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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 US dollar denominated 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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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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Botswana leaders’ fight blights Africa’s democracy poster child
March 25, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Khonani Ontebetse

The fight between former President Ian Khama and current President Mokgweetsi Masisi is threatening the image of Botswana as a leading democracy in Africa
The fight between former President Ian Khama and current President Mokgweetsi Masisi is threatening the image of Botswana as a leading democracy in Africa

Botswana’s reputation as one the least corrupt countries on the continent is under renewed scrutiny as the tension between the immediate former and current administration boils over.

There are no indications that former Botswana President Ian Khama and his chosen successor and current President Mokgweetsi Masisi may find themselves sitting side-by-side as part of their reconciliation efforts.

This was not helped by Khama’s decision late last year to quit the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) which was founded by his father in the 1960s and has been ruling the southern African nation since independence from Britain in 1966.

It is understood that hopes of Khama and Masisi smoking a peace pipe were dashed when Khama founded the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) together with some disgruntled BDP members, a few months before the general election last year.

Initially, the rumblings of displeasure and growing agitation behind the scenes between the two men was swept under the carpet a few months after Khama handed his chosen successor the baton. Masisi’s administration tried to play down the tension between the two men. But it exploded into the public domain during the build up to the October general election held last year when Khama accused Masisi of failing to provide effective leadership.

Masisi and Khama have never made the reason for their fallout public except that the latter accused the former of reversing some of his policies such as the hunting ban and alcohol levy. On the other hand, Masisi accused Khama of trying to force him to do him favours which were outside the precincts of the law.

“I have met a couple of times with the mediators and expressed my sentiments regarding the conflict with Masisi, but I have never received any feedback following our meetings,” he was quoted as saying in March this year.

For his part, Masisi has since informed Parliament that relations between him and Khama is so bad that he has asked former president Festus Mogae and former Speaker of the National Assembly Patrick Balopi to mediate between them, but to no avail.

The tension between the two men took a new twist late last year, when Khama and some BPF members did not attend Masisi’s inauguration. Before that, at one point Khama even advised opposition coalition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) leader Duma Boko to investigate what the BPF termed grand election fraud that was allegedly done by the BDP in last year’s tightly contested election. Prior to the poll day, Khama even campaigned for the UDC and opposition in general as he sought to oust Masisi whom he also accused of being undemocratic and drunk with power.

While the BDP won the general election after securing 38 of 57 seats and UDC garnering 15 seats, BPF three seats and Alliance for Progressives managing one seat, Khama and UDC insisted that the elections were rigged. The UDC even went to the extent of challenging the outcome of the general election as it accused the BDP of rigging the election aided by the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) and the Independent Electoral Commission. The UDC petitioned the High Court lost the case on technical grounds as among other things it did not file the petitions within 30 days as prescribed by the law.

Still the UDC and Khama insist that the elections were rigged, something that observers say makes it difficult for Khama and Masisi to reconcile.

Recently, Khama reacted angrily to thin veiled insinuations by Masisi that he is the invisible hand behind the escalating rhino poaching crisis in the country.  Khama said Masisi was to blame because when he occupied office, he withdrew arms of war from the anti-poaching unity on the grounds that it was illegal for the unit to be armed with such guns.

President Masisi is firmly in control and is expected to deliver positive results .Photo AFP
President Masisi is firmly in control and is expected to deliver positive results .Photo AFP

Masisi’s government has also taken a decision to sideline Khama as former head of state who should be invited to important and official government events. Under normal circumstances, former heads of states are invited to come and commemorate special events such as the annual commemoration of the fallen heroes and heroines that is organized by the Botswana Defence Force and the Office of the President.

There is no evidence to suggest that the Office of the President extended invitation to Khama just like it happened last year.

In a previous interview with this reporter last year, Khama said over the phone “I was not invited. I don’t understand why I was not invited because as a former commander of the Botswana Defence Force it is within my right,” he said. Khama added that does not necessarily mean that not being invited would stop him from commemorating the fallen heroes.

While President Masisi officiated at the commemoration of the fallen heroes and heroines at the Central Business District by laying a wreath for the fallen BDF heroes and heroines, Khama also had a parallel commemoration whereat he as was accompanied by his younger brother and former Tourism Minister Tshekedi Khama. Tshekedi has also quit the BDP and he is representing BPF in Parliament.

While former president Khama was in March this year quoted as having adopted a reconciliatory tone, he had used the commemoration of the fallen heroes and heroines to take a swipe at Masisi’s administration.

“We will continue fighting to restore democracy in Botswana,” Khama told his audience, mostly former soldiers from his influential tribe called Bangwato.

Last year BDF spokesperson Tebo Dikole confirmed that the former President was not invited. When asked why they did not invite Khama since he was not only a former president but also former commander of the armed forces, Dikole explained that the designation of former president precedes that of former commander hence the reason Khama did not receive a an invitation.

Commenting on the ongoing feud and reports of escalating corruption, political analyst, Mpho Mojaki said “Botswana has long been regarded as a diamond –rich nation, corruption-free, democratic, prosperous, and peaceful. Smooth transfer of presidential power, meaning that the incumbent vacates office a year before his chosen predecessor occupies office and normally that is before the general elections.” He added that “with these tension and other cases of corruption, the country’s image is at risk.”

As the tension between Khama and Masisi rages on, they have also been linked to a $25 USD million money laundering case. The prosecution claims that the money siphoned off from the National Petroleum Fund was meant to build fuel storage facilities across the country but was diverted by the former Directorate of Intelligence and Security Isaac Kgosi to buy military equipment from Israel. Some of the accused persons who had acted as middleman have since claimed that Khama and Masisi benefitted from the money. The two men have since distanced themselves from such accusations. 

*Culled from March Issue of PAV Magazine

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Energy Law Firm offers support to businesses affected by the Covid-19 Pandemic and the oil industry crisis
March 24, 2020 | 0 Comments

Our firm will offer assistance to local services companies in our countries of operation on contractual disputes, employment issues and compliance matters

Zion Adeoye, Managing Director of Centurion Law Group.
Zion Adeoye, Managing Director of Centurion Law Group.

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, March 24, 2020/ — Recognizing the toll that the Covid-19 Pandemic has taken on the oil and gas industry, Centurion law Group  will assist small and mid-sized African businesses that are currently dealing with the economic impact of the Coronavirus, which is hitting many African countries. With our strong African footprint, we believe it is an opportunity to give back to a continent that has given so much to us.
 
Our firm will offer assistance to local services companies in our countries of operation on contractual disputes, employment issues and compliance matters. We will also extend our support to multinational entities at significantly discounted rates.

“While we believe that the industry will bounce back from this and come out even stronger and more united, we feel a great sense of duty at this time when the worst effects of the crisis are being felt on a daily basis,” stated Zion Adeoye, Managing Director of Centurion Law Group. 
 
In this regard, we are joining hands with the African Energy Chamber in its call for relief measures and tax incentives for oil and gas companies to ensure that jobs are protected, and business can rebound.
 
Across Africa, more than 130 lawyers working for our clients have already been set up to work remotely and will continue supporting our oil and gas clients and service companies through this Coronavirus crisis.

About Centurion:
Centurion (https://CenturionLG.com/) is a leading pan-African legal and energy advisory group with extensive experience in the oil and gas sector. The group provides outsourced legal representation and covers a full suite of practice areas for its clients, including arbitration and commercial litigation, corporate law, tax and anti-corruption advisory and contract negotiation. Centurion specializes in assisting clients that are starting or growing a business in Africa with offices and affiliates in Ghana, Cameroon, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, South Africa, South Sudan, Nigeria, Gabon, Angola and Senegal

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African court suspends 56TH ordinary session due to coronavirus outbreak
March 24, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Wallace Mawire

President of the African Court, Hon Justice Sylvain Oré

The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights which began its 56th Ordinary Session on 2 March 2020 at its Seat in Arusha, Tanzania, has cut-short its proceedings on Friday, 20 March 2020, because of the outbreak of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). The Session was due to end on 27 March 2020.

The President of the African Court, Hon Justice Sylvain Oré, said that the measure was absolutely necessary to prevent any risk of contracting COVID-19 by the Judges and the Staff.

‘’The Court has decided to act decisively in the interest of health and safety of all Judges, Staff and residents of Arusha and beyond,’’ he stressed.

Among other emergency measures adopted by the Court, he said, was to decongest the Court by ordering all non-essential staff to work from home and key departments with limited staff to carry out their duties on shift-basis until further notice.

The President of the Court has urged the staff to take maximum precaution during this difficult period by ensuring that they adhere to all hygienic conditions, including use of sterilisers, frequently wash their hands and abstain from crowded places, among others.

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Equatorial Guinea Grants Relief to Oil & Gas Services Companies
March 23, 2020 | 0 Comments
Gabriel Mbaga Obiang Lima, Minister of Mines and Hydrocarbons
Gabriel Mbaga Obiang Lima, Minister of Mines and Hydrocarbons

The country takes action to support its services industry and engages on an industry-wide dialogue to study other measures for upstream operators and ongoing midstream projects.

MALABO, Equatorial Guinea, March 23, 2020/ — The Ministry of Mines and Hydrocarbons (MMH) of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea decided on the waiving of its fees for services companies in the country. This is the first action to be taken to support oil & gas services companies in Equatorial Guinea in the wake of the oil price drop caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Oil prices currently remain at around $20 a barrel, their lowest level since 1991.

“The Ministry of Mines and Hydrocarbons took the unanimous decision to waive its fees for services companies for a duration of three months,” declared H.E. Gabriel Mbaga Obiang Lima, Minister of Mines and Hydrocarbons. “We recognize that the oil sector continues to be the largest private sector employer in the country and want to give our local services companies the means to weather the storm and avoid any jobs being lost. While it is important to let market forces determine the future, the government does have a role to play in stimulating the market and creating an environment for these companies to stay strong, continue investing and create opportunities for our citizens,” he added.

Jobs security and the safety of Equatorial Guinea’s citizens have been put at the top of priorities for the MMH, which has further pledged to keep engaging with local and international companies to create the right kind of enabling environment for the sector to operate and grow despite current circumstances.

International operators will need to keep complying with local content requirements in Equatorial Guinea throughout the downturn, and make sure to work with the local services industry to adapt to new market dynamics. This is the first such measure to be taken in Equatorial Guinea, which will consider additional action to bring relief to its oil & gas sector.

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has brought the world economy to a halt and critically affected oil demand. As a result, prices have been brought to their lowest levels since 1991, which brings considerable instability to African oil producers in the Gulf of Guinea.

Yesterday, a team from the Bioko Island Malaria Elimination Project (BIMEP) and the Baney Lab Research Center briefed Minister Obiang Lima on the progress of the malaria vaccine trial and current coronavirus tests being conducted in the facility. The Minister advised the team that the lab will be upgraded with new equipment to meet the current needs of 1,200,000 residents, and pledged to purchase 1,200,000 Coronavirus lab kits so that the Ministry of Health can deal efficiently with any potential future cases and be ready for any possible scenario.

*Africa Energy Chamber

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Jack Ma and Alibaba Foundations donate COVID-19 Medical Equipment to African Union Member States
March 23, 2020 | 0 Comments
Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) and the Government of Ethiopia received a consignment of medical equipment

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, March 23, 2020/ — Africa’s response to the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) outbreak received a boost today as the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) and the Government of Ethiopia received a consignment of medical equipment from the Jack Ma and Alibaba Foundations.

The shipment included over 1.5 million laboratory diagnostic test kits and over 100 tons of infection prevention and control commodities.

This relief initiative was launched by the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Dr Abiy Ahmed, the Jack Ma Foundation, and Alibaba Foundation as part of actions towards implementation of the Africa joint continental strategy for COVID-19 led by the African Union through Africa CDC.

“On behalf of the Chairperson of the African Union, His Excellency, Cyril Ramaphosa, we thank the Jack Ma and Alibaba Foundations for this generous hospitality and contribution to the continent. We thank His Excellency the Prime Minister, and the Government of Ethiopia, for facilitating the donation,” said H.E. Mr Edward Xolisa Makaya, South Africa’s Permanent Representative to Ethiopia and the African Union. 

“This is a great honour and initiative and a great sign of solidarity that the world needs at this critical time. The test kits and other materials will support African countries in their fight against this outbreak. We are facing a humanitarian situation, an economic situation and a security situation in the continent and Africa CDC clearly applauds the initiative of the prime minister and the Jack Ma and Alibaba Foundations,” said Dr John Nkengasong, Director of Africa CDC. 

The COVID-19 outbreak continues to spread rapidly across the continents of the world claiming thousands of lives and huge resources. In just about three months it has caused over 12,000 deaths worldwide and impacted socioeconomic activities, particularly tourism and transport. 

Ethiopian Airlines will help distribute the equipment, consisting 20,000 laboratory diagnostic test kits, 100,000 medical masks, and 1000 protective suits and face shields, to each of the Member States as part of their contribution to the fight against COVID-19 in Africa. 

“We appeal to our ministries of health to ensure that these materials are distributed and used where they are mostly needed,” said H.E. Ambassador Mohamed Idriss Farah, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Djibouti, Dean of African Diplomatic Corps, and Chair of the African Union Peace and Security Council.
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Covid-19:Ethiopia maintains open borders, institutes a 14-days mandatory quarantine of all arriving passengers
March 22, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Amos Fofung

The government of Ethiopia has announced it is instituting a mandatory quarantine of all passengers entering the national territory for a minimum of 14 days in a bit to control and thus minimize the spread of Coronavirus.

In a statement posted on the Facebook page of the country’s airline carrier, Ethiopian Airlines on Saturday, March 21, the government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced that a mandatory quarantine had been put in place and will affect everybody coming into the country henceforth.

“In order to control the spread of COVID-19, the Ethiopian Government has decided to quarantine all arriving passengers entering Ethiopia for 14 days, all expenses will be covered by the passengers…Accordingly, all arriving passengers entering Ethiopia after 00:10 am of March 23 will be placed in a mandatory quarantine at the Ethiopian Skylight Hotel for 14 days,” the announcement read in part.

Adding that additional hotel will be selected and utilized in due course, the public exempts diplomats entering the nation stating that they will be quarantined at their respective Embassies.

 With regards to voyagers transiting through the country or merely stopping for connecting flights, the announcement said they too will be exempted from quarantine.

The 14 days mandatory quarantine “does not apply to transit passengers. Transit Passengers holding connecting flight booking will stay at the Ethiopian Skylight Hotel until their connecting flights” take off.

These measures come barely hours after business and markets news giant, Bloomberg revealed that Ethiopian Airline has lost more than $190 Million due to the coronavirus outbreak even though the nation at the horn of Africa is still counting just its first confirmed case of Coronavirus documented this week.

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Merck Foundation meets the President of Namibia to underscore their long-term partnership with the First Lady of Namibia to break infertility stigma
March 20, 2020 | 0 Comments

Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation & President, Merck More Than a Mother with H:E President Hage Geingob and  H.E. MONICA GEINGOS, The First Lady of Namibia & Ambassador of Merck More Than a Mother
Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation & President, Merck More Than a Mother with H:E President Hage Geingob and H.E. MONICA GEINGOS, The First Lady of Namibia & Ambassador of Merck More Than a Mother

Merck Foundation launched their programs in partnership with Namibia’s First Lady together with Ministry of Health & Social Service and Ministry of Education

Merck Foundation to train doctors in the fields Cancer, Diabetes and Fertility Care to build healthcare capacity in the country

Merck Foundation to train media to break the stigma of infertility in partnership with The First Lady of Namibia

Windhoek, Namibia: Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany underscored their commitment to break infertility stigma and build healthcare capacity in Namibia during their high-level meeting held at the State House between The Head of State of Namibia, H.E. HAGE GEINGOB, The F irst Lady of Namibia, H.E MONICA GEINGOS and Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation. The objective of the meeting was to explain and discuss the programs of Merck Foundation, which were launched in partnership with Namibia First Lady and Ministry of Health & Social Service and Ministry of Education.

H.E. HAGE GEINGOB, the President of Namibia emphasized “Namibia needs t he programs of Merck Foundation break Infertility Stigma and train media t o sensit ize communities about health and sensitive issues. Moreover, the training programs for specialized doctors are very critical for our people and their social and economic well- being. I wholeheartedly support Merck Foundation in our country, to enable the success of all their programs.”

Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation & President, Merck More Than a Mother with H.E. MONICA GEINGOS, The First Lady of Namibia & Ambassador of Merck More Than a Mother during the launch event

The First lady of Namibia and Ambassador of Merck More than a Mother, H.E. Mrs. MONICA GEINGOS emphasized the importance of this campaign to break the silence of the Namibian women who suffered from the stigma of infert ilit y . Also emphasized the critical role her office is going to play to be the voice of these women to empower them through advocacy, access to information and change of mindset.

“I am very happy and proud of partnership with the First Lady of Namibia and Ambassador of Merck More than a Mother. This partnership will help us to break the stigma of infertility and empower childless women through access to information, health and change of mindset. It will also help us to train specialized doctors in t he fields of Diabetes, Oncology and Fertility care which will contribute significantly towards social and economic development in Namibia. We are committed to lead Africa to a better future through changing the landscape of healthcare in the continent”, emphasized Dr. Rasha Kelej.

Merck Foundation also plans to introduce other unique initiatives in t he c ountry t o create the desired culture shift with regard to breaking the stigma around infertility.

“Few initiatives include announcing the ‘Merck More than a Mother’ Media Recognition Award and Health Media Training for the first time in the country in partnership with The First Lady of Namibia together with Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education. Also, launching an inspiring children storybook of Paulus and Limbikani to strengthen family values of love and respect since young ages which will reflect on eliminating the stigma of infertility and result ed domest ic violence in the future. Also, involving Fashion industry to deliver the message of breaking the stigma of infertile women to the community in day to day life which will be achieved by out ‘Merck More Than a Mother’ Fashion Awards for Namibia and rest of Africa. We will also be launching our special project ‘Education Linda’, which helps young girls who are unprivileged but brilliant to continue their education.”, added Dr. Rasha Kelej.

About Merck Oncology Fellowship Program

The Merck Oncology Fellowship Program, a key initiative of Merck Cancer Access Program, focuses on building additional capacity through medical education and training.

The lack of financial means is not the only challenge in Africa and developing countries, but a scarcity of trained health care personnel capable to tackle the prevention, early diagnosis and management of cancer at all levels of the health care systems is even a bigger challenge.

Merck Oncology Fellowship Program focuses on building professional cancer care capacity with the aim to increase the limited number of oncologists in Africa and Developing countries. The program provides One-year fellowship program at Tata Memorial Centre – India, One and hal f – years Oncology Fellowship programs at University of Malaya – Malaysia, Two years Oncology Fellowship Program at University of Nairobi – Kenya and Two years Master degree in Medical Oncology at Cairo University – Egypt, in partnership with African Ministries of Health, Local Governments and Academia.

Launched in 2016, Merck Foundation has trained more than 80 Oncology Care Specialists from 26 countries which are: Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, CAR, Chad, Congo Brazzaville, DRC , Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinee, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

About ‘Merck More Than a Mother’ campaign

“Merck More Than a Mother” is a strong movement that aims to empower infertile women through access to information, education and change of mind-sets. This powerful campaign supports governments in defining policies to enhance access to regulated, safe and effective fertility care. It defines interventions to break the stigma around infertile women and raises awareness about infertility prevention, management and male infertility. In partnership with African First Ladies, Ministries of Health, Information, Education & Gender, academia, policymakers, International fertility societies, media and art, the initiative also provides training for fertility specialists and embryologists to build and advance fertility care capacity in Africa and developing countries.

With “Merck More Than a Mother”, we have initiated a cultural shift to de-stigmatize infertility on all levels: By improving awareness, training local experts in the fields of fertility care and media, building advocacy in cooperation with African First Ladies and women leaders and by supporting childless women in starting their own small businesses. It’s all about giving every woman the respect and the help she deserves to live a fulfilling life, with or without a child.

The Ambassadors of “Merck More Than a Mother” are: H.E. NEO JANE MASISI, The First Lady of Botswana H.E. FATOUMATTA BAHBARROW, The First Lady of The Gambia H.E. MONICA GEINGOS, The First Lady of Namibia H.E DENISE NKURUNZIZA, The First Lady of Burundi H.E. REBECCA AKUFO-ADDO, The First Lady of Ghana H.E AÏSSATA ISSOUFOU MAHAMADO, The First Lady of Niger H.E. BRIGITTE TOUADERA, The First Lady of Central African Republic H.E. CONDÉ DJENE, The First Lady of Guinea Conakry H.E. AISHA BUHARI, The First Lady of Nigeria H.E. HINDA DEBY ITNO, The First Lady of Chad H.E. C LAR WEAH, The First Lady of Liberia H.E FATIMA MAADA, The First Lady of Sierra Leone H.E. ANTOINETTE SASSOUNGUESSO, The First Lady of Congo Brazzaville H.E. PROFESSOR GERTRUDE MUTHARIKA, The First Lady of Malawi H.E. ESTHER LUNGU, The First Lady of Zambia H.E. SYLVIA BONGO ONDIMBA, The First Lady of Democratic Republic of Congo H.E. ISAURA FERRÃO NYUSI, The First Lady of Mozambique H.E. AUXILLIA MNANGAGWA, The First Lady of Zimbabwe

Merck Foundation is making history in many African countries where they never had fertility specialists or specialized fertility clinics before ‘Merck More Than a Mother’ intervention, to train the first fertility specialists such as; in Sierra Leone, Liberia, The Gambia, Niger, Chad, Guinea, Ethiopia and Uganda.

Merck Foundation launched new innovative initiatives to sensitize local communities about infertility prevention, male infertility with the aim to break the stigma of infertility and empowering infertile women as part of Merck More than a Mother COMMUNITY AWARENESS CAMPAIGN, such as;

‘Merck More than a Mother’ Media Recognition Awards and Health Media Training

• ‘Merck More than a Mother’ Fashion Awards • ‘Merck More than a Mother’ Film Awards

• Local songs with local artists to address the cultural perception of infertility and how to change it

• Children storybook, localized for each country

*Source Merck Foundation

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More than 600 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Africa
March 20, 2020 | 0 Comments
Dr Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa.
Twelve countries in the African region are now experiencing local transmission


BRAZZAVILLE, Congo (Republic of the), March 19, 2020/ — More than 600 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in 34 countries in Africa as of 19 March, compared with 147 cases one week ago. Although the region has seen a significant increase in confirmed cases recently, there are still fewer cases than in other parts of the world.

“The rapid evolution of COVID-19 in Africa is deeply worrisome and a clear signal for action,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa. “But we can still change the course of this pandemic. Governments must draw on all of their resources and capabilities and strengthen their response.”

Twelve countries in the African region are now experiencing local transmission. It is crucial that governments prevent local transmission from evolving into a worst case scenario of widespread sustained community transmission. Such a scenario will present a major challenge to countries with weak health systems.

“Africa can learn from the experiences of other countries which have seen a sharp decline in COVID-19 cases through rapidly scaling up testing, isolating cases and meticulously tracking contacts,” said Dr Moeti.

Understanding how the COVID-19 pandemic will evolve in Africa is still a work in progress. The response will need to be adapted to the African context – the demographics on the continent are very different from China, Europe and the USA. Africa has the world’s youngest population and it appears that older people are more vulnerable to COVID-19. However, preliminary analysis finds that people with underlying conditions are at higher risk. Across the Region, nearly 26 million people are living with HIV. Over 58 million children have stunted growth due to malnutrition. So it is possible that younger people will be more at risk in Africa than in other parts of the world. 

WHO has been supporting governments with early detection by providing COVID-19 testing kits to countries in Africa, training lab technicians, and strengthening surveillance in communities. Forty-five countries in Africa can now test for COVID-19: at the start of the outbreak only two could do so. WHO is also providing remote support to affected countries on the use of electronic data tools, so national health authorities can better understand the outbreak in their countries. Personal protective equipment has been shipped to 24 countries, and a second shipment is being prepared for countries with confirmed cases.

“COVID-19 is one of the biggest health challenges Africa has faced in a generation,” said Dr Moeti. “We can only stop this virus through solidarity. And the world is coming together. Donors are stepping up to the plate and providing funding while private sector in many countries are offering their support as well.”

Lessons learnt in addressing previous epidemics are being used as a foundation to respond.

Basic preventative measures by individuals and communities remain the most powerful tool to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  For this reason, WHO is helping local authorities craft radio messaging and TV spots to inform the public about the risks of COVID-19 and what measures should be taken.  WHO is also conducting rumour management in all affected countries, and is guiding countries on setting up call-centres and hotlines to ensure the public is informed. 
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Malawi: President Mutharika denies to fire electoral body leaders
March 18, 2020 | 0 Comments

By James Mwala

President Peter Mutharika

Malawi President Peter Mutharika has defied a recent proposal by parliament to fire leaders of the electoral body over their alleged incompetence.

This was announced on Tuesday at a press briefing in Blantyre.

More so, Mutharika has also denied to assent to the electoral bills passed by parliament earlier this year.

All these developments follow after the Considerational Court threw out an order for a fresh election and an urge for the parliament to table bills that would deal with among other things a clear cut definition of majority.

But in his reaction, Mutharika through press officer Mgeme Kalilani described the call by the Public Appointments Committee of parliament as not justifiable.

“The President sees that the committee acted unlawfully by not writing him on what they wrote in the invitation letters to the Commisioners and also they had not been informed about the agenda,” said Kalilani.

Essentially, Mutharika says he finds it unjustifiable for him to axe the Commisioners because they also administered the parliamentary and local government elections which have not been objected.

The Committee had after its inquiry with the Commisioners written Mutharika to fire them on premises that they failed their duties in managing the 2019 presidential elections.

Mutharika has also indicated that perceives the passing of the bills by parliament as unlawful and not in inline with the law.

He has since urged parliament to avoid usurping its mandate.

The South African nation has been faced with political twise after Mutharika’s victory was contested by Lazarus Chakwera and Saulos Chilima of Malawi Congress Party and UTM.

The court then moved to rule that a fresh poll be held in 150 days.

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South Sudan: Peace Cabinet Ministers Sworn in
March 17, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Deng Machol

South Sudan’s transitional cabinet ministers take an oath of office at the State House in Juba, capital of South Sudan, March 16, 2020. (Xinhua/Daniel Majak)

Juba – South Sudan’s transitional cabinet ministers were sworn in on Monday to officially begin work, in an attempt to end the country’s six year conflict that has killed nearly 400,000 people, and uprooted four million from their homes.

The swearing-in ceremony of 33 ministers and nine deputies was administered by John Gatwech Lul, deputy chief justice in Juba and witnessed by President Salva Kiir, the First Vice President Riek Machar and four other deputy presidents.

Foreign Affairs Minister Beatrice Khamisa Wani and Deputy Minister of Interior Mabior Garang de Mabior who are under self-quarantine over the COVID – 19 fears are yet to arrive in Juba from Nairobi and will be sworn in at a later date.

“I wish you all the best of luck and I need you to succeed in your duties as you have made your oaths in front of us here. So as the head of the government I will work with you together and to see into it that we are doing the right thing,” Kiir told the ministers shortly after taking their oath.

President Kiir last week named 35 cabinet ministers to serve in the transitional unity government after a series of delays.

The appointment of the Ministers of the Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity is a step forward in the implementation of the revitalized peace deal that would give chance for peace and stability in South Sudan, following the collapse of 2015 peace deal in July, 2016, a renewal fighting broke out in Juba a month after establishment of new unity government, forced Dr. Machar to flee the country.

However, Country’s Cabinet Affairs Minister Martin Elia Lomoro said that appreciated all the political parties for nominating them for their positions adding that they would do their best to correct the tarnished image of South Sudan.

He echoed that the duties and responsibilities of the peace government of national unity are defined in the agreement in which they are committed to implementing it to the letter and spirit.

He called on the newly appointed Ministers to cooperate with their Deputies and work hard for the development of the country.

“Mr. President, this is an opportunity you have given us as ministers to work for our country, to clean our faces that has been tarnished by the more than six years of conflict that everybody describes as unnecessary,” Elia said.

Cabinet minister further said they have accepted to serve the people of South Sudan to achieve permanent peace and not to return to war again and forever.

South Sudan, which gained her independence from Sudan on July, 2011 after decades of earth-scorched civil war, descended into conflict in December 2013 after political disagreement in with the ruling parties, then followed by President Kiir sacked his deputy Machar, who later founded the SPLM-IO, leading to conflicts between soldiers loyal to their respective leaders.

The formation of a unity government is yet uncompleted, as the governors of the states and advisors are not yet be appointed.

Also, the security arrangements remains as a loophole, as the unification of necessary force is not yet on the ground despite the appointment of a collegial presidency and cabinet ministers respectively in the country. Therefore, the implementation of this fragile revitalized peace deal remains at risky point.

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