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Nkafu Debate: Experts Underscore Need to Adjust Cameroon’s Regulatory Framework on Businesses
April 29, 2021 | 0 Comments

By Boris Esono Nwenfor

Officials examining the regulatory framework of doing business in Cameroon

Cameroon has taken several reforms to improve its business environment and to attract investors. However, there are many bottlenecks to enhancing the business environment in Cameroon, one of which is the regulatory framework.

To contribute to the improvement of Cameroon’s ranking of the Doing Business Index (DBI), the Nkafu Policy Institute of the Denis & Lenora Foretia Foundation organized a public debate on April 27 at the Denis and Lenora Foretia Foundation, in Yaounde with the main question being “Should the government relax regulatory norms to facilitate the profitability and growth of new business in Cameroon?”

According to the Doing Business Index, Cameroon is ranked 167th out of 190 countries. This means that there are still a lot of worries (taxes, building permits, business creation). This is because the regulatory framework is not suited to our context,” Dr Jean Cedric Kouam, Senior Economic Policy Analyst at the Nkafu Policy Institute stated.

“Be it the government or the civil society or even young entrepreneurs, we are all guilty of the difficult situation small businesses find themselves in. This is because we do not submit our complaints to the right people. For example, there exist a Chamber of Commerce and one of Agriculture that can help influence reforms in the said domains but we do not make use of them,” said Dr Ahanda Sosthene, Director, Small Business and Entrepreneurship Centre, SBEC.

“We have to respect the rules and regulations given by the government to thrive as an SME. SBEC Is a worthy incubator for small and medium-sized enterprises.”

With all the problems associated it seems like that the regulatory framework is a discouraging factor to entrepreneurs in Cameroon, considering it is extremely difficult for some to meet up with these standards or certifications in terms of cost. “This situation could also partially explain why 80% of businesses die before 5 years in the country, the Nkafu Policy Institute stated.”

The Nkafu Debates seek to provide a platform for Cameroonian and African high-level experts to objectively address the conditions required to succeed in investing in Cameroon.

“Many young people get into entrepreneurship without really trying to get the right information on documentation, procedures and costs. The role of incubators is not only to train but also to transmit the right information,” Dr David Tsunayo, Researcher and Deputy Coordinator of the Cameroonian National Committee for Technology Development said.

“Young people need support more than access to funding,” Christelle Youmbi, CEO of AM Group and Vice President of Cameroon’s Youth Economic Forum said.

“Today, we have embarked on a journey on the same boat that leads us to Cameroon’s emergence. So, all the stakeholders need to come together and ameliorate the situation that we find ourselves in.”

Certifications and standardization norms which are among some of the regulatory policies needed in every formal economy for the protection of consumers, seem to affect the profitability and survival of new businesses in Cameroon. Many businesses owners report being handicapped by the standards imposed on them. The survival and profitability of businesses in Cameroon are plagued by the requirement to obtain authorization or homologation before any innovations and marketing which is a form of closure of the market and public space.

Panelists at the Nkafu debate on Should the government relax regulatory norms to facilitate the growth of businesses in Cameroon

According to a release by the Nkafu Policy Institute, a young entrepreneur who invents a simple oximeter to allow patients to measure their blood pressure independently must submit his product to the authorization of the Ministry in charge of public health. To transform seasonal fruit into organic fruit juice, you must undergo a series of costly certifications. Also, the Tanty brand, one of the few growing companies in the food industry, had preferred to close its peanut oil production line rather than invest in standardization.

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Merck Foundation CEO Dr. Rasha Kelej pledges support for health sector globally
April 29, 2021 | 0 Comments

By Ishmael Sallieu Koroma

More than 1100 doctor from 42 countries have benefited from Merck Foundation scholarships, says Dr Kelej

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Merck Foundation who also doubles as a Senator in Egypt Dr. Rasha Kelej has said that the foundation will continue its long commitment to building healthcare capacity in more countries in the world adding that with more Partners, they will work closely with everyone to realize their vision and lead the world to a better future.

Dr. Rasha Kelej made this statement on Tuesday 27th April 2021, in a video conference during the 8th Edition of the Merck Foundation Africa Asia Luminary and Africa’s first lady High Level Panel meeting organized by the foundation.

She said that they as a foundation together with Africa’s first ladies will discuss their strategy realization to building healthcare capacity, respond to the Covid-19 pandemic, and provide the necessary training to establish a strong platform of experts in many important and critical specialties in their countries in collaboration with their Offices and Ministries of Health.

“As the CEO of Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck, I am very proud to work together with all of you to realize our vision of a world where ‘Everyone Can Lead a Healthy and Fulfilling Life’. It gives us a great honor to have The President of Zambia, H.E. MR. EDGAR CHAGWA LUNGU with us today to officially inaugurate the 8th Edition of Merck Africa Asia Luminary, that I Co-chair with The First Lady of Zambia, H. E. Mrs. ESTHER LUNGU,’’ she said. 

Dr. Kelej said, due to the global pandemic,  they couldn’t conduct the annual conference of Merck Foundation in Zambia as planned, but said they were pleased to conduct it online as a videoconference, where more than 32,000participants from more than 70 countries will  meet and discuss strategies and solutions for health challenges in their respective countries

“More than 1100 doctor from 42 countries have benefited from Merck Foundation scholarship in different fields, and more will join in the next few years to benefit from more scholarships in more specialties such as: Internal Medicine, Gastroenterology, Mental Health, Orthopedic Trauma, Pediatric, Emergency Medicine, Dermatology, Neonatal Medicine, Pain Management, Psychiatry, Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases, Ophthalmology, Urology, Trauma and orthopedics,’’Dr. Kelej added.

Dr. Kelej further added that the Foundation started this smart capacity building strategy in partnership with African First Ladies and Ministries of Health and Medical Societies since 2012, which she said has contributed significantly towards transforming and reshaping the landscape of the public healthcare sector and towards advancing patient care in 42 countries thus stating that “it is history in the making’’

The Senator boasted that as a foundation, they will also define interventions to break the stigma around infertility in general and infertile women in specific and to support girl education as Ambassadors of “Merck Foundation More Than a Mother” campaign stating that they will acknowledge this year the efforts and sacrifices of everyday heroes, especially medical workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

“I would like to welcome Hon. Ministers of Health, Education, Information, and Gender for their support to enable us to contribute to the development of the healthcare sector and raise awareness about Health and Social issues such as infertility stigma. I would also like to thank our Partners for their valuable participation and support to make great things happen.’’ Senator Kelej lamented.

 In his statement, Chairman of the Executive Board of E. Merck KG, Prof.  Dr. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp said the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have been greater than many expected across the globe stating that the pandemic has highlighted the importance of focusing on building and advancing healthcare capacity specially training medical staff at all levels nationwide to be any country’s first defense line during times like these.

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“Governments realized, more than ever, the urgent need to address healthcare deficiencies to meet the demands of the Covid-19 pandemic and ongoing healthcare needs of their populations. Therefore, I would like to greatly appreciate the valuable partnership that we have with all of you to build healthcare capacity and provide training to healthcare workers in many medical specialties even before the pandemic started, as this was and is still our strategy since 2012,’’he said, adding that they therefore, appreciate everyone’s valuable support and efforts to building healthcare capacity and improve access to equitable healthcare solutions and awareness in your countries.

Dr. Prof. Stangenberg-Haverkamp further said in their response to covid 19 pandemic , they  focused on supporting livelihood of thousands of women and casual workers‘ families affected in more than 18 countries  thus stating that they have also started the  online medical specialty training in 2020 through providing one year Diploma and two year Master degree from south Wales University and Queen University such as in Diabetes, Cardiovascular , Endocrinology , Sexual and reproductive medicines, Medical oncology , respiratory medicines and acute medicines .

 “I am pleased to share with you that till today; more than 1100 doctors from 42 countries in Africa , Asia and Latin America have benefited from Merck Foundation scholarship of specialty  training which is an outstanding milestone in our mission to improve access to quality and equitable healthcare solutions in underserved communities,’’ The Chairman of the Executive Board  of Merck revealed.

The Executive Board Chairman went on to say that in 2020 alone they have enrolled more than 400 African doctors into these courses which will make a significant impact in improving the quality of care for patients who suffered coronavirus and who considered risk groups.

“We have also started this year to provide scholarships for more underserved but critical specialties in Africa such as : internal Medicine, Gastroenterology, , Mental Health: Orthopedic , Pediatric, Emergency Medicine, , Dermatology, Neonatal Medicine, Pain Management, Psychiatry, Clinical Microbiology and infectious diseases, Ophthalmology, Urology, Trauma and orthopedics. I strongly believe this will be another important milestone in transforming healthcare quality and equitability for all patients and their families across Africa and developing countries’’

The First Ladies of 13 African Countries including Ghana, Liberia, Botswana, Central African Republic, Democratic and others were part of the meeting and they spoke of the impact of Merck Foundation’s work in their respective countries.

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Basketball Africa League, Fremantle and Passenger to Produce Landmark Documentary Series.
April 28, 2021 | 0 Comments

The landmark documentary series will follow the stories of the players, coaches and teams from across Africa as they prepare for and compete in the first BAL season

The Basketball Africa League (BAL), together with producer and distributor Fremantle, award-winning TRUE DETECTIVE producer Richard Brown and sports marketing company Infront, have teamed up to produce an original documentary series telling the story of the launch and inaugural season of the BAL, a new professional league featuring 12 club teams from across Africa tipping off Sunday, May 16 in Kigali, Rwanda.  The series will be directed by up-and-coming South African director Tebogo Malope.

The BAL, a partnership between the National Basketball Association (NBA) (www.NBA.com) and the International Basketball Federation (FIBA), marks the NBA’s first collaboration to operate a league outside of North America.  The first BAL Finals will be held Sunday, May 30.

The landmark documentary series will follow the stories of the players, coaches and teams from across Africa as they prepare for and compete in the first BAL season.  This powerful series will spotlight the momentum and ambition behind the pan-African basketball league and the individuals who have worked tirelessly to change the landscape of sports on the continent through this historic initiative.  Filming on the series has commenced in several countries.

The series has been developed by Malope alongside Executive Producers Brown, Oscar-winning filmmaker Fisher Stevens (TIGER KING, PALMER, THE COVE), and acclaimed Nigerian director/producer Akin Omotoso, who is currently directing THE GREEK FREAK for Disney+, a feature film on the life of reigning back-to-back NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo (born in Greece to Nigerian parents).

Anthony Scheinman and Christian Vesper will also serve as Executive Producers on behalf of Infront and Fremantle, respectively.  The parties will work together on worldwide distribution plans, with additional information to be shared as it becomes available.

Housed at Fremantle and made exclusively in partnership with the BAL, the documentary series forms part of Fremantle’s exclusive multiyear deal with Brown’s production company, Passenger.

BAL President, Amadou Gallo Fall:

“We are honored to partner with such illustrious producers and visionary filmmakers to tell the story of the Basketball Africa League’s inaugural season.  The BAL will have a transformational impact on basketball and sports as a whole in Africa, and this project will capture this historic moment in time for generations to come.”

Director, Tebogo Malope:

“I’m beyond excited about this project because it places African storytellers at the helm of their own story.  To be directing this series with esteemed producers Richard Brown, Fisher Stevens and the BAL encapsulates the very best of what it means to be global, and is a dream come true for me.”

Executive Producer, Richard Brown:

“I couldn’t have dreamed up a project more exciting and momentous.  Even in the early days of filming, the myriad stories that have emerged from the cultures and personalities that compose the Basketball Africa League are utterly compelling.  Tebogo is a hugely talented upcoming filmmaker with an irresistible vision for how to tell this story.”

Tebogo Malope is a South African director who directed Netflix’s first African Original Series, QUEEN SONO.  He is currently completing a feature documentary telling the story of Siya Kolisi, the first Black captain of the South African national rugby team.  Malope has also directed many award-winning commercials.

Richard Brown was the driving force behind HBO’s globally successful anthology series TRUE DETECTIVE and has served as executive producer on all three seasons of the critically acclaimed, multiple award-winning show.  He developed and executive-produced the highly acclaimed Hulu / Sky Italia / Channel 4 limited series CATCH-22, starring George Clooney, Kyle Chandler, Christopher Abbott and Hugh Laurie.  Brown is also known for producing the Netflix action-drama OUTLAW KING, directed by David Mackenzie and starring Chris Pine.  He is currently in production on Fremantle and Sky’s five-episode series THIS SCEPTRED ISLE, directed by Michael Winterbottom and starring Kenneth Branagh as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Fisher Stevens is currently a regular on HBO’s SUCCESSION and recently directed PALMER for Apple, starring Justin Timberlake.  He was an executive producer of Netflix’s TIGER KING, director of the Formula E (motor sport series with electric-powered cars) documentary AND WE GO GREEN for Hulu, and BEFORE THE FLOOD for National Geographic, as well as producer of the Oscar-winning documentary THE COVE.

Akin Omotoso is an acclaimed Nigerian-born, South Africa-based director who has produced and directed films including the award-winning MAN ON GROUND (Official Selection Toronto and Berlin 2011) and the Array-distributed VAYA (Toronto 2017).

Below are the 12 club teams from 12 African countries that will compete in the inaugural BAL season:

COUNTRYTEAM
AlgeriaGSP (Groupement Sportif des Pétroliers) **
AngolaPetro de Luanda (Clube Atlético Petroleos de Luanda) *
CameroonFAP (Forces Armées et Police Basketball) **
EgyptZamalek *
MadagascarGNBC (Gendarmerie Nationale Basketball Club)**
MaliAS Police (Association Sportive de la Police Nationale) **
MoroccoAS Salé (Association Sportive de Salé) *
MozambiqueFerroviàrio de Maputo **
NigeriaRivers Hoopers (Rivers Hoopers Basketball Club) *
RwandaPatriots BBC (Patriots Basketball Club) () **
SenegalAS Douanes (Association Sportive des Douanes) *
TunisiaUS Monastir (Union Sportive Monastirienne) *

*Champion from national league that earned representation in the inaugural BAL season

**Secured participation in the inaugural BAL season through a BAL qualifying tournament

*SOURCE National Basketball Association (NBA)

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Senegal makes the case for investing in epidemic preparedness and response.
April 28, 2021 | 0 Comments

Advocates worked with government, civil society and media to build consensus.

Governments must invest in epidemic preparedness and response to be able to address infectious disease outbreaks before they spiral out of control. Preparing for outbreaks before they arise prevents both human and economic devastation.

The 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa uncovered critical health security gaps in many West African countries—gaps that the countries’ already strained health systems would have to scramble to fill in the event of a new disease outbreak. These gaps, in turn, created an opportunity for governments to address weaknesses before the next outbreak. In Senegal, this led to the creation of the Centre des Opérations d’Urgence Sanitaire (COUS)—the country’s lead agency responsible for preventing, detecting and responding to health emergencies. Despite its critical mission, the agency was hamstrung by insufficient funding: it received less than U.S. $100,000 from the Senegalese government annually, and despite financial support from international partners, remained limited in the strategies that it could support. Meanwhile, public health advocates assessed how to effectively build the case for preparedness as a worthwhile investment.

Building support for adequate preparedness funding

Well-presented data on the impact of disease outbreaks on a country’s people, health system or economy can help build the political case for increased resources, which in turn can create the political will needed for budget increases. Advocates can help frame epidemic preparedness as a public health priority, building consensus among political decisionmakers and trust within communities to foster an environment that prioritizes preparedness funding. According to the World Health Organization, budget advocacy can also “bring citizens closer to the decision-makers who affect their everyday lives.”

Starting in 2019, with support from Resolve to Save Lives (RTSL), an initiative of Vital Strategies, the Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI) partnered with ONG 3D, a Dakar-based non-governmental organization focused on government and public health reform, to build support for additional investments in epidemic preparedness and response.

Together, ONG 3D and GHAI directly engaged policymakers, built coalitions and trained media professionals to raise awareness and increase the political will needed to increase domestic investments in epidemic preparedness and response.

ONG 3D formed a network of more than 10 prominent civil society groups advocating for domestic investments in epidemic preparedness. The network, formally called the Société Civile pour la Prévention des Épidémies et la Gestion des Catastrophes (COSPEC), provided a space for various public health advocates to come together.

With support from GHAI, ONG 3D organized educational workshops with COSPEC members about the importance of epidemic preparedness and led regular meetings to coordinate advocacy efforts. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, COSPEC members directly engaged with community and religious leaders through educational events, at which leaders were encouraged to promote epidemic preparedness as part of their messaging about the virus. These events empowered leaders to spread the word, gave them an opportunity to make their voices heard and served to build trust in communities.

With GHAI’s support, ONG 3D engaged and trained journalists in how to report on the importance of epidemic preparedness, using COVID-19 and other diseases to illustrate the burden of outbreaks on Senegal’s economy and way of life.

ONG 3D Executive Director, Moundiaye Cisse, meets with President Macky Sall in March 2020.

A series of video reports, produced by ONG 3D and partners, helped further communicate the importance of preparedness to the general public. The reports highlighted COVID-19 public health and safety measures and emphasized the need for political leaders to increase funding for epidemic preparedness. The community and religious leaders engaged by COSPEC members were invited to participate as well. The video series, broadcast on the popular TV program “Focus,” reached an audience of approximately five million viewers—including many viewers from rural communities in Senegal. Informing members of the public about the need for epidemic preparedness funding can help empower them to lobby decisionmakers for change.

GHAI and ONG 3D hosted and participated in budget planning sessions, political roundtables and meetings with Senegal’s decisionmakers, including President Macky Sall, to generate high-level political support for epidemic preparedness funding.

GHAI also supported government leaders in developing the “Projet d’Appui à la Prise en Charge des Crises et Urgences Sanitaires au Sénégal” (PAPCCUSS), a feasibility study which made the case for investing US $10.5 million in health emergency and crisis management over five years.

“Political will and leadership greatly impact a country’s epidemic preparedness and response capabilities,” said Dr. Veronica Schoj, GHAI Senior Advisor. “In Senegal, sustained advocacy helped to build trust and consensus around the need for epidemic preparedness investments.”

Sustained investment in the future of preparedness

Senegal’s Ministry of Health included PAPCCUSS in its Public Investment Program for 2021-2023, in addition to increasing funding for COUS and other government entities involved in finding, responding to and preventing disease outbreaks.

“Joint efforts by government and civil society to elevate preparedness on the public and political agenda proved to be successful in Senegal,” Schoj said. “These efforts need to be sustained to generate long-term benefits particularly protecting the most vulnerable.”

Senegal’s latest investments amount to a down payment on the country’s health security. With sustained political will, this funding for preparedness measures is another important step to ensure Senegal’s people are safe from future outbreaks.

Read more about GHAI’s work on epidemic preparedness in Senegal here.

*Prevent Pandemics.org

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Malawi: Audit report exposes massive looting of Covid19 funds.
April 28, 2021 | 0 Comments

By Joseph Dumbula

Leading by example: Malawi’s President gets the COVID-19 vaccine.Photo credit UNICEF Malawi/2021/Thoko Chikondi

There are managerial and administrative tensions in Malawi over revelations of careless plunder of about K6.2 Billion ($7 million) meant for the fight against Covid19 in the Southern African nation.

The revelations have forced President Lazarus Chakwera to fire his Labour Minster Ken Kandodo who was named in a report by the National Audit report to have used without purpose funds for his trip to South Africa.

Kandodo has however returned the money with Chakwera insisting that ‘such actions should not be condoned’.

At the moment, over 60 people have been arrested, most of whom stem from ministries, the private sector and administrative levels of ministries who oversaw release of contracts and purchase of various PPEs.

The audit followed massive reports of the misuse of funds at a time when cases soured.

Other revelations are that the Presidential Taskforce on Covid19 entered into a dubious deal with star hotel, Umodzi Park which saw the country lose about K8.3 million ($10,000) in unexplained expenses.

So far, the Labour Ministry has been given a week to ensure the money is returned to treasury accusing the ministry of maladministration after admitting that the release of the funds was done erroneously.

Last year, a report by the Ombudsman had stated that 79.8% of the total funding allocated to the cluster was spent on staff allowances or benefits.

Further, the report indicated that this spending was “a reflection of misplaced priorities,” and recommended that government allowances be made “more realistic, considerate to the country’s economy and clearer to avoid abuses.”

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African Leadership Group Joins Forces with “Africa’s Business Heroes” 2021 Prize Competition
April 28, 2021 | 0 Comments
The initiative gives African entrepreneurs a unique platform to showcase their talent and grow their businesses



African Leadership Group is an ANCHOR PARTNER of Africa’s Business Heroes prize competition in 2021; The initiative gives African entrepreneurs a unique platform to showcase their talent and grow their businesses; Applications are now open in English and French for “heroes” across all sectors and African countries.




African Leadership Group announces 2021 Pan-African Anchor Partnership with the “Africa’s Business Heroes” prize competition, the Jack Ma Foundation’s flagship philanthropic program spotlighting and celebrating Africa’s entrepreneurial talent. In its third annual edition, “Africa’s Business Heroes” will leverage the network of African Leadership Group to outreach to talented entrepreneurs and share knowledge and insights to help aspiring candidates navigate the application process.

“The Africa Business Heroes prize aligns with our mission of supporting the next generation of entrepreneurial leaders. We are eager to support by identifying high potential Young African entrepreneurs and preparing them for the competition. I am personally excited to be serving as a judge for the 3rd time. Best of luck to all applicants!” Fred Swaniker, African Leadership Group Founder.

“Africa’s Business Heroes” prize competition applications are now open. Entrepreneurs from all 54 African countries, across every sector, age group, and gender can submit their applications, in either French and English, for a chance to compete for a spot among the Top 10 finalists.

Over the next few weeks, we will share additional information related to AFRICA’S BUSINESS HEROES partnership on how upcoming founders and judges can apply, as well as webinars, events and training session etc.

ABH will recognize 100 African entrepreneurs and allocate, over ten years, grant funds alongside training, mentoring and learning programmes and access to a community of like-minded African business leaders.  This is in line with African Leadership’s mission to transform leaders by developing ethical entrepreneurial leaders.

At the grand finale later this year, ten finalists will take the stage to present their businesses and share their visions to an esteemed panel of judges to win a share of the US$1.5 million grant. The journey to the Finale will include several rounds of rigorous evaluation panels and access to a community of international leaders and innovators, industry experts, investors, and accelerators through several multi-disciplinary boot camps and training sessions.

In 2020, the ten outstanding finalists – half of whom were female – were selected from over 22,000 applicants across all 54 African nations. They represented eight African countries – Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, Uganda, and Zimbabwe – and various industries including agriculture, fashion, education, healthcare, renewable energy, and financial services.

“I am proud to be a 2020 Africa’s Business Hero winner. The competition was an incredible journey. 2020 was a challenging year that made us refocus from profitability to survival. I hope my win inspires Africans to believe that we have what it takes to make an impact, no matter where we are. The Prize is helping us scale our energy solution across East Africa, and we remain focused to change how Africa cooks, one kitchen at a time.” said Chebet Lesan, Founder and CEO at BrightGreen Renewable Energy.

“As we open our third annual pitch competition, we want to acknowledge the huge inspiration coming from Africa’s extraordinary entrepreneurs, whose business ventures not only are successful and profitable but can generate a positive impact on their local communities. Despite the incredibly difficult conditions faced by entrepreneurs and small businesses around the world over the past year, Africa’s entrepreneurship has been experiencing an incredible upward trajectory, showing the magnitude of its potential and the opportunities yet to be seized. Therefore, Africa’s Business Heroes is excited to join forces with our partners to identify, spotlight and support even more passionate, innovative, and determined entrepreneurs across Africa.” said Jason Pau, Executive Director of International, Jack Ma Foundation.

Applications for the 2021 competition are open until 7th June 2021. Applicants can apply Here .


In 2035, Africa will have the largest workforce in the world and will need to catalyse transformation by empowering its largest untapped resource – its people. Fuelled by this, the African Leadership Group is an ecosystem of institutions with a shared moonshot vision to harness Africa’s abundant human capital and transform the continent and the world by selecting, developing, and investing in 3 million ethical and entrepreneurial leaders by 2035. ALG was founded over 15 years ago by Fred Swaniker , a serial entrepreneur recognised by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people of 2019 and his partners. The Group has also been recognised by Fast Company when ALU was awarded as 2019’s most innovative company in Africa for “remaking education for a new era”. As a Group, our focus is to continue scaling this mission at a pace never seen before.

About Africa’s Business Heroes:
Africa’s Business Heroes prize competition is the flagship philanthropic initiative spearheaded by the Jack Ma Foundation to support and inspire the next generation of African entrepreneurs across all sectors, building a more sustainable and inclusive economy for the future of the continent. Over ten years, ABH will recognize 100 African entrepreneurs and commit to allocating grant funding, training programs, and support to develop an entrepreneurial ecosystem. Each year, the ABH prize competition and the show will feature ten finalists as they pitch their business to win a share of $1.5 million in grant money. Jack Ma, Founder of Alibaba Group and the Jack Ma Foundation, created the prize after making his first trip to Africa in 2017 and was inspired by the energy and entrepreneurial potential of the young people he met with. 

Please contact Georgia Kokkini, Head of partnerships (gkokkini@theroom.com) from African Leadership Group and Zahra Baitie, to be considered for exclusive competition information and more news and interviews Partnerships and Program Lead (zahra.baitie@alibaba-inc.com) from Africa’s Business Heroes. 


*SOURCE African Leadership Group
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Kenya’s community-centered response system highlighted in new report showing how countries successfully beat infectious disease outbreaks before they became epidemics
April 28, 2021 | 0 Comments

New report highlights how African leadership helped beat infectious disease outbreaks before they became epidemics,

Dr Asha Mohammed, Secretary General of Kenya Red Cross

Last year, a single outbreak of deadly infectious disease travelled around the world, changing life as we know it. But every year, there are many near misses—outbreaks that are successfully controlled before they become epidemics. Today, Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative of Vital Strategies, released a first-of-its kind interactive digital report highlighting “Epidemics That Didn’t Happen” to show how the trajectory of an outbreak can be altered when a country invests in and prioritizes preparedness combined with swift strategic action.

Epidemics that Didn’t Happen was developed by Resolve to Save Lives to highlight how investing in and prioritizing preparedness and response systems, such as community vaccination and vaccination programs, can save millions of lives and trillions of dollars. As governments contend with the ongoing devastation of COVID-19—and look for lessons for the next pandemic, the report serves as a call to action to global leaders. The world can learn from the experience that African countries have had with infectious diseases, including COVID-19, Ebola and monkeypox.

Kenya’s community-centered approach to the anthrax outbreak highlighted in the report serves as a lesson to global governments and health leaders on how to respond to future health threats more efficiently. 

“The strength of Kenya Red Cross’s community-based surveillance system, along with its community-engagement work, has been invaluable for building support for and trust in emergency preparedness systems,” said Dr Asha Mohammed, Secretary General of Kenya Red Cross. “Our case study in the Epidemics That Didn’t Happen report demonstrates that through effective surveillance and risk communication, an anthrax outbreak was contained in Kenya.”

The case studies described in the new report show that devastating human and economic losses can be avoided with modest investments, improved health systems, and better coordination and communication by determined leaders who put structures in place to find, stop and prevent infectious disease outbreaks before they spread. And although the story of containing COVID-19 has largely been one of failure, countries including Kenya, Mongolia and Senegal mounted effective responses that reinforce and act upon lessons drawn from earlier outbreaks. The case studies illustrate different aspects of effective public health programs, including: 

  1. Building community trust: How Kenya controlled a deadly anthrax outbreak
  2. A risk-based response: How protective actions stopped yellow fever in Brazil
  3. Effective surveillance: How Uganda detected cases of Ebola at the border
  4. Rapid response teams at the ready: Nigeria’s approach to containing monkeypox
  5. Good governance matters: How Senegal saved lives through government action and early testing
  6. Preemptive action: How an early, strategic response in Mongolia averted a COVID-19 nightmare
  7. COVID-19 Cooperation: Africa’s cohesive, continent-wide response to the pandemic
  8. Investment in public health saves lives: Vietnam’s COVID-19 response is proof.

“This is our now or never moment to invest in public health, to prevent the next pandemic, and ensure that as a world, we are never again so underprepared as we were with COVID-19,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, former CDC Director and current President and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives. “Epidemics don’t have to spread uncontrollably and cause devastating loss of life. Epidemics That Didn’t Happen highlights the great work of public health professionals from around the world and shows that if we work together, led by science, we can make the world a much safer and healthier place.” 

These successes demonstrate what works: strong preparedness systems and decisive responses supported by good governance. When countries can prepare and respond appropriately, even if not perfectly, their communities, neighbors and ultimately the world are safer for it.

The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the need to work together at the global, regional, country and local levels to build a more resilient response to future health emergencies. It has revealed gaps and weaknesses across high-, middle- and low-income countries. Among the key lessons highlighted from successful responses to public health emergencies: 

  • Improve governance to prioritize public health emergencies and address equity gaps
  • Invest in preparedness response and technical assistance 
  • Learn from and adapt effective responses from other diseases and other areas
  • Prioritize early warning and response systems by adopting the “7-1-7” goal by being able to identify any new suspected outbreak within seven days of emergence, start to investigate the event within one day and report and begin response to it then, and mount an effective response within seven days.

“All countries can and must improve their systems for preparedness and the quality of their response,” said Dr. Emmanuel Agogo, Nigeria Country Representative at Resolve to Save Lives. “The actions highlighted in the report save lives and can fundamentally alter the trajectory of future outbreaks and pandemics.”
The case studies were developed with support from health ministries and global health organizations including, Kenya Red Cross, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Infectious Diseases Institute, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Akwa Ibom State Ministry of Health, Pan American Health Organization and Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.  

About Resolve to Save Lives

Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative of the global health organization Vital Strategies, focuses on preventing deaths from cardiovascular disease and preventing epidemics. It is led by Dr. Tom Frieden, former director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

About Vital Strategies

Vital Strategies is a global health organization that believes every person should be protected by a strong public health system. We work with governments and civil society in 73 countries to design and implement evidence-based strategies that tackle their most pressing public health problems. Our goal is to see governments adopt promising interventions at scale as rapidly as possible.0

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Cameroon: Fisherman’s Diary Kang Quintus Unveiled As New Brand Ambassador For Orange.
April 28, 2021 | 0 Comments

By Boris Esono Nwenfor

If you have watched the movie you will realize that the message we wanted to portray in the film is all about promoting the education of the girl child and that is what the Orange Foundation stands for,says Kang Queentus

With the successful partnership that has been fostered between Kang Quintus and Orange Cameroun, the latter has unveiled the former as their newest Brand Ambassador. The announcement was made by Kang Quintus on his official social media handles this Wednesday, April 28.

The press conference officially announcing Kang Quintus as the new Brand Ambassador was presided over by the Chief Executive Officer of Orange Cameroon, Frédéric Debord.

Details of the contract have not been made public but the announcement has received a wave of positive comments on social media for Quintus and the Fisherman’s Diary. From Musicians like Ko-c to actors and national and international followers of Kang Quintus have all put out congratulatory messages to his social media handles. 

Speaking to Pan African Visions shortly after the official announcement was made Kang Quintus was very much elated to become a brand Ambassador for Orange looking at the collaborations both parties have been having.

“The objective now is to make sure that we go to other communities in Cameroon and make sure that the people that the film was produced to sensitize and educate get the film very close to them,” Kang Quintus told Pan African Visions in a telephone interview.

“If you have watched the movie you will realize that the message we wanted to portray in the film is all about promoting the education of the girl child and that is what the Orange Foundation stands for. This partnership is all about restating, re-emphasising the education of the girl child,” Kang Quintus added.

The movie that made waves last year has not faltered in attracting fans and the trophy cabinet has kept on increasing. The film and Kang Quintus picked up awards at the just ended Cameroon International Film Festival (CAMIFF).

Kang Quintus said: “CAMIFF has been growing from strength to strength and this year was my first attending the event. I was honoured and humbled to take home the Best overall actor of the festival and the best overall film. It was a great experience and I think CAMIFF will only get stronger as the year goes by.”

“The Fisherman’s Diary is just one per cent of what we have installed from Kang Quintus Films. There are a lot of projects I cannot talk about it now but we should just lookout for it.”

Chief Executive Officer of Orange Cameroon, Frédéric Debord with Kang Queentus

The Star Kang Quintus

Kang Quintus, Born on September 17, 1987, in Wum, Cameroon, is a multiple award-winning filmmaker. He is best known for “EKEI”, “REJECTED”, ‘REVERSE”, “JASON” “Side Chick Chronicles” and “The Fisherman’s Diary”.

He has more than ten awards to his name and is often referred to by his colleagues as The Method Actor because of his intense and passionate interpretation of his roles.

The Producer/ Executive Producer of Fisher’s Man Diary, Kang Quintus is driven by her dreams and an inspiration to both the young and old.  He is a man with fundamental decency, moral authority, unimpeachable integrity, and outstanding judgment, Legideon Newspaper reported.

The name Kang Quintus to the Cameroon Movie Industry is like a catalyst that will reinvigorate their resilience. He is a taciturn and soft-spoken character with a caressing baritone.

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Nigeria’s risk communications highlighted in new report showing how countries successfully beat infectious disease outbreaks before they became epidemics
April 28, 2021 | 0 Comments

New report highlights how African leadership helped beat infectious disease outbreaks before they became epidemics .

Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control

 Last year, a single outbreak of deadly infectious disease travelled around the world, changing life as we know it. But every year, there are many near misses—outbreaks that are successfully controlled before they become epidemics. Today, Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative of Vital Strategies, released a first-of-its kind interactive digital report highlighting “Epidemics That Didn’t Happen” to show how the trajectory of an outbreak can be altered when a country invests in and prioritizes preparedness combined with swift strategic action.

Epidemics that Didn’t Happen was developed by Resolve to Save Lives to highlight how investing in and prioritizing preparedness and response systems, such as community vaccination and vaccination programs, can save millions of lives and trillions of dollars. As governments contend with the ongoing devastation of COVID-19—and look for lessons for the next pandemic, the report serves as a call to action to global leaders. The world can learn from the experience that African governments have had with infectious diseases including COVID-19, Ebola and monkeypox.

The collaboration between a national rapid response team and local officials to contain the 2019 monkeypox outbreak in Akwa Ibom, highlighted in the report, serves as a lesson to governments and health leaders on how to respond to future health threats more efficiently through the use of rapid response teams and risk planning. 

“Thanks to strong collaboration and coordination among local officials and a rapid response team, a monkeypox outbreak in Akwa Ibom was contained within a month,” said Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control. “Our case study in the Epidemics That Didn’t Happen report illustrates how strong risk assessment, planning, and risk communication can help to prevent epidemics.”

The case studies described in the new report show that devastating human and economic losses can be avoided with modest investments, improved health systems, and better coordination and communication by determined leaders who put structures in place to find, stop and prevent infectious disease outbreaks before they spread. And although the story of containing COVID-19 has largely been one of failure, countries including Vietnam, Mongolia and Senegal mounted effective responses that reinforce and act upon lessons drawn from earlier outbreaks. The case studies illustrate different aspects of effective public health programs, including: 

  1. Building community trust: How Kenya controlled a deadly anthrax outbreak
  2. A risk-based response: How protective actions stopped yellow fever in Brazil
  3. Effective surveillance: How Uganda detected cases of Ebola at the border
  4. Rapid response teams at the ready: Nigeria’s approach to containing monkeypox
  5. Good governance matters: How Senegal saved lives through government action and early testing
  6. Preemptive action: How an early, strategic response in Mongolia averted a COVID-19 nightmare
  7. COVID-19 Cooperation: Africa’s cohesive, continent-wide response to the pandemic
  8. Investment in public health saves lives: Vietnam’s COVID-19 response is proof.

Preparedness combined with action really matters, if the world had been prepared to contain and respond to COVID-19, millions of lives could have been saved” said Amanda McClelland, Senior Vice President of Resolve to Save Lives. “But the reality is that this won’t be the last pandemic in our lives—it is really a constant battle that requires political will, scientific innovation and good public health practices to ensure we are safer next time. When countries can prepare and respond appropriately, even if not perfectly, their communities, neighbors and ultimately the world are safer for it.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the need to work together at the global, regional, country and local levels to build a more resilient response to future health emergencies. It has revealed gaps and weaknesses across high-, middle- and low-income countries. Among the key lessons highlighted from successful responses to public health emergencies:

  • Improve governance to prioritize public health emergencies and address equity gaps
  • Invest in preparedness response and technical assistance 
  • Learn from and adapt effective responses from other diseases and other areas
  • Prioritize early warning and response systems by adopting the “7-1-7” goal by being able to identify any new suspected outbreak within seven days of emergence, start to investigate the event within one day and report and begin response to it then, and mount an effective response within seven days

“All countries can and must improve their systems for preparedness and the quality of their response,” said Dr. Emmanuel Agogo, Nigeria Country Representative at Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative of Vital Strategies. “The actions highlighted in the report save lives and can fundamentally alter the trajectory of future outbreaks and pandemics.”
The case studies were developed with support from health ministries and global health organizations including, Kenya Red Cross, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Infectious Diseases Institute, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Akwa Ibom State Ministry of Health, Pan American Health Organization and Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

About Resolve to Save Lives

Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative of the global health organization Vital Strategies, focuses on preventing deaths from cardiovascular disease and preventing epidemics. It is led by Dr. Tom Frieden, former director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

About Vital Strategies

Vital Strategies is a global health organization that believes every person should be protected by a strong public health system. We work with governments and civil society in 73 countries to design and implement evidence-based strategies that tackle their most pressing public health problems. Our goal is to see governments adopt promising interventions at scale as rapidly as possible.

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Africa’s recovery pathway offers enormous opportunities, African Development Bank head says at EU-Africa Green Investment Forum
April 27, 2021 | 0 Comments

Sounding a note of optimism at the European Union-Africa Green Investment Forum on Friday, African Development Bank President Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina reminded global audiences of the continent’s vast opportunities for green growth.

“Africa is a huge market offering incredible opportunities. The recovery pathway offers enormous opportunities. Recovery must be green and build climate resilience. Recovery must boost green investments,” Adesina said in a keynote address.

The hybrid forum was convened by Portugal and the European Investment Bank to mobilize private and public capital towards the green transition in Africa. The high-level event brought together leading government and business figures, international and development financial institutions, civil society and academia.

Adesina identified energy, agriculture and infrastructure as key areas of investment potential for a post-Covid-19 recovery in Africa. With abundant solar, wind, hydro and geothermal energy resources, Africa’s energy transition alone presents a $100 billion per year investment opportunity, he said. Agriculture potentially offers massive investments in climate-smart crops to build more resilient food systems. And climate-resilient infrastructure offers investment potential of between $130 billion and $170 billion, Adesina said in a video address.

Speakers emphasized the need to build back greener collectively. Several congratulated the United States, after President Joe Biden on Thursday committed to cut carbon emissions by 50-52% below 2005 levels by the year 2030.

“We need to bring everyone on board,” African Union Commissioner Josefa Sako said. She called for a just transition that recognized the historical responsibility of the developed world for climate change. She warned that measures taken should not push vulnerable populations into greater poverty.

European Investment Bank President Werner Hoyer said the partnerships forged in addressing the Covid-19 crisis must now be applied to climate change. “Africa may be the continent that is most vulnerable to the immediate effects of climate change but it is responsible for some of the lowest greenhouse gas emissions per head. This is also the continent where mistakes made elsewhere can be avoided. Africa can invest in innovative technologies and make the right choices for a sustainable and inclusive future.”

In a recorded message during the opening session, António Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations, said the gathering was an opportunity to strengthen partnerships and boost investment in Africa for the benefit of all.

“I see agendas converging around financing a green transition and greater resilience. African countries are rapidly scaling up renewables, particularly solar and wind power,” Guterres said.

While climate change is a huge challenge for Africa, Adesina urged investors to seize on the opportunities it presents, which would be worth $3 trillion by 2030.

The African Development Bank is in the vanguard of investment in climate adaptation, he said, but over 70% of the financing needed will need to come from the private sector to complement public investments.

“The private sector, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, is critical in mitigating climate change and implementing adaptation methods. This calls for innovative approaches to attract and steer financial flows toward low carbon and climate resilient development,” Adesina said.

A greener Africa must also focus on the circular economy, in which waste can be recycled and turned into wealth. For example, a new plastic recycling plant in Ghana has already created 2,300 green jobs, while converting food waste into organic fertilisers will increase the circularity of the food systems, Adesina said.

Commending the European Commission’s External Investment Plan, Adesina said the Bank looked forward to building a strong partnership with the Commission to deliver more in the context of the new EU strategy with Africa.

“Africa is already green. Africa just needs to get greener. What is needed now is more euros to back Africa’s green growth. Think about the tremendous green investment opportunities available today and many more that will emerge into the future. Think differently, think Africa,” he said.

*AfDB

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New reports from African Development Bank, FAO and CGIAR showcase digital agriculture opportunities
April 27, 2021 | 0 Comments

Drones, satellites, geographic information systems, weather stations and advanced analytics are some of the most promising technologies for providing solutions to Africa’s agricultural challenges, according to the joint Digital Agricultural Profiles carried out by the African Development Bank, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and CGIAR in three countries.

The profiles, covering Côte d’IvoireRwanda and South Africa, map the challenges and opportunities to scale the adoption of innovative digital technologies in the agriculture sector. These include national digital technology and the policy landscape, user demands along the value chain and available digital agriculture services and applications. The profiles also examine the main barriers to adoption as well as the digital technologies with the greatest potential to transform the sector.

“The future of agriculture is data-enabled. Conventional approaches to food production are no longer able to keep up with Africa’s fast growing food systems demands and the impact of climate change on agriculture. Technological innovations and digitalization offer an opportunity to transform African agriculture to produce higher yields, increase value addition and ensure more nutritious foods on a wider scale,” said Dr. Martin Fregene, Director for Agriculture and Agro-industry at the African Development Bank.

“The Digital Agriculture Profiles provide a snapshot of how a country is positioned in that transformational process,” he added.

The series is based on the concept of the Climate-Smart Agriculture country profiles developed by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security. The methodology was designed in close collaboration with the World Bank Group.

The applications of digital technology in agriculture are diverse. For example, using satellite data, farmers can monitor crop health, soil quality and water and fertilizer usage. Sensors, automation and machine learning allow for the adaptation of more precise agricultural operations for specific locations and conditions. Digital payment systems, index insurance and mobile platforms help connect farmers to markets and financial services.

“Agriculture’s digital transformation is an exciting and fast-moving train, and we need to make sure that small-scale farmers, women and rural youth are able to benefit from these technologies. The profiles give international and national financing institutions, policy-makers and public and private investors a good and quick overview of a country’s current digital landscape, as well as the main constraints and opportunities for digital policies and solutions,” said Mohamed Manssouri, FAO Investment Centre Director.

Profile highlights:

  • Rwanda Up to 85% of rural consumers will have access to basic mobile phone services in the next five years.
  • Côte d’Ivoire:  Access to digital technologies rose sharply in the last decade; nearly everyone in the working-age population now has mobile phone access, and nearly half of Ivorians use the internet.
  • South Africa: Precision agriculture is strongly adopted by large-scale commercial farmers; blockchain, barcoding and fleet tracking solutions offer unique benefits for the traceability of agricultural products.

The profiles also offer analysis on the future of digitalization. Project coordination was led by the CGIAR Platform for Big Data in Agriculture’s technical community, the Data-Driven Agronomy Community of Practice, with contributions from researchers at the Alliance of Biodiversity International and CIAT (International Center for Tropical Agriculture).

“It is critical that all development partners join forces with governments, the private sector and non-state actors to accelerate agricultural digitalization and ultimately defeat hunger globally,” said Andy Jarvis, Associate Director General of the Alliance of Biodiversity International and CIAT and co-founder of the CGIAR Platform for Big Data in Agriculture.

The Digital Agriculture Profiles are part of the African Development Bank’s Digital Agriculture Flagship. Profiles have also been produced for countries such as Argentina, Grenada, Turkey, Kenya and Vietnam, with the World Bank.

*AfDB

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Banker-turned-poultry farmer becomes champion for African agriculture
April 27, 2021 | 0 Comments

-“If we must satisfy Africa’s food security with our growing population, then there must be high commercialization of agriculture. That is modern farming.” – Ayotomiwa Yinka Ogunsua, poultry farmer.

When Ayotomiwa Yinka Ogunsua got a job as a loan officer at a microfinance bank in Ibadan, Nigeria, after graduating university, he thought he’d done well for himself. Then, he spotted an online advertisement for a youth agricultural training program and signed up, owing to his interest in farming as a hobby.

Selected to interview for a place in the poultry rearing course, Ogunsua promptly quit his bank job and, he says, prayed he would get in. “I knew I wanted to follow my passion for agriculture full-time,” the 29-year-old Nigerian said.

Ogunsua did win a place in the course, organized last March by the Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation program, or TAAT, a program of the African Development Bank and partners including the CGIAR, a global research partnership. TAAT works to harness high-impact agricultural technologies to boost crop output and create viable opportunities for workers and entrepreneurs.

Soon after, Ogunsua bought 50 chicks and started a business.

The African Development Bank’s Director for Agriculture and Agro-Industry, Dr. Martin Fregene, said TAAT has the resources, scientific and technological expertise, as well as proven implementation plans to benefit millions of African farmers like Ogunsua.

“As the continent’s leaders gather for the High-level Dialogue on Feeding Africa at the end of the month, Ogunsua’s experience serves as an inspiration for governments to commit to investing in Africa’s food systems,” Fregene added.

“After the training, I saw agriculture as a proper business, not just a passion,” Ogunsua said via telephone from his farm, as roosters crowed in the background. “I realized this is something I must make income from, as something to pay my bills – something that I can build on as an enterprise,” he added.

The CGIAR’s International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, based in Ibadan, southwestern Nigeria, provides TAAT training courses that offer capacity building and technical assistance to African “agripreneurs”.

The training, Ogunsua says, gave him the technical know-how to expand his start-up, Vive Verde, from water, agricultural and environmental services into livestock production. Atops Farms, Ogunsua’s poultry business, grew to include 500 birds by early 2021. Then something wonderful happened.

“We sold out of birds for Easter,” Ogunsua said, noting that he makes more money from agribusiness than he did working as a loan officer.

As head of Atops Farms, Ogunsua does his part to advocate for Nigeria’s agriculture sector, appearing regularly on radio and television programs, and working to change society’s perception of farming as a pastime.

“Farming, for one, is to make profit. It is also to ensure food security of the land, or the nation – of the continent,” he recently told Inspiration 100.5 FM radio. “If we must satisfy Africa’s food security with our growing population, then there must be high commercialization of agriculture. That is modern farming.”

Listen to Ogunsua talk about Africa’s agricultural transformation with Inspiration 100.5 FM radio  

Currently, he is expecting a shipment of new chicks to restock his coop, and while he waits for his chickens to mature, also rears turkeys, rabbits and goats to generate cash flow and build his agricultural business.

“I am still a small farmer, but by the grace of God I am growing and I will get there,” he said.

—-

Click here to register and to learn more about the High-level Virtual Dialogue on Feeding Africa on 29-30 April 2021.

*AfDB

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South Sudan: Kiir Demands Quick Probe, Persecution of Father Carlassare attackers
April 27, 2021 | 0 Comments

By Deng Machol

Juba – South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit has condemned the shooting of Catholic Bishop-elect in the country, demanded quick probe and persecution of the attackers.

Unknown assailants shot and wounded the Italian – born priest on Sunday midnight at his residence in Rumbek town in Lakes State.

On Monday, president Kiir has described the shooting of the Bishop-elect of Rumbek as a “shameful act of intimidation” by gunmen in Lakes state.

 He expressed his dismay over the incident that resulted in the injury of Father Christian Carlassare.

“The reprehensible act of violence meted on him is unacceptable and it must stop. I call upon all South Sudanese to condemn the criminals who carried out this heinous crime in strongest terms possible,” said Kiir in the statement.

He directed the government of Lakes state to carry out an expeditious investigation that will lead to the arrest and persecution of the perpetrators.

“To ensure no such act is carried out against the clergy, I call upon authorities in Lake State to carry out an expeditious investigation that will lead to lawful apprehension and prosecution of criminals who perpetrated this crime,” he added. “If those who carried out this shameful act were doing so to intimidate the Church, they are sadly mistaken.

Father Carlassare has flown to Nairobi – Kenya for a further treatment.

But multiple sources said his condition was stable.

On Monday, Lakes State government said they have arrested over 20 people for allegedly involved in a priest attacks.

President Kiir further said “we will stand by” Father Carlassare, who was chosen by the Pope to lead, arguing that the action of a few criminals should not be allowed to affect the plans of the ecclesiastical authority.”

The President concluded by wishing the Bishop-elect a quick recovery to enable him to return to his flock with renewed determination to serve the faithful in the Diocese.” “I wish him speedy recovery.

The Italian-born Comboni Missionary Cleric was appointed Bishop for Rumbek Diocese March 8. His episcopal ordination was scheduled to take place on Pentecost Sunday, May 23.

He had been serving in South Sudan’s Malakal Diocese since he arrived in the East-Central African country in 2005

He traveled to Rumbek Diocese April 15 following days of spiritual retreat in South Sudan’s capital, Juba.

Rumbek Diocese became vacant in July 2011 following the sudden death of Bishop Caesar Mazzolari. The Bishop collapsed during the celebration of Holy Eucharist on the morning of 16 July 2011, one week after South Sudan’s independence.

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Secretary Blinken Holds Virtual Discussion with Alumni of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI)
April 27, 2021 | 0 Comments

Secretary Blinken held an interactive session YALI Alumni

MS KENEWENDO:  A very good morning to you, Mr. Secretary.  We are very pleased to be with you this afternoon on our side, and I am being joined by several YALI alumni, so the Young African Leaders Initiative.  And they are all looking forward to engaging with you on how best we can strengthen U.S.-Africa relations and how best we can ensure that we, as young people in Africa and the alumni of YALI, can continue to engage with you in strengthening these relations.  And we are pleased again, alumni, fellow alumni, to be joining the Secretary of State, Mr. Antony “Tony” Blinken in order to engage further, and we are calling today’s engagement “10 Questions with Tony” and in honor of YALI’s 10th anniversary.  We very much look forward to hearing from you, Mr. Secretary, and I’m very much looking forward to all the questions that the alumni will be asking.  So once again, a very warm welcome to you, Mr. Secretary.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, hello.  Thank you so much for that warm welcome, and it is wonderful to celebrate the 10th anniversary.  I guess if this was the 20th anniversary it would be “20 Questions,” but we’ll start with 10 this time and maybe I’ll get a chance to come back in another decade.  But I got to know the YALI program very well when I served as deputy secretary of state for President Obama and my wife, Evan Ryan, oversaw the Mandela Washington Fellowship, among other things.  She was the assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs responsible for all of our exchange programs, and this was right at the heart of what she was doing.  So our family is basically full of fans of this initiative.

But even to someone like me who knows a little bit at least about YALI, I have to tell you it is remarkable to see its impact after a decade: more than 24,000 alumni between the Mandela program and the regional leadership centers.  While the program has grown, the core idea is the same as it was from the start.  A continent of 1.3 billion people, median age 19 – the best way to expand opportunities, grow economies, promote human rights is to invest in Africa’s young leaders.  That’s the power of the idea.

The work that you all do is testament to that, including during COVID-19, which is why unfortunately we’re meeting virtually today – and I look forward, I hope in the future, to opportunities for us to get together in person.

The pandemic has underscored three points that I think go to the heart of why this program is so important.  The first is that the communities hit hardest by the pandemic are those that were already underserved and marginalized.  That’s true here in America and it’s true in your countries.  Whether you work on improving the health of adolescent girls in Ghana like Maxwell does, empowering women and girls in the Democratic Republic of Congo like Passy does, expanding opportunities for kids in Kenya’s informal settlements like Billian does, you’ve seen this unequal and searing impact up close.

The second point is that the best way to prepare communities for massive challenges like the pandemic is building resilience, expanding opportunity, strengthening local voices of rising leaders before the crisis strikes, and by ensuring that innovations in technology and other vital tools meet the needs of these same communities, not just the well-off and well-connected.

YALI alums have been at the forefront of this effort.  People like Mary Mwangi, who developed an app that lets tuk-tuk passengers book a ride and pay online in advance so they can skip the packed lines and avoid exchanging money by hand, eliminating key vectors of the virus spread.  Alumni like Moussa Kondo, whose NGO Accountability Lab in Mali is combating misinformation with daily blasts that debunk popular myths about the virus.

And that brings me to my last point.  The pandemic has made clear how our fates are really bound up in one another.  Whether in fighting COVID-19, meeting the climate crisis, building a sustainable and inclusive global economy, or dealing with any of the other challenges we face today, we are all in this together.  So the need for YALI’s leaders has never been so urgent, and that’s why I’m really eager to hear from all of you and particularly to hear how we can make this program even stronger.

So to that end, let me kick it off by getting to ask the first question.  I’ll be answering some questions but I wanted to get to ask the first one.  And my first question is this:  As YALI enters its second decade, what more can America do to empower Africa’s rising generation of leaders?  How should the program evolve to meet the challenges and seize the opportunities that you’re all seeing today? 

So why don’t we kick it off with that, and back to you, Bogolo.

MS KENEWENDO:  All right.  Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary, and thank you for the warm, warm welcome.  It is very wise that you kick us off because we have so many questions and everyone is very excited to field their questions to you.  But let me just ask a colleague of mine, Mr. Maxwell in Ghana to take that first question.  Maxwell?

QUESTION:  Okay.  Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary, for such a thought-provoking question.  My name is Maxwell Kumbeni.  I’m a 2018 Mandela Washington fellow.  I did public management at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, after which I proceeded to the Cincinnati Health Department to do my six weeks of professional development experience.

Now, to answer the question, I think that YALI is the best thing to ever happen to this generation of young people in Africa.  It is amazing if you look at the kind of huge economic empowerment and great leaders that have emerged from this program just in a period of 10 years, and the prospects are even higher when you look at it.

And so for me, I think that the best or the first step for the U.S. to best support this next generation of YALI participants is for the U.S. to ensure the continued existence of the three arms of the YALI program – that is, the Mandela Washington Fellowship, the YALI Online, and then the Regional Leadership Training Centers.  This would ensure that we continue to have access to connections and resources with which to build our businesses and then our communities.

Secondly, although there is some level of integration among the three arms of YALI programs, that strong bonding or cohesion does not seem to exist.  So there’s a need to create programs that will ensure that these different arms work together to ensure that cohesion exists and that unity will inspire more things to happen.

And then I also think that if the number of slots for the professional development experience is increased to at least 25 percent of fellows that are recruited for a year, this would go a long way to inspire more fellows.  This is because this program actually exposes fellows to the real working environment of the U.S. and that it gives us that skill to move to come and start our own businesses, or better still, build upon businesses that existed before we went for the program.  And for the future of YALI, I think that if funding can be guaranteed for the next couple of decades, YALI will eventually become the greatest economic and decision-making body in the continent of Africa and perhaps beyond.  We will have YALI members leading most organizations and then being the critical decision-makers in this continent, and I think that if you look at these things, YALI stands a chance of becoming an economic force and then a policymaker in the continent and perhaps beyond.

Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you.  That’s an incredibly thoughtful and insightful answer, and I’ve got some very good ideas just from hearing that.  So I really appreciate that.

MS KENEWENDO:  All right.  Thank you very much, Maxwell.  Thank you very much, Secretary.  I just want to also add that we used to have great reunions and we strengthened our networks.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Yeah.

MS KENEWENDO:  And I would be looking forward to more reunions because they really do help us in growing within the continent amongst ourselves.

And now I am sure that the burning questions are already close to 100 degrees, and I want to turn over, Mr. Secretary, to all the questions, starting with Yared in Ethiopia.  Yared, do you have your question ready?

QUESTION:  Yes, I do.  Thank you, Mr. Secretary.  My name is Yared Abera.  I am a 2017 alumnus from Nairobi Regional Leadership Center, where I participated in the civic engagement track. 

My question to you, Secretary Blinken:  Problems like climate change need urgent global cooperation.  As America is back on the world stage, what should we expect in addressing the pressing major and growing challenges of climate change beyond the United States rejoining the Paris Agreement?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you very much, Yared.  This is really maybe one of the most, if not the most, crucial questions of our time because climate change is an existential challenge for all of us.  And to your point, the President rejoined Paris immediately.  He appointed one of my most illustrious predecessors, John Kerry, to lead our efforts internationally about climate change.  And as you know, we’ve convened a climate summit in Washington which is an important event in terms of leading to Glasgow and the COP 26 meeting at the end of the year.  And this year is so pivotal in terms of really working to raise the ambitions of countries around the world in terms of what they’re going to do about climate change, setting even more ambitious targets, looking at how we finance this, turning the challenge of climate change into an opportunity with green technology and good new jobs.  And all of that, I think really the starting off point has been this April 22nd Earth Day meeting that President Biden put together, and we’re going to – we’re using that really as a jumping off point to help make sure that COP 26 in Glasgow at the end of the year is a big success.

Last thing I’ll say on this – this is really a pivotal year in a pivotal decade.  The decisions and the actions that countries take now and that they take between now and 2030 are really going to determine whether or not we succeed in meeting the ambitious goals that many of us have set for 2050.  We can’t wait until the 2040s to start to take action.  It has to happen now, and all the action this year hopefully will get us off to that very, very important start.

Bogolo, back to you.

MS KENEWENDO:  All right.  Thank you.  Thank you, Mr. Secretary.  Thank you, Yared.

Our next question, Mr. Secretary, will come from South Africa and will be questioned by Melene.  Melene, you can —

QUESTION:  Thank you very much, Bogolo.  Yes, ma’am.  Thank you, Secretary Blinken.  My name is Melene Rossouw and I am a 2019 Mandela Washington fellow.  I participated in the civic engagement track through the presidential precinct at the University of Virginia.

My question to you, sir:  One of the greatest threats to Africa’s future is gender inequality.  Denying 52 percent of Africa’s population their right to full participation and equal opportunity impacts democracy, security, governance, human rights, and the economy.  What actions will the United States Government take to not only promote gender equality within the United States but also in Africa, which recorded the highest inequalities in the world?  Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you for a very, very important question.  And I have to tell you from the start, the Biden-Harris administration sees gender equity and equality not just as a moral and human rights imperative, which it is, but also as a strategic imperative because it is vital to reducing poverty, promoting economic growth, and strengthening democracy.  On March 8th, International Women’s Day, you may have taken note President Biden issued an executive order on the establishment of a White House Gender Policy Council.  That in and of itself is a strong signal of the commitment that he has and that we have to really revitalizing our work toward gender equality not just in the United States, but, to your point, globally.  The work of the council is to advance gender equality through the activities of the U.S. Government, all of its agencies and departments, and internationally what it aims to do is to advance gender equality through our diplomacy – something that I work on every day; through development and the work of our development agencies like USAID; through trade and even through defense.

We recognize that women’s leadership is critical to lasting peace and prosperity across the sub-Saharan Africa, and so our support for gender equality really does extend throughout the continent, and one of the ways we’re doing this is through diplomatic efforts to reduce barriers to women’s participation in economic and political life, including addressing legal, regulatory, cultural barriers that hold women back.

We have an office here in the State Department which I think you probably know of.  It’s the Office of Global Women’s Issues, a very important initiative where we’re actively engaged in women’s economic empowerment.  We have programs in 25 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.  And across the continent, I think there’s a strong recognition that women and subject matter experts really represent the backbone of African economies in many ways, and economic growth, which is so vital to everyone, the growth that they generate leads to much greater long-term security, stability, prosperity in their individual communities but also in countries writ large.

You know this very well:  Women and girls are often excluded from decision-making, and that in and of itself is one of the most important barriers that I think we have to work to break down in our programs that are bilaterally with individual countries, but also multilaterally through different organizations.  We’re working to strengthen full, effective, and meaningful participation in conflict mitigation, in peacebuilding efforts, in security and law enforcement, in all levels of politics and governance.

And finally, there’s accountability that has to go with this because it’s important that governments be held accountable for human rights violations and abuses.  Basically, we have to end impunity for those responsible for such acts online, offline, to address gender-based violence – something that President Biden feels very strongly.  You may know that, I think, one of the things he’s proudest of in his career when he was a United States senator, many years ago, was something called the Violence Against Women Act here in the United States.  And I think if you asked him of all of his achievements what is he proudest of, it’s probably that.  And he’s worked also to take that international and to strengthen that around the world, and that includes everything from gender-based violence, whether it’s genital mutilation, whether it’s early and forced marriage, whether it’s conflict-related violence, rape, other forms of violence against women.  All of this is part of our policy.  And I’m sorry for going on on this question but it really is important.

We also have women, peace, and security initiatives underway in more than 11 sub-Saharan African countries.  We’ve got assistance programs that work to advance women, peace, and security efforts supporting local women leaders and preventing and countering violent extremism, enhancing survivor-centered efforts to prevent and respond to gender-based violence, and working to advance women’s leadership again in the decision-making – this is so critical – on peace and security efforts.  We’ve found that when women are actually engaged in the decision-making, we get better decisions.  It’s as simple as that.

So this is something we’re very proud of but also very determined to advance in the years ahead, and I think you’re a testament to the impact of the YALI program with your own commitment to empowering other women.  So hats off to you and we really look forward to continuing to work together on this. 

Bogolo, back to you.

MS KENEWENDO:  Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary, and thank you, Melene, for asking that question.  Your response to that was very elaborate and I particularly appreciate it because I believe that if we don’t empower women, then we’ll only get 50 percent of success and productivity.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Yeah.

MS KENEWENDO:  So you have really captured it well.  Thank you.

For our next question we have Passy from the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Passy, it’s  your turn to ask a question. 

QUESTION:  Thank you, Mr. Secretary of State, for the opportunity and privilege to be in this meeting today.  My name is Passy Mubalama.  I am a pro-democracy and human rights activist based in Goma, in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  I am a 2014 YALI alumni in the civic leadership track from the University of Delaware. 

The DRC is a very resource-rich country.  How can the United States help to ensure more equitable economic partnership and to fight corruption if it’s both internally and externally from international corporations who want to take advantage of Congo’s resources?  Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you very much, Passy.  And first, I’m not sure – it’s possible that we even met because when I was last in government, I went out to visit with the YALI fellows at the University of Delaware.  So I don’t know if – I can’t remember if it was 2015 or 2016.  But —

QUESTION:  Yeah, yeah, 2014.  I think we met at the University of Delaware, so it’s a pleasure.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Yes, that’s right, so it’s great to see you again, even at a great distance.

QUESTION:  Yeah, thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Let me just say in answer to your question, the DRC’s natural resources are vitally important not only to the DRC but actually to the world, and we’ve got an embassy team in Kinshasa working to do something very important, and that is to expose corrupt networks operating in the DRC, which is one of the, I think, most important barriers and challenges to the appropriate exploitation of these resources as opposed to the inappropriate exploitation.

One of the other things that we’re doing is we’re working to increase trade and investment ties, including through the DRC’s restored eligibility under the U.S. African Growth and Opportunity Act.  That’s a very important trade preference program that I think can make a real difference, especially with the DRC’s renewed eligibility.

What’s also, I think, very important to focus on is efforts underway by the DRC to create a better business climate.  That’s really key to getting investors, to getting their interest, to getting their confidence.  And it’s also vitally important that as people, companies invest, they do so with the highest standards in mind, and that’s something we’re also very focused on.

Exposing corrupt actors who are actually trying to exploit this for bad purposes and encouraging legitimate business – these are, I think, the twin pillars that we’re working with.  And my expectation is we’ll see real change in our relationship in – with the DRC, and real progress.  So that’s my hope and we’re certainly working on it.  Thanks for the great question.

And Bogolo, back to you.

MS KENEWENDO:  All right.  Thank you, Mr. – thank you, Mr. Secretary, and great question, Passy.

And now I will be moving forward to Kenya and take a question from Billian.

QUESTION:  Thank you, Mr. Secretary.  Hi.  My name is Billian Okoth Ojiwa.  I am a 2018 Mandela Washington fellow.  I was in civic leadership track at the University of Delaware. 

My question is:  How can we inspire the youth of today to overcome their acceptance of the status quo in becoming – and become the leaders of tomorrow?  And how can the United States and Kenya continue to partner to provide youth and young leaders with skills and resources they need to bring about the change they want to see in the world?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, first of all, you’re doing it.  You and your colleagues in the YALI program are doing it, and that’s incredibly inspiring.  And I think in doing it you’re also setting an incredibly powerful example for your friends, your colleagues, your communities, and that’s going to have ripple effects that I don’t think you can even fully appreciate.  They’re going to – there are younger – even younger people today inspired by what you’re doing and what you’ve done, and as a – and they can see a different path forward as a result of that.  And that I think in itself is going to encourage people to stand up, speak out, be engaged, and try to advance beyond the status quo.

But look, we know that to really feel engaged and to really be inspired, people need to feel that they’re being heard – because speaking into a void can be an incredibly frustrating exercise.  So I think young voices are critical to any political discourse, for example, on electoral and constitutional reforms.  And that’s certainly true in the runup to elections in 2022 in Kenya.

We’re supporting a whole variety of programs to try to build the capacity of youth organizations to come together in a constructive way to help young people develop resilience against political manipulation and violence, to advocate for more inclusive governance and accountability.  And the YALI family, especially alumni of the civic engagement track like you, I think again you’re playing a really important role in this.  And the inspiration that you’re providing is, more than anything else, the most powerful force that we have going.

And let me add one other thing.  I’ve been around and doing this kind of work for a little while, and I know that even with every effort I might make and my colleagues make to have open minds and fresh perspectives, the older you get, the harder it is.  Everyone gets a little bit set in their ways, set in their thinking.  And the most important thing we have is to hear and to listen to new voices, young voices, fresh perspectives, new ideas.  No one has a monopoly on ideas, never mind good ideas.  And as you’re bringing these ideas to the marketplace of ideas, it’s going to make for a much more powerful and abundant market, and I think that’s the way we get progress.

So we have – we have to have open ears and open minds, and you have to step up, and I’m so glad that you’re doing that and really leading by example.

Bogolo, back to you.

MS KENEWENDO:  Thank you, Mr. Secretary.  Alumni here, it’s to open the ears, open minds, and stepping forward. 

Mr. Secretary, our next question will be coming from Pedro in Cabo Verde.  Pedro?

QUESTION:  Hi, Secretary of State.  Thank you for this amazing opportunity.  Hi also to the YALI family.  I miss you, brothers and sisters.  It’s fantastic that we had this opportunity to talk and also to give a platform to your people like a brilliant lawyer, my friend Melene, and also Ms. Bogolo.  My name is Pedro Lopes.  I am a 2017 Mandela Washington fellow.  I participated in the business entrepreneurship track at the University of New Mexico. 

Fake news.  Fake news shared on social platforms is contributing to the erosion of democracy by misinforming and polarizing the public.  How can we protect small democratic states such as Cabo Verde, my country, from this challenge?  Should there be a global regulation of social media, Mr. Secretary of State?  Thank you so much for this opportunity. 

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  That’s one of the most important questions of our time.  And as you rightly say, we have a huge challenge with misinformation and disinformation, particularly using social media platforms, and it is a threat to democracies, and not just to your country and not just to other countries – to the United States and to many other democracies around the world.  And we have experienced that; we continue to experience that every day.  And here a few things are important. 

Social media platforms themselves obviously have a huge role and responsibility in fighting fake news, and their ability to do that and to do that effectively is one of the most important aspects of actually dealing with this problem.  And that, to understate, is a work in progress at best, but it’s vitally important that they stand up and play a leadership role.  And of course, balancing the different equities of making sure that we are combating misinformation and disinformation while preserving freedom of speech is one of the most profound challenges of our time and invites incredibly difficult questions and really philosophical questions as well as practical ones.  Because the free flow of information is critical to democracy, and that’s no less true in the digital age, but it also highlights that everyone has a role to play in fighting disinformation.

Many of us brought up in liberal traditions and who study this, I think, thought maybe naively that – we were talking about the marketplace of ideas.  John Stuart Mill, if you go back to some of the early social thinkers, believed that the basic idea is to put ideas out there and the best ideas will rise to the top and the truth will rise to the top.  But of course, we’ve found that it’s not as simple as that. 

We have at the Department of State many resources that may help you develop a strategy to combat fake news, including in Cabo Verde.  So one of the things I’d just do is to encourage you to engage with, work with our team at the U.S. embassy in Praia and to try to tap into these resources and programming.  That’s one very practical way forward and that may be helpful.  But this is something we’re going to have to grapple with together for a long time to come.

Bogolo?

MS KENEWENDO:  All right.  Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary, for that response.

Our next question is coming from Zimbabwe by Mantate.  Mantate?

QUESTION:  Yes.  Thank you so much, Bogolo.  My name Mantate Mlotshwa, and it’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Secretary.  I am from Zimbabwe and I’m a 2018 alumni from the regional leadership center in South Africa, where I was in the civic leadership track. 

So as someone that’s very passionate about democracy and governance, I see that there is a lot of violence in countries like Zimbabwe where they keep [inaudible] and attack opposition and civil society leaders – the insurgencies in Mozambique, for instance, and the ethnic conflict in Ethiopia. 

So my question really is about the position, the policy position of the United States where unresolved violence is concerned, past and present.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  So this is something that we have to and we are paying attention to security concerns as well as to democracy and human rights.  And unfortunately, what we’ve seen is backsliding on both fronts in a number of places across Africa, and I have to say that we’re concerned about these trends – both rising insecurity and also decreasing, diminishing adherence to democratic standards and human rights. 

Ultimately, inclusive, accessible democracies are the most crucial thing to moving countries away from cycles of violence and onto a path of peace and stability and development.  What we’ve found through experience and what history suggests is that the countries that enjoy transparent, accountable governance and that deliver services for their people face fewer social grievances and ensure that the public actually is invested in building a stronger future, because they can see it.  They can feel it.

So if governance, if democratic governance is able to effectively deliver what people need and give them a voice in the system, that is ultimately the way that you deal with violence, you prevent it from erupting in the first place, and you strengthen democracy and human rights.  So we’re very much committed to working with partners to advance peace and security in Africa.  In the short term, sometimes that looks like security partnerships, conflict mitigation support, and diplomatic advocacy on human rights.  Ultimately, I think the most important thing that we can do is to help countries, where possible, strengthen their democratic institutions, strengthen the ability to deliver progress for people – economic growth – and that’s the real foundation that we need to put in place.  But that takes time.  And in the meantime, some of these programs and partnerships to deal with the immediate challenges are what’s most important.

Bogolo?

MS KENEWENDO:  Right.  Thank you, Mr. Secretary.  Thank you, Mantate, for that question.  It is particularly relevant now because this week, the SADC troika is also meeting over the issues in Mozambique and we are all concerned.  I mean, it’s encouraging to hear a young person ask this question, Mr. Secretary, because it shows that the young people are aware that any instability is also closing doors for further opportunities for us to grow in the future.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Yes.

MS KENEWENDO:  So thank you for that response as well.

So for our next question we will get Jamila from Uganda.  Jamila?

QUESTION:  Yes, thank you, Bogolo.  Hello, Mr. Secretary.  It’s nice meeting you virtually.  My name is Jamila Mayanja and I am a 2015 Mandela Washington fellow.  I took up the business and entrepreneurship track at Dartmouth College.

My question is:  Have exchange programs like YALI been beneficial to the U.S. Government like they have been to individual participants?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  So I think that the real secret here is that we get even more out of these programs than you do, the participants.  I really believe this, profoundly.  I’ve looked at this very carefully over the years.  And it’s an incredible thing because if you look back over 75 years or so of exchange programs – and YALI is maybe one of the great examples but we have many other exchange programs of one kind or another: academic, business, skill-based, just visitor programs.

One of the things that we’ve been able to do over many years is to identify in each generation the rising, remarkable talent in different countries, and have them participate in one of our programs.  And as I’ve talked to alumni of programs, whether it’s YALI or any other, who have been able to spend time in United States and really see firsthand what our country is all about – in good ways and in not so good ways – but getting that firsthand and meeting with, connecting with, developing relationships with Americans; nine times out of 10 I’ve found that the participants leave with a strong attachment to the United States, relationships that endure for years and even decades.  And then what’s extraordinary, and you are all perfect examples of this – these young people that we’ve identified to come participate in programs invariably go on to positions of incredible responsibility, leadership, innovation in their home countries in governance, in education, in science, in the arts, in business, you name it.

I looked at the statistics a few years ago, so these are out-of-date.  But back then, about five or six years ago when I last looked at this, of all the participants in our exchange programs over the years, more than 300 had gone on to become prime ministers or presidents of their country.  Thousands had become leaders in business, the arts, education.  More than 50 Nobel Prize winners.  And to have that kind of connectivity, to have those kinds of bonds with people who go on to do such wonderful things for their communities and their countries, that’s a tremendous benefit to the United States.

The Mandela Fellowship, just to cite one piece of this, works with 26 universities throughout the United States, and through the professional development experience, we partner with 70 private, public, and nonprofit organizations to place fellows, and that’s building incredible bonds and relationships and networks that benefit us, that benefit the United States in remarkable ways. 

Fellows have donated more than 30,000 hours of service to their host communities while educating and opening the eyes of these communities to the insights that you bring about life back home.  So it’s not only what you go on to do, it’s what you’re doing when you’re in the United States participating in our programs.  And what we’re doing today is another good example.  I think you’re helping to underscore your interests, your goals, your vision for what America’s relationship with Africa can be.  And that’s going to help us here in Washington make decisions about how we focus our engagement with the YALI network itself and with the continent writ large.

So look, this is the – the real secret here is this is really a huge benefit to us, it’s a benefit to me, and I’m so grateful for your participation, for the participation of all the fellows, because it’s really, for me, one of the most productive things that we do and it is without question maybe the best return on the investment we make in these programs.  So thank you.

Bogolo?

MS KENEWENDO:  All right.  Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary.  You are clearly a big fan of this Mandela Fellowship and all our YALI programs, and we appreciate it.

The next question will be from Wezam in Nigeria.  Wezam?

QUESTION:  Thank you, Bogolo.  Good afternoon, Mr. Secretary of State.  My name is Wezam.  I am a 2019 Mandela Washington fellow, business and entrepreneurship track from Northwestern University.

My question is this:  Considering the growth of China’s influence in Africa, will the U.S. be competing with China in Africa, especially as it pertains to Africa’s growth over the next few years?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you, Wezam.  That’s, again, a very important question.  And let me say a few things to that.

First, Africa, countries in Africa will and should engage with a broad array of partners, whether it’s China or France, Turkey or Brazil, the United States or many others.  And my hope is that African countries and African communities just approach those relationships with your eyes wide open.  China is a global competitor, and competition is a good thing as long as it’s basically fair and the playing field is level.  But as we look at it, we have different approaches to governance; we have different approaches to business; we have different approaches to security.  And the fundamentals sometimes of our partnerships are quite different.

We believe, the United States believes that a free and open rules-based order that we espouse, sometimes imperfectly but that is our – that is what we espouse, is a good model for people around the world to realize their full potential.  It’s been for us, and we believe that that holds true – not unique to the United States.

In Africa and around the world, we’ll continue to, for example, promote entrepreneurship, fair business practices, sound environmental and social standards for development assistance.  Because what we really need to see, wherever it is, is a race to the top, not a race to the bottom – to make sure that as we engage in business, as we engage in development, as we engage in assistance, we’re also paying strong attention to environmental concerns, to worker rights, to transparency, to other vital things that make for sustainable and equitable growth and opportunity.

So what we’re going to be doing at least is supporting good governance and strong democratic institutions, transparency with our aid.  People will know where it goes, what it delivers, who benefits, and they’ll actually be engaged in its implementation.  Transparency is vital.  That’s something we’re strongly behind.  Fighting corruption to make sure that when countries invest, when businesses engage, that’s free from corruption, which is one of the most corrosive things to democracy imaginable.  And we’ll speak out on human rights.

Ultimately, as we look at this, government should be of, by, and for the people and serve the needs of the people, and these are all pretty big distinctions – at least right now – between the way we look at this and the way the authorities in Beijing look at it.

So it’s a long way of saying we’re not asking anyone to choose between the United States or China, but I would encourage you to ask those tough questions, to dig beneath the surface, to demand transparency, and to make informed choices about what is best for you and your countries.  If someone is coming along and saying, “I’m going to invest a lot of money in your country, but it’s a loan so that means you have a debt, and you’re going to have to pay it back someday, and if that debt is too great and you can’t pay it back, then I’m going to own the asset in question,” well, you should look carefully at that.  Because assuming too much debt becomes an unsustainable burden on countries, and then they face an incredibly hard choice between having to pay it back and probably pay it back in ways that takes resources away from the people, or hand over whatever the investment was to whoever made the investment and owns the debt.  You should be looking hard at whether when other countries come in to build a big infrastructure project, are they bringing their own workers with them or are they giving jobs to people in the country where they’re making investments?  What are the environmental standards?  What are the standards for workers and their rights who are working on these projects?  Is there transparency about where the money is going?  All of those things are things that are important to dig into, and anyone who’s making an investment should be held to a very high standard.

So we’re, for our part, going to remain focused on Africa.  We believe in Africa.  We believe in the extraordinary potential.  We believe that it’s necessary because when you have such a huge proportion of the world’s population in Africa, and that’s only growing, everyone has a stake in Africa’s growth and success because it’s going to contribute to the world, not just to Africa.  Your success is our success, and we want to invest in it but in the right way.

Bogolo? 

MS KENEWENDO:  All right.  We almost made it, Mr. Secretary, to 10 questions without that question.  But I was going to be surprised if it hadn’t come up because pre-COVID, everyone was talking about U.S.-China relations and how Africa is affected, and now with COVID it’s all about the COVID diplomacy and what we’re going to do going forward. 

So I want to thank Edwige for bringing up that question, very pertinent question.  And to wrap up our “10 Questions with Tony,” we’ll be – sorry, so to wrap it up will actually be Edwige from Cote d’Ivoire. 

QUESTION:  Thank you, Bogolo.  Good afternoon, Mr. Secretary of State.  My name is Edwige Dro.  I am a 2019 Mandela Washington fellow.  I did the civic engagement track at the University of Delaware.  I am a writer and a literary activist who has always been fascinated with the ways in which artists from the Harlem Renaissance to Hollywood have shaped the narratives of the United States.

So what collaboration can we expect under the Biden administration between African writers and artists and their American colleagues?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, thanks.  This is a wonderful question to end on because this, too, is something that’s near and dear to my heart. 

I’ve seen for many, many years and I’ve seen up close the incredible power of cultural diplomacy and exchange.  One of the single greatest exports that the United States has is our cultural diplomacy, but it’s also one of the greatest imports that we have.  And bringing U.S. citizens of a diverse range of backgrounds – writers, artists, businesspeople, students – into contact with their counterparts in Africa makes for an incredibly powerful and fertile melting pot for cultural expression, cultural innovation, cultural ideas.  And I think that writers and artists like you play a very important role in advancing through the arts, through culture, through these bonds that connect people in the most profound ways possible, that transcend politics and that transcend some of the issues, the geopolitical issues that we talk about – that’s so vital to advancing democracy and social change.  And this open and dynamic exchange of ideas, particularly through cultural expression, more than anything else I think bonds and binds people together in ways that are resilient sometimes to other challenges that we face in relationships between countries.

The Iowa writers’ program – and I understand that’s something you’re going to be taking part in; it’s a remarkable program, so congratulations – and One Beat and Arts Envoys, we have a variety of programs that we at the State Department are working to support, to facilitate.  And as I’ve seen it, some of my – some of the moments that will stay with me and that resonate the most are having engagements with participants in cultural exchange programs to see the work that they’re doing, the expression that they’re giving to these human emotions that we share no matter where we’re from, no matter what our backgrounds.  It’s hard to think of anything that better connects people at a time when these connections, I think, are more important than ever.

So thank you for what you’re doing.  Thank you for your own engagement, and good luck with the writers program.  It’s pretty remarkable.  And I look forward to reading you sometime in the future.

Bogolo?

MS KENEWENDO:  All right, great.  Thank you very much, Edwige, for that question, and thank you very much, Mr. Secretary.  That wraps our “10 Questions with Tony,” and Mr. Secretary, I just want to highlight that I have been asked for my opinion several times on different forums on how the U.S. can re-engage with Africa and how we can refresh our relations.  And many times I say young people I hear, they are ready, they are willing, and the engagement should start there, but it should also be rising to the ambitions that the continent has – the ambitions on trade and investment, as has been shown by the questions out there; ambitions around empowerment of young women and women in general; ambitions around leadership preparation and really assuming our place at the table; ambitions on arts and culture, on democracy, on peace and stability.

These are all areas that we are very passionate about and we have charted ways forward on how we want to engage, and we are ready for partners that are willing to move forward with us.  And what we are also seeing from today’s engagement, Mr. Secretary, is that everyone here is saying that they are not leaders of tomorrow but they are leaders of today, because every day they are working hard to ensure that they have a future and something to bequeath to the next generation.  So I’m very pleased that at the highest level in your office you chose to engage with us today.  You chose – even in the midst of a pandemic and dealing with a crisis in the U.S. you chose to engage with young African leaders.  And as you said, we need to step up, and I believe that everyone is ready to rise to that challenge. 

And I want to just ask you, give you this moment if you have any parting words for us, any last words, take-home that you want us to remember you by.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, Bogolo, it’s incredibly hard to follow your extraordinarily eloquent remarks, because you’ve captured it so powerfully and so well, and I subscribe to everything that you just said.

Let me just say that for me, this conversation, despite the fact that it’s virtual and unfortunately a little bit brief in time, is just incredibly energizing and incredibly positive.  I get a huge amount out of hearing from you and being inspired by you.  And Bogolo, to your point, this is – and I think this is the perfect demonstration that we’re not just talking about leaders of tomorrow, we are talking about leaders of today.  And what each of you is doing in your lives, with your lives is leadership and it’s going to be inspiring, as I said a little earlier, to people in ways you can’t even imagine.  And it’s that kind of example and that kind of inspiration and that kind of engagement that is what progress is all about.

So I just want to both thank you for some of the – both the important questions, some good ideas that I heard today about how we can build the – build this program even stronger going forward, but mostly to thank you for stepping up, for your engagement, for the example that you’re setting, for the work that you’re doing.  It gives me tremendous confidence in the future.  And I know that there’s so many hard things that the world is dealing with, that we’re all dealing with, that many of you are dealing with in your own lives.  But just take a moment to reflect on the fact that what you’re doing is having an impact, and that, more than anything else, is confidence for the future.  So thank you.

MS KENEWENDO:  Thank you, Mr. Secretary.  Let me conclude and close this session by actually introducing myself.  Bogolo Kenewendo from Botswana, and I am a 2011 alumna of the First Lady’s Forum of Young African Women Leaders.  So I’ve been listening to everybody here; I think I am older than all of them in terms of YALI participation.  So it has been an absolute pleasure to have you this afternoon, this morning on your time, and I believe I speak for all of the alumni here today and joining us online when I say thank you and we look forward to more engagement with you and your department and the U.S. in general on how we can continue to strengthen, refresh, and reinvigorate our relations between the U.S. and Africa.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you.  Thank you all.

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Terrorists are forming new cells across Mozambique, says government
April 27, 2021 | 0 Comments

By Jorge Joaquim

The terrorists behind the insurgency in Cabo Delgado province are creating additional terrorist cells across the country, the prime minister, Carlos Agostinho do Rosário has warned.

Speaking to community leaders in the central province of Manica, do Rosário said: “They entice young people, there is money. They tempt with fake jobs, so we have to organize ourselves very deeply”.

Similar comments were made by Filipe Paúnde, a member of ruling party Frelimo’s political commission.

Ossufo Momade, leader of opposition party Renamo, has called for the party’s guerrillas to be sent by the government to fight the therrorists.

Momade said that the party had given a list of 362 guerrillas to the authorities to take part in the disarmament process agreed as part of the peace deal between Renamo and the government in 2019. They could be integrated into the security forces fighting in Cabo Delgado, he argued.

Meanwhile, the Mozambican Federation of Contractors (FME) is concerned about the fate of the more than 100 companies subcontracted by Total to work on its now suspended gas project in Cabo Delgado province.

Manuel Pereira said that the FME was trying to help the companies, many of whom were already moving south following the terrorist attack on the town of Palma, near the project site, on 24 March.

The FME wanted the government to intervene as many of these companies had hired staff to work on contracts that they feared would now be cancelled, Pereira said.

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Zambian President Lungu hails Merck foundation’s efforts to improve healthcare services
April 27, 2021 | 0 Comments

By Jean d’Amour Mbonyinshuti

As the population of Africa grows to almost 1.4 billion people, I urge African leaders and all of you to focus on building our health care providers in various specialties to keep the African population health and productive, President Lungu said.

The Zambian President Edgar Changwa Lungu has hailed efforts by Merck Foundation to improve healthcare services in different specialties and assured continued support by his country and the continent as a whole to ensure the better health of the increasing number of Africans.  

The president was speaking on Tuesday during the opening of the three-day meeting to discuss strategies and solutions for health challenges in different countries to contribute to improving access to quality and equitable healthcare solutions and building healthcare capacity in many critical and underserved medical fields.

The eighth edition for Merck Foundation Africa Asia Luminary 2021 also coincided with celebrations of the 4th anniversary of Merck Foundation.  

Merck Foundation Africa Asia Luminary virtual meeting brought together different participants including First Lady from different countries from across the continent, health experts, academia, and media among others, according to Senator Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation

She said the meeting could focus on how diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular, endocrinology, Cancer, Research, Fertility Care, Women Health, Sexual & Reproductive care, Respiratory Medicines, and Acute Medicines among others can be dealt with.

To all first ladies in Africa who are actively involved with the Merck Foundation, I urge you to continue prioritizing human capital development through various capacity building programs which are aimed at supporting the work of the ministries of health in our respective countries, Lungu said

More than 1100 doctor from 42 countries have benefited from Merck Foundation scholarship in the above fields, Dr Kelej said.

She added that more doctors could soon join in the next few years to benefit from more scholarships in more specialties such as internal Medicine, Gastroenterology, Mental Health, Orthopedic Trauma, Pediatric.

Others include emergency Medicine, Dermatology, Neonatal Medicine, Pain Management, Psychiatry, Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases, Ophthalmology, Urology, Trauma, and orthopedics.

“To all first ladies in Africa who are actively involved with the Merck Foundation, I urge you to continue prioritizing human capital development through various capacity building programs which are aimed at supporting the work of the ministries of health in our respective countries,” Lungu said to the First ladies who were at the meeting.

He said that initially the meeting was to be held face to face, but it was unfortunate that it could not be possible due to COVID-19 pandemic that is ravaging not only the African Continent but the entire world.

He said that much as the meeting was held virtually, it could serve as an opportunity for participants to discuss different strategies to overcome health and social challenges, and find solutions to improve access to equitable and quality health care services in participants’ respective countries.

The virtual platform, he said had given an opportunity to over 2000 health care providers, policymakers, academia and media from 70 countries to share experience and learn lessons from one another.

A helpful meeting 

President Lungu noted that the meeting could help participants to see how they could improve the lives of people in line with the United Nations Agenda 2030 on sustainable development.

He urged them to also not forget that COVID-19 pandemic is real stressing that all needed to adhere to the public health guidelines provided by health experts in various countries,

“As the population of Africa grows to almost 1.4 billion people, I urge African leaders and all of you to focus on building our health care providers in various specialties to keep the African population health and productive,” Lungu said.

Lungu paid glowing tribute to health workers for the role played during the COVID-19 pandemic which is ravaging the globe and ensured the lives of people were saved.

I believe that strong political commitment, purposeful and strategic partnerships are key to improving health outcomes and the wellbeing of all people in the world, especially in Africa. As political leaders, we are accountable to people for the decisions we make and the results we achieve.

More than 1100 doctor from 42 countries have benefited from Merck Foundation scholarships Dr Kelej said

He hailed the long-term partnership with Zambia and other African countries with Merck Foundation.

“I am impressed with the foundation’s smart strategy and flawless execution which is aimed at advancing capacity of our healthcare by providing critical and underserved specialty training for our local doctors across the country, hence ensuring quality ensuring quality and equitable healthcare to our people, a critical ingredient in the attainment of universal health coverage,” he noted.

To achieve the sustainable development goals, President Lungu noted that there was an urgent need for innovative, dynamic and purposeful partnerships stressing that it was only through effective coordination of collective efforts that these goals can be achieved.

“Today, there are achievements to celebrate, but also challenges to address. Now more than ever, we have realized the critical importance of our health sectors. With this realization, we must continue programs that build our health care providers at all levels,” he added.

He said he was happy and encouraged that Merck Foundation had partnered with African governments including, Zambia “To reshape our human capital development landscape in Zambia by providing more than 85 Zambian doctors with specialized training in many fields such as cancers, diabetes, hypertension and women health, reproductive health as well as respiratory and intensive care,” he said.

“There is no doubt that our partnership with Merck Foundation will continue to add immense value to our mission of building capacity and training of more healthcare specialists and experts to improve treatment for cancer, cardiac diseases, and artificial invitro-fertilization, renal and bone marrow transplant and other specialties,” he stressed.

“This will improve access to quality and equitable healthcare solutions nationwide and in Africa.This year’s luminary together with all of you and with Merck foundation will enhance our African and Asian cooperation as a catalyst to great integration between developing countries,” President Lungu said.

According to Rebecca Akufo Addo, the first Lady from Ghana, there is a need for building health care capacity and training more and more health care providers in many specialties.

“More than ever, we realize the significance of our public healthcare sector and we know very well that we have to focus our programs on building our healthcare capacity and train more and more healthcare providers in many specialties,” she said.

“Therefore, I appreciate our partnership with Merck Foundation and support their smart strategy and flawless execution to advance our professional healthcare capacity via providing specialty training for our local doctors across the country not only in Accra, so that they can provide quality and equitable healthcare required to our people at the time of need and at all times,” she said.

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13 African First Ladies present during the inauguration of the Merck Foundation 2021 conference
April 27, 2021 | 0 Comments

By Samuel Ouma

Thirteen First African Ladies graced the inauguration of the8th edition of Merck Foundation Africa Asia Luminary conference as guests of honors.

They included Angola First Lady, H.E. Ana Dias Lourenço, Botswana First Lady, H.E. Neo Jane Masisi, Burkina Faso First Lady, H.E. Sika Kabore, Burundi First Lady, H.E. Angeline Ndayishimiye, Central African Republic First Lady, H.E. Brigitte Touadera, Democratic Republic of Congo First Lady, H.E. Denise Nyakeru Tshisekedi.

Others are Ghana First Lady, H.E. Rebecca Akufo-Addo, Guinea First Lady, H.E. Djènè Condé, Liberia First Lady, H.E. Clar Marie Weah, Malawi First Lady, H.E. Monica Chakwera, Mozambique First Lady, H.E. Isaura Ferrão Nyusi, Namibia First Lady, H.E. Monica Geingos and Zambia First Lady H.E. Esther Lungu.

They shared health capacity-building strategy and building a robust platform of specialized trained medical experts in their respective countries, infertility stigma and support girl’s education.

They expressed their gratitude to Merck Foundation saying their partnership with the philanthropic arm of Merck Germany has supported them in building healthcare capacity and train healthcare providers in their respective countries. Some of the successes highlighted include:

More than 37 local young Namibian doctors will be provided with one-year online diploma from South Wales University, in the fields of Diabetes, Cardiology, Endocrinology, Respiratory Medicines, Acute Medicines and Sexual and Reproductive Medicines, reiterated H.E. Monica Geingos, the First Lady of Namibia.

Mozambique has enrolled 14 doctors in the Diabetes Master Course through Merck Foundation Diabetes Blue Points Project.

Malawi has launched the winners of Merck More Than a Mother Media Recognition Awards to avert the stigma of infertility and become the voice of the voiceless and break the silence. They are also set to launch Film, Song Awards to inspire youth to be innovative.

In Ghana, more than 60 healthcare providers have been trained in fields like Cancer, Diabetes, cardiology, endocrinology, respiratory, acute medicines, sexual and reproductive medicines, Fertility and embryology.

32 Doctors have also been enrolled for the Master Course in Diabetes Management in French accredited by Diabetes UK in DRC.

“Till today we have 33 doctors who have benefited from scholarships that Merck Foundation is providing in Oncology, Fertility speciality, embryology and reproductive and sexual medicines and Diabetes management,” said  Burundi First Lady, H.E. Angeline Ndayishimiye.

Thirteen doctors have also been trained in oncology and diabetes in Central African Republic.

The first ladies noted challenges women and girls are undergoing in Africa such as physical and psychological violence, stigma of infertility, child marriage, etc.

“UN reported that nearly one in five women worldwide has experienced violence in the past year. It means that infertile and childless women are suffering even more and more physical and psychological violence and are now trapped at home with their abusers, struggling to access services, they are lonely suffering in silence,” said Namibia First Lady, H.E. Monica Geingos

They committed to empower infertile women through access to education, information, health, change of mindset, and economic support.

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Merck Foundation annual conference kicks off virtually
April 27, 2021 | 0 Comments

By Samuel Ouma

The 8th edition of the Merck Foundation Africa Asia Luminary conference officially began today on a virtual platform.

The three-day conference was inaugurated by Zambian President H.E. Mr. Edgar Lungu and Prof. Dr. Frank Stangenberg, the chairman of both the Executive Board of E. Merck KG and Merck Foundation Board of Trustees.

It was co-chaired by the First Lady of Zambia, H.E. Esther Lungu, and Senator Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Mark Foundation.

“It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all to the 8th Edition of Merck Foundation Africa Asia Luminary, 2021 in partnership with Government of Zambia and co-chaired by my wife the First Lady of Zambia – H.E. Mrs. ESTHER LUNGU. Moreover, we are also happy to celebrate together the 4th Anniversary of Merck Foundation – our long term partner,” said H.E. Edgar Lungu.

The medical and social educational conference aims to improve access to quality & equitable healthcare solutions & build healthcare capacity in the fields of Diabetes, Fertility, Oncology, women’s health, Cardiology, Endocrinology, Respiratory and Acute Medicine. The foundation will also be celebrating its 4th anniversary.

The conference brings together more than  32,000  participants such as healthcare providers, policymakers, academia, researchers, and Health media from more than 70 countries from Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Other attendees are 17 First Ladies of Africa and African Ministers from different sectors.

In his inauguration speech, Prof. Dr. Frank Stangenberg called on ministers and health experts from Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the rest of the world to join hands to realize Merck Foundation’s visions stating that everyone in the world deserves to live a happy and fulfilling life.

Prof. Dr. Frank Stangenberg further disclosed that through Merck more than a Mother campaign in 35 countries, they have provided 180 doctors with Fertility specialists and embryology training programs and another 155 doctors with a one-year diploma and two-year master degree in sexual and reproductive health from the U.K. university which will improve women health in general and reproductive health in particular.

He added that the foundation would this year start issuing more scholarships in more specialties such as internal Medicine, Gastroenterology, Mental Health: Orthopedic Trauma, Paediatric, Emergency Medicine, Dermatology, Neonatal Medicine, Pain Management, Psychiatry, Clinical Microbiology, and infectious diseases, Ophthalmology, Urology, Trauma, and orthopedics.

On her side, Senator Dr. Rasha Kelej said they could not conduct the annual conference physically in Zambia as planned due to the global pandemic of Covid-19.

She noted that More than 1100 doctor from 42 countries have benefited from Merck Foundation scholarship in the fields of Diabetes, cardiovascular, endocrinology, Cancer, Research, Fertility Care, Women Health, Sexual & Reproductive care, Respiratory Medicines, and Acute Medicines, and more to join in the future to benefit from other specialties.

“Merck Foundation started this smart capacity building strategy in partnership with African First Ladies and Ministries of Health and Medical Societies since 2012, which contributed significantly towards transforming and reshaping the landscape of the public healthcare sector and towards advancing patient care in 42 countries. It is history in the making,” said Senator Dr. Rasha Kelej.

“Together we will discuss our strategy realization to build healthcare capacity, respond to the Covid-19 pandemic, provide the necessary training to establish a strong platform of experts in many important and critical specialties in their countries in collaboration with their Offices and Ministries of Health,” she added.

During the conference, sacrifices and efforts of everyday heroes and medical workers during the Cov-19 would be acknowledged, said Dr. Kelej.

She further thanked all their partners for their valuable participation and support that have brought progress to the foundation.

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A Social Media Platform for Africans by Africans set to be launched in May 2021(MY!)
April 27, 2021 | 0 Comments

MY! is an inclusive social media platform that appeals to all age groups

MyCountry MyWorld is set to launch MY! a social media platform for Africans by Africans providing possibilities in world exploration by giving users the opportunity to bring their country and world to each other.

MY! A social media platform is set to be launched in May 2021. “Having developed the app over a period of two years, with a series of tests; we are now confident that the app is ready to be released to the world”, Samuel Zean Jr, Co- founder, MY!

With over 4 billion internet users across the world and growing by 332 million in the past 12 months and more than 900,000 new users each day, MY! Presents a platform where these users especially from developing economies can tell their story their own way and own the platform. Globally, internet user numbers are growing at an annual rate of more than 7½ percent, but year-on-year growth is much higher in many developing economies.

“Majority of Africans complain of how African nations are portrayed by the western countries on both traditional media and digital media. The MY! app is developed by Africans for Africans to help change this narrative. Whereby, everyone is given a chance to tell their story their way.” Samuel Zean Jr, Co- founder, MY!

MY! is an inclusive social media platform that appeals to all age groups. The app provides unmatched user experience, engagement, interaction and entertainment. The app’s interface is user friendly and easy to navigate through. It enables users to share content effortlessly, by providing feedback and updating a post status. It simplifies the collaboration between users and gives them the full visibility of content created.

Developed and founded by a small group of self-funded African immigrant community from Liberia and Sierra Leone who reside in Minnesota, the app is meant to take on both Facebook and Instagram.  “In a time of so much unrest, it brings hope to many seeing this diverse group of people coming together to create something special for the world”. Adam Borgerding, VP of Operations, MY! 

Furthermore, the app gives users the opportunity to retain the rights of authentication for their work. MY! allows its users to maximize their creativity to the maximum and rewards them for every uploaded post shared. The app enables users to represent their country by showcasing an individual’s country’s unique attraction sites, features, wildlife, culture, cuisine, art, skills, talent, stories, business hustle, history and so much more.

MY! will officially launch on May 10th, 2021 and will be readily available on Google Play and Apple Store.

About My!:
MY! provides a global platform that will enable users to travel high above and beyond our planet for a glimpse of earth’s natural beauty, attraction sites, wildlife, culture, history, cuisine, infrastructure, art, talent, from country to country as seen, captured, and shared through the unique lenses of MY!

The app intends to award its users by giving them the opportunity to retain the rights of authentication for their work with an optional feature, patent water stamping technology. Which displays user’s name, city, state, and country of residence on each post a user shares on the platform.



*SOURCE MY!

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The 8th edition of the Nollywoodweek Film festival goes global:Selection includes films from other African countries and African Diaspora.
April 27, 2021 | 0 Comments

The films in this year’s line-up will be available to a global online audience from May 6-9, 2021

NollywoodWeek film festival , the first and only Nigerian film festival organized in Paris has taken its 8th edition online. The films in this year’s line-up will be available to a global online audience from May 6-9, 2021. This year’s selection has expanded beyond Nigeria to include high quality, thought provoking, and entertaining productions from other countries in Africa and the African Diaspora. 

“The recent global uprisings and calls for greater justice has prompted us to rethink how our platform can help to elevate black voices and share more of our stories that show the full range of the global black experience. It is only natural to use this medium to not only highlight the fantastic talent in Nigeria but to make this first online edition a celebration of talent in Africa and the Diaspora”, said Nadira Abdus-Shakur, co-founder of NollywoodWeek.

This year’s official selection is made up of 4 world-premiere screenings. This year’s global audience will have an opportunity to discover the latest films before they hit the theatres or online streaming platforms. The festival will also include masterclasses, workshops and panel discussions around production and distribution in African cinema and animation. 

The feature films in the official selection will be competing for the Audience Choice Award given to the film with the highest marks from the audience. Voting happens immediately after the screening and the winner is announced during the Closing Ceremony of the festival. Previous winners include movies such as Phone SwapThe Meeting76The Wedding Party and Isoken. The winning filmmaker receives a range of top of the line lenses from the Angénieux brand with which to shoot their next film.

The full list of selected feature films, shorts, special screenings and animations can be found here

Nollywood Week is a film festival organized by the French-based association Okada Media, headed by Serge Noukoué and Nadira Shakur. The two co-founders have been promoting African cinema globally for a decade and launched the first edition of Nollywoodweek in Paris in 2013.  Nollywood Week film festival takes place in the spring each year and aims to bring the best of Nigerian cinematic talent to the French public. It is also a forum for discussion and networking around the key challenges and opportunities in the African cinema landscape with masterclasses, Q&As and opportunities to connect to experts in production and distribution. In 2021, the first online edition was launched to connect exceptional Nigerian, African and African Diaspora movies and animation to a global audience. 

NollywoodWeek Paris 2021 takes place online from Thursday May 6th to Sunday May 9th.

Click here to view the festival program for the week

*SOURCE NollywoodWeek Paris Film Festival

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Coventry University Group to open Africa Hub in Rwanda
April 27, 2021 | 0 Comments

Coventry University Group is to open a new overseas hub in Rwanda to support its links in Sub-Saharan Africa and help extend its corporate functions across the world.

The hub will open in Kigali to coincide with the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in the capital in June. It is part of the university’s plan to develop a sustainable network of multi-faceted overseas offices. The ambition is to have a presence near to its stakeholders in key regions and follows the success of the Singapore and Dubai hubs.

The aim is to provide organisations and individuals throughout the world with regional access to the growing academic, research and commercial expertise that exists within all areas of the Coventry University Group.

The Africa Hub will serve as a base for Coventry University Group in the region with the aim of enabling new relationships as well as strengthening established ones.

The Africa Hub will promote the university group’s research, globalisation, enterprise and innovation work throughout the region through the development of closer relationships with embassies, government bodies, research institutes, universities and private sector entities. 

The hub will be located in Kigali Heights, a mixed use development situated adjacent to the Kigali Convention Centre.

Professor John Latham CBE, Vice-Chancellor, Coventry University Group, said: “I am delighted by the progress we have made in establishing a representation office to support our work in Sub-Saharan Africa. The hub aligns with the UK International Education Strategy and will respond to the growth opportunity we have identified on the continent. Africa has a growing population largely composed of young people and economies that are among the fastest growing in the world. The Africa Hub will join our successful hubs in Singapore and Dubai to fulfil our strategic objective to be a global university delivering at a global scale.”

John Uwayezu, Country Director and Market Access Officer for UK Department for International Trade (DIT), British High Commission, Kigali, said: “I am thrilled about this regional hub; this is in line with DIT’s targeted plan of action to increase trade and investment flows between the UK and Rwanda. The hub will accelerate progress in human capital development.  An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest when it comes to economic growth and productivity; I congratulate the Government of Rwanda’s strong commitment to investing in people.”

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NESTING FOR TERRORISM IN BENIN
April 27, 2021 | 0 Comments

By Ambassador Omar Arouna*

By eroding the hard earned democratic gains of Benin, President Patrice Talon is opening a new breeding ground for terrorism ,says Ambassador Omar Arouna

It might be the sign of the times or the harbinger of what is to come. For example, in Russia organizations linked to jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny are designated « terrorist and extremist », in Belarus criminal probe against the nation’s top opposition leaders on charge of terrorism are launched. Such charges keep away human rights advocates from raising effective objections, thereby enabling authoritarian regimes to perpetrate crackdown on opposition without due process.  New breeds of autocrats in Africa are using pages from the same playbook.

African’s new autocrats are arbitrary imprisoning opposition leaders on trumped up charges of terrorism and are cracking down on opposition’s strongholds and region favorable to the opposition under the watchful eye of the international community kept at bay in the name of terrorism. Unfortunately, in Africa the danger of that playbook lies in that, it creates breeding ground for real terrorism.  Especially in the west African region where countries, such as Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Mali, Mauritania Niger, Nigeria, Chad are already under actual terrorists’ attacks from Boko Haram, ISWAP or Al -Qaeda and extremist organizations are actively recruiting youth in disenfranchises populations.

In Benin for example, having achieved the feat of embarking on the most serious democratic retreat in modern African history, Patrice Talon following the April 11, 2021 exclusive presidential election, in an unprecedented purge of the country’s opposition is taking pages from the terrorism playbook.  Reckya Madougou the first female flag bearer of Benin’s largest opposition party and à former minister of justice has been arrested on a trump up charge of « terrorism and financing of terrorism »; Professor Frederick Joel Aivo a well-known constitutionalist and another opposition candidate is under arrest on similar charges.

Excursions into domicile of former president Boni Yayi the honorary chairman of the country’s largest opposition party are routinely performed by the political police. To date over 150 oppositions members and counting have been arrested on similar trump up charges, without due process. Frustration is high within the political elite and populations of the northern part of the of the country, a traditional stronghold of the opposition. The predominantly Muslim northern region is routinely ransacked by the country’s security apparatus. Young people in the region are massively arrested or simply shot in the name of a pseudo fight against terrorism.

 

Under Patrice Talon Benin has lost its shine as a democratic success story in Africa

Frustration often leads to aggressive behavior and since 2016, Patrice Talon’s Administration created an unprecedented resentment and frustration among the population of Benin and especially in the northern part of country. Within a four year span, following exclusive elections, twice the population of the hunter’s community –“les chasseurs”- in the region has taken arms to defend themselves against the regular army sent to track oppositions members and twice the population by mounting roadblocks on major highways have attempted to isolate the region from the rest of the country in response to what is perceived as 4 years of government exactions and infringement on basic democratic rights and liberties.

In avoiding adherence to human rights obligations and commitments and to camouflage the authoritarian turn of the country, Patrice Talon and his government resorted to lift pages from the playbook of terrorism, sources of instability and conflict and thereby are creating actual recruitment conditions and breeding ground for actual terrorism.

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Angolan defense budget increase set to benefit Russian and Chinese firms, says GlobalData
April 26, 2021 | 0 Comments

  • Angola’s defense and security expenditure is expected to be valued at $8.5bn cumulatively over the 2022 to 2026 period
  • Between 2022 and 2026, GlobalData projects Angola’s defense and security expenditure will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.2% from $0.9bn in 2021 to $1.9bn by 2026
  • Between 2015 and 2019, Russia was Angola’s primary arms partner, representing 68.3% of imports – according to GlobalData’s “Angola Defense Market – Attractiveness, Competitive Landscape and Forecasts to 2026” report. Yet, China is making inroads

Following years of decline driven by economic recession, the Angolan defense budget is now set to increase in the coming half-decade from $0.9bn in 2021 to $1.9bn in 2026, registering a healthy CAGR of 3.2% and keeping Angola as one of the largest defense spenders in Africa. This will amount to a cumulative defense and security expenditure across the next five years of $8.5bn primarily fuelled by the country’s modernization of its outdated defense systems and the financing of military hardware procurement programs, according to GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

Harry Boneham, Associate Aerospace, Defense and Security Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “Increases in border security, the vulnerability of essential infrastructures, and regional geopolitics are acting as catalysts to the growth of security expenditure in Angola. Additionally, the country’s 1,600km coastline remains susceptible to attacks from pirates. Modernization of the Angolan Armed Forces is needed urgently, alongside the procurement of foreign military equipment.

“Given the nascent state of the domestic Angolan defense industry, it is likely that the reliance of foreign weapons – which has persisted since independence in 1975 and through the decades-long civil war – will continue into the near future.”

Historically, Angola procured the majority of its defense equipment from the Soviet Union, which included aircraft, armored vehicles and light artillery. In the period between 2015 and 2019, 68.3% of Angolan arms imports were of Russian origin, and Angola has relied on Russia to supply major platforms such as the Su-30MKI multi-role fighter aircraft. This relationship is built upon the legacy of the USSR’s support for the ultimately victorious MPLA in the Angolan Civil War. However, the growing influence on China in Africa is challenging this dynamic.

Boneham continues: “The People’s Republic of China has steadily been expanding its arms relationship presence in Africa in recent years, and Angola is no exception having recently supplied the country 12 K-8 trainer jets. While the Chinese defense industry continues to grapple with the challenges of indigenously developing top-level capabilities, it is more than capable of producing affordable platforms that satisfy the demands of African customers while not exceeding budgetary restrictions.”

*Source GlobalData

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Catholic Bishop – Elect shot in South Sudan
April 26, 2021 | 0 Comments

By Deng Machol

Bishop Christian Carlassare, an Italian Comboni priest, sustained gunshot wounds in both legs during an attack

Juba – The Bishop-elect for South Sudan’s Rumbek Diocese was last night by a number of unknown armed assailants.

Bishop Christian Carlassare, an Italian Comboni priest, sustained gunshot wounds in both legs during an attack on his residence at around 1am last night.

He is now reportedly nursing bullet wounds at a CUAMM health facility in Rumbek hospital in Lakes State of South Sudan.

He is also reportedly in a stable condition.

There is no leg broken and no fractures caused by the bullets on both legs. But there is persistent serious bleeding which has been dressed up.

The health facility under the auspices of Italy-based non-governmental organization focused on healthcare, Doctors with Africa CUAMM.

“The incident happened at 12.45 last night. I heard the Father (Bishop-elect) shouting,” Fr. Andrea Osman of Rumbek Diocese who was in his room next door has told ACI Africa.

“The armed men targeted Bishop-elect room. They knocked the door and started shooting the door till they broke it. They shot the door till it opened,” Mr. Abenego Marol, umbek-based head of logistics for the South Sudanese Diocese told ACI Africa, adding, “After they shot the Bishop, they ran away. It is really a targeted shooting.”

The Italian-born Comboni Missionary Cleric was appointed Bishop for Rumbek Diocese March 8. His episcopal ordination was scheduled to take place on Pentecost Sunday, May 23.

He had been serving in South Sudan’s Malakal Diocese since he arrived in the East-Central African country in 2005

He traveled to Rumbek Diocese April 15 following days of spiritual retreat in South Sudan’s capital, Juba.

Rumbek Diocese became vacant in July 2011 following the sudden death of Bishop Caesar Mazzolari. The Comboni Missionary Bishop collapsed during the celebration of Holy Eucharist on the morning of 16 July 2011, one week after South Sudan’s independence, and was confirmed dead at the Rumbek State Hospital that morning.

Fr. Fernando Colombo, a member of the Comboni Missionaries governed the Diocese as Diocesan Administrator until 27 December 2013, when Fernando Cardinal Filoni, then Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, appointed Fr. Mathiang Diocesan Coordinator.

Following the attack, Lakes State Acting Information and Communication Minister William Kocji Kerjok said that 24 people have been arrested in contention with the attack.

He described the attack as a targeted assault on bishop-elect.

“It was a targeted attack. They went directly to the door, they knocked the door and started shooting the door until it opened and they reached him, ordered him to sit down and shot him on the leg,” Minister explained.

“The police and other security organs have arrested people within the compound and more arrests will continue because we need to know exactly what is happening within the Catholic Church of the Diocese of Rumbek,” he said.

However, Bishop – elect Carlassare, reportedly said that he forgave his attackers and called for kindness and reconciliation in Lakes state diocese.

“I tried to speak to them, but they cocked the gun and shot me in the leg. And then they loitered around and later fled,” Fr. Carlassare Told Eye Radio. “They were not here to steal or kill me because they would have killed me easily.”

‘I know that the people are suffering more than me at this moment for what happened. Rumbek deserves much better than this. So I forgive with all my heart anyone who did this action or perpetuate it’, Fr. Carlassare said as he offered forgiveness to his attackers.  

The motive of the attack is unclear, but the observers suggested it could be as a result of a possible ‘church politics’. 

The Diocesan Coordinator of Rumbek Catholic Diocese, Father John Mathiang, condemned the attack.

“We were woken up by the cry and sound of gunfire. We went there and we found the Bishop was shot in both legs and the criminals ran away. We took the Bishop to Rumbek Hospital for treatment until now we are in the Hospital with him,” Fr. Mathiang said.

In the press statement, the South Sudan Human Rights Commission has condemned the attack and appealed to the government to find and bring justice to the perpetrators. 

‘The commission hereby condemns this barbaric act in strongest terms possible and urges both the State and National Government to institute an investigation committee to conduct thorough investigation with the aim of holding the culprits accountable’, the Country’s Human Rights body said.

Plans are underway to airlift him (Bishop – elect) to Kenya’s capital, Nairobi for a further treatment through the services of the African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF), a source said. 

South Sudan, particularly Lakes State has been blighted by the intercommunal conflict or violence, which put a lives of the citizens in risk.

This is not the first time for thebe seniorr church members to seniored, two years ago, one of the senior pastors was killed in Cuei-bet County in Lakes State. 

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Secretary Blinken’s Virtual Travel to Africa
April 26, 2021 | 0 Comments
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken will embark tomorrow, April 27, on his first virtual trip to Africa, where he will visit Kenya and Nigeria and engage with young people from across the continent.

Secretary Blinken will begin his virtual travel to Africa meeting with Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI) alumni. In a “Ten Questions with Tony” event, YALI alumni will have an opportunity to engage with the Secretary on a range of topics, including the role of youth in the future of Africa, economic development, democracy and good governance, climate change, and health. Through YALI, the United States works with public, private sector, and civil society partners across the continent to develop initiatives and economic opportunities to support the creativity, innovativeness, and energy of Africa’s youth.

Secretary Blinken will then travel virtually to Nigeria, where he will underscore our shared goals of strengthening democratic governance, building lasting security, and promoting economic ties and diversification.  People-to-people connections, underpinned by the dynamic Nigerian diaspora in the United States, amplify and strengthen our relationship.  During his visit, Secretary Blinken will meet with President Buhari and Foreign Minister Onyeama to reiterate the value of our bilateral relationship and discuss issues of shared importance. Secretary Blinken will also participate in a health partnership event to underscore our collaboration to combat the pandemic as well as long-term U.S. investments in combatting infectious diseases.  He will meet with a beneficiary of a PEPFAR program and a Nigerian health care worker.

The Secretary’s virtual trip to Kenya will celebrate our 57-year bilateral relationship. Secretary Blinken will meet with President Kenyatta and Cabinet Secretary Omamo to reaffirm our strategic partnership, discuss future cooperation to promote democracy and expand trade, and explore avenues to address global challenges, including climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic. The Secretary will also visit Kenyan-based renewable energy companies that, thanks in part to U.S. government engagement, are a model of innovative clean energy alternatives in Africa.  Finally, as part of our solidarity with Kenya amid the global pandemic, we will highlight a U.S.-donated Mobile Field Hospital to which the United States is providing essential COVID-19 medical supplies through AFRICOM and the Massachusetts National Guard’s State Partnership Program.

*Source State Department

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Gambia:Lands ministry apologies to parliament for minister’s absence
April 26, 2021 | 0 Comments

By Adama Makasuba

Musa Drammeh

The ministry of local government and lands has apologised to parliament for minister’s absence.Musa Drammeh was expected  to present the election bill to parliament for scrutiny.The ministry however couldn’t give direct reason to his absent Permanent secretary Buba Sanyang, who represented the ministry offered unreserved apology to lawmakers.

“The honourable minister was not in town adding that he is representing the president in the inauguration of the new president of Niger. (And) due to that he could not get the information and also internal matters relating to it,” he told lawmakers.“The committee should be assured that it will not happen, and as a ministry we do abide by the laws of the National Assembly and we always answer to your calls,” he added.

Meanwhile, Musa Amul Nyassi , co-chair of the committee, said: “this is an obligation to us because is a National call and we live up to that,” adding “as we all are aware that this is a responsibility on the joint committee, that to finalize our work.”

He described the election bill as  one of the most controversial bills to every Gambian inside and outside, adding “we don’t want to take things lightly, when ministries are invited they take up the responsibility to follow.”

“We want inclusiveness , ministry of regional and lands have essential role being the parental body of all the councils. I do believe members will adhere and accommodate your explanations. We don’t want a re occurrence of this incident and is rather unfortunate there will be no progress as far as the scrutiny of this bill is concern,” he said.

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Gambia eliminates trachoma
April 26, 2021 | 0 Comments

By Adama Makasuba

Health Minister Dr. Ahmadou Lamin Samateh

The Gambia has archived a breakthrough after it emerged second country in Africa to eliminate  trachoma [eye disease].World Health Organization chief Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced the declaration to the state Health Minister Dr. Ahmadou Lamin Samateh.

“The Gambia has eliminated trachoma as a public health problem The Government of The Gambia is very pleased to inform the general public and its development partners that The Gambia has now eliminated trachoma as a public health problem,” a statement issued by the ministry of health said.

Trachoma is the world’s leading cause of infectious blindness and is part of a group of conditions known as Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs). It starts off as a bacterial infection that’s a bit like conjunctivitis and can be easily treated.“If it is not treated, over time, it causes scarring to the eyelid and pulls the eyelashes inward, so with every blink, the lashes scrape against the eye.

This advanced form of trachoma is called trichiasis and can result in intense pain. In the absence of effective treatment, trichiasis can lead to blindness. In 1986, a survey found that trachoma was the third leading cause of blindness in the country.“After three decades of hard work, The Gambia is the second country in sub-Saharan Africa to achieve the elimination of trachoma as a public health problem.

This is a milestone achievement which resulted from strong partnerships that supported the full and coordinated implementation of the WHO endorsed SAFE strategy which entails the provision of surgery for trichiasis patients, the distribution of antibiotics (Zithromax) via mass drug administration to treat trachoma infections and reduce the spread of the disease; teaching local communities the importance of face washing and encouraging good hygiene to prevent the spread of the infection and improving access to water and sanitation to reduce exposure, re-infection and eliminate conditions that favour the breeding of flies,” the statement added.The Ministry of Health thanked its partners for supporting The Gambia Trachoma Programme.

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Gambia: Hike in Food Prices amid Ramadan
April 26, 2021 | 0 Comments

By Adama Makasuba

Gambian consumers are complaining of a fresh rise in food prices in the markets amid the Ramadan, leaving dozens of families finding it hard to put food on the table .Hundreds of food buyers are gripped with mixed feelings coping with the rising costs of basic food commodities like rice, cooking oil and other ingredients Ebrima Tamba, a father of five shared how he struggle to make sure at least he puts food on the table for his family, casting concern over the skyrocketing prices of food.“

Before I used to give out 300 dalasis as my house allowance for food but now I am giving out 500 dalasis daily and I have five children who all going to school. And I give each of them 25 dalasis as launch on school going days,” he said.“For now, the living cost is costly in the country and if the situation continues like it will a seriously damage on the people,” he added.Meanwhile, he  called on the Barrow-led administration to address the problems facing the nation with diligence.

Mariama Keita, a house wife after complaining of the high cost of living in the country, pleaded to the authorities to address food high price in the market.“I do spend 300 dalasis on vegetables only on daily basis,” she said, adding “And this is painful to us who must bring food on the table for the family.”

Another house wife Mariama Camara said: “I am calling President Adama Barrow to reduce the prices on food because a leader if you see something that is affecting your citizens you should take action about it to address it. People are suffering.”Ms Camara said: “I spend 400 dalasis daily on food for me and I my husband and my six children which is so difficult.”

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Top U.S. military officer holds talks with Gambia’s military leaders
April 26, 2021 | 0 Comments

By Adama Makasuba

U.S. Army Major General Andrew M. Rohling has held talks with The Gambia’s military leaders and senior government officials, and international partners on issues related to security sector reform, capacity development, peacekeeping operations, and U.S.-Gambia defense ties, during his visit in the country as part of his sub-regional tour.

The senior military officer, accompanied by U.S. Ambassador R. Carl Paschall, held meetings with Vice President Dr. Isatou Touray, Minister of Defense Sheikh Omar Faye, and Gambia Armed Forces (GAF) Chief of Defense Staff (CDS), Lt. Gen. Yakuba Drammeh.

Speaking at the State House, Maj. Gen. Rohling said: “Part of my trip is to understand this important nation that helps bring stability to this region. The Gambia has a phenomenal record for peacekeeping operations across Africa and the world. So, as we continue to capitalize on the professionalism of the Gambia Armed Forces and its commitment to the United Nations, we look forward to encouraging and assisting in that regard over the course of time.”

Also speaking to reporters, Ambassador Paschall said the Security Sector Reform (SSR) is a significant part of the transition process in The Gambia. He said, “I think what is impressive is that the Government of The Gambia, under the leadership and guidance of President Barrow, has worked very hard to develop and launch the SSR Strategy and the National Security Strategy. They are hard at work now implementing a range of those plans.”

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Total’s Force Majeure declaration on Mozambique LNG is a call for dialogue and global firewall against terrorism
April 26, 2021 | 0 Comments

Force majeure is recognized under the Mozambique Petroleum Law, which provides that “petroleum operations rights holders may lawfully suspend performance of petroleum operations on account of a force majeure event”

We are disappointed about Total’s recent decision to declare force majeure on its Mozambique LNG Project. While the African Energy Chamber (“AEC”) stands in solidarity with Mozambique and Total all energy investors, we believe the declaration of force majeure could have been prevented and comes prematurely. We encourage all parties involved to have a better and more open conversation to find a practical and pragmatic commonsense solution for the force majeure event to cease and for the project to resume, for the benefit not only of Total, but also of international and local companies, and especially for Mozambique’s people.

Force majeure is recognized under the Mozambique Petroleum Law, which provides that “petroleum operations rights holders may lawfully suspend performance of petroleum operations on account of a force majeure event” (Article 15(h), Mozambique Petroleum Law).

While the force majeure declaration by Total is a legal instrument at its disposition to procure its objectives and compromises with its lenders and the government, we firmly believe that Total will do whatever it takes to stand with Mozambique and its people. Total is not only an international company. It is an African company as well, as it is one of its most prominent investors and employers. Total’s connection to the African people goes far beyond its investments at a macro level. While many other multinational companies have left the continent, Total has remained, and we believe this commitment to the continent and Mozambique specifically will continue to remain.

“Mozambique continues to be one of the most attractive options to produce gas in the world due to its carbon neutrality, representing a viable solution for climate change. Such a rare opportunity for Africa and the world.” Stated NJ Ayuk, Executive Chairman of the African Energy Chamber

“The energy industry continues to grapple with multiple insecurity issues, community engagement, climate change, energy poverty, greater cooperation between stakeholders is required to find beneficial solutions” Added Ayuk.

Mozambique may have some important security issues at the moment, Mozambique is not within the top countries most impacted by terrorism, according to the 2020 Global Terrorism Index. Such countries include Nigeria, Pakistan, India, and Libya, where Total continues to operate. We are looking forward to Total taking the same stance in Mozambique as it has done in these countries more impacted by terrorism, and together with the government and other parties involved, find a solution to safely continue with its LNG Project.

When energy multinationals made a decision to halt natural gas development projects in Myanmar and some declared Force Majeure, Total remained, and made a clear argument that the public stands to lose from electricity shortages. The field supplied about half of Myanmar’s natural gas used for power generation.

If Total does halt gas production, “we are convinced the junta will not hesitate to resort to forced labor,” Total’s Chairman and CEO Patrick Pouyanné stated at the time. In Mozambique, if this drags on and not resolved, we give an upper hand to terrorist and ISIS.

“When we stop as an industry, we nurture the hate speech against energy projects in Africa, and we give those “haters” instruments to criticize further our good-faith efforts to make Africa better for Africans. This is not the time to allow for this. This is the time to make a stand, find solutions, and continue exploiting our resources”. Concluded Ayuk

Everyone must stand against the cowardly attack on Palma. Everyone with sense must understand that terrorist activities and the attacks on energy infrastructure are not only against Total and energy investors, they are against Mozambique and the entire world and all who believe that Mozambique’s gas is a solution to the climate crisis. 

Not only is this LNG project and revenue for a company and its lenders is at stake, but the life of everyday Africans and of the people of Mozambique are. We must not forget that all of these efforts and projects are and should be for the benefit of the people. Mozambicans are eagerly waiting for the benefits their gas will give to them, and we should be focusing on making them see and receive such benefits. We must not concede or surrender. We have to find a way to fight for the project and for the people.

Let us stand together. Let us find a solution to get the Total LNG project going again. Many local and international service companies have invested much money in people, capacity building, materials, and financing, believing in Total’s LNG Project. Such efforts should not be discarded.

*Africa Energy Chamber

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