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F.W. de Klerk Walking in the Shadows of Apartheid
February 20, 2020 | 0 Comments

By James N. Kariuki*

Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk hold their hands high as they address a huge crowd of people in front of the Union Building after the first presidential inauguration on May 10, 1994. REUTERS/Juda Ngwenya

South Africa’s latest spectacle was last week’s ninety-minute delay of the presidential state of the nation address (SONA.) The contentious issue was that F. W. de Klerk, the country’s last apartheid state president, was seated in the public gallery of Parliament. His presence deeply bothered members of the red uniformed Economic Freedom Fighters, the EFF.    

Before President Cyril Ramaphosa started his address EFF leader, Julius Malema objected to de Klerk’s presence arguing that it imposed a contradiction to the extent that parliament is the ultimate embodiment of democracy. Yet, he continued, de Klerk was a criminal, a murderer and a racist to the core. The EFF would not share the same space with him in that forum; he needed to be evicted.

The underlying issue here is that South Africans do not agree on the simple question:  who/what brought about the demise of South Africa’s draconian system of apartheid thirty years ago? 

Obviously, Malema and his followers are reluctant to confer credit to de Klerk for the feat that required great skill, courage and strength. Having grown up in South Africa as a white person, he automatically benefitted immensely from apartheid as he climbed all the way to its top. In 1989 he assumed the presidency of that system of racial discrimination, white privilege and supremacy. It is hardly absurd that some still wonder: How could a man who benefitted so much from apartheid turn around and spearhead its demise?  

Given the choice, Julius Malema and his followers would rather attribute credit for the change to the African friends who extended a helping hand to the South African liberation forces that fought apartheid from inside and outside the country. Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere, Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, Cuba’s Fidel Castro and others, though generally portrayed as controversial, were friends-in-need to the extent that they were openly part of the global anti-apartheid forces.

For a while apartheid was distinctly under siege. Countless critics abhorred it on the grounds of racial solidarity. Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere spoke for many in stating that it was morally unacceptable to condemn a people “for being born who they were.” Against this attitude, anti-apartheid sentiments gathered momentum worldwide.

By the late 1980s, apartheid was clearly on the back foot. International sanctions were in place, domestic violence engineered by ‘clandestine’ liberation movements was rampant; the republic was in disarray. Why then didn’t the forces of liberation come to the rescue? Apartheid was armed to the teeth. Experts estimate that apartheid South Africa could have survived military intrusion for 5 to 10 years.  Would there be a South Africa left after ten years of constant warfare? In the days to come, Nelson Mandela himself reminded his people that they were not dealing with a defeated enemy.

There was only one person in South Africa (and the world) positioned to formulate and implement a non- violent route to fundamental change in apartheid South Africa.  That person was none other than F.W. de Klerk.  He opted for dialogue and negotiations rather than violence. As President he had an advantage over and above everybody else: he was positioned to communicate with the opposing forces from the ANC to the far-right Afrikaners who were most threatened by his project. 

Three months into his presidency, de Klerk launched his project. Nelson Mandela was released from prison, all banned political parties were legalized and secret delegations were dispatched out of the country to undertake secret talks with the exiled leaders of ANC leaders. 

To the EFF, conferring credit to de Klerk for the peaceful transfer of power was hardly a significant achievement. In a vindictive mindset, what matters is that de Klerk is alleged to have been a murderer and a subsequent apologist for apartheid. It was deceptive that he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize jointly with Nelson Mandela (1993) for embarking on the democratic route.  Indeed, the logic continues, de Klerk should return the award to the Nobel Prize Committee and should be stripped of presidential benefits at home. 

But to the neutral observer, de Klerk’s greatness did not come from his assessment of apartheid’s qualification as a social-economic order. That greatness came from accepting that, no matter how enticing it seemed to the Afrikaner community, apartheid’s time had come to an end; it must be dismantled. Regardless of what drove de Klerk to action, he was successful. And ending apartheid peacefully was no easy matter. Those who remember those days insist that the alternative to talking and negotiations “was too ghastly to contemplate.” For this, South Africans owe de Klerk a debt of gratitude equivalent to what African-Americans owe Abraham Lincoln for abolishing slavery .

* James N. Kariuki is a Kenyan Professor of International Relations (Emeritus).  He comments on public issues in various international publications.He runs the blog Global Africa

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Co-founders of the Pan African Film Festival, award-winning actor Danny Glover and Ayuko Babu Release Statement on Death of Ja’Net Dubois
February 20, 2020 | 0 Comments
PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by Venus Bernardo
PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by Venus Bernardo

LOS ANGELES – Founded by award-winning actor Danny Glover, actress Ja’Net Dubois and Ayuko Babu, the 28th annual Pan African Film and Arts Festival (PAFF) is currently taking place at the Cinemark 15 Theatres, located at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza in Los Angeles.

PAFF is the largest Black film festival in the United States and the largest Black History Month cultural event in the nation. This year, it has selected a record-breaking 225 film, representing 52 countries in 26 languages. Plus, ArtFest will feature more than 100 fine artists from around the world. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) has designated PAFF as an official qualifying film festival for live action and animation short films.

 STATEMENT FROM GLOVER AND BABU ON THE PASSING OF JA’NET DUBOIS:“We are shocked and stunned by the passing of one of the founders of the Pan African Film and Arts Festival, and one of the most important shining and guiding lights. Our sister, Ja’Net DuBois, epitomized a true, conscious Pan African artist who mastered the ability to be idealistic and practical at the same time. It’s rare to find a person — let alone an artist — who strikes a wonderful balance. 

If Madame DuBois had lived during the times of the great Pharaohs; or the great kingdoms of Timbuktu; or the great kingdoms in southern Africa,  such as the  Zimbabwe and Zulu kingdoms, she would have been known as a Jali or a Sangoma. In our contemporary times, she was able to use modern technology to spread her voice, her image, her spirit, her songs and our stories around the globe and touch us with humor, dignity and her ancient wisdom. 

A mighty giant tree has fallen in the forest today! With her death occurring in the midst of the Pan African Film and Arts Festival, she left us an important message — support cultural institutions like her beloved Pan African Film and Arts Festival, and it will point you toward liberation and freedom. If not  —  like the bluesman, Taj Maahal sings — you’ll stumble and fall. 
— co-founders Danny Glover and Ayuko Babu, on behalf of the staff of the Pan African Film and Arts Festival and the many thousands of people who attend it!

ABOUT THE PAN AFRICAN FILM FESTIVALGearing up for its 28th anniversary, the Pan African Film and Arts Festival (PAFF) is America’s largest and most prestigious Black film festival. Each year, it screens more than 150 films made by and/or about people of African descent from around the world. PAFF holds the distinction of being the largest Black History Month event in the country. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) has designated PAFF as an official qualifying film festival for live action and animation short films. 

PAFF is a non-profit corporation, founded in 1992 by award-winning actor Danny Glover (“The Color Purple,” “Lethal Weapon” movie franchise), Emmy Award-winning actress Ja’Net DuBois (best known for her role as Willona in the TV series, “Good Times”) and executive director, Ayuko Babu, an international legal, cultural and political consultant who specializes in Pan African Affairs. PAFF is dedicated to the promotion of ethnic and racial respect and tolerance through the exhibit of films, art and creative expression. 

The goal of PAFF is to present and showcase the broad spectrum of Black creative works, particularly those that reinforce positive images, help to destroy negative stereotypes and depict an expanded vision of the Black experience. PAFF believes film and art can lead to better understanding and foster communication between peoples of diverse cultures, races, ethnicities, and lifestyles in an entertaining way while at the same time, serving as a vehicle to initiate dialogue on the important issues of our times.

*Courtesy of KRPR Media 

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EAC hosts the 30th New Partnership for Africa’s Development Infrastructure Project Preparation Facility (NEPAD-IPPF) Oversight Committee in Arusha
February 20, 2020 | 0 Comments
The meeting which took place on the 13th and 14th of February 2020, convened over 30 participants

ARUSHA, Tanzania, February 19, 2020/ — The New Partnership for Africa’s Development Infrastructure Project Preparation Facility (NEPAD-IPPF) held its 30th Oversight Committee meeting for the Special Fund at the headquarters of the East African Community, in Arusha, Tanzania.

The meeting which took place on the 13th and 14th of February 2020, convened over 30 participants, including donors providing financial support to the NEPAD-IPPF Special Fund, representatives of the African Development Bank, African Union Commission, African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD), Regional Economic Communities, Regional Power Pools, Corridors Authorities and Transboundary River basin organizations.

Members agreed to implement recommendations of NEPAD-IPPF’s independent evaluation held in 2019, and also approved operational reforms and the 2020 work program.

EAC Deputy Secretary General in charge of Planning and Infrastructure, Steven Mlote, thanked the Bank for its generous support over the past 20 years which he said had resulted in numerous achievements in various sectors including transport, energy, one stop border posts, ICT and Trans-Boundary Water Projects.

He said the recently completed Arusha-Tengeru dual carriageway and the Arusha by-pass had substantially improved traffic flow in the Arusha region while the counterpart section in Kenya – the Taveta-Mwatate road, has opened up a new and shorter trade and transport route for Rwanda and Burundi from the port of Mombasa.

“Along the Coast of East Africa, the transport corridor from Malindi in Kenya to Bagamoyo in Tanzania is due for upgrading with funds from the Bank. It is gratifying to note that its preparation was funded by the NEPAD-IPPF. This road will close the missing surface transport link between the EAC and SADC regions which traverses Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique,” he added.

The successes of initial Bank-funded multinational projects between Kenya and Tanzania provided the impetus to widen the geographical spread to other EAC partner states with current projects underway to link Tanzania to the three landlocked states of Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda.

“To date, NEPAD-IPPF has extended support to the EAC to the tune of almost $15 million for road and rail soft infrastructure projects over a period of 13 years,” said Mlote.

Also represented at the meeting were development partners KfW, and the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Business which both acknowledged the pivotal role NEPAD-IPPF continues to play in the infrastructure space on the continent. They equally recognized the need for more resources to enable the fund to achieve more. 

Laura González Villarejo representing the Ministry of Economy, Spain said in her statement that Africa is a priority region for Spain. She added that the Spanish Council of Ministers’ long term strategic plan for Africa demonstrated the interest of Spain in Africa.

Michael Andres from KfW, the Oversight Committee Chairman, reiterated the full support of Germany for the Fund. He thanked the NEPAD-IPPF team led by Mike Salawou, Bank Division Manager Infrastructure & Partnerships, for the good performance of the fund during 2019, for a well-organized meeting and the East African Community Secretariat for hosting the event. He emphasized the need for joint effort from all concerned parties including the RECs to seek funding for the facility.

AUC representative Mr. Yagouba Traore called upon AUC Member states to support the Fund.

Director of Infrastructure at the African Development Bank, Mr. Amadou Oumarou reaffirmed the institution’s commitment to mobilize more resources for NEPAD-IPPF and highlighted a Euro 3 million contribution received by the facility from the Spanish government in 2019. Infrastructure development would be more critical as the continent sought to make the African Continental Free Trade Area functional, he said.

“The facility has maintained a sustained drive towards building partnerships and can report on positive co-financing results. Notwithstanding, our efforts to secure more resources will continue through 2020, both from African governments and stakeholders as well as in collaboration with private sector companies and philanthropists,” Oumarou said.

Going forward, implementing cost recovery instruments to support Public Private Partnership projects to attract more private sector financing downstream would be an important focus for the NEPAD-IPPF, he added.

The meeting ended with a visit to the Namanga “One Stop Border Post” between Tanzania-Kenya. This project funded by NEPAD-IPPF, has helped increase trade and tourism and has also stimulated the regional economy within the East African Community.
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Dominica backs Commonwealth Secretary-General for second term
February 20, 2020 | 0 Comments
Baroness Patricia Scotland, Secretary-General, Commonwealth.
Patricia Scotland, the Commonwealth’s Secretary-General, has been supported to serve a second term by the Commonwealth of Dominica, the country of her birth.  

As is customary, the leaders of all 54 Commonwealth countries will meet in June at their biennial summit in Rwanda, to discuss among other things, the reappointment of the Commonwealth Secretary-General. 

As a result of the change of date for the convening of Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London in 2018, Heads have extended the tenure of the Secretary-General for three months to ensure there is no gap in the currency of the office of Secretary-General until the meeting in Kigali. Running from June 22 to 28, CHOGM 2020 will be held under the theme: ‘Delivering a Common Future: Connecting, Innovating, Transforming’. 

Leaders will discuss how the modern Commonwealth, with its network of more than 80 organisations, can connect and innovate to transform the whole family into societies underpinned by the values of democracy, multilateralism, sustainable development, the protection of the environment, and the empowerment of women and young people. 

Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said: “I am proud to be the sixth Secretary-General and indeed the first woman to hold this role. “The Commonwealth has proven itself as a vibrant and vital body that delivers on the aspirations of its 2.4 billion people, 60 per cent of whom are under the age of 30. 

The Commonwealth’s opportunity, hope and common sense are desperately needed. The world needs the multilateralism of the Commonwealth which provides a global voice, particularly for its small member states.” Secretary-General Scotland said she continues to be committed to the reform mandate. Earlier this week the Commonwealth posted audited statements for the 2018/19 financial year. 

External auditors have given the organisation a clean bill of financial health for the 10th consecutive year.

 Read the Financial Statements of the Commonwealth Secretariat Fund Year Ended 30 June 2019 

Read Financial Statements of the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Co-operation Year Ended 30 June 2019

 Read Financial Statements of the Commonwealth Youth Programme Year Ended 30 June 2019

 Read Commonwealth Secretariat Annual Results Report July 2018 – June 2019 
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16 finalists announced for the Commonwealth Youth Awards 2020
February 20, 2020 | 0 Comments

Sixteen extraordinary individuals including innovators, activists and entrepreneurs from 12 countries have been shortlisted for this year’s Commonwealth Youth Awards.

A pan-Commonwealth judging panel met last week and selected the top individuals in each of the award’s four regional categories.

This year, the awards received more than 500 entries from 40 countries. Of those shortlisted, the top candidate from each region will be named as a regional winner. One of these four regional winners will become the Commonwealth Young Person of the Year 2020.

All 16 finalists will each receive a trophy, a certificate and £1,000 to expand the scope of their projects.

The regional winners will each earn a trip to London to attend the awards ceremony on 11 March 2020 and will receive £3,000. The overall pan-Commonwealth winner will take home a total of £5,000.

The judging panel included high commissioners, development experts and youth leaders from across the Commonwealth.

The awards recognise outstanding young people whose innovative projects have made a real impact in helping their countries achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

The Commonwealth’s head of social policy development Layne Robinson said: “Their talent paired with tangible solutions sends a strong signal that they should be equal partners in the development agenda, not passive allies.

“With now only 10 years remaining to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Commonwealth takes great pleasure in bringing these young people’s invaluable efforts to the global stage so their leadership can inspire others and accelerate meaningful youth participation.”

The 2020 finalists, in alphabetical order by region and individual surname, are:

AFRICA AND EUROPE

Joshua Ebin (Nigeria)

Focus: SDG 12 – Responsible Consumption and Production

Joshua is the founder of ‘Jumela Limited’; an agro-technology venture which specialises in the production of plant-based compost and novel agro-products for crop production farmers in Nigeria. The venture aims to tackle poor food waste management, pollution problems and low agricultural yield in the country. The venture has so far produced two metric tonnes of compost for sale to national clients and created jobs for more than 25 workers.

Galabuzi Brian Kakembo (Uganda)

Focus: SDG 8 – Decent Work and Economic Growth

Brian is the founder of ‘WEYE Clean Energy’; a social enterprise that produces and sells eco-friendly briquettes (blocks of compressed charcoal) made from biodegradable plastics and organic waste to home, schools and local institutions. Profits are used to fund community outreach programmes and training for young people and women in smart agriculture. The enterprise’s work has reached more than 800 women and young people of which 600 are now earning income from briquette making or plastic waste recycling.

Salvatory Kessy (Tanzania)

Focus: SDG 4 – Quality Education

Salvatory is the founder of ‘SmartClass’; an online platform which matches low-cost qualified and vetted tutors to students interested in learning basic skills such as numeracy, literacy, computing, agriculture and languages. The offline platform allows users to book face-to-face tuition through a text and the group tuition model allows learners to book tutors collectively and reduce costs. The platform has 5,000 active registered tutors and 20,000 learners in Tanzania.

Elizabeth Wanjiru Wathuti (Kenya)

Focus: SDG 13 – Climate Action

Elizabeth is the founder of the ‘Green Generation Initiative’ which focuses on promoting environmental education and food security in schools, particularly by encouraging a tree growing culture and through its ‘adopt a tree’ campaign. The initiative has so far helped plant 30,000 tree seedlings in more than 40 schools. In addition, more than 20,000 school children have been trained to be environmentally conscious across seven Kenyan counties.

ASIA

Sheikh Inzamamuzzaman (Bangladesh)

Focus: SDG 4 – Quality Education

Sheikh is the founder of ‘Study Buddy’; a start-up that provides an alternative learning platform to children with learning difficulties and their parents. Using interactive approaches such as augmented reality and gaming, the platform conducts personal assessments to match each child with unique learning methodologies and then connects the child with relevant learning tools and special needs professionals. The programme has so far supported more than 800 children and more than 1000 parents.

Vedant Jain (India)

Focus: SDG 4 – Quality Education

Vedant is a co-founder of the ‘Labhya Foundation’; a non-profit that aims to equip children from low socio-economic with critical social and emotional skills. In partnership with the national government and partnered non-governmental organisations, the foundation co-created the ‘Happiness Curriculum’ to educate children in schools on universal human values, emotional wellbeing and mindfulness, and to enhance their critical thinking and soft skills. The curriculum has so far positively impacted more than 1 million students in more than 20,000 schools in India.

Jaya Rajwani (Pakistan)

Focus: SDG 5 – Gender Equality

Jaya is the technical lead for ‘Aurat Raaj’; a social enterprise which creates technology-based products and services to educate girls on health, hygiene and safety. Jaya has led the development of the enterprise’s chat-bot, a tool which uses artificial intelligence to provide young girls with accessible and non-judgmental information on reproductive health. Jaya’s work has seen the ongoing development of the chat-bot to include local languages and videos while in-school training workshops have helped increase the tool’s reach and impact.

Hafiz Usama Tanveer (Pakistan)

Focus: SDG 6 – Clean Water and Sanitation

Hafiz is the founder of ‘PakVitae’; a social enterprise that produces and supplies water treatment products to provide clean and accessible drinking water to rural communities and refugee camps in Pakistan. PakVitae has so far reached over 11,000 people including victims of the Kerala flood, Afghan refugee camps and remote schools in rural areas.

CARIBBEAN AND CANADA

Lalita Gopaul (Guyana)

Focus: SDG 13 – Climate Action

Lalita is an environmental sustainability activist and researcher by profession. Her research work covers eco-friendly agricultural methods, clean energy solutions and green technologies which have been used in Guyana. Her work has educated more than 100 farmers in the country to adopt more sustainable and environmentally-friendly farming methods to boost production and improve livelihoods in a changing climate. Lalita is also the founder of ‘Eco Club’ which mentors young people on environmental education. The club also runs coastal clean-up activities, tree planting sessions and climate-action walks.

Sowmyan Jegatheesan (Canada)

Focus: SDG 15 – Life on Land

Sowmyan is the founder of ‘SystemaNaturae.org’; one of the largest online information sources for global wildlife projects, research and datasets. The platform creates awareness and helps communities build resilience by better understanding global activities around climate change, migration patterns and human-wildlife conflict through the sourced material. The platform has reached more than 100 countries and has been used by research centres, think tanks and universities across the world.

Stephen McCubbin (Jamaica)

Focus: SDG 16 – Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Stephen is the founder of ‘Cheer Sensation JA’; a youth non-profit which works to foster holistic development through the sport of cheer. Through its cheerleading programmes and competitions, the organisation provides a safe space for children and adults to become physically active whilst working as a violence prevention tool in volatile communities in Jamaica. Stephen’s work has enabled him to attract international cheerleading bodies to Jamaica to provide technical support to the organisation, further increasing awareness and support for the sport.

Samuel Neil (Jamaica)

Focus: SDG 4 – Quality Education

Samuel is the founder of ‘The Aviation Club of Jamaica’; a national initiative which encourages young people to enter the aviation sector. The programme provides student members with scholarship opportunities and training programmes through its partnerships with training institutions. The programme has introduced hundreds of local young people to the world of aviation and supported many to go on to become qualified aviation professionals.

PACIFIC

Sagufta Janif (Fiji)

Focus: SDG 12 – Responsible consumption and production

Sagufta is the founder of ‘The Fusion Hub’; a social enterprise focused on addressing a lack of access to proper waste disposal methods in remote islands by upcycling waste materials and selling them as furniture, home items and accessories. The Fusion Hub has so far upcycled more than 400 tonnes of waste selling hundreds of items to clients. The Hub also employs single mothers giving them a sustainable livelihood and has helped set up two formal businesses that are now part of its supply chain.

Broderick John Mervyn (Fiji)

Focus: SDG 16 – Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Broderick is the current President of ‘Ignite4Change’; a youth-led initiative which works to empower and educate underprivileged women and youths to grow inclusive governance, equality, participation and cultural preservation within local communities. The initiative runs several programmes including on public speaking training, local governance awareness, climate change advocacy, youth leadership and the protection of the Rotuman Language and Heritage.

Rinesh Sharma (Fiji)

Focus: SDG 2 – Zero Hunger

Rinesh is the founder of ‘Smart Farms Fiji’; an initiative that aims to provide a sustainable food production system by growing fruits and vegetables in a controlled environment all year round. The Smart Farm system’s produce is monitored through smartphone technology and saves up to 70 per cent more water than traditional farming methods. Smart Farms Fiji also runs the country’s first hydroponics course that teaches local communities to embrace modern farming practices.

Fusi Masina Tietie (Samoa)

Focus: SDG 5 – Gender Equality

Fusi is the founder of ‘Her Voice’; an online initiative that aims to empower young women in the local community by sharing their personal stories through art and videography. The project works in partnership with volunteer photographers, make-up artists, bloggers and fashion designers to curate each young woman’s story and share to Her Voice’s online community. Fusi also provides national training to young women on leadership and gender equality.

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Paradigm Initiative Selects Inaugural Digital Rights and Inclusion Learning Lab (DRILL) Fellow
February 20, 2020 | 0 Comments
Folasewa Olatunde

Accra – Ghana,  February 18, 2020 – Folasewa Olatunde, a second-year doctoral student at North Carolina State University, Raleigh, USA, has been selected  as the pioneer fellow for the newly introduced Digital Rights and Inclusion Learning Lab (DRILL) at Paradigm Initiative. 

“We are pleased to announce the selection of Folasewa Olatunde, and we’re also excited about the quality of applications the fellowship, though just starting, attracted,” said ‘Gbenga Sesan, Executive Director of Paradigm Initiative. 

“There are both enormous challenges and opportunities for realizing the ambitious task of creating an inclusive, healthy, safe and open Internet in the coming decade for all Africans and we hope this fellowship will offer a space for big thinking, evaluation of digital rights and digital inclusion programs, and future-proofing of ecosystem activities,” Mr. Sesan added.

Digital Rights and Inclusion Learning Lab (DRILL) is Paradigm Initiative’s project to host innovative learning around digital rights and inclusion in Africa.

Headquartered in Lagos, Nigeria, the learning lab serves as a space for both practice and reflection, aimed to involve and connect different stakeholders and create dialogue amongst researchers, social innovators, policymakers and actors, the private sector, as well as civil society.

Learning activities will take place at the lab in order to evolve new thinking on digital rights and inclusion strategy for Africa. There are a variety of activities that will take place, including but not limited to, focused future-facing research; presentations; ecosystem meetings and discussions focused on digital rights and/or inclusion hosted within the ecosystem; and general communication about the lab’s activities.

Meanwhile, the Digital Rights and Inclusion Media Fellowship, another Paradigm Initiative project, has attracted 116 applications from 19 countries.  This is according to a statement released by Paradigm Initiative, a social enterprise working on digital rights and inclusion in Africa.

The pioneer Digital Rights and Inclusion Learning Lab fellow, Folasewa Olatunde, is a second-year doctoral student at North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA, studying Communication Rhetoric and Digital Media. She is a communication and digital media practitioner, researcher and instructor. She is interested in researching the intersections of the internet, social media and mobile phones – and other digital technologies –  in (not) empowering the global south.

Her current research focuses on evaluating informal and formal basic digital skills interventions in Nigeria and how their functions can be improved. Fola’ believes that more social science research should be policy-driven. She is passionate about how Nigerians across different age groups can (continue to) learn to use digital technologies to improve their socio-economic conditions.

About Paradigm Initiative

Paradigm Initiative(PIN) is a social enterprise that builds ICT-enabled support systems and advocates for digital rights in order to improve the livelihoods of under-served young Africans. The organisation’s digital inclusion programs include a digital readiness school for young people living in under-served communities (LIFE) and a software engineering school targeting high potential young Nigerians (Dufuna). Both programs have a deliberate focus to ensure equal participation for women and girls. 

The digital rights advocacy program is focused on the development of public policy for internet freedom in Africa, with offices in Abuja, Nigeria (covering the Anglophone West Africa region); Yaoundé, Cameroon (Central Africa); Democratic Republic of Congo (East Africa) and Lusaka, Zambia (Southern Africa). 

Paradigm Initiative has worked in communities across Nigeria since 2007, and across Africa from 2017, building experience, community trust and an organisational culture that positions us as a leading social enterprise in ICT for Development and Digital Rights on the continent. Paradigm Initiative is also the convener of the Digital Rights and Inclusion Forum (DRIF), a pan-African bilingual Forum that has held annually since 2013. 

For any inquiries about this press release, please send an email to media@paradigmhq.org 

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Nigerian Ambassador Introduces Coronavirus Relief and Evacuation Plan To Help All African Nationals Trapped In Wuhan
February 20, 2020 | 0 Comments

Some government officials laughed when asked to help the estimated 5,000 African nationals who are presently stranded in Wuhan, due to the deadly coronavirus outbreak. However, The Organization for Leadership and Strategy Development (OLSD), a Nigerian NGO founded by Ambassador Collins Nnabugwu of Lagos, Nigeria, took serious action. Action that is now garnering attention across the entire continent of Africa. 

“We at OLSD commit to making sure that all Africans trapped and locked down in Wuhan receive proper assistance and medical care during our intervention. We will continue to send daily donations of food and supplies and do all we can to help until this crisis ends” stated Mr. Nnabugwu. 

Since learning of this issue less than a week ago, the ambitious Global Goodwill Ambassador and his partners, Biz Africa Shanghai, The Star Factor Effect, The Center for Truth and Healing, and Group Shumba, have made it their mission to bring awareness to the victims’ plight. The conglomerate is working overtime to raise funds to help pay for food, supplies, and eventually their evacuation. 

With the assistance of Biz Africa Shanghai, a private company based in China, OLSD has been successful at making direct contact with local government officials in Wuhan to ensure the delivery of donations. OLSD has confirmed that the first shipment of food and supplies has arrived as of yesterday and is currently being distributed to those in need. 

African nationals trapped in Wuhan are encouraged to register at bit.ly/Africansin Wuhan to receive alerts, assistance, and additional information. Individuals, organizations, and companies who would like to be a part of OLSD’s mission are welcomed to donate on OLSD’s website or email OLSD2020@gmail.com for sponsorship details. 

To learn more about The Organization of Leadership and Strategy Development (OLSD), visit https://lida.global or call Ambassador Collins Nnabugwu +234 902 978 0361

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EU calls on Zim govt to accelerate political and economic reforms
February 20, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Wallace Mawire

Harare-The Council of the European Union in its conclusions on Zimbabwe, as adopted by the council at its 3747th meeting held on 17 February 2020 has among other key important issues urged the government of Zimbabwe to accelerate political and economic reforms as a matter of urgency.

According to the council, Zimbabwe is going through a multifaceted, prolonged and deep crisis.

 It is said that the transition in Zimbabwe nevertheless opened doors for economic and political reforms which the then newly elected government committed to implement.

  The European Union (EU) says that it remains ready to support the policies, as underlined in the council conclusions adopted on 22 January 2018.

  The EU says that for Zimbabwe, seizing opportunities for real transformation would facilitate steps towards deeper re-engagement of the EU, based on mutual commitments and shared values in line with the 2030 Agenda and focused on human rights, democracy, governance and the rule of law.

  The EU says that it is engaged on the basis of the government’s own agenda, in line with the 2013 Constitution of Zimbabwe, as well as the recommendations of both the Motlanthe Commission on post-electoral violence and the final report of the EU Electoral Observation Mission to Zimbabwe.

   The EU says that it welcomes the resumption of a formal political dialogue in 2019, as a step towards a more constructive EU-Zimbabwe relationship.

  It is reported that the lack of substantial reforms, the further shrinking of democratic space and corruption, have however contributed to the current deteriorating humanitarian crisis and to the economic and social situation.

   The EU has called on the government to accelerate the political and economic reform process as a matter of urgency, for the benefit of its population.

 It says that perpetrators of human rights violations and abuses should swiftly be brought to justice and the recommendations of the Motlanthe Commission of Inquiry should be implemented without further delay.

  In addition, an inclusive national dialogue is key to finding structural and durable solutions to the challenges faced by Zimbabwe.

 It is added that sound political and economic governance are paramount if the business and investment climate in Zimbabwe is to be improved, and inclusive and sustainable economic growth and development are to be achieved.

  The EU says that the Economic Partnership Agreement, applied since 2012, remains a driver to attract both foreign and domestic investment.

  According to the EU, Zimbabwe is currently experiencing an acute humanitarian crisis, including a severe food security emergency further exacerbated by climate change.

  The EU is supporting the people of Zimbabwe in various sectors, such as economic development, primary health care, resilience building, as well as through humanitarian assistance.

   To that end, the EU has stepped up its support substantially since 2019. 7.

  The EU has decided to renew its arms embargo and to maintain a targeted assets freeze against one company, Zimbabwe Defence Industries, for one year, taking into account the situation in Zimbabwe, including the yet to be investigated alleged role of the armed and security forces in human rights abuses.

  It says that the restrictive measures against four individuals are suspended. The arms embargo, as well as the asset freeze against Zimbabwe Defence Industries, do not affect the Zimbabwean economy, foreign direct investment, or trade.

  It is reported that they are motivated by the EU’s intention to encourage a demonstrable commitment by the Zimbabwean authorities to upholding the rule of law and human rights.

   The EU says that it  is ready to review the whole range of its policies at any time, when justified, based on developments in the country.

 “The EU will seek increased collaboration with international partners, most importantly the African Union, SADC and its member countries, and international financial institutions, who can play a key role by supporting Zimbabwe in enabling an inclusive dialogue and in accelerating progress in reforms,” according to the Council.

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EU to soon fund additional cultural activities in Zimbabwe
February 20, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Wallace Mawire

Ambassador Olkkonen

European Union Delegation to the Republic of Zimbabwe, Ambassador Timo Olkkonen has revealed that the delegation will soon release  additional substantial  funding to support additional cultural activities across Zimbabwe.

  Ambassador Olkkonen made the remarks at the official opening ceremony of the Culture at Work Africa second networking workshop being held in Harare, Zimbabwe on 17 to 21 February 2020 under the theme: Promoting the public value of intercultural dialogue for social cohesion in Africa.

Culture at Work Africa was launched in February 2018 with support from the European Union in Brussels. Its objective is to promote intercultural dialogue and cultural diversity in urban and peri-urban areas to enhance social inclusion of vulnerable and marginalised groups and to contribute to sustainable development in Africa.

Culture at Work Africa is driven by a consortium of eight African, European and international partners which include Interarts, Arterial Network, Centre for Fine Arts-BOZAR, Culture et Developpement, Regional Centre for the Living Arts in Africa-CERAV/Afrique, Culture Fund of Zimbabwe Trust, International Music Council-IMC and the Committee on culture of United Cities and Local Governments-UCLG.

It  was co-funded by the European Union with support from the Barcelona City Council.

  The event has brought together the beneficiaries of the grants of the 1st and 2nd call for proposals. Over 50 professionals involved in the 35 projects funded by Culture at Work Africa in 15 African countries are attending the workshop in Harare.

 According to Olkkonen, the EU is committed to promoting culture in Europe and Africa. He told participants at the workshop that the EU delegation is an important actor and had established solid development partners through their EU delegations in the respective countries.

 “We see our support to the diverse and rich arts and culture sector in Africa not only as a way to preserve cultural traditions, but also as a tool for development of Africa and its people,” Ambassador Olkonnen said.

 He said that the continued recognition of culture in the development agenda of the EU and other regional and international bodies as well as Zimbabwe’s constitution and the legislation of the countries represented at the workshop attested to the need for governments to step-up their efforts in the promotion of arts and culture as a goal and as an enabler for dialogue, social inclusion, skills development and cohesion.

  Olkkonen said that in most of the 15 countries targeted by the project including Zimbabwe, there are common challenges such as high unemployment, gender inequalities and violence, be it ethnic, political or economically driven. The project seeks to address the challenges through harnessing the power of culture and cultural diversity for social cohesion by promoting inter-cultural dialogue.

 He added that Zimbabwe was one such country where various processes for national dialogue were being initiated and implemented by government and non-state actors. He urged government, civil society and the church in Zimbabwe to take a cue from the event on how they can anchor dialogue through cultural spaces to contribute to social cohesion.

  He added that he was positive that cultural practitioners in Zimbabwe would share their challenges on funding to the sector and favourable policies and laws.

  According to Olkonnen, national cultural institutions in Zimbabwe such as the National Arts Council, National Museums and Monuments were operating below capacity due to severe funding constraints and inadequate and dilapidated infrastructure.

 He said that free artistic expression was being stifled by restrictive laws and regulations hindering innovation and growth of the arts sector.

  He told Honourable Kirsty Conventry, Zimbabwe Minister of Youths, Sports, Arts and Recreation that if the problems in the sector were not tackled, Zimbabwe risked losing the opportunity of benefitting from the power of culture to contribute to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda and also its won target of being a middle income economy by 2030.

  Olkkonen implored the government of Zimbabwe not to regulate culture and arts to the periphery of development.

 “Government should invest in the arts and culture sector and most importantly open up cultural space for free creativity and expression.

  He added that this will be accelerated through amongst other things such as equitably liberalising the airwaves, expediting the reform of laws such as the Censorship and Entertainment Control Act   and other media laws.

  He also called upon cultural actors at the workshop to partner governments and the private sector in order to combine the innovation of people with the transformative nature of the arts and culture to contribute to a peaceful environment conducive for development and realisation of human rights for all.

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Culture at Work Africa second networking workshop opens in Harare
February 20, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Wallace Mawire

Harare-The second activity of networking of the Culture at Work Africa consortium opened in Harare, Zimbabwe running from 17 to 21 February 2020 under the theme: Promoting the public values of intercultural dialogue for social cohesion in Africa.

 Culture at Work Africa was launched in February 2018 with support from the European Union in Brussels. Its objective is to promote intercultural dialogue and cultural diversity in urban and peri-urban areas to enhance social inclusion of vulnerable and marginalised groups and to contribute to sustainable development in Africa.

 The project takes up the challenge raised by the African Union (AU) and its vision for 2063 for an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the international arena.

 It is supporting innovative on the ground projects in 15 African countries namely Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cote D’Ivore, Democratic Republic of Congo,Kenya,Mali,Niger,Nigeria,Rwanda,Senegal,Tanzania,Togo,Uganda and Zimbabwe aiming at developing safe and neutral spaces for intercultural dialogue, active citizenship and intercommunity relations and organising training and capacity building activities for cultural operators, public authorities and cultural mediators as well as networking and regional exchanges between different stakeholders.

 Culture at Work Africa is driven by a consortium of eight African, European and international partners which include Interarts, Arterial Network, Centre for Fine Arts-BOZAR, Culture et Developpement, Regional Centre for the Living Arts in Africa-CERAV/Afrique, Culture Fund of Zimbabwe Trust, International Music Council-IMC and the Committee on culture of United Cities and Local Governments-UCLG.

Culture at Work Africa was co-funded by the European Union with support from the Barcelona City Council.

  The event has brought together the beneficiaries of the grants of the 1st and 2nd call for proposals. Over 50 professionals involved in the 35 projects funded by Culture at Work Africa in 15 African countries are attending the workshop in Harare.

   Honourable  Ms Kirsty Coventry, Minister of Youth, Sports and Arts and Recreation in Zimbabwe was guest of honour at the official launch ceremony. Also  His Excellency  Mr Timo Olkkonen, Ambassador of the European Union to Zimbabwe made his remarks  at the opening session.

  Throughout the week, training sessions, seminars and visits to cultural venues in the city of Harare will be organised.

  The programme will enable participants, authorities and other local operators to also share and exchange experiences. Different topics will be addressed such as project management, cultural disciplines to foster skills’ development, intercultural mediation, promotion of intercultural dialogue and understanding between different groups through multidisciplinary and multi-stakeholder projects, cultural and public space development, among others.

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ENGIE Africa brings Off-Grid Power to over 4 Million People, establishing its Position as Market Leader on the Continent
February 19, 2020 | 0 Comments

ENGIE has achieved this through the development of its three A2E off-grid energy solution companies: Fenix International, ENGIE Mobisol, and ENGIE PowerCorner

NAIROBI, Kenya, February 18, 2020/ — ENGIE Africa (http://www.ENGIE-Africa.com) is pleased to announce that it has successfully accelerated the Access to Energy (A2E) strategy that it launched in 2018. ENGIE has achieved this through the development of its three A2E off-grid energy solution companies: Fenix International, ENGIE Mobisol, and ENGIE PowerCorner.

With these three innovative entities, ENGIE Africa is bringing decentralized electricity to more than four million people in nine countries (Uganda, Zambia, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Nigeria, Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, and Mozambique). This growth is in line with the Group’s ambition to reach millions of households and businesses with clean, distributed energy across Africa.

Fenix, which was acquired by ENGIE in 2018, expanded its operations significantly in 2019. To date, it has sold more than 700,000 solar home systems that power 3.5 million people in rural communities across six countries. Now employing 1,200 full-time team members, Fenix launched sales in Mozambique in June 2019. In the last month, the company has reached milestones in multiple markets, with 150,000 solar home systems sold in Zambia, 50,000 sold in Benin, and 20,000 sold in Côte d’Ivoire.

ENGIE complemented its range of solar home system solutions by finalizing the acquisition of Mobisol in October 2019. The higher capacity (40–200W) of ENGIE Mobisol’s products offers consumers access to modern energy services and appliances to establish solar-powered small businesses. ENGIE Mobisol has operations in Tanzania, Rwanda and Kenya, and has installed more than 150,000 solar home systems, providing clean and reliable energy to 750,000 people and counting in East Africa.

Mini-grid developer and operator ENGIE PowerCorner now has 13 mini-grids in operation across two countries (Tanzania and Zambia), serving 15,000 beneficiaries. It is constructing new mini-grids in Uganda (in joint venture with Equatorial Power), Benin and Nigeria, with the aim to triple its number of customers this year. ENGIE PowerCorner focuses on powering income-generating activities and productive usages, thus contributing to the increase of the economic welfare of its rural customers.

Fenix’s inclusive solar home systems for household usages, combined with ENGIE Mobisol’s focus on larger households and small business appliances, together with ENGIE PowerCorner’s focus on income-generating activities and small-scale industries, enables ENGIE to offer affordable energy products and to extend its customer base from rural to urban areas.

Yoven Moorooven, CEO of ENGIE Africa, says: “We strongly believe in the huge potential of the off-grid electrification sector and that it will be instrumental in rapidly and cost-effectively bridging energy gaps across Africa. We will build upon our successes to sustain and meet our long-term ambition of impacting tens of millions of lives across Africa. ENGIE has an important role to play in industrializing and scaling up the off-grid solar business. We are keen to offer the lowest cost and best quality Access to Energy solution that addresses our customers’ needs.”

ENGIE is expanding its offerings beyond electricity provision, integrating cost-effective and tailor-made solutions “as a service” to accompany customers every step of the way. This expansion links energy access to other products and services: internet, water, productive appliances, clean cooking, financial services and products.

Universal electrification is the seventh of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals that the global community has committed to achieve by 2030. ENGIE is confident that universal access to energy is achievable in the foreseeable future, through smart investments in a combination of national grid extension, solar home systems and mini-grids.

About ENGIE Africa:
ENGIE (https://www.ENGIE.com/) is the largest independent electricity producer in the world, and one of the major players in natural gas and energy services. The Group has more than 50 years of experience on the African continent and has the unique ability to implement integrated solutions all along the energy value chain, from centralized electricity production to off-grid solutions (solar home systems, mini-grids) and energy services. ENGIE Africa employs nearly 4,000 people, and has 3.15 GW of power generation capacity in operation or construction. It is a leader in the decentralized energy market, providing clean energy to more than four million people through domestic solar installations and local microgrids.

*SOURCE ENGIE


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UN Secretary General demands investigation into killing of civilians, including Children, pregnant women in Cameroon’s North West Region
February 18, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Amos Fofung

UN Secretary General, Antonio Gutterres (right) pictured here with Cameroon President Paul Biya, has on several occasions made known his readiness to mediate a dialogue and find solution to Anglophone Crisis ( photo: prc.com)

Antonio Gutterres, Secretary General of the United Nations, UN has expressed concerns over the killing of civilians in the Ngarbuh, a tiny locality in Cameroon’s North West Region.

In a message posted February 17, Antonio Gutterres called on the government of Cameroon to conduct a thorough investigation into the incident that caused the lives of over thirty-two civilians among them children and pregnant women, and ensure those responsible are held accountable.

“The Secretary-General is deeply concerned over reports about the killing of civilians, including children, in an attack on the village of Ngarbuh in the north-west Region of Cameroon on 14 February.  He extends his deepest condolences to the families and calls on the Government of Cameroon to conduct an investigation and to ensure that those responsible are held accountable,” a section of his statement read.

Reiterating he is ready to work with the government of Cameroon and separatist leaders to proffer a solution to the country’s simmering three-year conflict, the UN scribe once again urged armed actors to refrain from attacking civilians and respect international human rights laws signed and ratified by Cameroon.

“The Secretary-General calls on armed actors to refrain from attacks against civilians and to respect international humanitarian and international human rights law.”

Last Friday, we should recall, pro-government forces stormed the locality of Ngarbuh-Ntumbaw in Ndu sub-division of the North West region in Cameroon in search for separatist fighters who were believed have camp in the rural setting.

The soldiers are reported to have engage in crossfire confrontation with the armed separatist as they tried to flee. While some of the villagers were reportedly shot dead in separate locations in the enclaved village, others, were burnt alive when their homes were set ablaze.

In a communique, the government of Cameroon said all those killed were mistaken for separatist fighters when they open fire to defend themselves against raining bullets. There has been an outcry with many insisting that such brutal attacks and mass murder is not uncommon with the military in Cameroon, referencing the 2018 killings in Santa sub division where over 30 mostly youths were slain allegedly by the same military. 

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