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Trump Versus Rwanda in Trade Battle Over Used Clothes
May 24, 2018 | 0 Comments

BY CLEMENT Uwiringiyimana and Joe Bavier*

A worker prepares thread at the the Utexrwa garment factory in Kigali, Rwanda April 17, 2018. Picture taken April 17, 2018. REUTERS/Jean BizimanaREUTERS

A worker prepares thread at the the Utexrwa garment factory in Kigali, Rwanda April 17, 2018. Picture taken April 17, 2018. REUTERS/Jean BizimanaREUTERS

KIGALI/ABIDJAN (Reuters) – Early last year, weeks after Donald Trump was sworn in as president, a little known American trade association filed a petition with the U.S. Trade Representative.

That seven-page letter set Africa in the cross-hairs of the new administration’s ‘America First’ trade ideology, pitting the world’s largest economy against tiny Rwanda over an unlikely U.S. export: cast-off clothes.

In March, the USTR warned Rwanda it would lose some benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), America’s flagship trade legislation for Africa, in 60 days after it increased tariffs on second-hand clothes to support its local garment industry.

“The president’s determinations underscore his commitment to enforcing our trade laws and ensuring fairness in our trade relationships,” Deputy U.S. Trade Representative C.J. Mahoney said, announcing the decision.

The 60-day grace period expires on May 28.

But no matter the outcome, the row is further straining Washington’s relations with Africa at a time when it is being aggressively courted by America’s global competitors, not least China.

Beijing has invested tens of billions of dollars in the continent, most recently as part of its huge Belt and Road foreign trade strategy.

Under AGOA, enacted in 2000 with the aim of using trade to boost development, qualifying African countries are granted duty-free access to the U.S. market for 6,500 exported products.

The current dispute, which also initially involved Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, has received none of the attention of Trump’s trade war with China or his haggling with North American neighbors.

Yet critics – including former U.S. trade officials – see in it a worrying indication of how Washington will approach trade relations with Africa.

“It delegitimizes so much of what we’ve worked for for so many years,” said Gail Strickler, who served as the top U.S. trade official on textiles until 2015. “I think it’s horrible. I think it’s sad. I think it’s pathetic and I think it’s obscene.”

MADE IN RWANDA

Since her husband was murdered in Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, Devotha Mukankusi has relied heavily on the UTEXRWA garment factory in the capital Kigali.

“I survived the genocide together with my kids. But it’s thanks to this job that they have grown up,” she said, her voiced raised above the drone of sewing machines as she supervised a group of women assembling police uniforms.

Some 800,000 people – 10 percent of Rwanda’s population – were killed in the genocide. The economy was crushed.

Rwanda has bounced back in the past decade or so. As part of a drive to become a middle-income country by 2020, it is nurturing a garment sector it hopes can create 25,000 jobs.

But domestic demand for locally produced clothes has been stifled, east African governments say, by the ubiquity of cheap, second-hand garments imported from Europe and the United States.

The manager of the factory where Mukankusi works says the facility is only running at 40 percent capacity and second-hand garments, which can sell at well below his production costs, are at least partly to blame.

In response, East African Community (EAC) members Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda increased tariffs on used clothing in July 2016. Rwanda hiked import duties from 20 cents to $2.50 per kilogram.

At Kigali’s Biryogo market, where shoppers pick through bales of used garments, the downside of the increase in duties was immediate.

“Before, even with a little money, you could buy enough second-hand clothes for a child. But some children in my neighborhood are now naked,” Fillette Umugwaneza, 24, a mother of two told Reuters. “It is a disgrace to our country.”

Rwanda’s government argues such hardships will be short-lived. Opening new factories will create more, better paid jobs, while expanding domestic consumption will cut its external trade deficit, it says.

That will take time, admits Clare Akamanzi, CEO of the Rwanda Development Board, but early results are encouraging.

“Just in the last two or three years … we’ve seen almost three times growth in production of garments and textiles for the economy,” she said.

The government is also seeking to attract companies targeting the export market, like U.S. designer Kate Spade which assembles high-end handbags in Rwanda. It’s a strategy that has flourished elsewhere in Africa under AGOA, with duty-free exports from the continent to the U.S. market almost quadrupling to over $1 billion since the law was enacted.

The ultimatum from the office of the USTR, however, has thrown up a potential roadblock to further growth.

It acted after receiving a complaint in March last year from the Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association (SMART), a U.S.-based organization which represents companies that collect and resell Americans’ used clothing.

Selling America’s used clothing – much of it donated to charities and the bulk of it originally made outside the United States – is a nearly $1 billion industry. Exports typically end up in poor nations. Africa is a key destination.

SMART said the EAC duty increase violated AGOA.

“It basically was a shutdown in the market for my members,” SMART Executive Director Jackie King told Reuters. “When Rwanda particularly wanted the duties increased by 1,100 percent, it just wasn’t possible to do business there.”

The USTR agreed to review the AGOA status of all four countries. That decision shocked some veteran trade officials in Washington.

“AGOA clearly has a criterion that the beneficiary countries must be eliminating barriers to U.S. trade,” said Florie Liser, former Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Africa under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

“That’s kind of always been there, but no one was looking to go after the AGOA countries.”

SELF-RELIANT

The mere prospect of losing AGOA benefits was enough to push Kenya, which in 2017 exported nearly $340 million worth of apparel duty-free to the United States, to back down.

The remaining east African nations initially tried to defend their position at a USTR hearing in July, rejecting SMART’s assertion that the new tariffs had cost 24,000 American jobs in the first nine months. Using U.S. trade data, they pointed out that the decline in exports to the EAC that SMART blamed for the job losses had already begun four years before the 2016 duty increase.

Data compiled by agoa.info, an online information portal about AGOA run by the South Africa-based Trade Law Centre, indicates that U.S. used clothing exports to Rwanda in particular actually increased slightly in 2016.

SMART has not publicly disclosed the survey of its members used to calculate the job losses, saying it contains proprietary information.

The EAC also accused SMART of inflating the importance of the east African market to the industry. Trade data showed the United States shipped around $24 million worth of used clothing to the EAC in 2016.

SMART, however, added another $100 million in exports it said were shipped to third countries for processing before being re-exported. By its calculation the EAC represented over a fifth of the U.S. industry’s global market.

After the July 2017 hearing, Uganda and Tanzania followed Kenya’s example and capitulated, agreeing to roll back tariffs to pre-2016 levels.

Rwanda has held out. If it does not concede by the end of this month it faces losing duty-free access for its garment exports.

“The United States has been explicit about what Rwanda must do to adhere to the AGOA eligibility criteria,” a U.S. official told Reuters. “It is up to Rwanda to make a decision.”

The dispute has provoked dismay in Washington and Africa.

“(Africans) are watching. They’re shocked and they’re livid,” said Rosa Whitaker, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton as the United States’ first Assistant Trade Representative for Africa and helped draft the original AGOA legislation.

She called the Trump administration’s actions bullying and predicted they would backfire.

“African countries, from what they’re telling me, are feeling abandoned. We’ve just ceded it to China.”

Devotha Mukankusi is more matter of fact about the trade tiff. She’s survived genocide and the Trump administration doesn’t worry her, she said.

“My message for Trump is that it won’t affect us. We are determined to be self-reliant. We’ll make our own clothes.”

 *Reuters
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Democracy according to Eritrea’s Afwerki, then and now
May 24, 2018 | 0 Comments

On the 27th anniversary of Eritrea’s independence, Isaias Afwerki should remember what he once said about democracy.

 By Abraham T Zere*
Isaias Afwerki is the first President of Eritrea, a position he has held since its independence in 1993 [Reuters]

Isaias Afwerki is the first President of Eritrea, a position he has held since its independence in 1993 [Reuters]

Today marks the 27th anniversary of Eritrea’s independence, hard-won after a 30-year war withEthiopia. On this day, as we rightfully celebrate, we should also reflect on the overall state of the country. To do this, there is no better way than looking back to a landmark speech Eritrea’s first and only president, Isaias Afwerki, gave over two decades ago.

On September 8, 1997, in a public address at the Walton Park Conference in West Sussex, England, President Afwerki delivered profound remarks on democracy and the rule of law in a speech titled “Democracy in Africa: an African view.” 

In this address, the president listed six fundamental principles that he believes are the most essential pillars of a modern democracy, particularly in Africa:

1 – The right of a citizen to an equal share of natural resources, including access to basic necessities and protection from hunger and deprivation.

2 – The right to equal opportunity, including education and other services that are essential for personal development.

3 – The right to full respect and protection of one’s dignity – as a human being, citizen and member of a community – without any discrimination on the basis of social status, religion, gender and race.

4 – The right to life, unhindered movement, and freedom of expression and opinion.

5 – The right for and the provision of, appropriate legal and institutional guarantees consisting of, among other things, a constitution and a judiciary.

6 – The right for and the provision of a responsible, transparent, and non-corrupt government to uphold the rule of law and defend the national interest.

Despite the progressive views expressed by the president in this speech, Eritrea has moved further and further away from democracy in the last two decades under his rule.

First of all, Eritrea is still being ruled without a constitution. After a three-year-long drafting process, the country’s constitution was ratified in 1997, but it has not been implemented to this day.

Also, the country is still run by a single party – People’s Front for Democracy and Justice – whose last congress convened over 20 years ago, in 1994. The last meeting of the national assembly, on the other hand, took place over 16 years ago, in January 2002.

The president, in his Independence Day address of 2014, promised that the country would draft another constitution. But four years on, it is clear that promise was yet another excuse to buy time and divert attention.

Let’s examine whether Afwerki managed to adhere to any of the six fundamental principles of democracy that he mentioned in his landmark Walton Park Conference speech more than two decades ago.

On citizens’ well-being and unhindered movement

In 1997, Afwerki advocated for the citizens’ right to unrestricted movement. In today’s Eritrea, however, the overall level of surveillance and control resembles the draconian measures taken in order to contain the plague epidemic in 17th-century Europe, as described by French philosopher Michel Foucault in his 1975 book “Discipline and Punish”.

Today, Eritrean nationals are being forced to continuously prove their obedience to the regime, repeatedly inform the authorities of their whereabouts and seek permission to take part in even the most mundane activities.

Also, any Eritrean citizen who lives inside the country (the diaspora is also controlled but to a lesser extent, through remote policing and consular offices) is required to maintain good standing to access the most basic necessities. This even extends to bread. For example, to buy bread from a designated shop, an Eritrean citizen must obtain proof of good standing from his/her workplace; another proof of good standing from the “popular army division”; and yet another document showing the person’s good standing from his or her municipality and administrative district.

Only after having the aforementioned clearances from all those entities can someone secure the daily coupon that would allow them to buy bread.

Movements of Eritrean citizens both within and outside the country are tightly controlled. Anyone five years and older can only travel out of the country under extraordinary circumstances, and only after completing a cumbersome process.

Even government employees, including ministers, are required to obtain clearance from the Office of the President to travel outside Eritrea as state delegates. Travel is not any easier within the country. Citizens are required to carry passes to travel from one place to another within the country, whether on foot or in a vehicle.

On equal protection before the law

In his 1997 address, President Afwerki talked about the necessity of equal protection before the law of every human being, citizen and member of a community – without discrimination. Eritreans, however, are denied anything resembling equal protection before the law.

For years, tens of thousands of Eritreans have been languishing in military-controlled dungeons across the country in the harshest conditions. Most of these “prisoners” have not been officially charged.

Some of them were imprisoned at the personal whims of their immediate commanders. In these innumerable military prisons, innocent prisoners are subjected to all types of torture and abuse on a daily basis.

Meanwhile, civilian courts have become powerless. Military commanders can reject the verdict of a civilian court if it displeases them or their associates.

In Eritrea, most of the ordinary disputes and accusations are resolved by military commanders and their “disciplinary committees” in underground military prison centres. However, more prominent cases are handled by the Special Court, run by military officers and operates under the president’s office. In this court, the defendant does not have the right to appeal or to have a lawyer.

Over the years, journalists and former state officials  have been left to rot in secret prisons in deplorable conditions. More recently, school children, some as young as 12 years of age, have been kept in detention after a last year’s rare protests in the capital. 

On citizens enjoying an equal share of natural resources

In his 1997 address, President Afwerki rightly declared that nationals should have equal rights to their country’s natural resources. Today, Eritrea’s reality is exactly the opposite.

Despite the nation having more than 1,000km of sea coast, most Eritreans have never tasted fish. Seafood is a rarity, even in the port cities, because fishing has been outlawed.

Mining, on the other hand, has recently been booming in the country. At least 17 international mining and exploration companies have been granted licenses to work in Eritrea. Despite the hype and great expectations, apart from the president and his ruling-party clique, no one knows where the income generated through these licences is going. 

The denial of resources extends to all other possible sectors in which the state encroaches on the private territory of citizens. In a country that cannot even produce toothpaste or tissue paper, private import and export businesses have been outlawed since 2003.

Only the organs of the ruling party are allowed to ration basic food items and run all of the country’s legal and contraband businesses, including the black market.

Construction of houses has been banned in Eritrea since May 2006. The military has been busy demolishing houses built clandestinely since the ban.

Because of acute shortages in housing, rents have skyrocketed to a point where an unfurnished two-bedroom house in the capital would cost a minister’s monthly salary. Instead of exploring lasting solutions, the state tries to regulate rents, which only serves to fuel tensions between tenants and landlords.

On human dignity

In his 1997 address, President Afwerki underlined the importance and indispensability of “human dignity” within a democracy, yet his oppressive policies have stripped Eritrean citizens of any remnants of human dignity.

Since the summer of 2012, all civilians between the ages of 18 and 70 have been required to attend military training and guard government buildings at night. Even the country’s most prominent and respected officials, including the president of the country’s Supreme Court, are compelled to attend these military training sessions which are designed to humiliate and degrade.

At times, ministry employees are ordered to leave their homes to provide free labour for the state. President Afwerki personally supervises such work and assesses the levels of obedience of the labouring ministry employees.

Today, the humiliation of Eritrean citizens at the hands of the state is not limited to compulsory military training exercises or demands for free labour. President Afwerki uses various other mechanisms to intimidate and dehumanise his subordinates, including physical assault. 

On freedom of expression and opinion

In his speech, President Afwerki also argued that freedom of expression is an essential pillar of a successful democracy. But since September 2001, all private media have been banned in Eritrea, and international journalists are not allowed  into the country.

State journalists, who routinely force-feed propaganda to the public, are not spared either. Even they go to their workplaces every single day with the gut-churning feeling that they may fall victim to an arbitrary arrest and fail to return to their homes in the evening. 

Average citizens view the ministry of information not as a regulator of media but instead, as an oppressive national security office. As a majority of Eritreans are afraid to even to utter the name of the ministry out loud in any public place, most people refer it by its geographical location instead – “Forto”.

Both in the state media and art production, Eritreans inside the country have total freedom, as long as they “choose” to praise the president and his rule. Otherwise, no.

Singers describe President Afwerki in their songs as the man who “compel[s] the sun to bow down, let alone humans”. One supporter testified in March during an interview broadcast on national TV that Afwerki’s touch can heal citizens of longtime ailments.

In his Walton Park Conference address, President Afwerki declared that the African continent has been held hostage by “an incredibly corrupt, short-sighted, tyrannical, and irresponsible political elite that has plundered public resources and national wealth while millions are relegated to acute poverty and misery”.

Unfortunately, 20 years on, his past words have come to describe his current actions and the sad fate of the Eritrean people.

*Source Al Jazeera

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With another ebola containment effort underway, new report tracks progress made by the WHO in the African Region in its transformation agenda
May 24, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Wallace Mawire

Dr Matshidiso Moeti

Dr Matshidiso Moeti

Efforts to transform the WHO in the African Region to become the organization that staff and stakeholders want is making an impact to the health of people across the region, according to a WHO spokesperson.

  According to WHO, the strengthened realignment to health priorities and effective response to over 100 disease outbreaks and humanitarian disasters each year are some of the more important results of the ambitious reform program which begun in 2015.

The changes are highlighted in a report titled: “The Transformation Agenda of WHO in the African Region: Delivering Results and Making an Impact” launched on 23 May 2018 in Geneva on the side lines of the World Health Assembly. The report’s release comes as the organization is working around the clock to contain a new outbreak of Ebola virus disease in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Equateur Province.

The report offers specific insights into the progress made in the key focus areas of the reforms: fostering pro-results organizational values; providing enhanced technical and operational support with a closer alignment to health priorities; improving the enabling functions of the Organization to deliver programmes; and building a responsive and interactive organization.

“I reflect with pride on the progress and some remarkable successes we have had over the past three years.” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “I amhumbled to work with colleagues, Member States and partners who share the visionof an Organization that is proactive, results-driven,accountable and appropriately resourced to deliver onits mandate.”

In the wake of the Ebola crisis in West Africa, a new emergencies strategy and programme was launched leading to marked progress in preventing, detecting, and responding to crises. There have been innumerable successes at controlling outbreaks and responding to emergencies from the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to Lassa fever in Nigeria, plague in Madagascar, Marburg fever in Uganda, malaria outbreaks in Cabo Verde and Burundi, and meningitis in Niger and Nigeria. In 2017 alone, WHO in the African Region responded to 152 emergencies in 39 countries across the continent, including 134 outbreaks and 18 humanitarian crises.

The report shows how, in 2016, when four new cases of polio were reported in northern Nigeria, the Organization mounted the largest ever polio campaign in Africa.Over 190 000 polio vaccinators immunized more than 116 million under-five children in 13 countries in West and Central Africa. These efforts averted the spread of polio to other countries.

With a renewed momentum towards universal health coverage (UHC) and the sustainable development goals, the report highlights the development of a Framework of actions to guide the strengthening of health systems. The Framework was adopted by Ministers of Health in August 2017, who now use it as a tool to guide their actions towards achieving of UHC. Successes made in reducing HIV, TB, and Malaria have also been significant: for the first time, more than half of all people living with HIV in the Region have access to life saving HIV treatment (or 14 million people); new TB medicines and shorter treatments for multi-drug resistant TB are being rolled out in 21 countries; and between 2010 and 2016, estimated new cases of malaria dropped by 20 percent and deaths declines by 37 percent. At the same time, the Organization is tackling the growing burden of noncommunicable diseases (NCDS), including by ensuring that the African Region is leading worldwide in the adoption of the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products.

The report also looks at how the Organization has become more efficient at supporting the delivery of programmes. The Accountability and Internal Control Strengthening Initiative was launched in 2015 resulting in overall effectiveness improving from 50 to 77 percent in 2017. Newly developed Key Performance Indicators are now in place and supporting the prioritization of health programmes. A massive human resources review was undertaken at the regional office and is now being conducted at country level to ensure the organization has the staff it needs to get the job done. The report also highlights how the drive to recruit more women is making progress with 4.5 percent more women now in the organization. WHO is very sensitive to ensure that it gets value for money and the reforms have supported this effort. In 2017,a sample of 19 transactions were assessed and it was found that cost savings of US$ 1.4 million had been made.

The reforms have also encouraged focused efforts to tackle priority issues in the Region. One of these is the health of the quarter of a billion adolescents on the continentbeing addressed by a new Flagship Programme that focuses on improving access to HIV testing and treatment, tackling substance abuse, treating mental health, providing quality reproductive and sexual health services including contraception, preventing accidents and injuries and promoting healthy behaviours to prevent noncommunicable diseases. Another focus area has been the five-year Expanded Special Project for Elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases (ESPEN),which has already made considerable headway, including through the unprecedented mapping of targeted NTDs and the launch of an on-line open access data portal.

The progress made reflects that theWHO African Region is becoming more accountable, and results-driven and this is leading to results. The report celebrates these achievements in the African region, a timely exercise as WHO as a whole celebrates its 70th anniversary.

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Korea ready to share its technological and industrial revolution experience with Africa, says President Moon Jae-in
May 24, 2018 | 0 Comments
The Chairman of the African Union and Rwandan President, Paul Kagame noted that holding the Annual Meetings in Busan presents a unique opportunity to enforce the growth cooperation between Africa and the Republic of Korea
 BUSAN, Republic of Korea, May 24, 2018/ — Korean President Moon Jae-in has committed to sharing Korea’s technological and industrial experience with Africa and to help it compete in the 4th Industrial Revolution.

His message came at the opening ceremony of the 53rd Annual Meetings of the African Development Bank (https://AM.AfDB.org/en). “Africa is no longer the sleeping lion. Korea is happy to share its industrial experience with the continent. The theme of the Annual Meetings is appropriate for the industrial transformation of the continent, and in facilitating the sharing of experiences with Korea and other partners.”

African Development Bank (www.AfDB.org) President Akinwumi Adesina thanked the Government of Korea for hosting the Bank’s Annual Meetings. He recalled Korea’s transformation from a poor nation 60 years ago to the 11th largest economy in the world, noting the contribution of industrialization to its transformation. “Today, Samsung and LG television and phones dominate globally, while Korean cars are everywhere. Korea was deliberate and consistent in its industrial drive like China and Japan. Africa must learn from Korea’s industrialization and the equally remarkable experiences of China, Japan, and other parts of the world.”

“Africa must fast-track industrialization. That is why the African Development Bank plans to invest US $35 billion over the next 10 years in its focus on industrialization. The Bank’s industrialization strategy hopes to help Africa raise its industrial GDP from a little over US $700 billion today to over US $1.72 trillion by 2030. This will allow Africa’s GDP to rise to over US $5.6 trillion, while moving GDP per capita to over US $3,350.

“The formula for the wealth of nations is clear: rich nations add value to all they produce; poor nations simply export raw materials. Africa needs to industrialize and add value to everything that it produces – from agriculture, to minerals, to oil, gas and metals. Africa needs to move from the bottom to the top of the global value chains.”

Young Africans can transform the continent given the chance. He described the experience of Clarisse Iribagiza, a young Rwandan woman who earned a master’s in Information and Communications Technology from the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology, a program supported by the Bank. With a modest contribution from the Government of Rwanda, Clarisse launched an ICT business that she recently sold for US $10 million. She is now a member of the Bank’s Presidential Youth Advisory Council.

To unlock Africa’s potential through investment, the Bank has created the Africa Investment Forum (www.AfricaInvestmentForum.com), a transactional platform created by the African Development Bank with its partners to leverage global pension funds and sovereign wealth funds and other institutional investors to significantly invest in Africa. This new investment marketplace will set sail from November 7-9, 2018 from Johannesburg, South Africa.

Dong Yeon Kim, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Strategy and Finance of the Republic of Korea, said a new approach was urgently needed. He referred to Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a 19th-century American novel written by Harriet Beecher Stowe that envisioned a promising future for Africa.

“Harriet Stowe was right. Very surprisingly, we now witness strong evidence of Africa flourishing, just as she predicted. Growth in the region over the past 20 years was 3% higher than the previous period, and the absolute poverty ratio decreased to two thirds of what it was two decades ago.”

Kim stressed the need for innovative industrialization to translate Africa’s potential into economic prosperity.

“Industrialization policy should take into account the unique conditions of each country. New technologies can provide leapfrogging opportunities by speeding up the industrialization process and creating new value.” Smart infrastructure, he said, presents a promising area for Korea’s contribution.

“Smart infrastructure can provide a new solution to Africa’s shortage in roads, airports and harbours. It allows optimal use of resources and can even replace traditional infrastructure. Africa is already producing substantial outcomes in this area. Going forward, Korea is strongly committed to share its rich expertise and experience as Africa’s close partner.”

In his address, the Chairman of the African Union and Rwandan President, Paul Kagame noted that holding the Annual Meetings in Busan presents a unique opportunity to enforce the growth cooperation between Africa and the Republic of Korea.

“Korea has been a strong and reliable partner of Africa. Africa faces challenges that we can address together,” he said.

The African Development Bank Group (AfDB) (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 34 African countries with an external office in Japan, the AfDB contributes to the economic development and the social progress of its 54 regional member states.

*AFDB

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NIGERIA:WHY WE ARE SHOWCASING FG’S PROJECTS NATIONWIDE – INFORMATION MINISTER LAI MOHAMMED
May 24, 2018 | 0 Comments
By Olayinka Ajayi*
 L-R; Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, being briefed by the Project Manager of Reynolds Construction Company, Mr. Harel Vaknin, during the inspection of ongoing work on Oyo-Ogbomoso Road on Tuesday.

L-R; Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, being briefed by the Project Manager of Reynolds Construction Company, Mr. Harel Vaknin, during the inspection of ongoing work on Oyo-Ogbomoso Road on Tuesday.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has said that the present administration decided to showcase its various projects across the country in response to critics who said the administration has not done anything to impact positively on the citizenry since assuming office.

The Minister stated this in Oyo Town on Tuesday when he inspected the construction of the Oyo-Ogbomoso Expressway, in continuation of his tour of ongoing Federal Government projects across the country.
“The response of this administration to criticism is simply to continue to do more and more work and also to continue to showcase what we are doing. There is only one way you can get the electorate to vote for you – by delivering on your promises; by embarking on projects which touch their lives and that’s what we are doing and that’s why we are so confident that our re-election will be very easy.
”On Monday we commissioned three projects in Osogbo, aimed at controlling the decades-long flooding that has claimed lives and property in the town. Today (Tuesday), we are inspecting the ongoing construction of the Oyo-Ogbomoso Road, which is one of the roads being constructed with a part of the 100 billion Naira Sukuk Loan. As we are here, other Ministers are also inspecting and commissioning key infrastructural projects across the country,” he said.
 Ongoing work on Oyo-Ogbomoso Road during the inspection by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, on Tuesday.

Ongoing work on Oyo-Ogbomoso Road during the inspection by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, on Tuesday.

Alhaji Mohammed said the Oyo-Ogbomoso Expressway remains very significant because it is the link between the South-western part of the country and the North and the main carriageway for heavy-duty vehicles since the collapse of the railways.

He assured that there will no longer be a funding challenge for the execution of the Oyo-Ogbomoso road project, in view of the creative approach to funding adopted by the present administration.
“I think you must have listened to the Minister of Power, Works and Housing late last week during the inspection of some roads in the South-East when he said funding will no longer be a challenge to many of our critical roads. This is because the N199 billion Presidential Infrastructure Fund has been put in place and the critical roads like this (Oyo-Ogbomoso road) will benefit from the Fund,” the Minister said.
While briefing the Minister on the project, the Federal Controller of Works in Oyo State, Mr. Omotayo Awosanya, said the project, which was awarded in 2010, is now 58% completed due to the commitment of the present administration to delivering the project.
“When it was initially awarded, there was no proper funding until this present regime when funding improved. We are lucky this project is benefitting from Sukuk Loan , in addition to what the budget can provide,” he said.
Mr. Awosanya said so far the sum of N26 billion had been paid to the contractor, out of the contract sum of N47 billion.He said if the current funding template is sustained, the project – originally scheduled for completion in 2013 – will now be completed by the middle of next year.
While conducting the Minister round the Asphalt Manufacturing Plant for the project, Mr. Harel Vaknin, the Project Manager of Reynolds Construction Company (RCC), the contracting firm, said all the materials used for the project are being sourced locally.He said over 600 people have been gainfully employed in the course of executing the project.
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Gadhafi regime’s legacy fuels violence in west Africa
May 24, 2018 | 0 Comments
President Buhari

President Buhari

Centuries-old communal tensions across West Africa are taking an increasingly bloody turn, fueled by competition for land and water and an influx of weapons and fighters from Libya.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has blamed that cocktail of guns and gunmen for the intensifying clashes between crop farmers and herders as well as robberies and kidnapping by bandit gangs. The violence is stoking Nigeria’s ethnic and religious divisions and is rivaling Boko Haram’s nine-year-old Islamist insurgency in the northeast as the nation’s biggest security crisis.

The fallout from the downfall of Moammar Gadhafi’s regime in Libya almost seven years ago is worsening conflict in Nigeria and other countries in the region such as Mali and Niger where al-Qaida- and Islamic State-inspired groups operate, according to analysts including Nnamdi Obasi of the Brussels-based International Crisis Group.

“Some arms looted after Gadhafi’s fall have been acquired by various groups, including Islamist insurgents, cattle rustlers and other bandits, herders and farming communities, aggravating conflicts and insecurity in northern Nigeria,” he said in an interview. “Secondly, some of the fighters that fled Libya have reportedly offered mercenary services to groups in conflict elsewhere or probably formed deadly bandit groups themselves.”

While Buhari’s administration has made some progress in weakening Boko Haram’s insurgency, the office of Senate President Bukola Saraki last week said 937 people were killed in attacks by gunmen and in the farmer-herder violence from Jan. 1 to April 30. Civic groups say about 170,000 people have been forced to flee their homes in Benue state alone.

The proliferation of small arms has played a role in expanding the conflicts, but the government must couple its security efforts with a focus on dealing with environmental change, said Idayat Hassan, executive director of the Abuja-based Centre for Democracy and Development. Issues the authorities must deal with include a constant shift in human and livestock population, the state’s weak capacity and the rise of criminality and insecurity in rural areas, she said.

In the latest attack on May 5, at least 48 people were killed in the town of Gwaska, 330 kilometers (205 miles) northwest of the capital, Abuja, by unidentified gunmen the authorities described as bandits. A similar raid on villages in northwestern Zamfara state on April 20 left 30 people dead.

 

National attention is now focused on the worsening violence between mainly Christian farmers and predominantly Muslim herders who are increasingly moving into the Benue River valley for pasture as the Sahara Desert inches steadily southwards.

An attack last month on a Catholic church in Benue state, in which 19 worshipers, including two priests, were killed, has roused religious sentiments in a country almost evenly split between a mainly Muslim north and a predominantly Christian south.

Thousands of people attended rallies in Abuja and other cities on Tuesday after the Catholic Bishops Conference urged Nigeria’s 30 million Catholics to stage protests against the killing of innocent Nigerians, irrespective of their ethnicity or religious faith.

With Buhari seeking a second four-year term in general elections due in February, the farmer-herder conflict is likely to feature among the emotive issues, said Imad Mesdoua, an analyst at London-based Control Risks Group.

“The reality is that the conflict will become increasingly politically sensitive in the coming months as campaigning for the 2019 elections begin,” he said. “Both sides of the political spectrum will seek to use the issue to score electoral points.”

In this spiraling conflict, farming communities have been encouraged by senior figures such as former army chief Theophilus Danjuma to protect themselves. This has run the risk of sparking further violence. In the Benue town of Gboko in February, at least 10 ethnic Fulanis were attacked and lynched by a mob days after an attack on a rival community was reported.

Buhari’s government has drawn criticism for being too slow to respond to the attacks and relying too much on military solutions to stop them. Unless the authorities move more quickly to stop the raids and prosecute those responsible, local communities will resort to arms, according to Osai Ojigho, director of Amnesty International Nigeria.

“The need for self-defense has led to an increase in demand of weapons,” she said, “Until security is restored, people will continue to seek out black-market traders.”

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Arsenal signs shirt-sponsorship deal with Rwanda
May 24, 2018 | 0 Comments
The deal between Visit Rwanda and Arsenal is for three years.

The deal between Visit Rwanda and Arsenal is for three years.

Change is afoot at Arsenal Football Club. Arsene Wenger is gone. Long-term defender Per Mertesacker has hung up his boots. Unai Emery has been announced as the new manager and, to top it off, the club has signed a new shirt-sponsorship deal with the central-east African nation Rwanda.

The three-year deal with the English Premier League club will be its first ever sleeve sponsorship, the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) said in a statement.
The “Visit Rwanda” logo will be emblazoned on the left sleeve on all first team, Under-23 and Arsenal Women’s shirts from the beginning of the new season this summer.
“We’re thrilled to be partnering with Arsenal and showcasing the vibrancy and beauty of our country,” said Clare Akamanzi, CEO of RDB.
The deal aims to highlight Rwanda’s tourist hotspots, like the national parks, rainforests and wildlife.
Last year 1.3 million people visited Rwanda, the RDB reports, and tourism is the country’s largest foreign exchange earner.
Rwanda will hope to attract visitors by being visible on one of world football’s most popular clubs.
“The Arsenal shirt is seen 35 million times a day around the world,” said Vinai Venkatesham, Arsenal’s Chief Commercial Officer, in a statement on the club’s website. They haven’t disclosed the financial details.
Arsenal is the sixth largest football club in the world, according to Deloitte. Manchester United have the top spot, followed by Real Madrid.
Earlier this year the IMF stated that Rwanda is the third fastest growing economy in Africa, although human rights groups report restricted freedom of speech.
 *CNN
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Ghana FA Boss released on bail
May 24, 2018 | 0 Comments

By  Papisdaff Abdullah.

KWESI NYANTAKYI

KWESI NYANTAKYI

The embattled President of the Ghana Football Association (GFA) Kwasi Nyantakyi has been released on bail by the Criminal Investigative Department (CID) of the Ghana Police Service. It comes after the CID escorted him to his residence to search his premises.

“Kwesi Nyantakyi was not arrested as it is being speculated He was escorted to the CID headquarters once he arrived in Ghana. I have been at the CID headquarters since 12noon.  He has just been released on bail,” a source close to him told journalists after his release.

Mr. Nyantakyi handed himself to the CID when he arrived from Morocco to answer questions for allegedly using President Akufo-Addo’s name fraudulently.

In a yet-to-be released video, Nyantakyi allegedly demanded whopping sums of money from the potential investors to facilitate their meeting with the president, the vice and other senior government officials.

The video will be released on June 6, 2018.President Akufo-Addo on Tuesday directed the CID to take up the matter on prima facie basis that his actions are criminal.

Mr. Nyantakyi was out of the country on an official duty but arrived Wednesday morning in a bid to clear his name with the CID officials.

The Ghana Police Service earlier confirmed it is investigating Kwesi Nyantakyi over allegations of fraud.

Confirming the investigation, the police in a statement said: “The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the Ghana Police Service is investigating Mr. Kwesi Nyantakyi, President of the Ghana Football Association for alleged offences including corruption.

“This follows a complaint received from His Excellency the President of the Republic of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo that Mr. Nyantakyi has used the President’s name and office fraudulently.”

“Police information shows that the suspect is presently outside of the jurisdiction and is expected to return on Wednesday 23rd May, 2018 whereupon he would be required to assist with the ongoing investigation,” a statement signed by director of public affairs Sheila Abayie-Buckman said.

It added: “Further, Police assures the public that due processes would be followed in the investigation. Any person with relevant information may submit it to the Police CID headquarters.”

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Nigeria to pay World Cup bonuses before DRC friendly
May 23, 2018 | 0 Comments
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Korea announces $5-billion financial package for Africa at African Development Bank Annual Meetings
May 23, 2018 | 0 Comments
The Bank and the Republic of Korea also signed an agreement with the intent to provide up to $600 million towards the energy sector
 

Adesina

Adesina

BUSAN, Republic of Korea, May 23, 2018/ — The Government of Korea and the African Development Bank (www.AfDB.org) have issued a Joint Declaration following the conclusion of the Ministerial Roundtable of the Korea-Africa Economic Cooperation (KOAFEC) Conference taking place during the African Development Bank’s 53rd Annual Meetings in which Korea announced a $5-billion bilateral financial assistance package for Africa.

 

The Ministerial Roundtable is the signature event of the biennial KOAFEC Conference, gathering a peer group of African Ministers of Finance who also serve as the African Development Bank Board of Governors to discuss topical issues and a pan-African approach to engagement with Korea. Taking place under the theme “Africa and the 4th Industrial Revolution: Opportunities for leapfrogging?”, the Ministerial Conference highlighted the need for long-term planning for industrial development and execution of projects, as well as a focus on value addition in sectors where Africa has comparative advantage for example in agriculture and natural resources. There was also a need to further leverage technology such as the mobile phone for more inclusive growth, in favour of the youth.

The $5-billion financial assistance package will be delivered over two years through partnerships with various development agencies, including but not limited to the African Development Bank Group. The package leverages resources from various Korean bilateral agencies and platforms, including the Knowledge Sharing Program, the Economic Development Cooperation Fund, Korea Import-Export Bank, among others. Specifically, African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina and the Deputy Prime Minister of Korea, Dong Yeon Kim, signed three cooperation agreements for the implementation of certain components of the $5-billion package by the Bank Group. The first was the extension of the General Cooperation Agreement which allowed for the replenishment of the KOAFEC Trust Fund housed at the African Development Bank with US $18 million. The Trust Fund, now totaling $93 million will continue to provide critical capacity building grants and resources for project feasibility studies. An Action Plan of 20 KOAFEC projects were endorsed during the Conference for 2019-2020 destined for a diverse group of countries and sectors.

 

The Bank and the Republic of Korea also signed an agreement with the intent to provide up to $600 million towards the energy sector. The Bank and the Government of Korea also signed an MOU for the Korea-AfDB Tech Corps Program which will allow for the exchange of technical expertise and human resources, to address ongoing challenges of youth unemployment in both regions. On the occasion, President Adesina noted that “Africa needs to build, and we will build, wider partnerships for development. We want to build strong investment partnerships with Asia going forward.”

The African Development Bank Group (AfDB) (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 34 African countries with an external office in Japan, the AfDB contributes to the economic development and the social progress of its 54 regional member states.

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Lidya Raises $6.9 Million in a Series A Round Led by Omidyar Network
May 23, 2018 | 0 Comments

One of the largest funding rounds in the tech sector in Nigeria will help bring innovation to financing for micro, small, and medium businesses

Lagos, Nigeria, May 23, 2018 — Lidya, the digital financial services platform focused on improving access to credit for micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in Africa, today announced that it has raised $6.9 million in a Series A investment round, one of the largest in Nigerian tech history. The funding was led by Omidyar Network, the Silicon Valley impact investment firm established by Pierre Omidyar, the founder of eBay. New investors, Alitheia Capital (via the Umunthu Fund), Bamboo Capital Partners, and Tekton Ventures, also joined the round, which included existing investors Accion Venture Lab and Newid Capital.

“Lidya was founded on a simple, yet fundamental idea: technology can unleash and empower a generation of business leaders and entrepreneurs throughout Africa by revolutionizing how risk is assessed, credit is underwritten, and customers are banked,” said Tunde Kehinde, cofounder of Lidya.

“We are excited by the overwhelming support from the investor community, which signals a great confidence in our business model and team,” added Ercin Eksin, cofounder of Lidya.

Globally, MSMEs are one of the strongest drivers of economic development, innovation, and employment, and yet access to finance is frequently identified as a critical barrier to growth for these businesses. 40 percent of MSMEs in emerging markets are underserved when it comes to access to credit—representing an estimated $5.2 trillion credit gap. In Nigeria, where Lidya is based, the IFC estimates that there is an MSME credit gap of at least $25 billion.

“Access to flexible, affordable credit is at the crux of unlocking growth in the MSME sector. Lidya is addressing that by using smart algorithms to analyze transaction data from small businesses to assess their creditworthiness,” said Ameya Upadhyay, investment principal at Omidyar Network and Lidya’s newest board member. “This data-driven approach allows the company to offer loans without the need of hard collateral—a requirement that has scuttled MSME financing in Africa. In the process, Lidya gathers insights that help expand its product portfolio to become a holistic partner to small businesses.”

How it works

In less than 15 minutes, an MSME can create a free account online or download the Lidya app on to their connected devices. The MSME can then share or load bank account or transaction information to the platform. Following this, the MSME can manage cash flows, customer data, and create and send invoices digitally.

Requesting a loan against a pending invoice is easy and decisions are made within 48 hours. Once approved, funds are disbursed on the same day. To assess credit risk, Lidya uses nearly 100 data points to evaluate each applicant and builds a unique credit score. Businesses can apply for loans ranging from $500 to $50,000, without the need to go to a physical location, present audited financials and projections, or provide collateral. Repayment schedules and fees are agreed upfront and with total transparency.

Since inception in 2016, Lidya has made over 1,500 business loans to help MSMEs in farming, hospitality, logistics, retail, real estate, technology, and health to get the capital they need to grow their operations.

The funds raised in the Series A round will allow Lidya to expand its loan book, scale in Nigeria, enter new markets in Africa, and bring in more skilled professionals, particularly data scientists and engineers.

Lidya has also been recently accepted into the MasterCard Start Path Program, a global effort to support innovative startups developing the next generation of commerce solutions.

About Lidya

Lidya is the future of finance for small businesses in frontier markets.  Our goal is to help great business owners access financing and build a credit score through an easy and inspiring lending process. Lidya is currently live in Nigeria and is using world-class technology to help small businesses invoice customers, access credit, and build credit scores to grow their businesses. Lidya was founded by Tunde Kehinde, the former Managing Director of Jumia Nigeria, the largest eCommerce platform in West Africa, and Ercin Eksin, the former Chief Operating Officer of Jumia Africa responsible for operations in six of the largest economies in Africa. Tunde and Ercin also cofounded Africa Courier Express, the largest direct-to-consumer delivery provider in Nigeria. Tunde and Ercin attended Harvard Business School and the University of Chicago-Booth, respectively, for their MBAs. You can learn more here: www.lidya.co.

About Omidyar Network

Omidyar Network is a philanthropic investment firm dedicated to harnessing the power of markets to create opportunity for people to improve their lives. Established in 2004 by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and his wife Pam, the organization invests in and helps scale innovative organizations to catalyze economic and social change.  Omidyar Network has committed more than $1 billion to for-profit companies and nonprofit organizations that foster economic advancement and encourage individual participation across multiple initiatives, including Financial Inclusion, Digital Identity, Education, Emerging Tech, Governance & Citizen Engagement, and Property Rights. You can learn more here: www.omidyar.com.

About Accion Venture Lab
Accion Venture Lab is the world’s leading seed-stage investor in FinTech for the underserved. Venture Lab invests capital in, and provides support to, innovative FinTech startups that increase access to, improve the quality of, or reduce the cost of financial services for the underserved at scale. Since launching in 2012, Venture Lab has deployed over US$10 million across more than 30 startups that work in over 20 countries worldwide. Venture Lab is a part of Accion, a global nonprofit committed to creating a financially inclusive world, with a pioneering legacy in microfinance and FinTech impact investing. Accion catalyzes financial service providers to deliver high-quality, affordable solutions at scale for the three billion people who are left out of–or poorly served by–the financial sector. For more than 50 years, Accion has helped tens of millions of people through its work with more than 90 partners in 40 countries. For further information, visit https://www.accion.org/venturelab.

About Alitheia Capital (via the Umunthu Fund)

Goodwell’s uMunthu fund is a €100-million inclusive growth fund for Sub-Saharan Africa that invests in financial inclusion, agribusiness, and other inclusive growth sectors, with a heavy focus on the digital economy. The fund is part of the third generation of Goodwell funds, with dedicated and experienced local teams, building on the success of predecessor funds in India and West Africa. The investment in Lidya was executed by Alitheia Capital, co-manager of the uMunthu fund. uMunthu’s portfolio companies include Pagatech (Nigeria), Nomanini (South Africa), Musoni Systems (pan-African), WhereIsMyTransport (pan-African), and Oradian (pan-African).  For more information, please contact Nico Blaauw, Goodwell, at nico@goodwell.nl.

About Bamboo Capital Partners

Bamboo Capital Partners (“Bamboo”) is a pioneering private equity firm that delivers positive social and financial value. Bamboo invests in businesses primarily in financial services, energy and healthcare that leverage technology to have impact at scale in emerging markets. Founded in 2007, Bamboo is a longstanding sector leader and through continuous evolution has a honed strategy for growth. Bamboo has raised over $300m across four funds to date. Bamboo has positively impacted over 96 million lives and created over 30,000 jobs through its investments in over 30 countries. The firm has a team of 25 professionals active across Europe, South America, Africa and Asia. For more information, please visit http://www.bamboocp.com.

About Newid Capital

Newid Capital is a direct-investment fund focused on financial services and financial technology companies in developing markets. Through its investments, Newid Capital aims to expand financial services to currently underserved markets and individuals. Newid actively seeks early- and mid-stage startups that are looking for investment and operational assistance. Newid is able to leverage personal experience in building, and exiting, financial services companies from the viewpoint of both the entrepreneur and the investor.

 

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2019 Teasers: Buhari and Obasanjo Trade Barbs
May 23, 2018 | 0 Comments
By Olayinka Ajayi
Buhari and Obasanjo have been trading barbs

Buhari and Obasanjo have been trading barbs

Following Nigeria’s President Muhamadu Buhari condemnation of previous administration for “ bragging that he spent more than 16 billion American dollars, not Naira, on power. Where is the power?And now we have to pay the debts.” while receiving a delegation of Buhari Support Organisation (BSO) at the Presidential Villa criticised.

In what was interpreted by political analyst as a direct reference to former President Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.

Responding, Former President Olusegun Obasanjo who backed Buhari’s election in 2015, but who has since turned one of the fiercest critics of the administration, shot back through a statement by his media aide, Kehinde Akinyemi in a statement‎ said,

“It has come to the attention of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo that a statement credited to President Muhammadu Buhari, apparently without correct information and based on ignorance, suggested that $16 billion was wasted on power projects by “a former President”.

“We believe that the President was re-echoing the unsubstantiated allegation against Chief Obasanjo by his own predecessor.‎”

“While it is doubtful that a President with proper understanding of the issue would utter such, it should be pointed out that records from the National Assembly had exculpated President Obasanjo of any wrong-doing concerning the power sector and has proved the allegations as false.”

“Obasanjo has addressed the issues of the power sector and the allegations against him on many occasions and platforms, including in his widely publicised book, My Watch in which he exhaustively stated the facts and reproduced various reports by both the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), which conducted a clinical investigation into the allegations against Chief Obasanjo, and the Ad-Hoc Committee on the Review of the Recommendations in the Report of the Committee on Power on the Investigation into how the Huge Sums Of Money was Spent on Power Generation, Transmission And Distribution between June 1999 and May 2007 without Commensurate Result.

“We recommend that the President and his co-travellers should read Chapters 41, 42, 43 and 47 of My Watch for Chief Obasanjo’s insights and perspectives on the power sector and indeed what transpired when the allegation of $16 billion on power projects was previously made. If he cannot read the three-volume book, he should detail his aides to do so and summarise the chapters in a language that he will easily understand.”

“In the same statement credited to the President, it was alleged that there was some bragging by Chief Obasanjo over $16 billion spent on power. To inform the uninformed, the so-called $16 billion power expenditure was an allegation against Chief Obasanjo’s administration and not his claim.Chief Obasanjo challenges, and in fact encourages, anybody to set up another enquiry if in doubt and unsatisfied with the EFCC report and that of the Hon. Aminu Tambuwal-led ad-hoc committee.”

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