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African Development Bank Group approves Gender Equality Trust Fund and Risk-Sharing Mechanism to improve women’s economic empowerment in Africa
April 3, 2020 | 0 Comments

The Board of Directors of the African Development Bank Group have approved a new Gender Equality Trust Fund (GETF) aimed at pushing forward gender equality and women’s empowerment across the continent.

Funded by donors, the GETF will support the delivery and scale-up of the Bank’s Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA) programme and promote gender transformative lending and non-lending operations. It is the first thematic fund on gender in the Bank Group’s history. The Fund will be established for an initial period of 10 years.

AFAWA is the Bank’s flagship pan-African initiative which aims to bridge the $42 billion financing gap facing women in Africa. Through AFAWA, the Bank is spearheading a major push to unlock women’s entrepreneurial capacity and economic participation for maximum development impact.

Also on Tuesday 31 March, the Board of Directors of the Bank approved a Risk-Sharing Mechanism – an innovative financial instrument to de-risk women-empowered businesses, enhance their profile with banks and support them to grow and thrive as entrepreneurs.

Anchor investors in the GETF are the governments of France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

“It’s a great day for us as a Bank. It is a great day for the continent and the women of Africa as this facility provides innovative ways to tackle the access to finance challenges for African women business owners,” said African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina.

The Africa Guarantee Fund (AGF) has been chosen as the first implementing partner to facilitate access to finance for women-owned small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). AGF is a pan-African entity that provides financial institutions with guarantees and other financial products to support SMEs in Africa. AGF has a network spread out over 42 African countries and 150-plus financial institutions, which AFAWA will leverage. This first transaction is expected to unlock up to $2 billion in credit for women-empowered businesses across the continent.

Vanessa Moungar, Bank Director, Gender, Women and Civil Society, described the approval as “the largest effort ever to bridge the gap in access to finance for women in Africa’s history” and said the Fund’s resources and the Risk-Sharing Mechanism would prioritize women’s economic empowerment and high-impact women’s initiatives.

Moungar said the partnership with AGF is a starting point for mobilizing other financial institutions and increasing access to finance for women entrepreneurs on the continent.Apart from the G7 donors and the Netherlands, other countries are showing strong interest in contributing to the initiative, including Rwanda and Sweden. The Bank Group will continue to mobilize resources in order to unlock $5 billion worth of financing for women-empowered businesses in Africa. AFAWA is also an implementing partner of the Women Entrepreneurship Finance (We-Fi) Initiative.

*AFDB

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Cameroon: Buea Council Distributes FCFA 4.5 Million to 33 Vulnerable Persons
April 3, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Boris Esono Nwenfor

1st Deputy Mayor of Buea Akawoh Minerva epse Molinge hands a cheque to a Displaced person residing in Buea
1st Deputy Mayor of Buea Akawoh Minerva epse Molinge hands a cheque to a Displaced person residing in Buea

33 vulnerable persons comprising physically challenged, those in great financial difficulty, IDPs have benefited from grants worth 4.5 Million FCFA from the Buea Council in collaboration with the Ministry of Social Affairs.

Distributing the grants Tuesday, March 31, the 1st Deputy Mayor Akawoh Minerva epse Molinge enjoined the beneficiaries to make proper use of the gift, using it to carry out the project they want to with the money.

“It is a project that is ongoing within the municipality that those who need assistance write to the Council and when it is available it is given to them,” Akawoh Minerva epse Molinge said.

“This is a follow-up programme as each year it (aid) is giving out. When they are found capable of receiving it, they grant will be giving to them.” “If someone says he is disabled and need a tricycle, the person present his/herself, and we see that the person needs a tricycle the social service will evaluate, and the grant will be made available.”

She added: “… Our beneficiaries are very faithful. Some are already in their tricycle, and if they come for some financial assistance it is different from the first application that they did. So what the beneficiaries ask for is usually provided.”

Follow-ups will be carried out to ensure that the beneficiaries do not misuse the money but used it in carrying out various businesses. “In the next two months, a team will be on the field to inspect, and make sure the aid was used judiciously,” Mbeng Marie Laure, Chief of Social Centre Buea said.

She further stressed on the fact that these grants are not ordinary gifts, but geared towards improving on the socioeconomic status of vulnerable persons in the society. 

Akoh Caroline, displaced person, former Head Teacher, and a mother of five children has been badly affected by the ongoing Anglophone crisis in Cameroon’s North West and South West Regions. She was kidnapped, giving multiple wounds while her right wrist was cut off, and her three fingers in her left hand also chopped off.

“This grant will help me a lot as I intend to open a small business while hoping to apply for more funds next time. Before I used to do farm work, but now I cannot even do that due to my present situation.”

“The FCFA 200,000 that has been given to me I will start with a table, so that when the coronavirus is over I can add other things to open a store. The only thing in can do is to take something and give to somebody with my two fingers,” She added.

She has called on the government to continue with such gesture which goes a long way in assisting the physically challenge persons in the society.

The Buea council grant is meant for physically challenged, those in great financial difficulty, Internally Displaced Persons in Buea
The Buea council grant is meant for physically challenged, those in great financial difficulty, Internally Displaced Persons in Buea

For one to benefit from the Buea council’s grants to vulnerable persons, he or she must be vulnerable which implies being physically challenged; those in great financial difficulty, Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, and residing within the Buea municipality.

The 2020 Buea council grants for vulnerable persons have been opened and those in need of such gesture have been urged to massively apply.

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Paradigm Initiative, NetRights coalition, others ‘kill’ Social Media Bill in Nigeria
April 3, 2020 | 0 Comments

In Nigeria, a coalition of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and dozen media houses have joined Paradigm Initiative to contest a controversial Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations; and for Related matters Bill, 2019 (SB. 132) during a public hearing at the Nigerian senate.

The bill popularly referred to as “Social Media Bill” was introduced in November 2019 by Muhammed Musa, a senator representing Niger East, to regulate the social media and curb fake news on the internet. Since then, the bill has continued to attract criticism from Nigerians and civil society groups.

The Bill received public outcry just like the similar Anti-Social bill introduced in 2015 during Senator Bukola Saraki-led 8th National Assembly; which has now been dropped by the Senate.

About 110 CSOs said the bill is a resuscitation of “an obnoxious bill that had been hitherto unanimously rejected by the people” and should not be further considered for public hearing to be funded by tax-payers’ money.
We have documented clauses in the proposed Bill that are likely to push the Internet space in Nigeria to the trenches.
In a memo submitted to the lawmakers, we explained extensively how the bill has huge ramifications that can threaten the fabric of Nigeria’s democracy.
The NetRightsNG represented by our Executive Director, ‘Gbenga Sesan, also believes there are existing laws which the legislature should press for their implementation.

‘Gbenga Sesan told lawmakers that: “If the desire of the Legislature is to enact a law that curbs false statements online, then Nigeria is not lacking in such laws and it does not need one more. There is adequate provision for the very objective of this Bill and a furtherance of legislative actions in the direction of the passage of this Bill will only birth the conclusion that the Legislature is willing to ineffectively use state’s time and resources to chase a cause that has already been legislated over by previous assemblies.”

In addition, Paradigm Initiative supported the participation of 6 online journalists to cover the public hearing and streamed the public hearing live across social media platform. We shared additional resources with the Senate Committee working on the Bill 

*Source Paradigm Initiative

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Tanzania benefits from $500 million World Bank education loan
April 2, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Amos Fofung

Professor Joyce Ndalichako is the current Minister for Education, Science, Technology and Vocational Training of Tanzania
Professor Joyce Ndalichako is the current Minister for Education, Science, Technology and Vocational Training of Tanzania

Bretton woods monetary institution, the World Bank has approved a $500 million education loan for Tanzania education system.

In a statement Wednesday, April 1, 2020, the World Bank said the education package will directly benefit about 6.5 million secondary school students by strengthening government-run schools and establishing stronger educational pathways for students.

“Every child in Tanzania deserves a good education, but thousands are denied this life-changing opportunity each year. This project puts the country’s young people front and center; it also dedicates two-thirds of its resources to better and safer learning environments for girls,” said Mara Warwick, World Bank country director for Tanzania.

“This is an important step in addressing the challenges that Tanzania’s children face throughout their education. The World Bank will continue our dialogue with the government on broader issues concerning equal treatment of schoolchildren,” she added in the statement.

Tanzania implements free basic education policy which increased enrolment in primary schools. However, secondary education is said to suffer from low quality and high rate of dropout. According to Jaime Saavedra, global director for education for the World Bank, “Tanzania, like many countries around the world, is suffering from a learning crisis, where children are either not in school, or are in school but not learning.”

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Mozambique: Government and African Development Bank sign financing for Mueda-Negomano road phase II
April 1, 2020 | 0 Comments

The Government of Mozambique and the African Development Bank have signed a protocol agreement for a $34 million grant for the paving of the 35-km Nambungali-Roma road to facilitate trade and promote social inclusion of local communities.

Mozambican Finance Minister Adriano Maleiane and Bank Country Representative, Pietro Toigo signed for their respective sides on 24 February. The works form part of the second phase of the Mueda – Negomano Road Project, which seeks to improve transport infrastructure between Mozambique and Tanzania.

The successful completion of the project will complement the recently constructed Unity Bridge to significantly reduce travel time to the ports of Pemba in Mozambique and Mtwara in Tanzania, and boost regional trade and integration between the two countries.

“Bridging the infrastructure gap, particularly to increase national and regional connectivity, is key to the efforts to eradicate poverty and to accelerate economic growth,” Maleiane said.

The project is also expected to foster social inclusion by stimulating employment opportunities along the corridor through sponsored vocational training and promotion of women-led businesses.

The road project will be complemented by ancillary works to increase its social inclusion impact with an additional investment of $2m in community markets, clinics and other social facilities. The Bank will also provide technical assistance to two sector agencies — Administração Nacional de Estradas (ANE) and the Fundo de Estradas (FE), giving them capacity to improve their operations. The Government of Mozambique will contribute $536,000, mainly for resettlement and compensation.

*AFDB

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Africa’s COVID-19 solution lies in information and not isolation-A look at Hubei vs New York
March 31, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Ben Kazora*

  • The black death pandemic is estimated to have killed up to 60% of Europe which was an estimate of 450 million people in the 14th century.
  • Today a virus can travel first class on KLM to Africa and infect millions
  • In Taiwan, when an infected person leaves their home or turns the phone off the police and local authority will be alerted and the person will be visited within 15 minutes
  • The Co-100 app shares when the person tested positive, their nationality, gender and age.

Africa’s Advantage in the war with COVID-19

Interesting to note how the richer nations have been first to succumb to COVID-19 scourge. I believe this is primarily owed to the business and tourism between China and the west. Africa is benefited from late infections and has the advantage of lessons learned from the earlier victims and how the nations have dealt with it. Examining the Asian and European reactions to this pandemic Africa is primed to implement the best of both worlds. To this end, I firmly believe the critical soldiers in this unique battle against the pathogens, are the data scientists in concert with the healthcare workers armed with data. This approach in my view will save the continent millions of lives, jobs and the continents vulnerable economy.

Tale of two localities: Hubei & New York

With only 404 COVID-19 (0.07% of the population) cases Singapore has proven more adept at handling this pandemic than New York. Despite a greater distance from the epicenter (Hubei Province), New York has 2.3 times more cases compared to Singapore, relative to the population. With 81,281 cases out of 1.4 billion people it’s hard to deny that China got it right.
Hubei province with 60M people had 67,801 cases. This infection rate of 0.1% remain less than New York. Wuhan, the COVID-19 epicenter had about two-thirds of all China’s cases is about to lift the lead and resume life as normal. While the western world is grappling with this pandemic, it seems there are many lessons to learn from the east. Given the technological advancements of the west and advances in medicine I couldn’t help but wonder. First off let’s examine previous pandemics.

We have been down this road before

During the 14th to 19th century the world was dealt with the Black Death. This disease that was spread by body lice started in Italy and spread across Europe to France, Spain, Portugal, Scotland, and Scandinavia among others. This pandemic is estimated to have killed up to 60% of Europe which was an estimate of 450 million people in the 14th century.

Like COVID-19 today, the smallpox pandemic was equally class-blind killing the rich and poor alike. This plague is estimated to have decimated close to 30 million Mexicans by 1568 which was way before the arrival of Hernan Cortes. Despite the Spaniards having a superior army, the microscopic ally (smallpox) that Cortes army unwillingly brought from Europe helped take down the Aztec empire. This disease spread along trade routes in Asia, Africa, and Europe, eventually reaching the Americas. Smallpox is estimated to have killed 300 million people in the 20th century alone. It’s also estimate that fatality rate was 30% of those infected.

Wherever it began, the 1918 flu pandemic lasted just 15 months but was the deadliest disease outbreak in human history, killing between 50 million and 100 million people worldwide, according to the most widely cited analysis. The effect of the flu pandemic was so severe that the average life span in the US was depressed by 10 years.

It’s information not isolation

Clearly, without airplanes or cruise ships we have seen diseases spreading from east to west Europe and across continents. This means that closing our boarders isn’t the permanent solution. Germany took in about 50 Italian COVID-19 patients to help with the treatment. German’s gesture speaks to the power of collaboration and sharing of information that has proven to be the best weapon against these pathogen. Sweden has not closed its borders or its schools. Neither has it closed non-essential businesses or banned gatherings of more than two people, like the U.K. and Germany. Sweden has taken the unorthodox approach of simply informing and trusting the citizens.
Sweden’s 10 million strong population has reported 3,700 cases and only 110 deaths, while New York reports about ten times the rates of death and infections while population difference is only double. This phenomenon further shows that isolation isn’t the true solution.

Over the years we have seen doctors win the battle against the pathogens one time too many. The secret lies in the fact that while pathogens rely on blind mutations, the doctors have been armed with the powerful scientific analysis born of information. Third world countries have always struggled to deal with the likes of Ebola due to the non-data driven approach. This present danger posed by COVID-19 presents the third world a chance to examine novel ways of fighting pandemics and epidemics. I will term the information driven approach as the Asia approach.
We have seen time and again that the Asian nations of China, Singapore and Taiwan and others have proven more efficient at handling the pandemic. Africa political philosophies happen to be more aligned with those of Asia than those of the west. In a world where a virus can travel first class on KLM to Africa and infect millions, information becomes the only tool available to combat this. The US strongly adheres to privacy laws and that makes collection of pertinent data much more difficult. Perhaps, it’s time to examine the modification of these laws during such gruesome times. I imagine people are willing to temporarily trade privacy for life.

Data is the most lethal ammunition in this war

In Beijing, “Beijing Cares” app has been integrated into the permeating WeChat app. People under quarantine are made to input their daily temperature and health status into the app. When the isolation period is over, a “healthy status” page is generated, which users can flash at buildings and malls to gain entry. The Chinese government also releases details about patients’ travel history – via text messages on the mobile phone and state-managed websites – so the public can avoid places where the virus was once active.
South Korea took more aggressive steps by deploying a innovative system using data such as surveillance camera footage and credit card transactions of confirmed COVID-19 patients to recreate their movements. Max Kim of the MIT Technology review reported that the Ministry of the Interior and Safety using their Corona-100m (Co100) app, that allows those who have been ordered not to leave home to stay in contact with case workers and report on their progress. The app will also use GPS to keep track of their location to make sure they are not breaking their quarantine. Additionally, the app allows users to see how close they are to places that COVID-19 patients have visited before testing positive. As if that’s not enough, the app also shares when the person tested positive, their nationality, gender and age.

Taiwan went further to implement mobile phone electronic fencing. This location tracking platform ensures that those quarantined remain at home. The primary intent here is to ensure those infected aren’t running around spreading the virus. When one leaves their home or turns the phone off the police and local authority will be alerted and the person will be visited within 15 minutes. Officials also call twice a day to ensure the phone isn’t left at home by the infected person. Fact remains that the virus doesn’t travel from place to place but humans take the virus from one place to another.

Can we sacrifice our privacy to save our lives?

I know the mentioned slants would run afoul of privacy laws in the west. However, this is perhaps the most ideal time for African countries to come up with the Infection Protection Act akin to the German version being modified to deal with COVID-19. MTN group has close to 244 million subscribers while Vodacom has over 110 million. All together close to 750 million people in Africa have cellphones. The solution to the war with COVID-19 and future pandemics hinges on leveraging data and technology to complement the doctor’s efforts. The World Health Organization (WHO), Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus said “the steps China took to fight the virus at its epicenter were a good way of stopping its spread.” African must act fast and swiftly. This is ultimately a sprint and not a marathon.

Remember that worry is like a rocking chair: It gives you something to do but never gets you anywhere. Instead adhere to the known protocols such as social distancing, washing hands often, cough into your elbows,stay home

* *The author is  co-founder of Limitless Software Solutions and can be reached via emails ben.kazora@limitlesssoftwares.com and bkazora@alumni.purdue.edu.


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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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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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Regional traditional fire management initiative to include Zimbabwe
March 22, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Wallace Mawire

  Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Climate Change Management department has revealed in its report following  the 25th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)  COP25 meeting  that the International Savanna Fire Management Initiative has proposed to initiate a regional traditional fire management initiative to enhance climate resilience that will include Zimbabwe, among other countries in the region.

 The International Savanna Fire Management Initiative is a partnership of three Australian non-profit organizations that include the Kimberly Land Council, Beker and the Darwin Center in Bushfire Research.

  The Initiative aims to leverage off the experience of Aboriginal ranger groups in northern Australia to support the reintroduction of traditional fire management practices around the world to reduce emissions, enhance climate resilience, and support remote community development.

  It has been reported by the department that the idea was replicated in Botswana and the initiative is looking to scale up to other parts of Southern Africa.

  It has also been revealed that the International Savanna Fire Management Initiative is  proposing to develop a Green Climate Readiness Regional Project Proposal that leverages off traditional fire management with a touch science in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Namibia. 

   Proposed project areas include the Caprivi area in Namibia), Chobe in Botswana and Hwange in  Zimbabwe.

   The fire management project is reported to support article 6 of the Paris Agreement and has carbon benefits that can be monetized and sold to carbon markets.

  The Savanna Initiative is also  targeting the  Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), GIZ and UNDP as accredited entities. 

   The Forestry Commission, Environmental Management Agency (EMA), National Parks and Wildlife Authority (ZIMPARKS)  are reported to be  key partners in proposed  project.

  It has also been reported that going forward, the Savanna Initiative will arrange a regional meeting gathering the involved entities from the three countries to sell and further develop the idea.

  “Overall the concept being proposed is not new to the country, but the regional approach brings a platform for experience sharing and stronger collaboration,” according to the department.

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COVID -19: Gambia Suspends Flights from 13 European Countries
March 20, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Bakary Ceesay

The Government of The Gambia has suspended flights from thirteen European countries from landing at the Banjul International Airport as a measure to halt the spread of Coronavirus in the country.

This came on the heels of public pressure on the government to shut down flight landing at the country’s only airport. The Gambia has announced suspension of public gathering, restricted public officials from travelling and ordered the closure of the schools to curb the virus but failed to declare that airport be closed to incoming flights.

The pressure was mounted on the government following the confirmation of one case involving a Gambian 28 old lady who arrived from the United Kingdom and tested positive on Tuesday at Medical Research Council.

On Thursday in a statement from office of the President said during a cabinet meeting was held where health experts recommended the decision. Consequently, the following European countries are affected.

The United Kingdom, Spain, France, Poland, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, Netherlands, Norway, Austria, Belgium and Portugal.

“The 4th Cabinet session chaired by President Adama Barrow has been updated on the COVID-19 situation in the country. An immediate decision was taken that flights from thirteen countries are suspended with immediate effect until further notice,” the statement indicated.

“The decision follows the recommendation of the Health Experts Committee concerning the recent development on COVID-19.”

While this is welcomed by some Gambians, others are still demanding from the government a total shutdown of the airport that may lead to passage of infected people.  

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ICT University unveils ideal system for e-learning in Cameroon
March 20, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Mua Patrick Mughe*

The ICT University Cameroon is currently a running an e-learning programme which by no exaggeration is second to none in the country. The system, which is of global standard, was presented to a small group of newsmen during a visit to the institution’s Messasi-Yaounde campus Thursday.

The system is unique as it brings onboard simultaneously online and onsite learners during lectures, officials explained to the group of visiting journalists.

“Our system is innovative. E-learning is a novelty in our country and it gives students the flexibility to do their studies either onsite or online,” said ICT University’s Technology officer, Tani Schmidt Paul. Tani has a wealth of experience in Information and Communication Technologies, ICT.

He explained during Thursday’s visit that “there are a lot of students who want to work while studying, so with the eLearning program, they can actually be working and still following up their studies at the same time”.

“The system we offer here is a hybrid system where we integrate both the onsite and online students. They study simultaneously in real time,” he said of the programme before explaining that “…The advantage with e-learning is that the classes are all recorded and the students can always go back and listen to the records”.

“It is interactive; students can ask questions to the lecturers,” he added.

In addition, he continued: “We have what we call the plagiarism system, because most at times when we talk of online evaluation, people ask how examinations go about. So we have plagiarism softwares which are used in scanning the scripts of students once there are submitted. This is to check for plagiarism”.

“We have students taking lessons both in Cameroon and out of the country. We have students in Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Uganda and the US following classes right now,” Tani explained.

“Already, we have campuses in Uganda. We have three campuses in Uganda. Right now, we are in the process of opening a campus in Nigeria, Abuja and Guinea Bissau, Botswana…those are areas we are targeting to open campuses,” he announced.

Meanwhile, The ICT University Cameroon, it should be said operates a purely US-based curriculum to provide quality ICT and Managerial Human Capacity Development specially targeted for Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean and Asia.

The ICT University is a vibrant institution which aims at imposing itself as premier destination for research, innovation and training of scholars relevant for the context of developing economies.

The ICT University does not only offer degrees in ICTs. Rather, the institution imparts knowledge of ICTs in all academic disciplines it offers.

For example, a business administration (marketing) student at ICT University will graduate with a very strong expertise on how to build state-of- the-art e-commerce and other online business websites.

Founded in 2010, The ICT University has multiple campuses of The ICT University Foundation, USA.

All ICT University Foundation campuses are based in developing countries.

The ICT University Foundation is registered and chartered in the State of Louisiana, USA.

The Foundation is the funding organ of all ICT University campuses.

It also funds donations of ICT equipment, E-Learning laboratories and E-Libraries for many universities based in the developing world in general and Africa in particular.

The headquarters of ICT University’s African campuses is based in Cameroon.

The University’s Cameroon campus is accredited by the Ministry of Higher Education in Cameroon.

Serving more than 15,000 students worldwide via on-site and online programs, the ICT University develops productive and relevant Diploma, Bachelors, Masters and Doctoral level scholars to utilize their research and training in solving the substantial problems in their countries.

With a plethora of programs at the undergraduate, graduate and doctoral levels, including diploma and certification programs, the ICT University offers a dynamic and flexible learning environment that inspires innovation and creativity and places emphasis on student access.

The ICT University prides itself on offering an intimate, cutting edge campus environment disposing of all resources essential for producing tomorrow’s leading ICT experts, technopreneurs, renewable energy engineers, and business managers.

The university has also created collaborations, partnerships and exchange agreements with leading US, African and other international institutions that further enrich the academic, social and cultural diversity of our campus.

Students of the institution have quite a unique experience with the set of clubs and social activities for recreational purposes and community engagement work, seminars and a whole lot of other activities vital in ICT-U core values assimilation.

*Culled from The Guardian Post Newspaper, Cameroon

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