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Rwanda, a family planning success story country to host 2018 international conference on family planning
April 22, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Wallace Mawire

Rwanda, one of the family planning success stories of recent
history is set to host the 5th International Conference on Family Planning
(ICFP) in Kigali on 12 to 15 November, 2018.

The first decade of the 2000s saw great achievements, a dramatic rise in
Rwanda’s contraceptive prevalence rate for modern methods between 2000 and
2007, and a drop in total fertility rate from 6.1 in 2000 to 4.6 in 2010.

Rwanda’s leadership has been highly supportive of family planning.In
recent years, the country has invested in its network of community health
workers (CHWs), run communications campaigns to drive demand and behaviour
change, and provided training on long-acting and permanent contraceptive
methods. Yet progress has slowed, despite Rwanda’s continued commitment to
family planning as a way to ensure a healthy and prosperous future for the
sustainable development of its people and the world, it is reported.

The announcement of Rwanda hosting the conference was made by the Bill
and Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health and the
Ministry of Health of the Republic of Rwanda, the conference co-hosts. The
ICFP will be held at the state-of-the-art Kigali Convention Centre, which
in the past has hosted the 27th African Union Summit and other high-level
meetings.

The ICFP is held biennially, each time in a different host country, and
remains the largest scientific conference on reproductive health and family
planning. The last ICFP, held in Indonesia in 2016, attracted over 3,500
delegates and participants from about 100 countries.

“The Government of Rwanda is privileged to host the fifth International
Conference on Family Planning delegates in Kigali, Rwanda, and is committed
to working with the Bill & Melinda Gates Institute to ensure that the event
is successfully hosted in the country,” said Minister of Health Diane
Gashumba. “Rwandan President Paul Kagame was one of the distinguished
attendees of the 2012 London Summit on Family Planning, at which he joined
the co-hosts, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the United Kingdom, along
with other national governments, donors, civil society, the private sector,
and the research and development community, in a ground breaking promise to
make affordable contraception available to an additional 120 million women
and girls in the world’s poorest countries by 2020. We are excited to host
the family planning community in Rwanda to continue our collective work and
learn from each other’s experiences to find new ways to help us realize
this goal.”

“We are delighted to be partnering with the Rwandan Ministry of Health for
the 2018 ICFP,” said Jose “Oying” Rimon II, Chair of the International
Steering Committee of the ICFP and Director of the Bill & Melinda Gates
Institute for Population and Reproductive Health at the Johns Hopkins
Bloomberg School of Public Health. “It will be wonderful to return to
Africa for the 2018 conference, and to highlight some of the spectacular
gains in family planning that are occurring in many parts of Africa today,
as well as the challenges that lie ahead.”

Held biennially since 2009, the ICFP serves as a strategic inflection point
for the family planning and reproductive health community worldwide. It
provides an opportunity for political leaders, scientists, researchers,
policymakers, advocates, and youth to disseminate knowledge, celebrate
successes, and identify next steps toward reaching the goal of enabling an
additional 120 million women to access voluntary, quality contraception by
2020.

The ICFP also serves as an international platform from which countries,
organizations and individuals can make public commitments to family
planning, and can be recognized for their achievements. Dozens of side
events are organized around the conference by many institutions and groups
from around the world.

The previous conferences were held in Nusa Dua, Indonesia, in 2016; Addis
Ababa, Ethiopia, in 2013; Dakar, Senegal, in 2011; and Kampala, Uganda, in
2009.

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World Bank Group Launches New Program to Support Africa’s Top Digital Entrepreneurs
April 22, 2017 | 0 Comments

With support from prominent African investment groups, XL Africa will help the 20 selected start-ups attract early stage capital between $250,000 and $1.5 million

WASHINGTON D.C., United States of America, April 20, 2017/ — The World Bank Group (www.WorldBank.org) launched XL Africa (www.XL-Africa.com), a five-month business acceleration program designed to support the 20 most promising digital start-ups from Sub-Saharan Africa. Start-ups will receive mentoring from global and local experts, learn through a tailor-made curriculum, increase their regional visibility, and get access to potential corporate partners and investors. With support from prominent African investment groups, XL Africa will help the 20 selected start-ups attract early stage capital between $250,000 and $1.5 million.

“Digital start-ups are important drivers of innovation in Africa,” says Makhtar Diop, Vice President for the Africa Region at the World Bank. “To scale and spread new technologies and services beyond borders, they need an integrated ecosystem that provides access to regional markets and global finance; pan-African initiatives like XL Africa play a critical role by linking local start-ups with corporations and investors across the continent.”

The program comes at a time of increasing interest in the African digital sector. According to a recent report by Disrupt Africa, in 2016, the number of tech start-ups that secured funding increased by 16.8% compared to 2015.

“XL Africa aims to put a spotlight on the continent’s growing digital economy by scouting for and supporting the most innovative tech start-ups,” said Klaus Tilmes, Director of the Trade & Competitiveness Global Practice at the World Bank Group. “The success of these ventures will create a demonstration effect that can attract much-needed growth investment in the sector and catalyze scaling of transnational businesses in the region.”

The program’s flagship activity includes a two-week residency in Cape Town, South Africa, where the ventures will have the opportunity to interact with and learn from their mentors, peers, and local partners. The Cape Town residency will conclude with the Venture Showcase, a regional event in which the entrepreneurs will present their business models to a select audience of corporations and investors.

“The program’s unique combination of targeted mentorship and access to investors represents a vital resource for digital ventures ready to grow,” said Lexi Novitske, Principal Investment Officer for Singularity Investments, a venture group based in Lagos, Nigeria. “By connecting innovative business ideas with the knowledge and resources available in the ecosystem, XL Africa will create a pipeline of investment-ready companies, unlocking better investment opportunities for regional and global investors.”

The program will collaborate with prominent African investment groups, including the African Business Angel Network (ABAN), AngelHub Ventures,Goodwell Investments, Knife Capital, Nest Africa, Silvertree Capital, Singularity Investments, South African Business Angel Network (SABAN), TLcom Capital, Zephyr Acorn and 4Di Capital, and corporate partners, such as Orange, .Eco, Ringier, and Thomson Reuters.

Interested companies can apply online on the XL Africa website www.XL-Africa.com by Monday, June 12, 2017.

XL Africa is funded by the governments of Finland, Norway, and Sweden, and administered by the World Bank Group with implementation support from IMC Worldwide, VC4A, and Koltai & Co.

*World Bank

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Making Africa Great Again: Reducing aid dependency
April 21, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Angelle B. Kwemo*

In the first few months of his presidency, President Donald Trump has aggressively pursued his “America First” agenda. On Monday, March 6, the president outlined his first budget proposal, which largely reflects his bid to “Make America Great Again.” In doing so, he has proposed to increase military spending by around $54 billion while reducing government expenditure in non-defense programs. Although foreign aid only accounts for 1 percent of the federal budget, it will undergo some of the biggest cuts in spending.

As a region, Africa accounts for around 20 percent of U.S. aid, with Egypt, Kenya, and South Sudan being the biggest beneficiaries. Although critics argue that lowered public international spending will adversely affect development projects, this reduction should also be seen as an opportunity for the continent to rise and for the relationship between the U.S. and Africa to evolve.

Africans must identify priorities, define, and implement them—not be reactionary to the politics of the West.

REDUCING FOREIGN ASSISTANCE: A BLESSING OR A CURSE?

 African countries have been recipients of foreign assistance since their independence. It is undeniable that some U.S. development assistance programs, especially the people- and country-centered ones such as the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and the Africa Development Foundation (ADF), have shown lasting results in programs that stimulate local economies and reduce aid dependency (such as sustainable agriculture, youth entrepreneurship, and improved access to power). Despite these successes, many experts argue that the provision of foreign assistance has, at times, developed a culture of dependency in Africa and fostered paternalism—as opposed to partnership—by the U.S. and elsewhere.

Thus, African governments need to take this opportunity to scale up policies that spur democracy, creating the enabling environment to build prosperity in Africa through concrete priorities such as job creation, regional integration, and economic engagement.

PRIORITY NUMBER 1: JOB CREATION

Africa has the youngest population in the world, with 200 million aged between 15 and 24 (doubling by 2045 according to African Development Bank). Given that the continent will have a shortfall of 74 million jobs that need to be created by 2020, governments need to create policies and implementation plans that will allow for a more competitive private sector that favors business growth, job creation, and the stimulation of African economies—such as sound fiscal and monetary policies; good governance, transparency, and strengthened judiciary systems; an improved investment climate, and reduced corruption. In particular, long-term investment in the private sector, the infrastructure and manufacturing industries, and agriculture will address food insecurity and create the necessary employment opportunities for African youth. Boosting incentives to improve the quality of education will also be key to producing a skilled workforce.

PRIORITY NUMBER 2: REGIONAL INTEGRATION

In moving away from a reliance on Western assistance, African governments should seek to improve regional integration initiatives, which are key to sustaining development and encouraging long-term prosperity for the entire region. Increasing intra-African trade will be a key component to accelerating economic growth, as it will increase industry competition, improve productivity, and develop local infrastructure.

Africa’s Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) will establish free trade among all 54 states on the continent by 2017 (though the region is behind its timeline) and a continental union by 2019. This will be a pivotal moment for development in Africa. The current level of trade between African states is only 12 percent compared to 60 percent for Europe, 40 percent for North America, and 30 percent for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), according to the World Trade Organization (WTO). The CFTA, though, would establish the world’s largest single market and effectively boost trade between African states by 50 percent. When combined with good governance and political stability, intra-Africa trade and deepening market integration will significantly increase economic growth, job creation, employment, poverty reduction, inflow of foreign direct investment, industrial development, and better integration of the continent into the global economy. It will also decrease the continent’s current heavy reliance on the outside world for its growth.

 PRIORITY NUMBER 3: COMMERCIAL ENGAGEMENT AND TRADE 

The future of the African trade regime depends more on what Africa will negotiate and not on what Africa deserves, so leaders must actively seek commercial and trade engagement. The recent Trump administration trade report to Congress clearly reflects that the U.S. will unequivocally protect America first in future trade regimes.

Africa is not a U.S trade competitor, especially when it comes to claims of unfair practices that are costing American jobs. The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) has not stolen American jobs. It has actually created around 120,000 jobs in the U.S., and 350,000 direct and 1 million indirect jobs in Africa. Now, though, some experts speculate that the Trump administration will attempt to make U.S.-Africa trade agreements more reciprocal and envision negotiating bilateral agreements that parallel the Economic Partnership Agreements between African countries and the European Union to give American exports comparative advantages. Morocco already presents an example of a successful free trade agreement with the U.S. According to the International Trade Administration (ITA), average U.S. exports to Morocco have more than tripled since the U.S.-Morocco Free Trade Agreement (FTA): U.S. exports to Morocco increased from $482 million in 2005 to $2.1 billion in 2015. Morocco export goods totaled $977 million in 2013, a 119% increase since 2005.

Angelle Kwemo

Angelle Kwemo

Consequently, Morocco’s ambitious economic reforms positioned the kingdom as a gateway for U.S. companies to African and European markets, becoming the prime destination for foreign direct investment in Africa. Its successful completion the COP22 last year, its return to the African Union, and its massive investment in the continent (the second largest investor after South Africa) will bear even more dividends.

Then again, after U.S. trade negotiations with SACU and Egypt were suspended several years ago, the readiness of African countries to engage in these negotiations remains premature. Nevertheless, it is important that African nations prioritize greater dialogue between members of regional economic communities to implement necessary policies reform and with the U.S. in order to accelerate such reform and increase trade and investment between both continents.

As outgoing Assistant Secretary for Africa Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield emphasized, “The African continent has made enormous democratic and economic progress in recent years and now holds a growing place on the global stage.” African policymakers must work to continue this trend, largely through the promotion of African trade.

THE FUTURE OF U.S.-AFRICA ENGAGEMENT: TRADE, NOT AID?

Though aid to Africa looks like it will get cut, it doesn’t mean that U.S. engagement will too. Trump must continue to engage Africa: The region is of paramount importance because of Western reliance on natural resources, trade, economic opportunities, and long-term security issues. In fact, American engagement in Africa largely serves American interests. For example, creating African jobs is not just important for economic growth; it affects national and global security. In particular, youth unemployment often serves as a powerful recruitment tool for insurgency and terrorist organizations.

Similarly, former President Obama’s Power Africa initiative aiming at addressing the much-needed power poverty in Africa created more jobs in the U.S. because of the opportunities given to U.S. companies. Additionally, the program will save American taxpayers $86 million over five years. The U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA), whose budget is also in jeopardy, had increased its energy portfolio for feasibility studies by 800 percent, creating U.S. export avenue for energy companies. Encouraging a mutually beneficial pro-business approach that will create jobs in the U.S. and Africa could be a very successful strategy. Greater private sector engagement will boost local economies and reduce long-term dependency on aid.

Trump continues to pursue policy that he believes would have the greatest return for the American people. In the same way, African leaders should not be dismayed by possible cuts in foreign aid, instead, they should actively seek to create the enabling environment necessary to boost local economies, attract foreign investment, negotiate transfer of technology, encourage private sector growth/competitiveness, and increase regional integration.

Whether the Trump administration slashes the aid budget or not, African governments must come to the realization that the continent’s prosperity is not primarily in the hands of White House officials. Africa holds the keys to its own development. It is our hope that U.S.-African engagement will remain nonpartisan, strong, and continue to make mutually beneficial partnership more palpable. As Mandela said, “It is always impossible until it is done.”

*Source Brookings. Note: This blog reflects the views of the author only and does not reflect the views of the Africa Growth Initiative. Angelle B. Kwemo is managing director for Africa of Washington Media Group, Founder, Believe in Africa, and other author of Against All Odds: How to Stay on Top of the Game.

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Prepaid payment solutions drive cash out of Africa’s economies
April 20, 2017 | 0 Comments

Mastercard and prepaid processing and payments solutions provider Global Technology Partners (GTP) signed a partnership agreement that will result in the latest prepaid solutions being made available across Africa to government institutions, financial services and corporate sector and consumers.

The partnership will enable the development and implementation of a wide range of solutions across various markets on the continent. These solutions are aimed at supporting government payments, driving innovation in the travel and tourism sector and driving transparency and efficiency for the financial services and corporate sector.

“African economies are in support of driving cash out of the financial system, and the introduction of digital payment solutions is in line with their cashless strategies. Businesses on the continent need smart solutions that will provide efficiency, but also offer convenient ways to track and monitor expenditure,” said Daniel Monehin, Division President, Sub-Saharan Africa.

Providing Mastercard prepaid card solutions will strengthen GTP’s existing offering in Africa, and provide consumers greater access to payment systems, international travel, and online shopping.  Prepaid cards also provide employers with an effective payroll solution, introducing a more efficient and transparent way for businesses to monitor expenditure.

“Mastercard prepaid programs give cardholders greater access to the global marketplace, while advancing government efforts to increase financial literacy and inclusion.  These programs also give businesses and government agencies a payroll solution that drives cash out of the system and provides essential financial tools to control cash flow. This partnership will also enable GTP to offer new payment solutions such as digital wallets and virtual cards to our customers,” said Rich Bialek, Chief Executive Officer at GTP.

Cardholders are assured that regardless of how they use the prepaid solution their funds will be secured by the Mastercard multi-layered approach to protecting payments. EMV chip and PIN technology is a global payment standard to ensure that funds are protected even if the card is lost or stolen.

Once funds are loaded to the prepaid card, cardholders can use the card to pay for goods and services in store, online, by phone or to withdraw cash from ATMs – anywhere Mastercard is accepted locally or at millions of locations worldwide. The prepaid card ensures flexibility, convenience and security.

“GTP is committed to working with our partners to introduce digital prepaid solutions that meet the needs of consumers and businesses across the continent,” concluded Bialek.

Mastercard , is a technology company in the global payments industry.  We operate the world’s fastest payments processing network, connecting consumers, financial institutions, merchants, governments and businesses in more than 210 countries and territories.  Mastercard products and solutions make everyday commerce activities – such as shopping, traveling, running a business and managing finances – easier, more secure and more efficient for everyone.

Global Technology Partners is headquartered in Tulsa, Oklahoma USA.  The company was founded in 2003 and began processing its first prepaid debit card in Burkina Faso in 2007.  Since then, GTP has expanded into over 30 African countries, with more in development.  GTP designed its system specifically for prepaid programs, and now offers industry-leading prepaid and mobile processing solutions.

 

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New World Bank Report Names Rwanda Among Most Resilient Economies
April 20, 2017 | 0 Comments
Photo: The New Times A man makes leather products in his workshop in Kigali (file photo).

Photo: The New Times
A man makes leather products in his workshop in Kigali (file photo).

Rwanda and six other African countries have exhibited economic resilience in recent past that saw them post annual growth rate above 5.4 per cent in 2015-2017, according to a new World Bank report released yesterday.

The six others include Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Senegal and Tanzania, said the latest Africa’s Pulse, a bi-annual analysis of the state of African economies conducted by the World Bank.

These economies, the World Bank said, registered upswing in economic performance partly on account of strong domestic demand. “These countries house nearly 27% of the region’s population and account for 13% of the region’s total GDP,” it said in a press release issued yesterday.

Rwanda’s economy grew by 5.9 per cent in 2016, according to figures from the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR).

Economic growth in Sub-Saharan Africa is rebounding in 2017 after registering the worst decline in more than two decades in 2016, the Bank said.

“The region is showing signs of recovery, and regional growth is projected to reach 2.6% in 2017. However, the recovery remains weak, with growth expected to rise only slightly above population growth, a pace that hampers efforts to boost employment and reduce poverty,” the WB said.

Nigeria, South Africa, and Angola, the continent’s largest economies, are seeing a rebound from the sharp slowdown in 2016, but the recovery has been slow due to insufficient adjustment to low commodity prices and policy uncertainty, it added.

Furthermore, the WB says, several oil exporters in the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC) are facing economic difficulties.

 “The global economic outlook is improving and should support the recovery in the region. Africa’s Pulse notes that the continent’s aggregate growth is expected to rise to 3.2% in 2018 and 3.5% in 2019, reflecting a recovery in the largest economies.

” It will remain subdued for oil exporters, while metal exporters are projected to see a moderate uptick. GDP growth in countries whose economies depend less on extractive commodities should remain robust, underpinned by infrastructure investments, resilient services sectors, and the recovery of agricultural production”.

It added: “a stronger-than-expected tightening of global financing conditions, weaker improvements in commodity prices, and a rise in protectionist sentiment represent downside external risks to the outlook. On the domestic front, risks to the current recovery stem from an inadequate pace of reforms, rising security threats, and political volatility ahead of elections in some countries”.

“As countries move towards fiscal adjustment, we need to protect the right conditions for investment so that Sub-Saharan African countries achieve a more robust recovery,” Albert G. Zeufack, World Bank Chief Economist for the Africa Region, was quoted as saying. “We need to implement reforms that increase the productivity of African workers and create a stable macroeconomic environment. Better and more productive jobs are instrumental to tackling poverty on the continent.”

The Bank noted that environment of weak economic growth comes at a time when the continent is in dire need of necessary reforms to boost investment and tackle poverty. “Countries also have to undertake much-needed development spending while avoiding increasing debt to unsustainable levels”.

“In this environment, fostering public and private investment, notably in infrastructure, is a priority. The region experienced a slowdown in investment growth from nearly 8% in 2014 to 0.6% in 2015. Africa’s Pulse report dedicates a special section to analyzing the region’s infrastructure performance across sectors, revealing dramatic improvements in quantity and quality of telecommunications contrasted by persistent lags in electricity generation and access”.

The World Bank Lead Economist and the author of the report, Punam Chuhan-Pole, said: “Growth needs to be more inclusive and will involve tackling the slowdown in investment and the high trade logistics that stand in the way of competitiveness.”

The report calls for the urgent implementation of reforms to improve institutions that foster private sector growth, develop local capital markets, improve infrastructure, and strengthen domestic resource mobilization, according to a summary of the report.

*Allafrica/The New Times

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Economic growth in East Africa remains strong despite drought
April 15, 2017 | 0 Comments

East Africa’s economy has continued to grow despite the adverse effects of drought being felt across the region according to ICAEW’s (the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales) latest report. In Economic Insight: Africa Q1 2017 launched today, the accountancy and finance body points out that authorities from various East African nations have attempted to mitigate the effects of the drought by stimulating economic activity through other channels such as substantial fiscal stimulus and loosened monetary policy.

The report, commissioned by ICAEW and produced by partner and forecaster Oxford Economics, provides a snapshot of the region’s economic performance. The report focusses specifically on Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast, South Africa and Angola.

According to the report, Tanzania is set to hit a real GDP growth of 6.9 followed by Uganda at 6.8, Ethiopia at 6.7, and Rwanda and Kenya at 6.6 and 6.4 despite the drought. Both Rwanda and Uganda have loosened monetary policy during the first quarter of the year, while Ethiopia counterweighed the drought effects through substantial fiscal stimulus – the construction sector reportedly expanding by 25% during the 2015/16 fiscal year.

Michael Armstrong, Regional Director, ICAEW Middle East, Africa and South Asia said: “Overall, economic growth in East Africa remains strong despite the drought. Infrastructure development continues to stimulate industry across the region, while expanding services to the largely un-serviced markets remains the key driver behind growth.”

The adverse effects of the drought have been most notable in Uganda, with agriculture decreasing during the first three quarters of 2016. Poor crop production has also had a marked impact on food price inflation across the region. While not particularly intense in historic terms, inflationary pressures in recent months can almost entirely be attributed to high food prices, with non-food price inflation remaining subdued. Most agriculture in East Africa is highly dependent on the weather, and adverse rainfall is directly reflected in both agricultural production and food prices.

On the southern African front, Botswana and South Africa are still struggling to gain traction due to the slump in commodity prices as well as the drought. Real GDP growth of 1.2% is forecast for both these countries in 2017. South Africa’s growth will be supported by widespread rains, an improved outlook for consumer demand and a recovery in commodity prices, while Angola remains optimistic of improved oil production and the commencement of infrastructure projects. Botswana on the other hand, is forecast to record growth of 4.1% due to demand in the international diamond market.

In the west of the continent, Senegal’s strong growth in its primary (fisheries) and secondary (chemical industry) sectors as well as the government’s collaborative efforts to improve infrastructure (particularly in electricity supply) has tremendously stimulated the country’s economic growth. Growth in Ivory Coast is pegged on the integration of the north into the economy after a decade of division as well as inflows of investment capital attracted by the governments business-friendly National Development Plan. Despite Ghana’s poor performance last year (with growth estimated to have declined to 3.6%), the country’s economy is expected to recover with a growth margin of 6.3% This is primarily thanks to higher oil production, improved government assistance and less severe Harmattan winds which bode well for agriculture.

ICAEW is a world leading professional membership organisation that promotes, develops and supports over 144,000 chartered accountants worldwide. We provide qualifications and professional development, share our knowledge, insight and technical expertise, and protect the quality and integrity of the accountancy and finance profession.

As leaders in accountancy, finance and business our members have the knowledge, skills and commitment to maintain the highest professional standards and integrity. Together we contribute to the success of individuals, organisations, communities and economies around the world.

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Africa telecom and finance leaders assess accelerating digital investment opportunities
April 15, 2017 | 0 Comments

Telecom and tech companies are increasing investment across Africa as the rapidly improving digital infrastructure and services, and the take up of smartphones, provide huge opportunities for business and revenue growth.

LONDON, United Kingdom, April 7, 2017/ — Leaders from Africa’s biggest telecom investment companies including MTN, Orange, Helios Towers, American Tower, Eaton Towers, Google, Microsoft, Liquid Telecom and SEACOM are meeting with investment bankers, investors and advisers in London on May 24 to discuss accelerating new investment opportunities in digital communications and infrastructure.

Telecom and tech companies are increasing investment across Africa as the rapidly improving digital infrastructure and services, and the take up of smartphones, provide huge opportunities for business and revenue growth.

“Telecom and tech companies are ramping up their investment plans for digital infrastructure and services across Africa as reach of service and demand is soaring,” commented an investment banker focused on Africa. “On the infrastructure side, operators are investing in spectrum, especially in the 700MHz band, as well as on strengthening their networks by migrating from 3G to 4G LTE-based services. Mobile tower operators are also investing heavily while submarine and terrestrial cable providers have been increasing the available backbone infrastructure.”

“Improving broadband speeds and access is also having a big impact on both business to business and consumer focused opportunities. Datacentre investment appetite is growing and Smartphone take-up is supporting the growth in m-commerce, m-money and m-banking services which presents a massive opportunity for vendors and application providers.”

Over 200 senior telecom, media and tech executives, including many industry CEOs, investment bankers and advisers will meet at TMT Finance Africa 2017  at the Hilton Hotel Tower Bridge in London on May 24 to discuss the new investment and partnership opportunities.

The executive only event, which is in its eight year in London, features over 70 speakers and 25 sessions on telecom, media and tech investment and partnership opportunities for Africa.

Participating companies include: MTN Group, Orange, Liquid Telecom, Eaton Towers, American Tower Corporation, Jumia Food, SEACOM, Savannah Fund, Fibersat, PayStack, Sliide Airtime, Connect Africa, Rack Centre, Citi, Helios Towers Africa, Standard Bank Group, Atlas Mara Ltd, Draper Dark Flow, Google, Microsoft, Ringier Africa, Norton Rose Fullbright, WorldRemit, IFC, Amadeus Capital Partners, WIOCC, Societe Generale Chanzo Capital, Africa Mobile Networks, African Broadcast Network, Intelsat, Digital World Capital, MainOne Cable, M-KOPA Solar, Flexenclosure, Hardiman Telecom and African Capital Alliance.

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Trump Doubles Down On Ex-Military Talent For The White House’s Top Africa Job
April 13, 2017 | 0 Comments

Retired Lt. Col. Rudolph Atallah will be senior director for Africa on the White House National Security Council, a White House official tells BuzzFeed News.

By John Hudson*

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration has offered a retired lieutenant colonel with decades of experience in special forces and counterterrorism the position of White House senior director for Africa, a White House official told BuzzFeed News.

The selection of Rudolph Atallah, a respected fellow at the Atlantic Council who served for more than 20 years in the US Air Force, adds another veteran to a National Security Council (NSC) stacked with former military officials.

The pick also fills a major void on the NSC where Africa policy has largely remained a mystery given President Donald Trump’s scant remarks about the continent and the aborted selection of the previous senior director for Africa candidate after the CIA denied his top security clearance.

For Africa, particularly, the abundance of officials with military backgrounds on the NSC has raised concerns about an over-emphasis on counterterrorism rather than other issues that affect the continent, such as development assistance and human rights.

The first signal of a potential change in US priorities came in January when Trump transition officials submitted a four-page list of Africa-related questions to career US officials that suggested a lack of interest in humanitarian and development goals.

Then came the administration’s budget blueprint, released in March, that cut the budget for the State Department and US Agency for International Development by nearly 30% and eliminated some executive agencies such as the US African Development Foundation, which supports development projects in 30 African countries. If enacted, the changes would have a disproportionate effect on Africa given its status as the biggest recipient of US foreign aid than any other continent.

But Africa analysts familiar with Atallah’s work said his depth of experience wasn’t likely to limit his outlook on the range of challenges facing African countries.

“Though he is best known for his work on East Africa and counterterrorism issues, he has broad experience that cuts across regions and policy areas,” Matthew Page, a consultant and former State Department Africa analyst, told BuzzFeed News.

Others said that Atallah’s background fits the expanded responsibilities of the position. Unlike under the Obama administration, Trump’s senior director for Africa will be responsible for Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Libya, countries previously under the Middle East portfolio. Not only will his background in counterterrorism operations prove valuable for North Africa, his supporters said, but so too will his fluency in Arabic.

“True, Atallah has a military background, but his knowledge of troubled parts of Africa will add value,” said Rida Lyammouri, a Sahel analyst and researcher.

As a Christian born in Beirut, Lebanon, Atallah comes to the NSC with a unique background and a skepticism of radical Islam, said an Africa analyst, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he worked with Atallah in previous jobs. But his ex-colleague noted that Atallah has traveled extensively in Africa and worked cordially with people of many faiths, including Muslims. “We’re not talking Sebastian Gorka territory,” he said, referring to a current White House official with a long history of aggressive and disparaging comments about Islam.

While serving in the Air Force, he gained experience in aviation, intelligence, special operations and counterterrorism. In his last posting in the military, from 2003 to 2009, he served in the Office of the Secretary of Defense as Africa Counterterrorism Director. In the dual-hatted role, he also served as East Africa Director between 2003 and 2009.

Attallah is also an amateur photographer who boasts an impressive body of work from his travels.

For skeptics, the pick is an affirmation of the Trump administration’s preference toward a security-based approach to Africa that might not address problems holistically. “I look at this as the continuation of the administration’s counterterrorism focus more than anything else,” said his former colleague. “If the focus is only counterterrorism in Africa that means we’re missing really important issues of governance, and we’re not really paying attention to the problems that have allowed terrorist groups to blossom.”

Critics of this approach worry that the US might turn a blind eye to African governments with troubling human rights records, such as Niger and Kenya, as long as they remain reliable counterterrorism partners.

But Atallah’s defenders said his breadth of experiences gives him a far broader aperture than his critics acknowledge. “Rudy won’t approach his new job with a partisan political or deconstructionist agenda,” said Page, “but most likely will seek to reboot US Africa policy and forge consensus between the White House and a likely wary and suspicious set of decision makers spread across multiple other agencies.”

*Buzzfeed.John Hudson is a Foreign Affairs Reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, D.C.

Contact John Hudson at john.hudson@buzzfeed.com.

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East Africa: EAC Passport for Release Next Year
April 11, 2017 | 0 Comments

 The new East African e-passport.


The new East African e-passport.

Arusha — Issuance of international passports for East African Community (EAC) has been re-scheduled to early next year, the same time the African Union also intends to release its travel document.

The EAC six partner states, it was revealed at the just ended 35th EAC Council of Ministers’ meeting here, have been directed to start issuing the new East African machine readable Electronic- Passports by January 31, 2018 after preparedness of each partner state was considered.

The council directives come on the backdrop of the 17th Ordinary Summit of the EAC Heads of State that directed the partner states to issue the new EA e-Passport by January 1, 2017 and execute the phase out programme for the current machine readable East African and National Passports between January 1, 2017 and December 31, 2018.

According to the 35th EAC Council of Ministers’ official report, Burundi reported that through the Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement, the country had completed the process of procuring the EA e-Passport booklets and was ready to issue the document by April 3, 2017.

 Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda reported to start issuing the New International EA e-passport not later than April 2017 while Tanzania will be ready to issue the East African e-Passport by January 1, 2018.

The e-Passport is expected to boost free movement of people across the East African region and facilitate implementation of the Common Market protocol, which guarantees the right to move between countries in East Africa.

The EAC e-Passport will have diplomatic, service and ordinary categories, different from the current machine readable passports issued by the partner states. It will be valid for up 10 years while the diplomatic passport and service passport will be valid according to the holder’s specific term of the service.

 The standard international e-Passport will have a chip that holds the same information as printed on the passport’s data page, the holder’s name, date of birth and other biographic information. It will also contain a biometric identifier and have a digital photograph of the holder as well as security features to prevent unauthorised reading or “scanning” of stored data.

The new EAC travel document will come in red, green and sky blue — the colours of the EAC flag — but with text and national emblems, in gold to complete its face. The colour of the passport will depend on categories.

The EAC diplomats will carry the red passport, while officials and ordinary citizens will have green and sky blue, respectively. The outer front cover will have the ‘East African Community’ inscription in gold on top and below the name of the issuing partner states will be pasted.

But, the recent African Union (AU) summit in Kampala floated its own idea of having the AU passport, which will be a hybrid travel document serving as VISA to all the 55 countries on the continent. Officially known as the African Union (AU) e-Passport, the electronic document will grant holders the visa-free access to any of the 55 AU member states.

 The e-Passport has symbolic importance too. It is seen as a key step toward the AU’s vision of a “continent with seamless borders”. Supporters hope the visa will improve intra-Africa travel, trade, and development.

The AU, according to an official release from Addis Ababa, plans to abolish visa requirements for all African citizens in all African countries by 2018, in line with the AU Agenda 2063.

The AU has been citing 2020 as the new start date for the proposed visa- free African travel.

*Tanzania Daily News/Allafrica

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Rwanda: ‘You Are Not Alone. Rwanda Is Your Family,’ – President Kagame Comforts Genocide Survivors On Kwibuka23
April 9, 2017 | 0 Comments
Photo: The New Times President Kagame and First lady Jeannette Kagame, and the African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat (L) lay wreaths in honour of the Genocide victims at Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre, Village Urugwiro.

Photo: The New Times
President Kagame and First lady Jeannette Kagame, and the African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat (L) lay wreaths in honour of the Genocide victims at Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre, Village Urugwiro.

Today, as Rwandans from across the country and the globe commemorated the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi for the 23rd time, President Paul Kagame comforted survivors, telling them that Rwanda will always be their family.

“I would like to tell all survivors that they are not alone. You may have lost your loved ones, but there is one family you didn’t lose: your nation. The nation of Rwanda is a family for all survivors, and it is a family to every Rwandan,” President Kagame said.

Speaking during a ceremony to mark the start of the 23rd Commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsi held at the Kigali Genocide Memorial, Gisozi the President acknowledged the bravery of those who choose to do the right thing when the international community had turned its back on Rwanda.

“As we remember, we recognise individuals such Captain Mbaye Diagne of Senegal and Ghanaian peacekeepers who chose to do the right thing. We thank those in Africa who took a stand against denial of the Genocide against the Tutsi. Africa stood up against those who tried to turn victims into villains,” the Head of State said.

As the world dithered, 400 peacekeepers violated UN Security Council orders and stayed in Rwanda throughout the Genocide, rescuing those who were being targeted.

President Kagame further pointed out that the best answer to the tragedy that the country has gone through is to work every day to build a nation for every Rwandan and anyone who wishes to live in Rwanda.

 “We have to live our lives. We are going to live our lives the best way we think we should. There is nothing we can do about the past but there is something we can do for our people in the present and the future. And we will do it,” He said.
 Speaking at the ceremony, African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat, saluted the incredible resilience of Rwandans since the Genocide against the Tutsi.

“The consolation of that tragedy is the strength, courage, dignity and tremendous resilience of the marvelous people who are the best example of humanity. The people of Rwanda are like a Phoenix that has risen from its ashes,” he said.

More than 400 guests including international leaders, dignitaries, survivors and representatives of survivor organisations, attended the ceremony at Gisozi.

To pay respects to the more than one million victims of the Genocide, President Kagame, First Lady Jeannette Kagame and Chair of African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, laid wreaths on the burial place. They then lit the Flame of Remembrance, Urumuri Rutazima, marking the official start of the 100 days of mourning in Rwanda. The Flame of Remembrance symbolises the courage and resilience of Rwandans over the last 23 years.

The commemoration ceremony concluded with a performance from young Rwandans who shared a message of comfort and hope.

In the evening, President Kagame and First Lady Jeannette Kagame, AU Commission Chair, and other dignitaries joined over 1,500 youth for a Walk to Remember and later attended a night vigil at the Amahoro National Stadium. The President and the First Lady took part in lighting the Flame of Hope that was passed to over 30,000 gathered at the stadium.

*AllAfrica

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Africa: Kenya’s Internet Speed Ranked Fastest in Africa
April 9, 2017 | 0 Comments

Kenya’s internet is faster, and cheaper as compared to many countries around the world a report by Akamai, a leading Content Delivery Network revealed. Out of the 108 countries sampled globally, Kenya ranked number 23, and the country is the top ranked African country, with the fastest internet connectivity speed. The fast and reliable internet in Kenya has significantly influenced the improvement of e-commerce, generating enormous social, and economic benefits for the country.

Kenya’s internet speed and connectivity is faster, and cheaper as compared to many countries around the world a report by Akamai, a leading Content Delivery Network (CDN) has revealed.

Out of the 108 countries that were sampled globally, Kenya ranked number 23, and the country is the top ranked African country, with the fastest internet connectivity speed. South Korea has the highest average connection speed globally at 26.1 megabytes per second (Mbps).

Akamai aims to make the internet fast, reliable, and secure for its customers.

In most African countries internet is expensive, and speeds are generally slow. In Kenya several internet providers such as Safaricom, Airtel and Orange have upgraded their speeds to the benefit of their customers, and such upgrades have had a positive impact on the economy.

The reliable internet in Kenya has significantly influenced the improvement of electronic-commerce. Many Kenyans are now able to bank and transact online, download music and videos while the uptake of e-learning resources and usage of social media platforms has also greatly improved over the past few years.

According to the report, Kenya overtook third-quarter leader Israel to gain the top spot for average connection speeds among the surveyed Middle East and Africa countries in the fourth quarter. The country has had a tremendous growth in high-speed connectivity in the past years.

The report further said, Kenya has an impressive average of 15mbps followed by Israel at 14.4mbps, South Africa recorded 6.6 mbps, Morocco 5.2 mbps, and Nigeria 4.1 mbps.

Kenya’s National broadband strategy

The improvement to Kenya’s connection speeds and broadband adoption rates is attributed to the successful implementation of the National Broadband Strategy (NBS). The vision of this broadband strategy has been to see the transformation of the country to a knowledge-based society driven by a high capacity nationwide broadband network.

The overall objective of this strategy is to provide quality broadband services to all citizens.

“The strategy has enabled the government to roll out the National Optic Fibre Broadband Infrastructure that has linked all the counties to the Internet by fibre cable. Fibre cable ground installation and provision of 4G network coverage has contributed to the high speeds and efficiency in connectivity,” Joseph Mucheru, the Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of Information said.

 Access to fast and reliable internet has the potential to generate enormous social economic benefits for the country. The benefits include economic growth, job creation, growth of investment opportunities, access to online government services, improved education and training services, improved national safety and security services among others.

Top ranked countries with high speed internet connectivity:

South Korea: 26.1Mbps

Norway: 23.6Mbps

Sweden: 22.817.3Mbps

Hong Kong: 21.9Mbps

Switzerland: 21.23Mbps

Denmark: 20.7Mbps

Finland 20.6Mbps

Singapore: 20.2Mbps

Japan: 19.6Mbps

Netherlands: 17.6Mbps

*AllAfrica/This is Africa

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2017 AFRICA CEO FORUM: 20 AFRICAN BUSINESS LEADERS COMMIT TO PROMOTING WOMEN’S LEADERSHIP
April 7, 2017 | 0 Comments

Fostering female entrepreneurship in Africa and improving women’s access to decision-making positions in African companies: the African Women in Business working group met in Geneva at the 2017 Africa CEO Forum and made concrete commitments towards achieving these aims.

GENEVA, Switzerland, 4 April 2017 -/African Media Agency (AMA)/- Building on the success of the African Women in Business initiative launched this year by the Africa CEO Forum, which took place in Geneva on 20 and 21 March, the organizers convened a special working group consisting of mainly female CEOs/managersfrom 20 African countries and various sectors. Among them were Janine Diagou of NSIA (Côte d’Ivoire), Binta Touré Ndoye of Oragroup (Togo), Fathia Bennis of Maroclear, Tunisian lawyer Donia Ellouze, Rosemary Yeboah of Ecobank (Ghana), and Tonye Cole, CEO of Sahara Group (Nigeria), the only male participant.

During this first session, moderated by Oulimata Sarr, UN Women Regional Economic Empowerment Adviser for West and Central Africa, the working group made resolutions to improve the status of women in companies. It also committed to putting forward several recommendations in order to come up with an action plan for women’s leadership in African business. The key takeaways were the following :


Three keys for fostering female entrepreneurship

* Give access to financial products specially designed for women entrepreneurs: the working group intends to bring this matter to the attention of financial institutions.

* Create women’s networks, drawing on Senegal’s Women Investment Club (WIC), whose 54 members raised half a million dollars to finance woman-run SMEs.

* Advocate to promote access to large public and private enterprise tenders for woman-owned SMEs

Emphasizing the fact that women hold 40% of mid-management positions in Africa, yet only 5% are CEOs, the working group selected four proposals for a fairer distribution of corporate power in African countries.

Four recommendations for improving women’s access to decision-making positions

* Systematic mentoring. Women and men who are in a leadership position in the business sector must devote time to mentor young women and develop their skills in order to optimize their career opportunities.

* Promote flexitime in companies with the aim of giving employees the opportunity to achieve a good balance between their personal and professional lives.

* Encourage gender equality legislation for boards of directors, as Rwanda and some other countries on the continent have already done.

* Create databases listing high-potential female profiles to facilitate the recruitment of women to decision-making positions by African companies.

The first decisions taken by the members of African Women in Business working group were the following:

* Sahara Group, Nigeria-based energy conglomerate: reach a 40-60 female-male ratio on its board of directors.

* Tonye Cole, Chairman, Sahara Group, also pledged to bring other men to the next African Women in Business meeting, stressing that men also have a role to play in advancing gender equality.

* Oragroup, Togo-based banking group: improve the female-male ratio of its executive committee from the current 26-74 to 50-50 by 2020.

* Groupe Jeune Afrique: training the next generation of women leaders through the “Heroines’ Forum”, an initiative that will move from country to country, with its first edition in October in Abidjan.

* The Africa CEO Forum also set itself two objectives:

– Increase the number of women delegates from 20% to 30% over the next 3 years

– Increase the number of women speakers from 20% to 35% in the same time frame

Distributed by African Media Agency (AMA) on behalf of the Africa CEO Forum.

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Morocco: Rwanda Eyes Over U.S.$100 Million Investments From Morocco
April 5, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Ivan R. Mugisha*

Rwanda is expecting more than $100 million in investments from Morocco.

Rwanda's Paul Kagame with the King of Morocco

Rwanda’s Paul Kagame with the King of Morocco

Acting head of investment promotion at the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) Winifred Ngangure Kabega said at a press conference Monday that the money would be invested in different sectors of the economy including tourism, energy and infrastructure.

Kigali hosted more than 100 Moroccan investors and government officials Monday in what was dubbed the “African Business Connect,” where the delegation from North Africa presented Rwanda with the multimillion dollar investment opportunities.

“We are looking at approximately $100 million worth of investments from Morocco,” said Ms Kabega. “Back in October we signed a partnership agreement for the avoidance of double taxation and prevention of fiscal aversion with respect to taxes on incomes.”

She added: “We also signed an agreement on reciprocal investment promotion, tourism promotion and development of special economic zones.”

The two countries are seeking to boost trade flows and cement economic and political ties.

A 5,000 units low-cost housing project worth $68 million for example, was meant to kick-off in Kigali this year.

However, the groundwork for the project by Moroccan firm Palmerie Development Group, has been postponed to January next year, as the firm is winding up negotiations with the government.

 Morocco’s ambassador to Rwanda Youssef Imani noted that Kigali’s economic transformation had been profound.

“That is a major reason Morocco is seeking friendship and economic mutual benefits with Rwanda through private sector investments,” he said.

The $100 million investment opportunity comes a few months after King Mohammed VI of Morocco met President Paul Kagame, after which the two countries signed 21 bilateral pacts, particularly in investment promotion.

The visit also culminated in the planned acquisition of the majority shares in a local bank – Cogebanque – by Attijariwafa Bank, which is part of King Mohammed VI’s holding company the National Investment Company – Société Nationale d’Investissement.

But as of Monday, the deal had not yet been concluded, according to the director-general of financial stability at National Bank of Rwanda Peace Uwase.

“As of now I am not aware of any concluded deal,” she said in a phone interview.

Trade flows between Rwanda and Morocco have been on the lower end of the scale, standing at just one per cent of total volumes last year, according to RDB.

*Allafrica/The East African

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PPC Commissioning New Ethiopia’s Cement Plant
April 4, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Wallace Mawire

PPC chief executive Darryll Castle. File picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi

PPC chief executive Darryll Castle. File picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi

Pretoria Portland Cement (PPC) is to commission one of its cement
plant projects in Ethiopia soon as the company implements its
expansion strategy in Africa.

Darryll Castle, PPC Chief Executive Officer recently revealed at the
commissioning of the $82 million Harare cement plant that the company
had initiated similar projects in the Democratic Republic of Congo
(DRC) and Ethiopia.

Peter Nelson, PPC Group Chairperson said that the company’s inclusive
approach of doing business through partnerships and localisation had
resulted in its success.

Nelson said that the approach has been replicated and taken PPC to
other countries like Rwanda, DRC and Ethiopia.

He added that Zimbabwe was one of the first countries that the
company invested in, in 2001 when it decided to implement its
expansion strategy.

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`Ten Things to Know About Dr. Tedros Adhanom, Candidate for WHO-Director General’
April 4, 2017 | 0 Comments
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus,

In May this year, the World Health Organization (WHO), the world’s premier international public health agency, will elect a new Director-General to lead the organization when Dr. Margaret Chan steps down in July. The importance of this role, cannot be underestimated. Pandemics, pollution, poverty and war all add to the complexity of preserving the health of the world’s almost 7 billion citizens.

A cool head, informed professionalism, and high-level organizational experience will be needed. While three candidates remain in the nominee field, Dr. Tedros Adhanom of Ethiopia – a champion for global health priorities both nationally and internationally – stands as the most experienced, visionary, and veteran `problem-solving’ leader to take on this most important public health position.

Why? Here are ten things you might not know about Dr. Tedros and his candidacy:

1. Over three decades, Dr. Tedros demonstrated a unique mix of political leadership and hands-on public health experience.

 2. As Ethiopia’s Minister of Health he has greatly improved health outcomes in a country/region hardest hit by many of the world’s biggest health challenges; his comprehensive agenda of reform dramatically transformed the country’s health system.

3. Dr. Tedros increased access to health care with limited resources and community engagement, using primary health care as a platform; investing in critical infrastructure, expanding the health workforce and initiating pioneering financing mechanisms.

4. By overseeing the training/deployment of 38,000 health extension workers, (a `health development army’) his efforts created a community-based system with nearly 3 million women at its core; leading to a seven-fold increase in health professionals and a capacity increase of doctor training from 3 medical schools to 33 schools.

5. Under Dr. Tedros leadership, the Ministry of Health developed an integrated, household-based information management system which documents the health history of each family member; resulting in improvements in data collection, monitoring and evaluation.

6. Health insurance in Ethiopia now provides people in both the formal/informal sectors with full coverage of health services; leading Ethiopia to be the first country to sign a global compact with the `International Health Partnership’.

7. Dr. Tedros also helped establish the pooled MDG Health Fund, facilitating the allocation of ear-marked/disease-specific funding to address pressing health needs.

8. With the establishment of `Ethiopia’s Pharmaceutical Supply Fund Agency’, Dr. Tedros instituted transparent and accountable business processes, ensuring the availability of a reliable supply of affordable, quality-assured medicines.

9. Dr. Tedros showed impressive leadership and broad understanding of valuable partnerships/relationships as Board Chair, Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB & Malaria; Board Chair, Roll Back Malaria Partnership; Board Co-Chair, Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health; and Chair, UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board.

10. In being elected to lead the WHO, Dr. Tedros will make history as the first African to head the organization.

In a lifetime of service, Dr. Tedros Adhanom has used his proven political, diplomatic and negotiation skills to continue to build a healthier world for all people – a goal he will undoubtedly work towards when elected to be the next Director-General of the World Health Organization.

Dr. Tedros will be travelling in your part of the world soon and is available for phone and print interviews. For reference, the WHO election will take place on May 23rd in Geneva, Switzerland at the 70th session of the World Health Assembly.

Follow Dr. Tedros on his website: http://www.drtedros.com/, on Facebook.com/DrTedros.Official and follow Dr. Tedros on Twitter at @DrTedros.

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A world class ecosystem of pan-African transformation through mathematical sciences is launched in Rwanda
April 4, 2017 | 0 Comments
KIGALI, Rwanda, 3rd April 2017, -/African Media Agency (AMA)/- Africa’s first and biggest network of centers of excellence, the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS), in partnership with the Government of Rwanda, today announced the launch of AIMS in Rwanda, an ecosystem of pan-African transformation that will leverage scientific innovation, learning and research to apply solutions to the continent’s challenges. The official launch took place at the Kigali Convention Centre (KCC), with H.E. President Paul Kagame as the guest of honour.

“We are collaborating with AIMS to develop an ecosystem of pan-African institutions with a transformative agenda. We all recognise that AIMS’ education model is an important tool for development & progress on our continent.” President Paul Kagame said at the gathering.

The first AIMS centre of excellence was opened in Cape Town, South Africa, founded by Professor Neil Turok in 2003. The network prioritises international class education for Africa’s most valuable resource, its youth, for the development of Africa and to the benefit of society. The institute has since opened up six education centers of excellence across the continent with the latest in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali.

“We are thrilled to have partnered with the government of Rwanda to continue to nurture Africa’s most talented scientific minds in mathematical sciences, creating opportunities to allow them to contribute to the continent by tangibly developing solutions to Africa’s problems, and fostering collaboration that will reverse the brain drain of our thinkers, problem-solvers and innovators,” said Thierry Zomahoun, President and CEO of AIMS.

The launch of AIMS Rwanda is a result of a partnership agreement between the government of Rwanda through the ministry of education and AIMS. The ecosystem of pan-African transformation has the following elements at its core:

1. Discovery and Technological Advances
The Ecosystem will support researchers who are tackling, through multidisciplinary approaches, research topics that challenge fundamental concepts and high-end research (fundamental research and quantum science).
2. Industry and Economic Advancement
AIMS will maximise the opportunities and potential for mathematical sciences to contribute to African economies through human capital, knowledge transfer and applied research for scientific and technological excellence.
3. Lifelong Learning and Inspiration
The AIMS’s Teacher Training Program will strengthen the mathematics teacher capacity and provide as many students in Africa as possible with a quality education in maths and science.
4. Scientific and Technological Excellence
As part of the ecosystem of transformation, the Next Einstein Forum (NEF), the first global science forum on African soil, will continue to showcase the remarkable progress that Africa is making in science.

Over the past few weeks, a number of workshops and meetings have taken place in Kigali about initiatives that form part of the ecosystem AIMS launched at KCC, including:

* The NEF International Steering Committee (ISC) meeting: The ISC provides oversight, guidance, operational and strategic direction to the NEF, thereby supporting the NEF in the development of its mission, long-term goals, philosophies and strategy.
* The NEF Scientific Programme Committee (SPC) meeting: As part of the NEF Institution, the SPC set the scientific strategic direction for the NEF, and establishes the programme and themes of the NEF Global Gatherings.
* Quantum Leap Africa (QLA): A part of the AIMS in Rwanda ecosystem, QLA is Africa’s first research centre in quantum science and will be based in Kigali. A number of workshops, which brought more than 30 data scientists to the city, were held between 13-15 March to define a clear road map for the programmatic and operational outlook of the centre.

President Paul Kagame announced that after the resounding success of the NEF Global Gathering 2016 which took place in Dakar, Senegal, the second edition of the forum will be hosted in Kigali in 2018.

AIMS is Africa’s first and biggest network of centres of excellence in mathematical sciences. Since 2003, the AIMS model has prioritised international-class education for Africa’s most valuable resource – its young people – for the development of the continent. AIMS’s vision is to lead the transformation of Africa through innovative scientific training, technical advances and breakthrough discoveries which benefit the whole of society. The network’s mission is to enable Africa’s brightest students to flourish as independent thinkers, problem solvers and innovators capable of propelling Africa’s future scientific, educational and economic self-sufficiency. AIMS consists of a pan-African network of 6 centres of excellence across Africa (South Africa, Sénégal, Ghana, Cameroon, Tanzania and Rwanda) and its strategic pillars are training, research and public engagement.
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Ghana: Come, Serve and Go – Mahama to African Leaders
April 3, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Alex Ohene*

Former President John Dramani Mahama has advised African leaders not to overstay their welcome, especially after their constitutional tenures end.

He said given the current development needs of Africa, leaders who can act with a sense of urgency are supposed to be at the helm of affairs.

Ghana’s former president made these remarks at the 2017 Africa Development Conference held at the Harvard University, USA on Saturday, April 1.

The two-day event, which began on Friday, is under the auspices of the Harvard African Student Organisations.

Former President Mahama talked about the toll climate change is having on the continent but indicated, more importantly, that the leaders must be up and doing.

“We need leadership that can forge ahead with a greater sense of urgency because Africa is a continent in a hurry.”

He advocated a principle for leadership on the continent.

“You come, you serve, you go. That is what democracy is and should be the principle for Ghana and Africa’s leaders.”

 “It should be the norm in Africa.”

He pointed out that the youth appear to be more fired up to take over from the current crop of leaders.

“I have no doubt that we have the kind of human material to take over from my generation,”explaining: “Our young people want to see visible improvements. All of us must be committed to making sure our continent progresses.”

He added: “We need to have confidence that the next generations can come in and do even better than we have done”.

He advocated intra-Africa trade as the starting point for turning economies of the continent around.

“I have been a strong advocate for the removal of customs barriers across the continent. We must work at it.”

 He said leaders who lose elections must hand over.
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Kenya: Hundreds At Burial of Embu Woman Who Failed to Resurrect
April 3, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Charles Wanyoro*

Photo: Charles Wanyoro/The Nation

Photo: Charles Wanyoro/The Nation
Pastor Robinson Karumba of Eagle Wings Prophetic Ministries addresses the press at Gakwegori funeral home where he demanded to be given his wife’s body to pray for her resurrection.

Hundreds of mourners in Embu Saturday attended the burial of a 38-year old musician whose husband caused a stir after storming a local mortuary to pray for her resurrection.

Tens of clergymen who attended the burial at Rwika Village defended the actions of Apostle Robinson Karumba, saying it was a demonstration of faith among believers.

The clergyman had on Wednesday stormed Gakwegori Funeral Home accompanied by seven members of Eagle Winners Prophetic Ministry and spent over three hours praying for her resurrection.

Rev Karumba had clung on to hope that his wife would rise from the dead and Saturday would merely be a thanksgiving ceremony.

However, Bishop Ben Mwendandu, who led the requiem mass for Ms Pollyrose Ng’endo, said miracles still happen in this age depending on the will of God.

EAGER VILLAGERS

Most of the villagers were eager to see whether the family would make a last attempt at the resurrection bid or they would resign to fate and finally lay her to rest.

“Someone asked me why we exercise our faith by praying for the dead yet the dead don’t rise. I always tell them that we are behind a screen, only God decides.

 “There are those who die before their time, like soldiers in battle but others who die and God says their fate is sealed,” Bishop Mwendandu told the mourners.

Bishop Mwendandu also blamed the failed prayers on the worshipers’ lack of discretion.

 “You should pray in secret and not broadcasting [through the] media. I have prayed for many people, some who died and others got healed,” he advised.

Earlier on, journalists filming the proceedings were forced to leave the function with majority of speakers claiming the media wanted to embarrass them.

Pastor Karumba’s mother broke into angry shouts demanding that the journalists leave the family to bury their daughter and not report the proceedings of the burial ceremony.

Bishop David Mutwiri said many people have doubts on the ability of modern day clergy due to the proliferation of false preachers who are only after making wealth.

“When we pray for someone and they don’t resurrect, we should not despair.

“We have always prayed for many things and some don’t happen. Does it mean that God doesn’t exist?

“Not all prayers are answered. The problem is that people are no longer praying for the right things, only for wealth such as livestock,” said the head of Perazim Mission Centre.

The body was finally interred shortly after 5pm.

*Daily Nation/All Africa

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Fifa propose nine African World Cup spots
April 1, 2017 | 0 Comments
An African nation has never lifted the World Cup trophy in its 87 year history

An African nation has never lifted the World Cup trophy in its 87 year history

Fifa is proposing that Africa gets nine automatic places when the World Cup expands to 48 teams in 2026.

That would be an increase from the tally of five places that the continent currently holds.

A tenth African country will take part in a six-nation play-off tournament to decide the last two spots.

Football’s world governing body has revealed its plans for how all 48 places will be allocated, with 16 Europeans teams set to qualify.

“The Bureau of the Fifa Council, comprised of the Fifa President and the president of each of the six confederations, agreed on (the) proposed allocation,” said a Fifa statement.

The recommendations will be voted on by the Fifa Council at its next meeting on 9 May.

Fifa members voted in January to expand the World Cup from 32 to 48 teams, starting with the 2026 edition.

Proposed allocation:

  • Asia: 8 direct slots – increased from 4.5 (currently 46 members)
  • Africa: 9 direct slots – increased from 5 (currently 54 members)
  • North and central America: 6 direct slots – increased from 3.5 (currently 34 members)
  • South America: 6 direct slots – increased from 4.5 (currently 10 members)
  • Oceania: 1 direct slot – increased from 0.5 (currently 11 members)
  • Europe: 16 direct slots – increased from 13 (currently 55 members)
  • Final two places in 2026 decided by six-team play-offs

NB: Currently teams from Asia, north and central America, South America and Oceania play-off for two places hence .5 spots above.

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AfDB Calls for a “Revolution” in Providing Energy Access Solutions
March 31, 2017 | 0 Comments
Adesina

Adesina

The African Development Bank (AfDB) brought together more than 180 stakeholders across the off-grid energy sector on Tuesday, March 28, in the context of “Energy Week” at the Bank’s headquarters in Abidjan to discuss interventions to support the scale-up of energy access investments. The overarching objective was to unleash an “Off-Grid Energy Revolution”, to provide up to 75 million households and businesses not covered by the power grid with modern, clean and affordable electricity using decentralized solar technologies.

During the plenary session of the Off-Grid Revolution consultation workshop, opening remarks were given by Bank President Akinwumi Adesina; the Minister of Oil, Energy and Energy Development of Côte d’Ivoire, Thierry Tanoh; and the Minister of Energy of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Henry Macauley.

President Adesina said, “Africa’s energy potential is as enormous as its electricity deficit. We must move quickly to unlock this energy potential. We must be smart, efficient, sustainable and quick in our actions.” The Off-Grid Revolution stakeholder consultation comes under the framework of the New Deal on Energy for Africa, which aims to provide universal energy access to all Africans by 2025.

“Although we can employ mix of approaches, off-grid solutions must be at the core of our approach to achieve the ambitious electricity access targets that we have set,” Adesina added.

The future of off-grid energy solutions is bright. Amadou Hott, the AfDB Vice-President for Power, Energy, Climate Change and Green Growth, noted that millions of Africans have recently been connected to electricity by start-ups, driven by plummeting costs of solar photovoltaic (PV) and batteries, innovations in mobile payments and wireless communications technologies. “These businesses are increasing energy access across Africa faster, more cheaply, and more widely than conventional grid extension,” said Hott.

In break-out sessions, participants discussed the issues related to access to financing, risk mitigation, enabling environment and appropriate business models to scale up the energy access in Africa. Overall, stakeholders reiterated the need for a stronger political will by governments, ensure long-term integrated planning of off-grid and on-grid, and to develop the local ecosystem including manufacturing, skills development. Stakeholders also agreed on the need for more patient capital and local currency financing, hedging tools to mitigate foreign exchange risks, and to improve the credit scoring data.

The meeting was attended by leading and emerging businesses, country-representatives, civil society, industry bodies, local financial institutions, key development partners, technology providers, impact investors and AfDB staff.

About the Off-Grid Revolution

The AfDB – under its New Deal for Energy for Africa (NDEA) Strategy – has set an aspirational target of “off-grid” electricity access target of reaching 75 million connections by end of 2025. This can only be achieved through an unprecedented collaboration across a wide spectrum of committed partners. Against this backdrop, the Bank convened the “Off-Grid Revolution” workshop to define towards a suite of interventions to support the scale-up of “off grid” investment. The event is part of the Energy Week, a series of events, including high-level discussions and partnerships focusing on lighting up and powering Africa, and unlocking Africa’s huge energy potential co-organised and hosted by the AfDB. Energy Week runs from Monday, March 27 to Friday, March 31, 2017 in Abidjan.

About the AfDB’s Power, Energy, Climate Change and Green Growth Complex

The Power, Energy, Climate Change and Green Growth Sector Complex (PEVP), was created to fulfill the objectives of “Light Up and Power Africa” – principally achieving universal access to electricity by 2025. The Complex will accomplish this by building Africa’s energy systems while ensuring green growth. The entire development ecosystem for operational effectiveness, scale, socio- economic, and environmental impact will be taken into account. The New Deal on Energy for Africa, together with the inter-connected flagship programs is a top initiative of PEVP.

*AllAfrica. Read full Speech here

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Kenya Sex Podcast Encourages Sexuality Dialogue
March 31, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Rael Ombuor*

A screen shot taken from the video podcast of 'The Spread' in Nairobi, Kenya.

A screen shot taken from the video podcast of ‘The Spread’ in Nairobi, Kenya.

Nini Wacera and Karen Lucas are known as the “sex queens” of Nairobi. In a rather conservative country, they co-host a popular podcast called “The Spread.” The project is aimed at opening dialogue about sexuality, providing information on sexuality to people of all ages, focusing specifically on the youth.

The platform kicked off in 2015 after Lucas and co-presenter Wacera noted that no one was having conversations with the youth about sex. There was a platform on the continent, and in Kenya specifically, for a sexuality-based talk show.

“It’s the way we were raised and it has a lot to do with religion and sort of like the religious beliefs that are pushed upon us and being told by our elders that certain things are wrong but I think it’s changing, there is a new wave and new generation of people who are a lot more open. If we can sort of spearhead that in Kenya then we are very happy to do that. It’s about unlearning all of the things we have been told are bad and taboo,” said Lucas.

A wide range of topics are discussed on the show, from sexual health, body image, pornography and the dangers associated with sex and sexual abuse to HIV and sexually transmitted diseases.

“There are many things that can be avoided, teenage pregnancies and the rise of HIV amongst our children, sexual abuse. If we are having conversations with our children about sex and sexuality all of this things can be avoided or reduced in our country,” said Lucas.

Twenty-nine year old Cathy Sonia is an ardent listener. Growing up, she struggled with her sexual identity; she had no one to talk to about it.

“A lot of us are raised to believe that sex is more of a private issue. It never comes across to our parents to talk to us about sex, that never happens and so as kids we grow up believing that that’s just a taboo,” said Sonia.

She said the show has helped her understand her sexuality.

“At the end of the day, the podcast is informative, it gives you informed information or informed knowledge so that at the end of the day, the teenager or the child is aware that sex is ok at the end of the day, that it is not a taboo. It is not something to be ashamed of, It is normal. It is just like eating.”

The Kenya Film and Classification Board is the government agency mandated to regulate the creation, broadcasting and distribution of films in the country. The Kenya Information and Communications Act empowers this agency to promote national values and morality. Its CEO, Ezekiel Mutual, says podcast produced in Kenya falls under the boards mandate.

He said he supports The Spread, but insists that ‘morality’ should be maintained. As long as the podcast does not promote homosexuality, he is fine with it.

“There are levels that could create an offense, but the discussions about sexuality in itself are very healthy, I think we need to provide this platforms for guys to talk about it,” said Mutual.

“We cannot continue to bury our heads in the sand and assume that the subject of Homosexuality is not happening in Kenya. It is happening, therefore I encourage the conversation. My problem would be, people who are in it should not use it to create misleading information that this is the norm or this is what should be in Kenya. If they are discussing the challenges, if they want to find help, if they want to find confidence in discussing and finding solutions among them, I have no problem.”

The Spread continues to channel sex-positive messages. The presenters said they will continue to support and promote young people’s healthy sexual development through their broadcasts.

*VOA

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Appointment of Dr. Joseph Nnanna as Chairman of AFC
March 30, 2017 | 0 Comments
-Dr Alade retires from AFC Board of Director
Dr. Joseph Nnanna, Chairman of AFC

Dr. Joseph Nnanna, Chairman of AFC

LAGOS, Nigeria, 29 March 2017,-/African Media Agency (AMA)/- Africa Finance Corporation (AFC), a leading pan-African multilateral development finance institution and project developer, announces that Dr Sarah Alade, its Chairman, representing the Central Bank of Nigeria, from which she officially retired on 22 March, 2017, has also stepped down from her position as Chairman of the AFC Board of Directors with effect from today.

Dr Alade will be succeeded by Dr Joseph Nnanna, Deputy Governor at the Central Bank of Nigeria. Dr Nnanna has over three decades experience as an economist and banker. He has served as a consultant to the government of Nigeria, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, and, on the Board of the International Monetary Fund.

Dr Sarah Alade, said: “It has been a privilege to serve as Chairman of such a dynamic and fast-growing organisation.

“I have had the pleasure of overseeing some of the company’s milestones, including the Company’s inaugural Eurobond, Swiss Franc (CHF) and Sukuk issuances, expansion of country membership from 9 to 14, expansion of the Corporation’s operational footprint to 28 countries, growth in the balance sheet to US$3.4 billion, and, the creation of the African Power Platform vehicle with Harith General Partners of South Africa. I have no doubt that the Corporation will continue to flourish under my successor and wish both him and AFC the best in the future.”

Andrew Alli, President and Chief Executive of AFC, paid tribute to Dr Alade: “We are all very grateful for the notable contribution that Dr Alade has made to AFC during her time as Chairman of the Board.

“Over the course of her tenure the Corporation has expanded rapidly, and approximately US$ 4billion has now been invested in projects across 28 African countries, helping to drive economic and social development. We welcome Dr Nnanna to his new role and look forward to working with him to continue this success in the future.”

AFC will celebrate its 10th anniversary 15th – 16th May 2017 at the AFC Live Summit, which will bring together many of the top international players in African infrastructure investment for high level discussions on the industry’s many challenges, and potential solutions.

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Africa Finance Corporation Delivers Strong Financial and Operational Growth in 2016
March 30, 2017 | 0 Comments
Andrew Alli, CEO of AFC

Andrew Alli, CEO of AFC

Media Agency (AMA)/- Africa Finance Corporation (AFC), a leading pan-African multilateral development finance institution and project developer, today announces its 2016 fiscal year results.

Robust financial performance
* US$115.3 million in Total Comprehensive Income, up 64% year-on-year
* US$109.4 million in Net Profit, up 51% year-on-year
* US$3.4 billion in Total Assets, up 13% year-on-year
* US1.4 billion in Total Equity, up 6% year-on-year
* US$192.8 million in Interest Income, up 21% year-on-year
* US$21.9 million in Fees, Commissions and other Income, up 121% year-on-year

Continued strong operational performance
* Key milestones achieved:

o US$688 million of new investments
o Growth in the balance sheet to US$3.4 billion
o Expansion of the Corporations’ operational footprint to 28 countries and 14 country members with expansion to the Horn of Africa (Djibouti).
o Creation of the African Power Platform Vehicle with Harith General Partners
o Closing of the first bauxite mining transaction (Alufer in Guinea)
o Issuance of debut unsecured Swiss Franc denominated bond, raising CHF 100 million
* Prioritised investing in projects in sectors crucial for stimulating strong economic growth
o Invested in the Gabon Special Economic Zone, (GSEZ), a joint venture between Olam and the Republic of Gabon, with a diversified portfolio of strategic infrastructure assets being developed, constructed and operated across various sectors including transport, in Gabon. This AFC investment in a single transport platform vehicle, facilitated the simultaneous development of several projects.
o Financed Hakan, a peat to power plant, which will increase Rwanda’s installed capacity by 40% when it comes online.

Andrew Alli, President and CEO of AFC, commented on the results:

“2016 has been a successful year for AFC, reflected by our income and profit growth and our balance sheet strength. Operationally, we’ve had a great year too, with investments including Gabon’s Special Economic Zone, paving the way for greater economic diversification in the country. We’ve also strengthened our relationships with development finance institutions and the private sector – for example by launching a Joint Venture with Harith – merging power assets to create a pioneering African Power Platform Vehicle.

“AFC aims to be a US$5 billion Corporation by 2019 and despite a challenging economic environment, we are confident that we have built the firm foundations necessary to continue delivering positive socio-economic change across Africa. Ahead of our 10 year anniversary in May, we look forward to the next chapter in AFC’s growth story.”

AFC’s mission is to address Africa’s pressing infrastructure needs and build the foundations for robust economic development across the continent, while seeking a competitive return on investment for its shareholders. The Corporation has invested approximately US$4 billion in projects across 28 African countries and in its core sectors including power, telecommunications, transport and logistics, natural resources and heavy industries.

AFC is a dynamic, international investment grade multilateral finance institution whose mission it is to help bridge Africa’s significant infrastructure gap whilst delivering competitive financial returns, robust economic growth and positive social impact.

Established in 2007 to be the catalyst for private sector infrastructure investment across Africa, AFC is now one of the highest investment grade rated multilateral financial institutions in Africa with an A3/P2 (Stable outlook) rating from Moody’s Investors Service. A successful borrowing programme has raised more than US$3.5 billion for AFC’s activities, including the Corporation’s debut US$750 million Eurobond issue which was over 6 times oversubscribed. In terms of impact, AFC has invested approximately US$ 4 billion in projects across 28 African countries to date.

AFC’s investment approach combines specialist industry expertise with a focus on financial and technical advisory, project structuring, project development and risk capital tailored to addressing Africa’s unique infrastructure development needs in the core sectors of power, natural resources, heavy industry, transport, and telecommunications.

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China is building a new base in Africa that creates ‘significant operational security’ issues for the US military
March 29, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Christopher Woody*

The US’s Camp Lemonnier, a special-operations outpost in the sweltering East African country of Djibouti, will soon have a new neighbor.

China will open a new naval base — what it has called “logistical support” facilities — nearby, bringing the US into closer proximity with a rival power than some officers have ever experienced.


“You would have to characterize it as a military base,” Marine Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, chief of US Africa Command, told reporters in Washington this week. “It’s a first for them. They’ve never had an overseas base.”

“We’ve never had a base of, let’s just say a peer competitor, as close as this one happens to be,” Waldhauser told Breaking Defense. “So there’s a lot of learning going on, a lot of growing going on.”

The base, which Waldhauser said would likely be finished sometime this summer, will be several miles away from Lemonnier.

Lemonnier, and Djibouti, are strategically located in the Horn of Africa. They sit on the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, a gateway to Egypt’s Suez Canal, which is one of the world’s busiest shipping corridors.

They’re also close to the restive country of Somalia and a short distance from the Arabian Peninsula — particularly Yemen, where the US has for some time been supporting a Saudi Arabian military campaign and before that was carrying out operations against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
Camp Lemonnier, a US military base in Djibouti, is strategically located between the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Google Maps

More than 4,000 US personnel are at Lemonnier, the US’s largest permanent base on the continent, and it has long hosted sensitive US drone and air operations. The US also has run drone operations out of East Africa, and China has 2,400 peacekeepers on the continent.

“Yes, there are some very significant operational security concerns, and I think that our base there is significant to US because it’s not only AFRICOM that utilizes” it, Waldhauser told Breaking Defense, but also US Central Command, which operates in the Middle East, Joint Special Operations Command, and European Command.

The French and Japanese militaries are also present in Djibouti. The country has been used as a base of operations against piracy in nearby waters. China has said its ships have escorted more than 6,000 vessels through the Gulf of Aden.

Beijing has described the new facility as a support base for its operations with countries in the region.

“China and Djibouti consulted with each other and reached consensus on building logistical facilities in Djibouti, which will enable the Chinese troops to better fulfill escort missions and make new contributions to regional peace and stability,” Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hong Lei said in January 2016, when the Chinese lease was announced.

Concern in Washington and elsewhere may be that the base will eventually take on a larger role in Beijing’s foreign military operations. A 2015 US Defense Department report, cited by The Diplomat, confirmed that Chinese attack and missile submarines were operating in the Indian Ocean.

Countries along the Indian Ocean may also look upon the base warily, suspicious that it could be an anchor in a chain of bases and facilities along the ocean’s coast, supplementing outposts like the port at Gwadar in Pakistan.

“It’s naval power expansion for protecting commerce and China’s regional interests in the Horn of Africa,” Peter Dutton, a professor of strategic studies at the US Naval War College, told The Hindu in February. “This is what expansionary powers do. China has learned lessons from Britain of 200 years ago.”

The US “has spoken to the Djiboutian government about it,” Waldhauser said, “and they know what our concerns are.”

*Business Insider

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Kenyans abroad are the biggest senders of mobile to mobile remittances
March 29, 2017 | 0 Comments

As M-PESA turns 10, data shows 93% of WorldRemit’s money transfers to Kenya go to mobile money accounts.

To mark the 10th anniversary of ground-breaking mobile money service M-PESA, WorldRemit  has released new data showing that the Kenyan diaspora is the biggest sender of digital remittances to mobile accounts.

Transfers to mobile money accounts make up 93% of WorldRemit transactions to Kenya now – showing that Kenyans continue to be early adopters of innovative technology, even when abroad.

Mobile money has played a key role in the growth of WorldRemit’s Kenyan customer base, attracted by the low price, speed and convenience of sending instant remittances from the app or website directly to a mobile phone in Kenya.

  • In January 2017, WorldRemit customers transferred more than $140m (at annualised rate) to Kenya, making WorldRemit one of the largest remittance companies serving the Kenyan diaspora.
  • Top remittance-sending countries are the UK, Australia, US, Germany, Canada and Nordic countries.
  • Around three million Kenyans live abroad, with large communities in North America, Europe and Australia.
  • Remittances play an important role in Kenya’s economy – inward remittances reached a record value of just under $161m in November 2016, according to the Central Bank of Kenya, making it one of the nation’s top earners.
  • WorldRemit is now connected to over a fifth of all mobile money accounts – 112 million of 500 million mobile money accounts around the world.
  • 74% of all international remittances to mobile money accounts coming from money transfer operators are sent via WorldRemit.

The company has pioneered mobile to mobile remittances, sending to 32 mobile money services in 24 countries – more than any other money transfer service.

Globally, WorldRemit customers send more than 580,000 transfers every month to over 140 destinations. WorldRemit makes sending money as easy as sending an instant message.

Ismail Ahmed, Founder and CEO at WorldRemit, comments: Kenya is famed for leading Africa’s digital transformation, and today it’s Kenyans abroad who are at the forefront of digitising international money transfers. Most of our Kenyan customers use our mobile app, demonstrating the strong demand for convenience when sending to friends and family.

“With half a billion registered accounts worldwide, mobile money continues to transform lives by allowing people to access financial services for the first time. WorldRemit customers now send more than 65,000 transfers to the country every month from the WorldRemit app and website with over 90% going to M-PESA”.

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Africa Development Week opened in Dakar with clarion call for policies that cater for youth
March 29, 2017 | 0 Comments
Anthony Mogae Maruping, Economic Commissioner of the African Union welcomes Abdallah Hamdok of the Economic Commission for Africa during day 3 of the African Development Week.

Anthony Mogae Maruping, Economic Commissioner of the African Union welcomes Abdallah Hamdok of the Economic Commission for Africa during day 3 of the African Development Week.

DAKAR, Senegal, 28 March 2017,-/African Media Agency (AMA)/- It is imperative for African governments to adopt coherent strategies and national development plans that address the continent’s challenges of growth, inequality and unemployment, Economic Commission for Africa’s deputy Executive Secretary, Giovanne Biha, said Thursday.

Ms. Biha said this in her opening speech to the Tenth Joint Annual Meetings of the African Union Specialized Technical Committee on Finance, Monetary Affairs, Economic Planning and Integration and the Economic Commission for Africa Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development.

“The absence of decent jobs for young Africans has fuelled outward migration, both within and from Africa resulting in tragic loss of lives as young people attempt to cross the Mediterranean Sea in search for greener pastures.”

Ms. Biha said since this year is the year of harnessing Africa’s demographic dividend through investment in the youth, more needs to be done by all stakeholders to promote investment in job creation and human capital development.

“It is the imperative for African countries to adopt coherent strategies and national development plans that promote structural transformation and address the challenges of growth, inequality and unemployment within the context of the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” she said.

Ms. Biha noted that discussions on unemployment in Africa were not new, adding it was now time for action on the ground.

African Union Commission’s Economic Affairs Commissioner, Anthony Mothae Maruping, said it was symbolic that the meeting was taking place in Senegal, where Africans were forcibly taken to work as slaves in America and Europe.

“We are in the right place to come up and work on strategies to make sure our young people don’t voluntarily and involuntarily leave the continent to look for opportunities elsewhere,” said Mr. Maruping, adding growth on the continent so far has not been inclusive.

“We need to grow Africa. The time to do so is now,” he said, adding Agenda 2063 is seeking to achieve accelerated, stable, inclusive and real economic job-creating growth in Africa. Mr. Maruping said no form of poverty was acceptable as he urged the continent to work hard to eradicate all inequalities.

He said Africa is clear on what needs to be done as it deals with challenges it is facing on the ground, in particular spurring economic growth that positively impacts everyone.

“Africa knows what to do, how to do it, with what and when to do it as we target this growth and inequality,” said Mr. Maruping. “We really want to transform our economies, raise our productivity, promote integration and trade and all.”

Senegal’s Budget Minister, Birima Mangara, in his welcome address to the meeting of experts said his country was doing all it can to structurally transform its economy for the benefit of every citizen.

Giovanne Biha, Deputy Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa in discussion with Abdallah Hamdok of the Economic Commission for Africa

Giovanne Biha, Deputy Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa in discussion with Abdallah Hamdok of the Economic Commission for Africa

He said inequalities and youth unemployment were being tackled as well as other related problems that lead to poverty, adding youth and women on the continent should be prioritized in job creation.

Mr. Mangara lauded the ECA, the AUC and their partners for convening a meeting to specifically tackle growth, inequalities and unemployment on the continent.

“It is these meetings which serve as outstanding platforms to discuss Africa’s problems,” he said. “I’m convinced that the debates will lead to very important recommendations that are important for the future development of our dear Africa.”
The Tenth Joint Annual Meetings will deliberate on the theme of “Growth, inequality and unemployment”.

The conference will explore measures for reducing inequality and extreme poverty on the continent in order to achieve the targets of the First Ten-Year Implementation Plan (2013-2023) of Agenda 2063 and the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, among other issues.

Among the high-level delegates present were the newly-elected African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat, President of the office of the committee of experts, Lizenga Maluleka, representatives of UN agencies, the African Union Commission, African Development Bank and civil society.

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Trade and Development Bank boosts growth and infrastructure development in Eastern and Southern African region
March 28, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Wallace Mawire

Admassu Tadesse, President and Chief Executive Officer of PTA (Photo: defimedia)

Admassu Tadesse, President and Chief Executive Officer of TDB (Photo: defimedia)

The rebranded Trade and Development bank (TDB), formerly the Eastern
and Southern African Trade and Development Bank, commonly known as PTA
bank has reportedly made substantial contributions to the rising
economic growth and infrastructure development in the eastern and
southern African region.

Admassu Tadesse, President and Chief Executive of TDB says the
bank’s development contributions are in line with regional and
international development strategies, especially those aimed at
achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs) and Africa’s vision
2063.

Tadesse said that the bank has funded some of the several landmark
renewable energy projects such as Turkana wind power in Kenya,
Hydromax mini-hydro in Uganda, industrial projects such as cement and
steel plants in the DRC, Djibouti, Zambia, Rwanda, Ethiopia and
Zimbabwe.

He also said that other landmark projects funded by the bank include
the Burundi fibre-optic backbone project and Kilwa power project in
Tanzania.

“We will continue scaling up with continued attention to
sustainability and good corporate governance,”Tadesse added.

The regional multilateral development finance institution has also
announced that it will continue to increase financing for priority
sectors such as trade, infrastructure, manufacturing, industry and
agribusiness across the 20 member states it operates in, over the next
five years.

The bank has also financed the recently commissioned $85 million new
Pretoria Portland Cement (PPC) Harare cement plant, a world class,
state of the art facility that boasts of the latest technology in the
construction industry.

Other initiatives supported by the bank include agribusiness projects
throughout eastern and southern Africa, notably in Malawi and Sudan.

The bank also provided important asset finance facilities to the air
transport sector in the region, with Rwanda air, Kenya and Ethiopian
airways benefitting.

The PTA bank now TDB is an African regional development financial
institution established in 1985.

Its mandate is to finance and foster trade, socio-economic
development and regional economic integration across member states. It
is also an institution of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern
Africa (COMESA).

The bank’s membership comprises of 19 member states which include
Burundi, Comoros, the DRC, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya,
Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, Sudan,
Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

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Ponderables and Imponderables of President Kagame’s AIPAC Trip
March 28, 2017 | 0 Comments

-A strong showing for the Rwandan leader on Africa’s  AIPAC debut

By Ajong Mbapndah L

President Paul Kagame delivering his maiden speech at AIPAC policy conference

President Paul Kagame delivering his maiden speech at AIPAC policy conference

On Sunday morning, March 26, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda became the first African head of state to address the annual gathering of AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, one of the most influential lobbying groups in Washington.  Also on the program Sunday morning was former British prime minister Tony Blair.  Later in the day, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and former Canadian prime minister Stephan Harper addressed the conference.

AIPAC’s annual policy conference takes place this year from March 26 through March 28 at the Washington Convention Center.  In 2016, 20,000 people attended and every presidential candidate (except for Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders) spoke at the event, as did then-Vice President Joe Biden.  Each year it attracts top U.S. government officials, key congressional committee chairmen and powerful senators, military officers, journalists, and wealthy philanthropists who have an interest in Israel and U.S.-Israel relations.   President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and advisor, Jared Kushner, is a long-time participant in AIPAC activities and he will be there as his father-in-law’s eyes and ears.

During the past five years, AIPAC has spent more than US$14 million on lobbying the U.S. federal government.  In what looks like a tactic in a “charm offensive,” Kagame will be looking among the AIPAC attendees to find lobbying services that have an inside track with the new Trump administration.  According to available public records from the U.S. Department of Justice, since 2014, Rwanda has already been spending a minimum of US$45,000 per month – more than US$540,000 per year – on lobbying and public affairs services in the United States.  Sources in Washington and Kigali suggest that Kagame is prepared to spend double that to cozy up to the new Trump administration.

Kagame’s invitation to AIPAC stemmed from a sense of affinity between the Israeli and Rwandan peoples, who have both suffered from genocide.  There was another motivation in Kagame’s visit to Washington, however:  to shore up his relations with the new Trump administration, which has close ties to AIPAC through Kushner (the Orthodox Jewish husband of Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, another close West Wing adviser), and to Israel itself, through Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who did not hide his support for Trump over Clinton during the raucous 2016 presidential campaign.

With the departure of the Obama administration, Kagame has lost his key patrons in the U.S. government, including former National Security Advisor Susan Rice (who, in the private sector, represented the Rwandan government as a consultant in the early 2000s) and former Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, who made her reputation as an Africa analyst by writing about the Rwandan genocide of the 1990s.  Her book, A Problem from Hell:  America and the Age of Genocide, brought Power to the attention of Barack Obama and eventually to her ambassadorship in Turtle Bay.

Recognizing that Africa is a low priority for the Trump administration’s “America first” foreign policy, Kagame will use his short trip to Washington in meetings with opinion influencers, such as think-tank experts and Africa policy makers from previous administrations.  For instance, Kagame is scheduled to speak in a closed-door meeting at the prestigious Atlantic Council on Monday, March 27.  The event is hosted by Dr. J. Peter Pham, director of the Africa program at the council, who is widely touted to be the next Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, succeeding Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who has left the State Department for a pre-retirement fellowship at Georgetown University.  (Thomas-Greenfield is likely to be among the 30 or so experts who attend Kagame’s presentation at the Atlantic Council, along with other former assistant secretaries like Herman Cohen and Constance Berry Newman.)

In Kagame’s speech to AIPAC, he stated that “Until all ideologies which justify killing as a patriotic duty are defeated our world is not truly safe. Not for us, not for anyone.”  Yet his appearance before the 20,000 “friends of Israel” at the Washington Convention Center came on the heels of reports from the Democratic Republic of Congo that Rwandan militias under the banner of the FARDC had beheaded more than three dozen Congolese police officers.   The Rwandan-backed, Tutsi-staffed FARDC has also been implicated in the kidnaping of American aid worker Michael Sharp and the assassination of Swedish UN expert Zaida Catalan.

These events stand in odd juxtaposition to Kagame’s urging in his AIPAC speech that, “together with friends like the United States, we must call for renewed global solidarity against the reckless efforts to deny genocide and to trivialize the victims.”

President Paul Kagame (L) conversing with Author Frank Sesno at the AIPAC policy conference in Washington DC.Pic Credit KT Press

President Paul Kagame (L) conversing with Author Frank Sesno at the AIPAC policy conference in Washington DC.Pic Credit KT Press

According to one African Analyst, Kagame’s presence in Washington and meeting with prominent advisors to the White House suggests he wants to claim the inside track against other leaders in the Great Lakes region, so that Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni and Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza, for instance, will have to play a game of “catch-up” to obtain the attention of the Trump administration and retain the political and logistical support those countries have received from the United States infighting regional terrorism.  (Both Uganda and Burundi have deployed hundreds of troops to Somalia as participants in AMISOM, the AU Mission in Somalia.)

Even in the absence of his old friends Susan Rice and Samantha Power, Kagame has enough political savvy to sniff out new allies in the unconventional Trump administration, whether it is in the still-to-be-staffed State Department or the White House National Security Council – or even in the Pentagon, which more than two decades ago took Kagame under its wing to train him and his comrades-in-arms to end the genocide and take over the Rwandan government.

Praised by many who give him credit for the changing fortunes of Rwanda and scorned by critics who see growing dictatorial tendencies, Kagame has emerged as a champion of African solutions to African problems. His latest leadership role is a commission under his watch to come up with reforms to boost the economic viability of the African Union. One of the few African leaders to have spoken to President Trump so far, Mr Kagame is also the first leader to be hosted by Washington in a high profile event since the new U.S Administration took office.

 

 

 

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Kagame hails Rwanda-Israel bond at Washington forum
March 27, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Dave Clark*

Rwandan president Paul Kagame speaks during the American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference in Washington (AFP Photo/Andrew Biraj)

Rwandan president Paul Kagame speaks during the American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference in Washington (AFP Photo/Andrew Biraj)

Washington (AFP) – Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame became the first African leader to address Washington’s biggest pro-Israel forum Sunday, hailing the Jewish state as an inspiration for his own country’s rebirth after genocide.

Kagame was commander of the rebel force that put an end to the 1994 slaughter of Rwandan Tutsis by Hutu extremists and has led the country since 2000, as it recovers from the conflict and becomes a regional economic success story.

In Washington to attend the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), he hailed the success of the state of Israel after the horrors of the Holocaust and pledged Rwanda’s friendship.

“The security of peoples who have once been targeted for extermination can never be exclusively physical,” Kagame told the delegates, who received him with warm applause.

“Until all ideologies which justify killing as a patriotic duty are defeated our world is not truly safe. Not for us, not for anyone.”

Israel’s relations with African governments have not always been easy.

Some African political movements saw their own struggles against colonial rule reflected in the Palestinian fight for statehood — and many remember Israel’s military support for South Africa’s former Apartheid regime.

But Israel has an active diplomatic engagement on the continent and has won friends through economic and technical cooperation with major players like Rwanda.

– ‘Reckless efforts’ –

Last year, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu toured four African countries — including Rwanda — and in October he is expected to meet around 30 leaders at an Israel-Africa summit in Togo.

Kagame visited Israel in 2008 and made clear at AIPAC that he sees the country as a friend and ally, rejecting what he sees as efforts in some quarters to delegitimize Israeli statehood.

“Together with friends like the United States we must call for renewed global solidarity against the reckless efforts to deny genocide and to trivialize the victims,” he said.

“Israel has the right to exist and thrive as a full member the international community. This is not an infringement of the rights of any other people,” he declared.

Rwanda’s friendship with Israel is also a diplomatic boon for both countries, which have both relied on strong US support but have also tried the patience of Washington’s foreign policy establishment in recent years.

Under former president Barack Obama, the United States expressed concern at what they saw as an authoritarian drift in Kagame’s rule and in particular a 2015 reform to the constitution to allow him to run for a third term.

The White House also sparred with Netanyahu’s government, warning that its accelerated program of Jewish settlement building on occupied Palestinian land had put the Middle East peace process in jeopardy.

In 2014, when Rwanda sat on the United Nations Security Council, Kigali abstained from a resolution that advocated the end of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories but was ultimately rejected.

US President Donald Trump’s new administration has so far proved more sympathetic to Israel’s ambitions, and both Rwanda and Israel hope for warm relations.

Speaking to AIPAC before Kagame, Israeli’s ambassador to Washington Ron Dermer said: “For the first time in years there is no daylight between our governments.”

Israel insists a peace deal with the Palestinians can only come through direct negotiations between the parties, without outside diplomatic pressure, a position that Kagame fully endorsed.

 *AFP
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US –Africa Relations Hit The Grey Zone
March 27, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L

President Trump has spoken to Nigeria’s Buhari and South Africa’s Zuma

President Trump has spoken to Nigeria’s Buhari and South Africa’s Zuma

To restive Africans awaiting clues from the Trump Administration on its African policy, the recent America First budget was no harbinger of great news. According to Foreign Policy Magazine, the budget actually puts Africa last.

“Sub-Saharan Africa is grappling with record levels of displacement and hunger due to conflict and drought, but President Donald Trump is proposing “deep cuts to foreign aid” that would hit this continent the hardest,” the magazine says.

While the Administration may be young, the American voice has been missing from challenges facing the continent from the D.R.Congo, to South Sudan.

Amongst the African leaders President Trump has spoken to are Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Jacob Zuma of South Africa, Buhari of Nigeria, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt , and Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya.  While many have commended the outreach, the absence of a policy team is raising concerns.

Speaking at a recent public address at the Atlantic Council on the theme “Africa’s Place on the World Stage,” Former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Ambassador Linda Thomas Greenfield said the Trump Administration needed time to put its team in place. Africa has traditionally been a non-partisan issue in US foreign policy, Ambassador Greenfield said in a reassuring tone at the public address. Yet about a month after she left office, her successor has not been appointed.

Tipped by multiple sources as the leading candidate for Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Dr. J. Peter Pham vice president of the Atlantic Council and head of its Africa programme has so far received no official notification.  Other names brought up in this context have included retired Colonel Charles Snyder, who teaches Africa policy at the Institute for World Politics, and Dr. Kate Almquist Knopf of the National Defense University.  Both of them served in Africa policy positions in previous administration.

A new name in the mix is James Dunlap, a principal at The Scowcroft Group, a consulting and investment firm founded by former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft.  Dunlap is being pitched by Walter Kansteiner, who served in the George W. Bush administration as Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs and who now works at ExxonMobil as chief of the oil giant’s Africa operations. .

Dunlap’s rise comes at the expense of the Atlantic Council’s Pham. Some of Dunlap’s backers recoil at Pham’s ideological proximity to influential White House strategist Stephen K. Bannon and other conservatives in the Trump White House, citing a 2009 Washington Post article Pham once co-authored (with legal scholar Ronald Rotunda) questioning the constitutional propriety of then-President Barack Obama accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, referencing the same “emoluments clause” that has been used to criticize President Donald Trump’s business ties.

The Trump Administration needs time to build its team says Former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Greenfield in a file picture with J.Peter Pham of the Atlantic Council who is said to be consideration for the top US-Africa Envoy job.

The Trump Administration needs time to build its team says Former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Greenfield in a file picture with J.Peter Pham of the Atlantic Council who is said to be in consideration for the top US-Africa Envoy job.

Other Dunlap supporters point to Pham’s outspoken pro-Israel views as evidence of his links to the circle around Trump son-in-law (and adviser) Jared Kushner. In fact, Pham is listed as a speaker on the program the 2017 convention of the influential lobby group, AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee), where his portrait appears just below that of Vice President Mike Pence.

According to one Republican foreign policy insider, Pham, who is also vice chair of the National Museum of African Art, is also viewed by some as too close to the African-American and African diaspora communities, in contrast to Dunlap who, as the son of a corporate chief executive, has his roots in the more traditional white establishment, where he finds his ideological direction.

Another factor:  according to his biography on the Scowcroft Group web site, Dunlap “has experience representing both the buy and sell-side on several investments in Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, and Tanzania, including oil and gas concessions in East Africa and a mobile license in Kenya.”

These commercial interests in Africa may prove to be a conflict of interest for Dunlap, who held various foreign policy positions in the Bush administration, but he faces an additional hurdle:  His boss, Brent Scowcroft, was a “never-Trumper” who endorsed Hillary Clinton for President.  Scowcroft did not sign but tacitly endorsed and circulated a letter from former foreign-policy officials who stated they would refuse to serve in a Trump administration and condemned the then-presidential candidate’s foreign affairs platform.

Another name that comes up in this game of “who will be whom” is Jeffrey Krilla, another former Bush administration official.  Krilla has a connection to Sean Spicer, the White House spokesman.  They both served in the same office when they were congressional staff members in the 1990s, and their paths have crossed more than once since then.  Closeness to Spicer, who has demonstrated unprecedented loyalty to the president in the face of relentless hostility from the press and public, is a real feather in Krilla’s cap.

At the National Security Council (where staff members are not subject to Senate confirmation), Africa policy suffered a setback when former Marine intelligence officer Robin Townley, who was named director of African policy by then-National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, failed to receive a security clearance from the Central Intelligence Agency, for reasons that remain murky.  Townley landed on his feet with an executive position with the Maersk Group.  His role at the National Security Council will be filled by former Air Force intelligence officer Rudolph Atallah, who has been a research fellow at the Atlantic Council in Washington and has also run a private security consulting firm.  Atallah has had experience in the Sahel and the Horn of Africa.

When the Trump administration began on January 20, it was assumed that nominees for key State Department posts – including in the Africa bureau – would be announced by April and the confirmation process would be completed by June.  That timetable seems increasingly unlikely given the slow pace of appointments from the White House.  In the meantime, the State Department bureaucracy is being operated by career Foreign Service Officers with no supervision by political appointees.

According to Foreign Policy magazine in summing up Africa, “It gets more U.S. foreign aid than any other continent, the largest share of U.S. global health and disaster relief spending, and it hosts nine out of the world’s 16 U.N. peacekeeping operations — and four out of the five most expensive ones.” It remains to be seen how the Trump administration will factor in these realities in its own policy.

 

 

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