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A Heartfelt Tribute to Institutions and People Who Never Stop Caring
October 14, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Nafissatou N’diaye Diouf

Nafissatou N’diaye Diouf
The 2020 Nobel Peace Prize has created a renewed impetus to rally around hunger, scale-up efforts to mobilize much-needed funds.

The sight of David Beasley, in a recent tweet, sitting on the floor of the World Food Programme (WFP) office in Niger surrounded by staff, celebrating a well-deserved Nobel peace prize win, brought back memories of Nasseiba Ali.

I was on assignment for the Associated Press to uncover an ongoing acute food crisis in Niger. My journey led me to a life-changing encounter with Ali, a 20-month-old girl who weighed just 12 pounds.

I waved, talked, sang to her, but it prompted no reaction from Ali. Little did I know that her eyes clouded at night, one of the symptoms of her chronic malnourishment. 

A mission initially scheduled for one week stretched for an entire month and led me to Zinder, Maradi, Tawa, and Agadez. I met Ali and her grandmother at a feeding center set up in Maradi, 540 kilometers (335 miles) from Niamey, the capital of Niger.

Ali was lucky to make it to the center, barely alive after her grandma trekked several hours with her on her back.

Despite an exceptionally hard and emotionally charged assignment, I witnessed first-hand the outstanding work of hundreds of dedicated and selfless champions on the frontline of hunger. 

The WFP’s 2020 Nobel Peace Prize win is only natural. Indeed, it is a testimony of the humanitarians’ admirable mission to help end world hunger, often in emergency settings. 

Today, 690 million people still go to bed on an empty stomach.

One in nine people worldwide still does not have enough to eat.

The WFP’s gong is a defining moment in history, yes, but more importantly, it has moved the critical issue of hunger on top of the global agenda. Thus, igniting and conveying a renewed sense of urgency.

It is a defining moment for the institution forging ahead to move the needle on ending world hunger, the leadership of its Executive Director.

The 2020 Nobel Peace Prize has created a renewed impetus to rally around hunger, scale-up efforts to mobilize much-needed funds.

Despite raising US$ 8bn in 2019, US$ 4.1 billion is still needed to bridge the funding gap. 

At stake are the lives of millions on the brink of starvation.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee described the humanitarian organization as “a driving force in efforts to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict.”

Without taking away anything from the WFP, I can say that the WFP’s gong is a defining moment in history for multilateralism, and our collective resolve to save lives, change lives and make a difference.

Other equally dedicated multilateral institutions, such as the African Development Bank, the World Bank, the Asian Development, to name just a few, deserve our attention.

Indeed, these institutions provide lifesaving support to millions globally, often in extremely fragile settings.

At the Bank, we did our part to provide relief to our Regional Member Countries with a USD 10 billion COVID Respond Fund. The funds helped bring urgent relief and retool our economies in the wake of the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic.

When COVID-19 hit, WFP’s Beasley warned of potential famine of “biblical proportions.”

The Bank’s feed Africa strategy aligns with the WFP’s objectives to end hunger. Approvals under the Bank’s Feed Africa priority amounted to UA 884.7 million in 2019, making a difference in the lives of 20.3 million people, 9.6 million of them women .

Through my lens as an African woman, a wife, the scenes of empty thatched-roof huts where villagers store grain, the scenes of acacia leaves boiled into a thick paste, eaten in the evening in hopes it will lull the children to sleep are still vivid.

Fifteen years after my encounter with Ali, the world is still gripped by vast food insecurity. Yet, there is every reason to be hopeful. Not because the challenges are fewer, not because we have the resources at hand, but simply because there is a sense of renewed impetus around reversing hunger.

As Nelson Mandela said: “remember to celebrate milestones as you prepare for the road ahead.” The 2020 Nobel Peace Prize is a key milestone. A moment to celebrate while we brace up for future challenges and more wins!

About the African Development Bank Group:
The African Development Bank Group is Africa’s premier development finance institution. It comprises three distinct entities: the African Development Bank (AfDB), the African Development Fund (ADF) and the Nigeria Trust Fund (NTF). On the ground in 41 African countries with an external office in Japan, the Bank contributes to the economic development and the social progress of its 54 regional member states.

**Nafissatou N’diaye Diouf is the Ag. Director, Communication and External Relations of the African Development Group. A former Associated Press Journalist for West and Central Africa, Diouf has covered several crises including an acute food crisis in Niger in 2005.
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EU Counterinsurgency Aid to Mozambique Should Help Protect Rights
October 14, 2020 | 1 Comments

Civilians Bear the Brunt of Insurgents, Government Abuses

NEW YORK, USA, October 14, 2020,-/African Media Agency (AMA)/-The European Union has agreed to a request by the Mozambican government for help combatting the Islamist armed group Al-Sunna wa Jama’a.

The insurgency began in October 2017 and affects several districts in the northern province of Cabo Delgado. Fighting between the group and government forces has left more than 1,500 civilians dead, displaced more than 250,000, and resulted in more than 700,000 people needing emergency assistance. The insurgents have committed beheadings, attacks on villages, summary executions, looting, and destruction of infrastructure, including schools and health centers.

In a letter sent last month by the Mozambican minister of foreign affairs and cooperation, Veronica Macamo, to the EU high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, the government asked for humanitarian and logistical support, and specialist training for the Mozambican defense and security forces. It was the first time that the government publicly acknowledged the need for international assistance in fighting the insurgents.

The EU ambassador to Mozambique, Antonio Sanchez-Benedito Gaspar, said that EU support will be divided into three pillars – humanitarian assistance, security, and development. He ruled out sending European troops.

The EU says it will work out the details of these requests on matters of military training, logistics, and medical assistance for the defense forces. In the interests of transparency, these details should be made public. That includes obtaining verifiable commitments from the Mozambican security forces to respect human rights in its operations and hold violators accountable.  

Mozambican state security forces have been implicated in grave human rights violations during operations in Cabo Delgado, including arbitrary arrests and detention, torture, wrongful force against civilians, and extrajudicial executions. The government has not taken any known steps to investigate those abuses or punish those implicated.

The EU’s engagement with Mozambique should prioritize the protection of civilians and suspected insurgents in custody. EU assistance to the Mozambican government should be clear on that point.

Distributed by African Media Agency (AMA) on behalf of Human Rights Watch.

Source : African Media Agency (AMA)

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Mozambique :Former and Current President At “war” .
October 13, 2020 | 1 Comments

By Jorge Joaquim

Relations between President Nyusi and his predecessor Armando Guebuza have gone south
Relations between President Nyusi and his predecessor Armando Guebuza have gone south

Former Mozambican President Armando Guebuza has reacted angrily to a request to speak to the country’s Attorney General, in a statement he made to the Council of State and which has been leaked to the media. Guebuza is named as a ‘Third Party’ in a claim being made by the Mozambique government against Credit Suisse and three former Credit Suisse bankers; Lebanese businessman Iskandar Safa; and five companies related to his Privinvest group. Mozambique wants the London Commercial Court to rule guarantees backing loans arranged by Credit Suisse to Mozambican state-owned entities, signed by the former finance minister, invalid — and to order the defendants to pay Mozambique compensation for damages caused by the scandal and resulting financial crisis caused by the deals.

The‘Third Parties’ in the claim — who also include former Deputy Finance Minister Isaltina Lucas, and the former President’s son Armando Ndambi Guebuza, have been included in the claim by Credit Suisse as parties it may seek indemnification from. Credit Suisse also reportedly wants to include sitting President Filipe Nyusi in the case, and has enquired with the Mozambican authorities as to his immunity.

The Council of State was convened, virtually, on 15 September, to discuss a request from the office of Mozambique’s Attorney General, or Procuradoria Geral da República (PGR), to interview Guebuza ahead of his possibly being called to testify in London. The PGR’s request comes in light of new and highly compromising evidence.

As a member of the Council of State, the summons by the PGR must be approved by the Council of State before Guebuza needs to honour it. In his statement to the meeting, seen by Guebuza accuses the PGR of citing him in the London case — and says it is “strange that our Attorney General has preferred to cross sub-Saharan Africa, the Sahara desert, the Mediterranean sea, continental Europe and the Channel, to obtain clarifications from a national citizen resident here.”

“When we joined the Mozambique Liberation Front, in hiding,” Guebuza continued, “we had the noblest aspiration to see our homeland, the homeland of heroes, freed from the colonial yoke, guaranteeing the reaffirmation of our Mozambicanity, respect for the rights and freedoms and the well-being of all Mozambicans. And this aspiration remains intact.”

Guebuza’s intervention lays bare the animosity between him and the regime of President Filipe Nyusi — describing the PGR’s latest request as “a continuation of an attempted political assassination” which gained “tonic” after a speech he gave last month at the Eduardo Mondlane University in Maputo. The speech included strong criticisms of the Nyusi government. “Our sovereignty is in question. … We’ve stopped believing in ourselves. We had the Renamo situation for 16 years, and two more years, but we didn’t stop believing that Mozambique was ours, and that we would win. Now voices are starting to appear, that doubt that,” Guebuza said.

He also lists a number of occasions when he has felt mistreated by by the PGR — having found out through the press in 2017, for example, that the PGR had demanded access to his banking records; and an instance in 2018 when the PGR asked him to answer questions about the offshore security deals financed by Credit Suisse and supplied by Privinvest.

On that occasion, Guebuza deferred to President Nyusi to decide whether he should answer the PGR’s questions. Nyusi replied that he should — to which Guebuza replied in turn that the matter ought to go before the Council of State, though he grudgingly agreed to answer the questions anyway. In his statement, Guebuza also condemned the PGR for not taking seriously an alleged attempt to poison him and his family, which happened in 2018.

Guebuza said he would still meet with the PGR to answer their questions. The Council of State itself did not make a decision on it, with the Frelimo members asking for more time. The three Renamo members abstained on the question. The Council could be reconvened in October.

The Commercial Court in London expects to hear the case in January 2021, having in July included Safa as a defendant, and having limited the various defendant’s rights to appeal.

Former President Guebuza feels he is unfairly treated by his predecessor
Former President Guebuza feels he is unfairly treated by his predecessor

Guebuza seems to have misunderstood who is citing him in the London proceedings. If it were Mozambique — the Claimant — then he would be a Defendant. In fact, he is a Third Party subject to a ‘Part 20’ claim, which is a counterclaim or additional claim that defendants can make. It is the bank that requested the inclusion of Guebuza and the other Third Parties. Without the background of Guebuza’s animosity to the current regime — including the Attorney General whom he appointed — it would appear natural that the PGR and Guebuza would confer ahead of a trial in which they are both pitted against Credit Suisse. But Guebuza instead sees his real enemy as the PGR.  There have been persistent rumours since Guebuza was toppled from the leadership of Frelimo in 2015 that there is an internal war going on within Frelimo. This statement from Guebuza confirms that — and so Mozambique presumably cannot count on his support in trying to win its case against Credit Suisse, despite his protestations that the loyalty to Mozambique that caused him to join Frelimo in the first place remains intact.

Guebuza was first interrogated by the PGR and the special Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry (CPI) after the emergence of the secret debt in 2016.

António Muchanga says Guebuza is reaping what he has sown

Renamo MP António Muchanga said Armando Guebuza is “reaping what he has sown”, following the former president’s complaint that the Attorney General’s office is acting in a political manner in the case of so-called hidden debts. Guebuza himself appointed the Attorney General, Beatriz Buchili, in 2014, because — Muchanga says — she was a suitable figure to carry out political expediencies — including the episode of the convening of the Council of State on 19 July that year, in order to remove Muchanga’s immunity, arrest him and humiliate him.

Muchanga said that Guebuza was lucky, because he should have suffered the same indignity as Muchanga who was handcuffed and arrested just after the end of the Council of State session. “Armando Emílio Guebuza has to eat the bread that he helped the devil to knead,” Muchanga said in a press conference.

It has taken five years since Guebuza left office to force his interrogation, but marks how much his power within Frelimo has declined.

Attorney General Beatriz Buchili was appointed by President Guebuza in 2014
Attorney General Beatriz Buchili was appointed by President Guebuza in 2014

The ‘hidden debts” case

The ‘hidden debts’ are related to loans worth $2.2 billion (€2 billion) taken out between 2013 and 2014 with the British subsidiaries of the investment banks Credit Suisse and VTB by the Mozambican state companies Proindicus, Ematum and MAM.

The loans were secretly endorsed by the government of the Liberation Front of Mozambique (Frelimo, the party in power since independence), led by Guebuza, without the knowledge of parliament or the Administrative Court.

Among the 19 defendants arrested in Mozambique are figures close to the former President, such as one of his sons, Ndambi Guebuza, and his secretary, Inês Moaine. The Mozambican Public Prosecutor accuses the defendants of criminal association, blackmail, taking bribes, embezzlement, abuse of position or function, violation of management rules, and forgery.

*Culled from October Issue of PAV Magazine

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Aid for Sex Rampant in Uganda: UN Report
October 13, 2020 | 2 Comments

By Prince Kurupati

An expose by a whistleblower has revealed rampant acts of sexual exploitation by United Nations workers working in Uganda. The expose singled out a United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) staffer who used his position to sexually abuse and exploit a “female victim”. At the same time, the expose also revealed a more general pattern of rampant sexual misconduct by UN staff working at the World Food Programme compound in the town of Moroto, Uganda’s poorest region.

Following the expose by the whistleblower, the UN’s Office of Internal Oversight Services opened an inquiry earlier this month (September) to investigate and potentially prosecute those fingered as culprits.

In the expose, the whistleblower highlighted that there was a rather unfortunate pattern of gross sexual misconduct amongst UN staff working at the World Food Programme compound in the town of Moroto. The expose revealed that a significant proportion of UN staff at the WFP compound was demanding sex from local women in exchange for food. Some even went to the extent of hiring sex workers whom they brought into the compound breaching UN security protocol regulations.

Reports of entry into the compound by sex workers has also put private guards at the compound in a dilemma as all visitors to the base are supposed to be vetted before entry into the premises.

The reports of gross sexual misconduct as revealed by the whistleblower were corroborated by some of the staff working at the compound that preferred to speak on condition of anonymity.

The World Food Programme compound in Moroto is home to several UN staff as it provides office space as well as sleeping quarters. The compound is located in one of Uganda’s poorest regions. According to the WFP, more than 500 000 people living in Moroto are in critical need of food assistance.

Speaking after the expose by the whistleblower, WFP’s Nairobi based regional spokesperson, Amanda Lawrence-Brown said, “We have been informed of the allegations made against UN staff residing at the compound managed by WFP in Moroto and are investigating…There is no place for any form of sexual harassment, exploitation, or abuse at the World Food Programme, including by non-WFP staff residing at compounds managed by WFP in the field.”

 The UN’s Resident Coordinator in Uganda, Rosa Malango did weigh in on the issue as she sent an email to all UN heads of agencies in the country stating, “I look forward to the updates from UN heads on action taken so far including the immediate suspension of staff pending the conclusions of investigations.’’

Speaking to The New Humanitarian, Malango said that the allegations on sexual misconduct by UN staff are serious and investigations are already underway. However, she said she is not in a position to say much as she is awaiting the whole process to be completed before speaking authoritatively. Malango said the “concerned agencies are dealing with the issue…Internal procedures are under way and we cannot comment until the facts have been established…These are allegations which need to be investigated.”

Sensible as Malango’ statement is, she however has received criticism from a group of UN staff. In an email to The New Humanitarian, the group said Malango’s email to the heads of UN agencies contained “confidential and sensitive information” which should “never have been circulated to internal email groups.” The group further said that Malango’s email was a plot on her part to play politics and divert attention away from her own “incompetence”.

The allegations on sexual misconduct by UN staff are serious and investigations are already underway, says Rosa Malango, UN Resident Coordinator
The allegations on sexual misconduct by UN staff are serious and investigations are already underway, says Rosa Malango, UN Resident Coordinator

The email sent to The New Humanitarian by the group used a suggestive title, “Uganda the next Haiti for the UN.” This in reference to the Oxfam scandal in Haiti which saw the British NGO being accused of covering up claims of sexual exploitation by its staff to the victims of the 2010 earthquake.

In her defense, Malango said that her email was never supposed to be shared externally.

The recent scandal is not the first time that UN agencies have found themselves under scrutiny in Uganda. In 2019, at least four people died while more than 300 got sick after eating WFP fortified cereal. The incident happened in the Karamoja region.

*From October Issue of PAV Magazine

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African countries should structure post covid plans around the AfCFTA – Former Liberian Minister B. Elias Shoniyin
October 13, 2020 | 3 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L

The more we can invest in our people, the more the future of Africa will be assured, says Shoniyin
The more we can invest in our people, the more the future of Africa will be assured, says Shoniyin

It is important that African countries be encouraged to formulate their post-COVID recovery plans around the opportunity of African Continental Free Trade Agreement-AfCFTA, says B Elias Shoniyin, a professional in international affairs, development and policy.

Shoniyin, a Liberian national who occupied key government positions in the administrations of Sirleaf Johnson, and George Weah, says the AfCFTA will embolden African countries to invest more in areas of comparative advantage, where they have maximum potentials.

Discussing the African response to COVID 19 with Pan African Visions-PAV, Shoniyin lauded the prompt response across the continent despite well-known limitations. In Liberia, while the experience acquired in previous battles with the Ebola virus continues to be useful, he urged the government of President George Weah to seek and bring in more expertise.

On the future, Shoniyin urges African governments to invest more in its people.

“I believe the most valuable asset of Africa is its people. Natural resources underground are not what make a people great; the capacity of the people to harness those resources makes them great. Our foremost challenge in Africa today is the limited capacity of our people. The more we can invest in our people, the more Africa’s future will be assured,” says Shoniyin.

Thanks for accepting to grant us this interview, we start with COVID 19, how is the situation like in Liberia?

B. Elias Shoniyin: Clearly, COVID 19 is global and every country on the earth has been affected – be it, by the extent of the virus infection rate or the deteriorating economic condition resulting from the pandemic. Liberia, bringing to bear its experience with the Ebola outbreak in 2014 to 2015, quickly built on and redeployed the health measures to protect our communities. As of now, we have officially recorded 1,321 COVID 19 cases, 1196 recovery and 82 death.

What do you make of the way the government of President George Weah has handled the pandemic in Liberia?

B. Elias Shoniyin: Noting the limited capacity of the George Weah Government, they are continuing to make efforts. Clearly, a lot more is required to fully address the pandemic; therefore, the Government is encouraged to seek and bring on board more professional expertise available in Liberia.

The outbreak of COVID 19 comes a few years after the outbreak of Ebola, are there any useful lessons from the Ebola episode that have been useful or could be better put to use in providing a better response to COVID 19 in your country?

B. Elias Shoniyin: There are many similarities between how Ebola and COVID 19 are transmitted. The obvious differences are COVID is a lot more contagious but less deadly than Ebola. As soon as the first known COVID 19 case was reported in Liberia, the dormant structures established during the Ebola outbreak were immediately reactivated. Strict social and public health measures were taken, including mass awareness, isolation of infected persons, and effective contact tracing. Many Liberians were skeptical of the government of Liberia’s initial handling of the virus, prompting fears of its prevalence. However, we are happy that society’s awareness drawn from the Ebola experience has contributed hugely to constraining social behavior resulting to the low number of COVID cases.

Liberia is now enduring a difficult period with all the economic and social indicators in the reverse ,says Shoniyin who served in two administrations
Liberia is now enduring a difficult period with all the economic and social indicators in the reverse ,says Shoniyin who served in two administrations

As someone who follows developments across Africa closely, what appraisal do you make of how African countries have fared in the fight against COVID 19, what are some of the positives and negatives that you see in some of the responses?

B. Elias Shoniyin: Generally, the response of many African countries to the pandemic was prompt. We are aware of our limitations in available financial and human resources, and the weaknesses in our health care systems; therefore, the most sensible reaction was what we did; that is, prevention. Measures to prevent the spread of the virus was the first and most emphasized course of action by many countries.

The President of Madagascar has touted a remedy called Covid Organics as an antidote to COVID-19, while the WHO has been skeptical about it, many Africans and African leaders have embraced it, where do you stand on initiatives like those of President Rajoelina which seek to make Africa part of the solution ?

B. Elias Shoniyin: I believe in the promise of Africa. Finding African solutions to problems that affect Africa should be supported by all Africans, but not blindly and on sentimental basis. while lauding the efforts of Madagascar to find an African solution to the covid crisis in Africa, I think it became unnecessarily political. when it comes to matters of medical concerns, it should be dealt with scientifically. there was no evidence or scientific data to confirm the potency/efficacy of the Covid organics, but many Africans went ahead to celebrate its discovery. I thought that was too early. As I said earlier, I laud Madagascar for the bold efforts. They should not be discouraged. Africa will continue trying to improve and evidentially confirm our discoveries.

In follow up to that , there has a passionate debate about the issues of vaccines for COVID 19 with people fearful that Africans will be used as “guinea pigs,” what is your take on this, what are some of the pros and cons that governments should consider before making a decision concerning vaccines?

B. Elias Shoniyin: I know Africans are haunted by a history of distrust, imperialism, and exploitation, in our engagement with the West. These are legacies of past relationship with the West that have remained the main cause of the modern-day suspicion by Africans. Despite the legitimacy of the suspicion, I see opportunities. The sad reality is Africa has not yet developed the competitive advantage for high-level scientific capacity and facilities to drive medical research to solve most of the World’s problems. Even though we do contribute in a modest way to solving some of these problems, the West remains dominant in scientific research, and thus, most of the medical discoveries are derived from Western countries. I think we should put our scientists and medical researchers to work to confirm the composition and safety of the COVID vaccines, and do not simply reject them, leaving more than a billion persons to face the Corona Virus threat on their own.

Let’s talk more about the Ministerial functions that you, occupied, how did you find yourself in government at such a relatively young age and what was the experience like working under President Sirleaf Johnson?

B. Elias Shoniyin: Prior to my public service life, I worked in the nonprofit sector for many years, starting at the young age of eighteen. In 2005 I encountered Ellen Johnson and was profoundly inspired by her advocacy, courage, and professional accomplishments. Later, that same year, I joined her campaign for the presidency of Liberia, developing campaign strategies and training modules for mobilizers. Following her election and subsequent inauguration as the first female President of Liberia – Africa, I was appointed at the Foreign Ministry as Assistant Minister for International Cooperation and Economic Affairs. That portfolio launched my international affairs and diplomatic profession, which has now spanned almost fourteen years. I have felt very lucky and blessed for the opportunity not only to serve with President Sirleaf, but also with other extraordinary personalities with long and distinguished professi0nal tenures, including Ambassador George w. Wallace, who was the Foreign Minister then; Ambassador Carlton Carpeh, Amb. T. Ernest Eastman (Fmr. Foreign Minister), Amb. William V.S. Bull, Olubanke King-Akerele (Fmr. Foreign Minister), Dr. Toga Mcintosh (Fmr. Foreign Minister), Amb. Sylvester Grigsby, and many others.

My time at the Foreign Ministry, working in the shadow of President Ellen Johnson, at a critical time of post-conflict recovery, state-building, and reconstruction of Liberia, profoundly shaped my world view and my development perspective. For President Sirleaf, preparing the generation after her for both government and corporate leadership was a key feature of her Administration. She was always intentional for seeking young talents and preparing them for national service.  I learned a lot from her, both ethically and professionally. No doubt, she is a towering figure.

B Elias Shoniyin is urging African countries to anchor their post COVID 19 recovery plans around the AfCFTA
B Elias Shoniyin is urging African countries to anchor their post COVID 19 recovery plans around the AfCFTA

After the departure of President Johnson, you served under President Weah as well before resigning, first what was the difference in vision for Liberia for both leaders, and what prompted you to resign?

B. Elias Shoniyin: I do recall in 2006, President Sirleaf inherited an entirely broken country, after fourteen years of devastating civil wars. She assumed leadership of Liberia with a clear vision of what was required to ignite transformative recovery. She had her eyes fixed on her goal of setting Liberia on an irreversible course to development. In this effort, she was prepared to make arduous decisions, even if it meant, working contrary to her Party’s expectations. In her twelve years, two terms leadership, emphasis was placed on Human capacity, building strong and sustainable institutions,

I relish the opportunity to have been called upon by President George Weah to serve with him immediately following his election, affording me the distinguished honor of serving in two successive administrations in post-conflict Liberia. I believe he has had good intentions for Liberia, but his limited professional experience may have held him hostage to delivering on his promise to the people of Liberia. He is trying to take some practical steps towards achieving key objectives, but it has been an uphill battle, with the strong partisan centered government he currently has going. Unfortunately, many of the key operatives of his party (Congress for Democratic Change) lack the requisite education, experience, and technical competence required to adequately get the job done. He has found himself caught between the difficult options of recruiting competences outside of his Party to get the job done, and running a government of tragical incompetence, but fiercely loyal partisans who spent most of their working hours attacking his critics on social media but performing decimally in their government duties.

My resignation as Deputy Foreign Minister of Liberia, in May 2020 was prompted by consistent policy and value incompatibilities. I served my country with dedication and respect for nearly fourteen years and I thought it was time to move on, and I did.

May we know some of the significant challenges that you faced while in government, and in terms of significant accomplishments, what are some that come to mind?

B. Elias Shoniyin: Like many other countries in Africa, public service in Liberia is truly difficult. Not by the responsibilities of the office, but more of navigating the deeply personally driven political space.  There were many challenges encountered in the course of my public service, including professional, ethical, and several attempts to blackmail me. Example of some of the most significant professional and technical challenges were the low human capacity mainly at the low and middle levels in government institutions due to the politicization of the system. Dominantly, most of those who entered or sought government appointments were motivated by the personal acquisition of public wealth and for unfair advantage over others. There were almost at all time, personal interest involved when getting tasks done. These self-interested actions slowed momentum, killed morale, and stymied productivity, making it difficult to derive the maximum results from the government’s actions. Despite these challenges, the inspiration, courage, and out of the box thinking ,President Sirleaf spurred, emboldened me and many others on her team to put in an average of fourteen hours a day in achieving the objectives of the post-conflict recovery programs. When we assumed office in 2006, the depth of the quagmire before us was scary – there was nothing that did not require fixing – the entire socioeconomic fabric of society was in shambles; from pipe bourn water to infrastructure (roads, ports, energy , education system, health system, massive unemployment, democratic structures, mindset, and a lot more. Looking back, I am proud of what we together achieved as a country. There is still a lot to be done in Liberia’s development drive; however, when one looks at from where we come, the new do appreciate where we are.

There are many who believe that besides handing over power after twelve years, there was very little that the government of President Sirleaf Johnson did to better the lot of Liberians, on hindsight, do you believe that there was more or room for that administration that you were part of to do more?

B. Elias Shoniyin: Criticism that President Sirleaf did not do much in her twelve-year tenure to bring about development in Liberia is unfair and latently motivated. President Sirleaf’ inherited a country severely battered by fourteen years of fratricide violence. Sirleaf’s administration did remarkably well with restoring Liberia to its prewar status. Considering the extent of the challenges she inherited, and where she left the country at the time of her turnover, I hail her for great work. A few examples of her Presidential accomplishment are as follows: She inherited a budget of 83M in 2006 and left almost US$600M; she inherited a reserve of US$6.5M and left US$154.8M; she successfully negotiated and secured cancellation of more than US$4.9B external debt; she inherited an unpaid wage bill of 36 months to civil servants, and cleared it all in five years, raised salaries by more than 2500 percent; she inherited an energy generation capacity of Zero megawatt and we left 126MW excluding electricity in some rural communities from the West African Power Pool (WAPP)  and the CLSG; she inherited a rundown airport and left a new Terminal and runway; she inherited dilapidated and/or limited roads, which she rehabilitated and constructed more than 800km of paved excluding the ongoing Karloken- Harper high way and the Gbarnga to Menikorma High way in Liberia; reconstruction and rehabilitation of many bridges including the Johnson Street and Waterside-Vai Town bridges; 2,103 public schools rehabilitated or constructed, furnished and staffed; five community colleges established in Grand Bassa, Bomi, Bong, Grand Gedeh, Lofa and Nimba Counties; construction of the Jackson F.Doe Hospital in Tapeta, Nimba County, and construction and rehabilitation of several hundreds clinic and hospitals including JFK Medical Center in Monrovia, and Phebe Hospital in Gbarnga, Bong County; and many more.

Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, the African Continental Free Trade Agreement was the harbinger of great hope for the continent, did you share in that optimism and can you situate the importance of the AfCFTA in the post COVID recovery plans for Africa?

B. Elias Shoniyin: I am sure counted in the number of those optimistic of the promise of AfCFTA. AfCFTA will unlock the untapped potential of intra-Africa trade and compel African countries to increase cross-border connectivity to facilitate the movement of goods and services. AfCFTA will not only increase trade among states on the Continent; it will also attract significant FDI inflow, particularly market-seeking investors who would want to participate in the expanded market of more than 1.4 billion consumers. Once we begin to harness the opportunities of AfCFTA, the benefits of trading among African states will have a multiplier effects on promoting increased agriculture production and a lot of intermediate manufacturing by small underdeveloped states, to support largest industries on the Continent. I believe that trading among us will spur unprecedented prosperity in Africa. It is important that African countries be encouraged to formulate their post-COVID recovery plans around the opportunity of AfCFTA. AfCFTA will also embolden African countries to invest more in areas of comparative advantage, where they have maximum potentials.

We end with a word from you on the future of Liberia and Africa, what are your hopes and what are your fears?

B. Elias Shoniyin: Liberia is now enduring a difficult period. All the economic and social indicators are in the reverse, after an earlier twelve years of steady reforms and transformation. Prior to the Coronavirus pandemic, the economy was already sliding; now it seems to be in acceleration downward. The future is no doubt uncertain!

I believe in the promise of Africa, but I am aware that there is a lot of work to be done, particularly in re-orientating the mindset on how we see public service and developing the spirit of entrepreneurship. We will need to invest hugely in human capacity and infrastructure and build strong and sustainable institutions that are beyond the narrow aspirations of a few individuals. There are some countries on the Continent that are progressing very well along these lines and we are all proud of them.

I disagree every time I hear people inferring that Africa is rich – suggesting that the minerals or gems, and natural resources underground are supposed to make us rich without any efforts. I believe, the most valuable asset of Africa is its people. Natural resources underground are not what make a people great; the capacity of the people to harness those resources makes them great. Our foremost challenge in Africa today is the limited capacity of our people. The more we can invest in our people, the more Africa’s future will be assured.

Thank you very much for the opportunity to share my perspectives on my country and our Continent, Africa.

*Culled from October Issue of PAV Magazine

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Sustained Efforts Needed To Boast Brazil-Africa Relations -Prof Joao Monte
October 13, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L

 Under Prof Monte the IBRAF has been a vital link between Brazil and Africa
Under Prof Monte the IBRAF has been a vital link between Brazil and Africa

Sustained efforts are needed to maximize the enormous potentials of stronger ties between Brazil and says Prof João Bosco Monte ,President of the Brazil African Institute- IBRAF.  Speaking in a skype  interview to discuss the upcoming Brazil-Africa forum, of the flagship programmes of the IBRAF, Prof Monte says the similarity between the South American country and Africa are too many with ample opportunities for win-win cooperation.

 PAV: Dr Monte good morning and thanks for talking to Pan African Visions

Professor Joao Monte: It is a pleasure to talk with you, my friend.

PAV: Let’s start with an introduction of the Brazil-Africa Institute that you lead. Can you give an introduction of that Institute for us?

Professor Joao Monte: When I founded the institute 10-years-ago the idea was to give Brazilians to see what kind of synergies and activities that both sides could do together. I see a link between the two regions, Brazil and the African continent, not only because of the history; geography but because I see a potential similarity between both places. When I saw the possibility to interact, I understood that we could do things together and came to the idea to have the institute.

This is the idea we had for the institute ten years ago, and now it is found in many states in Brazil. Two-years-ago we opened one office in Accra, Ghana. We are thinking to have one more antenna of the institute, and we are trying to understand when and where it will be. The idea was to do it this year, but because of the situation of the pandemic, we had to change it for next year.

PAV: One of your flagship programmes is the Brazil-Africa forum, and the 2020 edition is scheduled for November 3-4, how prepared is the institute to host this event this year.

Professor Joao Monte: The forum is one of the tools we have to engage, to put together Brazilians and Africans. In the last seven editions of the forum we discussed many things, topics, brought so many high-level authorities from Brazil and Africa. More and, more, we are engaging with people from outside Brazil and Africa. The idea is to promote the forum and have leaders from many parts of the world to present their ideas, and have their voices heard. This year we are going to celebrate the tenth year of the institute and, in the beginning, we wanted to have the forum with a physical presence, so, people come into Brazil. But because of the pandemic, we needed to change, and it will be 100 % virtual.

The event won’t be a webinar; it is a well-prepared event. We have participants from Africa, Brazil and other regions, and the topic we are going to talk about will be “How the world will behave after the pandemic” because we are now facing an important moment, but, we need to understand how the world will act after the pandemic is important. Brazil and Africa should be together again, and we are going to discuss opportunities for Brazil and Africa during the forum this year.

PAV: Looking back ten years is quite some time. If you were, to sum up, the achievements you have recorded, what progress have you seen in the ten years you have been doing this?  

The Youth Technical Training Program is one of the IBRAF programmes working well to cement cooperation ties between Brazil and Africa
The Youth Technical Training Program is one of the IBRAF programmes working well to cement cooperation ties between Brazil and Africa

Professor Joao Monte: Just to clarify that the institute has ten-years already, but the forum has eight-years – we are now coming to the eighth edition of the forum. It is not easy to summarize in a short time what we have done in eight years of the event. I remember in 2016 I put together two Ministers the Minister of Agriculture of Brazil and the Minister of Agriculture of Nigeria to discuss opportunity possibilities that this initiative that we engage at the Brazil-Africa forum at that time could have. Our mandate is to be a catalyser, a facilitator, and I think that is what is there to promote the meeting between both sides of Brazil and Africa. We brought personalities to the event that brought ideas, which was the beginning of something as we had a Brazilian company that is now doing projects in Rwanda, Kenya and Ghana. They came to the forum, used the platform to engage with partners and then we now see positive results.

PAV: And for the 2020 forum may we know some of the highlights and personalities that will be answering present?

Professor Joao Monte: The forum this year like I said is on how the world will behave after the pandemic, and we have already confirmed some important participations. We have Jennifer Blanke, former Vice-President at AfDB, Michael Kremer, 2019 Nobel Prize Economist, Dr Denis Mukwege, 2018 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, and others. We are bringing something else which is the launch of the initiative relating to business and investment between Brazil and Africa that is something for us in the coming years.

PAV: With regards to the theme for this year that is: “what next after the pandemic”, in what areas do you cooperation between Brazil and Africa in meeting the next challenges?

Professor Joao Monte: We are going to bring the President of Fiocruz – a Brazilian government company relating to the production of vaccines. They will produce the next year millions of vaccines for Brazilians and also for the African context.

Health is one of the areas I am very sure we can contribute to using the platform of the forum but also Agriculture. As I said, we are going to have the commission on Agriculture from AU. We are going to have the foreign Minister of Agriculture from Brazil during Lula’s time. So, agriculture is again another possibility of discussion.

Infrastructure is something very unique. We had a few companies from Brazil which have built roads, airports, ports and other infrastructure activities and, they will be again in the forum.  I am sure this will be a contribution we can bring to the movement in engaging the two regions. In the area of education, we are going to have experts to discuss what they are doing, and this can be an opportunity for interacting in this area.

PAV: May we know how the current President of Brazil is doing to forging stronger bonds between Africa and any comparison with his predecessors in this regard?

Professor Joao Monte: Last year we brought to the event the Vice- President of Brazil. He opened the Brazil-Africa forum in 2019.  It was good to hear from him that he was planning to come to Africa – he was planning to visit Africa this year in March but because of the pandemic and the borders we closed He could not travel – what I am saying is that when he mentioned that Africa could be a part of the Brazilian agenda I understand that this is something special, but we should not compare what we had during President Lula’s mandate and what we have now.

The current President did not point Africa as President Lula did in the past but now, we can still harness what President Lula said in 2003. He said:  “Africa will be a priority for this government”, and it was a reality as he travelled to Africa many times with his Ministers. The current President of Brazil did not say anything about having Africa as a priority but, from the voice of the Vice-President, we can have an important message that Africa was not erased from the core of the government. I am not a government official, so, I cannot talk on behalf of the government but, looking from outside I see that the voice of the Vice President was good to announce that we can still do things together.

I have spoken to private sector key personalities, and they say Africa is on their radar and they want to do things with Africa. But we need to put more people together to engage more and more, and this is good for the Brazil-Africa Institute because we have the best connections to put things together, Brazilians and Africans.

Not even the challenges of COVID 19 could stop Prof Monte and the IBRAF from holding the Brazil Africa Forum, now in its eight year
Not even the challenges of COVID 19 could stop Prof Monte and the IBRAF from holding the Brazil Africa Forum, now in its eight year

PAV: During the recent crisis at the AfDB you spoke out forcefully in support of Dr (Akinwumi) Adesina, and he was re-elected for another four-year mandate. Firstly, are you happy with his re-election and secondly in what areas do you see prospects to engage with the AfDB in meeting some of the objectives of the Brazil-Africa Institute?

Professor Joao Monte: I am happy with the re-election, and I understand what he did for his first term but, he will need more time to continue to give more visibility and bring more results for what he planned to do. I supported him because I understand his voice is important for the Africa context and he brings to the table the idea that Africa needs to change not only to receive things from outside but that Africa should engage and work together with partners –  something which is very important for the continent and the people. The agenda of the bank is very wide; the reduction and elimination of poverty are important to mention but I think there is one direction which he is doing which is related to Agriculture. Because of his background as the former Minister of Agriculture for Nigeria he knows what he is saying when he is talking about Agriculture.

Specifically, from the Brazilian context agriculture is one of the main assets that we have in this discussion. If you look back at Brazil four years ago, you will see maybe the same situation that is in other parts of Africa. We used to import foods, crops but now Brazil is one of the biggest exporters of food and commodities in the world (maize, corn, soybeans, sugar and others). We have so many possibilities of producing in Africa what we are producing in Brazil and the AfDB plays an important role.

From outside I think the bank can work more with Brazil in terms of attracting Brazilian voices, entrepreneurs, businesspeople to Africa. One thing I would like to mention is if we do not take the opportunity to invite people to come, and see what we have in front of us people will not see the potentials. The bank is playing an important role, but I think the conversation should be more precise, and the initiative of the bank with Brazil should be more aggressive and precise. I hope that in his second term he could put more attention to the Brazilian context.

PAV: In the build-up to the forum coming up in November, news came up indicating that you had been appointed as a champion of the UN Food Summit by the UN Special envoy for Food System Summit. What does this appointment mean for you and what do you think you can bring to the table? 

Professor Joao Monte: I am very honoured to be appointed as a champion of the Food System Summit for 2021. We need to give people the food that they need. I just mentioned that Brazil is producing more food than before which is very important, but we need to see how we can again work together. Being appointed as a champion of the Food System is the opportunity to raise our voice amongst others to bring benefit to the people, especially poor people in Africa and Brazil. With the experience we can bring from Brazil, I think we can help put some realities in the African context. We just started this discussion, but I am very excited to see the results of the engagements of the group of champions including myself.

PAV: We would like to round up with what you plan to do next after the Brazil-Africa forum, what other initiatives will you be working on, and what perspectives do you see for the future of  Brazil-Africa relations? 

Professor Joao Monte: The Brazil-Africa Institute has many activities besides the Brazil-Africa forum which is important for us.  Of course, this year has been a difficult year for everybody as we had to reinvent ourselves – we could not travel and meet people and so it was not easy to do everything we planned last year for this year. One of the activities we have going is the fellowship programme, we bring researchers from Africa to stay in Brazil for up to two months under my supervision to do research, bringing to the world some experience that Brazil is doing well in the South-South Cooperation platform. We can have health, education science, innovation, agriculture and so this is something we are still doing, and we launched a call last month and is still running until 12 of October, and they will arrive in February/March next year.

Also, we have “YTTP” which is Youth Technical Training Programme, where we bring young Africans to receive technical training, very sharp and direct training in areas that Brazil again is doing well, succeeding and when they go back home, they are easy to deploy with the knowledge they have received in Brazil. These youths stay in Brazil for up to two weeks – we started this programme in 2017 and, this year we had to reschedule, and the first group was supposed to arrive in April but had to be rescheduled for February. We are in the process of selecting people, and something new we learnt from this moment is the use of technology. We have launched a programme called Online Platform Learning, and we will be starting next year. We are finalizing the preparation of this programme.

What is going to be the future between Brazil and Africa? It is not easy to say that the relations will be strong or diminish.  But understand what we are doing, your job and my job, it is to keep talking, thinking and dreaming as without dreaming we cannot go far. The situation is not easy – it is difficult. If I looked back ten years ago, it was impossible to achieve the things we have now. We need to leave the message to the people that it is possible to engage Brazil and Africa, and we should be together. We cannot do things alone; we should be together to go far. I am very optimist and realistic as well for what is going to happen tomorrow, but I am very sure that if we stay quiet, and calm, too many things will not happen. That is why we should act precisely with strategy.

PAV: Professor Monte thanks so much for talking to Pan African Visions and keep the doors open when we come again next time.

Professor Joao Monte: Thank you very much for your time, and I look forward to engaging more and more with you. Thanks again.  

*Culled from October Issue of PAV Magazine

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Malawi: Former Minister convicted for granting citizenship to foreign nationals
October 13, 2020 | 0 Comments

By James Mwala

Former Minister  Mussa with  his family
Former Minister Mussa with his family

Malawi’s former Homeland Security Minister Uladi Basikolo Mussa has been convicted along with an immigration officer for granting citizenship to illegal immigrants from Burundi, Rwanda and other war prone nations when he was in office.

Mussa served on that role around 2012 and 2014 under the leadership of Malawi’s first ever female President Joyce Banda, when the offense was committed.

The case has been stalling ever since as Mussa served as Vice President for the Central for former ruling Democratic Progressive Party, which lost in June’s historical fresh presidential elections.

The courts had initially found Mussa and former Chief citizenship officer David Kwanjana and two others a case to answer related to the incidents.

Mussa however denied the charges saying they are political in nature. This comes as he is reportedly intending to contest as a presidential aspirant for the DPP at its convention as plans to replace Peter Mutharika continue.

However, today, Justice Chifundo Kachale said the court found Mussa guilty of abuse of office and subsequently convicted him together with Kwanjana.

Kachale however reserved his ruling to 22 October and ordered the two to head to prison ahead of sentencing.

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Gas Industry Opportunities can revive Mozambique’ s Special Relationship with Germany
October 13, 2020 | 1 Comments
Verner Ayukegba - Africa Energy Chamber
Verner Ayukegba – Africa Energy Chamber

Gas is fast establishing itself as a key player in the global energy transition dynamics as nations seek to significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions and other air pollutants.

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, October 13, 2020/ — Mozambique and Germany have a special relationship, that was formalised when the German Democratic Republic established diplomatic relationships with the then newly independent Republic of Mozambique in 1975. Since then, a great many Mozambicans have been educated in Germany. Another 20,000 were employed in Germany as contract workers. Since the 1980’s, Germany has spent more than USD 1 billion in development aid to Mozambique. Whilst this is laudable, this relationship must evolve to change focus away from aid and towards investment, in response to the numerous opportunities in gas development and other sectors.

German companies need to invest in the development of new gas prospects, in the servicing of the existing developments and in the building of a petrochemical sector in Mozambique. Germany has a strong petrochemical industry that can take advantage of the opportunities in Mozambique with Africa’s USD 1.2 Billion population providing a ready market for such an industry. This will ultimately lead to a win-win situation for both countries. It will not only help to generate economic growth, but will also ensure the creation of good paying jobs, skills developing apprenticeships and the transfer of technology to Mozambique.

Gas is fast establishing itself as a key player in the global energy transition dynamics as nations seek to significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions and other air pollutants. The realisation, that developed economies like Germany and fast-growing economies like China can only realistically meet their emission targets without forgoing economic prosperity by adopting gas as a major source of energy has put countries with large gas resources, like Mozambique in the focus of investors. The share of gas as a primary source of energy has been steadily growing since the 90’s, and this trend is expected to continue. In China, gas now accounts for over 7% of primary energy use from about 1% in 1990. In Germany, gas accounts for 27% of primary energy use from about 15% in 1990.

German demand for gas is projected to continue its rapid growth as the country steadfastly continues to implement its in 2010 adopted energy transition strategy known as the Energiewende. According to the plan, greenhouse gas emissions are expected to reduce by at least 80% in 2050 when compared to 1990. Gas is currently Germany’s second most important energy source after oil. It imports nearly all of the gas it consumes, from Russia (40%), Norway and the Netherlands with only 5% sourced domestically. Domestic production is expected to run out within the next decade, setting Germany up for even more imports from outside. There is therefore, a general consensus in Germany that even more gas resources must be secured from abroad to ensure Germany’s economic growth prospects. Plans to source more gas from Russia have however earned the government heavy criticism, including from Germany’s American allies who see this as leading to an over-dependence on Russia and creating potential National security threat to Germany. Diversifying Germany’s sourcing of gas, from new producers like Mozambique therefore presents an attractive proposition for Germany as a nation and German companies in particular.

Mozambique holds 100 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of proved natural gas reserves. It ranks 15th globally, however the country is still largely underexplored. As the government continues to encourage exploration, it is likely, that the proven reserves will increase in the coming years to rival that of more established gas frontiers. Oil Majors Total, ENI and Exxon are leading development efforts expected to initially cost a combined USD 30 Billion. Committed off-takers, include EDF of France, Tokyo gas of Japan and Centrica from the UK who have all committed to be off takers for the next two decade. Notable however, is the absence of German companies either as operators or major off-takers, despite Germany being one of the world’s largest gas importers.

“It is time for German companies to play a greater role in the development of Mozambican gas industry. Germanys needs gas and in exchange, our companies can provide investment capital, technical Know-how, technology and education” said Sebastian Wagner, Executive Chairman of the German African Business Forum.

In November 2019, German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced the creation of a USD 1.1 Billion investment fund during the ‘Compact with Africa’ summit in Berlin. This fund, and other institutions in Germany like the KFW development bank offer various instruments to ease German investments in Mozambique. However, there is an increasing realisation, that such government initiatives to invest in Africa in general and in Mozambique in particular are best implemented by channeling the funds through private sector German and Mozambican companies. In a recent online conference organised by the German African Business Forum, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s personal representative to Africa, H.E Günter Nooke called German companies to take advantage of these opportunities.

Now more than ever, both countries must take the opportunities presented by the development of gas to strengthen their special bond. Mozambican exports to Germany currently stand at USD 270 Million USD yearly and are dominated by aluminium. This amounts to just 3% of total exports. According to Verner Ayukegba, SVP of the African Energy Chamber, there is room for growth and a significant demand for German technology and investments in Mozambique. “Mozambique is one of the most prized investment destinations in Africa at the moment. Mozambican companies are prepared to partner with their German counterparts to service the nascent gas industry.” “We have a golden opportunity here to strengthen both Country’s economies, whilst at the same time making significant strides towards the reduction of greenhouse gasses with the promotion of gas consumption to the detriment of heavier polluters like coal”, Verner concluded.

*African Energy Chamber

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Women empowerment is a major growth opportunity for Africa
October 13, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Sola David-Borha*

Sola David-Borha is Chief Executive of Africa Regions at Standard Bank Group
Sola David-Borha is Chief Executive of Africa Regions at Standard Bank Group

Africa’s economic recovery can be meaningfully accelerated if policymakers and the private sector step up their efforts to empower women – a group that accounts for more than half of the continent’s population.

While the pursuit of gender equality is primarily a moral obligation, it also makes economic sense. By denying women their full rights and opportunities, we are simply holding back growth and human development.

Interventions aimed at eliminating the economic barriers that women contend with – such as financial exclusion and unequal access to quality education – contribute positively towards poverty alleviation and social upliftment.

This means it is critical that women are better represented in policy-making positions and in executive roles in the private sector.

Although we have made decent progress in this regard over the past few decades, there is a risk that the COVID-19 pandemic will halt or even reverse some of these gains.

Far too many girls have been forced to drop out of school amid the pandemic, and this could have severe long-term consequences. Further, women are likely to bear the brunt of the economic downturn as they are more exposed to informal employment than men, and they remain overly responsible for unpaid household work.

And, at a time when access to funding is critical for the survival of many small businesses, history shows us that women entrepreneurs face significantly greater obstacles than men when it comes to accessing financial services.

To remain on track, and to ensure a rapid yet sustainable economic recovery from the global crisis, it is essential that all stakeholders play their part.

Standard Bank Group is committed to doing so.

For instance, we are working to improve the representation of women in senior positions across the group. At the end of 2019, women held 37% of board positions and 40.3% of senior management positions. This represents solid progress against our multi-year targets, which include having women hold 40% of the group’s executive positions by 2023.

Our group Chief Executive, Sim Tshabalala, represents Standard Bank as a thematic champion of the UN’s global HeForShe movement, which has inspired the bank to ramp up its gender-equality efforts.

Internally, we have launched a range of initiatives to support the HeForShe movement. These include information sessions, debates about various aspects of gender equity, sessions to deliberately engage men in the conversation, and the ongoing focus on leadership development programmes for women.

Women are in the majority in our graduate programme, and we are using bespoke development interventions to progress women into senior roles, with a particular focus on our Africa Regions business.

We are also focusing our efforts externally, often in collaboration with other organisations. In partnership with the United Nations Economic Commission of Africa, we recently launched the African Women Impact Fund, which aims to empower women fund managers with access to capital and technical assistance.

These women asset managers will in turn invest in primarily female-owned businesses across the continent. The fund aims to raise a total of $100m.

Another initiative focuses specifically on the agricultural sector in Malawi, Nigeria, South Africa and Uganda. Working with UN Women, we are addressing gender gaps in the sector while also improving the industry’s resilience to climate change.

This programme aims to reach more than 50,000 women in three years, providing them with entrepreneurial skills and access to affordable technology to increase access to markets and finance. Our projects are supporting women in aquaculture, and in the cultivation of nuts, rice, beans and vegetables.

Importantly, these initiatives also aim to strengthen corporate governance within women-led businesses. This is crucial to the long-term success of any organisation, and will make it easier for women to access funding and grow their businesses. Investors and funding partners are increasingly concerned about environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) issues.

As we respond to Africa’s developmental needs, Standard Bank is taking guidance from the UN Principles for Responsible Banking, which aim to align the strategies of the banking industry with society’s aspirations, as expressed by the Sustainable Development Goals and other international frameworks.

As a founding signatory of the Principles, we are focused on supporting inclusive and sustainable growth. We believe that this is only possible if Africa’s women are truly empowered.

If we succeed in our collective efforts towards gender equality, Africa’s recovery will be fast-tracked.

*Sola David-Borha is Chief Executive of Africa Regions at Standard Bank Group

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Mozambique’s Health Minister tests positive for COVID-19
October 13, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Jorge Joaquim

Mozambique’s Health Minister Armindo Tiago on Tuesday confirmed that he tested positive for COVID-19, becoming the first cabinet minister hit by the virus.

In a statement sent to the press, the minister said he has no symptoms and that is physically and mentally well. “I am infected, but not sick,” he said.

Tiago said that the test was held on the morning of Monday, 12 October, as a routine preparation for a trip abroad.

Tiago said he has been self-isolating at home.

“At this point, as a result of my situation, I recommend all those who have had contact with me to take the test for the appropriate purposes,” Tiago said, advancing that tests have already been carried out for family members and employees of the Ministry of Health, who may have been in contact with him.

“The test result could only be known to me. However, as Minister of Health, I understand that I can transform this situation into a moment of learning for myself and for others ”, he said adding that “no one in this world can say that they are immune to the new coronavirus.”

Coronavirus statistics in Mozambique

73 people with the virus have died in Mozambique, which has a total cumulative of 10,258 cases.

The latest person to die was a 58-year-old woman, after passing away today, 13 October, in a hospital in Maputo city.

The authorities today also reported 170 new cases of covid-19 — all through local transmission — and 330 recoveries bringing the total of individuals previously infected with the new coronavirus to 7,880.

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Rwanda legalizes cannabis for medical export
October 13, 2020 | 1 Comments

By Maniraguha Ferdinand

Cannabis had been illegal in Rwanda
Cannabis had been illegal in Rwanda

Rwandan government has legalized production of marijuana, with aim of exporting it for medical use.

on Tuesday 13th October, Minister of Health Dr Ngamije Daniel was quoted by state media  saying  that such move will not promote illegal use of marijuana, because there will be tough regulations on its production.

“It will not be a room for  those who grow or use it illegally. We have already a law which punishes use of illegal drugs, It will continue to be in place”, he said.

Not enough information were given by officials however among decisions that were approved  during  the cabinet meeting that chaired by President Paul Kagame on Monday, 12th October, one of them is “regulatory guidelines on cultivation, processing and export of high value therapeutic  crops in Rwanda”.

The global market for medical cannabis is currently estimated at $150 billion and could reach $272 billion in 2028, according to Barclays Bank.

Rwanda joins a handful of other African countries that have already legalized marijuana including South Africa , Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho among others.

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Education, Courtship, Family, and Africans Abroad.
October 13, 2020 | 0 Comments

By John Nkemnji, Ph.D.*

Prof John Nkemnji
Prof John Nkemnji

Africans abroad face social, cultural, racial, and climatic challenges. Despite this reality, Africans struggle to migrate from their home countries to Europe or the USA. Life in the new society obligates immigrants to educate themselves, become productive community members, and sustain themselves with jobs. Africans who migrate abroad as single people face the challenge of looking for a compatible spouse. African immigrant’s adult children face a similar challenge. I am curious to find out how lovebirds connect.

In Africa, it is customary for extended family members to help single people find a spouse; however, it is not the same or that easy for Africans abroad. Securing a soulmate abroad presents difficulties. Unlike educational attainment, which is an individual effort, educated Africans have not fared well in marriage and family life. The legal marriage age is 18, and in Africa, a delay in marriage for females is typically by choice and not because of the scarcity of candidates or external circumstances.

Marital challenges are more complicated for female immigrants, since the ratio of beautiful queens to male counterparts is about ten-to-one. It seems this is a longstanding imbalance and could be why polygamy is accepted in Africa over polyandry. In African tradition, wealthy men marry multiple wives as a status of wealth and power. The more wives a noble has, the more his wealth grows. The traditional housewife and children work the farms, feed the families, and earn some income by selling produce for daily consumption (buyam, sellam). Christianity discouraged that practice but gave rise to flirting.

Companionship and childbirth are reasons for marriage. However, some females seem constrained by what they refer to as their “biological clock.” It is challenging for a single mother working 7 days a week to secure a spouse, so many older working-class ladies are single parents. As a consequence of supply and demand, some people give up on the idea of marriage and become content with their jobs. There is a time for everything. Don’t be too impatient.

The struggles for daily survival abroad make it difficult to court and vet partners. In Africa, selecting a spouse is usually a collective family affair as families stay in close quarters and know each other. The youth attend school around the same city and intermingle both in and out of school. They know each other even when they are not dating or looking for a spouse. There are opportunities to socialize and be friendly at both the individual and family levels abound. During the search for a spouse, everyone in the family gives advice and consent. However, communities believe that some family’s children are bad for marriage. Such families are blacklisted because of prior marital problems or other cultural taboos like wariness of witchcraft, genetic illness, violence, or mental instability. It is believed that fruit does not fall far from its tree.

Females undergo greater scrutiny in courtship. Some ladies are described as church-girls and others as club-girls (pious and party mates). The church-girls are usually simple (not flashy), have less expensive taste, and are recommended as the type that will make good housewives. Neighborhood bachelors know and respect them and their families. Church-girls easily find husbands locally because of extended family vetting and recommendation. However, if no bachelor from the community is available, a bachelor from abroad could ask for their hand in marriage. The reverse is not usually true – ladies hardly go home to get married and bring husbands abroad.

Sometimes women like Abishiola, a Nigerian nurse character on TV, end up with partners from different ethnic backgrounds. Interracial and international marriages are on the rise. The single immigrant sometimes marries an available spouse to have children for the impatient grandparents inquiring to see grandchildren. Some marriages without children end up in divorce because of pressure from extended family members.

The African diaspora is scattered across the nation and lacks extended family support. Due to the struggles and challenges of surviving abroad, there are few opportunities for singles to meet, socialize, and know each other. Before COVID-19, professional, cultural, and educational associations brought immigrants together. Such groups are few and expensive to join and do not provide adequate opportunities for members to get acquainted and vet partners for successful marriages. They are unlike dating services, but offer the opportunity for members to write, publish, or put out their identity/candidature on their social media platforms, directories, or almanacs. Eligible singles on the market are plentiful and keep growing with the influx of youth from Africa. For cultural reasons, African immigrants are not comfortable using dating services (Blackpeoplemeet, EliteSingles, eHarmony, and others).

Once you are engaged, develop a bond of trust and respect for each other and know that married life is good but has its twists and turns. Never get engaged, thinking you will change your spouse, instead learn to tolerate, forgive, and compromise. Many African marriages end in divorce because couples went in blindly or overtime, undergo a cultural transformation. If you seek a partner, be genuine, and set reasonable expectations before you tie the knot. Keep an open mind and a support network. Know that beauty may attract the eye, but it is character and personality that will keep you together. Stand out as a candidate by doing something praiseworthy, an act of kindness, volunteerism or other accomplishment, for the community and humanity. It is good to be patient and outgoing and to know that no two persons reason and behave the same.

Unlike their colleagues from Asia, African immigrants do not have strong cultural and social ties imported from the continent. Keep in touch with your immigrant communities and not blindly follow materialism. Spend quality time with your family. Inform the families back home to let you enjoy your new marital home and not make unreasonable demands. Respect the laws in your host country and keep learning and growing together. Good luck to all lovebirds on the market and same to those who are already building their lives together.

  • Dr. John Nkemnji is Professor Emeritus, Educational Technology. He is an educational consultant and a proponent for life-long learning. The views expressed in this article are based on experience with Cameroonian, Nigerian, Ghanaian, and Kenyan modern courtship – true of most Christian and Muslim African States.
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