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A Political Witch Hunt of Epic Proportions For Komi Koutche in Benin
April 2, 2020 | 0 Comments

The government of Benin has been frantic in its efforts to build a case against Komi Koutché

No one in Benin political memory would have been so much persecuted. Komi Koutché became since 2016, the national “pigñata” of the sitting government in Cotonou. On the pretext of fighting corruption, this young man, for whom many predicted a bright political future  has been unjustly harassed, slandered and sued, all because of his popularity, his swift political ascension and  impressive track record. Since most of the facts fueling  such unprecedent witch-hunt are not well known to the general public, let’s review in chronological order the facts surrounding the relentless attempt to destroy the political career of the former State Minister of Benin by the Government of Benin and his President.

 July and August 2017: The Republic of Benin Council of Ministers presided by the Head of State Patrice Talon, released two audit reports. The first audit report  was about the Benin cotton industry in Benin and the second one about the management of  the National Microfinance Fund (NMF). The council of Ministers was transformed for the occasion into an indictment court. The council pronounced a staunch indictment  on  Mr. Komi Koutche’s Management of the National Microfinance Fund and  alleged misconduct by the audit reports. Joseph Djogbenou, then Minister of Justice, was instructed to initiate legal proceedings against Mr. Koutche; It is worth nothing that the Minister was not extended due process and wasn’t heard in the proceeding as required by auditing rules and regulations.

August 2017: Mr. Komi Koutché filed a complaint before the  Benin constitutional court on two counts  (the Cotton’s audit and the National Microfinance  Fund’s audit) alleging the violation of his rights to be heard during the audit proceeding as required by law for all audit proceeding.

December 5, 2017: The constitutional court, presided by Professor Theodore HOLO, squashed the cotton audit ruling and declares that the government has violated the country’s constitution. The appeal about the National Microfinance Fund (NMF) hasn’t be reviewed because the government didn’t respond to the investigatory measure indicated by the Court;

June 07, 2018: Joseph Djogbenou, Minister of Justice responsible for prosecuting Komi Koutche became President of the Constitutional Court.

December 06, 2018: The Djogbenou court brings back Komi Koutche’s NMF appeal and proceeds to an absolute turnaround in the case-law stating that the lack of hearing during an audit procedure is not a violation of the Constitution.

April 02, 2018: Convocation of Komi Koutche by the investigating judge of the first office of the Cotonou Court of First Instance in April 04, 2018. Komi Koutche living abroad could not be present within that period;

April 04, 2018: Signature of an arrest warrant by the judge;

April 06, 2018: Presentation of Komi Koutche to the judge. He finds no reason to arrest him as requested by the prosecutor. By order, he sets aside the arrest warrant of April 4, 2018. Disciplinary proceedings will be opened afterwards against Komi Koutche.

July 2018: Creation of the CRIET (Criminal enforcement of financial and terrorism offences Court) and transfer of Komi Koutche file to the CRIET;

August 27, 2018: The government decides to cancel Komi Koutche’s regular passport and all police units are being instructed via a radio message to make his extrajudicial arrest.

December 14, 2018: Komi Koutche was arrested in Madrid on a fraudulent notification to Interpol of the loss of his passport. The government notarized the same day the April 04, 2018 arrest warrant, previously canceled by the judge, and transmited it to Interpol. An extradition request was transmitted the same day.

December 27, 2018: Aware of the false alibi for the arrest, a new arrest warrant for regularization was issued under the pretext that Komi Koutche did not respond to a CRIET convocation on December 18, 2018 while he was incarcerated in Madrid. An additional extradition request was made to the Spanish courts;

January 17, 2018: Release of Komi Koutche by the Spanish investigating judge handling the case;

April 23, 2019: Spanish justice rejects Komi Koutche’s extradition request without the possibility of an appeal, the main reasons being the alleged offenses could not be justified, the CRIET does not offer guarantees of a fair trial, the basics principles of law would be violated since the ordinary judge in charge of the case was relinquished for the benefit of a new special court. Spanish justice concludes this is a political persecution.

Komi Koutche’s team believes his persecution is political with the intent to to convict by default the most feared political opponent of the regime

July 2, 2019: At its 109th session, Interpol, upon reviewing the issue through its legal department, concludes it’s a political file and decides to delete all the data in its database about Komi Koutche. Moreover, Interpol notifies all its operation worldwide that any police collaboration under the pretext of international cooperation would be a violation of the constitution of the organization. This position applies as well for the French and the Guinean criminal police.

July 22, 2019: Komi Koutche is deprived of all rights to obtain administrative and civil status documents in his country.

September 24, 2019: Komi Koutche is referred back to the CRIET criminal chamber. The lawyers raise a second appeal in the case;

September 30, 2019: On behalf of the Supreme Court, the government recruits 5 retired magistrates on about twenty files. The 5 magistrates selected raise the problem of objectivity. Curiously, it is at this moment that the dossier is activated at the Supreme Court and conveniently, one of the 5 retired magistrates is designated rapporteur; the NMF file is entrusted to one of these magistrates;

November 14, 2019: Two lawyers from Joseph Djogbenou and Quenum Severin’s firms requested an abbreviation for proceedings deadline, which was granted to them by the Supreme Court;

December 02, 2019: The African court of human rights orders the Beninese government to rescind the abusive decision to cancel Komi Koutche’s passport and shall refer the rest of the claims to the fund;

December 13, 2019: The U.S. administration concluded that this is a lawsuit based on political persecution.

January 28, 2020: Komi Koutche’s lawyers have been convened on the first appeal. It should be recalled that the lawyers mentioned the regularization warrant of December 27, 2018, issued under the pretext their client had not responded to a convocation on December 18, 2018 was pointless since the issuers knew that Komi Koutche was already incarcerated in Madrid during this period. Curiously, the appeal was dismissed.

From December 14, 2018 to January 17, 2019, Komi Koutche was in prison in Madrid, how could this be possible for him to respond to a convocation in Cotonou on December 18, 2018 ?

March 10, 2020: Komi Koutche’s lawyers are convened by the Supreme Court in March 13, 2020 for the second appeal. The statement of the opposing party was not communicated to them as is the usual practices of law

March 11, 2020: redeployment of CRIET judges at the Council of Ministers following the spectacular turnaround of the constitutional court and the adoption of a new law to install the right to appeal to a higher court. The judges are, for the most part, those who animated the CRIET in its previous format. There is every reason to believe that all of this was done to give a distorted impression of having corrected the grievances of the international community and those of other credible jurisdictions, before passing the Komi Koutche’s file to trial.

Then State Minister of Finance (left) signing the second millenium challenge compact under with the CEO of MCC Dana Hyde under the watchful eyes of Former US Vice President and Presidential hopeful Joe Biden and former two term President of Benin Boni YAYI

March 12, 2020: The Special Prosecutor of the CRIET, during a press briefing on the criminal session which opened on March 16, 2020, evoked the NMF file for which Komi Koutche is subject of legal actions, among the dossiers to be studied…However this dossier was still the subject of a cassation procedure and the hearing on the cassation was in March 13, 2020. Apparently the Special Prosecutor without any statement from the Supreme Court, already knew the decision which would be taken the day after its press conference;

March 13, 2020: Unsurprisingly, the Supreme Court dismisses the appeal and returns the file to the CRIET prosecutor as he had prophesied the day before.

March 24, 2020: Komi Koutche’s lawyer receives a summons to appear for his client. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic where almost all the airports in the world are closed, we can only wonder how Komi Koutche, who is known to live outside Benin,  can respond to such a convocation. To this must be added that despite the injunctions of the African court of human rights, the government did not comply with the injunction requesting the cancellation of the passport. Even if Komi Koutche can travel, a risk of extrajudicial arrest if he steps into the country remains, based on a radio message that accompanied the decision to cancel the passport. Moreover, the authorities announced a systematic 14-days quarantine for of all those who come from abroad. How under these conditions is it possible to respond to a summons on April 03, 2020.

This chronological summary of the facts and circumstances shows we are not in a fair trial but in a political deal intended to convict by default the most feared political opponent for the regime, as it was already the case with other opponents in exile. In any cases, Komi Koutche has already one advantage: this matter is known by international judicial authorities which have exposed the subterfuge.

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Paradigm Initiative Releases Digital Rights in Africa Report 2019
April 2, 2020 | 0 Comments

Accra, March 23, 2020 – Paradigm Initiative, a pan-African social enterprise working to advance digital rights and inclusion in Africa, has released the 2019 Digital Rights in Africa Report.

Building on previous reports published since 2016, the Digital Rights in Africa Report 2019 gives an in-depth analysis of the state of digital rights in Africa, and examines violations such as Internet disruptions, illegal surveillance, arrest of bloggers and the passage of hurtful legislation, amongst others.

According to Babatunde Okunoye, Research Officer at Paradigm Initiative, “the 2019 Digital Rights in Africa Report, titled, ‘Violations Reloaded: Government Overreach Persists Despite Increased Civil Society Advocacy’ takes a critical look at the state of digital rights in 13 African countries – Benin, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Malawi, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. 

Speaking about the findings of the  report, Emmanuel Vitus, Communications Officer at  Paradigm Initiative said, “African countries are now adopting repressive models of Informational controls borrowed from authoritarian regimes such as Russia and China — a worrying signal which forebodes ill for the future of open and inclusive societies in Africa.” He continued: “This happens through a motley of targeted shutdowns, surveillance, arbitrary legislation to silence digital users. African nations are  becoming adept at controlling information both inside and outside their borders”.

“In addition to the publication of the 2019 Digital Rights in Africa Report, we are currently working with a media company to convert the report into a short movie. This will be followed by regional media briefings that will discuss our findings from the report, across Paradigm Initiative’s offices in Accra, Abuja, Arusha, Lagos, Lusaka  and Yaoundé, later in the year. The report is available for download, via Paradigm Initiative’s website, in English and French,” said Adeboye Adegoke, Digital Rights Program Manager at  Paradigm Initiative.

Bulanda Nkhowani, Paradigm Initiative’s Digital Rights Program Officer for Southern Africa, and a report contributor, stated, “Digital rights have become increasingly contested in Africa, with rights-limiting legislation, Internet shutdowns and other violations regularly headlining international media reporting. The 2019 Digital Rights in Africa Report investigates and documents these violations, serving as a body of evidence for advocacy for greater digital rights. In the fight against digital rights violations in Africa, civil society must persevere and use all the tools at their disposal, including research, to ensure that digital rights become respected and upheld.’’

Paradigm Initiative wishes to express a profound appreciation to the Netherlands Embassy, Ford Foundation and OSIWA for their support in producing this report. Their continued support for digital rights programs in Nigeria, and the rest of Africa, has been pivotal to ensuring that human rights in the digital age remains a priority. 

*Download the Report Here

*Source Paradigm Initiative

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Rwanda extends lockdown by 15 days to contain coronavirus
April 2, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Maniraguha Ferdinand

Kigali roads that used to be busy are empty during lockdown
Kigali roads that used to be busy are empty during lockdown

The Government of Rwanda has extended lockdown period by 15 days, to further contain the spread of COVID-19.

By Wednesday, 1 April 2020 Rwanda had the highest number of cases of COVID-19 in East Africa, with 82 confirmed cases.

The initial lockdown period Government set would last until the  4th April 2020.

In a special cabinet meeting chaired by President Paul Kagame via video conference on 1st April, decided to extend the lockdown.

Statement released after the meeting, said that borders are to remain closed except for goods and cargo.

Travel between different cities and districts of the country is not permitted  except for medical reasons or essential services. Shops and markets are closed except for those selling foods, medicine, hygiene and cleaning products and fuel.

Farming will continue preparation for the ongoing agricultural season  while observing the guidelines from health authorities.

Schools and higher education institutions (both public and private) will remain closed.

Employees of both public and private institutions will to continue using technology to work from home with the exception of those working in essential services.

The statement also banned  motorcycles  to carry passengers. Bars are closed and restaurants will be providing take away services only.

Government of Rwanda had started distributing foods to the needy families during the lockdown, and those who would eat because they have gone to work.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*AFDB

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African Development Bank approves $2 million emergency assistance for WHO-led measures to curb COVID-19 in Africa
April 1, 2020 | 0 Comments

The Board of Directors of the African Development Bank on Tuesday approved  $2 million in emergency assistance for the World Health Organization (WHO) to reinforce its capacity to help African countries contain the COVID-19 pandemic and mitigate its impacts.

The grant, which is in response to an international appeal by the WHO, will be used by the world body to equip Regional Member Countries to prevent, rapidly detect, investigate, contain and manage detected cases of COVID-19.

It is one part of several Bank interventions  to help member countries address the pandemic which, while slow to arrive in Africa, is spreading quickly and is  straining already fragile health systems.

Specifically, the WHO Africa region will use the funds to bolster the capacity of 41 African countries on infection prevention, testing and case management. WHO Africa will also boost surveillance systems, procure and distribute laboratory test kits and reagents, and support coordination mechanisms at national and regional levels.

This grant “ will enable Regional Member Countries to put in place robust containment measures within 48 hours of COVID-19 case confirmation and also support the WHO Africa Region to disseminate information and increase public awareness in communities,” said the Bank’s Human Capital Youth and Skills Development Department.

The grant will contribute toward a $50 million WHO Preparedness and Response Plan,  which other partners including the United Nations system, are also supporting.

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

The Bank Group is expected to unveil a financial assistance package that will enable governments and businesses to undertake flexible responses to lessen the economic and social impact of this pandemic.

Last Thursday, the Bank raised an exceptional $3 billion in a three-year social bond, the proceeds from which will go to help alleviate the economic and social effects of the pandemic. It is the largest dollar-denominated social bond launched in international capital markets to date.

*AFDB

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African governments and the judiciary must protect workers and oil companies from ill-intent legal actions due to COVID-19
April 1, 2020 | 0 Comments

sea oil platform with a drilling rig in the area of Congo
African energy companies and services companies operating onshore and offshore need to be given protection from unnecessary litigation

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, April 1, 2020/ — The African Energy Chamber (www.EnergyChamber.org) is calling on African governments and the judiciary to take actions to shield oil & gas companies and their workers from lawyers trying to take advantage of the Coronavirus pandemic to create instability in the workplace.

While most Africans are trying to cope with the uncertainty and issues of Covid 19 and low oil prices, the Chamber is concerned about trial lawyers that are hungry for big checks at the expenses of oil companies and their workers. In this context, it is critical that the judiciary does its best to limit frivolous labor claims to ensuring the stability and continuity of petroleum operations during these difficult times.

“African oil & gas companies have enough to worry about at the moment, and frivolous lawsuits should not be one of them. This is not the time for lawyers to see our industry as a dairy cow and try to get a big payday at the expense of companies and their workers,” stated NJ Ayuk, Executive Chairman of the African Energy Chamber.

“We cannot love jobs and hate those who create jobs. Protecting jobs and fighting this virus should be our greatest priority. Governments have to send a message that investors and their investments will not be put at risk by greedy lawyers and bureaucrats. For Africa to come out of the twin crisis of low oil prices and the coronavirus stronger than before, we need everyone to show some common sense,” added Ayuk.

African energy companies and services companies operating onshore and offshore need to be given protection from unnecessary litigation. Most companies at the moment are focused on keeping operations intact with the right HSE processes, and ensuring that they can generate revenue for governments and protect the jobs they have created for every day Africans. This should remain a priority.

The Chamber is pleased with the support that is being provided across Africa by oil and gas companies working together with governments across a range of support measures, and it is important to keep resources focused on fighting COVID-19, not lawsuits. The oil sector will remain a pillar in the fight against COVID-19. BP has made a significant financial contribution to the WHO’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for example, and Dangote Industries has done the same with the Nigerian Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19. NNPC on its sides has already donated six brand new ventilators to the University of Abudja Teaching Hospital.

Shall the situation on our continent worsen, we will be very relieved to have companies with the ability to provide such support the same way Total supports France and Eni supports Italy as thousands of lives are lost. During these times of uncertainty, frivolous lawsuits against petroleum operators and their associates could disrupt the essential role businesses must play in overcoming the crisis and in the recovery.

Consequently, the Chamber calls on governments of oil and gas nations like Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Angola, Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Cameroon, South Sudan, Libya, Senegal or Algeria to extend liability protections to medical professionals assisting workers on oil fields, protection from frivolous labour claims, and also assist oil companies with issues arousing out of their inability to honor rotation of employees due to lockdowns.

*African Energy Chamber
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CenturionPlus helps companies Stay Ahead of the Curve as we grapple with Covid-19
April 1, 2020 | 0 Comments
CenturionPlus Director Leon Van Der Merwe
CenturionPlus Director Leon Van Der Merwe

Amidst this time of crises and the restrictions put on travel and mobility, we have attorneys on the ground that can assist your company with its tailored legal needs

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, April 1, 2020/ — The CenturionPlus team (https://CenturionLG.com) and our on-demand lawyers are working around the clock to help clients navigate the uncharted legal waters sparked by COVID-19. Amidst this time of crises and the restrictions put on travel and mobility, we have attorneys on the ground that can assist your company with its tailored legal needs. This includes in-house and remote legal assistance.

“As we face a new global crisis, we have been overwhelmed by questions and concerns from clients and individuals all around the African continent,” explained CenturionPlus Director Leon Van Der Merwe. “With CenturionPlus, we have developed and adapted a new approach of on-demand, on-the-ground lawyers in all jurisdictions across Africa. This platform is even more relevant given the current global situation and travel restrictions across Africa.”

The need for in-house legal support is indeed now greater than ever. This includes not only assisting clients seeking to address supply chain disruptions, but also those needing guidance on an out-of-court debt restructuring amid financial challenges. “Companies are actively seeking guidance on whether a pandemic allows for contractual obligations to be voided, and we are here to assist them in addressing this challenge,” added Van Der Merwe.

There is no doubt that long after this global health crisis is over, courts will be grappling with untold numbers of litigation disputes concerning whether parties are excused from performance of their contractual obligations. Companies should hence be pro-active in restructuring and re-visiting their current approach and policies. This includes the mobilization of a dedicated legal team that understands your business and can get the job done with flexibility in services and pricing.

During this uncertain period, remember to make this time serve you, don’t serve the time.

*Centurion Law Group

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What oil companies need to know to maintain resilient energy assets amidst a global pandemic
April 1, 2020 | 0 Comments

Most economic analysts and energy asset operators now agree that 2020 could see negative demand growth for oil globally

C. Derek Campbell

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, April 1, 2020/ — In this time of depressed oil Prices and raging scourge of COVID-19, most economic analysts and energy asset operators now agree that 2020 could see negative demand growth for oil globally as industries shut down and countries around the world go on lockdown. Negative economic impacts are also being forecasted for the electricity, renewable energy, and mining industries. This current state of play demands that companies who control and manage the critical energy infrastructure and natural resource assets maintain their vigilance against physical, cyber, and technical security threats as they deal with these colliding “Black Swan” events.

The resilience of oil companies’ operations is essential to the economy, security and overall quality of life for all citizens in Africa and worldwide. “Indications and warnings are illuminating the fact that terrorists, hostile state actors, criminals, hackers for hire, and vandals are currently planning to take advantage of our current state of chaos,” declared C. Derek Campbell, CEO of US-based Energy & Natural Resource Security Inc (ENRS). “We continue to support a lot of energy companies in Africa to mitigate the hostile actions of those with ill-intent. In uncertain times like these, it is companies’ efforts against unexpected threats that ensure that their assets maintain continuity of operations during these trying times,” he added.

Key recommendations oil companies and their contractors should follow to ensure their assets achieve resilience and maintain continuity of operations notably include:

  • Assess and Review your current cybersecurity posture against protocols such as NIST-800-171, ISO27001, and CIP Cybersecurity Frameworks.
  • Monitor your employees and be cognizant of the IT methods and platforms they use to access your corporate networks while working remotely.
  • Via your local national staff, engage the local populations/communities within a 5 to 10-mile radius of your operations to gain an understanding of the atmospherics around your asset.
  • Spot check your existing physical and technical security measures to make sure they are fully functional.
  • Request a security assessment during your operational down time in order to gain an understanding of your asset’s current vulnerabilities and levels of assumed risk.

“The African Energy Chamber takes security threats in Africa extremely seriously and such risks should not be downplayed when our industry faces turmoil and prices instability,” commented Nj Ayuk, Executive Chairman at the African Energy Chamber. “ENRS is a key partner for us and their best-in-class security solutions are what owners, operators, investors and insurers should be implementing to maintain the continuity of their operations and mitigate risk throughout their asset’s operational life cycle.”

*Africa Energy Chamber

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

By Ben Kazora*

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

Africa’s Advantage in the war with COVID-19

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

Tale of two localities: Hubei & New York

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

We have been down this road before

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

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

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

It’s information not isolation

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

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

Data is the most lethal ammunition in this war

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

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

Can we sacrifice our privacy to save our lives?

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

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

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


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Smart Africa Launches Africa Wide Coordinated Response to the Coronavirus Pandemic
March 31, 2020 | 0 Comments

Smart Africa, a bold and innovative commitment from African Heads of State and Government to accelerate sustainable socioeconomic development , has launched a continent-wide technology based coordinated impact response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic for Africa.

Kigali,Rwanda., March 27, 2020 – Smart Africa has launched a continent-wide technology based coordinated impact response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic for Africa. This response is aimed at bringing together the 30 member states under the Smart Africa Alliance and the 40 private sector members of the Alliance to coordinate efforts to stem the pandemic in Africa.

In order to tackle this unprecedented crisis, by its magnitude and its impact on society, the Smart Africa Secretariat seeks to support digital health services projects that aim at improving and accelerating the African governments response to the challenges of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The projects under the initiative are aimed at assisting African countries to:

  • Assess individual risk and guide decision making;
  • Assist African populations in finding nearby testing sites;
  • Provide reliable updates and alerts from public health authorities;
  • Report on community status;
  • Track and report transmissions.

Moreover, to ensure that the efforts are relevant to the African context, critical technological parameters are considered as below:

  • A solution available via web, application (iOS, Android, Windows), SMS, USSD, and other messaging platforms;
  • Data collection from diverse points such as individual smartphones or terminals at public facilities (e.g. testing terminals at border controls, testing terminals by medical authorities, etc.);
  • A reporting dashboard accessible to the admin with relevant data – specific rights depending on the status of the admin (e.g. public authorities, medical authorities) will be established;
  • Anonymized data (no personal information including name, ID, address recorded on the system) generated by use of the solution can be published in real-time through a database accessible with an API and map interface on a public website for public health authorities to monitor;
  • Reliably informative content available in local languages in various formats (written – vocal with Interactive Voice Recognition technology) – e.g. prevention practices, isolation practices, closest health facilities, additional one-on-on support, etc.;
  • Assessment and guidance compliance to the World Health Organization (“WHO”), national and local public health guidelines and include exposures, symptoms of illness, and underlying health status.

“There are numerous international interventions to the coronavirus pandemic but so far very few that are relevant to the immediate African context. We are bringing a credible and coordinated technology based African response which must go beyond our 30 member countries to the entirety of the African continent. The aim is to save lives and we must all do our part,” said Mr. Lacina Koné, Director General of Smart Africa.

The response will be initiated through a call for proposals which will involve numerous stakeholders across Africa. Once initiated the response by governments to the pandemic is expected to be coordinated, efficient and to save lives.

About Smart Africa

SMART Africa is a bold and innovative commitment from African Heads of State and Government to accelerate sustainable socioeconomic development on the continent, ushering Africa into a knowledge economy through affordable access to Broadband and usage of Information and Communications Technologies.

The Transform Africa Summit held in Kigali, Rwanda on 28th-31st October 2013 culminated in the adoption of the Smart Africa Manifesto document by seven (7) African Heads of States (Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan, Mali, Gabon, Burkina Faso) in which they committed to provide leadership in accelerating socio-economic development through ICT’s.

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EnergyNet responds to COVID-19 pandemic
March 31, 2020 | 0 Comments

EnergyNet recognises these are uncertain and difficult times for individuals, organisations and countries across the world.

Managing Director Simon Gosling commented: “We extend to you, your colleagues and families our best wishes and support as we move towards this ‘new normal’ in the coming weeks. Myself and the EnergyNet team are on hand to support the aef community in whatever way we can during this difficult time.”

He goes on to address plans for the Africa Energy Forum, currently scheduled to take place in Barcelona, Spain from 30th June – 3rd July:

“We’re examining the advice of the authorities before making a final decision on what actions we should be taking in the best interests of our aef attendees. We therefore ask you to bear with us whilst we make our decision which we promise to do as soon as possible.

We’re very much aware of the impact of our actions on the aef community, and want to take the time to get it right as we know this decision will affect many of you.”

If the event were to be postponed, attendees who had already purchased a ticket or sponsorship package would be able to roll this over onto the new dates. If for any reason attendees were unable to make the new dates this would be rolled over onto aef 2021.

EnergyNet is monitoring the coronavirus/COVID-19 situation on a daily basis and will keep the community informed of any developments. In the meantime for additional questions please email aef@energynet.co.uk

EnergyNet: a video message

https://www.linkedin.com/posts/energynet-ltd_aef20-activity-6648912178860564480-_TrX

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Covid-19 Kenya: Is it fear or obedience?
March 31, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Samuel Ouma

A worker walks outside the coronavirus isolation facility at the Mbagathi Hospital in Nairobi .Photo credit [Njeri Mwangi/Reuters]
A worker walks outside the coronavirus isolation facility at the Mbagathi Hospital in Nairobi .Photo credit [Njeri Mwangi/Reuters]

Kenya is one of the countries grappling to contain the spread of coronavirus, a dreaded disease that is wreaking havoc on the entire world.

Fifty coronavirus cases and one death have been confirmed in the East African country since the first case was reported on March 13. In order to curb the spread of the virus, the government of Kenya has put in place safety measures the latest being dusk to dawn curfew.

The local authority had banned public gatherings; schools, pubs, churches  and large markets had been closed, sports events and political rallies halted and international flights in and out the country suspended.

Kenyans have also been urged to work from home while keeping social distance, minimizing movements and practising high level of hygiene by washing their hands regularly using alcohol-based sanitizer or soap and water.

Cashless transaction has been encouraged after the mobile operators and local banks lowered the online transaction fees. Sending amount less than Ksh.1, 000 ($10) using M-PESA, a service provided by the dominant Telco in the country, Safaricom is absolutely free for the next two months among many others.

Number of passengers using a single vehicle at a time has been limited. A 14-seater vehicle is required to carry 8 passengers, 25-seaters to carry 15 and buses whose seating capacity is 30 and above is allowed to have 60-per cent sitting capacity.

While issuing updates on the virus on Monday, the Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe also asked those dwelling in Urban particularly Nairobi to halt all their travel plans to rural areas. He said urban to rural movements will expose the elders to the contagious disease.

In addition, those from the upcountry were told not to visit the capital until the situation is contained. Thirty four out of 50 cases are in Nairobi as per the report released by the minister.

“Those who stay in Nairobi should not travel up country during this period, statistics indicate that the elderly Kenyan population lives in the rural areas, we would like to urge those who stay in Nairobi to stay in Nairobi,” He said.

Something mysterious caught the attention of our team, which is in Nairobi. Our reporter on Tuesday toured the streets of the capital and the revelations will leave you in shock.

The ever busy streets were devoid of people and many shops were closed. The hooting of vehicles and loud voices of touts filled the air as the available people try to keep a distance from each other. All banks located in the city were opened, but the customers’ seats were half empty.

The next stop was at Gikomba market, Kenya’s largest hub for second hand clothes. The situation was more less the same. Many stalls were empty and the young guys who stand along the corridors hawking clothes were countable.

These are some of the responses from the business men and women from the market.

“Demands for our products are low, we hope the solution for this problem will be found and everything will be back to normal,” said kids’ attires seller.

His colleague added, “People have stayed away because of fear of attracting the virus. We have decided to take risk in order to feed our families and pay our bills.”

“This coronavirus is horrifying, the cases are creasing everyday and we don’t know who is next,” noted a fishmonger.

There were numerous spots for hand washing instituted by the entrepreneurs.

Kenyan neighbours Uganda yesterday declared a total lockdown for 14 days to control the spread of covid-19 which has been reported in 199 nations causing thousands deaths.

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