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Covid-19: The South West Region is Free from Coronavirus — Martin Mokake, Director Buea Regional Hospital
March 28, 2020 | 0 Comments

Three suspected persons test Negative to the coronavirus

By Boris Esono Nwenfor

We have also provided personal protective equipment (PPE) to the Doctors, nurses to make sure the y can be protected while delivering the services needed against the coronavirus says Dr Martin Mokake
We have also provided personal protective equipment (PPE) to the Doctors, nurses to make sure the y can be protected while delivering the services needed against the coronavirus says Dr Martin Mokake

(Buea-Cameroon) Dr Martin Mokake, Director of the Buea Regional Hospital in Cameroon, and Chief Medical Officer of the said institution has in a press outing said the SWR at the moment is free from the coronavirus pandemic.

This comes after three persons, two in Buea and one in Limbe were suspected to have contracted the virus. Test conducted has however indicated that the three cases are negative of the virus.

“There is no case in the region, but we have this tendency of taking anybody who present such symptoms to make sure that we can be able to keep the population safe because when we leave that person there is a potential for more persons to be contaminated. We had such persons, and we took the samples and send to Yaounde and none of those cases tested positive,” Dr Martin Mokake said.

He went further to add that: “A few of those persons had travel to other countries that are heavily hit by this pandemic. Some people came from other countries that were moderately hit, but they transited through some countries that were fairly hit. They had symptoms like sore throat, fever, and later went to dry cough. Some persons here in Buea had travelled to other regions affected to do businesses and interacted with people who we could not say were positive or not. It was our responsibility to go there and keep them confined until proven negative.”

The Regional Hospital in Buea is amongst the two centers in the South West Region that is capable of responding to a positive case in the region. The other is the Regional Hospital in Limbe.

Observers say this is not enough to adequately respond to positive cases in the entire region couple with the security problems the Region has been facing in some parts, in recent times.

“We are readying as our content is,” Dr Mokake noted responding to how ready the Buea Regional Hospital is to respond to positive cases. “We also have the responsibility in educating the population to make sure that the measures put by the government are respected as we have been carrying out a lot of sensitization.”

“…prevention continues as we have increased the hand washing points in the hospital. We have activated our borehole to make sure that we have constant water in the hospital. We have about 40 sanitizer dispensers at the entrance of every building in the hospital, and we have also made sure we have those sanitizers in wards.”

With medical Doctors nurses and caregivers being infected by the coronavirus globally, the Buea Regional Hospital has taken necessary steps from preventing such cases. “We have carried out in the house trainings; specified trainings have been organized to some staff members. We have also provided personal protective equipment (PPE) to the Doctors, nurses to make sure the y can be protected while delivering the services needed. So those heroes who put out their lives to safe the community deserve some protection, and that is what we are doing.”

Space is obviously very important for patients to be treated and medical practitioners to have a comfortable environment to work in

The total number of confirmed cases in Africa for the coronavirus stands at 3033 and counting. South Africa is the hardest hit on the continent with 927 confirmed cases at the writing of this report. Egypt has 495 confirmed cases while Algeria is at 367 confirmed cases. Cameroon is at 88 confirmed cases. More than 461000 people have been diagnosed with the disease, 20000 of whom have died.

The positive about the coronavirus outbreak is that many people continue to recover from the virus. More than 113000 people have recovered from the novel coronavirus across the globe, according to several sources tracking the global number of Covid-19 cases. China, which had the most Covid-19 cases, also had most of the total recoveries, with more than 73000. 

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Cameroon: Heavy Rain causes Flooding, Damage Homes, and Havoc on Roads in Buea
March 28, 2020 | 0 Comments

Heavy downpour has completely wreaked many houses and buildings in Buea, Fako Division of the South West Region.

By Boris Esono Nwenfor

At about 2pm local time, March 24, heavy down pour was witnessed in the Buea municipality, chief town of the South West Region which at the end left many homes damaged, and some roads impassable.

With the floods giving no warnings, many people had to abandon their homes in search of shelter, while other braced up for any unforeseen inevitability.

The downpour triggered runoffs with some houses completely destroyed. Videos and photos online shows a resident’s car partly submerged in water. Calls boxes were tumbled, houses destroyed in some localities, and in other places the road was impassable.

The runoff in some localities caused damage on roads. The population could be seen using their bare hands to remove debris from the road.

“The citizens of Buea should know where to construct their houses because when such incidents occur they always tend to blame the council for what happens forgetting they were the cause for their houses being destroyed,” Barrister David Mafany Namange said in an interview.

Locals have blamed the poor drainage system in the municipality, the non-respect of building codes, lack of culverts are some reasons for the cause of the damage caused by the runoff. Across, the municipality one can hardly find a good drainage system where the runoff can be channelled.

Poor building plans in Buea are another cause for concern. Inhabitants hardly consult contractors when building their homes and some build without even making a passage for runoff.

Drainage, graveling and compacting affected roads, filling gullies with rubber; building culverts and drifts on roads are some urgent measures that need to be implemented to prevent the situation from being witnessed again.

“Every one hundred years, the gods of the Mountain cause such to happen in the Buea municipality,” one inhabitant noted, though this statement cannot be totally verified by this reporter.

The Governor of the South West Region Bernard Okalia Bilai was on the scene this March 25 to assess the damages due to the downpour. Nothing was however said by him as to how the government plans to take care of those whose houses were destroyed, and damages caused.

In the locality of Bokwai village, the rainfall caused damages on the crops and other properties of inhabitants. In Greet Soppo, many houses were destroyed as water swept belongings belonging to one inhabitant of the area.

These damages caused serious freights in mind is of the villagers, while the victims were looking for ways on how to secure themselves and their properties; others ran away from the area with the fear that it might be more dangerous.

Some villagers said it is the Bakweri tradition  that every after 10 or 15 years Buea always experience such fall from the mountain, others said it may be that the gods of the mountain (Epasa Moto) are not happy with the people.

According Moki Mokondo, a lecturer in UB, what happened in upper Buea is what they call in geology, “Mud Flow” cause by an unusual rain fall or sudden thaw. “The fall was just made of mud, water plus fragments of a rock, and other debris which often behave like flood and this happens when it rains severely up the mountain and when the soil gets saturated of keeping the water, it runs off.”

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COVID -19: Gambia Declares State of Public Emergency
March 28, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Bakary Ceesay

President Adama Barrow

Gambian President, Adama Barrow has declared a state of public emergency on Friday to curb the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

In a Televised address to the national Barrow said the declaration came on the heels of the proclamation he signed on 18th March 2020, which was published in the gazette as in accordance with the law, hinting that with a persisting situation existing, could lead to a declaration of public emergency.

“I have now signed a second proclamation declaring a state of public emergency throughout the Gambia. Under this proclamation, the following measures shall be enforced with effect from today, 27th March 2020: all non-essential food outlets in all markets and enclosed shopping areas shall be closed.

“All non-essential public places such as bars, cafeterias, cinemas, video clubs, gymnasiums, museums, night clubs, public swimming pools, event halls, casinos, gaming parlour, and sporting venues shall be closed.

“All public places of worship shall be closed. The number of people attending any social gathering such as weddings, naming ceremony, and funerals shall be restricted to the maximum of ten people.

“All public transports shall carry half of the total number of passengers they are allowed to transport by law,” he stated.

The Gambia’s case confirmation remains at three so far with one death. The authorities said the closest contact to the deceased has had inconclusive test results and it was to be rerun. 

The president also invokes his powers under the Emergency Powers Act of the law of The Gambia, to sign a series of regulations, including freezing of prices of all essential commodities to prevent any form of hoarding. 

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Makerspaces offer Authentic Student-Centred Learning and Skills for Employability in the 21st Century
March 27, 2020 | 0 Comments

Dr. Ahmed Shaikh *

Professor Ahmed Shaikh is an academic and researcher and serves as the Managing Director of REGENT Business School, in South Africa

In the past week, discussions at the World Economic Forum (WEF) have once again highlighted how we are living in a time of accelerated change and disruption in which society faces increasing pressure to evolve its systems and processes to meet the demands of the 21st century and beyond. Within this perspective education is the most sophisticated social technology of societal transformation for cocreating and contributing to sustainable, regenerative and thriving futures.

However, the global Higher Education (HE) sector finds itself at a critical juncture in this period: The profound impact of disruptive and exponential technologies, shifting labour market dynamics coupled within dramatically-new needs for skills in the creative economy are all challenging the very raison d’etre of HE. Vexing questions are being asked as to whether HE is able to adapt quickly enough to match the rate of evolution of new types of jobs, professions and occupations that require a new set of skills for agile and collaborative work teams. Current and prospective ‘users’ of HE are increasingly challenging the model, approach and impact that traditional HE is able to offer.

But it is not all doom and gloom. Each industrial revolution, with its general purpose technologies, has also led to new employment opportunities, with greater decentralisation of the economy, and increasing distribution of power and resources across the economy.

In the context of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the powerful and lucrative alliance between Artificial Intelligence (AI) and a data-driven society is redefining how business and commerce benefits from the digital footprints of countless human interactions daily. The ever expanding range of exponential technologies are already impacting virtually every facet of human endeavour from healthcare and education to the economy and the planet.

Given this increasing social and economic complexity in all domains of human life, the time is opportune to re-conceptualise the purpose and design of education. It is in this context that progressive HE institutions are exploring new ways of engaging ‘users’ of HE for more meaningful educational outcomes and employability competencies.

A crucial element for business and educational leaders is to align workplace needs with higher education preparation systems to promote student success in a career after graduation, rather than simply focusing on traditional academic achievements or grades.

Academic Makerspaces are therefore increasingly being looked to as a method for engaging learners in creative, higher-order problem-solving and active learning skills through hands-on design, construction, and iteration. Consequently, the interdisciplinary, collaborative and empowering natures of these makerspaces help prepare students for a future that one cannot imagine.

Makerspaces provide powerful contexts and opportunities for students to learn and develop new skills and draws upon the innately human desire to make things using our hands and our brains. They provide this necessary outlet for students, fuelling engagement, creativity and curiosity. Research has shown that students who participate in activities involving innovation were inquisitive, imaginative and motivated and they are eager to solve real problems that could help people.

Student-centred learning in a Makerspace can also empower students, helping them to shift from being passive consumers of information and products to active creators and innovators. It allows students to take control of their lives, be more active, and be responsible for their own learning. Furthermore, it is the ‘process of making’ that emerges as a powerful experience for students, not necessarily the completion of a final project. These experiences can significantly enhance a student’s thinking and work in many different fields.

There is a strong body of research that shows how active, meaningful, project or problem-based learning activities coupled with flipped learning and student-centred (or constructivist) pedagogies can significantly improve students’ acquisition of skills and retention of learning. In addition, if such pedagogies are deployed in 21st century learning environments such as makerspaces, this provides formidable opportunities to radically reform education and training for the creative economy of the current era.

Education within a Makerspace fosters curiosity, tinkering, and iterative learning, which in turn leads to better thinking through better questioning. This learning environment fosters enthusiasm for learning, student confidence, and natural collaboration. Ultimately the outcome of maker education and academic makerspaces leads to determination, independent and creative problem solving, and an authentic preparation for the real world by simulating real-world challenges.

Honoris United Universities, through one of its partner institutions in South Africa, REGENT Business School, has established its academic makerspace under the auspices of the iLeadLAB.

The iLeadLAB providesits students, alumni communities and business partners opportunities to bridge the gap between learning and work through Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) immersion, work-related learning and internship bootcamps, thus reducing the educationjob mismatch and increasing employability competencies of its graduates.

Through these new innovations, Honoris United Universities is challenging the idea of a traditional classroom by exploring how new physical and virtual learning environments can affect and improve not only learning outcomes but empower the students and unemployed individuals to become innovative entrepreneurs and productive members of an inclusive economy.

*Professor Ahmed Shaikh is an academic and researcher and serves as the Managing Director of REGENT Business School, in South Africa

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Zimbabwe: African Development Bank approves $8.25 million loan to food producer Olivine Industries
March 27, 2020 | 0 Comments

The Board of Directors of the African Development Bank Group has approved a $8.25 million corporate loan to Olivine Industries Limited to support the company’s food production expansion plan in Zimbabwe.

The Bank’s loan, approved on Wednesday, will enable the company to construct new processing plants for margarine and tomato sauce and install upgraded machinery with advanced technologies. Olivine plans to increase its domestic and regional production capacity and food supply.

“With this transaction, the Bank will provide long-term hard currency financing in the Zimbabwean market, and create a strong demonstration effect to both commercial and development finance institutions, which will encourage investments in agribusinesses in Zimbabwe,” said Atsuko Toda, Director, Agriculture Finance and Rural Development at the African Development Bank.

Toda said Olivine presented a unique opportunity for the Bank to participate in rebuilding agricultural value chains in Zimbabwe, thereby creating jobs, improving food security and nutrition while reducing the country’s dependence on food imports. Once the company’s production reaches an adequate level, this project can potentially support 200 to 300 local farmers through Olivine’s corporate farming model to be developed in the near future.

In approving the loan, Board members said the transaction provided a good opportunity for the Bank to deepen effective private sector intervention in a transition state, while also promoting the “Feed Africa” agenda that forms part of the Bank’s High 5 strategic priorities.

Incorporated in 1950, Olivine is one of the largest food producers in Zimbabwe, manufacturing well-known products such as margarine, cooking oil, and canned goods. Olivine has been bolstered by the experience and track record of its majority shareholder, Wilmar International, one of the largest companies listed on the Singapore Stock Exchange.

*AFDB

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African Development Bank launches record breaking $3 billion “Fight COVID-19” Social Bond
March 27, 2020 | 0 Comments

Landmark transaction, largest Social bond transaction to date in capital markets

The African Development Bank (AAA) has raised an exceptional $3 billion in a three-year bond to help alleviate the economic and social impact the Covid-19 pandemic will have on livelihoods and Africa’s economies.  

The Fight Covid-19 Social bond, with a three-year maturity, garnered interest from central banks and official institutions, bank treasuries, and asset managers including Socially Responsible Investors, with bids exceeding $4.6 billion. This is the largest Social Bond ever launched in international capital markets to date, and the largest US Dollar benchmark ever issued by the Bank. It will pay an interest rate of 0.75%.

The African Development Bank Group is moving to provide flexible responses aimed at lessening the severe economic and social impact of this pandemic on its regional member countries and Africa’s private sector.

“These are critical times for Africa as it addresses the challenges resulting from the Coronavirus. The African Development Bank is taking bold measures to support African countries. This $3 billion Covid-19 bond issuance is the first part of our comprehensive response that will soon be announced. This is indeed the largest social bond transaction to date in capital markets. We are here for Africa, and we will provide significant rapid support for countries,” said Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank Group.

The order book for this record-breaking bond highlights the scale of investor support, which the African Development Bank enjoys, said the arrangers.

“As the Covid-19 outbreak is dangerously threatening Africa, the African Development Bank lives up to its huge responsibilities and deploys funds to assist and prepare the African population, through the financing of access to health and to all other essential goods, services and infrastructure,” said Tanguy Claquin, Head of Sustainable Banking, Crédit Agricole CIB.

Coronavirus cases were slow to arrive in Africa, but the virus is spreading quickly and has infected nearly 3,000 people across 45 countries, placing strain on already fragile health systems. 

It is estimated that the continent will require many billions of dollars to cushion the impact of the disease as many countries scrambled contingency measures, including commercial lockdowns in desperate efforts to contain it. Globally, factories have been closed and workers sent home, disrupting supply chains, trade, travel, and driving many economies toward recession. 

Commenting on the landmark transaction, George Sager, Executive Director, SSA Syndicate, Goldman Sachs said: “In a time of unprecedented market volatility, the African Development Bank has been able to brave the capital markets in order to secure invaluable funding to help the efforts of the African

continent’s fight against Covid-19. Not only that, but in the process, delivering their largest ever USD benchmark. A truly remarkable outcome both in terms of its purpose but also in terms of a USD financing”.

The Bank established its Social Bond framework in 2017 and raised the equivalent of  $2 billion through issuances denominated in Euro and Norwegian krone. In 2018 the Bank was designated by financial markets, ‘Second most impressive social or sustainability bond issuer” at the Global Capital SRI Awards.

“We are thankful for the exceptional level of interest the Fight Covid-19 Social Bond has raised across the world, as the African Development Bank moves towards lessening the social and economic impact of the pandemic on a continent already severely constrained. Our Social bond program enables us to highlight our strong development mandate to the investor community, allowing them to play a part in improving the lives of the people of Africa. This was an exceptional outcome for an exceptional cause,” said Hassatou Diop N’Sele, Treasurer, African Development Bank.

Fight Covid-19 was allocated to central banks and official institutions (53%), bank treasuries (27%) and asset managers (20%). Final bond distribution statistics were as follows: Europe (37%), Americas (36%), Asia (17%) Africa (8%,) and Middle-East (1%). 

*AFDB


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Paradigm Initiative Launches 2019 Digital Rights In Africa Report
March 27, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Uzman Unis Bah

Accra, Ghana – the Paradigm Initiative has launched the 2019 digital rights in Africa report; giving an in-depth analysis of the state of digital rights in Africa, the report paints a miserable picture of the state of the digital right in the continent.

The report examines defilements such as internet disruptions, illegal surveillance, detention of bloggers and the espousal of spiteful legislation that make the work of media practitioners more challenging. 

In Benin, the report finds the government in November 2018 significantly increased prices of mobile Internet data; the country has legal provisions to oversee digital activities. “All of these provisions are kept in the guise of transforming the country into a hub for digital services in Africa,” the report claims. The report further disclosed, “The new law criminalizes the publication of false information, online press offences and incitement of rebellion using the Internet.”

The report accounts that Internet shutdown was condemned by civil society organizations and the Embassy of the United States in Benin, showing a stack decline of the country’s democracy. It states.

“In 2019, in response to human rights abuses perpetrated in Cameroon, a statement by President Donald Trump was sent to the Cameroonian authorities stating that the country would be removed from participating in the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), with the sanction expected to come into force in January 2020.” The report affirmed. According to the report, the Cameroonian government is yet to respond to the United State Government’s concern over the persistent human rights violations committed by its security forces.

From West Africa to North Africa, similar repressive tactics transpires. “Digital rights in Egypt, in the past 4 years, has been shaped by the brutal repression by the Sisi regime, and the prospects for the future of digital rights under the regime is not exactly bright.” The report accounts.

It claims “The Computer Crime Proclamation of 2016 supplements other proclamations in Ethiopia that restrict Internet’s freedom by criminalizing legitimate speech as defamation and giving intelligence and law enforcement agencies untamed power to conduct surveillance…”

The Broadcasting Service Proclamation and the Charities and Societies Proclamation are part of regulations used to exercise control over the human rights landscape; it is evident, internet shutdowns are very common in Ethiopia. “…longest of all shutdowns came, on 23rd June 2019, in the aftermath of high-profile political assassinations of top military officials in Addis Ababa and the President of Amhara region, along with his two top advisers in Bahir Dar, Amhara region’s capital.” The report furthered.

In 2019, Malawi had it first Internet disruption that lasted for about 6 hours. “Television and radio networks were also reported to have been down in some parts of the country.” the report points out. The report exposed high-level censorships; it states, “One digital rights-related arrest was recorded in 2019, of a man who was jailed for likening the first lady, Gertrude Mutharika, to a cartoon character on social media.”

Successive African governments have been using these strategies to suppress non-conforming opinions, to dispirit the voices in society that tend to stir public knowledge on government flaws and dysfunctionality.

“In a demonstration of the general digital rights climate in Morocco, ongoing-targeted spyware attacks against human rights defenders have been discovered in the country, beginning from 2017 to date. These attacks, reported by Amnesty International, have been implemented using NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware. These attacks were carried out through SMS messages carrying malicious links that if clicked, would attempt to exploit the mobile device of the victim and install NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware.” The report noted.

“We noted that the most obvious manifestation of the worsening human rights situation in Nigeria could be discerned in the numerous arrests of citizens, bloggers and journalists since the political transition in May 2015. Tracking by Paradigm Initiative has revealed a continued spike in arrests of dissenting and critical voices in Nigeria, with an initial peak observed in 2017. The year 2019, however, was much worse.” The report revealed.

Digital rights in Nigeria are under threat, as the Digital Rights in Africa Report 2019 indicates several legislations and policies, which have been in development over the past few years that aims to stifle the media.  The Terrorism Amendment Bill, the draft Executive Hate Speech Bill- that was submitted to the Ministry of Justice in 2017 and the Independent National Commission for Hate Speeches Bill, 2018, all amounts to schemes of preventing free speech, it accounts.

It further stated, “at least two of this repressive legislation have now been resurrected, less than 6 months into the 9th National Assembly in 2019. Within the space of one week, the Nigerian senate introduced two draft laws that are poised to negatively affect how Nigerians use online platforms for expressing opinions and views.”

“Rwanda’s Media Law is oppressive as it states, in Article 83, penalties for crimes committed through the press such as vague language and any publication that is considered to be in “contempt to the Head of State” or “endangers public decency.” Rwandan Penal Code is an oppressive law, which has sections on defamation and privacy offences, journalists work at risk of getting imprisonment for doing their job.  “Some media occasionally broadcast programs on ‘sensitive’ issues; however, most are heavily dominated by pro-government views. Earlier in 2019, Rwanda proposed a countrywide DNA database, a project that will involve collecting samples from all 12 million citizens, to address crime.” It states.

“This has prompted concerns among human rights campaigners who believe the database could be misused by the government to violate international human rights laws.” It notes.

It is indicated,  although additional explanation has been made towards the implementation of this proposal, it notes that Rwanda’s Data Protection and Privacy Policy is not comprehensive enough to handle such a complex database.

The report shows there is a consistent effort by these countries to suppress dissenting opinions; Sudan is not different from the other countries in introducing new laws that suppress dissenting voices.  “This was done by introducing a new cybercrime law and making amendments to the media law, both of which were passed in June 2018. The new cybercrime law announced criminal penalties for the spread of fake news online, while amendments to the media law required online journalists to register with the Journalism Council.”

These new laws gave more power to the Sudan government in crackdown on online activities. The Cybercrime Law states that online publishing on different platforms can fall under the category of –“spreading fake news”. “It also uses vaguely defined terms that help regulate the content produced and consumed online” The report disclosed, and furthered that, “In recent protests, Reporters Without Borders (RSF)125 condemned the Sudanese government’s abuses of media and journalists in attempts to deter them from publishing ongoing protests.”

An upshot of the fact, both the ordinary man and the journalist are faced with the challenge of not being able to exercise their freedom of expression in this Sudan. “Arrests over content posted on social media is not uncommon.” It attests.

According to the report, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, are all using laws that help to suppress free media. The report affirms that “In the past few years, digital rights violations in Africa have been on the increase because civil societies have borne a disproportionate burden of the required work in the context of what ought to be a multi-stakeholder effort. Until governments and private sector organizations assume greater responsibility for digital rights, the status quo will largely remain.”

The report illustrates a disturbing reality of how African nations design regulations not to give media laxity, but to muzzle media freedom, and to quash dissenting voices in the society. 

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Trading thrives as new highway financed by the African Development Bank opens up northern Togo
March 26, 2020 | 0 Comments

The 120-metre Alemondji bridge was built as part of the renovation of the roads on the CU9 corridor linking Lomé, Cinkansé and Ouagadougou

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast, March 26, 2020/ — Every Tuesday, Alemondji market in northern Togo swarms with people. Amid the throng, Burkinabe and Ghanaian traders offer clothes and kitchen utensils for sale. Others, calling out their wares, come from the nearby towns of Lawagnon, Moreta and Issati. Their stalls overflow with peanuts, millet, sorghum, sesame and beans.

“Just a few years ago, it was no easy matter to travel to this market. It was open for three days in succession, Tuesday to Thursday, and then again on Sunday, but we only came for one day, because our main route to travel to the market was so poor,” said Robiro Kadokah, a millet seller.

Her taxi from Issati now crosses the Alemondji bridge at a good speed. Located 200 kilometres (km) north of the Togolese capital Lomé, the bridge is a symbol of the opening-up of many of the region’s agricultural communities.

“Before, when we travelled from Lawagnon, Moreta or Issati, we had to make a 50-kilometre detour before reaching the main road. Then, we could set off for Alemondji to go to the market. It all took two or three hours, and we were losing customers. Now, though, it only takes 10 or 15 minutes for us to get to the market place,” the 50-year-old woman explained as she got out at the bus station.

Akilasso Magasso is a tax collector. He too has less to worry about than he used to. “We really were cut off from the rest of the world. Only a few motorcycles managed to make the journey along the muddy road to Alemondji. We have got our smiles back since this bridge was built,” he said enthusiastically.

The 120-metre Alemondji bridge was built as part of the renovation of the roads on the CU9 corridor linking Lomé, Cinkansé and Ouagadougou. The $325 million-project was 70% financed by the African Development Fund, the concessional funding arm of the African Development Bank, and by the Fragile States Facility.

Work was carried out on 150 km of road in Togo and a further 153 km in Burkina Faso. On the Togolese side, the Atakpamé-Blitta (102 km) and Blitta-Aouda (48 km) sections were renovated, 55 km of rural feeder roads were improved, and the Alemondji bridge was rebuilt.

Since the road rehabilitation there has been an increase in traffic to and from Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali to 2 million tonnes of goods per year since 2016. Travel times between the Burkinabe capital of Ouagadougou and the port of Lomé halved from six to three days between 2011 and 2016.

“All the conditions are right to make trouble-free journeys by both day and night. We are seeing many traders every week from neighbouring countries such as Ghana and Burkina Faso working at Alemondji market. This road and especially this bridge have revitalised our region,” said Robiro Kadokah.

Besides the market, other important resources are more accessible, improving the quality of life for residents. For  example, the Lawagnon Adult Training Institute for the Development of Fish Farming and the Order of Malta general hospital are all now reachable across the bridge. 

“Patients are regularly sent to this hospital. They mostly come from the capital, Lomé. Now that the bridge has been restored, it is saving lives,” Magasso said.

“This infrastructure ensures a flow of agricultural production and improved access to markets for inputs and products. Not only that, it stimulates the economy and facilitates the region’s integration into the national and international economies,” said Georges Bohoussou, the African Development Bank’s Country Manager in Togo.

Bohoussou said the CU9 road project had put an end to the isolation of the agricultural communities of Gbécon and Morétan and had improved the supply of drinking water for 15 neighbouring villages. To improve women’s incomes, the project also renovated and extended the international market at Anié and the weekly market at Doufio in northern Togo. 
About the African Development Bank Group:
The African Development Bank Group (www.AfDB.org) 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. 

*AFDB
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Nigeria COVID-19 Testing Support Fund Launched by 54gene
March 26, 2020 | 0 Comments

$500,000 [N185m] Raised to Expand Coronavirus Testing Facilities in Nigeria 

Lagos, Nigeria. 26th March 2020, 54gene, the African genomics research, services, and development company, has launched a fund to tackle the current challenges around testing for COVID-19 in Nigeria. To support the ongoing efforts of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control [NCDC], 54gene opened the fund by donating $150,000 and within 24 hours of launch, had already secured an additional $350,000 from partners including Union Bank.  The money raised will help increase COVID-19 testing capacity in the country by up to 1,000 additional tests a day, by buying testing instruments and the required biosafety materials such as biosafety cabinets and personal protective equipment needed to keep frontline healthcare workers safe.

Ongoing discussions with other Nigerian institutions are currently taking place, as the company looks to raise enough to accelerate and expand to up to 5,000 tests per day. By intensifying the testing process for COVID-19, 54gene and funding partners plan to help minimize the spread of the infection, which has had a devastating effect on populations around the world. The team is also making a call for a COVID-19 workforce trained in using qPCR instruments and other molecular diagnostics methods, with the expectation that monies raised will be channelled towards recruiting these people for a period of time to support existing public laboratories. 

Working in unison with the NCDC and other stakeholders, 54gene’s team expects to start deploying the fund within days, purchasing vital testing equipment, to be used by medical professionals. All equipment will be installed in public hospitals and laboratories across Nigeria, and will remain in situ once the current COVID-19 pandemic subsides, to be used by medical researchers and clinicians in case of any future outbreaks. In addition, there will also be significant investment in providing training and support to medical professionals/ personnel and volunteers working in coronavirus testing sites across the country, ensuring the mass roll out of effective and robust testing for tens of thousands more Nigerians.  

Dr Abasi Ene-Obong, CEO 54gene says, “With the Nigeria COVID-19 Testing Fund, we are working in sync with the NCDC to make Nigeria’s public health an absolute priority during this global pandemic, which has left thousands dead or fighting for their lives. We are extremely ambitious in our mission to expand the testing capacity for Nigeria, and expect to increase the present rate by at least 10X in the coming weeks. In order to contain the spread of COVID-19, it is essential for us to know who has the disease, so we can put in place effective measures around quarantining confirmed cases. 

“The rapid and assured response from some of Nigeria’s most reputable institutions, such as Union Bank, to join us in our fight against this deadly disease, is highly welcome and we thank them for their unwavering support. They, like us, understand the need for a multi-stakeholder, co-ordinated plan, that can be implemented almost immediately, as we work together as a community, side-by-side, to fight COVID-19 and protect our population.” 

To-date, the NCDC has recorded 51 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and the Nigerian Government has taken a number of important steps to control the spread of the disease, including imposing flight and travel restrictions, as well as producing stringent guidelines for mass gatherings and self-isolation. 

Director General of NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu adds, “This is the kind of support we need. Identify a problem, run with it and include a sustainability plan in your solution. We are very grateful for this new partnership with 54gene at a critical point in our health security”

Dr Ene-Obong concludes, “As a matter of course, we advise that everyone follows the guidelines set by the World Health Organisation [WHO], by washing hands regularly and maintaining social distancing, in order to stop the spread of the disease. Our job, with the COVID-19 Fund, is to build the requisite infrastructure to ensure that testing can be conducted at scale, so together we can better control this virus, before it takes a hold in Nigeria.” 

54gene

54gene is a genomics research, services and development company located in Nigeria and the United States. The company was founded in 2019 by Dr Abasi Ene-Obong to improve our understanding of the world’s most genetically diverse population. 54gene utilises human genetic data from diverse African populations, to improve the development, availability and efficacy of medical products that will prove beneficial to Africans and the wider global population. 

Nigeria Centre for Disease Control 

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control [NCDC] is the country’s national public health institute, with the mandate to lead the preparedness, detection and response to infectious disease outbreaks and public health emergencies. 

* For those wishing to contribute to the Nigeria COVID-19 Testing Fund, contact Nigeriacovid19fund@54gene.com 

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When Covid-19 and OPEC Price War strikes Africa’s Oil & Gas Sector
March 26, 2020 | 0 Comments
The immediate effect of Covid-19 for the sector has been on the demand for crude oil, and on its prices

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, March 26, 2020/ — African governments set to see decline in revenues; Exploration projects put on hold; Thousands of local jobs at risk if nothing is done.

While the short-term effects of Covid-19 on world economies are already being felt and put millions in a situation of economic distress, their long-term ones are yet to be fully grasped. In sub-Saharan Africa, the impact will be felt even stronger because the pandemic is being combined with a historic crash in oil prices, putting pressure on state budgets and testing the resilience of the continent’s strongest energy companies.

The immediate effect of Covid-19 for the sector has been on the demand for crude oil, and on its prices. Most analysts and operators now agree that 2020 could see a negative demand growth for oil globally as industries shut down and countries around the world go on lock down. The effect on prices has been nothing short of devastating: they have reached their lowest levels since 1991 and currently stand at below $25 a barrel.

For Africa, this means an immediate pressure on state budgets and macro-economic stability. Apart from South Africa, the continent’s biggest economies rely heavily on oil revenue to fuel state budget and public spending and ensure macro-economic stability. All sub-Saharan Africa’s producers had budgeted 2020 with an oil benchmark well above $50, from $51 in Equatorial Guinea all the way up to $57 in Nigeria. With predictions that oil prices won’t go anywhere above $30 for the rest of the year, most budgets need to be re-adjusted and public spending needs to be drastically cut.

According to the Atlantic Council, major African producers could expect multi-billion dollar losses in state revenues this year. Congo-Brazzaville could take the hardest hit, with a loss representing 34% of its GPD, in a country where debt-to-GDP ratio is already around 90%. The same applies to Angola, where oil prices at $30 would generate a revenue loss of almost $13bn, or 13% of GDP. Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Chad could see losses of almost 10% of GDP due to the ongoing crisis. Nigeria finally would suffer the biggest lost with $15.4bn, still according to the Atlantic Council. While it would represent only 4% of its GDP, the impact on marginal producers and local jobs would potentially be devastating. Newer producers would also suffer revenue losses: in Ghana, the the Africa Centre for Energy Policy (ACEP) estimates a potential revenue loss of 53% down to $743 million instead of the $1.567bn the country expected to receive this year.

“Thousands of Africans and expats are going to be laid off in oil-producing countries as companies shut down their drilling rigs and planned projects. We need to face the reality as these times are unprecedented. The uncertainty is even more frustrating for oil companies and the workers. Forgive me but there is blood on the streets, in the water and the air has the coronavirus,” said NJ Ayuk is Executive Chairman of the African Energy Chamber and Petroleum industry lobbyist. “Petroleum-producing countries need to come together and work with the private sector in order to get us through the COVID 19 crisis and mitigate the economic fallout as much as possible. When the US and Europe are talking about a recession, most African countries and the common man on the streets have likely already entered a depression,” added Ayuk.

The long-term effects that Covid-19 will have on the sector in Africa depends on what happens this year and in the following month. Cuts in exploration spending and cancellation of drilling plans today could potentially mean years of delay in new discoveries, reserves replacement and new fields being brought on stream. The biggest international oil companies operating in the continent are all cutting spending by an average of 20% globally, which is set to impact exploration and projects in Africa. While ExxonMobil considers several reductions in spending, Shell has already announced a reduction of underlying operating costs by $3 to $4bn and a reduction of cash capital expenditure of $5bn. Total’s organic capex is being cut by more than $3 billion, representing 20% of its planned 2020 capex. Chevron is also reducing capital and exploratory spending by 20%, including a $700 million cut in upstream projects and exploration.

These IOCs were expected to take major final investment decisions this year or in the near future on multi-billion dollar projects in Africa. These include Shell’s Bonga South-West project, ExxonMobil’s Bosi, Owowo West and Uge-Orso projects, or Chevron’s Nsiko project. regardless of how close each of these were to FID, they are very unlikely to get sanctioned this year. Recent statements from independents are going in the same direction. Woodside Energy for instance is currently reviewing all options to preserve and enhance the value of its Sangomar Offshore Oil Project in Senegal, whose first oil was expected in 2023.

Beyond oil, natural gas and LNG projects are also already being delayed. ExxonMobil’s announcement that it would postpone the green-light on Mozambique’s multi-billion dollar Rovuma LNG project is sending worrying signals for instance. Similarly, BP and Kosmos are already working to defer the 2020 Tortue Phase 1 capital spending for their multi-billion dollar FLNG project in Mauritania and Senegal. Together, Rovuma LNG and Greater Tortue Ahmeyim represent the biggest hopes Africa had to strengthen its position as a new global LNG export hub. Delaying such projects will have significant consequences on forecasted economic growth in each country.

Finally, the long-term impact of Covid-19 is taking shape right now, as exploration programs are put on hold. Much-awaited drilling like FAR’s plans in The Gambia this year have been suspended. Other planned seismic acquisition projects have also already been cancelled, such as EMHS’ CSEM Survey offshore Senegal and Mauritania for BP which was set to begin this month, or Polarcus’ 3D seismic acquisition project offshore West Africa. Meanwhile, most licensing rounds that were set to confirm Africa as a global exploration frontier this year will most likely not live up to expectations. South Sudan for instance has already announced the suspension of its oil & gas licensing round this year.

While African nations grapple with the crisis brought by Covid-19 and the OPEC price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia, the initiatives they take today will determine the future of their oil & gas industries for years. Local companies, be they producers or services providers, are at the frontline and need all the possible support they can get to avoid cutting jobs and survive the crisis. As Shoreline Energy CEO Kola Karim recently phrased it, “when the elephants fight, it’s the smaller producers that suffer.” Supporting these smaller producers and their local contractors should be a priority to preserve the long-term future and prosperity of Africa’s oil & gas sector.

*Source Africa Energy Chamber
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Three Things the G20 must do to support Africa in COVID-19 Pandemic
March 26, 2020 | 0 Comments
The G20 Summit 2019 in Osaka, Japan .Photo Reuters
The G20 Summit 2019 in Osaka, Japan .Photo Reuters

Addis Ababa, 26 March 2020 (ECA) – This is a global crisis affecting the whole world. Africa, however, will be hit harder with a heavy and durable economic toll, which will threaten progress and prospects, widen inequalities between and within countries, and worsen current fragilities.

African countries need support in preparing for the health crisis, and for the economic fallout. The measures being taken in Asia, Europe and North America such as physical (social) distancing and regular hand washing will be a particular challenge for countries with limited internet connectivity, dense populations, unequal access to water and limited social safety nets.

In line with the steps being taken across the globe, African countries are preparing for the worst effects of this pandemic.

Here are the three things the G20 must do:

1. Support for an immediate health and human response

a. G20 leaders should support and encourage open trade corridors, especially for pharmaceuticals and other health supplies, as well as support for the upgrade of health infrastructure and provide direct support to existing facilities. This will enable countries to focus on prevention as much as possible and start building curative facilities. Support should be provided to WHO and CDC Africa with funds channelled through the Global Fund, GAVI and others.

b. G20 leaders should support public health campaigns and access to information including through an expedited private sector partnership for internet connectivityto enable economic activity to continue during social distancing measures and to support the effective sharing of information about the pandemic.

2. Deliver an immediate emergency economic stimulus to African governments in their efforts to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic

a. G20 leaders should announce a US$100 billion (in addition to the $50bn already committed) to fund the immediate health response, social safety nets for the most vulnerable, feeding for out of school children, and to protect jobs. As a proportion of GDP this is consistent with measures taken in other regions. To ensure immediate fiscal space and liquidity, this package should include a waiver of all interest payments, estimated at US$44 billion for 2020.

b. G20 leaders should support a waiver on principal and interest for African Fragile States such as the Sahel, Central African Republic and others who are already struggling with the burden of debt and have limited fiscal space.

c. G20 leaders should endorse for enhanced predictability, transparency and accountability of financial flows so finance ministers can plan effectively and civil society stakeholders can help track flows to ensure reach those most in need.

3. Implement emergency measures to protect 30 million jobs immediately at risk across the continent, particularly in the tourism and airline sectors.

a. G20 leaders should take measures to support agricultural imports and exports, the pharmaceutical sector and the banking sector. An extended credit facility, refinancing schemes and guarantee facilities should be used to waive, restructure and provide additional liquidity in 2020.

b. G20 leaders should support a liquidity line available to the private sector operating in Africa to ensure essential purchases can continue and all SMEs dependent on trade can continue to function.

c. G20 leaders should ensure that national and regional stimulus packages covering private and financial systems include measures to support African businesses through allowing for the suspension of leasing, debt and other repayments to global businesses

*Economic assessments of the impact of COVID-19  presented to the African Ministers of Finance can be found here: uneca.org/vc-covid19-impact-africa

*Source ECA

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Afreximbank Announces $3-Billion Facility to Cushion Impact of COVID-19
March 25, 2020 | 0 Comments
Prof. Benedict Oramah, President of Afreximbank

Cairo, 24 March 2020: – The African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) has announced a $3-billion facility, named Pandemic Trade Impact Mitigation Facility (PATIMFA), to help African countries deal with the economic and health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

PATIMFA, approved by the Bank’s Board of Directors during its sitting on 20 March, will provide financing to assist Afreximbank member countries to adjust in an orderly manner to the financial, economic and health services shocks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to information released by the Bank.

It will support member country central banks, and other financial institutions to meet trade debt payments that fall due and to avert trade payment defaults, said Afreximbank. It will also be available to support and stabilize the foreign exchange resources of central banks of member countries, enabling them to support critical imports under emergency conditions.

In addition, PATIMFA will assist member countries whose fiscal revenues are tied to specific export revenues, such as mineral royalties, to manage any sudden fiscal revenue declines as a result of reduced export earnings. It will also provide emergency trade finance facilities for import of urgent needs to combat the pandemic, including medicine, medical equipment, hospital refitting, etc.

The facility will be available through direct funding, lines of credit, guarantees, cross-currency swaps and other similar instruments, according to Afreximbank.

Explaining the rationale for the facility, Prof. Benedict Oramah, President of Afreximbank, noted that the COVID-19 pandemic brought with it considerable suffering and major economic disruptions.

“Besides its worrying effect on human life, the pandemic is projected to cost the global economy up to $1 trillion and to result in a significant 0.4 per cent decline in global GDP growth, which is expected to drop from 2.9 per cent in 2019 to 2.5 per cent in 2020,” he said.

“A rapid and impactful financial response is required to avert a major crisis in Africa,” he said, pointing out that “Africa is exposed in many fronts, including significant declines in tourism earnings, migrant remittances, commodity prices and disruption of manufacturing supply chains.”

Afreximbank had already seen sharp pandemic-induced declines in commodity prices, a sudden significant drop in tourism earnings, disruptions in supply chains, and closure of export manufacturing facilities, said the President. The impact on medical supplies and medical systems in many markets had also been unprecedented.

He said that Afreximbank would work with multilateral development banks that had put in place financial assistance programmes in order to secure support to help African countries deal with adverse external shocks and crises arising from the pandemic.

Afreximbank has a history of providing support to African economies in times of economic crisis.

During the 2015 economic crisis, it introduced a Counter-Cyclical Trade Liquidity Facility under which it disbursed more than $10 billion on a revolving basis to enable member countries adjust to the adverse economic shocks. That facility helped key African economies to manage that crisis and recover swiftly.

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