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Refugee Settlements To Be Transformed Into Digital Communities For Long-Term Economic Growth
January 24, 2018 | 0 Comments

Mastercard and the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Power Africa Initiative Announce Powerful New Public-Private Coalition

Davos, Switzerland – January 24, 2018 – Mastercard and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) today announced the launch of a public-private coalition that will bring together technology, solutions and experience from multiple sectors to transform refugee settlements into digitally-connected communities. This commitment delivers on a vision laid out in research conducted last year by Mastercard to better understand the critical needs of the over seven million refugees living in camps or settlements today.

The coalition, led by Mastercard and USAID’s Power Africa initiative, will launch pilot programs during the first half of 2018 to address some of the biggest barriers to development. For example, mobile phone and internet access is as critical to refugees’ safety and security as food, shelter and water. The organizations will work together to introduce internet and mobile connectivity, access to clean, efficient energy, and digital financial tools for communities in Kenya and Uganda, with plans to scale to other refugee-hosting countries around the world.

In addition to Mastercard and Power Africa, organizations participating in the coalition include: AccentureAcumenBRCKDanish Refugee CouncilEnergy Peace PartnersFenix InternationalGSMAThe Innovation VillageLutheran World FederationMercy CorpsMicrosoftMoving Energy InitiativeNetHopeNorwegian Refugee CouncilOff-Grid ElectricPawamePowerGen Renewable EnergySolarKioskTent FoundationUSAID Global Development LabU.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and MigrationVecna Cares Charitable Trusts, and World Vision.

“We’ve spent the past several years testing and learning with our partners to take what we do well as a technology company and apply it to help solve this humanitarian crisis,” said Tara Nathan, Executive Vice President, Public Private Partnerships, Mastercard. “Our payments technology has helped to reduce inefficiencies and expenses, add transparency, empower refugees, and stimulate local markets. Now we’re also acting as a force multiplier by combining our strengths with those of the coalition members to make an even bigger impact.”

Today, approximately 31 percent of the world’s refugees live in refugee camps or settlements. They are men, women and children who have fled from countries ravaged by war, political unrest and natural disasters, in hopes of a better life. But they spend an average of 10 years in exile, most often residing in low-and middle-income countries that are already under significant economic strain.

Uganda and Kenya are among the ten countries with the largest refugee populations. Uganda hosts 1.4 million refugees and is home to Bidi Bidi, currently the largest refugee settlement in the world. Kenya hosts approximately 490,000 refugees in settlements, including Kalobeyei, which was established in 2015 to improve the conditions of refugees and host communities through an economically integrated approach.

Mastercard recently published a recommendation for a new integrated model for refugee camps following a year of extensive research in the Kakuma and Kalobeyei camps in Kenya. The insights from the study helped identify the three key areas on which coalition members will focus:

  • Connectivity – Coalition members will work together to create accessible and resilient connectivity platforms that deliver vital information to refugees and host communities and enable efficient management of settlement operations.
  • Digital tools – Whether providing cash-based assistance or conducting outreach to refugees and host community members, agencies increasingly rely upon technology to effectively address needs. The coalition will work to design and implement an integrated set of identity, payment, and data tools that improve the delivery of essential services.
  • Energy access – Power is not provided in settlements as a service, so refugees often rely upon donated solar lanterns for basic light, and poor quality, expensive diesel generators for small businesses. The coalition members will implement solutions for providing energy access to refugees and host communities in a more efficient and low-cost way.

This coalition complements the UN General Assembly endorsed Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) and the Global Compact on Refugees, which seeks to ease pressure on host countries and enhance refugee self-reliance. UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency and lead for the CRRF, welcomes innovative private-public approaches to longstanding refugee situations that advance the sustainable development agenda and the CRRF.

The Tent Foundation’s Partnership for Refugees will host the Smart Communities Coalition website, enabling additional companies to join the effort to tailor their services to meet refugee and host community needs, a focus area for Tent. Mastercard joined the Tent Partnership in 2016, and this coalition is an extension of its pledge to explore better ways to integrate refugees in host communities.

Louise James, Managing Director, Accenture Development Partnerships:

“Accenture is proud to be a coalition member and to support the mission of this group. Our main goal is to help refugees have the connectivity they require through access to mobile phones and the internet. Connectivity will expand refugees’ access to critical vocational, health and safety information and services.”

Sherwin Das, Managing Director, Energy Peace Partners:

“Energy Peace Partners is pleased to be part of the Smart Communities Coalition and excited to leverage our Peace Renewable Energy Credit (PREC) instrument to drive new renewable energy investment in some of the world’s most fragile settings.”

Lyndsay Handler, CEO, Fenix International:

“Fenix is committed to providing affordable energy products and inclusive financing to the hundreds of millions of people in Africa living without access to the grid. We are proud to partner with the Smart Communities Coalition to find innovative technology and customer experience solutions to overcome the barriers of delivering clean energy and other life-changing products to this population.”

Lennart Hernander, Program Representative, Lutheran World Federation:

“LWF is proud to work with so many dedicated and professional partners in the ‘Smart Communities Coalition’. LWF has supported refugees in Kakuma for more than 25 years. We were among the first few partners present on the ground when the ‘Lost Boys’ from Sudan started to arrive.  We see the ‘Smart Communities Coalition’ as a major step towards a future-looking and integrated solution for refugees and local communities, which through connectivity and renewable energy will provide new opportunities for all. The Smart Communities Coalition approach empowers communities in a dignified and accountable manner, this is at the very core of LWFs vision and objectives globally.”

Neal Keny-Guyer, CEO, Mercy Corps:

“At Mercy Corps, we have long held the belief that to solve complex problems, we need to work together across sectors – public, private and nonprofit – to bring to bear our collective knowledge to design bold solutions. We’re thrilled to be a founding member of the Smart Communities Coalition and hopeful about the possibility to bring needed technology and other services to refugee settlements.”

Ben Good, Project Director, Moving Energy Initiative and CEO, Energy 4 Impact:

“The Moving Energy Initiative believes that a paradigm shift in the way humanitarian sector “does energy”, including new types of partnership with the private sector, can create major benefits for the environment, for the agencies and for displaced persons.  And, as it is with energy access, so it is with connectivity and the digital economy. We are therefore delighted to be partnering with the Smart Communities Coalition.”

Lauren Woodman, CEO, NetHope:

“Internet connectivity is a lifeline that connects refugees to information, resources, and opportunities. Put simply: Information is aid.”

Neil Turner, Kenya Country Director, Norwegian Refugee Council:

“Offering refugees increasing livelihood opportunities, unleashing their entrepreneurial skills, and creating environmentally friendly, energy efficient ways of doing this, is at the heart of the NRC’s work in Kenya.”

Xavier Helgesen, CEO and Co-Founder, Off-Grid Electric:

“We have long been a proud partner of Power Africa, and are thrilled by the opportunity to use our technology and experience in Africa to serve refugee communities with affordable & reliable power.”

Maurice Parets, CEO, Pawame:

“Pawame is a social enterprise distributing solar home systems in Turkana County, where Kakuma refugee camp is located. We launched our operations in September 2017 and Pawame is committed to creating jobs by distributing its solar home system, empowering the lives of refugees and reducing the carbon footprint. Through our solar home systems, which provide lighting, phone charging and television, we will empower refugees with increased energy access.”

Andreas Spiess, CEO and Co-Founder, SolarKiosk:

“SOLARKIOSK is thrilled to be one of the founding members of the Smart Communities Coalition. We look forward to enabling our solar powered infrastructure, the E-HUBB, to become an integral part of the Coalition’s mission to bring renewable energy and economic generating opportunities to refugee and host communities.  With a network of over 200 E-HUBBs across Africa and Asia, experience with refugee and host communities in the Middle East and over five years of know-how in providing retail products and energy services to underserved markets, SOLARKIOSK can greatly contribute to the transformation led by the Coalition.”

Paul Amendola, Executive Director, VecnaCares:

“VecnaCares is excited to be a member of the coalition. Our goal is to develop and deploy an electronic medical records system and CliniPAK to help close the information gaps between patients, caregivers, and decision-makers. Digital patient-centered data in real-time will impact and improve patient health, clinical treatment, and medical resources for refugees.”

Kevin Jenkins, President and CEO, World Vision International:

“The Smart Communities Coalition represents the positive shift in how private and public partners are working together to address growing humanitarian needs, especially in refugee settings. As part of the Smart Communities Coalition, World Vision will work with our partners to identify technologies and approaches that will expedite the delivery of services to reduce the vulnerabilities of children and build self-reliance for their families, particularly in fragile and conflict contexts.”

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Next Einstein Forum launches survey to measure gender gap in STEM education and research in Africa
January 24, 2018 | 0 Comments
Female NEF fellows

Female NEF fellows

KIGALI, Rwanda, 24 January 2018 -/African Media Agency (AMA) – The Next Einstein Forum (NEF), an initiative of the Africa Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) in partnership with Robert Bosch Stiftung, today announces the launch of an important survey that hopes to measure the existing gender gap in science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) education and research in Africa.

The survey results will be announced through a report released at the NEF Global Gathering 2018 to be held 26-28 March 2018 in Kigali, Rwanda. Further, the results will inform a White Paper to be unpacked during the highly anticipated panel on bridging the gap for women in science and technology to be held on the first day of the NEF Global Gathering 2018.

“The NEF and our AIMS Women in STEM (AIMSWIS) Initiative are committed to promoting scientific excellence and gender equity. We believe the two go hand in hand, improving scientific output and outcomes. We have launched this survey to get a better understanding of what barriers exist and what best practices can be adopted organically to advance gender equity in STEM education and research on our continent,” said Mr. Thierry Zomahoun, President and CEO of AIMS and Chairman of the NEF.

Questions will focus on participants’ academic journey and work experience including the opportunities and barriers faced along the way. The results will be compiled in a report which will provide much needed primary data to inform discussion and recommendations among policy makers, academic institutions, funding partners and civil society.

Central to the NEF’s vision of propelling Africa onto the global scientific stage, the NEF actively works to increase women’s representation in STEM fields in Africa and globally. Leading by example, NEF Fellows and Ambassadors cohorts comprise at least 40% women.

To participate in the survey, click here. The first 100 completed surveys will receive a participation prize.

Launched in 2013, the Next Einstein Forum (NEF) is an initiative of the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) in partnership with the Robert Bosch Stiftung. The NEF is a platform that connects science, society and policy in Africa and the rest of the world – with the goal to leverage science for human development globally. The NEF believes that Africa’s contributions to the global scientific community are critical for global progress. At the centre of NEF efforts are Africa’s young people, the driving force for Africa’s scientific renaissance. The NEF is a unique youth-driven forum. At our headline biennial scientific events, 50% of participants are 42 or younger. Far from being an ordinary science forum, the NEF Global Gatherings position science at the centre of global development efforts. The next NEF Global Gathering will be held on 26-28 March 2018 in Kigali, Rwanda. In addition, through our Communities of Scientists, we showcase the contributions of Africa’s brilliant youth to Africa’s scientific emergence through its class of NEF Fellows, who are Africa’s top scientists and technologists under the age of 42, and NEF Ambassadors, who are the NEF’s 54 science and technology ambassadors on the ground.

The NEF is also working together with partners such as the African Academy of Sciences, Ministers’ of Education, Science and Research across Africa, foundations and other global scientific and private sector companies, to build an African scientific identity. By bringing together key stakeholders, the NEF hopes to drive the discussion from policy to implementation by leveraging buy in and best practice results from Africa and the world. Have a look at our benchmark Dakar Declaration.

Finally, the NEF is telling untold stories of scientific research and innovation across the continent through our various platforms. We want to recalibrate what ‘innovation’ means in Africa. We want to make the link between science and technology, even basic sciences, to everyday life. We want the public involved in science and we have recently concluded the first coordinated Africa Science Week – an annual three to five day celebration of science and technology through coordinated science events across the continent. We believe the next Einstein will be African.

The NEF has been endorsed by the African Union Commission, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Governments of Rwanda, Senegal and South Africa, the African Academy of Sciences (AAS) and a growing number of private sector and civil society partners from across the world who are passionate about positioning Africa’s scientific community as an influential member in the global scientific community, which will ensure sustainable human development in Africa and other parts of the world.

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African Union Diaspora Headquarters to be established in Accompong Jamaica
January 24, 2018 | 0 Comments
Accompong Minister of Finance, Hon. Timothy E. McPherson Jr., salutes Ambassador Quao as she confirms AU Diaspora Headquarters to be established in Accompong

Accompong Minister of Finance, Hon. Timothy E. McPherson Jr., salutes Ambassador Quao as she confirms AU Diaspora Headquarters to be established in Accompong

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, 24 January 2018 -/African Media Agency (AMA)/- African Union Permanent Ambassador to the USA, Hon. Dr. Arikana Chihombori Quao, has re-affirmed the decision to establish an African Union Diaspora Headquarters in Accompong Jamaica during the official ceremony to mark the anniversary of the signing of the Peace Treaty between the Accompong Maroons and the British.

The Ambassador applauded the Maroons for maintaining their African cultural heritage and traditions, and described the Maroon state as being a piece of Africa in the heart of the Caribbean.

The Right Hon. Colonel Ferron Williams, Accompong Head of State, welcomed the decision and said “Today we Maroons are vindicated for having fought to defend our African heritage and identity. We are honoured by our ancestors valor and victory against European colonialism.”

AU Ambassador Arikana Chihombori Quao addresses the nation during the 280th Accompong Maroon Festival and announces new AU Diaspora Headquarters to be built in Accompong.

AU Ambassador Arikana Chihombori Quao addresses the nation during the 280th Accompong Maroon Festival and announces new AU Diaspora Headquarters to be built in Accompong.

The new headquarters will be used to consolidate the African Diaspora in a strategic cooperation with the African Union, Governments and key institutions. The African Union officially recognizes the Diaspora as the Sixth Region of the Union, but it is widely accepted that the Diaspora must become organized before it can have a meaningful engagement with the continent.

Accompong’s Minster of Finance, Hon. Timothy McPherson, was instrumental in brokering the agreement which he describes as signaling “a new era of economic cooperation and development between Africa and the Diaspora. This cooperation is what the African family has been waiting for during the last 500 years, now that its here let’s return to building wonders of wonders and achieving things the world is yet to imagine. ”

The Headquarters is expected to begin its operations in February 2018.

 
 

The African Union Representational Mission to the United States of America is the first bilateral diplomatic mission of the African Union. Officially launched on July 11, 2007 in Washington, DC, its mandate is to undertake, develop and maintain constructive and productive institutional relationships between the African Union and the executive and legislative branches of the U.S. government, the African Diplomatic Corps, the Africans in the Diaspora, and the Bretton Woods Institutions through.

Sovereign State of Accompong
This state is a nation within the nation of the island of Jamaica. The Maroon settlement of Accompong perched high up in the mountains of St. Elizabeth in western Jamaica was founded in 1739, established after rebel slaves and their descendants fought a protracted war with the British, the runaway Maroon slaves signed a peace treaty with the British to gain semi-sovereignty over the area. Accompong is a little piece of Africa in the heart of the Caribbean.

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African Union Commission to launch highly-anticipated Single African Sky
January 24, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Wallace Mawire
The African Union Commission is set to launch the first AU Agenda
2063 Flagship project, the Single African Air Transport Market
(SAATM), in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 28th January 2018 as a historic
event at the African Union Summit, nearly two decades after the
adoption of the 1999 Yamoussoukro Decision.

Speaking ahead of the launch event, Dr. Amani Abou-Zeid, Commissioner
for Infrastructure and Energy at the African Union Commission said
“With preparations continuing on schedule, the launch of the Single
African Air Transport Market will spur more opportunities to promote
trade, cross-border investments in the production and service
industries, including tourism resulting in the creation of an
additional 300,000 direct and two million indirect jobs contributing
immensely to the integration and socio-economic growth of the
continent.”

The Commissioner stated that the aviation industry currently
supports 8 million jobs in Africa and hence SAATM was created with the
aim of enhancing connectivity, facilitating trade and tourism,
creating employment, and ensuring that the industry plays a more
prominent role in the global economy and significantly contributing to
the AU’s Agenda 2063.

“The AU Summit will also see the adoption of the regulatory text of
the Yamoussoukro Decision, that is, the competition and consumer
protection regulations that safeguards the efficient operation of the
market,” the Commissioner added.

An exhibition billed “Flying the AU Agenda 2063 for an integrated,
peaceful and prosperous Africa” will be unveiled to mark the launch,
as well as ribbon cutting and the inauguration of the commemorative
plaque.

So far, 23 African countries out of 55 have subscribed to the Single
African Air Transport Market whereas 44 African countries signed the
Yamoussoukro Decision.

“The African Union Commission, under the leadership and personal
commitment of H.E. Moussa Faki Mahamat, has been playing a key
coordinating role in the establishment of the Single African Air
Transport Market and advocacy to AU Member States, who have not yet
committed to the solemn commitment, to do so,” the Commissioner
intimated.

The African Union Commission (AUC), the African Civil Aviation
Commission (AFCAC), the International Civil Aviation Organization
(ICAO), the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the
African Airlines Association (AFRAA) are also advising African
countries to open their skies for enhancement of connectivity and
efficiency of air services in the continent.

“As the first of the 12 African Union’s Agenda 2063 flagship projects
to be launched, the implementation of SAATM will pave the way for
other flagship projects as the African Passport and enabling the Free
Movement of People, the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA),”
Commissioner Abou-Zeid stressed.

The Declaration on the establishment of a Single African Air Transport
Market, as a flagship project of the AU Agenda 2063, was adopted by
the African Union (AU) Assembly in January 2015. Immediately
thereafter, eleven (11) AU Member States declared their Solemn
Commitment to establish a Single African Air Transport Market through
full implementation of the Yamoussoukro Decision of 1999 that provides
for full liberalization of market access between African States, free
exercise of traffic rights, elimination of restrictions on ownership
and full liberalization of frequencies, fares and capacities.

To date, the number of Member States that have adhered to the Solemn
Commitment has reached twenty-three (23), namely: Benin, Botswana,
Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia,
Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mozambique, Niger,
Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Swaziland, Togo and
Zimbabwe.

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Ugandan president: Why I love Trump
January 24, 2018 | 0 Comments

-Uganda’s Museveni: I love Trump for being frank with Africans

President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda has given a speech declaring his “love” for US President Donald Trump.

Earlier this month, Mr Trump was accused of referring to African nations as “shithole” countries during an immigration meeting.

Mr Trump has denied making the remarks but US senators who attended the meeting say that he did.

The African Union demanded that Mr Trump apologise for his “clearly racist” comments.

“America has got one of the best presidents ever,” Mr Museveni said to laughter during the opening of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) in the Ugandan capital of Kampala.

“I love Trump because he tells Africans frankly. The Africans need to solve their problems, the Africans are weak.”

Mr Museveni’s comments are in opposition to the reaction of many leaders who have condemned Mr Trump’s language.

On Sunday, French President Emmanuel Macron told the BBC that he shared Africa’s outrage.

On Monday, people in Haiti, another country that Mr Trump disparaged, protested against the president’s remarks.

Mr Museveni’s defence of the US president came just hours after the US ambassador to Uganda criticised Mr Trump.

“[His words] are obviously quite disturbing and upsetting,” Deborah Malac said.

Mr Trump allegedly used the term “shithole countries” when asking why the US should accept immigrants from Haiti and some countries in Africa.

In 2017, Mr Trump allegedly said that Afghanistan was a terrorist haven; all people from Haiti “have Aids”, and that Nigerians would never “go back to their huts” once allowed into the US, the New York Times reported.

The White House denied Mr Trump made the comments.

*BBC

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Morocco launches 2026 World Cup campaign and logo
January 24, 2018 | 0 Comments
Morocco is up against a joint bid from Canada, Mexico and the United States to host the World Cup

Morocco is up against a joint bid from Canada, Mexico and the United States to host the World Cup

Morocco has launched its campaign to host the 2026 World Cup in Casablanca.

The North African nation, making its fifth bid to host the finals, faces competition from a joint bid proposed by Canada, Mexico and the USA.

“Morocco 2026 will showcase the best of football, at the heart of the world,” bid chairman Moulay Hafid Elalamy said at Tuesday’s launch.

The decision on who will host the event will be made on 13 June, the eve of the 2018 World Cup in Moscow.

“We promise to stage a tournament overflowing with real passion and to celebrate the values of unity and peace,” added Elalamy.

“A World Cup in Morocco will deliver commercial success and leave a long-lasting legacy and if we win the honour of hosting we believe the winners will be football, the young people of our nation, Africa and the world.”

No details were given about the host cities, with the vote to determine the host less than five months away.

The North African nation has failed in four previous World Cup bids – in 1994, 1998, 2006 and 2010.

In 2010, the tournament was hosted by South Africa as the continent staged the World Cup for first – and so far only – time in its history.

Morocco is looking to change all that and has appointed Elalamy, a government minister, to lead the bid while former Confederation of African Football Secretary General Hicham El Amrani will be its chief executive.

Former Caf Secretary General Hicham El Amrani (right)
Former Caf Secretary General Hicham El Amrani is the CEO of Morocco’s bid

Fouzi Lekjaa, the head of Morocco’s Football Federation (FRMF), said at Tuesday’s launch: “This is an important moment as we begin to showcase our bid to Morocco, the international community and Fifa’s National Associations.

“We have assembled a committed, experienced team to bring our vision to life.”

Rachid Talbi El Alami, Morocco’s minister of youth and sports, said that the country’s infrastructure is more ready than at any time to host an expanded World Cup, with 48 teams set to play in the 2026 finals.

“Morocco has made rapid progress since 2003 – in sport, infrastructure, hotels, airports, motorways and public transport networks,” said Talbi El Alami.

 *BBC
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Africa need to be recolonized, but this time by Africans themselves.
January 24, 2018 | 1 Comments

By  Gareth Morris*

Moussa Fakir Mahamat, the President of the African Union Commission

Moussa Fakir Mahamat, the President of the African Union Commission

Unfortunately corruption and bad leadership in Africa is not just caused by greed, it’s also coming from the failure of other African leaders in the past who had good intentions and wanted to develop their country and create a prosperous life for their people but end up becoming a target of the west who would assassinate them like Patrice Lumumba.

So to keep themselves safe they avoid following those leaders and work with the west to exploit Africa. And with the failure of Zimbabwe’s economy after Mugabe tried to do the right thing, many African leaders are afraid of following him so their country can be freed from white control.

Plus with the growing influence China now have in Africa, many African leaders are now slaves to foreign power and even if they wanted to put the interest of Africans first, they can’t.

So as you can see, it has become impossible to depend on Government leaders in Africa to put their fellow Africans first so Africans can live a happy prosperous life because of the increasing influence different foreign powers have in Africa today.

This problem is not unique to Africa. Globalization has given richer countries power and control over poorer ones which make it difficult for poorer countries to develop.

So in order to stop foreign powers from exploiting Africa so that Africans can start benefiting from Africa’s resources, Africans will have to take control of their countries by taking control of their Government leaders.

Just like how people from other countries are able to take control of our Government leaders and assassinate them whenever they refuse to do what they want, we Africans are able to do the same as well to get what we want.

So in order for Africa and Black countries worldwide to strive, we need Pro Black Pan Africans to be in control of the Government, military and economy.

That can easily be accomplished by creating an organization run by Pro Black Pan Africans who’s job is to hold Government leaders responsible and punish them when they fail to do the right thing.

With such an organization, Africans and their countries would be protected from corruption, exploitation and other problems.

We also need an organization similar to the CIA and MOSSAD of Israel to protect the interest of Africa and Africans worldwide from foreign powers. Everyone have an organization to protect their interest, so why shouldn’t we as well?

*Gareth Morris and I’m a 27 year old entrepreneur from Jamaica. He identifies humself as a Pan Africanist who’s goal is to empower fellow Africans though knowledge so they can free and protect themselves for oppression. The views expressed are his

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Ellen Johnson Sirleaf: The legacy of Africa’s first elected female president
January 23, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Tamasin Ford*

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf made history as Africa's first elected female president

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf made history as Africa’s first elected female president

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf made history as Africa’s first elected female president, but also faced accusations of corruption and nepotism. How will she be remembered?

Mrs Sirleaf’s story is pitted with remarkable feats of defiance and courage, entangled with accusations of corruption and nepotism.

Just days before she was due to step down from 12 historic years in power, she was expelled from her own political party. Some people hold her up as their saviour; others say she’s just like all the rest.

“The best thing she did is the peace she kept for us,” said 22-year-old Jenneh Sebo, who was sitting lazily in the scorching sun drumming down on the capital Monrovia when I saw her ahead of the country’s election in October last year.

This is not an uncommon answer. Liberians went through 14 years of barbaric, drug fuelled, chaotic war, where child soldiers carried out the most unspeakable crimes. Myriad rebel groups reigned over towns and cities with terror, stripping the country of any semblance of infrastructure.

Hospitals, schools, roads and even lamp-posts were destroyed; the latter out of a belief that enemy soldiers could turn themselves into one. So to be thankful for peace is not a flippant response.

However, 15 years on from the end of the war people have long begun demanding more from their government. Jenneh, too young to remember much of the fighting, was sitting in the sun because she did not have a job and had not been in education since high school.

The same month, on a grassy field opposite President Sirleaf’s house in the more affluent Sinkor area of Monrovia, hundreds of women dressed in white danced to music blasting from massive speakers. The musicians sang “we want peace in Liberia, peace in Monrovia”, the song Ivorian reggae star Alpha Blondy wrote about their country during the war in 1992.

Many of these women launched a mass peace movement in 2003 that helped finally end war. They organised sex strikes, until their men put down their arms. They forced a meeting with President Charles Taylor, getting him to agree to go to Ghana for peace talks. Once there, they surrounded the room threatening to take off their clothes until some sort of peace deal was reached.

Women in Peacebuilding Network activists in October 2017Image copyrightAFP
Image captionFemale peace activists helped get Mrs Sirleaf elected in the past

It was these women who then rallied the country to vote for Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in 2005.

“We don’t want no problem again,” said 73-year-old Kula Freeman, who remembers the war in all its graphic detail. “We don’t want no wahala,” her friend, 65-year-old Kwa Sheriff said, chipping in over her shoulder. Wahala is the Liberian word used to describe anything from an argument in the street to a full out war. They are both happy for the peace President Sirleaf brought to the country.

Behind them, activist Leymah Gbowee, who won the Nobel Peace Prize alongside President Sirleaf in 2011, began rallying the ladies together. She was one of the key figures who led the peace movement at the end of the war.

Ms Gbowee said Mrs Sirleaf will always be remembered for becoming the continent’s first elected female president. But for Ms Gbowee, that is all she has achieved.

“In terms of delivering a women’s agenda we really didn’t see that,” she said.

Ms Sirleaf (L) and Mr Weah (R)Image copyrightEPA
Image captionMrs Sirleaf (L) is to be replaced as president by former footballer George Weah (R)

President Sirleaf is not a warm, cosy character and she certainly didn’t focus on women during her 12 years in power. However, the Harvard-trained economist did erase nearly $5bn (£3.2bn) in debilitating foreign debt after three years of being in office, paving the way for foreign investment and boosting the annual government budget from $80m to $516m by 2011.

But Ms Gbowee expected more for women.

“She’s said she’s not a feminist, that feminism is extremism,” she exclaimed. “I say, well, if it is I’m a proud extremist.”

Under President Sirleaf’s tenure a new, tougher rape law came into force but was then amended, reducing the tough sentences and making it a bailable offence.

During her final week in office, President Sirleaf signed an executive order on domestic violence, protecting women, men and children against “physical, sexual, economical, emotional and psychological abuses”.

She is however disappointed that a key part of her proposal, the abolition of female genital mutilation (FGM) against young girls under the age of 18, was removed.

“It undermines the very essence of the law and leaves it incomplete”, Mrs Sirleaf’s spokesman said of the amendment by the Senate and House of Representatives.

Mr Weah grew up in Monrovia's Gibraltar slumImage copyrightEPA
Image captionMr Weah grew up in Monrovia’s Gibraltar slum – a reminder that much of the country remains poor

Many thought a female president would pave the way for more women in politics. Yet, not unlike the Thatcher era in the UK, Mrs Sirleaf’s departure also marks the departure of women in power. Of 19 presidential candidates there was only one woman, 40-year-old Macdella Cooper, a former girlfriend of incoming President George Weah.

“She didn’t have enough women in the house of parliament to help push bills to support women initiatives,” said Cooper.

“Economically she didn’t have enough women to approve budgets or at least create and craft budgets that will support women. So, she had her limitations.”

Despite sharing the title of Nobel Laureate, Mrs Sirleaf and Ms Gbowee haven’t spoken since Ms Gbowee said she “criticised her government for corruption and nepotism”.

An Ebola victim in MonroviaImage copyrightREUTERS
Image captionHealth officials were not being paid when the Ebola outbreak arrived in the country

Mrs Sirleaf has long come under fire for appointing three of her sons to top government posts, something she has always defended. Up to 20 members of her family have had government positions at some point. As for the charge of corruption, in 2006 Sirleaf declared corruption “public enemy number one” only to be hit with a flurry of scandals.

Civil servants routinely went unpaid; most notoriously health officials in Lofa County in the north west of the country just as Ebola crept across the border from Guinea. The devastating virus killed nearly 5,000 people, leaving the country reeling and its health system in tatters.

Despite all this, Mrs Sirleaf was a history-maker. Her presidency may have been riddled with corruption and nepotism, but she proved to the world that a woman can dismantle the patriarchal seat of power.

“One thing we can brag and boast of, she broke the glass ceiling,” said Ms Gbowee.

“That’s a huge inspiration for women.”

*Culled from BBC

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Volkswagen opens new plant in Rwanda
January 22, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Prince Kurupati

Operations for the new Volkswagen plant in Kigali, Rwanda have started just a month after the company concluded its feasibility study. The plant is expected to meet local demand for cars in its first years of production before it starts looking at exporting to the rest of the African continent.

In December 2016, Volkswagen South Africa Chief Executive Officer, Thomas Schafer signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the then RDB Chief Executive Officer, Francis Gatare. The MoU among other things laid the foundation for the Volkswagen Kigali Plant.

Volkswagen and the government of Rwanda agreed to do a feasibility study in 2017. In December 2017, Volkswagen South Africa Group announced that it had concluded the feasibility study and was encouraged by the potential of Rwanda. From the feasibility study, Volkswagen resolved that it would entirely target the Rwandan market at least for the first years of operation. The study revealed that the Rwandan market needs 2 000 to 3 000 cars per year. However, for a start, Volkswagen will start with a production of 1 000 cars per year but will increase that figure year on year depending on the uptake and the company’s performance against imported cars.

The Volkswagen chief executive said that they were aiming to officially open their doors mid-year but were forced to do so earlier due to the impressive results of the feasibility study. He, however, stated that production would start at the scheduled date that is in June this year.

The Volkswagen Kigali Plant will be manufacturing two models. Production will mostly focus on the new ‘Think Blue’ model. The Think Blue model is a new VW model that is environmentally friendly. The Think Blue model is easy to maintain and it’s low on fuel consumption and gas emission. Volkswagen says it’s going to manufacture this new model as it aims to stay in line with the country’s environmental policies.

Volkswagen will also be manufacturing the electric version of the VW Golf model albeit in small numbers. The VW Gold model is the most popular VW model in Africa thus Volkswagen wants to cater for the needs of those who prefer the more established model.

Schafer says either Rwandans can purchase the cars or they may make use of the company’s lease program.

Volkswagen says they are committed to development in Rwanda hence with the new plant; they will help by creating employment opportunities for locals and making Rwanda a pioneer in technology and innovation. Volkswagen says it has already engaged with some Germany companies as it seeks to create a local technical academy to ease the transfer of skills and technology.

As Volkswagen initial capital injection exceeds $50 million, the company stands a chance to get a tax holiday for a seven-year period. The incentive is reserved for investments in the ICT, Health, Tourism, Energy, and Manufacturing sectors.

The Volkswagen Kigali Plant is the fourth Volkswagen Plant on the continent after South Africa, Nigeria, and Kenya.

The Volkswagen Kigali Plant becomes the second largest investment in the country after American firm Symbion Energy signed a $370 million deal with the Rwandan government for the methane-generated power plant in Lake Kivu.

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Ethiopian airlines to start flights to Kisangani and Mbuji Mayi in the DRC
January 22, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Wallace Mawire

Ethiopian Airlines, the largest Aviation Group in Africa and SKYTRAX certified four star global airline, will launch new flights to Kisangani and Mbuji Mayi in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) from March, 2018.

The DRC, the largest country in Francophone Africa, is among the most resource-rich countries on the planet with an abundance of gold, tantalum, tungsten, and tin, all minerals used in electronics such as cell phones and laptops.

Ethiopian airlines Group CEO, Mr. Tewolde GebreMariam, said, “We are delighted to include Mbuji-Mayi and Kisangani to our ever extending global and African network. This will also increase our gateways in the Democratic Republic of Congo to five which includes Kinshasa,Goma and Lubumbashi. Our flights to Mbuji-Mayi and Kisangani will enable travellers from and to these two economically important cities to enjoy convenient and seamless connectivity to our global network of over 100 international destinations stretching across 5 continents in Europe, the Americas, Asia and the Middle East.

We thank the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo for the support extended to us for the launch of the new flights.”Ethiopian is expanding its global network with a plan to 10 new destinations in just six months of the 2018 calendar year.

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Weah scores a goal as festivities continue ahead of his inauguration
January 20, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Jonathan Paye-Layleh*

Football legend George Weah will be inaugurated as Liberia's new President on Monday in Monrovia

Football legend George Weah will be inaugurated as Liberia’s new President on Monday in Monrovia

George Weah scored a first-half goal to lead his Weah All Stars side to a 2-1 victory over a Liberian Army team as the festivities ahead of his inauguration as Liberia’s new president continued in Monrovia.

The match was part of a programme of events to commemorate the swearing-in ceremony on Monday for the 51-year-old former football star, who was voted in as Liberia’s new president in December.

“The essence of the game is to win,” a joyous Weah told BBC Sport after the exhibition game.

Weah was dressed in his traditional national number 14 jersey, reminding spectators of his legendary football career when he wore the number on his Liberia shirt, scoring some memorable goals for the Lone Stars.

“It is my number, a number assigned to me by the nation, so I wear it,” he said.

Amidst tight security and under a burning sun, hundreds of people made their way into the military barrack to see the former Fifa World Player of the Year.

Weah
George Weah scored a goal for his Weah All Stars side as they beat the Liberian Army team 2-1

With the army marching band playing from the sidelines, Weah thrilled the crowd as he dribbled past opponents.

His goal came in the first-half when his free-kick was deflected into the left corner of the net.

“We come to win, we play to win, it is not a dream,” he said, walking side-by-side with the chief of army, Mayor General Daniel Ziankahn.

“The army can run; they are stronger than us, but we push the ball around better and we are more organised.

“So we capitalised on the weaknesses of the army; it is a tactical game and tactically we were better than them,” Weah added.

The Weah All Star team is made up of George Weah’s former national teammates who supported his presidential bid.

One of them – former Arsenal striker Christopher Wreh – who also played for George Weah’s first European club, AS Monaco, was involved.

“It is a special day because after today it will be difficult to meet him,” Wreh told BBC Sport.

“Today I am proud that all of us rallied around him to become president,” he said.

 *BBC
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The Murder of Lumumba
January 20, 2018 | 0 Comments

Dr. G.K. Busch

Photo: Lumumba raises his arms, injured by shackles, after his release from prison

Photo: Lumumba raises his arms, injured by shackles, after his release from prison

Fifty-four years ago today the leading nationalist figure of the Congo (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) Patrice Emery Lumumba was murdered by the Belgians.

The parallels with today’s Africa are so stark that perhaps a fuller description is necessary.

The Belgians, who had just recently been compelled to allow its colony to reach independence in June 1960, continued to demand a strong and decisive role in Congolese affairs despite this independence; or, if that was not possible, to separate the mineral-rich region of Katanga from the rest of the Congo to remain under Belgian control through its puppet Moise Tshombe.

The main protagonist in the struggle for independence was Patrice Lumumba, who became head of the MNC (Mouvement National Congolais) and then, at independence, the first Prime Minister of the new state. The Belgian point of view was made clear when Lumumba was not invited to participate in the Independence celebrations. The Belgians insisted on keeping many of its colonial officers in charge of key positions in the Congolese administration. Most of the officers in the Army were still Belgians after independence. At independence there were only eight African college graduates in the whole of the Congo. It was a General Jannsens who announced to the troops that their pay would not increase after independence and that they would remain under Belgian officers. The army revolted and civil disorder spread across the land, fostered and armed by the Belgians. This disorder had the required effect and on the 11th of July 1960 Katanga seceded from the Congo. The Belgians and their giant mining complex, Union Miniere, adopted Tshombe as their own.

The United Nations sent its first peacekeeping mission to Africa; to the Congo, but it was ineffectual. It refused to intervene in the Katanga secession so Lumumba was powerless to seek the re-unification of the province. Unable to garner Western or UN support he turned to the Soviet Union to send weapons, airplanes, trucks and medicines to the Congolese forces opposing Katanga. This triggered off a major Cold War crisis. The US and the UK joined with Belgium to support Katangan secession and the ouster of Lumumba.

In a series of documentaries by the BBC in London in 2000 the records of their intervention were exposed. Ludo de Witte uncovered documents in the Belgian archives showing that Moise Tshombe, who led the secession, acted on orders from the Belgian government, which has always claimed that it only sent troops into Katanga to protect Belgian lives and property. De Witte’s researches have shown that the Belgians plotted to dismember the Congo. US Documents released August 2000 revealed that President Eisenhower directly ordered the CIA to assassinate Lumumba. Minutes of an August 1960 National Security Council meeting confirm that Eisenhower told CIA chief Allen Dulles to “eliminate” Lumumba. The official note taker, Robert H. Johnson, had told the Senate Intelligence Committee this in 1975, but no documentary evidence was previously available to back up his statement. A British Foreign Office document from September 1960 notes the opinion of a top ranking official, who later became the head of MI5, that, “I see only two possible solutions to the [Lumumba] problem. The first is the simple one of ensuring [his] removal from the scene by killing him.”

Their first step was to promote a military coup in the Congo. On 14 September 1960 Col. Joseph Desiree Mobuto, with the active assistance of the US and the UN, overthrew the Kasavubu-Lumumba government and took power. Lumumba was placed under house arrest but escaped to Stanleyville. Mobutu’s troops captured him on 1 December 1960 and Lumumba was flown back to Leopoldville (now Kinshasa) where he was placed in prison. The Russians raised the issue in the Security Council and asked for the immediate release of Lumumba, the jailing of Mobutu and the evacuation of the Belgians from the Congo. The UN refused as it said this would cause severe problems in the Congo.

Their problem was resolved with the forced flight of Lumumba, in chains to Elizabethville (Lubumbashi) on 17 January 1961. According to the documentaries, he was conducted under arrest to Brouwez House and held there bound and gagged. Later that night, Lumumba was driven to an isolated spot where three firing squads had been assembled. According to David Akerman, Ludo de Witte and Kris Hollington, the firing squads were commanded by a Belgian, Captain Julien Gat, and another Belgian, Police Commissioner Verscheure, had overall command of the execution site. Lumumba was killed that night.

Patrice Lumumba unwittingly wrote his own epitaph in a letter to his wife, Pauline, from his cell in December 1960. Perhaps it should be compulsory reading in all African schools.

“My dear companion,

I write you these words without knowing if they will reach you, when they will reach you, or if I will still be living when you read them. All during the length of my fight for the independence of my country, I have never doubted for a single instant the final triumph of the sacred cause to which my companions and myself have consecrated our lives. But what we wish for our country, its right to an honourable life, to a spotless dignity, to an independence without restrictions, Belgian colonialism and its Western allies-who have found direct and indirect support, deliberate and not deliberate among certain high officials of the United Nations, this organization in which we placed all our confidence when we called for their assistance-have not wished it. They have corrupted certain of our fellow countrymen; they have contributed to distorting the truth and to bring our independence into dishonour.

What else could I say? Dead or alive, free or in prison by order of the imperialists, it is not I who counts. It is the Congo; it is our poor people for whom independence has been transformed into a cage from whose confines the outside world looks on us, sometimes with kindly sympathy, but at other times with joy and pleasure. But my faith will remain unshakeable. I know and I feel in my heart that sooner or later my people will get rid of our internal and external enemies, that they will rise up like a single person to say no to a degrading and shameful colonialism and to reassume their dignity under a pure sun.

We are not alone. Africa, Asia, and free and liberated people from every corner of the world will always be found at the side of the Congolese. They will not abandon the light until the day comes when there are no more colonizers and their mercenaries in our country. To my children whom I leave and whom perhaps I will see no more, I wish that they be told that the future of the Congo is beautiful and that it expects for each Congolese, to accomplish the sacred task of reconstruction of our independence and our sovereignty; for without dignity there is no liberty, without justice there is no dignity, and without independence there are no free men.

No brutality, mistreatment, or torture has ever forced me to ask for grace, for I prefer to die with my head high, my faith steadfast, and my confidence profound in the destiny of my country, rather than to live in submission and scorn of sacred principles. History will one day have its say, but it will not be the history that Brussels, Paris, Washington or the United Nations will teach, but that which they will teach in the countries emancipated from colonialism and its puppets. Africa will write its own history, and it will be, to the north and to the south of the Sahara, a history of glory and dignity.

Do not weep for me, my dear companion. I know that my country, which suffers so much, will know how to defend its independence and its liberty.

Long live the Congo! Long live Africa!”

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