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Huduma Card Delivers Cashless Efficiency, Powered by Mastercard Technology
February 7, 2017 | 0 Comments

Connecting Kenyans to convenient payment solution to empower all citizens

Sicily Kariuki, Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs secretary (right) and Simon Kimutai, Matatu Owners Association chairmen (left) demonstrate the ease of using her Huduma Card, powered by Mastercard, to pay for services in Kenya. Photo credit: Huduma

Sicily Kariuki, Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs secretary (right) and Simon Kimutai, Matatu Owners Association chairmen (left) demonstrate the ease of using her Huduma Card, powered by Mastercard, to pay for services in Kenya. Photo credit: Huduma

NAIROBI, Kenya,7 Feb- Mastercard commits to supporting the roll-out of the Huduma Card in Kenya as the technology partner of choice for the local government organisation. The secure payment solution supports Kenya’s Vision 2030 that calls for reforms in public services to enhance accountability, transparency and efficient service delivery, with focus on developing a cashless economy.

The Huduma Card is a prepaid card with chip and PIN technology that will connect all Kenyans to the formal financial sector by providing a secure, reliable and flexible payment option. The Huduma Card, powered by Mastercard, is currently being issued by Commercial Bank of Africa (CBA), Diamond Trust Bank (DTB), Equity Bank and Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB), with no bank charges being allocated to citizens when registering for the smart card.

Kenyans will be able to pay for an array of Government services such as the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF), National Social Security Fund (NSSF) amongst others. Citizens issued with the smart prepaid card will automatically be enrolled in vital government services such as the National Social Security Fund and the National Hospital Insurance Fund, ensuring all Kenyans benefit from these initiatives.

Cardholders are assured that regardless of how they use the solution their funds will be secured by the Mastercard multi-layered approach to protecting payments. EMV chip and PIN technology is a global payment standard to ensure that funds are protected even if the card is lost or stolen. This layer of protection ensures beneficiaries can receive their funds conveniently and securely.

Once funds are loaded to the prepaid card, cardholders can use their Huduma Card to pay for goods and services in store, online, by phone or to withdraw cash from ATMs – anywhere Mastercard is accepted locally or at millions of locations worldwide. The prepaid card ensures flexibility, convenience and security and is easily obtained from one of the issuing banks. Applicants do not require a credit check or bank account to apply.

Sicily Kariuki, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Public Service, Youth & Gender Affairs and Simon Kimutai, Chairman, Matatu Owners Association, along with other members of local government celebrates the official roll-out of the Huduma Card in Kenya with members of Mastercard, the official technology partner. Daniel Monehin, Division President for Sub-Saharan Africa, Mastercard said that the company is proud to be the technology partner of choice. Photo credit: Huduma

Sicily Kariuki, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Public Service, Youth & Gender Affairs and Simon Kimutai, Chairman, Matatu Owners Association, along with other members of local government celebrates the official roll-out of the Huduma Card in Kenya with members of Mastercard, the official technology partner. Daniel Monehin, Division President for Sub-Saharan Africa, Mastercard said that the company is proud to be the technology partner of choice. Photo credit: Huduma

“Mastercard is committed to extending financial inclusion for the unbanked and under-banked in Kenya,” said Daniel Monehin, Division President for Sub-Saharan Africa, Mastercard. “Innovation is central to achieving our vision of a world beyond cash in Kenya and across the continent. We are committed to developing market-relevant payment solutions that enhance the adoption of cashless transactions. By working together with industry, merchants and businesses, we will achieve this, in East Africa.

Talking on behalf of the Huduma Kenya Programme, Dennis Mutuku, CEO Huduma Kenya Secretariat said, “This is Kenya’s first multipurpose social payment card with payment functionality and we are excited to see the instant, substantial and positive impact that this will have on the lives of millions of citizens previously excluded from the financial mainstream.”

Mastercard Division President for Sub-Saharan Africa, Daniel Monehin said, “The Huduma initiative introduced by the Kenyan government is one of the most innovative approaches to including citizens to the financial sector. We are proud partners, and it is a real honour to have been selected to power the solution with our world-class payment technology. We are committed to investing in Kenya, and the continent, and are eager to support the country in its widespread roll-out of the Huduma Card in 2017.”

Mastercard, is a technology company in the global payments industry. We operate the world’s fastest payments processing network, connecting consumers, financial institutions, merchants, governments and businesses in more than 210 countries and territories. Mastercard’s products and solutions make everyday commerce activities – such as shopping, traveling, running a business and managing finances – easier, more secure and more efficient for everyone.

Huduma Kenya is a programme by the Government of Kenya that aims to transform Public Service Delivery by providing citizens access to various public services and information from several channels such as one stop shop citizen service center’s called Huduma Centre’s and integrated technology platforms.

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African Union Commission Begins Transition to New Administration
February 2, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Peter Clottey*

FILE - Moussa Faki Mahamat, the newly elected chairman of the African Union Commission, is shown Oct. 21, 2016. (Andre Kodmadjingar/VOA)

FILE – Moussa Faki Mahamat, the newly elected chairman of the African Union Commission, is shown Oct. 21, 2016. (Andre Kodmadjingar/VOA)

The transition process at the African Union Commission has begun, following a meeting between newly elected chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat — Chad’s foreign minister — and outgoing chairperson of the commission, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.

In addtion, the outgoing chairman of the African Union, Chadian President Idris Debby, met Guinean President Alpha Conde — the incoming chairman — at the African Union’s headquarters at the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, according to Jacob Enoh Eben, spokesperson for the former chairperson of the African Union Commission.

The new African Union Commission head would have about three months to set up his cabinet.

“In the case of this current transition … the three months would be April, so they can go as fast as they want, but they would have a maximum of three months,” Eben said.

Eben expressed confidence that the newly elected head of the commission would move swiftly to assemble his cabinet.

“Probably, within a month’s period, you would hear them appointing the key staff, the chief of staff, key advisers with whom they would be working with, and even including members of the secretariat,” Eben said.

Africa and the ICC

FILE - African Union Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma delivers a speech during the opening ceremony of the African Union Summit in Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, Jan. 30, 2016.

FILE – African Union Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma delivers a speech during the opening ceremony of the African Union Summit in Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, Jan. 30, 2016.

At the just-ended African Union summit of heads of state and government in Ethiopia, the leaders resolved to pull out of the United Nations-backed Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) unless the court undergoes some changes.

The African Union previously had urged members not to cooperate with the ICC, after accusing the court of targeting Africans. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto had cases against them dropped by the ICC, while Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir is under indictment for alleged human rights violations and crimes against humanity.

Botswana is among the few countries in Africa to defy the continental body’s call for member countries not to cooperate with the ICC.


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UN Chief Hails Improved Cooperation With AU
February 2, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Margaret Besheer*

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks to reporters during a news conference, Feb. 1, 2017, at U.N. headquarters in New York.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks to reporters during a news conference, Feb. 1, 2017, at U.N. headquarters in New York.

New U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Wednesday that the organization is working to “avoid the worst” for South Sudan. He also praised the international and regional cooperation that prevented large-scale violence in Gambia during its recent post-election crisis.

Guterres spoke to reporters at the U.N. after his return from the African Union summit in Ethiopia.

The new U.N. chief said the situation in conflict-torn South Sudan is “dramatic” and could worsen.

Guterres said it was agreed at a meeting involving himself, leaders of the AU and East African bloc IGAD that they would cooperate to make sure South Sudan’s national dialogue is genuinely inclusive going forward.

He also met with South Sudan’s president.

“In a meeting with Salva Kiir, it was agreed that we will have better cooperation both for the U.N. mission to operate more freely inside South Sudan and for the Regional Protection Force to be put in place,” Guterres said.

African nations have proposed deploying 4,000 troops to South Sudan to help stabilize the country, where three years of conflict have displaced more than two million people.

Guterres said it was agreed that Kenya would contribute troops to the force.

Turning to the recent post-election crisis in Gambia, where President Yahya Jammeh initially refused to step down in favor of his democratically-elected opponent, Adama Barrow, Guterres said the episode demonstrated what is possible when there is regional unity.

“It is possible for action to be taken and it is possible for democracy, human rights and the freedom of peoples to be defended. When there is division in the region, it is much more difficult for the U.N. to be able to act accordingly,” the U.N. chief said.

The secretary-general said the narrative about Africa must not be based on the crises, but on the continent’s potential.

He said Africa has grown economically and has great success stories that must be built on to achieve widespread and inclusive sustainable development. Guterres said that is the best way to prevent further conflicts.


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flydubai announces 14.4% passenger growth to 10.4 million and profit of AED 31.6 million
February 1, 2017 | 0 Comments

Full-Year Results announced for the year ending 31 December 2016

  • Reports total profit for the year of AED 31.6 million (USD 8.6 million)
  • Total revenue for the year reached AED 5 billion (USD 1.37 billion) for the 12-month period
  • Carries record number of passengers (10.4 million) and sees 14.4% growth compared to the previous year
Ghaith Al Ghaith, CEO of flydubai

Ghaith Al Ghaith, CEO of flydubai

Flydubai  has today announced its Full-Year Results for 2016 reporting a profit of AED 31.6 million (USD 8.6 million). It has reported total revenue of AED 5 billion (USD 1.37 billion) an increase of 2.4% compared to the same period last year. The stronger second half, driven by increased passenger numbers, was impacted by downward pressure on yield leading to lower overall revenue growth reflecting a continuation of the same adverse factors reported in the first half.

His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman of flydubai, said: “these results see flydubai report its fifth consecutive full-year of profitability. In 2012, our third year of operation, we carried 5.1 million passengers. This year, we have carried 10.4 million passengers demonstrating that flydubai continues to help change the way both business and leisure passengers travel around the region. An established tourism destination and global centre for business together with the UAE’s geographic location has supported the need for increased connectivity.”

Ghaith Al Ghaith, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of flydubai, reviewing the Annual Results for 2016, commented: “Over the last two years we have seen passenger traffic grow cumulatively by 52% in terms of RPKM [1]. We continue to demonstrate that we gain loyal customers across our network who recognise the benefits of direct air links and enjoy our onboard offering. The continuation of mainly lower fuel prices and ongoing cost management efforts are reflected in the 16% improvement in terms of ASKM [2] over the last two years. We have however seen a difficult pricing and operating environment.”

Cost and revenue performance

EBITDAR [3] was healthy at 21.1% of revenue; an improvement from the previous year’s figure of 20.5%.

The closing cash and cash equivalents position, including pre-delivery payments for future aircraft deliveries, remained strong at AED 2.3 billion.

Fuel costs were 25% of operating costs compared to 30.6% in the previous year, against a backdrop of lower fuel prices for the year, with legacy fuel hedges impacting only 21% of the volume for full year 2016.

Ancillary revenue comprising of baggage, cargo and inflight sales contributed 13.8% of revenue; dropping from 15.1% from the previous year.

Operational performance

Aircraft deliveries: 8 Next-Generation Boeing 737-800 aircraft joined the fleet in 2016 in support of network expansion. The average age of the fleet was 3 years 8.5 months.

Business Class: The growth in the number of flydubai’s Business Class passengers continued and saw the airline carry 2.4 times the number of passengers as in 2014. The Subcontinent saw the strongest demand for Business Class carrying more than double the number of passengers. This was followed by the Caucasus which grew by 88%, as a result of a liberalisation of the visa rules, creating an increased demand from both inbound and outbound traffic flows. In addition, Business Class passengers grew by 38% in Europe and 24% in the GCC and Middle East.

Network expansion: During the course of the year, increased flight frequency on existing routes and a maturing in the performance of the 41 new routes launched in 2014 and 2015 saw ASKM grow by 9%.

The launch, on 29 November, of flights to the popular destination of Bangkok was the first route outside of the GCC to start operations with a double daily service. Across the network, flydubai reported the following passenger flows:

  • GCC & Middle East: flydubai carried 28% of all traffic between Dubai and the GCC and Middle East.
  • Europe: passenger numbers in Europe grew by 19%.
  • Russia: with 21 flights per week across 7 destinations passenger numbers increased by 3%.
  • Ukraine: overall flydubai passenger numbers on flights between Ukraine and Dubai increased by 26%.
  • Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan): its 5 points across the region saw flydubai contribute 23% of the total growth at Dubai airports.
  • Subcontinent: passenger numbers on the flydubai network grew by 22%.
  • Africa: passenger numbers from its 11 points grew by 3% and contributed 12% of the total growth at Dubai airports.

Al Maktoum International (DWC): flydubai has been operating from DWC since October 2015. With its two gateways, flydubai will continue to gradually increase its operations at DWC based on the further expansion of the airport.

Staff numbers: flydubai continued to grow its experienced team with a total of 3,773 staff including 746 pilots, 1,618 cabin crew and 282 engineers.

OPEN: flydubai launched its simple and straightforward rewards programme on 25 October 2016 and has been well received in the market.

Key Operating Figures (see the multimedia content bellow)

FZ981: following the tragic loss of FZ981 on 19 March 2016, flydubai remains focused on supporting the families who lost their loved ones. In addition to providing initial financial assistance payments and interim financial assistance payments, our Long Term Care Team continues to be available to the bereaved families who are our primary concern. Plans are being put in place for a memorial to mark the first year anniversary.

Ghaith Al Ghaith, CEO of flydubai, said: “flydubai continues, through its accredited representative, to support the investigation into the tragic accident. Our Long Term Family Assistance team continues to be available for all the families.”


During 2017, flydubai will be the first airline in the Middle East to receive the new model Boeing 737 MAX 8 and the first of these aircraft will enter into service in the second half of the year. The overall capacity will not grow during 2017, as short term capacity needs are adjusted, due to the ongoing challenging operating environment. Since launch, one of the principles of flydubai’s fleet planning strategy was to maintain a young fleet. Under these plans, the airline will see the eight-year lease term expire for 4 Next-Generation Boeing 737-800 and during the year these aircraft will be retired from the fleet.

Ghaith Al Ghaith, CEO of flydubai, looking to the year ahead, said: “we will remain prudent throughout 2017 as we will continue to operate in a challenging socioeconomic environment. Yields will remain under pressure and we expect to report flat growth in the year ahead. We are looking forward to receiving the first Boeing 737 MAX 8 in the region which will bring further fuel and operating efficiency to our young modern fleet. We are focused on our strategy to lead in innovation, to provide an unrivalled experience on board and on the ground, as we continue to meet the travel demands of our passengers.”

Dubai-based flydubai  strives to remove barriers to travel and enhance connectivity between different cultures across its ever-expanding network. Since launching its operations in 2009, flydubai has:
•    Created a network of more than 85 destinations in 43 countries.
•    Operates a single fleet type of 57 Next-Generation Boeing 737-800 aircraft and will take delivery of more than 100 aircraft by the end of 2023.
•    Opened up 57 new routes that did not previously have direct air links to Dubai or were not served by a UAE national carrier from Dubai.

In addition, flydubai’s agility and flexibility as a young airline has enhanced Dubai’s economic development, in line with the Government of Dubai’s vision, by creating trade and tourism flows in previously underserved markets

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Africa: AU Bans Ministers From Nigeria, Other Member Countries From Representing Presidents
February 1, 2017 | 0 Comments
President Idriss Déby of Chad, centre, hands over to President Alpha Condé of Guinea, right, with the former head of the AU, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, left, at the summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Photograph: Courtesy Africa Union

President Idriss Déby of Chad, centre, hands over to President Alpha Condé of Guinea, right, with the former head of the AU, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, left, at the summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Photograph: Courtesy Africa Union

The Chairperson of the African Union, President Alfa Conde of Guinea, has banned ministers from addressing the Assembly of Heads of States and Governments as from next AU Summit.

Conde, told the 28th AU Summit on Tuesday in Addis Ababa that the measure was part of the recommendations made in 2016 at AU summit in Kigali,

He said that a committee headed by President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, was set up by AU to reform the Summit and how its meeting would be conducted.

“If you call it Assembly of Head of States, it should remain so, there is no need for minister to take the floor.

Ministers should be at the level of their executive meeting and should be limited to that, he said.

 He alleged that most of the president do not spend time at the meeting, adding that after opening ceremony, some of them take their leave.

Conde, who also frowned at attitude of not being punctual by the leaders, which called “African time,” said it was high time such attitude was checked.

According to him, when they go for such meeting outside Africa the leaders always keep to time but it is only in Africa they come to meeting at will and late.

The AU Chairperson, who said the measure would take effect from July, said it was one of the steps to implement the reform on how the business of the Summit should be conducted.


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Africa: Nigeria Opposes Mass ICC Withdrawal
January 27, 2017 | 0 Comments

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda

The plan the African Union (AU) members to collectively withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC) may suffer a setback as Nigeria and some other countries are opposed to it.

Foreign minister Geoffrey Onyeama said in a statement in Abuja on Friday that Nigeria did not subscribe to the AU strategy.

The minister said that when the issue came up during a meeting, several countries opposed it.

He said Nigeria and others believed that the court had an important role to play in holding leaders accountable.

The only voice

“Nigeria is not the only voice agitating against it, in fact Senegal is very strongly speaking against it, Cape Verde and other countries are also against it.

“What they (AU) did was to set up a committee to elaborate a strategy for collective withdrawal.

“And after, Senegal took the floor, Nigeria took the floor, Cape Verde and some other countries made it clear that they were not going to subscribe to that decision,” he said.

Mr Onyeama said a number of countries also said that they needed time to study the proposal.

He said that Zambia, Tanzania, Liberia, Botswana and a host of others were not willing to withdraw from the court.

Mr Onyeama stressed that each country willingly acceded to the 1998 Rome Statue on the setting up of the court.

 “Each country freely and willingly acceded to the Treaty, and not all of the members of the AU acceded, each country acceded individually exercising its own sovereign right.

“So, each country, if they want to withdraw, has the right to do that individually.

Publicly declared

Three African states in 2016 publicly declared their intention to withdraw from the court.

Burundi, South Africa and The Gambia applied to withdraw, with reports that Namibia, Kenya and Uganda were also contemplating quitting the ICC.

The court has repeatedly been criticised by African states as an inefficient, neo-colonial institution of the Western powers to try African leaders.

The argument was supported by the fact that nine of the 10 situations under investigation, with three others under preliminary investigations, involved African countries.

However, as noted by the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM), “the rift is often caused by a neat difference in priorities.

“Where one gives more importance to peace processes, while the other gives more weight to obtaining [international] justice.”

African state parties to the Rome Statute make up the biggest regional membership, comprising 34 of the 124 members.


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January 27, 2017 | 0 Comments

Former White House Principal Advisor on Sub-Saharan Africa outlines why American companies should invest in Africa

  By Grant T. Harris*

Grant Harris

Grant Harris

Investment attitudes toward sub-Saharan Africa tend to swing wildly between overly optimistic, excessively negative, and everywhere in between – often based on the latest economic outlook and commodity prices. In truth, there are both sizeable risks and opportunities within the continent’s many different markets. Savvy American investors would be wise to recognize the realities behind the hype and misperceptions.

Underlying the range of investment opportunities in Africa are some undeniable demographic and economic trends that will shape markets for decades to come. Africa’s population is young and expanding quickly: in the next 35 years, 1 out of every 4 people in the world will be African. The region is already witnessing rapid urbanization, and a growing middle class and consumer market. Although Africa’s exciting economic growth has slowed dramatically in the last two years due to falling commodity prices, quite a few non-commodity exporters are projected to grow by over 6 percent in 2017.

Of course, it is equally undeniable that Africa faces real economic challenges. Not only is the region insufficiently connected to global markets, but intra-continental trade is also far too low. Poor infrastructure is a significant hurdle: two out of three people lack access to electricity, while inadequate road, rail, and harbor services increase the cost of cross-border trade within Africa by 30-40 percent. These deficiencies can be extremely costly for businesses, but can also present opportunities for investment.

More to the point, American companies are well placed to use their expertise and comparative advantages to fill unmet needs across a range of sectors, including energy, agriculture, and information technology (IT), to highlight just a few. Africa’s massive energy shortfall provides an opening for a wide range of players in electricity production, delivery, and financing, including to harness Africa’s huge renewable energy potential. In agriculture, Africa continues to experience low yields, even though the region contains 60 percent of the world’s uncultivated arable land, and despite the fact that agriculture is at the core of most countries’ economies and livelihoods. U.S. agribusiness companies could be at the forefront of supplying agricultural inputs while helping to improve food security on the continent.

In IT, Africa’s environment is primed to enable and benefit from disruptive innovations. Having bypassed the landline, cell phone usage is increasing exponentially, paving the way for groundbreaking mobile products and services. Facebook and Google have recognized Africa’s promise and are racing to facilitate Internet connectivity in the region – others in Silicon Valley may well find their own niche.

Moreover, investing in these essential sectors could, in turn, spur additional opportunities. For instance, improved energy access and infrastructure could boost untapped possibilities in manufacturing, where output could nearly double to $930 billion by 2025 if governments create the right enabling conditions.

As is true when investing in any emerging market, the challenges can be immense. Above all, investors must keep in mind that markets and business climates vary dramatically across the continent, as do the timeframes for profitable opportunities.

But as McKinsey puts it, Africa has “robust long-term economic fundamentals.” And those who have already invested in the region know it: according to Ernst and Young, investors present in Africa retain a far more positive outlook on the region’s prospects than those who have never done business there.

American companies would be smart to define how Africa can and should relate to their global strategies and growth plans. Over-simplifying the continent could mean misjudging risks, while opting to “wait and see” could lead to missed chances, just as many overly cautious investors now lament their late entry into China. Plenty of opportunities remain in Africa, but only well-informed investors will reap the benefits.

*IGD.Grant T. Harris is CEO of Harris Africa Partners LLC and was President Obama’s principal advisor on sub-Saharan Africa in the White House from 2011-2015.

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President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf confirmed to deliver keynote speech at the 2017 Tana Forum
January 26, 2017 | 0 Comments

Held every year in the northern Ethiopian city of Bahir Dar, the Tana High-Level Forum is an informal gathering of heads of state and government; leaders of regional organisations; civil society; the private sector; and eminent scholars and practitioners.

The Tana High-Level Forum on Security in Africa  Secretariat has today announced that the President of the Republic of Liberia, H.E. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, will be the keynote speaker at the sixth Tana Forum to be held on 22-23 April 2017.

H.E. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is the 24th and current President of Liberia. She won the 2005 presidential election taking office on 16 January 2006, and was re-elected in 2011. She is the first elected female head of state in Africa. In June 2016, she was elected as the Chair of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), making her the first woman to occupy the position.

President Sirleaf was jointly awarded the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize with Leymah Gbowee of Liberia and Tawakkol Karman of Yemen. The women were recognized “for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.”

“Having H.E. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as the keynote speaker is a great success for the Forum” said Michelle Ndiaye, Tana Forum Secretariat Head. “She can use her leadership to highlight on the role of the state in natural resource governance and to call for a proper inclusion of women in all debates that focus on the utilisation of natural resources in Africa”.

Held every year in the northern Ethiopian city of Bahir Dar, the Tana High-Level Forum is an informal gathering of heads of state and government; leaders of regional organisations; civil society; the private sector; and eminent scholars and practitioners. This year’s theme, “Natural Resource Governance in Africa” , aims to reflect on the centrality of natural resources, both in historical as well as in contemporary times, in understanding the far-reaching implications on state-society relations within the continent, and Africa’s disadvantageous position in global production and exchange.

The Tana Forum  is an annual meeting that brings together African leaders and stakeholders to engage and explore African-led security solutions. The 6th Tana Forum will take place on 22-23 April 2017 in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia.

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New African Railways Ride on Chinese Loans
January 26, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Salem Solomon &Falastine Iman*

Locomotives for the new Ethiopia to Djibouti electric railway system sit outside a train station on the outskirts of Addis Ababa. Sept. 24, 2016,

Locomotives for the new Ethiopia to Djibouti electric railway system sit outside a train station on the outskirts of Addis Ababa. Sept. 24, 2016,

Earlier this month, the first train rumbled down the tracks of a $3.4 billion electric railway connecting landlocked Ethiopia with Djibouti and its access to the Red Sea. The 750-kilometer (466 miles) line, expected to carry up to five million tons of goods per year, promises to have a massive impact on the economies of both countries and the region at large.

At the official launch of the project, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said its importance cannot be overstated.

“This project is like our blood vessels,” he told a VOA Somali service reporter who was riding on the inaugural train. “The reason is because Ethiopia’s outlet is through Djibouti. Therefore, this project determines if we can live or not live.”

The project was 70 percent funded by a loan from China’s state-run EXIM Bank and built by China Railway Group and Chinese engineers.

Kenya railway line almost done

It is the latest in China’s massive infrastructure investment in Africa. A $13-billion railroad in Kenya, financed by the Export-Import Bank of China and built by the state-owned China Road and Bridge Corporation, is nearly complete. Other railway lines are planned to stretch into East African countries including South Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.

Between 2000 and 2014, China made $24.2 billion in loans to finance transportation projects on the African continent, according to researchers at the China-Africa Research Initiative, a group at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies focusing on China-Africa relations. Eighty percent of those loans were for roads and railways.

China eyes African ports

Experts say Chinese infrastructure investment in Africa is not about altruism. Funding railways benefits China by connecting ports and facilitating the movement of raw commodities that are badly needed to fuel China’s development.

“East Africa, particularly the ports in Kenya, ports in Tanzania and especially ports in Djibouti, these are very important for the Chinese just for the exports,” said Jyhjong Hwang, a senior research assistant at Johns Hopkins’ China-Africa Research Initiative.

Hwang says that for China, these projects will take a long time to pay dividends.

By contrast she said African economies are likely to see an immediate impact.

“These are big transportation projects that will stimulate local economies, these are good for basic infrastructure,” she said. “This is good for local, loan recipient countries just because these projects have a lot of costs and not a lot of immediate financial return.

“These are the projects that need a lot of financial infusion to begin with and obviously the financier has to be willing to want to take on a lot of risk, but willing to recuperate over a longer horizon,” said Hwang.

Not a ‘clear pattern’

The Ethiopia-Djibouti project was 70 percent funded by a loan from China's state-run Exim Bank and built by China Railway Group and Chinese engineers.

The Ethiopia-Djibouti project was 70 percent funded by a loan from China’s state-run Exim Bank and built by China Railway Group and Chinese engineers.

In 2016, the China-Africa Research Initiative published its database of all known loans made by China to Africa between 2000 and 2014. The countries that received these loans were not all resource-rich countries, researchers found.

“When we talk about China and Africa and interests, people talk about natural resources, but one of our findings was that actually there isn’t a clear pattern in terms of the amounts of loans to countries and how well endowed they are with natural resources,” said Janet Eom, a research manager at the China-Africa Research Initiative.

Oil-rich Angola received the largest amount of funding, Eom says. But resource-poor Ethiopia came in second.

‘One Belt, One Road’ policy in Africa

China views its investment abroad as part of its “One Belt, One Road” policy. Spearheaded by Beijing, this effort is a Chinese public-private partnership, Hwang says, “even though technically no company is truly private in China.”

It aims to develop a modern “silk road” where goods and commodities can be easily transported between China and its surrounding region. Eventually, China says, it would like to shift labor-intensive industrial work to places like Africa.

Local governments are aware a lack of infrastructure is a roadblock to international investment, Hwang says, and are eager to partner with China.

“On the Chinese side, they want to have better investment opportunities in Africa, so if they don’t have a railroad, they will help them build it themselves,” she said.

China also has a large number of infrastructure contractors who need work, many of whom have close links to the ruling party or are state owned.

The quality of the work has come under scrutiny, says Hwang. But, she added, “they are capable of doing [the work] very fast and very cheap, and they are able to find the financing for it …”

Most laborers are African

The Johns Hopkins researchers also found Chinese projects benefit African workers, the foremen and technicians tend to be Chinese while the manual laborers are generally African.

There are concerns about the ability of African nations to pay back these loans, researchers found. This is particularly true in countries heavily reliant on oil revenue, which have seen the price per barrel slump in recent years.

There are also concerns China may pull back its investment on the continent as it experiences an economic slowdown.

But the recipient countries of this investment believe it is a win-win.


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Development experts debate Trump’s likely impact on Africa
January 26, 2017 | 2 Comments

By Christin Roby*

A map of Africa. Photo by: Emma Line / CC BY-NC-ND

A map of Africa. Photo by: Emma Line / CC BY-NC-ND

Development experts at the annual Foresight Africa panel hosted by the Brookings Institution believe development and business opportunities for President Trump’s administration in Africa are vast, ranging from technology and infrastructure to road creation and renewable energy.

But they also said it is too early to know exactly what the Trump administration’s priorities are regarding the continent.

Angelle Kwemo said that domestic priorities for Trump and his team will likely take precedence over international ones. “Today we are all speculating,” said the director of Washington Media Group’s Africa practice.

“He [Trump] has not promised anything to the African constituency because we did not support him, so we can’t hold him accountable for anything because he hasn’t given any signals as to what he will do,” Kwemo continued.

But other experts pointed to one prime area of opportunity being mobile telecommunications and the rapid spread of internet connectivity. With an estimated 1 billion cellphone users in Africa, increasing access to 3G/4G networks and stronger internet services, senior international advisor for Africa at Covington & Burling LLP. Dr. Witney Schneidman called the continent an ideal atmosphere for technology adaptation in major African cities.

“There is a tremendous potential to use technology, not only to capture value for filmmakers, designers and other innovators, but in doing so, Africa gets to tell its own story … gets control of the narrative,” Schneidman said.

According to a 2016 smartphone ownership survey conducted by Pew Research Center, Kenya, Ghana and Senegal ranked among emerging countries with the steepest smartphone ownership growth, with Nigeria leading the continent with a 9 percent increase in smartphone ownership since 2013.

Other resources — such as iROKOtv, a Netflix-like service in Nigeria — provide examples of internet capabilities in parts of Africa, Schneidman said. Entrepreneurs across the continent seem to be catching on and have found ways to monopolize on mobile technology with the appearance of Uber in 14 African cities across Egypt, Kenya, Ghana and South Africa and Uber-like taxi hailing mobile apps such as TaxiJet and Africab in French-speaking Ivory Coast.

“Technology can be used as an economic developer and bring people into the mainstream of African economic progress,” Schneidman suggested.

However, the legacies left in Africa by prior administrations gives some experts hope that Trump will support initiatives that are already in place.

The 2000 passing of the African Growth and Opportunity Act by former U.S. President Bill Clinton — which added 300,000 jobs in Africa — forged a bipartisan consensus that the U.S. has interest in Africa worth investing in, explained Schneidman.

George W. Bush’s 2003 President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief that has helped lower HIV/AIDS rates across sub-Saharan Africa to their lowest levels, and the bipartisan creation and recent extension of the 2004 Millennium Challenge Corporation, which has applied a revised selection process to dispersing foreign aid, are other examples of bilateral U.S. agreements that have demonstrated U.S. support in Africa.

“We don’t see a lot of controversy when it comes to engaging,” Kwemo said. “The question is what he [Trump] will do and how far he [Trump] will go.”

Schneidman said it’s natural to be concerned about the future of Africa-focused programs during administration changes when the new president has the power to cut budgets and funding to programs such as the Young African Leaders Initiative and PEPFAR.

Fears around Trump’s plans in Africa increased drastically with the recent publication in the New York Times of a four-page questionnaire from his transition team to the State Department that posed questions such as, “Is PEPFAR worth the massive investment when there are so many security concerns in Africa? Is PEPFAR becoming a massive, international entitlement program?”

Some of the questions clearly had a critical and abrasive tone, including “With so much corruption in Africa, how much of our money is stolen? Why should we spend these funds on Africa when we are suffering here in the U.S.?” This has left some observers wondering if Trump will radically reduce American engagement with Africa.

But others struck a less alarmist note, speculating that Trump’s involvement in Africa could take time to develop, just as it took President Barack Obama an entire term before making a visit to Africa and launching the Power Africa Initiative, which happened in 2013.

Dr. Ken Opalo, assistant professor in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, suggested that the president’s background in business might be good for Africa.

“Business and jobs are what end poverty,” Opalo said. “And if he [Trump] sticks to a pro-business agenda that might be good, especially to the extent that he brings American companies onto the continent.”

But the overall message emerging from the forum was clear: Don’t get too carried away with asking if Africa is a priority for Trump or not because it’s just too early to know for sure.

Kwemo said that, though a continuity in policy would be ideal, she also urged African leaders to “stop waiting for heaven to come from somewhere else” and instead “take responsibility and think about their own strategies.”


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Obama’s Legacy to Africa: Electricity
January 21, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Salem Solomon*

FILE - U.S. President Barack Obama bounces a soccer ball with his head at Ubungo Power Plant in Dar es Salaam, July 2, 2013. The ball, called a "soccket ball," has internal electronics that allow it to generate and store electricity that can power small devices.

FILE – U.S. President Barack Obama bounces a soccer ball with his head at Ubungo Power Plant in Dar es Salaam, July 2, 2013. The ball, called a “soccket ball,” has internal electronics that allow it to generate and store electricity that can power small devices.

Recent U.S. presidents have tried to leave a legacy in Africa in the form of a signature policy achievement.

For Bill Clinton it was the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) that opened U.S. markets to certain African exports. For George W. Bush it was the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) that poured billions of dollars into AIDS research and treatment.

Barack Obama decided the thing most holding back African development was access to electricity.

“Access to electricity is fundamental to opportunity in this age,” he said in a speech in Cape Town in 2013. “It’s the light that children study by, the energy that allows an idea to be transformed into a real business. It’s the lifeline for families to meet their most basic needs, and it’s the connection that’s needed to plug Africa into the grid of the global economy.”

Fueled by a $7 billion U.S. investment, the Power Africa initiative aims to add more than 30,000 megawatts of electricity generation capacity and 60 million new electric connections for the continent’s homes and businesses.

The project, which relies heavily on the private sector, is one of several reasons observers believe Obama has helped change the narrative on Africa.

From aid to trade

“His biggest single legacy has been, I think, to move the debate and focus on Africa away from aid to more about trade. That has been particularly his focus during the second term,” said Alex Vines, head of the Africa Program at London-based Chatham House. “Looking at the continent of Africa more as a continent of opportunities rather than of humanitarianism, terrorism and disaster.”

The Obama administration also sought to build relationships with the next generation of African leaders through the Young African Leaders Initiative and with current heads of state by holding the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in 2014, a first of its kind event that drew 50 African leaders to Washington.

The United States continues to far outpace the rest of the world in terms of traditional aid to Africa. It pays nearly $9 billion per year in development aid to the continent. Britain, the next biggest donor, pays just more than $3 billion per year.

FILE - President Barack Obama looks at a solar power exhibit during a tour of the Power Africa Innovation Fair, Saturday, July 25, 2015, in Nairobi, Kenya. In Nigeria, Lumos Global is among the firms rolling out solar power technology.

FILE – President Barack Obama looks at a solar power exhibit during a tour of the Power Africa Innovation Fair, Saturday, July 25, 2015, in Nairobi, Kenya. In Nigeria, Lumos Global is among the firms rolling out solar power technology.

But even in the arena of traditional aid, Obama took an approach that offered a hand up instead of a hand out. For example, the Feed the Future initiative launched in 2010 veers away from traditional food aid by assisting farmers with locally adapted technologies and helping to avoid price shocks.

“This is a really important dynamic and finally it takes the U.S. away from the more traditional donor-recipient relationship that really defined the post-Cold War era to one where the U.S. is seeking mutual benefit with African governments and others on the continent,” said Witney Schneidman, senior international adviser for Africa at Covington & Burling LLP and nonresident fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Future under Trump

As with many things, President-elect Donald Trump’s views on aid to Africa are complicated. As a candidate in the Republican primaries, one of Trump’s applause lines was a pledge to “stop sending aid money to countries that hate us.”

But during an April 2016 speech on foreign policy he appeared to embrace the U.S. role as a donor saying, “We are a humanitarian nation.”

Observers have speculated that, because of the isolationist thrust of his worldview, Trump is likely to be less interested in aiding Africa than his predecessors.

But others feel that there will not be a major break with Obama’s policies there.

“Some [programs] will fall away, I suppose, under the new incoming Trump administration when it’s in place, others will continue,” Vines said. “My own reading is I don’t think there would be a massive difference between an Obama administration in how it looks at particularly sub-Saharan Africa and the Trump administration and how it looks at sub-Saharan Africa.”

Finally, don’t rule out a major shift in Trump’s perception of Africa. Schneidman pointed out that presidents Clinton and Bush came to the Oval Office with virtually no experience in Africa, but left positive legacies.

“We just don’t know what a president Trump will do on the continent,” Schneidman said. “I think we have to approach it with an open mind, and I think we have to put forward a number of ideas where he could carve out his own legacy.”


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The University of Gondar and Queen’s University Join The MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program
January 18, 2017 | 1 Comments
MasterCard Foundation Scholars 2016 (Credit: Jake Naughton for The MasterCard Foundation)

MasterCard Foundation Scholars 2016 (Credit: Jake Naughton for The MasterCard Foundation)

Ethiopia’s University of Gondar and Canada’s Queen’s University today announced a 10-year, USD$24.2 million partnership to advance inclusive higher education for young people with disabilities in Ethiopia and Africa as part of The MasterCard Foundation’s Scholars Program. The partnership will provide 450 next-generation African leaders with a high-quality university education at the University of Gondar, while also providing 60 of the university’s faculty members with the opportunity to study at Queen’s University, where they will enhance their skills in innovative pedagogy and in leading collaborative research between African and North American universities. The University of Gondar and Queen’s University will also collaborate to develop Ethiopia’s first occupational therapy program.

“We are excited to welcome the University of Gondar and Queen’s University to the Scholars Program,” says Peter Materu, Director, Education and Learning and Youth Livelihoods, The MasterCard Foundation. “Through their collaboration, these exceptional institutions will not only forge a new path for inclusive education in Africa, but will also bring much-needed perspectives that will enable us to better understand the needs of talented young people living with disabilities. This partnership represents a new innovation in the Scholars Program that demonstrates how one can leverage the capacity of one partner to establish and strengthen programs in priority areas of need in another institution.”

As part of the partnership, the University of Gondar will provide 290 undergraduate and 160 master’s level degrees in multidisciplinary fields that will encompass health sciences, law, education, nursing, and rehabilitation sciences, taking special care to recruit young people with disabilities, as well as young people from conflict-affected countries. The University of Gondar will deliver an annual Summer Leadership Camp for Scholars across the Program, as well as a robust, practicum-based experiential program focused on giving back to community, through service and leadership skill development in the field of community-based rehabilitation. The University of Gondar will also pilot new models of Scholar support services, by integrating accessibility tools such as wheelchairs and learning materials such as braille books and rehabilitation lab access, into each Scholar’s package of wraparound support.

“The University of Gondar embraces this partnership with great enthusiasm, for it comes with an opportunity to boost its vision of becoming a Centre of Excellence in rehabilitation and inclusive education, research and community engagement,” says Dr. Desalegn Mengesha, University of Gondar President. “This partnership will develop the capacity of both universities to plan and effectively undertake large-scale, people-centred interventions with multi-faceted benefits to the institutions and their respective stakeholders.”

Queen’s University will provide 44 University of Gondar faculty members with PhD training to develop skills and capabilities needed to supervise Scholars’ research and practicums. Queen’s University will also support the University of Gondar as it develops and implements the first undergraduate occupational therapy curriculum and program in Ethiopia. This work will involve providing master’s level training in occupational therapy to 16 University of Gondar faculty members, who will then work with Queen’s occupational therapy faculty members to develop a curriculum and teach in the first occupational therapy program at the University of Gondar.

“We are delighted to work on this tremendous, multi-faceted project with the University of Gondar and The MasterCard Foundation,” says Dr. Daniel Woolf, Queen’s Principal and Vice-Chancellor. “Without a doubt, this collaboration will change lives and create new pathways for education in Africa. It will also provide Queen’s researchers and students new avenues for growth, as they join with University of Gondar faculty members on research projects and support Gondar faculty through training programs and the development of the first undergraduate occupational therapy program in Ethiopia.”

Together, Scholars and faculty members at the University of Gondar and Queen’s University will undertake joint research, paving the way for inclusive education that places the needs of young people living with disabilities at the heart of scholarship. They will work together to strengthen the range and type of supports offered to Scholars with disabilities and all students attending the University of Gondar by focusing on accessibility measures that enable student excellence and barrier-free learning.

The University of Gondar and Queen’s University join a global network of 27 Scholars Programs committed to ensuring that all young people, no matter their starting point in life, have an equal chance to obtain a quality education and pursue their aspirations. The Program provides education and leadership development for nearly 35,000 bright, young leaders with a deep personal commitment to changing the world around them. These young people will create change that matters within their communities and will usher in a new era of inclusive prosperity in Africa and beyond.

The MasterCard Foundation works with visionary organizations to provide greater access to education, skills training and financial services for people living in poverty, primarily in Africa. As one of the largest private foundations, its work is guided by its mission to advance learning and promote financial inclusion to create an inclusive and equitable world. Based in Toronto, Canada, its independence was established by Mastercard when the Foundation was created in 2006.Established in 1954 as the Public Health training Institute, and known as the Gondar College of Medical Sciences until 2003. The University of Gondar is the oldest medical school in Ethiopia and established with the philosophy of team approach and community-based teaching of health professionals. With 25,000 students, University of Gondar offers 70 undergraduate and 90 post-graduate programs. In addition, extension, distance and summer degree programs are offered by most of the schools, faculties and the college with the mission to deliver education tailored to societal needs in order to contribute to the sustainable socio-economic development of the nation. University of Gondar has recorded as one of the top three Universities in the country since the last five years and achieves both the National quality award and the Minister Universities first generation performance award with the first rank in 2016.

The University of Gondar has partnerships with more than 20 Universities and hundreds of projects are being managed in partnership with different organizations around the world and it continues to forge new connections to help faculty and students share their learning and strengthen teaching, research and community services. The University has the only University based CBR program that works for equalization of opportunities and access to rehabilitation services to people with disabilities in North Gondar Zone, through the support of different international partners.

Queen’s is one of Canada’s leading universities, celebrating its 175th anniversary in 2016-17. With a full range of undergraduate and graduate programs, the University offers a comprehensive research-intensive environment, and at the same time, an exceptional student learning experience. Queen’s researchers lead the way in numerous fields, with notable advances made recently in particle astrophysics, cancer research, ecological history and environmental change, and clean energy technology. Queen’s is also home to a Nobel Laureate, Dr. Arthur McDonald, who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2015. Through various partnerships, including its membership in the Matariki Network of Universities and the U15 Group of Canadian Research Universities, Queen’s offers students and faculty members rich opportunities in international learning and research collaboration.

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