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Perceived As Prophetic Of A Bloodless Coup, Zimbabwean Artist’s Profile Rises
December 9, 2017 | 0 Comments

By FRANK CHIKOWORE*

Amagra Photography/Courtesy of the artist

Amagra Photography/Courtesy of the artist

Zimbabwe’s bloodless coup, which took place in mid-November and brought to an end the 37-year rule of Robert Mugabe, certainly had its political casualties. With an uncertain future ahead the artist Jah Prayzah, born Mukudzei Mukombe, appears to be benefitting from a serendipitous album release, seen by some as prophetic of the dramatic November change.

Prayzah, born Mukudzei Mukombe on July 4, 1987, has seen his popularity spike as never before in the wake of Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ascendance to the presidency. Everyone, from the elderly to kindergartners, can be heard in the streets singing songs from Kutonga Kwaro, the album Prayzah released Oct. 13 — almost exactly one month prior to Mugabe’s ouster.

Prayzah’s fans describe Kutonga Kwaro as prophetic, as if the singer knew that the military — whose uniform he performs in — would imminently intervene in Zimbabwe’s political affairs. Indeed, some of the lyrics in its title track seem to be praising the military for seizing control: Prayzah laments, in the vernacular Shona language: “Behold, I am here, the soldier is ruling, he makes the orphans happy… ”

In another, “Ndin’Ndamubata” — which translates literally to “I have caught him, do you want to be happy?” — Jah Prayzah could appear, in hindsight, to be asking Zimbabweans if they are happy that Mugabe had been forced to vacate the presidency.

“Music is an art; people can have their own interpretations, but I always sing to make people enjoy the music and that’s it,” Jah Prayzah tells NPR.

Before his recent rise, Prayzah was openly threatened when a faction of the ruling Zanu-PF party still loyal to Mugabe accused him of singing songs positively portraying Mnangagwa. At one point, Prayzah arrived late to a show, causing fans to pelt him in what some of the people who attended described as “a politically motivated attack.”

After Mnangagwa was named by Zimbabwe’s ruling Zanu-PF party as successor to Mugabe following Mugabe’s forced removal by the country’s military, Prayzah — who was in Australia at the time — received a hero’s welcome at the recently renamed Robert Mugabe International Airport. A massive convoy of cars made up of fans playing his songs in their vehicles met his arrival, and the subsequent procession brought business to a standstill for a couple of hours in downtown Harare. Afterwards, Prayzah performed at Mnangagwa’s inauguration, held at the National Sports Stadium — which was filled to its 60,000-person capacity — performing several encores.

Commenting on the march that was held by Zimbabweans in support of the military takeover, Jah Prayzah said he was happy that there was unity of purpose in the country.

“I am overjoyed to see Zimbabweans coming together as one; I am happy that Zimbabweans marched in peace,” he says.

 

The question remains of what kind of leader Mnangagwa will be. As NPR’s Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reported, the former vice president oversaw the country’s intelligence services, which were often wielded by Mugabe to stifle dissent, sometimes violently. “We are celebrating, but we need to be cautious,” the journalist Andrew Meldrum told NPR. “This is not a revolution to bring reform.”

As the U.S. State Department wrote in 2009: “The ruling party’s dominant control and manipulation of the political process through violence, intimidation, and corruption effectively negated the right of citizens to change their government.” While the president has changed, the party, ZANU-PF, has not.

As a recording artist in Zimbabwe, Prayzah has another concern he’s equally unlikely to solve: piracy. Some street traders are reportedly making huge profits from copies of Kutonga Kwaro.

“I sell a minimum of 100 compact discs per day containing Jah Prayzah’s music alone, and that is good for my business. I know that he is not benefitting anything from the sale of his music that we reproduce illegally, but I have to eke out a living under the difficult economic climate that we find ourselves,” said 29-year-old vendor Kelvin Kamoto. “I have a degree in economics,” Kamoto claimed, “but I can’t find any work because of the country’s high unemployment rate. So the only source of income that I have is selling popular CDs.”

*Culled from NPR.Frank Chikowore is a freelance journalist based in Harare.

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The 17th World Conference on Tobacco or Health (WCTOH) to be held for the first time in Africa where tobacco industry interference is endemic
December 8, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Wallace Mawire

Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

Organisers of the 17th World Conference on Tobacco or Health (WCTOH)
) to be held in Cape Town, South Africa, on 7 to 9 March in 2018,
thave announced the attendance of WHO Director-General Dr Tedros
Adhanom Ghebreyesus, South Africa Minister of Health Dr Aaron
Motsoaledi and Michael R. Bloomberg, a leading actor on tobacco
control and WHO Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases.

For the past 50 years, WCTOH has been the premier international
forum on tobacco control and next year’s event – the first to be held
on the African continent – is expected to attract over 2000
researchers, scientists, civil society, healthcare professionals,
policymakers and media representatives from around 100 countries. It
is reported that tobacco use is the world’s leading preventable cause
of death killing more than 7 million people each year.

“This conference is being held at a critical time, both in the war on
tobacco and the drive to protect public health,” said WHO
Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“Countries have stepped up action to beat back the tobacco epidemic.
But more is needed. By embracing the Sustainable Development Goals,
governments have committed to promoting healthier and stronger futures
for their citizens. Tobacco control offers one of the surest ways to
achieve such ambitions.”

The theme of the conference is Uniting the World for a Tobacco-Free
Generation with an overarching focus on expediting progress to reduce
tobacco use in all populations around the world – using new research
and innovative approaches in public health, as well as powerful but
under-used policies, including tobacco taxation and those aimed at
preventing industry interference.

Michael Bloomberg will preside over the Bloomberg Philanthropies’
Awards for Global Tobacco Control during WCTOH. The awards recognise
leading organisations in low- and middle-income countries doing best
in class work on the most effective tobacco control policies,
collectively known as MPOWER measures: monitoring of tobacco use and
prevention policies,protecting people from tobacco smoke,offering help
to quit tobacco use,warning about the dangers of tobacco,enforcing
bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship and raising
taxes on tobacco.

It is further added that while tobacco use is decreasing in many
countries, smoking rates in Africa are anticipated to rise
dramatically. By 2030 the number of smokers in the region is projected
to increase by 40 percent from 2010 levels, unless there is
significant intervention. Africa continues to be aggressively targeted
by the tobacco industry, as it represents an opportunity for
considerable market growth.

Dr Flavia Senkubuge

Dr Flavia Senkubuge

Dr Flavia Senkubuge, President of the 17th WCTOH and a specialist in
Public Health Medicine at the University of Pretoria, South Africa
said: “The developing world continues to be the most urgent
battleground for those working in tobacco control. We are delighted to
have the commitment of three such prominent public health champions at
the inaugural WCTOH conference to be held in the Africa region.”

Professor Harry Lando, Chair of the 17^th WCTOH organising committee
said: “We are confident that the high quality of the science being
presented in Cape Town will complement the advocacy around WCTOH – we
need both, if we are to make bigger strides in tobacco control,
especially in this part of the world.”

Some of the scientific highlights being featured at WCTOH include a
novel study around HIV and smoking in South Africa, e-cigarette use
and young people, and the impact of tobacco taxation and point-of-sale
changes on consumers.
The 17th World Conference on Tobacco or Health (WCTOH) is expected to
unite researchers, academics, non-governmental organisations, civil
society, scientists, healthcare professionals and public officials
working on all aspects of tobacco control from around 100 countries.

Convened by WCTOH’s Advisory Board, the Cape Town Consortium and the
Conference Secretariat (The Union), WCTOH is a call for a collective
resolution to fight tobacco use by working together and integrating
tobacco control into our health and development goals. Held every
three years, WCTOH is the premier international conference on tobacco
control.

It is reported that the conference theme – Uniting the World for a
Tobacco-Free Generation – recognises that tobacco control is a global
issue, crossing all geographic boundaries. The World Health
Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) stands
as the backdrop for the conference and for our global response to the
tobacco epidemic. It is the only internationally, legally-binding
health treaty of the 21st century. Only by coming together are we able
to create a tobacco-free generation.

The Union is the Conference Secretariat for WCTOH. The Union is a
global scientific organisation with the mission to improve health
among people living in poverty. We do that by conducting scientific
research, working with governments and other agencies to translate
research into better health for people around the world, and
delivering projects directly in the field. The Union is made up of a
membership body of people around the world who help to advance our
mission, and a scientific institute that implements public health
projects within countries. For close to 100 years, they have been
leaders in the fight against some of the world’s biggest killers,
including tuberculosis, lung diseases and tobacco use.

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SureRemit targets 250 million immigrants with non-cash remittance service
December 8, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Wallace Mawire

. SureRemit, a global blockchain-based non-cash remittance service has
announced a token sale event to allow investors to contribute to
SureRemit and receive RMT tokens at a 40 % bonus.

A big argument for the potential of blockchain and cryptocurrencies
has been about how the revolutionary technology can impact the $600bn
cross-border remittance market. Several platforms are already enabling
cheaper and faster transfer of money using cryptocurrencies like
Bitcoin; however, a new product, SureRemit, is focusing on a
particular segment: non-cash remittances.

It is reported that there are over 250 million immigrants across
the world. A significant volume of money sent by these immigrants is
intended to serve specific needs of their friends and family at home
like food, clothing, utility bills and education. Senders utilize a
myriad of formal and informal channels to move money, but while there
have been improvements in recent years, the international money
transfer process is far from convenient.
Cash transfers are heavily regulated in order to prevent money
laundering, fraud and terrorist financing, so the systems and
intermediaries involved are forced to create elaborate compliance
processes that result in high fees and less-than-ideal transaction
flows. Furthermore, after sending money home, immigrants have no
control or visibility over the use of funds.

A new blockchain-based remittance service is being created to address
this. Immigrants all over the world with Remit tokens can purchase
digital vouchers that are redeemable for goods and services directly
from local merchants at their specified destinations. This
cryptocurrency removes the cash layer, reduces the cost of transfers
and provides the sender some control and visibility over how the value
is spent.

“International remittance transactions can be frustrating, but it
doesn’t have to be, at least for non-cash value transfers which
constitute about 40% of all transfers” said ‘Laolu Samuel-Biyi,
Director of Remittances at SureRemit. “In very many cases, immigrants
and travelers just want to buy food or pay a bill for someone at home.
Those transactions do not have the same risk profiles as cash
transactions, and they should not be subjected to the same costs,
timelines and procedures.”

Remit tokens are being issued in partnership with Stellar. The tokens
generated will be the primary tool for accessing digital shopping
vouchers, utility bill payments and mobile airtime services within the
SureRemit app. SureRemit already has access to over 500 redemption
points of major retail chains within the SureGifts merchant ecosystem
across Africa, with partnerships to acquire thousands of ecosystem
merchant partners in India and the Middle-East in the works. Expansion
into other major remittance corridors are planned for next year.

SureRemit is a platform for global non-cash remittances. Remit tokens
are being issued in partnership with Stellar. The tokens generated
will be the primary tool for accessing digital shopping vouchers,
utility bill payments and mobile airtime services within the SureRemit
app. SureRemit already has access to over 500 redemption points of
major retail chains within the SureGifts merchant ecosystem across
Africa, with partnerships to acquire thousands of ecosystem merchant
partners in India and the Middle-East in the works. Expansion into
other major remittance corridors are planned for next year. Pre-sale
token distribution begins December 8, 2017.

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WorldRemit raises $40m to target 5 million customers in Africa
December 8, 2017 | 0 Comments
Series C funding round brings the total amount raised to $220m
Ismail Ahmed, founder and CEO at WorldRemit

Ismail Ahmed, founder and CEO at WorldRemit

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, December 7, 2017/ — Leading digital money transfer service WorldRemit  has raised $40m to drive its next phase of global growth, aiming to serve 10 million customers connected to emerging markets. Half of these customers will be in Africa.

As part of the expansion, WorldRemit will enable customers in Africa to transfer money to 148 countries as easily as sending an instant message, using the WorldRemit app. Countries in Africa which now receive remittances through WorldRemit, will become send countries. Most importantly, the new service will make sending money within Africa faster, easier and low cost. According to the World Bank, inter-Africa transfers are amongst the most expensive in the world.

Money transfers to Africa account for more than half of WorldRemit’s total volume of transactions. The company currently handles 74% of remittances to popular mobile money services across Africa like MTN, Ecocash, Tigo Pesa, Vodafone M-Pesa and Airtel Money, making it the global leader in mobile-to-mobile international money transfers.

Ismail Ahmed, founder and CEO at WorldRemit, comments: “This new funding will fuel our growth, and help bring our service to millions more customers across the globe. Africa is a crucial market for us and over the next few years, we will expand our services so customers can send and receive with WorldRemit, getting the benefits of our fast, secure online service.” 

Since its last funding round in 2015, WorldRemit has launched 206 new services across the globe and has grown its transaction volume by 400%. Last month WorldRemit became Arsenal FC’s (www.Arsenal.com) first-ever online money transfer partner.

The Series C round was led by LeapFrog Investments (www.LeapFrogInvest.com) – a dedicated equity investor in emerging markets, supporting fast-growth firms that deliver social impact alongside commercial returns. The round also had significant participation from existing investors Accel (www.Accel.com) and Technology Crossover Ventures (TCV) (www.TCV.com).

Michael Liu, Regional Director, Asia-Pacific

Michael Liu, Regional Director, Asia-Pacific

This latest funding round follows a Series B investment raised from TCV in 2015 and a Series A from Accel and Project A in 2014 – then one of the largest ever Series A rounds in Europe.

WorldRemit (www.WorldRemit.com) was founded in 2010 by a UK-based entrepreneur from Somaliland, Ismail Ahmed, a remittance specialist and former compliance advisor to the United Nations. Personal experience of using money transfer agents convinced Ismail that technology could improve the sending process, enhance compliance and reduce costs to the customer.

In November 2017 WorldRemit became Arsenal FC’s first-ever online money transfer partner in a global sponsorship deal for all Premier League, League Cup and FA Cup games. In June 2017 WorldRemit added Android Pay to its service, offering a new way for WorldRemit’s Android Pay users to safely and securely send money to 130 million mobile money accounts accessible via its network.

WorldRemit has secured $220 million in funding backed by Accel and TCV – early investors in Facebook, Spotify, Netflix and Slack – and LeapFrog Investments.

WorldRemit’s global headquarters are in London, UK with offices in the United States, Canada, South Africa, Japan, Singapore, the Philippines, Australia and New Zealand.

LeapFrog (www.LeapFrogInvest.com) invests in extraordinary businesses in Africa and Asia. We partner with their leaders to achieve leaps of growth, profitability and impact. LeapFrog companies now operate across 33 markets reaching 111 million people with financial services and healthcare. Over 93.8 million of those are emerging consumers, often accessing insurance, savings, pensions, credit and healthcare for the first time. LeapFrog companies provide jobs and livelihoods to over 114,626 people. These companies have grown on average by 43.3 per cent per annum since LeapFrog’s investment. LeapFrog was recently named by Fortune as one of the top five companies changing the world, the first private equity firm ever to be listed.

Accel (www.Accel.com) is a leading venture capital firm that invests in people and their companies from the earliest days through all phases of private company growth. Atlassian, Algolia, Avito, Cloudera, Crowdstrike, Deliveroo, DJI, Dropbox, Etsy, Facebook, Flipkart, Funding Circle, Kayak, QlikTech, Slack, Spotify, Supercell and WorldRemit are among the companies the firm has backed over the past 30 years. The firm seeks to understand entrepreneurs as individuals, appreciate their originality and play to their strengths. Because greatness doesn’t have a stereotype.

Technology Crossover Ventures (TCV) (www.TCV.com), founded in 1995, is a leading provider of capital to growth-stage private and public companies in the technology industry. With nearly $10 billion in capital raised, TCV has invested in more than 200 technology companies over the last 20 years. Selected investments include Altiris, C|NET, ExactTarget, Expedia, Facebook, Fandango, FX Alliance, GoDaddy, Genesys Software, HomeAway, Netflix, NewVoiceMedia, RealNetworks, Redback Networks, RiskMetrics Group, Sitecore, Splunk, Spotify, Thinkorswim, VICE Media, and Zillow. TCV is headquartered in Palo Alto, California, with offices in New York and London

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Rwanda Africa’s ‘City of Innovation’ to host conference on ‘Uniting Africa’
December 7, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Wallace Mawire

Rwanda's Paul Kagame and Chad's Idriss Derby displaying their copies of the African Union Passport

Rwanda’s Paul Kagame and Chad’s Idriss Derby displaying their copies of the African Union Passport

Next year Rwanda, one of Africa’s most technologically ambitious
countries, will take over the Chairmanship of the African Union. It
will also play host to eLearning Africa and the organisers are
predicting that it will be the biggest conference in the event’s
13-year history. They believe it could play a signinficant role in
pushing forward the African Union’s 2063 Agenda.

The conference, which is being jointly organised by ICWE GmbH and the
Rwanda Convention Bureau under the patronage of the Rwandan
Government, usually attracts well over 1,000 participants from all
over the world. They are not only teachers, academics and learning
experts, but political leaders, policy makers, investors,
technologists, business leaders and entrepreneurs too. The conference
will also be an occasion for an annual round table meeting of African
education and technology ministers.

In Rwanda, participants in eLearning Africa will have a chance to see
for themselves the achievements of an African government, which has
set about using technology to transform education. In 2014, the
Government signed an agreement to incorporate information and
communication technology into the country’s schools and colleges. The
benefits of “a new system of teaching that emphasises the use of
computers and internet to impart knowledge” are already starting to be
felt across the country. And now the Government is confident that by
2020 all schools in the country will have at least two smart
classrooms and all subjects will have been digitised.

eLearning Africa 2018 will take place from 26 to 28 September in
Rwanda’s capital city, Kigali, which has gained a reputation for its
ICT-based initiatives in a variety of sectors. So great is its
apparent enthusiasm for new technological solutions that some
observers have referred to it as the “Innovation City of Africa.”

In addition to its technological prowess, Kigali is also one of
Africa’s most attractive cities – eLearning Africa participants will
be able to take advantage of its bustling streets, ridges, valleys,
and lush hillsides, not to mention Rwanda’s world renowned Gorilla
trekking tours, only a short journey away.

“It is wonderful that Rwanda is now setting a real example for other
countries in technology-assisted learning and hosting a conference
whose theme is „Uniting Africa“, says conference organiser, Rebecca
Stromeyer. “l am confident that eLearning Africa 2018 in Rwanda will
be the biggest and most exciting eLA yet.”

Under the overall theme of “Uniting Africa,“ conference participants
will also discuss how the benefits of technology can be shared and
help to improve education across Africa, making a reality of the
African Union’s 2063 Vision of a “transformed continent.” A call for
papers has been issued and will remain open until 30 January 2018. The
organisers are looking for contributions on subjects including
“creating opportunities through education,” “boosting competitiveness
and ICT-centric growth,” “matching skills demand and supply,” and
“overcoming barriers.”

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South Africa’s ANC Wants to Avoid Split After Vote: Senior Official
December 7, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Alexander Winning*

Dr Zweli Mkhize, one of the ANC's "top six" leaders, is reflected in a mirror as he speaks to Reuters in Johannesburg, South Africa, December 6, 2017. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko Reuters

Dr Zweli Mkhize, one of the ANC’s “top six” leaders, is reflected in a mirror as he speaks to Reuters in Johannesburg, South Africa, December 6, 2017. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko Reuters

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) is doing everything possible to avoid a split in the party after elections for a new leader this month, a senior official running for the top job said on Wednesday.

The ANC has been beset by infighting as factions supporting different candidates to succeed President Jacob Zuma as party leader have jostled for influence.

“Splits are never planned, but we are doing everything to ensure that there is no need for members of the ANC to split,” Zweli Mkhize, the ANC’s treasurer general, told Reuters.

The party – one of Africa’s oldest liberation movements – splintered in 2008 when members, angered by the ousting of former president Thabo Mbeki from the leadership, split away to form the Congress of the People (COPE).

Some analysts have predicted an even bigger rupture could happen after the vote at the party’s Dec. 16-20 conference, particularly if Zuma’s preferred candidate, his former wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, gets elected.

The leadership contest is still too close to call, with most grassroots ANC members backing Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa or Dlamini-Zuma for ANC leader. Members are also divided on who should occupy the other senior party positions which are up for grabs.

FACTIONS

Mkhize said the best way to ensure the December vote did not weaken the ANC was for it to elect new leaders who appealed to a broad cross section of the party’s membership.

The party should avoid having “a leadership where people say it represents one faction,” he said.

Mkhize did not comment on his own chance of winning – the ANC, which presents itself as a collective that discourages personal ambition, frowns upon its members openly campaigning for posts well ahead of an election.

But analysts say Mkhize – one of the ANC’s “top six” most powerful officials – is someone who could reconcile the opposing factions supporting Dlamini-Zuma and Ramaphosa, or be nominated at the conference as a compromise candidate.

Although Ramaphosa and Dlamini-Zuma have been nominated for party leader by far more ANC branches, Mkhize could still mount a serious challenge if he is nominated by a large number of party members at the conference itself.

Whoever the ANC elects as leader will probably become the next president of South Africa because of the party’s electoral dominance.

All seven ANC leadership hopefuls pledged to Zuma at a meeting last month that they would accept the outcome of the leadership vote in the interests of keeping the 105-year-old organization intact.

Mkhize, a medical doctor by training and former party boss in Zuma’s home province of KwaZulu-Natal, said that after the conference, the ANC should focus on tackling corruption, raising economic growth from a near standstill and addressing crime so it can win a 2019 national election.

“The ANC must be seen to be championing those issues,” he said

*Reuters

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AfDB’s Leadership4Agriculture Forum Sets in Motion Strategies to Spur Africa’s Agricultural Transformation
December 7, 2017 | 0 Comments

ABIDJAN, COTE D’IVOIRE – December 6, 2017 – African Finance and Agriculture Ministers and private sector leaders convened for the African Development Bank’s first high-level convening of the Leadership4Agriculture (L4Ag) Forum to pave a way forward in spurring the continent’s agricultural transformation on November 28 in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire.

The invitation-only L4Ag Forum, supported by the Rockefeller Foundation and in collaboration with the Initiative for Global Development (IGD) and Grow Africa was held at the AfDB headquarters in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire. The event was held on the sidelines of the AU-EU Summit, which took place on November 29-30.

More than 150 public and private sector leaders gathered for dialogue, advocacy and policy action to drive Africa’s agriculture transformation on the theme, “Leadership for Agriculture: Moving African Policy to Action”. African Ministers from Cote d’Ivoire, the Republic of the Congo, Mali, Sierra Leone, Togo, Central African Republic, Seychelles, Ghana, Uganda, Gambia, and Chad were in attendance at the forum.

In a keynote address, Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina, president of the African Development Bank, told forum attendees that, more than ever before, governments and private sector must work together to rapidly modernize agriculture in Africa to reach its full potential.

President Adesina challenged African agriculture leaders to become global food producers and move away from importing foods that the continent should be producing, emphasizing that Africa sits on 65% of the world’s uncultivated arable land.

African countries currently spend $35 billion annually on food imports and if current trends continue the continent will spend some $110 billion annually by 2030 on food imports. “There is absolutely no reason for Africa to be a food-importing region,” said Adesina. “Africa has huge potentials in agriculture, but nobody eats potential!”

The AfDB President encouraged African leaders to develop new agrarian systems that combine smallholder farmers with a dynamic generation of medium and large commercial farmers.

African Ministers and private sector leaders offer insights on the panel, “Agriculture Powering Africa’s Economic Transformation: Fueling Agro-industry and Agribusiness”

African Ministers and private sector leaders offer insights on the panel, “Agriculture Powering Africa’s Economic Transformation: Fueling Agro-industry and Agribusiness”

Mamadou Biteye, managing director of the Rockefeller Foundation Africa Regional Office, agreed, noting that “strong and decisive” leadership and partnerships are required to achieve a greater impact in ensuring Africa’s food security, creating jobs and mobilizing investments in the agriculture sector.

The Rockefeller Foundation conceived the Leadership4Agriculture Forum during its 2013 centennial celebrations, where an unprecedented gathering of finance and agriculture leaders from over 20 African countries convened to identify concrete ways to work together and strengthen African agricultural markets and value chains to benefit economies.

“African governments need to be talking and integrating action,” asserted Biteye. He implored governments to draw in the private sector, “so they cease shying away from the sector due to the perception of agriculture being risky, and make greater investment.”

Dr. Mima S. Nedelcovych, president and CEO of the Initiative for Global Development reiterated the essential role of the private sector in delivering fundamental change in the agriculture sector.

“Agriculture is a business,” said Nedelcovych. “For far too long, agriculture has been approached largely as a development issue, and Africa’s born- and bred private sector was not actively sought out to be part of the long-term strategy for their country’s agricultural transformation.”

IGD collaborated, in partnership with the AfDB and Rockefeller Foundation, in the planning, execution and outreach to the African private sector for the L4Ag Forum.

By bringing together private sector leaders with high-level African officials to drive action and growth in Africa’s agriculture sector, Nedelcovych said the forum aimed to push for a market-led approach to agriculture.

Moderated by BBC presenter Alan Kasujja, a panel of Ministers and private sector leaders discussed and put forth solutions and strategies on transforming Africa’s agriculture by improving the regulatory environment, enhancing access to improved agricultural inputs and commercializing agriculture during panel sessions.

The forum panel sessions — “Enabling the Business of Agriculture: Increasing Access to Agricultural Inputs to Enhance Productivity and Regulatory Reforms”and “Agriculture Powering Africa’s Economic Transformation: Fueling Agro-industry and Agribusiness” — were guided by recently-released reports by the World Bank’s 2017 Enabling the Business of Agriculture Report and the 2017 Africa Transformation Report by African Center for Economic Transformation (ACET).

Joost W. van Odijk of Grow Africa outlined to forum attendees the Country Agribusiness Partnership Frameworks or CAP-F, a tool that sets policy reforms in motion through cross-sectoral engagements to improve efficiency in the agribusiness value chains and to attract private sector investments.

During the public-private action roundtable sessions, African high-level government officials and business leaders reviewed policy and sub-indicators from the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) and brainstormed their aligned interests and achievable goals in reaching policy indicators. The breakout sessions also explored investment opportunities in agribusiness ventures. CAADP is a policy framework for agricultural transformation, food security and nutrition, and advancing country-led economic growth in Africa.

Nedelcovych encouraged attendees to take the wealth of knowledge and bold strategies gained at the forum to build momentum for Africa’s agricultural transformation.

“There’s a tremendous opportunity to work together and deepen public-private sector collaborations and investment in agriculture to harness its full potential and contribute to accelerating the continent’s economic growth,” said Nedelcovych. “We all must be champions for agriculture!”

An action-oriented outcomes report highlighting forum sessions and actions from the public-private sector roundtables will be will be produced in early-January.

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Zimbabwe’s army generals should have gone under Mugabe era, says a political scientist
December 7, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Wallace Mawire

Dr Ibbo Mandaza,right

Dr Ibbo Mandaza,right

Dr Ibbo Mandaza, a Zimbabwean political scientist and Executive
Director of the Southern African Political Economy Series  (SAPES) trust has said that the country’s army generals
and commissioner of the police should have left their positions long
back, but remained to entrench Mugabe’s hold on power when he was
still in office.

Mugabe’s rule recently came to an end when the country’s military
moved in to restore normalcy under operation restore legacy.
In some circles, this has been described as a military coup, some
identifying it as a silent or soft coup.

Dr Mandaza said that the on-going debate globally on whether what
happened in Zimbabwe constituted a coup or not no longer matters, but
the expectations of the people of Zimbabwe after winning their
independence have been met.

“The on-going arguments on whether this was constitutional or not do
not matter anymore, Zimbabweans need to chart a new way forward after
attaining independence,” Mandaza said.

He said that the country’s police commissioner, Augustine Chihuri
who has served under the Mugabe regime has almost become a life
commissioner without any replacement so far to his position.
Mandaza added that Constantino Chiwenga, Commander of the defence
forces who has been hailed for the recent ‘coup’ should also have left
his position long back.

According to Mandaza, Chiwenga should have left the same position in
2013, if Mugabe had followed proper appointment conditions and the
constitution.
He said that the terms of the generals had been extended to entrench
Mugabe’s rule.

“The generals and the commissioner of the police are supposed to have
two terms of five years each, but there have been constitutional
violations which up to now have extended their stay in office,”
Mandaza said.

He also said that it had become public knowledge that the Movement
for Democratic Change (MDC) had won the 2008 elections, but the army
generals and the current President connived to circumvent the outcome
which resulted in a rerun and previous government of national unity.
He said Mugabe had almost bowed down to defeat.

Dr Mandaza said that he used to write saying that Mugabe was
powerful, but he has since realized that he was never in control, but
the military has been in charge.

“The military has always been in charge and Chiwenga has emerged
king in the new Zimbabwe. Noone can argue that the country is under
military rule,” Dr Mandaza said.
He added that Mugabe had failed in his succession plan and had
allowed his wife Grace to meddle in the country’s politics.

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Six Arrested in Zambia in Crackdown on Illegal Sale of Foreign Aid
December 7, 2017 | 0 Comments

FILE - Women hold mosquito nets after receiving them at a distribution point in Sesheke, Zambia, Sept. 30, 2010. Six people in Zambia were arrested for trying to profit from foreign aid.

FILE – Women hold mosquito nets after receiving them at a distribution point in Sesheke, Zambia, Sept. 30, 2010. Six people in Zambia were arrested for trying to profit from foreign aid.

Six people, including two pharmacy owners, have been arrested in Zambia and accused of the illegal sale of HIV and malaria testing kits as part of an international crackdown on profiteering from foreign aid, U.S. officials said Wednesday.

The test kits are provided in developing countries like Zambia for free distribution, the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Office of Inspector General (OIG) said.

It said the arrests stem from an effort to make U.S. foreign assistance more effective and accountable by investigating complaints of fraud and misconduct in global health programs.

“We coordinate closely with international partners to thwart the work of criminals who prey upon the U.S. government-supported global health supply chain,” said Jonathan Schofield, OIG’s special agent in charge of global health investigations.

“Our recent work with partners in the U.S. Embassy in Zambia and Zambia National Task Force has stopped several offenders who exploited international aid for personal gain,” he said in a statement.

The six people were arrested in Zambia last week on suspicion of illicitly selling the medical kits in its capital, Lusaka.

During a five-month probe, investigators visited pharmacies in Lusaka and found kits on sale that had been provided by the U.S. government and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, a public-private partnership, OIG said.

The six people arrested were the main targets of the investigation and remain in jail, it said.

Earlier OIG investigations have rooted out the illegal sale of anti-malarial drugs in Guinea and Malawi, it said.

*Reuters/VOA

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Zimbabwean Business Forum Doubles Efforts to Lure Investors
December 7, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Thuso Khumalo*

Zimbabwe's new President Emmerson Mnangagwa presides over a swearing in ceremony as his new cabinet took office on Dec. 4, 2017 at State House in Harare.

Zimbabwe’s new President Emmerson Mnangagwa presides over a swearing in ceremony as his new cabinet took office on Dec. 4, 2017 at State House in Harare.

Since taking office last month, Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa has put economic revival at the center of his administration. He has gone a step further to state his resolve to re-engage the international community that had long been disengaged by former president Robert Mugabe’s regime.

The South African based Zimbabwean Business Forum says having a president with such passion for rebuilding the country’s ailing economy is the best news Zimbabwe has heard in almost four decades.

Executive chairman of the forum, Marshall Sankara, says they are already hard at work convincing Zimbabwean business people outside the country and foreign investors to grab the economic opportunities in Zimbabwe.

Sankara, who is also a businessman, says the Forum is convinced Zimbabwe is open for business.

“We are very interested and we are going to do some massive investment in Zimbabwe. We are very confident that this regime, under the leadership of Comrade Mnangagwa, is going to loosen investment policies, which were so choking off to investors,” he said.

Sankara’s forum seeks to lure $100 million worth of investment by the end of 2018.

But Senior Researcher Samukele Hadebe, of the Chris Hani Institute in Johannesburg, says investors will first want to see practical guarantees that Zimbabwe is now a safe investment destination.

“The problem that we have always had was that of policy inconsistency, issues of corruption, personalization of public institutions, issues of fiscal discipline,” Hadebe said. “Those are practical things that cost no money, but that people would like to see very soon then we can realize a massive turnaround of the economy.”

Many believe ending cash shortages should top the government’s priorities list.

*VOA

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A borderless Africa? Not yet, but some countries open doors
December 7, 2017 | 0 Comments

By RODNEY MUHUMUZA*

FILE - In this Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017 file photo, the crowd watch as Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, center, and Deputy President William Ruto, center right, appear on a video screen at his inauguration ceremony at Kasarani stadium in Nairobi, Kenya. Citing the need to be "more integrated," Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta announced during his inauguration that the East African commercial hub will now give visas on arrival to all Africans. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis, File)

FILE – In this Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017 file photo, the crowd watch as Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, center, and Deputy President William Ruto, center right, appear on a video screen at his inauguration ceremony at Kasarani stadium in Nairobi, Kenya. Citing the need to be “more integrated,” Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta announced during his inauguration that the East African commercial hub will now give visas on arrival to all Africans. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis, File)

For years African leaders have toyed with the idea of free movement by citizens across the continent, even raising the possibility of a single African passport.

Now some African countries are taking bold steps to encourage borderless travel that could spur trade and economic growth on a continent in desperate need of both.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta announced during his inauguration last week that the East African commercial hub will now give visas on arrival to all Africans. That follows similar measures by nations including Benin and Rwanda.

“The freer we are to travel and live with one another, the more integrated and appreciative of our diversity we will become,” Kenyatta said.

The African Union continental body has cheered such steps, calling it the direction the 54-nation continent needs to take. “I urge all African states that have not yet done so to take similar measures,” AU Commission chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat said on Twitter after Kenya’s announcement.

Trade among African countries is at just 16 percent, while trade among European Union states is at 70 percent, Mahamat told AU trade ministers on Friday.

For a continent whose leaders often speak fondly of “African brotherhood” and once pondered the idea of a United States of Africa, the visa policies of many countries for many years suggested little progress in implementing the continent-wide, visa-free ideal advocated by the AU.

Africans can get a visa on arrival in 24 percent of African countries, yet North Americans, for example, have easier access on the continent, according to a 2017 report on visa openness by the African Development Bank. African Union figures show Africans need visas to travel to 54 percent of the continent.

Free migration of people across the continent would help in talent exchange as well as trade, said Ali Abdi, the Uganda chief of mission at the International Organization for Migration. Countries may have to invest more in border patrols but “the benefits far outweigh the costs, in my view.”

Kenya’s decision is a “good move and it’s progressive,” said Godber Tumushabe with the Uganda-based Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies. “It should have been done a long time ago.”

Change is coming, and not just in East Africa. While visiting Rwanda last year, Benin’s President Patrice Talon said his West African country would no longer require visas for other Africans. He said he was inspired by Rwanda, whose government started issuing visas on arrival to Africans in 2013 and recently announced that in 2018 citizens of all countries will benefit from the policy.

“We are happy that other African countries are opening their borders up for Africans to increase foreign investments,” said Olivier Nduhungirehe, a deputy foreign minister in Rwanda in charge of regional integration. Opening borders will spur economic prosperity for the entire continent, he said.

Some African countries are going visa-free by region first. Weeks ago, the Central African Economic and Monetary Community removed visa requirements for citizens of its six members.

Many African countries rely heavily on tourism for foreign currency. Kenya’s new visa policy was welcomed in a country where the threat by Islamic extremists based in neighboring Somalia has deterred some international travelers.

Offering visas on arrival to all Africans could attract the continent’s small but growing middle class.

“Visa-free travel for Africans into Kenya is a great move by the president and a strategic one for the tourism industry,” said Bobby Kamani, who runs the popular Diani Reef Beach Resort and Spa in the second-largest city, Mombasa. “The president’s bold move couldn’t have come at a better time when the tourism sector has experienced uncertainty and is now on recovery mode.”

Conflict and sharp income disparities in many countries are among other factors slowing the adoption of visa-free policies. Even the African Union passport, launched in July 2016 and given to some heads of state, is yet to be offered to citizens.

Some North African countries, notably Libya, struggle with a flow of impoverished African migrants trying to make their way to Europe. South Africa, one of the continent’s top economies, has seen a sometimes violent backlash against African immigrants amid fears about crime and the taking of jobs. Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country and another of its strongest economies, maintains visa requirements before arrival for many nations across the continent.

Still, many are hopeful for a borderless Africa and urge those regional leaders to follow Kenya’s lead.

“Is a new wind blowing across #Africa?” Wolfgang Thome, a tourism consultant who once led the Uganda Tourism Association, tweeted. “When will the last walls fall? #Nigeria we are waiting!”

*AP

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Dangote: Only African in Bloomberg 50 list of year’s most influential people
December 5, 2017 | 0 Comments
Dangote’s contribution to the world this year revolves around his dynamic attention to lessen food imports into his own country and Africa’s largest nation, Nigeria
Aliko Dangote

Aliko Dangote

NEW YORK, United States of America, December 5, 2017/ — Aliko Dangote was honored last night at the Bloomberg 50 annual gala dinner at New York’s iconic Gotham Hall. Bloomberg’s list of 50 most influential names (http://APO.af/hCnHFd) who have had an impact on the world in 2017 included Dangote, Africa’s richest person, for his outstanding commitment of over $4B USD to increase Nigeria’s food production capacity.

Represented in New York by the CEO of his Foundation, Dangote was joined by electric car visionary Elon Musk; Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salmon; Beatrice Fihn, anti-nuclear weapons advocate and Nobel Peace Laureate; Amazon’s Jeff Bezos; Robert Mueller, special counsel investigating Donald Trump’s potential collusion with Russia; and Vitalik Buterin, whose invention of the cryptocurrency Ethereum is revolutionizing the new blockchain craze.

Dangote’s contribution to the world this year revolves around his dynamic attention to lessen food imports into his own country and Africa’s largest nation, Nigeria, by focusing on domestic production of sugar and dairy, with 500 million liters of Nigerian milk to be produced by 2019. Earlier this year he announced a $50B USD plan to invest in renewable energy.

“What sets The Bloomberg 50 apart from other lists is that each person chosen has demonstrated measurable change over the past year,” Bloomberg Businessweek editor Megan Murphy  said.

The event was emceed by actor Keegan-Michael Key, with a performance by Mandy Gonzalez of Broadway sensation “Hamilton.”

Dangote claimed another distinction at the Bloomberg 50; he was the only African.

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