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Peace talks to end decades of conflict in Sudan begin in Juba
October 18, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Deng Machol

South Sudanese President Salva Kiir, right, with General Abdel Fattah Al Burhan, head Sudan’s sovereign council, and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed., left, arrive for a meeting in Juba on October 14, 2019. Reuters

Juba – Peace talks between the Sudanese transitional government and armed and non-armed opposition groups begun in South Sudan’s capital on Monday with parties showing eagerness to ending the country’s long civil war.

South Sudan’s President Kiir is hosting the peace talks, where the transitional government and rebel groups signed a draft agreement last month that detailed a roadmap for the talks, trust-building measures and an extension of a cease-fire already in place, represents a turning point in ending war and bringing about peace to Sudan.

This followed former president Omar al-Bashir’s successful mediation of the South Sudan peace talks in Khartoum last year, September, before overthrow in April, 2019.

The peace initiative was also built into a power-sharing deal between Sudan’s army groups and its pro-democracy movements. That deal was reached after the deposed of longtime tyrant President Omar al-Bashir in April. The transitional authorities have six months to make peace with the rebels, according to the agreement.

Ethiopia and the African Union mediated the power-sharing agreement in August which ended months of violence and faltering talks between Sudan’s generals and protesters following the uprising against al-Bashir.

South Sudan gained independence from the north in 2011 after decades of civil war. But in the 2000s, Sudan was most known for al-Bashir’s brutal repression of an uprising in the western Darfur region.

Attaining peace is crucial to the transitional government in Sudan. It has counted on ending the wars with rebels in order to revive the country’s dilapidated economy through slashing the military spending, which takes up much of the national budget.

However, Sudanese military councils have introduced good-will signals. They dismissed death sentences against eight rebel leaders and released more than a dozen prisoners of war. They have also delayed the formation of the parliament and the appointment of provincial governors to allow time for the rebels to come on board.

President Kiir is trying to look for the best ways to end the war that has been raging in Sudan for the last 63 years – that’s to say since independence.

The peace solutions brokered in the past, starting by Addis Ababa 1972, Khartoum 1997, CPA 2005, Abuja, Cairo, Asmara and Doha agreements, failed to achieve a just, comprehensive and permanent peace.”

Sudanese warring parties accepted the mediation of president Salva Kiir and Juba as a venue for peace talks when the AUHIP failed to settle the conflict in Sudan in eight years and twenty-two rounds of talks.

Addressing the launch of the peace talks at the Freedom Hall in Juba, President Kiir called on the Sudanese parties to make compromises during the negotiations.

President Kiir said negotiations and compromises are ushered to settle any political conflict and reach a peace deal that will end the country prolong conflict.

He added that peace could not come to any country through armed conflict adding that it was possible if parties come together, discuss and find possible solutions.

President Kiir reiterated that lack of peace in his former country would lead to instability in the whole Africa and South Sudan particular.

“Time has come for us in Africa and in our region to rise up to the challenge of addressing our differences and conflicts,” said Kiir in the event graced by regional heads of states, including Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni and Ethiopian Premier Dr Abiy Ahmed.

“I have no doubt that we have the capacity, the ability and the required competence to do so if we have a strong political will. “Now for the Sudanese delegations for the peace talks, I wish them successful dialogue, negotiation and compromise so that we celebrate the achievement of peace in the Sudan,” said president Kiir.

Symbol of peace

The chairperson of the IGAD, Dr. Abiy Ahmed, also Prime Minister of the Federal Republic of Ethiopia, called on the region to exert more efforts for peace building to create a safe environment for investment, adding that the horn of Africa should always address its challenges through inclusive dialogue.

The IGAD countries consist of Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Uganda, Sudan and South Sudan. But Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan have been ruined down by years of conflict as a result of political and communal wrangles.

Dr. Abiy say the region has the potential to become a symbol of peace and economic in Africa as well as in the global.

“I believe there is nothing that we cannot achieve as a region. We have witnessed a peace between the Ethiopia and Eritrea; the silence of the guns in South Sudan and the successful Sudanese reconciliation; we are also hopeful that Kenya and Somalia will have to resolve their problem through dialogue. What we have achieved together are building-blocks for our region’s shared goals and collective prosperity,” said Dr. Abiy.

Dr. Abiy urged the leaders to engage youth in addressing the economic challenges in the region rather than recruiting them for civil war.

“It is time for our regions to focus on the inevitable journey of a robust economic integration,” said the 2019 Noble Prize Winner. “The time has come to give a better chance to our youth through pooling our cooperative advantages to common goals and developments – this, we can only do when all the stakeholders in each of our countries commits to peace.”

 “Ideological bankruptcy”

Meanwhile, the Ugandan President cautioned leaders against the use of religion and tribes to advance their political interests.

Yoweri Museveni says leaders in Sudan and South Sudan have sought leadership positions by turning their people against each other.

He says since 1962, Sudan has failed to address the underlying causes of wars and poverty because of lack of political ideology.

In 2011, Sudan split following 39 years of civil war between South Sudanese and the Sudanese government over lack of services and poor system of governance.

Museveni argues that the problems of Sudan and Africa can be attributed to the misguided use of tribal and religious identities as a means of resolving issues.

“People who are ideologically bankrupt have no alternative but to use opportunism of religion, tribe, and of race. This is a crime against Africa,” said the leader who has been the Uganda’s president since 1986. “If you don’t know what to do, go back home and mismanage your home. Don’t come to a public office to cause suffering for the people.”

While they applaud President Kiir’s efforts to help restore stability in the Sudan, critics and activists say the President should start the charity at home by ensuring that the revitalized peace agreement is fully implemented.

Commitment

For his part, the President of the Sudanese Sovereign Council, Gen. Abdul Fattah Al Burhan, expressed hopes that the Kiir-mediated peace talks will bring to an end years of conflict in the Sudan.

“We come to negotiate in good faith for the sake of the Sudan. This time is different from the past, in the past there was a government wanted to divide the country with armed groups, though the oppositions are in the country,” said Al Burhan. We are reiterating our full commitment that this round of talks will be the end to the problems of our Sudanese people – to put an end to the suffering of our people,” he promised, his government want comprehensive peace such that over five million Sudanese displaced both internally and externally return to their homes.

According to Juba’s government, Kiir’s mediation efforts is aimed at finding an end to the civil war in Blue Nile and Darfur regions.

The states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan – which both have large ethnic minority populations that fought alongside the South Sudanese during the two decades of scorched – earth civil war.

Over nine different armed and non-armed opposition groups are taking part in the talks including main opposition movements of Revolutionary Front and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army – North.

Dr. Alhadi Idris Ahmed, Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) Leader has expressed his willingness to cooperate in good faith with the interim government to bring solution to the conflict in Sudan.

“Time has come for us to stop war and killings in the Republic of Sudan. It is time for beginning of stability, peace, respect of human rights and economic development in Sudan,” said Ahmed, adding that they want to see a new Sudan with a democracy and equal opportunity to all the Sudanese people.

Cdr. Abdul-Aziz Adam Alhilu, SPLM-N, emphasized that they have come to the talks with a firm will and determination to achieve a new Sudan of freedom, justice and equality.

“We also believe that the success of the negotiations to bring an end to the war in Sudan depends on addressing the root causes of the problem that can be summarized in the two issues of national identity and relationship between religion and state,” said Abdul-Aziz. The two points of identity and theocracy are at the top of the contentious issues that divide the Sudanese people. We have to look for the commonalities that provide the basis for a just unity and permanent peace,” he added.

Despite the secession of South Sudan, there is racism in Sudan today. It is racial and religious double apartheid that resulted in 63 years of civil wars, where the state exterminated over 3 million of its own citizens in [then] South Sudan, Nuba Mountain, Blue Nile, Beja of the East, far North Nuba and Darfur.

“We, in the SPLM-N believe that the failure was due to the complicated nature of the conflict on one hand, and the insistence of the subsequent Khartoum governments to deal with it as a security problem on the other, while the conflict is basically political. We also believe that success of the negotiations to bring an end to the wars in Sudan depends on addressing the root causes of the problem that can be summarized in the two issues of national identity and relationship between religious,” said Abdul-Aziza.

The official launching ceremony of Sudan peace talks being mediated by president Kiir was attended by The president of Sudan Sovereign Council, Gen. Abdel AlFattah Al-burhan, the president of Uganda Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, the Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, Dr. Abiy Ahmed and the Prime Minister of Arab Republic of Egypt, Mustafa Kemal Madbouly.

The presidents of Kenya and Somalia were not in attendance they have busy schedules in their respective countries.

Several peace talks have failed to end the internal conflict in Sudan and bring in a comprehensive justice and permanent peace, however, this is litmus – test for president Kiir whether to bring final solution to the Sudanese crisis or not. This peace talks will go on for two months.

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Negotiating for a better future: Why the good or bad of Russia’s presence in Africa will rely on the continent’s ability to make better deals
October 18, 2019 | 0 Comments
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (R) meets with Angola’s President Joao Lourenco on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in Johannesburg, South Africa July 26, 2018.Photo SPUTNIK/ALEXEI NIKOLSKY/KREMLIN VIA REUTERS
Deal-making is what will shape the future of Russia-Africa relations and will tell whether Russia’s renewed influence in the continent is good or bad for its people
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, October 18, 2019/ — By African Energy Chamber

Russia’s return to Africa has been the subject of wide media coverage, governmental concerns and civil society reactions in recent weeks, especially as Sochi gears up to host the first ever Russia-Africa Summit next week. Most commentators have come from Europe and North America to voice concerns over Russia’s dodgy arm deals in Africa, political meddling with unstable African regimes, and its overall challenging of the status quo on the continent. The problem is, when these comments are not outright hypocritical, they are missing a key point: competition is good for business, which is just what Africa needs right now.

First, Russia’s presence in the continent cannot be summarized into sensationalism. It is complex and needs to be put back into context. Its modern relations with African governments and institutions started building up in post-independence Africa, time when the Soviet Union offered key diplomatic and military support to young African nations in need of it. This assistance was multi-form and much needed for countries seeking fast development following harsh independence wars and conflicts. “The Soviet Union provided significant economic assistance, including infrastructure, agricultural development, security cooperation, and health sector cooperation,” wrote Paul Stronski of the Carnegie’s Russia and Eurasia Program this week. Consequently, Putin’s vision for Africa is resuming and building up on a cooperation that started in the second half of the 20th century and was only put on hold by the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

In short, while arriving late to the party, Russia is no stranger to the African playground. Beyond military cooperation, its state-owned natural resources companies have already made inroads into the continent, and could be a game changer for many African countries in need of investment and electricity. Key Russia energy companies such as Gazprom, Lukoil, Rostec and Rosatom are already present in Algeria, Angola, Egypt, Nigeria, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea or Uganda, while mining and minerals ones such as Nordgold or Rusal are developing world-class mines in Guinea and Zimbabwe. On a global stage, Russia’s involvement in OPEC has also sent strong signals that it is committed to market stability and global energy cooperation, which ultimately benefit African producers.

“Russia’s influence is increasing through strategic investments in natural resources, and such investments are welcomed by African governments and companies. They bring in key Russian capital and know-how to the continent which is seeking to diversify its investors basket and attract much needed investment into its energy industry,” said Nj Ayuk, Executive Chairman at the African Energy Chamber (EnergyChamber.org) and CEO of the Centurion Law Group. “The African Energy Chamber is supporting such efforts and has seen a definite uptick in Russian companies’ interests for the continent. We predict a lot of deals to be signed during and after the Sochi Summit for Russian energy companies to develop African resources and do business in Africa. This will be especially beneficial as Africa develops gas-based economies,” he added.

Amongst the most recent agreements are for instance the MoU between Atlas Oranto Petroleum and Rosneft in 2018, under which the pan-African E&P company agreed to explore the joint-development of its assets across Africa with the Russian state-owned giant. Another one is the signing of several agreements between Russia and Mozambique this summer, involving again state-owned Rosneft but also Nordgold. In Central Africa, Gazprom is also lifting gas from Cameroon’s the FLNG Hilli Episeyo, the world’s first converted FLNG vessel.

As such investments and activity picks up, the real game changer will be Africa’s ability to make deals that work for its people and its economies. Deal-making is what will shape the future of Russia-Africa relations and will tell whether Russia’s renewed influence in the continent is good or bad for its people. Rightly so, the ability and capacity of African governments to make better deals with investors is becoming central to the global business narrative on Africa.

In his much anticipated book coming up this month and already best-seller on Amazon, “Billions At Play: The Future of African Energy and Doing Deals”, Nj Ayuk dedicates an entire chapter to the critical art of deal-making. “For Africa to truly realize all of the benefits oil and gas operations have to offer, we need to see good deal-making across the board,” he writes. “Clearly, good deal-making has far-reaching implications for African people, communities and business.”


Contracts negotiations is in fact the key element missing from the current debate on Russia’s increasing influence in Africa. There is no doubt Africa is welcoming Russia’s interest for doing business on the continent, not only because it comes without the conditionality of actors such as the IMF and the World Bank, but also because Africa needs critical energy investment and a giant oil producer like Russia has good technology and know-how to export. The only thing is, sub-Saharan Africa has seen several regulatory developments in the near future, with a particular focus on local content regulations across energy markets. Jobs creation, domestic capacity building and the growth of a strong base of local energy companies is high up on the African agenda. If African governments are able to negotiate contracts that deliver on these expectations and Russian companies are committed to see the continent grow, then the future is bright for Russia in Africa.

At the end of the day, it is all about how African governments and institutions will negotiate future contracts with Russian companies. As Nj Ayuk writes in Billions At Play, “governments must give investors a chance to generate income from the resources they are interested in and recoup their investments. At the same time, governments need to look at creating value for their country and its people. It’s a balancing act. It’s challenging, but it’s doable.”

Whether Sochi will result in that balancing act remains to be seen, but the challenge is given and Africa is up for it.
*Africa Energy Chamber
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Eurasia Center Open To Partnership Prospects With Africa
October 17, 2019 | 0 Comments
Ambassador Serge Mombouli with Dr. Jenco

Ambassador of the Republic of Congo and Dean of African Diplomatic Corps in the United States Serge Mombouli met on Tuesday with the President of The Eurasia Center Dr. Gerry Jenco.

This was a courtesy visit by Dr. Jenco designed to introduce his organization and its new program Uplifting Africa. During the meeting which took place at the chancery of Congo, he expressed interest in exploring partnership opportunities with leaders from Africa in building world peace and prosperity.


Dr. Jenco also extended a special invitation to Ambassador Mombouli to deliver a keynote address on panel Africa Rising as part of The Silk Road Summit – 3rd Annual Conference slated for November 4, 2019 in Washington.


In return, Mr. Mombouli -the most senior african Ambassador to the United States, congratulated Dr. Jenco for his initiative in creating Uplifting Africa program which, he said, would have a positive impact on US-Africa relationship. He invited Dr. Jenco to address the African Diplomatic Corps late next month.


The newly appointed Director of Uplifting Africa Program in the United States journalist Ben Bangoura participated in the meeting.


About The Eurasia Center


The Eurasia Center was founded to educate not only the American public but also the world community about the important relationship of America has with Eurasia (Europe and Asia) as well as Africa. It seeks to enhance American awareness, knowledge, and understanding of the European and Asian (Eurasian) countries, especially during these changing times.


Through its Nine Programs for Eurasia and its important Conferences and activities, The Eurasia Center builds positive relations in areas and with peoples that are important for world peace and economic progress and development.


The Eurasia Center is a resource center which has provide US Presidents and many world leaders with current analysis that have helped them shape their knowledge of issues of importance regarding US-Eurasian relations. Many have lauded our efforts to seek solutions to issues where those in the bureaucracies of nations cannot. This Mission of the Eurasia Center serves to strengthen and expand positive relations throughout Eurasia and has greater impact for future generations.

*Courtesy of AlloAfricaNews

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US Congressional Delegation Arrives in Gambia to strengthen democratic institutions
October 15, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Bakary Ceesay

A congressional delegation from the United States of America arrived in The Gambia Sunday for a two day visit to promote responsive, effective government and to strengthen democratic institutions by assisting legislatures in emerging democracies

The U.S. legislators, traveling with the House Democracy Partnership (“HDP”), are led by the HDP Chairman, Representative David Price of North Carolina.  The delegation also includes Representative Markwayne Mullin of OklahomaRepresentative Barbara Lee of CaliforniaRepresentative Diana DeGette of Colorado, and Representative Alma Adams of North Carolina.

The US Embassy in Banjul said in a press release sent to Pan African Visions: “The mission of the U.S. House Democracy Partnership is to promote responsive, effective government and to strengthen democratic institutions by assisting legislatures in emerging democracies.  Central to their work is peer-to-peer cooperation to build technical expertise in partner legislatures and enhance accountability, transparency, legislative independence, access to information, and government oversight.

“During their visit, Congressional members will meet with member of the National Assembly and learn about Gambian legislative priorities and consult on legislative procedures and structures that enhance representative governance.

“They will also meet with His Excellency President Adama Barrow and members of civil society, non-governmental organizations, Peace Corps Volunteers, and various members of President Barrow’s cabinet. 

Before departing, they will pay their respects to Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara by laying a wreath at his grave in the National Assembly.”

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It Is Time to Create Aggressive Market-Driven Policies That Spur Economic Growth
October 11, 2019 | 0 Comments
The African Energy Chamber insisted on the need for fair regulations that are supportive of local industries whole encouraging international investments
CAPE TOWN, South Africa, October 10, 2019/ — The African Energy Chamber (https://EnergyChamber.org/) advocated for better regulatory frameworks, local content development, women empowerment and cross-border cooperation at the grand opening of Africa Oil & Power in Cape Town this week.

Attended by hundreds of senior government officials and energy executives from across Africa and the world, the Africa Oil & Power Conference & Exhibition is seeking solutions to make energy work better for Africans and investors. It was opened by leading industry figures such as H.E. Gabriel Mbaga Obiang Lima, Minister of Mines and Hydrocarbons of Equatorial Guinea, H.E. Mouhamadou Makhtar Cissé, Minister of Petroleum and Energies of Senegal, and Nj Ayuk, Executive Chairman of the African Energy Chamber and CEO of the Centurion Law Group.

Delivering the opening remarks, African Energy Chamber Executive Chairman Nj Ayuk addressed key issues facing the industry’s future, reminding the continent that it needs and must do better to provide energy and jobs to all Africans. “We are here at AOP not only to highlight success stories but also to have an honest conversation with each other on what needs to be done for our industry, and follow a roadmap to successful implementation on core issues such as regulations and local content policies, the empowerment of women, infrastructure development, cross-border cooperation and fiscal frameworks,” declared Nj Ayuk.

On the issue of regulations and the creation of a better enabling environment for investors and businesses, the African Energy Chamber insisted on the need for fair regulations that are supportive of local industries whole encouraging international investments. “Look to Ghana,” said Nj Ayuk. “The country has built an oil and gas regulatory framework from scratch and built a reputation for transparency and regulatory certainty. Its projects are getting off the drawing board and Ghana is already a serious African producer. Regulations have to be progressive, so what matters is to implement regulations that set the ground for the development of a sustainable, local content-oriented and jobs-creating industry.”

“On local content, look to Nigeria,” he added. “It has used its oil and gas as a jumping off point for overall economic development and building up domestic capacities from the ground up while providing the right opportunities for the establishment and growth of strong local companies across the value chain.”


At the core of the African Energy Chamber’s message was also a call to women empowerment across Africa’s energy industry. From creating strong educational and training programmes to implementing progressive policies in the workplace, the Chamber has advocated for better policies that provide women equal opportunities in the workplace and across the industry.  “On woman empowerment, look to South Africa, which boasts some of the strongest leaders in Africa’s oil and gas sector,” declared Nj Ayuk. “Diversity will change our industry for the best and needs to be a priority.”

The African Energy Chamber closed its opening remarks on the issues of infrastructure development and cross-border cooperation. In many cases, a lack of infrastructure is severely holding back economic and social development, including a lack of roads, pipelines, ports and airports is stopping exploration and production in its tracks; and delaying the progress of otherwise economically viable progress. Meanwhile, cross-border cooperation is the key to unlocking the potential of the continent. “On cross-border cooperation, look to Senegal and Mauritania,” said Nj Ayuk. “They both have already shown Africa that putting its differences aside and working towards co-developing projects is beneficial for African economies and their people. The GTA project is a landmark project in that regard, and one that will profoundly impact the socio-economic development in both countries. The major step to encourage future such collaboration and projects is to simply keep the dialogue open and engage more.”
*Africa Energy Chamber
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African Development Bank and partners launch pilot Cities Diagnostics tool in five cities
October 10, 2019 | 0 Comments
PICU Cities Leadership workshop: Launching the city diagnostics for five cities, 25-26 September 2019, Radisson Hotel, Abidjan Cote d’Ivoire
The tool includes key environmental and urban sustainability indicators as well as disaster risk and vulnerability, and urban footprint growth
ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast, October 7, 2019/ — “The urban opportunities far outweigh the challenges,” said Prof. Davis G. Mwamfupe, the Mayor of Dodoma, Tanzania, during his message to the Cities Leadership workshop, launching the City Diagnostics for five pilot cities in Africa, held on the 25th and 26th September 2019 in Abidjan.

Five cities were chosen for the pilot phase of the Cities Diagnostics for 2019 -2020: Antananarivo (Madagascar), Bizerte (Tunisia), Conakry (Republic of Guinea), Dodoma (Tanzania) and Libreville (Gabon) and were represented by their respective authorities.

The African Development Bank (AfDB.org), the Urban and Municipal Development Fund (UMDF) and the Korea Africa-Economic Cooperation (KOAFEC) organized the workshop to review the cities diagnostic methodologies with city managers and international urban development experts. Amadou Oumarou, Director of the Bank’s Infrastructure and Urban Development Department said, “The new City Diagnostics tool of the Bank will enable city managers and development partners to have a clear understanding of the situation in all the various sub-sectors of the city and allow us to prioritise our work”.

The diagnostic tool includes key environmental and urban sustainability indicators; two baseline studies covering disaster risk and vulnerability, and urban footprint growth. It also includes a public opinion survey covering accessibility and quality of municipal services for water, sanitation, electricity. Drainage, solid waste management, and other measures of quality of life in cities are also included. The tool can measure and assess inclusiveness and resilience parameters, strategies, municipal resource mobilization, investments, and public accounts administration.

The Mayor of Bizerte, Dr. Ben Amara Kamel stressed the challenge of limited municipal budget resources for capital infrastructure and services investments as well the difficulty of recruiting qualified municipal staff to cities, especially given Bizerte’s ambitious projects such as 100% clean energy by 2030. Participants from Conakry and Libreville also mentioned problems of city governance, the low level of municipal tax collection, poor sanitation, and solid waste management.

The five pilot cities exchanged experiences at a panel headed by Ellis Juan, Senior Advisor to the Bank’s UMDF and former head of the Inter-American Development Bank emerging and sustainable cities program (ESC) . Juan highlighted some of the key lessons learned in Latin America which included the following:An integrated approach to city planning and management yields greater impact;Climate change should be integrated into city planning and management;Making cities for the people, or people-oriented cities;Order in the fiscal accounts, increased digitalization of city management and strong governance and transparency make for a credible partner;Efficient management of solid waste, sewerage and drainage systems, and water resources will preserve cities’ environmental assets for future generations while improving quality of life;Integrating mobility into urban planning and investing in quality public transportation services will drive productivity and create citizen-friendly cities;The City Diagnostics program is fully funded by the UMDF, which supports African cities and municipalities to improve their resilience and manage urban growth and development better through planning, governance, and efficient public services as well as improving the quality of life in urban environments in Africa.
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Gambia Gov’t, Japan Signed Food Assistance Grant
October 8, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Bakary Ceesay

The Governments of The Gambia and Japan signed food assistance grant worth $2,337,650 at a ceremony held at Atlantic Hotel in Banjul on Saturday October 5th, 2019.

The rice assistance is part of Japan’s annual Official Development Assistance (ODA) to The Gambia. Following the signing ceremony, the Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and Gambians Abroad, Dr. Mamadou Tangara said the ceremony is testament of Japan’s commitment to work closely with the Government of The Gambia to addressing Gambia’s food security situation and also part of efforts aimed at elevating Gambia – Japan bilateral relations.

Dr. Tangara thanked the Government of Japan for the level of support the country has so far received.

He said discussions have been done with members of Japan’s Parliamentary Council to the African Union on the margins of TICAD 7th in Yokohama, and The Gambia is working towards intensifying collaboration in the areas of agriculture, infrastructural development and capacity building for the youth.

He called on the Japanese private sector through the Japanese Embassy to invest in potential sectors of The Gambia’s economy, including agriculture and fisheries.

He assured Ambassador Tatsuo Arai of the principle of transparency and accountability adding that the government will ensure that the arrangements under this partnership is worked out to achieve Gambia’s common objectives and support Japan’s international commitment.

He commended Japan for interventions in education, rural water supply, health, youth and sports and other development.

For his part, Ambassador Arai told reporters that the two countries have fruitful cooperation in the areas of education, health, fisheries and food assistance. The food assistance, he adds, will alleviate food shortage, stabilise food price and socio-economic development through the utilisation of the counterpart fund. He assured that Japan will continue to work with the Barrow Government in order to address the needs of the population.

He said human security is one of the main pillars of Japan’s Official Development Assistance, ODA, policies and the establishment of food security and food self-sufficiency holds a special importance in these policies.

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Verve International celebrates 10 years of resilience, innovation, determination and unmatched services to Africa
October 5, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Amos Fofung

(L-R) Mitchell Elegbe, GMD and Founder, Interswitch Group; Patrick Akinwutan, MD / Regional Executive, Ecobank Nigeria Plc and Mike Ogbalu III, CEO, Verve International at the Verve at 10 media parley held in Lagos, September 27, 2019

Verve, a leading payment technology and card business established in Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria, is celebrating ten years of unparallel service and innovation.

The celebration comes barely weeks after Verve penned an agreement with Discovery Global Network, a US-based direct banking and payment service in New York, enabling Verve cardholders to use their Verve Global Cards on the Discover Global Network which provide acceptance in more than 190 countries and territories worldwide.

Assessing the path covered so far by the giant in African card business, Mike Ogbali III recounted that what started as a mare dream, has today concurred the African economic sphere and is set to take on the world.

“Ten years ago, a group of young, vibrant, innovative minds decided that it was time to challenge the status quo, it was time to drive financial inclusion; economic prosperity by building durable Nigerian enterprises; propositions that the rest of the world is willing to embrace. All they had was a dream…today we are gathered here to celebrate that dream, which has not only become a reality but has helped to re-define the payment landscape in Nigeria, Africa and beyond.”

Recalling that before its introduction in Nigeria the sector was flooded with foreign card business, he pointed out that “Verve was created to cater to the need of Nigerians and offer real value to the Nigerian market…As a domestic card of African origin, with a better understanding of the African Market, we have delivered this promise in issuing our card to 21 African countries.”

“Ten years after we have become an international brand…It is general knowledge that the global financial technology ecosystem is accelerating at a rapid pace and as Africans we cannot afford to be left behind, not just as users, but more importantly as innovators and enablers. That is why over the past years, we have evolved from being a domestic card scheme to a globally accepted brand giving Africans the opportunity to explore the world with an African key,” he added.

Weighing in, Mitchell Elegbe, Group Managing Director/FOUNDER, at VERVE, an Interswitch digital company that prides itself as a pacesetter in facilitating seamless electronic transaction referred to the last 10 years of Verve’s journey as a period colored with different experiences, stories and emotions.

His words; “the Verve brand, which is the focus of our gathering today, has come a very long way. The card scheme has grown from just an idea to solve the payment inefficiencies in Nigeria, into a bouquet of innovative payment solutions for Nigerians, Africans; rest of the world, including Verve Classic card, accepted in Nigeria 21 African countries; Verve Global card, accepted in 185 countries including U.S, U.K and Dubai.”

Reiterating that despite their steadfastness its not been an easy ride, Mitchell Elegbe pointed out that such turbulent times have helped the brand to earn its stripes and come this far.

Verve card scheme started out as a small branch of the Interswitch family, over-time has grown into an independent company of its own with several product offerings in its portfolio. Behind this growth has been our people. They have remained resilient in the face of all the challenges, odds and seasons of doubt. They have trudged on, ensuring that objectives set are met, projects are delivered, relationship with partners are well nurtured, ultimately customers are satisfied.”

Attributing Verve’s success to the dedication of its employees, the Group Managing Director adds; “today, the solutions and products Verve has brought to the marketplace so far demonstrate what can happen to any endeavor when met with the right people, opportunities and environment. I consider these first 10 years as years of consolidation and growth. We anticipate the next 10 years as years of massive investment in unprecedented customer service delivery. In the coming 10years we will improve financial inclusion even more and make payment much more seamless efficient.”

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Merck Foundation provides their first ‘Health Media Training’ in partnership with the First Lady of the Kingdom of Lesotho
October 5, 2019 | 0 Comments
Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation and President of Merck More Than a Mother with H.E. DR. MAESAIAH THABANE, The First Lady of the Kingdom of Lesotho and Ambassador of Merck More Than a Mother
Merck Foundation partners with The First Lady of the Kingdom of Lesotho to underscore their commitment to build healthcare capacity in the country
MASERU, Lesotho, October 4, 2019/ — Merck Foundation (Merck-Foundation.comCalls for Applications for Media Recognition Awards to break infertility stigma; Merck Foundation partners with The First Lady of the Kingdom of Lesotho to underscore their commitment to build healthcare capacity in the country

Merck Foundation the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany organized their first “Merck Foundation Health Media Training” on 03rd October 2019 in Maseru, Lesotho in partnership with H.E. DR. MAESAIAH THABANE, The First Lady of the Kingdom of  Lesotho and Ambassador of Merck More Than a Mother together with Ministry of Communication, Science & Technology to break the stigma around infertility in Lesotho and rest of Africa.

Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation and President, Merck More Than a Mother explained, “Based on my meeting with the First Lady of Lesotho, H.E. DR. MAESAIAH THABANE, The First Lady of Lesotho, we are very happy to underscore our long-term commitment to build healthcare capacity in the country. We are also very proud to appoint H.E. First Lady of Lesotho as the Ambassador of Merck More Than a Mother campaign to raise awareness about infertility prevention, male infertility and define interventions to break infertility stigma. Moreover, we will be happy to provide training to doctors from Lesotho in the fields of Fertility, Diabetes and Cancer Care.”

“Merck Foundation will work closely with the office of the First Lady of Lesotho and her Foundation – Maesaiah Thabane Trust Fund, to introduce innovative ideas that will engage different sectors to create a culture shift with the aim to break the stigma of infertility and make a great impact in a short time. We plan to conclude the execution of our programs in our meeting with Her Excellency in Accra Ghana, during Merck Foundation’s annual conference, Merck Africa Asia Luminary 2019. However, to start with, we are conducing, the first health media training in Lesotho to educate media on how to break the stigma of infertility through their valuable work.” Added Dr. Rasha Kelej.

The training program is a part of ‘Merck More than a Mother’ community awareness Program and was organized for the first time in Lesotho for local media representatives and media students.

H.E. DR. MAESAIAH THABANE, The First Lady of Lesotho and Ambassador of Merck More Than a Mother emphasized, “We are happy to host this training program together with Merck Foundation. Media has the power to bring about a culture shift in our society”.

The training was addressed by the First Lady of Lesotho, stalwarts of media industry, including international faculty and infertility experts.

Moreover, it provided a great opportunity for the journalists to meet the experts and also to network with each other and work as a unit to eradicate the stigma around infertility in Lesotho and rest of Africa. It was attended by journalists working for Print, TV, Radio and Online media and journalism students.

“The Merck Health Media Training program focused on the international standards and media ethics for reporting sensitive issues like infertility in Africa. It was designed to benefit the journalists in understanding the infertility issues in African communities and to learn the best media practices to cover such issues” added Dr. Rasha Kelej.

Merck Foundation also announced Call for Application for “Merck More than a Mother” ‘Media Recognition Awards’ for Lesotho and rest of Africa. The “Merck More than a Mother” ‘Media Recognition Awards’ were launched in 2017 with the aim to emphasize the role of media in enhancing the public engagement and understanding of infertility stigma and the need to change its social perception in African communities.

The applications are invited by media professionals to showcase their work to raise awareness about infertility prevention and breaking infertility stigma in Lesotho and rest of Africa.

Who can apply? Journalists from print, online, radio and multimedia platforms from Lesotho and rest of Africa.

Last date of submission: Entries can be submitted till 31st December 2019.

How to apply? Entries can be submitted via email to mystory@merckmorethanamother.com.

Categories and prize money for winners:CategoryTVRadioPrint MediaOnline MediaPrize MoneyUSD 1000USD 1000USD 1000USD 1000

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

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

The Ambassadors of “Merck More Than a Mother” are:H.E. NEO JANE MASISI, The First Lady of BotswanaH.E. FATOUMATTA BAH-BARROW, The First Lady of The GambiaH.E. ISAURA FERRÃO NYUSI, The First Lady of MozambiqueH.E DENISE NKURUNZIZA, The First Lady of BurundiH.E. CONDÉ DJENE, The First Lady of Guinea ConakryH.E. MONICA GEINGOS, The First Lady of NamibiaH.E. BRIGITTE TOUADERA, The First Lady of Central African RepublicH.E. CLAR WEAH, The First Lady of LiberiaH.E AÏSSATA ISSOUFOU MAHAMADO, The First Lady of NigerH.E. HINDA DEBY ITNO, The First Lady of ChadH.E. PROFESSOR GERTRUDE MUTHARIKA, The First Lady of MalawiH.E FATIMA MAADA, The First Lady of Sierra LeoneH.E. ANTOINETTE SASSOU-NGUESSO, The First Lady of Congo BrazzavilleH.E. DR. MAESAIAH THABANE, The First Lady of LesothoH.E. AUXILLIA MNANGAGW, The First Lady of ZimbabweH.E. REBECCA AKUFO-ADDO, The First Lady of GhanaH.E. KEÏTA AMINATA MAIGA, The First Lady of MaliH.E. ESTHER LUNGU, The First Lady of ZambiaMerck Foundation is making history in many African countries where they never had fertility specialists or specialized fertility clinics before ‘Merck More Than a Mother’ intervention, to train the first fertility specialists such as; in Sierra Leone, Liberia, The Gambia, Niger, Chad, Guinea, Ethiopia and Uganda. 

Merck Foundation launched new innovative initiatives to sensitize local communities about infertility prevention, male infertility with the aim to break the stigma of infertility and empowering infertile women as part of Merck more than a Mother COMMUNITY AWARENESS CAPAIGN, such as;Merck More than a Mother media recognition award and health media trainingMerck More than a Mother fashion awardMerck More than a Mother film awardLocal songs with local artists to address the cultural perception of infertility and how to change itChildren storybook, localized for each countryAbout Merck Foundation:
The Merck Foundation (Merck-Foundation.com), established in 2017, is the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany, aims to improve the health and wellbeing of people and advance their lives through science and technology. Our efforts are primarily focused on improving access to quality & equitable healthcare solutions in underserved communities, building healthcare and scientific research capacity and empowering people in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) with a special focus on women and youth. All Merck Foundation press releases are distributed by e-mail at the same time they become available on the Merck Foundation Website. 
About Merck:
Merck
 (MerckGroup.com) is a leading science and technology company in healthcare, life science and performance materials. Almost 52,000 employees work to further develop technologies that improve and enhance life – from biopharmaceutical therapies to treat cancer or multiple sclerosis, cutting-edge systems for scientific research and production, to liquid crystals for smartphones and LCD televisions.
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German Ambassador Outlines Projects in Gambia
October 4, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Bakary Ceesay

President Adama Barrow today received the Dakar-based German Ambassador to The Gambia, His Excellency Stephan Roken, who was at the presidency to brief the President on the fulfillment of the promises made by the German president during his Gambia visit in 2017.

Following President Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s trip, the German government inaugurated a Gambia Technical Training Institute (GTTI) annex institute in Mansakonko, Lower River Region, which, according to the Ambassador, will provide training for Gambian students in solar energy installation and repairs and agricultural machinery repair and maintenance. The regional extension will enable youth in the rural Gambia to acquire skills and meaningfully contribute to the development of the country.

During his 2017 visit, the German President expressed commitment to support the energy sector, and the expansion drive of The Gambia Technical Training Institute after touring its complexes.

Regarding the addressing of the energy supply deficit in the country, the Ambassador stated that his government handed over to National Water and Electricity Company (NAWEC) a capacity-building project package designed to improve electricity supply in the Greater Banjul Area through improvements in monitoring and communication.

 ‘’We did a lot of training on monitoring and we helped in communication systems but what is important is the training of engineers into collaborators of NAWEC. With this monitoring system, there will be fewer power cuts in the Greater Banjul Area.’’

The German ambassador added that the German companies that were working with NAWEC were impressed by the skills and dedication demonstrated by the NAWEC staff.

Similarly, he disclosed that a German organisation, GIZ, is implementing EU funded projects geared towards creating job opportunities for the young people of the country.

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Commission president reiterates; Cameroon’s peace in vital to CEMAC sub-regional development
October 2, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Amos Fofung

Professor Daniel Ona Ondo (left) in a handshake with President Paul Biya (photo: prc.cm)

Chairperson of the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa, CEMAC, Professor Daniel Ona Ondo, has reiterated that the return of peace to Cameroon is the only guarantee for any meaningful economic development within the sub region.

Speaking September 26 at Cameroon’s executive mansion during a tête-à-tête with President Paul Biya who doubles as current chairman of the CEMAC conference of heads of state, Ona Ondo expressed hope that the national dialogue will solve the sociopolitical crisis in the North West and South West regions.

Noting that Cameroon contributes some 40 percent of the sub region’s Gross Domestic Product, GDP, Ondo said the economic situation of the sub region has a positive outlook.

This, he explained, were the outcome of the 2016 resolutions of the CEMAC heads of state under the leadership of President Paul Biya.

These measures, the CEMAC official noted, have resulted in economic recovery and good inflation rates across the sub region. To enhance the economic recovery of the sub region, President Biya issued new directives to Prof Ondo to make CEMAC an enviable sub regional body with an interest on the population. The president also promised his support to the CEMAC Commission enable it fulfill its assigned missions.

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Gambia: High-level delegation from Qatar arrives in Banjul to assess Development priorities
October 1, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Bakary Ceesay

Following   President Adama Barrow’s three-day working visit to Doha, Qatar, a high-level delegation from the gulf state has arrived in Banjul this week to make a first-hand assessment of the development priority needs of The Gambia.

The group’s first port of call was the Office of the President, where they held discussions with the Department of Strategic Policy and Delivery on Monday. They were taken through a PowerPoint presentation on the various aspects of the Gambia’s development blueprint – the National Development Plan, particularly high priority areas.

Speaking to waiting reporters after the meeting, Mr. Hamad Mohamed Al-Rumaihi from the Central and West African Countries’ Division, Department of African Affairs at the Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs described the trip as “a fact finding” one.


“We know that there is an excellent relation between Qatar and The Gambia, which translated into the state visit by President Barrow to Qatar. The two leaders held fruitful discussions on various areas of potential intervention. This is a follow up to that state visit to help assess Gambia’s needs,” Mr. AlRumaihi explained.

The delegation comprises line ministries of health, education and economic empowerment areas like agriculture and youth and sports. Additionally, the private sector, national and international NGOs operating from Qatar are also represented, and they were led by the Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Qatari Fund for Development.

While in Banjul, they will visit different departments and organisations.

Samer R. Fragieh, Senior Strategic Planning Advisor at the Qatari Fund for Development said the mission was a strong reflection of the strong ties between Qatar and The Gambia, as well as the leadership of both governments.


“We are hoping that from this trip, we can get back to Doha with [a] clear understanding of the priorities of development based on Gambia’s NDP,” he said, noting that their visit is designed to fast-track and cut through government bureaucracies in support of Gambia’s development.

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