbilt’s global surgery center.

Because the most talented can go to any medical school in the country, universities, he said, are responding with programs that appeal to their idealism. 

In earlier generations of medical outreach, Netterville said, “well-meaning surgeons would go and spend time treating a few patients and come home knowing they had done a little good.

“But no one knows what the outcomes were,” he said. “No one followed up on the patients, and no one was really educated in the process.”

The new goal, Netterville said, is to identify gaps in care, find the people who are the medical educators in that country and work out a joint plan to serve. 

“We plan with them so we can bring the right kind of physicians and the right kind of equipment. Our medical students don’t go to operate; they go to teach. It’s far better to go over and teach their doctors and let their doctors do the surgeries.”

UTHSC’s Global Surgery Institute started in 2017 as a way to capture and formalize the dozens of medical mission trips UT professors and physicians were already leading.

“The year we surveyed them, they had spent a total of 58 weeks abroad — doing health care abroad — which is amazingly high,” said Foretia, who has made seven trips in 30 months to sub-Saharan Africa for the university.

The hospitals in West Africa offer rich experience, perhaps counter-intuitively, for forcing doctors to see the level of medical waste in the United States, where about 20% of the federal budget goes to health care and the average American spends $8,000 to $9,000 a year on care.

The next highest spender is Germany at $4,000

“In Nigeria, it’s about $300,” said Foretia.

To illustrate the weight of the imbalance, he uses the example of the simple operating room stapler, indispensable for cordoning off sections of tissue in surgery. One costs $500.

Reviews of surgeries show surgeons may use four in one procedure, he said.

Surgeons in less developed countries use ties at a fraction of the price.

“Because the we have the staplers available, we just call for the next one,” Foretia says.

What makes university global partnerships possible is that many of their projects touch on key research projects and are funded by the U.S. government’s National Institutes of Health, “one of the most generous philanthropic organizations in the world,” said Netterville, who has made 24 trips to Africa and a similar number to Central America as a Vanderbilt physician.

Without it, countrywide and continentwide medical efforts couldn’t happen, he said.

The amount of grant money universities receive helps determine their national ranking. UTHSC, which is working toward being in the top 25% of medical schools in the country, needs $150 million in annual grants to meet a critical benchmark.  In 2019, it achieved $100 million for the first time after five years of concerted work.

Besides opportunities to help nations improve medical capacity, its global ties offer UTHSC a natural interface to community groups, including faith groups, doing their own mission work overseas.

Foretia is collecting supplies for a surgeon who does skin grafts on burn patients in Zambia, including equipment that is inexpensive in the U.S., but cost prohibitive there, for making grafts. He is interested in hearing from groups with other supplies. 

He is also organizing the institute’s first multicultural/global health symposium, a chance for UTHSC faculty, staff and students here and from clinical partner teaching hospitals in Chattanooga, Knoxville and Nashville to discuss their international work and goals.

“UTHSC is offering a lot to the world and transferring a lot back,” he said.

“Our endeavors around the world are providing real knowledge in the places we are going and also helping us become really good doctors, knowing how to better deal with our patients, especially in areas where we don’t necessarily have access.”

*Source Daily Memphian. Longtime journalist Jane Roberts is a Minnesotan by birth and a Memphian by choice. She’s lived and reported in the city more than two decades.


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“AFSIC – Investing in Africa” 2020 set to have huge momentum
January 29, 2020 | 0 Comments

The 8th Annual AFSIC – Investing in Africa forum, scheduled for May 5th -7th 2020 in London, has already confirmed over 300 top level speakers and panellists including a huge range of Africa’s most important investors, dealmakers and business leaders, who will unpack the increasing global investment momentum into Africa’s growing public and private sectors and highlight new growth opportunities across the continent.

The AFSIC 2020 agenda is specifically investment focused, with several of the most experienced and successful asset management firms investing in Africa sharing insights into where smart money is investing, and business leaders running some of Africa’s most exciting growth companies showcasing new investment opportunities, with focussed streams in Fintech, Financial Services, Infrastructure, Energy, Education, Agriculture and Real Estate.

With ABSA Corporate Investment Bank, FSD Africa, CDC Group and Moodys heading up an impressive group of supporting sponsors, the forum will be an excellent follow up to the British Government’s UK-Africa Investment Summit which took place this week to create sustainable UK-Africa partnerships.

FSD Africa, one of AFSIC’s lead sponsors, announced a £90m commitment from UK Aid this week to initiate a new phase of financial sector development, part of an ambitious £320m UK Aid package to strengthen Africa’s financial markets.

Another of AFSIC’s lead sponsors and Africa’s largest private investor CDC Group, announced this week that they would be investing £2bn in Africa over the next two years to continue supporting businesses in Africa across a wide range of sectors and creating lasting change to reach the UN’s sustainable Development Goals. CDC Group will once again be hosting the not-to-be-missed Meet African Dealmakers Event at AFSIC.

With over 1500 delegates expected to attend, AFSIC 2020 offers unparalleled opportunities to network and develop strong business relationships with investors, financial intermediaries and African business leaders through an array of multiple presentation and panel streams, discussions, networking events, exhibition stands, business match-making meetings, workshops and country-focussed sessions.

Early Bird Registration expires 31st January – visit www.afsic.net for registration and programme details

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Equatorial Guinea officially launches Year of Investment 2020 Campaign
January 28, 2020 | 0 Comments

Major U.S. firms have pledged to increase their investment in Equatorial Guinea in 2020

MALABO, Equatorial Guinea, January 28, 2020/ — Equatorial Guinea has kicked off a year-long investment campaign aimed at driving capital investment into the country’s bankable projects; Major U.S. firms have pledged to increase their investment in Equatorial Guinea in 2020, along with Nigerian banking and financial institutions; Notable investment-ready projects include the construction of two modular oil refineries, an ammonia plant, a urea plant and a gold refinery; The first in-country investment event will be the Africa Oil & Investment Forum & Exhibition hosted in Malabo (April 1-2).

Equatorial Guinea’s Ministry of Mines and Hydrocarbons (MMH) has officially launched its Year of Investment campaign, with a series of foreign investors already making their commitment to increasing planned investment in the country in 2020.

In a bid to position Equatorial Guinea as a regional and international investment hub, the country aims to engage with financial entities and engines of growth in neighboring economies. High-level Nigerian investors, bankers and financiers, including Africa Financing Corporation, Sterling Bank, First Bank, UBA and Zenith Bank, are currently in talks with the MMH about project financing opportunities.

The Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board, in partnership with Waltersmith Petroleum Oil Limited, has pledged to assist Equatorial Guinea in the development of its modular refineries, with the Nigerian modular refinery serving as a model for operation and local content engagement.

Owned by U.S. upstream giants Marathon Oil, Noble Energy and state-owned Sonagas, the Atlantic Methanol Production Company, meanwhile, announced its aim to double down on planned investment in the expansion and diversification of the country’s downstream sector through the construction of a methanol-to-gasoline and derivatives unit.

As part of its initiative, the MMH is targeting one billion dollars in foreign direct investment to be channeled into several key investment opportunities in both Equatorial Guinea’s and Africa’s energy sectors. These include, but are not limited to, modular oil refineries, an ammonia plant, a gas import terminal, liquefied petroleum gas storage tanks and other projects spanning the entire energy value chain.

Equatorial Guinea 2020 Year of Investment serves to attract foreign direct investment into key industries in Equatorial Guinea that will diversify the country’s energy sector, boost entrepreneurship, generate profit for investors and create jobs.

The campaign is anchored by three in-country investment-driven events: Africa Oil & Investment Forum & Exhibition (April 1-2); Oil & Gas Meeting Day (June1-2)and the Africa Economic Forum (November 24-25).

International roadshows include: the UAE – Atlantic Council Global Energy Forum (January 10-12); Nigeria International Petroleum Summit (February 9-12); US-CERAWEEK 2020 (March 9-13); Canary Islands – O&G Meeting Day (June 1-2); Russia – St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (June 3-6); China – Equatorial Guinea Forum (July); UAE – ADIPEC (November 11-14); and U.S. – 23rd World Petroleum Congress, Houston (December 6-10).

The campaign follows the success of the Year of Energy 2019 initiative, which sought to position Equatorial Guinea as the energy capital of the continent through a series of Africa-focused events and its promotion of landmark energy projects within the country.

*Source Africa Oil & Power Conference

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Benin President Patrice Talon’s Visit To Washington, DC: An Opportunity for a Teaching Moment on Core Democratic Values and Basic Human Rights
January 27, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Omar Arouna*

Omar Arouna is a former Ambassador of Benin to the USA
Omar Arouna is a former Ambassador of Benin to the USA

According to news report from Mediapart Benin, President Patrice Talon started a 4-day visit to Washington, DC (Sunday January 26th to Thursday January 30th  2020), as part of an “economic and strategic mission”.

In the U.S, the Benin Head of State will meet the officials of the International Finance Corporation (IFC) including the Director General, Mr. Phillipe LEHOUEROU; the Vice-President of the World Bank, Mr. Hafez GHANEM; the President of the World Bank, Mr. David MALPASS; the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, Mrs. Kristalina GEORGIEVA; the Chairman and CEO of Millennium Challenge Corporation, Mr. Sean CAIRNCROSS; the Secretary of State, Mr. Mike POMPEO; and Beninese working at the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in Washington DC.

It would be remiss of me if I did not remind my American sisters, brothers, friends, the Africanist community in Washington DC, as well as the president’s official hosts that Benin Republic, a country once dubbed the cradle of Democracy in Africa, is now an autocracy under the dictatorship of Patrice Talon. Benin is now:

  • a country where basic human rights no longer exist and terror subsists;
  • a country where dissenting voices are systematically tracked, repressed, jailed and/or exiled;
  • a country where the last elections were non-inclusive and repressed in blood;
  • a country where all 83 People’s Representatives in Parliament were appointed by the president;
  • a country where the Army is ordered to shoot with live bullets at peaceful demonstrators;
  • a country where journalists are  silenced and jailed for practicing their craft;
  • a country where privately owned or independent media, television and radio stations, newspapers critical to the government are outlawed and systematically shut down;
  • a country where internet is systematically shut down during elections;
  • a country where social media users and web activists are systematically tracked and jailed;
  • a country where the constitution was changed on Halloween night without due process;
  • a country where the separation of powers no longer exists and all three branches of government are under the sole control of the president;
  • a country no longer investing in its people, no longer ruled justly and lacking economic and democratic freedom.

To simply quote the January 24th 2020 tweet from Ambassador Herman “Hank” Cohen a former U.S Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs in the President George W. H Bush Administration, This marks the official end of Africa’s first Multiparty democracy and the Beginning of the Talon’s fascist regime.”

We hope and strongly believe that the visit could serve as a teaching moment in educating president Patrice Talon on core democratic values of sanctity of life, freedom of speech, truth in governance, justice, liberty, diversity, pursuit of happiness, common good, popular sovereignty and patriotism. 

We would like to call upon Secretary Pompeo, the U.S Administration, U.S  Congress  and selected hosts, to challenge their visitor on the urgency of restoring democracy in Benin  by organizing inclusive legislative elections with the participation of all political parties as well as bringing swiftly to justice sponsors and authors of the April, May and June, 2019 post electoral killing by the country’s armed forces.

*Former Benin Ambassador to the U.S

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Burundi: Gen Ndayishimiye elected as ruling party candidate to succeed Nkurunziza
January 26, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Maniraguha Ferdinand

Gen Ndayishimiye is a new candidate of Burundi’s CNDD-FDD in coming presidential elections

General Evariste Ndayishimiye was elected this Sunday 26th January by Burundi ruling party cadres to represent it  in next presidential elections.

Ndayishimiye who is CNDD FDD national secretary is thought to succeed Pierre Nkurunziza who has been president of Burundi since 2005.

Ndayishimiye’s candidacy is seen as a relief for the Central African country which fell into political turmoil since 2015 when Nkurunziza decided to run for a third term.

General elections are slated for May 2020 including legislative and presidential elections.

In 2015 People took  to the streets demanding Nkurunziza not to run again. Chaos went on to stir when a military coup failed in the capital Bujumbura while Nkurunziza was out of the country.

Security organs used forces to disperse and calm protesters as many fled the country.

While officiating  party congress in which Ndayishimiye was elected, outgoing president Nkurunziza promised “Gitega congress is going to open a new page in history of CNDD-FDD and Burundi”.

Born in Gitega province, the same region as President Nkurunziza, Ndayishimiye has been serving as Secretary General of CNDD-FDD since 2016.

The 52 old, Ndayishimiye is an early recruit of CNDD FDD army wing, a party that was founded in 1994, a year after the assassination of President Melchior Ndadaye, the first president of Burundi democratically elected.

He served in various positions in Burundian army , like being appointed as Chief of Military Logistics, Military Assistant tio Nkurunziza , Minister of interior among others.

He is seen as loyal to Nkurunziza and clean record among the public.

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Commonwealth Secretary-General tells The Hague there can be no lasting peace without justice
January 25, 2020 | 0 Comments
Commonwealth Secretary General Patricia Scotland 

Lasting peace and the prosperity that comes with it cannot be achieved without justice, the Commonwealth Secretary-General has declared, during a keynote speech in the Hague.

Patricia Scotland was addressing the International Criminal Court (ICC) as guest of honour for the opening of the new judicial year.

The distinguished lawyer and former Attorney General in the United Kingdom explained how a fair justice system is an indispensable precondition for democracy, adding that systems must be trustworthy and accessible if they are to be effective.

She said: “That is why building strong public institutions capable of delivering sustainable, democratic development, has always been central to the work of the Commonwealth.”

She added: “Whether justice is delivered through the International Criminal Court, domestic courts or other mechanisms, lasting peace is virtually impossible to attain without justice.

“Our Charter expresses it clearly – international peace and the rule of law are essential to the progress and prosperity of all.”

She highlighted how countries can enshrine recognition of international law in their domestic legislation as an important step towards increasing access to justice.

Praising the important role in promoting peace and security that the ICC plays, she said: “Commonwealth nations seek to realise their commitment to increasing access to justice. We realise that we need to keep in mind the victims of offences such as war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

“The ICC was not designed to hear from all victims of these crimes, so it is crucial for domestic justice systems to be equipped to provide some form of redress.

“The inclusion of international crimes in domestic law represents an important step in this process, to be followed then by effective prosecution.”

The Secretary-General outlined how the Commonwealth assists member countries in meeting their international obligations.

The Rome Statute, the treaty adopted in 1998 that established the ICC, has been ratified by 36 of the 53 Commonwealth countries – more than 60 per cent of members.

The Commonwealth has developed a model law to assist further implementation of the Rome Statute, while extensive experience in legislative drafting and law reform can also help countries include international crimes in their domestic laws.

The Secretary-General also spoke on other elements of the Commonwealth’s longstanding programme of work to strengthen public institutions

This includes curbing corruption through the development of anti-corruption benchmarks that will be presented to heads of government for endorsement at their next meeting in Rwanda in June this year.

She added: “The benchmarks address the importance of combatting corruption in the court system and enabling the judiciary to operate effectively and independently.”

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