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Fitch affirms African Development Bank’s Triple ‘A’ rating with Stable Outlook
August 12, 2017 | 0 Comments

Leading global rating agency Fitch Ratings has affirmed the African Development Bank’s (AfDB) Long-Term Issuer Default Rating (IDR) at ‘AAA’ with a Stable Outlook and its Short-Term IDR at ‘F1+’ (best quality grade, indicating exceptionally strong capacity to meet its financial commitments).

In a statement released on 4 August, the agency said the ‘AAA’ rating primarily reflects extraordinary support from AfDB’s shareholders which provides a three-notch uplift over the Bank’s intrinsic rating.

“AfDB enjoys strong support from its 80 member states, which include 26 non-African countries with high average ratings. Callable capital subscribed by member states rated ‘AAA’, the largest of which are the US, Germany and Canada, accounts for 21% of the total. This fully covered the Bank’s net debt at end-2016, underpinning the ‘aaa’ assessment of shareholders’ capacity to support,” the statement said.

The report underscores the strong propensity of member states to support the Bank in case of need as illustrated by previous capital increases and the Bank’s important role in the region’s financing.

In the assessment, Fitch maintains that fast growth in AfDB’s lending in the last two years has translated into a rapid increase in its indebtedness, noting that the Bank’s Management has indicated that if there is no clear evidence of a capital increase within the next two years, it will have no choice but to curb lending growth to preserve the Bank’s solvency metrics. The report added that if no capital increase is approved by 2019, debt will not be fully covered by callable capital from ‘AAA’ rated countries, adding that this would place substantial pressure on Fitch’s assessment of extraordinary support and, hence on AfDB’s IDR.

Fitch asserts that the relatively high risk profile of borrowers is mitigated by the preferred creditor status (PCS) that the Bank enjoys on its sovereign exposures.

Fitch assesses AfDB’s liquidity at ‘aaa’, which reflects excellent coverage of short-term debt by liquid assets (2.9x). However, Fitch notes that the share of the portfolio invested in securities or bank placements rated ‘AA-‘ or above (83% in 2016) is declining, although their quality is still assessed at excellent. Fitch understands that management intends to rebalance the treasury assets portfolio in order to increase the proportion of assets rated ‘AA-‘ or above. This would help underpin Fitch’s assessment of the strength of extraordinary support, given the relevance of liquid assets’ quality to the net debt calculation.

“The -1 notch adjustment to AfDB’s solvency stemming from our assessment of its business environment reflects the high risk operating environment in which the bank operates,” the report says, noting that the majority of African countries are classified as low income by the World Bank. The average income per capita and average rating of member states are the lowest of all regional MDBs, and they are subject to an overall high level of political risk.

Commenting on the rating, AfDB Acting Vice-President for Finance, Hassatou Diop N’Sele, said, “We welcome the confirmation of the AfDB’s AAA rating by Fitch, with a stable outlook. The Bank is dedicated to doing the most to make a marked positive difference in the lives of hundreds of millions of Africans, while at the same time preserving its financial integrity. Our High 5agenda is our response to the need to accelerate and scale up Africa’s development to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals of the continent. The High 5 agenda, reflecting five identified priority areas (namely energy, agriculture, industrialization, integration and human capital development), enjoys strong support from our shareholders. The AfDB will continue to maintain a careful balance between maximizing its development effectiveness and assuring complete preservation of the interests of its stakeholders.”

*AFDB

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How much have development strategies changed in Africa since independence?
July 29, 2017 | 0 Comments

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Ibrahim Hassane Mayaki (left), former prime minister of Niger; Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma (center), former South African minister of health; and Carlos Lopes, former executive secretary of the U.N. Economic Commission for Africa, during a 2013 working breakfast of the 29th Session of the New Partnerships for Africa’s Development at African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (GCIS/Flickr)

Ibrahim Hassane Mayaki (left), former prime minister of Niger; Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma (center), former South African minister of health; and Carlos Lopes, former executive secretary of the U.N. Economic Commission for Africa, during a 2013 working breakfast of the 29th Session of the New Partnerships for Africa’s Development at African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (GCIS/Flickr)

This week in the African Politics Summer Reading Spectacular, we talk about economic development in Africa. In a broad study of nine African countries, Landry Signé examines innovation in development in his book, “Innovating Development Strategies in Africa: The Role of International, Regional and National Actors.” Signé kindly answered my questions about the book.

Kim Yi Dionne: As you observe in your book, both African and international development leaders invoke innovation in describing their development strategies. But how much have development strategies in Africa actually changed over the decades since independence?

Landry Signé: It depends on the way you think about innovation. In identifying innovation, most scholars focus on the content of development policy. They ask if a new development strategy is just “old wine in a new bottle,” usually on their way to explaining why a policy is doomed to fail. This substantive perspective often overlooks the slow-moving processes of some development innovations.

Most scholars have taken little interest in explaining development strategies in a procedural sense, at least when focusing on Africa. By procedural, I mean the forms, processes and mechanisms by which development strategies emerge, change and impact development outcomes over the long term.

My book examines both perspectives on innovation — substantive and procedural — and pays special attention to the lesser-explored one: procedural. Much of the research by scholars working from a substantive perspective find a lot of continuity in development strategies in Africa. But I find in my work that there are innovations — often incremental ones — which lead in the long run to much more substantial and often overlooked economic and institutional transformation.

After independence, African countries shifted from state-led development to various levels of state withdrawal in the 1980s, combined with strategies for economic integration and development. In the 1990s, states continued to disengage, but added social protection measures. In the 2000s, the emergence of the World Bank’s Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers and the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) have marked a return to a more significant role for public institutions and continentwide development strategies in promoting economic development in a more market-friendly context. Only looking at the content of strategies, and not taking into account the process of emergence and the long-term impact of policies would miss this incredible transformation over the last few decades.

KYD: An important point you make in your book is that development strategies can be considered innovations even if they fail. Is there a failure you think is a good example of innovation in African development strategy?

LS: New development policies, whether substantially or procedurally innovative, could lead to poor outcomes over the short run, but can also contribute to a much more important dynamic of change. For example, although structural adjustment programs (SAPs) have broadly been considered a failure, they have defined new rules of the game and practices resulting in better macroeconomic management, increased accountability and governance effectiveness. Together with debt relief and a favorable international context, SAPs thus contributed to the transformation and overall good economic performance of African economies in the beginning of the 21st century. When scholars only focus on short-term impacts, they overlook more transformational changes brought by apparently failed policies.

KYD: Your book examines development in nine French-speaking countries formerly colonized by France. Why did you focus on these countries?

LS: I aimed to explain the overall transformation of African economies since the 1960s, providing a big picture of the changes which have taken place in development strategies. To make the study manageable, I first constructed a continental puzzle inspired by Paul Collier and Stephen O’Connell’s classification of African countries by economic structure and economic policy orientation. I wanted the sample of countries I studied to be a mix of low and middle-income countries, oil producers and non-oil producers, landlocked and poor in natural resources and landlocked and rich in natural resources, those that are coastal and poor in natural resources and those that are coastal and rich in resources, and those with socialist-leaning economies and those that are liberal-leaning.

After finalizing the continental classification, I realized that enough former French colonies were well represented in all the relevant categories to cover the full range of criteria for the continental analysis. I ultimately chose Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Congo, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo for many reasons.

First, as members of the CFA franc zone, they have similar monetary policies. At the same time, these countries had contrasting economic structures, economic policy orientations and development outcomes. These important contrasts, despite the countries’ similarities, were more important in my decision to choose Francophone countries, than their former belonging to the French colonial empire, even if both are intertwined.

Second, I wanted to look at countries that shared the same colonial power as part of a growing effort among African scholars to dismantle the myth that colonial heritage is the main driver of contemporary development strategies in Africa. More and more work shows that domestic political economies interacted with international influence to shape development outcomes.

KYD: How might we take what we learn from your study to examine development in — for example — former British colonies or former Portuguese colonies?

LS: My book’s goal was to better understand how economic development strategies emerge and transform economies in sub-Saharan Africa — not only in Francophone Africa. I offer a theory explaining change over time in African development policies that applies broadly to African countries that underwent structural adjustment, whether former French, British, Portuguese, Belgian or Spain colonies.

I focus on the dynamics of domestic political economies in African countries and on their interactions with external actors. Despite the asymmetry in power relations with their international counterparts, African governments still have agency in making decisions about their development. My book offers a framework for understanding these interacting dynamics in the emergence and evolution of economic policies and development institutions in Africa.

Finally, I’ll say that one takeaway from my book is that we should take a broader view. While we researchers witness institutional and political continuities in the short run, even minor innovations can give rise to great political, economic and social innovations and transformations in the long run.

*Source Washington Post.Landry Signé is a distinguished fellow at Stanford University’s Center for African Studies, professor and senior adviser to the chancellor on international affairs at the University of Alaska Anchorage, Andrew Carnegie Fellow, Wilson Center Public Policy Fellow, Tutu Fellow and World Economic Forum Young Global Leader. Follow him on Twitter @landrysigne.

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Women Advancing Africa placing women at the centre stage of Africa’s Economic Advancement
July 28, 2017 | 0 Comments
The Women Advancing Africa Forum is set to bring some of the continent’s best and brightest minds together to shape a common agenda to accelerate the economic advancement of women in Africa
Graca Machel

Graca Machel

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania, July 28, 2017/ — The inaugural Women Advancing Africa (WAA) Forum is a new Pan-African flagship initiative launched by the Graça Machel Trust to acknowledge and celebrate the central role women play in shaping Africa’s development agenda and by driving social and economic transformation. The Forum will take place from 9-12 August in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania at the Hyatt Kilimanjaro.
Mrs. Graça Machel says, “Africa has experienced tremendous development in the last few decades, however a significant gap in the economic advancement of women remains a huge challenge.

Africa is in a second liberation era – the economic liberation. Women can no longer be secondary or marginal, and through Women Advancing Africa the Trust wants to enable women to take centre stage in the economic advancement of Africa. The Trust is establishing a platform for women to claim their right to sit at the table where the decisions are made and to shape the policies, plans and strategies for our futures and those of the generations to come.”

The Trust is honoured to have H.E. Samia Suluhu Hassan, Vice-President of the United Republic of Tanzania and member of the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment join the WAA Forum to share her insights on issues that will be discussed over the four days. The Forum will consist of interactive sessions organised around three core pillars: Financial Inclusion, Market Access and Social Change.
Inter-generational and inter-sectoral mix of participants attending WAA Forum

With an estimated attendance of 200 participants from across the continent, the WAA Forum will play host to a diverse mix of women and youth representing thought leaders and influencers from the private sector, philanthropy, academia, civil society, government, development agencies and the media who will bring their voices, experiences and ideas to strategize, set priorities and craft a common agenda to drive Africa’s social and economic transformation.
A number of speakers from key economic sectors such as mining & extractives, agri-business, banking, telecommunications, media, healthcare, goods and services will bring their knowledge and expertise to the Forum. Notable speakers include Leymah Gbowee, the Liberian peace activist and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize; Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission; Dr. Monique Nsanzabaganwa, Vice Governor of the National Bank of Rwanda; and Sheila Khama, Practice Manager at World Bank’s Energy and Extractive Industries Global Practice.

A Social Progress Agenda
A series of side events will also be held alongside the WAA Forum on variety of issues including Food and Nutrition, Education and Child Marriage, Leadership and Wellness, to drive home the importance of social change as an integral part of addressing women holistically.

We are honoured to be joined by Gertrude Mongella, former President of the Pan African Parliament who will be joined by some of Africa’s leading women giants who have shaped the women’s movement in the past and will bring legacy and the future face to face in a gathering at the side of the Forum.

The WAA Forum will also celebrate the diversity of African culture and creativity in all its forms, from language, to design and fashion, to movie making and dance.  This year’s Forum will celebrate African female writers and storytellers who are challenging the status quo, reshaping narratives and developing a deeper understanding and appreciation of the creative industries and their role in driving social progress.

Research looking at the Narrative and Economic participation of Women in Africa
A number of reports will also be launched during the Forum. Together with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), Graça Machel Trust will be launching a study on “The Female Economy in Africa”.  The study analyses the participation of the women’s work in Africa focussing on gender gaps in the economy, participating in national politics, financial inclusion and sectoral segregation.  The study provides a baseline to track and measure the progress in women’s economic activity and advancement, with regular updates on the Index being shared.

The Graça Machel Trust’s Women in Media Network will also launch a research report on the coverage and portrayal of women in media entitled: “Women in Media – What is the Narrative?” The session will be broadcast as a Facebook Live event with interactive participation in the post launch In Conversation series to stimulate a broader conversation about the narrative of women in media as well as other storytelling formats and platforms.

Announcements will be made on the WAA website www.WomenAdvancingAfrica and the WAA Facebook page www.Women Advancing Africa – WAA, closer to the time.
Another highlight of this year’s inaugural WAA Forum will be the launch of a coffee table book entitled “Women Creating Wealth: A Collection of Stories of Female Entrepreneurs from Across Africa”. The anthology celebrates women trailblazers in business with a collection of inspirational stories from Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. The book features a number of enterprising women from the Trust’s women’s networks and a foreword by Mrs. Machel.  The book can be pre-ordered here (http://SheInspiresHer.com/women-creating-wealth).

A movement of women focused on economic advancement
What makes WAA unique? Mrs. Machel explains, “Women Advancing Africa provides a space to bring together the energy, innovation and creativity of women from all parts of the continent to share solutions to make us stronger, united and unstoppable. The Forum is really the catalyst to creating a much larger movement of women centred around the economic advancement of women who will collectively shape and drive a development agenda that is measurable and sustainable.” With a Pan-African footprint spanning 20 countries, the Graça Machel Trust will leverage our women’s networks in Agribusiness, Business and Entrepreneurship, Finance and the Media to work with the larger WAA movement to catalyse the Forum’s agenda into actions with measurable and sustainable outcomes.
To be part of this exciting initiative, you can register here (http://WomenAdvancingAfrica.com) or take up one of the available exhibition or side event options available.

The Trust would like to thank our generous partners who have helped make our vision a reality. Special thanks to The UPS Foundation, the Intel Foundation, American Tower Corporation, and UN Women.  Media partners include: the ABN360 Group, incorporating CNBC Africa and Forbes Africa; the Nation Group and locally based Azam Media Group. The WAA Forum’s convening partner, APCO Worldwide has worked closely with the Graça Machel Trust, providing expertise and insights to develop this one-of-a-kind women’s network.  These partners share the Trust’s belief that advancing women economically is crucial to the health and prosperity of African families, communities and nations.

 

The Graça Machel Trust is an organisation that works across the continent to drive positive change across women’s and children’s rights, as well as governance and leadership. Through our support of local initiatives and connecting key stakeholders at a regional, national and sub-national level, we help to catalyse action where it is needed.  By using our convening power the Trust seeks to: amplify the voices of women and children in Africa; influence governance; promote women’s contributions and leadership in the economic social and political development of Africa.

The Network of African Business Women (NABW) provides women with opportunities to freely and effectively participate in the economic development of their countries through the establishment of sustainable business ventures. Through training, mentorship and capacity building, the Network supports business women’s associations and existing business women generating a much needed upsurge of growth-oriented, African women entrepreneurs.

The African Women in Agribusiness Network (AWAB) addresses challenges in food security and identifies opportunities for women in the agricultural sector. The network advocates for initiatives that enhance women’s competitiveness in local and global markets. AWAB also seeks to foster market linkages for women, connecting them to projects in the agricultural sector that can improve their access to resources, knowledge and training.

New Faces New Voices (NFNV)

New Faces New Voices (NFNV) advocates for women’s access to finance and financial services. The network aims to bridge the funding gap in financing women-owned businesses in Africa and to lobby for policy and legislative changes. The overall objective of the network is to advance the financial inclusion of women by bringing more women into the formal financial system.

The Women in Media Network (WIMN) is the latest Pan-African network established by the Trust.  It comprises a network of African women journalists who individually and collectively use their influence and voice to help shape and disseminate empowering storylines about Africa’s women and children.

Founded in 1984, APCO Worldwide is an independent global communication, stakeholder engagement and business strategy firm with offices in more than 30 major cities throughout the world. We challenge conventional thinking and inspire movements to help our clients succeed in an ever-changing world. Stakeholders are at the core of all we do. We turn the insights that come from our deep stakeholder relationships into forward-looking, creative solutions that always push the boundaries. APCO clients include large multinational companies, trade associations, governments, NGOs and educational institutions. The firm is a majority women-owned business

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World Bank Review Reveals a Weakening of Policy and Institutional Performance in Africa
July 26, 2017 | 0 Comments
Albert Zeufack, World Bank Africa Region Chief Economist, during the 2017 WBG-IMF Spring Meetings. Photo: Dasan Bobo/World Bank

Albert Zeufack, World Bank Africa Region Chief Economist, during the 2017 WBG-IMF Spring Meetings. Photo: Dasan Bobo/World Bank

OUAGADOUGOU, July 24, 2017-The quality of policies and institutions weakened in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2016 amid challenging economic conditions, according to the latest review by the World Bank. This weaker trend was observed in 40% of the region’s IDA countries, notably commodity exporters and fragile states.

 
The review is the annual World Bank Country Policy and Institutional Assessment (CPIA) Africa analysis, which scores the progress Sub-Saharan African countries are making on strengthening the quality of their policies and institutions. Since 1980, CPIA ratings have been used to determine the allocation of zero-interest financing and grants for countries that are eligible for support from the International Development Association (IDA)*, the concessional financing arm of the World Bank Group.
 
CPIA scores are based on 16 development indicators in four areas: economic management, structural policies, policies for social inclusion and equity, and public sector management and institutions. Countries are rated on a scale of 1 (low) to 6 (high) for each indicator. The overall CPIA score reflects the average of the four areas of the CPIA.
 
The average CPIA score for the 38 African countries assessed in the 2016 review edged lower to 3.1. Rwanda again led all countries in the region with a score of 4.0, closely followed by Senegal and Kenya, both with a score of 3.8. Although some countries saw a strengthening in policy and institutional quality, the number of countries with worsening overall scores outpaced improvers by a margin of two to one.
 
A common pattern across countries that experienced a weakening in their overall policy and institutional quality was slippage in economic management: monetary and exchange rate, fiscal, and debt policies. This can in part be explained by unfavorable economic conditions-deteriorating terms of trade, sluggish global growth, and difficult economic conditions-that continued to take a toll on countries across the region, deepening macroeconomic vulnerabilities. Weakening of fiscal and external buffers constrained the scope for macroeconomic policies to mitigate the effects of adverse shocks to economic activity.
 
On the upside, Côte d’Ivoire, the Comoros, Cameroon, Guinea, Madagascar, Mauritania, and Sudan have experienced a modest gain in the CPIA score, with most of these countries showing a stronger performance in the quality of governance. In a few countries, the quality of policies for social inclusion and equity also improved, reflecting a strengthening of safety net programs.
 
“Governance underpins all sectors of World Bank Group engagement, and moving forward, despite these slight gains, it will remain critical that Sub-Saharan countries implement or expand governance and public-sector reforms that will upgrade financial management systems, increase transparency, reduce corruption, protect rights, and improve public services,” notes Albert Zeufack, World Bank Chief Economist for Africa.
 
The latest CPIA results reveal that performance on policy and institutional quality in Sub-Saharan Africa’s non-fragile IDA countries is comparable to that of similar countries elsewhere. However, this is not the case for fragile countries, which generally fall behind other fragile countries outside the region. The combination of the two categories of countries pulls the overall CPIA score for the region’s IDA countries below the average for other IDA countries.
 
“African countries exhibiting economic resilience tend to have stronger macroeconomic policy frameworks, better quality of policies that promote sustainable and inclusive growth, and more effective public institutions than other countries,” explains Punam Chuhan-Pole, Lead Economist for the World Bank Africa Region and author of the report. “Nonetheless, there is scope for all countries in the region to speed up policy reforms and strengthen institutional quality.”
* The World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA), established in 1960, helps the world’s poorest countries by providing grants and low to zero-interest loans for projects and programs that boost economic growth, reduce poverty, and improve poor people’s lives. IDA is one of the largest sources of assistance for the world’s 75 poorest countries, 39 of which are in Africa. Resources from IDA bring positive change to the 1.5 billion people who live in IDA countries. Since 1960, IDA has supported development work in 113 countries. Annual commitments have averaged about $18 billion over the last three years, with about 54% going to Africa.
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Heated words as EU tries to limit Africa migration
June 22, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Eszter Zalan and Andrew Rettman*

Mogherini said deportees from Libya freely “chose” to go home

Mogherini said deportees from Libya freely "chose" to go home (Photo: ECHO/M.Eick)

Mogherini said deportees from Libya freely “chose” to go home (Photo: ECHO/M.Eick)

EU efforts to reduce the amount of migrants coming from Africa are seeing “first results”, amid flaring political tension on immigration.

The numbers of people in transit in Niger had fallen drastically and voluntary deportations from Libya had more than doubled thanks to EU projects, Federica Mogherini, the head of the EU foreign service, said in Luxembourg on Monday (19 June).

There were 5,000 people in Niger in May en route, most likely, to the EU, compared to 70,000 in the same month last year, she said.

The EU, the International Migration Organisation (IOM), and the UN had also sent 4,500 people back home from Libya in the first few months of this year compared to 2,000 in all of last year.

Mogherini said the deportees freely “chose” to go home and that the EU gave them logistical and financial support.

She added that the Libyan coastguard, with the help of EU advisors and boats, had recently rescued 16,000 migrants at sea.

The EU programmes in Africa and the Middle East come amid divisions in Europe on how to handle the situation.
Heated exchange with Germany

Foreign ministers from Austria and Hungary held a heated exchange on the issue with “a large EU country” at the EU meeting on Tuesday, Hungary’s Peter Szjiiarto told press afterward.

Szjiiarto, who was alluding to Germany, said it wanted to focus on refugee reception while they wanted to focus on security.

He said irregular migration from Africa and the Middle East must “stop” and that people who wanted to live in the EU should be screened at centres in the region instead of in Greece or Italy.

“Just imagine how many people’s lives could have been saved” if that had already been the case, he said, making a link between the refugees and terrorist attacks in the EU.

Austria’s Sebastian Kurz said: “The Mediterranean-Italy route must be closed to stop illegal migration”.

The Swiss-based IOM says 77,004 people came to the EU via the Mediterranean this year up to 14 June, compared to over 214,000 in the same period last year.

Another 1,828 people died en route, compared to 2,909 in the period last year.

The majority of current migrants, 65,450, were Africans going via Libya to Italy, while 7,967 were mostly Syrians and Iraqis going via Turkey to Greece.

‘Advice and assist’ mission

Germany has taken in the most migrants in the EU and supports mandatory quotas for burden-sharing with Greece and Italy.

But Hungary, together with the Czech Republic, Poland, and Slovakia, has boycotted the EU migrant quotas, amid legal action in the EU court in Luxembourg and by the European Commission.

The EU on Monday attributed the new numbers in Niger and Libya to a mixed bag of projects in Africa and the Middle East.

These include so called migration compacts with five African states – Nigeria, Niger, Senegal, Ethiopia, and Mali – which tie EU aid and trade to stemming flows of people.

They also include EU-funded security missions in Mali and Iraq designed to stabilise the countries and curb smuggling as well as humanitarian aid for refugees in Syria.

Mogherini said on Monday that the EU foreign service would consider the deployment of an “advice and assist” mission to work on reform of Iraqi security services “rapidly, within the coming months”.

*Source  EU Obaserver

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Gaddafi’s son Saif freed in Libya
June 11, 2017 | 0 Comments
Saif al-Islam Gaddafi (pictured in 2011) was sentenced to death by a court in Tripoli in 2015

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi (pictured in 2011) was sentenced to death by a court in Tripoli in 2015

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, second son of the late deposed Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi, is said to have been freed under an amnesty, in a move which could fuel further instability.

His father’s preferred successor, he had been held by a militia in the town of Zintan for the past six years.

The Abu Bakr al-Siddiq Battalion said he had been released on Friday but he has not been shown in public.

A source has told the BBC he is in the Tobruk area of eastern Libya.

His lawyer, Khaled al-Zaidi, also said he had been released but would not say which city Saif al-Islam had travelled to for security reasons.

The Abu Bakr al-Siddiq Battalion said it was acting on a request from the “interim government”.

That government – based in the east of the country – had already offered amnesty to Saif al-Islam.

However, he has been sentenced to death in absentia by a court in Tripoli, the west of the country, where control is in the hands of the rival, UN-backed Government of National Accord.

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, son of late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, attends a hearing behind bars in a courtroom in Zintan, 25 May 2014Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Saif Gaddafi still commands some support in Libya

Previous reports of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi’s release proved to be false.

He is wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity during his father’s unsuccessful attempts to put down the rebellion.


Another unpredictable element: analysis by Orla Guerin, BBC News, Tripoli

If confirmed, the release of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi would add another unpredictable element to Libya’s unstable mix.

He was detained in the desert in November 2011 trying to flee to Niger, and later appeared missing several fingers.

The former playboy often appeared in the West as the public face of the Gaddafi regime and was his father’s heir-apparent.

While reviled by many – at home and abroad – he retains some support in Libya and could try to re-enter the political fray here.


The 44-year-old Saif al-Islam – who was controversially granted a PhD by the London School of Economics in 2008 – was captured in November 2011 after three months on the run following the end of Muammar Gaddafi’s decades-long rule.

Saif al-Islam pictured before his capture in 2011Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Saif al-Islam, pictured before his capture, was awarded a PhD from the London School of Economics

He was previously known for playing a key role in building relations with the West after 2000, and had been considered the reformist face of his father’s regime.

But after the 2011 uprising, he found himself accused of incitement to violence and murdering protesters.

Four years later, he was sentenced to death by firing squad following a trial involving 30 of Gaddafi’s close associates.


Saif al-Islam: Heir to prisoner

  • June 1972: Born in Tripoli, Libya, second son of Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi
  • February 2011: Uprising against Gaddafi government begins
  • June 2011: International Criminal Court issues an arrest warrant for Saif al-Islam for crimes against humanity
  • August 2011: Leaves the capital after Tripoli falls to anti-government forces; flees to Bani Walid
  • October 2011: Father and younger brother killed
  • 19 November 2011: Captured by militia as he tries to flee south to Niger. Imprisoned in Zintan
  • July 2015: Sentenced to death by a Tripoli court in absentia
  • June 2017: Reportedly released after being granted amnesty by one of Libya’s two competing governments

*BBC

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This is Why Africa Matters to the United States
May 27, 2017 | 0 Comments

Grant Harris (right), former special assistant to the president and senior director for African affairs at the White House, joins Karen Attiah, global opinions editor at the Washington Post, for a Facebook Live discussion on the importance of US engagement in Africa.

Grant Harris (right), former special assistant to the president and senior director for African affairs at the White House, joins Karen Attiah, global opinions editor at the Washington Post, for a Facebook Live discussion on the importance of US engagement in Africa.

The cuts to foreign aid proposed in US President Donald Trump’s new budget, if passed, would drastically diminish US influence in Africa, threaten US security interests, and make way for countries like China to fill the void, according to a former White House official.

We can’t be ceding this space to China and to other players to have them deepen their economic ties and their political ties and have the US really lose out,” said Grant Harris, who served as special assistant to the president and senior director for African affairs at the White House from 2011 to 2015.

Trump’s new federal budget would put an end to important US engagement on the continent, engagement which, according to Harris, is vital for US national security.

This is the premise of his recently published Atlantic Council report: Why Africa Matters to US National Security. “Far too many people think that Africa is of secondary importance to US interests, where, in reality, it’s really important to US national security,” Harris said in a Facebook Live discussion with Karen Attiah, the global opinions editor with the Washington Post, at the Atlantic Council on May 25.

Why Africa Matters to US National Security

Why does stability in Africa matter for security in the United States? Karen Attiah from the Washington Post discusses why Africa is important to US national security interests with Grant Harris, former special assistant to the president and senior director for African affairs at the White House. To learn more, read Harris’ new report: http://bit.ly/2qnK3oJ

Posted by Atlantic Council on Thursday, May 25, 2017

In order to stem the spread of transnational threats, from terrorism to pandemics, Africa must become stable, said Harris. However, achieving stability requires that the United States remain actively engaged, providing not only humanitarian assistance, but also promoting economic growth. “The budget cutbacks would hurt all of that,” he said.

Attiah noted that in the “new US political climate – it’s not just Africa—there’s a real sense that the US may be retreating from its role as a global leader.” This turn inward has opened the door for other nations, such as China, to strengthen their foothold in Africa.

 China is already actively engaged in providing funds to many African nations in desperate need of improved infrastructure. Attiah described how China’s influence in Africa is “visible,” down to details such as Chinese signs in airports throughout the continent. However, Harris said, while Chinese funding of infrastructure projects in many African countries is good for those countries, the projects have “no strings attached,” meaning there are no stipulations regarding labor regulations, human rights, or environmental concerns.

“The US holds itself to different standards, and it should,” said Harris. He insisted that principled engagement bolsters not only US influence, but strengthens relationships with African partners, who are becoming increasingly significant voices on the world stage. African votes make up more than a quarter of the votes in the United Nations, therefore, “we need African partners to advance [US] priorities,” said Harris.

Africa is vital not only to US national security interests, but to the United States’ European allies as well, Harris claimed, citing the migration crisis as a major concern.

Harris said that while his report stresses Africa’s importance to US national security, “even if you’re skeptical of what I’m saying, you’ve got to believe that European allies are important to national security.” Consequently, he said, while Europe seeks to promote stability in Africa in order to stem migration, the United States should engage as well, if not for its own interests, to promote the interest of its allies. “If the US retrenches and we pull back on our assistance… then we’re going to be part of the problem,” according to Harris.

Previous US administrations have promoted deep bipartisan engagement in Africa. Harris called for the Trump administration to follow suit, emphasizing the importance of a much-overlooked, but increasingly important part of the world.

*Allafrica.Rachel Ansley is an editorial assistant at the Atlantic Council.

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Africa: New AU Chief Puts Peace Back On the Agenda
April 24, 2017 | 0 Comments

Moussa Faki Mahamat – African Union Chair. Source -the Guardian

Moussa Faki Mahamat – African Union Chair. Source -the Guardian

The scene is not a familiar one at the African Union (AU): the AU Commission (AUC) chairperson, in shirtsleeves, walking in the blazing sun down an unpaved alley in a war-torn country. Yet this picture of Moussa Faki Mahamat, the new AUC chairperson, on a visit to South Sudan, is probably the first of many.

Mahamat last month visited South Sudan and Somalia, two of the worst war zones the AU has had to cope with in the past few years. He was accompanied by Smaïl Chergui, the AUC Commissioner for Peace and Security. He also met with politicians from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mali.

Mahamat’s predecessor, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, was criticised in some quarters for not paying enough attention to burning crises on the continent. She rarely travelled to conflict zones. Mahamat has been travelling to hotspots and meeting with leaders about solving conflicts.

Four days after his January inauguration in Addis Ababa, Chad’s former foreign minister left for neighbouring Somalia where he met with newly elected President Mohamed Abdullahi ‘Farmajo’ Mohamed. Somalia is the location of the AU’s main peacekeeping effort, where the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) is fighting al-Shabaab.

While in Mogadishu, Mahamat laid a wreath for the unknown soldier – an overdue gesture for the countless African soldiers who have died in battle in Somalia this past decade. Shortly afterwards he travelled to Nairobi to attend a special summit organised by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) about the future of Somali refugees.

A day after the Nairobi meeting, on 27 March, he was in South Sudan where civil war has been raging since December 2013, with no end in sight. The AU Peace and Security Department posted pictures on Twitter of Mahamat holding a baby in Ganyiel in South Sudan’s Unity State, where famine has been declared. The UN reports that 5.8 million South Sudanese require food aid.

The UN has also warned that genocide could occur in South Sudan if no political solution is found soon. Refugees streaming over the border to Uganda in the past few weeks have told horrific tales of ethnic cleansing and killings based on tribal affiliation.

Mahamat might have been thinking about this as he sat with Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame in Kigali on 8 April to commemorate the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Then, Africa said ‘never again’. In fact, the very AUC that the Chadian diplomat is now heading, is tasked with intervening in crises on the continent and preventing things from escalating to such an extent that lives are threatened on a massive scale.

 Besides the crises in Somalia and South Sudan, several African countries are still battling with terrorist threats. Last week, on 10 April, the foreign minister of Mali, Abdoulaye Diop, spoke to AU ambassadors in Addis Ababa during a meeting of the Peace and Security Council on the new plans to fight terrorism in the Sahel. These efforts are led by the G5 Sahel countries (Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali and Mauritania).

The G5 Sahel is planning a joint intervention force similar to the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) against Boko Haram. Mahamat also knows these battles very well. Boko Haram has been in his backyard for years. Chad in fact plays an important role in the regional offensive against the terror group. The MNJTF, headquartered in the Chadian capital N’Djamena, has made a lot of progress and has weakened Boko Haram.

Back in his office in Addis Ababa, the AUC chief will soon be reminded that when it comes to solving Africa’s conflicts, the AU’s hands are tied on many levels. Firstly, the AUC – with its representatives from 55 member states – remains a highly bureaucratic institution with huge organisational problems. Mahamat and his new team, including his deputy and eight commissioners, are charged with implementing new reforms at the AU, adopted by heads of state at their 28th summit in January.

 Secondly, financial constraints still plague the AU. The new financial structure that was adopted in July last year by heads of state, which will see 0.2% of African imports taxed to finance the AUC, is only being put into place very slowly. For now, the AU programmes and especially peace support operations are almost fully funded by outside institutions like the European Union.

Finally, nothing can be done about peace and security without the cooperation of the AU’s member states. Time and again, AU peace efforts have faltered because states are unwilling to acknowledge the AU’s role and responsibility in the internal affairs of member states and/or have not been willing to provide the resources to back its plans.

One of the reasons that the peace efforts in South Sudan have failed is the lack of coordination and commitment by countries in the region, some of whom have taken sides in the conflict.

The AU has vowed to silence the guns by 2020. Mahamat said in his election campaign for the AUC’s top job that he speaks fluent French, English and Arabic and has a lot of experience in diplomacy. Those skills will have to be put into practice to convince African leaders and belligerents to cooperate in the interest of peace and security.

*ISS/AllAfrica.Liesl Louw-Vaudran, ISS Consultant

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ITFC supports the textile and garment industry through its first African-Asian Cotton B2B meeting in Bangladesh
April 15, 2017 | 0 Comments
ITFC furthers its commitment to promoting sustainable intra-trade relationships by organizing its first Cotton B2B meetings between African cotton suppliers and Bangladesh Cotton Importers
ITFC supports the textile and garment industry through its first African-Asian Cotton B2B meeting in Bangladesh

ITFC supports the textile and garment industry through its first African-Asian Cotton B2B meeting in Bangladesh

DHAKA, People’s Republic of Bangladesh, April 10, 2017/ — In its continuous efforts to promote and foster intra-trade development, the International Islamic Trade Financing Corporation (ITFC) , member of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) Group, organized its first African-Asian Cotton B2B Meeting event as part of its Cotton Development and Partnership Program. The Meeting took place in the Westin Hotel, Dhaka, Peoples’ Republic of Bangladesh.

The event was inaugurated by H. E. Mr. Abul Maal Abdul Muhith M.P, Minister of Finance, Government of the Peoples’ Republic of Bangladesh and Chairman of the IDB Board of Governors and Eng. Hani Salem Sonbol, Chief Executive Officer, ITFC. The meeting also witnessed the attendance of West African cotton producers, the African Cotton Association, the Bangladesh Textile Mills Association, the Bangladesh Cotton Association, and Bengali Spinning/Textile Mills.

The Meeting supports in the first place the Bangladeshi textile industry, which is the source of employment and export earnings for Bangladeshi economy. ITFC was able to bridge between the Asian countries, specifically Bangladesh and Indonesia, to reach out and develop new business partnerships with African cotton suppliers.

Eng. Hani Salem Sonbol, CEO ITFC expressed his special thanks to the President of African Cotton Association, Mr. Baba Berthe and CEOs, representatives of West African Cotton Ginning companies for being part of this B2B Meeting, which ITFC is co-hosting with the Bangladesh Textile Mill Association and Bangladesh Cotton Association. He went on to say, “ITFC is very thankful to its strategic partners for co-hosting this important business development event for OIC’s cotton industry. ITFC, as the trade finance and trade development arm of the IDB Group, brings businessmen together from its member countries and provide them with the platform as such today to develop new business partnership to benefit from direct trade linkages between cotton exporting countries and Bangladeshi textile industry.”

From his part, H. E. Mr. Abul Maal Abdul Muhith M.P, Minister of Finance had expressed his confidence in the impact of this meeting to the Bangladeshi’s to the textile and garment industry, which is the backbone of the Bangladeshi economy and stimulator of its economic growth. “This meeting opened doors to our cotton importers to build new opportunities with the African suppliers. With the current challenging economic environment and the increasing competition, ITFC had given us the chance to reach out to new destinations.”

Calik Cotton, sponsored the meeting as the event’s strategic partner. Calik Cotton supplies cotton of different origins grown both in Turkey and abroad and serves major local and international textile industrialists. Moreover, this event serves as a platform for networking and business partnerships, and provides an opportunity for discussing ideas, industry trends and market updates.

On the sidelines of the B2B meeting, Eng. Hani held one to one meetings with H.E. Mr. Abul Maal A Muhith, Minister of Finance, H.E. Mr. Fazle Kabir, Governor & Chairman of the Board, Bangladesh Bank and H.E. Mr. Nasrul Hamid M.P., State Minister, Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources. The meetings focused on the longstanding and strategic partnership between ITFC and the Peoples’ Republic of Bangladesh, especially in supporting Bangladesh’s energy sector in addition to the opportunities in supporting the agricultural sector.

ITFC is recognized as the leading trade financier for cotton in West Africa. As such, it is mandated to facilitate and promote intra-trade among Member Countries of Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), and assist them in developing the competitiveness of their strategic products.

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Challenges of the WHO Must be Turned to Opportunities-Ethiopia’s Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyus
March 23, 2017 | 1 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L

If elected,Dr Tedros will be the first African to head the WHO

If elected,Dr Tedros will be the first African to head the WHO

Mounting a strong bid to be the next Director General of the World Health Organization, shortcomings must be turned to lessons and new challenges into opportunity, says Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyus of Ethiopia.

Currently serving as Minister, Special Advisor to the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, and backed by the African  Union, Dr Tedros says a fresh view is needed to efficiently tackle the global health challenges of today. The upcoming elections present an opportunity for WHO to be led by someone who has lived and worked through some of the most pressing health challenges facing our world today, said Tedros a Former Minister of Health in his country.

Dr Tedros is no stranger to facing challenges. With a Ph.D. in Community Health, and a Master of Science in Immunology of Infectious Diseases, Tedros is a globally recognized expert and author on health issues. With stints as Chair for the Global Fund to fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria Board, Chair Roll Back Malaria Partnership Board, Co-Chair, Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Board, Dr Tedros is supremely confident of his ability to help the WHO reach its potential and create a healthier world.

A few weeks back, Dr Tedros presented his vision and candidacy to the 34 Member States of the Executive Board of the WHO. In the voting to shortlist candidates, Tedros received the highest number of votes in both rounds. Buoyed with such a strong showing and with growing support and endorsements across the globe, Dr Tedros found time off his hectic schedule to discuss his vision, campaign, and more on the WHO and global health issues. Together we can create a healthier world, and every country has a stake in that vision says Tedros.

DR. TEDROS ADHANOM you are running for the office of Director-General for the World Health Organization (WHO), how are things shaping up with that?

I am honoured by the African Union’s endorsement for my candidacy last year and re-affirmation this year. I am motivated by the enthusiastic encouragement I have received from many other governments and global health leaders around the world.  I am humbled by their confidence in me.

Since I launched my campaign over a year ago, I have met with Ministers, Heads of Delegations, and some Heads of States of over 180 of the 194 WHO Member States. These discussions have significantly shaped the priorities that I will pursue if I am elected Director-General. They have enriched my understanding of global health priorities and how these needs manifest themselves differently around the world. I am encouraged by the overwhelming alignment across Member States regarding most of WHO’s priorities, opportunities, and risks. I have also noted some areas of diverse interests and positions.

Several weeks ago, I presented my vision and candidacy to the 34 Member States of the Executive Board of WHO. I was honoured to receive the highest number of votes in both rounds of the short-listing of candidates from six down to three. I am encouraged by this early success and re-energised heading into the final stage of the election.

What is your motivation in seeking the WHO Director-General position and what makes you stand out as the best candidate for the job?

My motivation to become DG boils down to three main themes:

1) My passion for health

2) My belief in the power and potential of WHO; and

3) I have the skills and track record that can help realize WHO’s potential.

My passion for health starts from a personal level, growing up in a poor family in Ethiopia. I saw my own and countless other families in our community suffering because of poor access to health, unsafe drinking water, and food insecurity. My passion is rooted in a refusal to accept that people should live or die because of these things.

I believe in the power of WHO. I have personally seen the impact, WHO can have, as a partner to countries’ health programmes, to support and challenge us so that we can have more impact, on more people’s lives. We must turn WHO’s past shortcomings into lessons, and new challenges into an opportunity to evolve and adapt.

Tedros is a globally recognised expert and author on health issues

Tedros is a globally recognised expert and author on health issues

I believe what I have accomplished can help WHO reach its potential and create a healthier world. I have spent 3 decades learning, planning, innovating, building national capacity, coordinating partners, increasing domestic health spending, implementing comprehensive health sector reform, and managing our programs with accountability. I have remained committed and focused, translating reform into results. My vision for the WHO draws on lessons learned throughout my career: the health successes achieved here in Ethiopia, building international partnerships as Foreign Minister, and the intricacies of global health diplomacy and financing that I learned to navigate through international roles. I have chaired the Boards of the major global health institutions, overseeing their strategies and reforms, and helping to rebuild donor confidence.

A fresh view is needed to efficiently tackle today’s global health challenges. The upcoming election presents an opportunity for WHO to be led by someone who has lived and worked through some of the most pressing health challenges facing our world today.

What assessment do you make of the way the WHO has fared in the last few years and its response when the Ebola crisis struck parts of West Africa?

The Ebola crises shocked WHO to its core. However, it also offered an opportunity that

WHO launch serious reforms aimed at improving its ability to respond more rapidly and effectively to public health emergencies. Those reforms must be implemented with a sense of urgency to yield results and rebuild the confidence.

Though there have been challenges, WHO has been working to address them to be better prepared for the global health issues of today and tomorrow.

Tedros says that his background and experiences transforming the health sector in Ethiopia puts him in unique perspective to help the WHO turn challenges to opportunity

Tedros says that his background and experiences transforming the health sector in Ethiopia puts him in unique perspective to help the WHO turn challenges to opportunity

If elected to serve as DG, a top priority will be strengthening emergency preparedness, particularly in provision of increased support at country level to prevent, detect, and swiftly respond to disease outbreaks.  Going back to your question about Ebola, Nigeria and Senegal were able to contain the outbreak rapidly. This was due to better coordination, incident management systems, robust surveillance platforms and community engagement. This is why country capacity is so important. The relay of information from countries to regions and then to the headquarters is very important for an outbreak to not spread globally. But if there is weak capacity and if International Health Regulations are not fully implemented at the country level, then you cannot get the information flow and rapid response needed. That is why we need, as a global community, to work together to build capacity collaboratively – whether it is through South-South partnerships, gaining access to essential vaccines, and committing to fully implement International Health Regulations.

Can you explain the vision you have for the World Health Organisation? What will the WHO under the leadership of Dr. Tedros look like?

If elected, I will focus on five priorities:

My top priority is Universal Health Coverage. All roads lead to Universal Health Coverage, from Sustainable Development Goals to gender equality to emergency preparedness.

My second is to strengthen the capacity of national authorities and local communities to detect, prevent and manage health emergencies, including antimicrobial resistance.

My third is to put women, children, and adolescents at the centre of the global health development agenda, and to position health as a more powerful contributor to the gender equality agenda.

My fourth is to address health effects of climate and environmental change.

Lastly, in order to accomplish these, we will need to create a transformed WHO: one that is strong, effectively managed, adequately resourced, results- focused and responsive.

You can find out more about my vision for WHO at www.DrTedros.com.

May we know the support you have from the AU or the African bloc and in what other parts of the world are you hoping to get the necessary support to boost your chances of victory?

I am honoured to have received the endorsement of the African Union for my candidacy, and I am grateful for the support I have received.

I am campaigning on a vision that together we can create a healthier world, and every country has a stake in that vision. So in this campaign, I want to listen to and speak with people from every nation. To be successful, we all have to do this together, all 194 Member States.

If we are to build a healthier world together, we must recognize the unique challenges that each continent and each country has to face and not shirk or ignore any of them. This is, after all, a global effort.

You were Minister of Health in your native Ethiopia from 2005-2012, what did your leadership achieve for the health sector in Ethiopia?

When I began as Ethiopia’s Minister of Heath, our country faced extraordinary challenges. We took an honest look at the state of our health care system and at what would be required to expand health to reach all our fellow citizens in need.

We made a conscious decision to address the essential building blocks for health system-wide reform – investing in critical health infrastructure, expanding the health workforce, creating new financing mechanisms, improving service delivery, strengthening pharmaceutical supply, integrating information management, and investing in epidemiology/outbreak preparedness.

We worked with communities to identify health challenges and obstacles and, together, came up with workable and culturally acceptable solutions for each unique context.

As a result of working with teams across the country at each level, we were able to expand healthcare to tens of millions more Ethiopians. Through these initiatives, we were able to dramatically expand access to health services and meet ambitious health targets, translating reform into results: reducing child mortality by 67%; reducing maternal mortality by 71%; reducing malaria mortality by 75%;reducing mortality from tuberculosis by 64%; and reducing mortality from HIV by 70%.

 If you win the election you will be the first African to head the WHO, what would this mean to you?

Together we can create a healthier world, and every country has a stake in that vision says Tedros pictured here at the TANA Forum former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo

Together we can create a healthier world, and every country has a stake in that vision says Tedros pictured here at the TANA Forum former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo

It is one thing to tell countries what they should do, but it is an entirely different thing to have lived it and done it oneself, as I have. I have the ability to say that I designed the health reform, implemented it, and saw the results.

As someone who comes from a region hardest hit by many of the world’s biggest health challenges, I would bring WHO a fresh perspective about how much can still be done with limited resources. If elected, that will be recognition by our peers around the world that this type of frontline experience is paramount to successfully addressing health challenges not only here but around the world.

 Last May, you were presented with the Award for Perseverance during the Fourth Global Conference of Women Deliver in Copenhagen, Denmark; did you consider this an early endorsement for your bid?

That was a great honor. I would not say it is an endorsement of my candidacy, but I would say it is a recognition of the importance of gender equality to us all. I have long been a champion of empowering women since I have found from experience that inclusiveness and different ways of viewing issues tends to prompt innovative thinking and deliver results.

Leading on gender quality is a core value of mine and among my five leadership priorities for WHO. Investments in girls’ and women’s health and rights are investments in a healthy and more prosperous future. We see over and over again the untapped potential of women, because we disempower them, marginalize them, and undervalue them. When we do this, our societies are poorer today. Likewise, when we neglect the health and development needs of our children, our societies are poorer tomorrow. What a shame to lose both today and tomorrow, by not investing in women and children.

Healthy, empowered girls and women have the potential to build stronger communities, economies, and nations, and ultimately transform entire societies. For example, in Ethiopia, we trained over 38,000 women to be health extension workers, who bring local health services to communities across the country, and we built a Health Development Army, a 3-million strong organized women’s network that communicates directly with families to promote health practices and disease prevention across the country. This led to a major expansion of healthcare access.

I accepted the award on behalf of my colleagues and partners who tirelessly work to improve the lives of the girls and women over the last 30 years, and consider it an acknowledgment that similar efforts need to be replicated on a global scale.

The final elections are in May. What plans do you have to better introduce yourself to the world and reassure skeptics about your abilities to provide leadership for such an important global organization?

In May, all 194 countries that are members of the World Health Organization will each get an equal vote for the next Director-General.

I am speaking to people near and far from all regions of the world. Through these conversations, I am deepening my understanding of the needs and opportunities around the world, as well as demonstrating the successes and the lessons from our experiences in the health sector transformation in Ethiopia and my leadership roles with other international organizations. I am confident and hopeful that I will receive the necessary support to be successful in the final election in May at the World Health Assembly.

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‘Aware Migrants’ campaign launches in Africa as arrivals to Italy soar
March 16, 2017 | 0 Comments
By Kieran Guilbert*
Eritrean migrant Minya Mesmer (R) looks at a smartphone with her daughter at a military building in Misrata, Libya, November 6, 2016.

Eritrean migrant Minya Mesmer (R) looks at a smartphone with her daughter at a military building in Misrata, Libya, November 6, 2016.

DAKAR (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A campaign to inform would-be migrants in Africa about the dangers of heading to Europe via the Mediterranean sea aims to reach people in 15 African countries through social media, radio and television adverts, migration officials said on Wednesday.

The ‘Aware Migrants’ campaign, which was launched last year by the Italian government and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), features video testimonies of migrants who made it to Europe, but were abused, beaten and raped along the way.

The voyage from Libya across the Mediterranean to Italy – most cross the sea on flimsy boats run by people smugglers – has become the main route to Europe for migrants from Africa after a European Union clampdown last year on sea crossings from Turkey.

A record 181,000 migrants made the perilous journey last year, and arrivals in Italy this year so far have risen by two thirds compared with the same period in 2016, IOM data shows. [nL8N1G751V]

The campaign is now targeting potential migrants across West and Central Africa – which account for most arrivals in Italy – with posts on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram, and adverts with local media, said IOM spokesman Flavio Di Giacomo.

“The purpose of the campaign is not to tell migrants not to leave – that is a personal choice,” he said. “But we need to provide them with as much information as possible, and quickly.”

“Many migrants who arrive in Italy are not fully aware of the risks … their journeys were more dangerous and traumatic than they expected,” Di Giacomo told an online press conference.

More than 4,500 migrants drowned in the Mediterranean in 2016, and nearly 500 have died at sea this year, almost a five-fold increase from this time last year, according to the IOM.

African migrants are also prey to abuse, beatings, imprisonment and rape while heading through the Sahara desert and lawless Libya. [nL8N1BE2SO]

Yet many migrants who make it to Italy do not tell their friends and families about the hardships they have endured. IOM officials hope their campaign will highlight the harsh reality.

In one video on the campaign’s website, 23-year-old Ismael talks about being imprisoned with his wife as migrants in Libya.

“They even forced my wife. They slept with my wife. She was pregnant. They used wooden sticks to beat her. She is dead.”

In the latest of a slew of measures pushed by the European Union to stop migrants reaching Europe, Italy launched a 200 million euro ($216 million) fund last month to help African countries control their borders. [nL5N1FM50K]

(Reporting By Kieran Guilbert, Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience.

*Reuters/Yahoo

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Pentagon Seeks to Expand Fight Against Extremists in Somalia
February 27, 2017 | 0 Comments

Somalia's newly elected President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, right, flanked by outgoing president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud carries their national flag during the hand-over ceremony at the Presidential palace in Somalia's capital Mogadishu, Feb. 16, 2017.

Somalia’s newly elected President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, right, flanked by outgoing president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud carries their national flag during the hand-over ceremony at the Presidential palace in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, Feb. 16, 2017.

The Pentagon wants to expand the military’s ability to battle al-Qaida-linked militants in Somalia, potentially putting U.S. forces closer to the fight against a stubborn extremist group that has plotted attacks against America, senior U.S. officials said.

The recommendations sent to the White House would allow U.S special operations forces to increase assistance to the Somali National Army in the struggle against al-Shabab militants in the fragile Horn of Africa nation, the officials said. They said the proposal would give the military greater flexibility to launch airstrikes against extremists that appear to be a threat.

Beefing up the military effort in Somalia fits with President Donald Trump’s broader request for a Pentagon plan to accelerate the U.S.-led battle against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, and defeat other extremist groups, including al-Qaida and its affiliates.

Young Americans a concern

U.S. concerns about al-Shabab escalated in recent years as young Americans from Somali communities traveled to training camps in Somalia, raising fears they might return to the United States and conduct terror attacks.

Somalia was one of the seven predominantly Muslim countries included in Trump’s travel ban last month. The executive order has since been suspended by federal courts.

Somalia is “our most perplexing challenge,” Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, the head of U.S. Africa Command, said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Fresh perspective

The United States is “trying to take a look at Somalia from a fresh perspective in the way ahead,” he said, describing the need to weaken the decade-old al-Shabab insurgency so that the African nation’s military forces can defeat it.

Waldhauser declined to provide details of the new options that have been proposed.

But other officials said elements include giving U.S. special operations forces greater ability to accompany local troops on military operations against al-Shabab and easing restrictions on when the U.S. can conduct airstrikes against the group. The officials weren’t authorized to publicly discuss the confidential review and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Currently there are about 50 U.S. commandos rotating in and out of Somalia to advise and assist the local troops. The new authorities could result in a small increase in the number of U.S. forces in Somalia, officials said.

Mattis approved plan

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has approved the recommendations and sent the plan to the White House earlier this month, they added. But no final decisions have been made, and the proposal could prove politically sensitive because of the disastrous downing of two U.S. helicopters over Mogadishu in 1993 that killed 18 American troops.

The White House declined to comment, deferring questions to the Defense Department.

Some of the U.S. officials with knowledge of the new military proposal said it is aimed at improving the U.S. advisory mission because the African Union is planning to pull out its 20,000 peacekeeping forces in Somalia in 2020. Observers say Somali troops are unprepared to fight the extremist threat on their own.

U.S. forces won’t be on front lines

Currently, U.S. forces can transport and accompany local troops. But they must keep their distance from front lines and can only engage the enemy if they come under attack or if Somali forces are in danger of being defeated. The new proposal would give U.S. forces the ability to move along with Somali troops into the fight if needed.

While the American military right now can conduct airstrikes in self-defense or to protect Somali troops if they come under attack and request help, the new authorities would be broader.

Officials said that under the new recommendations, the military would be able to launch airstrikes against militants on a more pre-emptive basis. For example, the U.S. could target al-Shabab fighters gathering for an attack rather than waiting until friendly forces were under fire.

Suicide bombers remain a problem

Al-Shabab has been ousted from most Somali cities and towns, but its suicide bombers continue to kill across large parts of the south and center of the country. That includes Mogadishu, the capital.

Somalia’s new president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, inaugurated Wednesday, warned that it will take another two decades to “fix” his country. Mohamed, who also holds U.S. citizenship, won election earlier this month as Somalia tries to restore effective governance.

Waldhauser said the U.S. sees an opportunity to work with Mohamed to “train the Somalia national security forces to a level that they can take on al-Shabab on their own.”

*VOA

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