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DFC and Akola Support Ugandan Women Through COVID-19 Pandemic
September 18, 2020 | 0 Comments
DFC Chief Executive Officer Adam Boehler

$5 million DFC loan will help Akola continue empowering low-income women, particularly in the wake of COVID-19.

WASHINGTON – U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) and Akola PBC today announced that DFC has provided a $5 million loan to Dallas, Texas-based Akola. DFC’s financing will help the impact-driven jewelry brand and manufacturing business—particularly the women that it employs in rural Uganda—weather the challenges of the COVID-19 global pandemic.

“Women reinvest most of their earnings in their families and communities and are a powerful driver of prosperity and stability in Uganda and beyond. With just a little bit of support, they can deliver outsized impact in their communities,” said DFC Chief Executive Officer Adam Boehler. “DFC’s financing will help Akola continue its work to provide economic opportunities and uplift Ugandan women. Our collaboration comes at a critical time as COVID-19 continues to leave underserved individuals—disproportionately women—even more vulnerable around the world.”

“Akola was founded on the belief that job creation is critical to breaking the cycle of poverty,” explains Akola’s CEO, Sheeba Philip. “This is why it was crucial that we did everything possible to ensure the women we employ as part of our operations in Uganda kept their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic. We quickly shifted our focus to product experiences that meet consumer needs and reflect the changing retail environment, such as our DIY Bracelet Kits. We are grateful for the partnership with DFC, which helps ensure we can continue to offer Akola women living wage employment so they can provide for their families.”

As a result of COVID-19, many major retailers have backed out of orders and brands have trimmed production, putting global artisans and factory workers already living in extreme poverty out of work. Yet in the wake of the pandemic, Akola has continued its mission and commitment to the women it serves, working creatively to ensure that the hundreds of Ugandan women who work for the company have all remained employed.

DFC’s financing is structured to support these efforts, funding critical working capital needs that help Akola continue to provide stable wages and benefits through the pandemic to its all-female Ugandan workforce. Eventually, the loan will also support a new production facility and additional employees, enabling Akola to continue focusing on growing demand through its e-commerce platform, which in turn will help the company become more resilient to future market shocks.

Akola, which means “she works” in the local dialect, was founded by Brittany Underwood after spending a summer teaching English in Jinja, Uganda during college. Once a small operation of 15 women making jewelry under a tree in 2007, Akola today employs nearly 200 women in rural Uganda. All Akola jewelry is handcrafted in Uganda using locally-sourced, sustainable materials and is sold worldwide.

The women employed by Akola in Uganda usually serve as the primary providers for their families, and the vast majority lived in extreme poverty before working for the company. In addition to a stable income, Akola also provides ongoing training and mentorship to its Ugandan employees through nonprofit partner Akola Academy. Akola Academy provides leadership and financial literacy training to foster long-term economic independence. Sixty-six percent of Akola women in Uganda own a home and 79 percent of Akola children are enrolled in school.

DFC’s investment advances its 2X Women’s Initiative, which has catalyzed more than $3 billion of private sector investment in projects that empower women in developing countries. Through 2X, DFC plays a key role in the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative (W-GDP), which marks the first whole-of-U.S. Government approach to empowering women globally and is spearheaded by Advisor to the President Ivanka Trump. DFC’s investment also advances the Administration’s Prosper Africa initiative, which aims to channel the tools and resources of the U.S. Government to substantially increase two-way trade and investment between the United States and Africa.

*DFC

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Cape Town To Host Conference on Trade Governance Matters in Africa
September 18, 2020 | 0 Comments
AU Trade Commissioner Muchanga will present the keynote address
AU Trade Commissioner Muchanga will present the keynote address

By Nevson Mpofu Munhumutapa

TRALAC, Trade Law Centre based in South Africa, Cape Town is hosting a 2-day virtual conference in its home town. It runs from 21 to 22 September. The conference braves the chill of covid-19 to address Trade Governance matters in Africa.

TRALAC Administrative Assistant Madeline Herterotz who invited and posted the program to the Pan-African-Visions points out that the conference is a design meant to look at the future of World Trade Organization. It looks as well on taking lessons learnt from the devastating effects and consequences of covid-19 in the Region.

Multi-Lateral trading systems require reforms in the era of covid-19. There are plurilateral and multilateral agreements made under the [World Trade Organization], WTO and AFCFTA, [African Continental Free Trade Area.] A World Bank Study has come out with a document on the benefits to come from reducing red tape and improving customs of boarder management.

The second issue looks at the overview of key features of AFCFTA up-date on negotiations and preparations post covid-19. Extended information looks at the adoption of Digital Trade Solutions in an era of covid-19 and global challenges currently faced.

The conference dubbed Trade Governance In Africa Midst a Pandemic of Global Challenges attracts a panel of presenters and moderators to cheer and spear-head the program with key-note opening from H.E Wamkele Mune  ,African Continental Free Trade Area’  Secretary General .

Among the Plenipotentiary delegates are Mr Allan Wolf, Deputy Director World Trade Organization. Panel discussion follows on the same day with a focus on What is expected from AFCFTA to deliver. What is necessary to achieve outcomes. Also present is Ms Valentinah Minta – Board Member International Chamber of Commerce. Mr Victor Liman, Chief Trade Negotiator, Director General for the Nigerian Office for Trade Negotiations, Ms Monica Musonda Java Foods CEO, Mr Ahmed Bennis, Secretary General of African Economic Zones Organization. Ms Treasure Maphanga stands in as Moderator. She is TRALAC Board Member.

The second panel discussion is on what is to be done to facilitate Trade in Africa. Present are Ms Lily Sommer , African Trade Policy Center Department of United Nations Economic Commission [UNECA] .Mr Jason Blackman is DHL Express Director for Sub-Saharan Africa . Mr Etiyel Chibira is from the Cross Boarders Trans-Agency of South Africa. Ms Muna Hassan is from WTO. The Moderator is Trudi Hartzenburg of TRALAC. The presentation to be read looks at Overviews, Negotiations, Up-Date and Africa’s Global Trade Relations.

The Key-Note Address will be presented by Albert Muchanga , Commissioner for Trade and Industry , AUC [ African Union Commission] . The closing will be done by TRALAC Board Chairman, George Lipimile .

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South Sudan President Fires Finance Minister, Nilepet and NRA Bosses Amid Looming Economic Meltdown
September 18, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Deng Machol

Salvatore Garang Mabiordit Wol is the 8th Finance Minister fired by President Kiir since 2011
Salvatore Garang Mabiordit Wol is the 8th Finance Minister fired by President Kiir since 2011

Juba – South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir Mayardit fired longtime Finance Minister, including the Nilepet and National Revenue Authority Bosses amid looming economic meltdown in the world’s youngest nation.

 In a presidential decree read on state – based television, formerly known as SSBC on Wednesday evening, Kiir ditched Finance Minister Salvatore Garang Mabiordit Wol,  the eighth Finance Minister dismissed by Kiir since 2011. The country’s new Finance Minister is Athian Diing Athian.

President Kiir also fired Erjok Bullen, Acting Commissioner of the National Revenue Authority, replaced with Africano Mande and Chol Deng Thon Abel, head of the Nile Petroleum Corporation, or Nilepet, the country’s institution overseeing oil production, replaced with Bol Riing Muorwel.

The reasons for the dismissals were not mentioned, however, the developments came after the economic crisis management committee recommended firing some officials of revenue-generating institutions over corruption.

But observers criticized president Kiir for fire officials and just walk away with their misdeeds and mistakes.

They argued that changing ministers or officials will not solve the country’s economic crisis rather about building institutions of the nation.

Of recently, Garang said his ministry did not have the money to pay government workers who have been waiting for paychecks since April. 

Both Garang and Bullen were summoned earlier in September by the National Assembly’s business committee to answer questions regarding their offices and also to explain why the civil servants had not been paid.

 However, diplomats at various South Sudan missions abroad, including Washington, have allegedly not received their salaries for the past 19 months.

Former finance Minister told lawmakers that the COVID-19 lockdown, coupled with the devastated global economy, affected crude oil prices and reduced revenue from South Sudan’s oil production.

South Sudanese on social media were satisfied with Kiir’s ditches at the major financial and oil institutions.

Economic meltdown

South Sudan economy is melting down due as local currency depreciates against US dollar, after the central bank announced that it had ran out of foreign currency and they will not be able to control the market.

Kiir’s formed Economic crisis committee in in August in order to mitigate and salvage the country’s dwindling economy.The committee is yet to release its findings.

Top government officials have been accused to have stolen billions of pounds. The committee has recommended to the president the removal of some financial institutions officials, charges of fraud in which millions of dollars have gone missing.

Relies on Oil

Since its independence, South Sudan has relied on oil for all income for over 98% of it’s revenues—a situation that has significantly compounded ongoing political and economic instability due to fall in crude oil prices. The collapse in oil prices has left the state’s coffers depleted and government faces huge budget deficits.

But mismanagement and misappropriation of the country’s resources have allegedly cost the country millions of dollars in recent years and pushed the citizens to return to into exile as refugees after living conditions, resulting from effects of over five years of the civil war have been unbearable.

South Sudan’s oil output, which is essentially generated by China’s CNPC, India’s ONGC and Malaysia’s Petronas has been falling steadily since 2013 when the civil war started, under the impact of chronic under-investment and damage caused during the fighting. 

Oil’s production today is running at around 130,000 bpd, whereas it stood at about 370,000 bpd when the country split from Sudan in 2011, but it’s only export route is through Sudan, giving Khartoum leverage and leading to the ongoing pricing disputes.

Nilepet is a partner on all the country’s oil blocks and hopes to become an operator in the years to come, even though this seems blighted with corruption and low level of technical skills at its institution.

South Sudan was just emerging from the five year of civil war that has killed nearly 400,000 people and uprooted four million people, before it has devastated the country’s economy, formed an incomplete government of a national unity in six months ago but an effort to stabilize a political and economic’s crises remain a nightmares.

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Nigeria: What Decides Ondo Next Governor
September 18, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Michael Adeboboye

Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN, incumbent governor, Ondo State and candidate of the APC for October 10, 2020 governorship election
Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN, incumbent governor, Ondo State and candidate of the APC for October 10, 2020 governorship election

Ondo state is one of the states in Nigeria the Independent National Electoral Commission would be conducting staggered election. The election holds October 10. Michael Adeboboye pictures the election scenario, political parties’ strength, candidates and electorates behavior pattern in the state.

Ondo State, one of the states in the south west geopolitical region in Nigeria is witnessing governorship election in October 10 as announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Although a staggered election birthed by court-proven electoral manipulation in 2007, the oil producing state people are sophisticated when it comes to electing theirs leaders, especially the governor who will manage their commonwealth for four years. Unlike some other states in the political zone largely dominated by Yoruba speaking tribe, the sunshine state (Ondo) seems to have been clothed with ray too hot to capture in the typhoon of god-fatherism; phenomenon where one money bag decides the fate of entire state by appointing his stooge and enthrone him against the will of the people. Election in such scenario is nothing but a mere formality. Since 1999 when Nigeria returned from military rule to democracy, daring Ondo electorates’ political sagacity is like a dangerous voyage into perilous abyss.

     The immediate past governor of the state, Dr. Olusegun Mimikowas a product of rule of law. After a prolonged legal battle over the authentic winner of the 2007 governorship election in the state in 2007, the court of Appeal sitting in Benin City, Edo state gave the judgment in Mimiko’s favour in February 23, 2009. His predecessor, Late Dr.Olusegun Agagu who was sacked by the Appeal Court was a candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Mimiko was the candidate of the Labour party (LP). That scenario fell off the state from the pedestal of general elections timetable in the country. Mimiko governed the state between 2009 and 2017, making him the first governor to have been on the governorship seat for a complete eight years. Mimiko later return to the PDP in controversial manner.

     In 2016, Rotimi Akeredolu and Eyitayo Jegede, both Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) slugged it out for the number one position of the state. Akeredolu contested on the platform of the All Progressive Congress (APC), while Jegede was the PDP’s flag bearer. Akeredolu emerged the winner of the election with a total of 224,842 votes, Jegede came second with 150,380 votes while Bar. Olusola Oke, another senior legal practitioner came third with 126,889 votes.

Eyitayo Jegexe, SAN,Ondo PDP Governorship candidate, October 10, 2020 election.
Eyitayo Jegexe, SAN,Ondo PDP Governorship candidate, October 10, 2020 election.

      From 1999 till date, four different political parties have governed the state at different times. Late Adebayo Adefarati was elected on the platform of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) Agagu (PDP), Mimiko (LP) and presently, Akeredolu  (APC). For the 2020 governorship election the state, lNEC has fixed October 10 and announced seventeen political parties that would participate. Following the political trend, it appears only three political parties are to watch. The APC once again presented lt’s 2016 candidate for the election. Also, Jegede who was the PDP’s candidate in 2016 has won the ticket once again. The deputy governor of the state Agbola Ajayi is the candidate of the Zenith Labour Party, (ZLP). The election is around the corner and political intrigues are not in short supply. Meanwhile, the question agitating the minds of political pundits is what would influence the decision of the electorate?

     According to Hon. Tony Ala who is a PDP leader in the state, he said the PDP as a political party has a track record of achievements that would influence the electorate in the election to vote for its candidate, Jegede as the next governor of the state. He said Jegede emerged the candidate of the PDP through a free and fair primary election, adding that when candidate of political party emerged through a transparent party primary, that would influence the decision of the electorates. He said the candidate of his party (Jegede) is a gentleman politician with credibility and personality that permeated all the nooks and crannies of the state.

      ̋Eyitayo Jegede emerged as the candidate of PDP in a free and fair party primary. None of the aspirants who contested for the party’s ticket alongside him alleged foul play in his favour. A free and fair primary election which the winner emerged through a transparent party primary attracts the interest of the electorate, even though they are not members of the political party or delegates, they monitor the process. PDP has governed the state before and our party has track record of unprecedented achievements to the benefit of the citizens. This is one of the many reasons Ondo State electorates have pressed their interest in the party for the October 10 governorship election. The people cannot be deceived. They know the governments of the PDP established it̕ s focus on people ̶ oriented projects. They know the party cares for the artisans, technicians, youths, market women, mothers and their children. The score card is there. They are saying it themselves, not achievement they hear only in the media. They all know the PDP run compassionate government. We are not telling all these to them. They are giving us their testimonies.

    “The benefit of the PDP touched their lives directly. Talk  about education, health care infrastructure, social  welfare  and  all other  responsibility  of a good government,  our  party  is not comparable  to deceptive  government.  You cannot just continue to fool the people. The people of the state are the one reminding us of our numerous achievements. Everywhere we go, they said our party gave their children education. They said their children received free medical services during our government. The father said their pregnant wives were taking care at the mother and child hospital. They tell us about free surgery, regular supply of drugs, free school shuttle and outstanding facilities. The people of the riverside know that the PDP opened their roads to the land and regularly clear the waterways. They know their children had access to very low tuition fee in the higher institution of learning. PDP ̕ s achievement is too large to compare to the present administration. They tell us all those projects are gone now. The people are asking question which the APC government fails to give any convincing answer. Insecurity, corruption, tribal and religious sentiments are glaring hallmarks of the APC government in Nigerian. Our people are saying it is enough. Our candidate, Eyitayo Jegede, SAN is the most acceptable by the electorate. He is representing the PDP; political party which is the choice of Ondo State comes October 10”

 In an interview with journalists (not this magazine), a governorship aspirant in 2016 who is leader in the APC, Hon. Gbenga Elebgeleye said Akeredolu has performed creditably well “I am from Ikare and if you go to my hometown, you will see the dualisation and rehabilitation of the roads. What the people desire is good governance. It does not matter who does it. I have just told you how the governor has performed in my part of the state. The projects are physical and visible. It is not something you will require binoculars to see. Akeredolu is giving good governance. In politics, opponent must say something to be relevant. I think the issue of Ondo state governor should be based on quality.

Agboola Ajayi,Ondo Deputy Governor and candidate of the Ondo ZLP, October 10, 2020 election.
Agboola Ajayi,Ondo Deputy Governor and candidate of the Ondo ZLP, October 10, 2020 election.

       “Go and look at the Benin-Ore road and see a first class flyover bridge, first of its kind in the state built by Akeredolu. See the industrial park in Ore area as well as the vehicle Assembly Plant. Everybody knows that Akeredolu has improved road network in Ondo State. What do people want really? Quality service! People say Akeredolu is not a political person. Do we need a super politician as governor or performer?

   “We have seen super “politician” and that is not the kind of politician Ondo needs. We need a super administrator and that is what we have in Akeredolu’’

       “Indeed, out of all the top three political parties to be watched in October, the PDP had governed the state and the APC is the incumbent, thus the claim to have surpassed one another in respect to achievements by both is not out of place. However, the veracity rests in individual citizen perspective. And would that even be a major factor that would influence the decision of the electorates? Sadly, Nigerians political endorsement is garnished with don’t “shit” where you “eat” syndrome.

        Apparently, Ondo electorate’s behaviour pictures can be glimpse in the 2015 and 2019 elections. Mimiko was the incumbent governor in 2015. And despite that he was the southwest coordinator for the re–election of the then president, Goodluck Jonathan who was seeking re-election on the platform of the PDP, the electorates voted against the PDP. The incumbent president Muhammadu Buhari of the APC won in the state. Same scenario repeated in 2019 where Presidential candidate of the PDP, Atiku Abubakar won in Ondo state despite having Akeredolu of the APC as incumbent. Will power of incumbency and federal might decide who becomes the next governors of Ondo State?

Ajayi the deputy governor whose political ambition led to resigning his membership of the APC, contested in PDP’s party primarily but lost to Jegede. His popularity cannot be cut down with razor blame. Though a third force on the platform of the ZLP, he is a politician with wide influence. He was a chairman of Ese- Odo Local government area of the state, Former House of Representatives member and the deputy governor who survived impeachment Tsunami of the APC even after leaving the party for another political party to contest.

        For now, the three top contenders are engaging in rigorous campaign ahead of the election but the fate of who eventually becomes the next governor shall be found in the electorates thumb at the poll.

*Culled from September Issue of PAV Magazine

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US Imposes sanctions on firm linked to businessman close to South Sudan senior officials
September 18, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Deng Machol

 Sudanese businessman Ashraf Seed Ahmed Al-Cardinal with President Salva Kiir.Photo Twitter

Juba – The United States Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets control (OFAC) has imposed more economic sanctions on Nabah Ltd, a company owned by Sudanese businessman Ashraf Seed Ahmed Al-Cardinal for reportedly depositing and holding funds for South Sudanese officials outside of the world’s youngest nation in an attempt to avoid sanctions.

The sanctioned Nabah Limited, a company registered in the United Kingdom, is also the sixth company to be sanctioned by the U.S as being owned or controlled by the Sudanese businessman Ashraf Ahmed Hussein Ali, commonly known as al-Cardinal.

The U.S previously designated him for his role in corruption connected to president Salva Kiir’s officials.

In a statement issued on Monday, the Department of Treasury designated Al-Cardinal for engaging in corruption, including participating in bribery, kickbacks, and procurement fraud with senior government officials. 

It said the Sudanese businessman is also sanctioned for his businesses and political connections at the expense of the South Sudanese people.

“He and his companies act as intermediaries for depositing and holding large amounts of funds for senior-level South Sudanese officials outside of South Sudan in an attempt to avoid sanctions,” said the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).

The sanctions came at a time South Sudan’s economy is boiling up as the South Sudanese pounds continues to depreciate and price for commodities are skyrocketing.

Of recently, South Sudan has reported ran out of foreign reserves, whereas senior politicians, owned mansions for their families and friends abroad. A civil war and oil market crises are to blamed for the ongoing hyper-inflation in the Eastern African’s youngest nation.

The Treasury Department further said Al-Cardinal himself was part of a sanctions evasion scheme in which a senior South Sudanese official used a bank account in the name of one of Al-Cardinal’s companies to store his personal funds in an attempt to avoid the effects of US sanctions.

US Deputy Treasury Secretary Justin Muzinich said “bad actors” rely on their networks and front companies to evade sanctions and conceal their illicit activities.

 Sudanese businessman Ashraf Seed Ahmed Al-Cardinal seen in picture with Vice President Machar knows senior authorities in South Sudan

“We will continue to use our authorities to prevent such illicit funds from moving freely through the international financial system,” Muzinich further said.

OFAC designated Nabah Ltd pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13818, which builds upon and implements the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act and targets perpetrators of serious human rights abuse and corruption.

The businessman also owns five other companies that were also designated last year.

They include Al-cardinal General Trading Limited, Al-Cardinal General Trading LLC, A-Cardinal Investments Company Limited, Al-Cardinal Petroleum Company Limited, and NileTel.

In April this year, U.S-based The Sentry, accused Al-Cardinal of the misappropriation of state assets, the expropriation of private assets for personal gain, corruption related to government contracts or the extraction of natural resources, or bribery in South Sudan.

Despite the previous sanctions, the US said Al-cardinal found an alternative Nabah LTD that is being used to bail out corrupt South Sudanese politicians who are sanctioned by the president Trump’s administration.

“These South Sudanese elites and corrupt government officials have drained state coffers and usurped the country’s resources with impunity. Al-cardinal and Ajing leverage their business and political connections to engage in corruption at great expense to the South Sudanese people,” said Sigal Mandelker, Treasury’s Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.

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Sierra Leone : Savage Street Bridge collapses
September 18, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Ishmael Sallieu Koroma

One of Sierra Leone’s oldest bridges  in the country , the Savage Street bridge that connects St. John , Syke Street to the West of Freetown has collapsed this evening with no official death report announced so far.

The bridge which is one of the oldest  in the country with no exact date when it was built has been a main route connecting people daily from the West of the capital city of Freetown to the Central Business District.

There have been several complaints my residents living in the savage Street community calling on the government to repair the old infrastructure but fell deaf ears with many Sierra Leoneans and residents in the community blaming to not taking the lives of citizens seriously.

In 2018, the then Sierra Leone Road Safety Authority (SLRSA) Executive Director David Panda Noah, now Minister of Internal Affairs in the country, told Awoko Newspaper that the savage Street  Bridge is  “a disaster waiting to happen” as road audits have determined that it is unsafe because of nearby mining stating that their role as an institution  is to do the audits and report to Ministry of Works and Transport and Sierra Leone Roads Authority (SLRA) for their attention. 

City Mayor Yvonne Aki- Sawyer in an interview live on local TV, African Young Voices (AYV) told citizens that the collapsed of the Savage street has shown us a country about the importance of road maintenance in the country adding that the kind of maintenance involved in bridges is different to roads.

“ This is the responsibility of the Sierra Leone Roads Safety Authority and I think there is something else that is troubling me of what I am seeing. This is not council’s responsibility . There is roles of responsibility and that council , we are seriously resourced constrained. These kinds of work is not our own domain , funds are out there to do maintenance on these infrastructure,’’ Yvonne Aki-Sawyer told AYV in a live interview at the scene.

She went on to say she is not casting any blame on any individual as this is not the time for such rather its time to come collectively as different sector players to see how best they can solve the problem.

Citizens took to social media after the collapsed bridged was shown live on  Local Television stations ,  to demand government to do road safety audit on other bridges across the country like the old Rail way Line Bridge , Rogbere Bridge among others.

“Sierra Leone Roads Authority (SLRA) must now tell us whether Kingtom , Old Railway Line and Tengeh Town Bridges are all strong and safe enough for use. God help us ,’’Journalist Mohamed Jaward Nyallay wrote on his Facebook account.

Another Facebook user Fatmata B Jalloh , a popular social media commentator in the country wrote on her Facebook feeds ”I am still wondering why we are always waiting for a disaster to happened before we find solutions. Negligence is a big hinderance, lack of maintenance is another war. Praise be to God it didn’t cause any catastrophe , considering it been a strategic route for so many people. Thus, this makes my mind ran into the Rogbere Bridge . I hope and pray that they will soon finish the new bridge so that the old one will not cause any trouble’’

Several governments officials from the Ministry of Internal Affairs , Information Ministry , the Office of National Security to see the level of disaster that has happened to one of  the country’s oldest bridges.

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Covid-19 “an opportunity” say African Educators in Major New Survey
September 18, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Wallace Mawire

Fifty per cent of surveyed African teachers, trainers and education technology specialists think the Covid-19 pandemic will turn out to be a “significant” or “very significant” opportunity for African education.

The results of a survey, released today by eLearning Africa and EdTech Hub, show that many African educators are opportunistic about the future. They believe that Covid-19 has served as a “wake-up call,” which will encourage greater use of blended learning and new forms of technology assisted education and training in the continent’s schools, colleges and universities.

The survey, ‘The Effect of the Covid-19 Pandemic on African Education’ is based on interviews with more than 1600 education and technology professionals across Africa, who were asked about their experience of the Covid-19 pandemic and its implications. 85 per cent of respondents thought that the use of technology would be more widespread as a result of the crisis. As the African Union, among others, considers that technology is the key to the rapid expansion of education and thus to future economic growth, this is clearly good news.

One respondent, Joice, who has worked in technology and education for over 20 years and believes in the “fundamental role in society” of educational technologies said: “We have the opportunity in the face of the pandemic to improve the uses and access to technologies aimed at learning, at a time when students and teachers can become protagonists of a new model of education.”

Isso of Burkina Faso, a teacher, believes it is precisely the difficulty of the current crisis that will ultimately create real, long term benefits: “As the Covid-19 becomes a worldwide problem with no good solution, everybody in the world becomes involved in seeking solutions for their own survival that will lead to creativity, new ideas and new opportunities and part of evolution.”

And, from industry, corporate planner Sisu of Zimbabwe said: “This is the opportunity for a long-term evolution of the education system.”

The survey also pointed, however, to considerable nervousness about the development of a digital divide and a rise in inequalities among learners because of uneven access to technology. Respondents felt that learners in rural communities were most likely to be disadvantaged as a result of a lack of access to technology. They also felt that connectivity was the biggest obstacle preventing the development of more technology assisted learning – specifically, a lack of available and affordable connectivity.

Overall, respondents reported that school closures had been widespread across Africa (95 per cent said that all schools in their countries had been forced to close) and, whilst this had had many negative consequences, 92 per cent said they thought the closures were essential. However, the survey showed that most educators received no financial support for tools to help them continue teaching in the crisis, and felt that they had insufficient preparation to adapt to the demands of distance learning.

The survey also pointed to the effectiveness of different technologies at different levels, with television and radio seen as working well at the primary level and online learning at the secondary.

eLearning Africa Director Rebecca Stromeyer said that the survey showed that there was “plenty of evidence of ingenuity and innovation at all levels in many countries” in responding to the crisis.

“The crisis has been a real challenge for Africa but it has not, by and large, been the catastrophe that was predicted. Africans have used the technologies available to them to carry on teaching and learning. People have learnt from this crisis and they know how important technology now is to education.”

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Zimbabwean renowned writer Tsitsi Dangarembga shortlisted for the Booker Prize
September 18, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Wallace Mawire

Tsitsi Dangarembga
Tsitsi Dangarembga

Tsitsi Dangarembga, Zimbabwe’s prolific writer’s sublime novel has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

 South Africa’s Jacana Media said that  this is  a boost for Zimbabwean and southern African novelists and congratulated Dangarembga.

“We are over the moon to be the southern African publishers of This Mournable Body,” Jacana Media said.

The Booker judges wrote, ‘In this tense and psychologically charged novel, Tsitsi Dangarembga channels the hope and potential of one young girl and a fledgling nation to lead us on a journey to discover where lives go after hope has departed.’

The Booker Prize for Fiction, formerly known as the Booker–McConnell Prize (1969–2001) and the Man Booker Prize (2002–2019), is a literary prize awarded each year for the best original novel written in the English language and published in the United Kingdom.

  The winner of the Booker Prize is generally assured international renown and success.

 The prize is of great significance for the book trade. From its inception, only novels written by Commonwealth, Irish, and South African (and later Zimbabwean) citizens were eligible to receive the prize.

In 2014 it was widened to any English-language novel,a change that proved controversial.

A high-profile literary award in British culture, the Booker Prize is greeted with anticipation and fanfare.

 It is also a mark of distinction for authors to be selected for inclusion in the shortlist or even to be nominated for the “longlist”.

 The announcement has been made by Jacana Media, the only major South African Publishing company and owner-managed. 

The Jacana Literary Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation, runs literary competitions, the Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Award for best poetry in all languages, the Dinaane Debut Fiction Award, and the Gerald Kraak Award and Anthology, a collection of exceptional works which explore, interrogate and celebrate the topics of gender, sexuality and human rights.They are also the  original publishers of The Caine Prize for African Writing.

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Bollore Transport & Logistics appoints Cameroonian, Pierre Ngon to head operations in Benin and Niger
September 18, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Amos Fofung

Pierre Ngon
Pierre Ngon

Cameroon-born, Pierre Ngon has been appointed managing director of the Benin/Niger cluster of Bollore Transport & Logistics. With little over 20-year of service with Bolloré Transport & Logistics subsidiaries across Africa, Pierre’s promotion come as surprise to few who describe him as hardworking and a well-grounded expert in logistics.

At 47, Pierre Ngon who holds a Master’s in Management Sciences with major in Finance and Accounting from the University of Douala, possesses in-depth knowledge of the African continent and has developed robust managerial skills over his career.

On his promotion he is quoted to have said he was satisfied and grateful to the management of the company following his appointment declaring his readiness to work hard for the growth and development of the company.

“It is a great pride for me to join the cluster teams. The employees are passionate and the challenges for our company are great. Together, we will continue to develop activities, offer our customers competitive solutions, and participate in the socio-economic growth of these two magnificent countries…,” he noted. Ngon is an expert in transport and logistics. He holds a master’s degree in management science option finance & accounting obtained from the University of Douala.

With over two-decade career in the company, Ngon is no stranger to the work that awaits him. As part of his new responsibilities, Ngon is charged with overseeing the development of logistics activities in Benin and Niger, harnessing his knowledge of the market and addressing the needs of import and export customers while developing an innovative and agile solutions adapted to the needs of local and international customers.

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Surge of Covid-related Interest in Investment Migration from Nigerian Citizens
September 15, 2020 | 0 Comments

The massive volatility driven by Covid-19 has pushed the steady growth in investment migration into overdrive, with a nearly 50% increase in enquiries overall as the pandemic coursed around the globe in the six months to June 2020 compared to the same period last year. Due to the uncertain outlook of the Nigerian economy, clients are predominantly seeking alternative citizenship options to secure their wealth and their families’ future, with specific interest in Caribbean programs from Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis and Grenada. Private investors who prefer to invest in Europe are attracted to Portugal’s residence-by-investment (RBI) program and Montenegro’s CBI program.

“The tumultuous events of 2020, including the unplanned pause during the Great Lockdown, have resulted in people from all walks of life re-evaluating their circumstances and reconsidering how they wish to conduct their lives and — for those fortunate enough — choosing where they want to live by opting for investment migration,” says Henley & Partners Director of Private Clients and Head of Nigeria Stuart Wakeling. “Many are taking stock and ensuring they are better prepared for the next pandemic or major global disruption. The relentless volatility in terms of both wealth and lifestyle has resulted in a significant shift in how alternative residence and citizenship are perceived by high-net-worth investors around the world.”

In terms of the total number of enquiries made in the first six months of 2020, Indian nationals outstripped all other nationalities by a long stretch. Henley & Partners received 96.5% more enquiries from Indian nationals than Nigerian nationals, who were placed second, followed by Pakistan and, startlingly, the US.

In terms of quarterly growth in the numbers of enquiries between Q1 and Q2 2020, the sharpest rise was seen in Nigeria. Henley & Partners recorded an astonishing 185% increase in enquiries from Nigerian citizens between the first two quarters, and increases of 48%, 46%, and 40% from South African, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi nationals, respectively, while the growth in enquiries from Indian nationals was an impressive 28% — all on the back of healthy Q1 enquiry levels. Perhaps the most remarkable Covid-related shift, however, was the huge spike in enquiries from Americans along with growing interest from Canadian and UK nationals.

Commenting in the recently released Henley Passport Index Q3 Report, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Tel Aviv University in Israel, Prof. Dr. Yossi Harpaz, says the Covid-19 crisis has caused the world’s premium passports to lose some of their shine. “For decades, visa policies were designed to keep out illegal immigrants, asylum seekers, and terrorists. Citizens of wealthy and democratic countries — including Canada, the US, and Western European nations — apparently posed no such risks and enjoyed extensive visa-free travel throughout the world. In the current crisis, a new category of risk has emerged: the spreader. Since the US and Western Europe were among the world’s hardest hit areas, their citizens faced stringent mobility restrictions. This is, of course, a temporary situation, but in the long run it is likely to erode the prestige of EU and Western passports,” predicts Prof. Harpaz.

“Once ‘nice-to-have’ assets of convenience and privilege that enhanced travel freedom and provided vacation or second homes, alternative residence and citizenship have rapidly become ‘must-have’ essential assets, not just to survive, but to thrive in the 21st century”, says Henley & Partners Group Head of Sales Dominic Volek, who points out that 19 of the G20 nations offer some form of mechanism to encourage inward investment in exchange for residence rights. The 20th member is the EU, and 60% of EU member states offer investment migration options.

Several countries that host investment migration programs rank high on prominent indexes such as the 2020 Global Peace Index (GPI), which measures the level of peacefulness in 163 states, the World Bank’s 2020 Ease of Doing Business ranking of 190 economies, and Deep Knowledge Analytics’ updated Covid-19 Regional Safety Assessment rank of 250 countries, regions, and territories that was released late last month. For those seeking the comfort of an alternative residence option in times of crisis, New Zealand comes out on top, impressively ranking 1st in both the GPI and Ease of Doing Business index and 2nd in the Covid-19 Regional Safety Assessment index. Other secure alternatives for HNW families are Singapore, which ranks 7th in the GPI, 2nd in the Ease of Doing Business index, and 10th in the Covid-19 Regional Safety Assessment rank, and Australia, which ranks 13th, 14th, and 6th in the three indexes, respectively.

In terms of alternative citizenship options in Europe, which has long been a bastion of stability and security, Austria is the top option, ranking 4th in the GPI, 27th in the Ease of Doing Business index, and 8th in the Covid-19 Regional Safety Assessment index, while Montenegro ranks 69th in the GPI, 50th in the Ease of Doing Business index, and 83rd in the Covid-19 Regional Safety Assessment index. The Global Peace Index omits the Caribbean small-island nations, but St. Lucia ranks 93rd in the Ease of Doing Business index and 127th in the Covid-19 Regional Safety Assessment rank, making it the Caribbean program of choice for high-net-worth individuals (HNWI). Many affluent families are drawn to island nations due to their relatively small populations and the fact that they proved easier and quicker to lock down and secure in the current pandemic. Citizenship-by-investment in the Caribbean is a safe-harbor option favored by HNWI as a result.

Wakeling concludes that as we plunge into the worst recession since the Great Depression, proactive HNWI who have invested in alternative residence or citizenship for their families are best placed to weather the prolonged storm that lies ahead. “Many business owners, investors, and their families have realized that they can operate remotely and that there is no longer a need to be based in or close to the large financial city centers. In the post-Covid era, investment migration programs will be a reliable back-up plan, providing investors with unparalleled safety, security, stability, and opportunity, including access to major money markets. As a tried-and-tested hedge against volatility, securing alternative residence or citizenship is one of the safest, smartest, most sustainable investments you can make right now — an indispensable asset for many generations to come.”

Henley & Partners is the global leader in residence and citizenship planning. Each year, hundreds of wealthy individuals and their advisors rely on our expertise and experience in this area. The firm’s highly qualified professionals work together as one team in over 30 offices worldwide.

The concept of residence and citizenship planning was created by Henley & Partners in the 1990s. As globalization has expanded, residence and citizenship have become topics of significant interest among the increasing number of internationally mobile entrepreneurs and investors whom we proudly serve every day.

The firm also runs a leading government advisory practice that has raised more than USD 8 billion in foreign direct investment. Trusted by governments, the firm has been involved in strategic consulting and in the design, set-up, and operation of the world’s most successful residence and citizenship programs.

*Source Henley & Partners

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New maize variety set to uplift farmers’ fortunes in Africa
September 15, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Christine Ochogo*

Partners working in a maize project called TELA are captured in a farm under research recently (Photo: African Agricultural Technology Foundation).
Partners working in a maize project called TELA are captured in a farm under research recently (Photo: African Agricultural Technology Foundation).

For the second day in a row, Jerry Oyoo, a western Kenyan farmer from Nyagowa Village, Karachuonyo Constituency has just returned home with a sack of maize from his Kimira wetland farm.

“This is a huge waste of time, energy and money,” Mr Oyoo tells me sounding as if he needs some psycho-social support.

“I spent Ksh 5000 (USD50) to pay for the tractor man to till my land. I spent a further Ksh 3000 (USD30) to pay farm labourers for the first weeding plus a further Ksh 2500 (USD25) for the second weeding, and today I have just paid Ksh 1000 (USD10) to helpers to harvest the produce,” he says looking forlorn and dejected.

In all his calculations he spent Ksh 11,500 (USD115) only to return home with three sacks of maize all valued at Ksh 9,000 (USD90). As he brought home his last sack of maize harvest, Oyoo had just incurred a loss of Ksh 2500 (USD 25) without taking other inputs and time spent on the farm.

While addressing journalists allied to the Media for Environment, Science, Health and Agriculture (MESHA) in a virtual conference, Dr Sylvester Oikeh, a maize scientist, says farmers like Oyoo need not give up on farming asserting that biotechnology is the way to go in addressing the challenges brought along by effects of climate change, ever growing population leading to shrinking land for cultivation and biological challenges like pests and diseases. He added that biotechnology remains a strong investment for farmers like Oyoo.

The conference brought together 100 journalists from 30 African countries.

“Globally, for each dollar invested in biotech crop seeds, farmers gained an average $3.49. In 2016, farmers in developing countries received $5.06 for each extra dollar invested in biotech crop seeds, whereas farmers in developed countries received $2.70 for each extra dollar invested in biotech crop seeds,” Dr Oikeh said.

To show that scientists are not sleeping on the job, the maize guru said that his organisation, the African Agricultural Technology Foundation with other partners such as the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation  (KALRO) have been working towards getting transgenic drought-tolerant and insect-protected maize varieties to farmers to enhance food security in sub-Saharan Africa.

“We work on a project called TELA maize which seeks to ensure farmers who access the variety will be able to mitigate effects of climate change especially moderate drought and losses to insects such as stem borers and fall armyworm,” said Dr. Oikeh who is the Project Manager at AATF.

Dr. Oikeh spoke on the Status on development and commercialization of transgenic TELA maize for African farmersin a virtual conference that brought together nearly 200 science journalists from 30 African countries and beyond to discuss conservation, climate change, agriculture, and health to bolster factual reporting on science.

“When farmers have access to the TELA maize varieties they will be able to mitigate effects of climate change especially moderate drought and losses to insects such as stem borers and fall armyworm,” said the expert who boasts of over 30 years research trail on maize in the continent.

TELA Bt maize hybrid varieties were released to smallholder farmers in South Africa in 2016 and has been granted environmental release to proceed to national performance trials in Kenya.

“National performance trials (NPTs) are carried out in Kenya by the Kenya Plant Health and Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) to determine the agronomic potential and adaptability of new varieties relative to those currently in the market,” said Dr Mwimali Murenga from KALRO. He added that they have already planted in Alupe, Kakamega and Kibos. Other sites Embu, Mwea and thika will be planted from mid oct 2020 during the short rains season.

The NPTs are carried out to evaluate maize hybrids that have potential for commercialization. Experimental material under test are usually compared to those in the market. Several sites from a minimum of 6 sites to a maximum 10 sites are usually planted depending on the growing zones, added Dr Murenga.

Bt maize gave positive and significant effect on yield across varieties and trials with 52 per cent yield advantage over non-Bt maize in Kenya and Uganda,” said Dr. Oikeh, noting that full adoption of Bt maize in Kenya could save the country a whopping 400,000 tonnes equivalent to US 90 million that is lost to stemborer damage annually.

Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) is a microbe naturally found in soil and that has been used as a biological pesticide for several decades to control insect damage mostly in the horticulture industry. Usually used as a spray, scientists found a way to incorporate Bt proteins (genes) into the plant to give the plant protection against certain insect pests such as stem borer and fall armyworm without spraying the plant.

While responding to a question on safety concerns on the technology, Dr. Oikeh re-affirmed the safety of biotech products, noting that farmers from other regions across the world are enjoying the benefits of the technology.

“Several global authorities including World Health Organization (WHO); Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO); European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and many Academies of Sciences have all indicated the GM food that have been evaluated and passed through regulatory scrutiny and approved are safe to eat,” he emphasized.

In Africa, nine countries including Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Nigeria and Sudan have approved and released transgenic cotton, cowpea, maize and soybean. Globally, 67 countries are either growing or trading with biotech crops.

The TELA Maize Project works with governments in seven African countries including Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda – to deliver the new TELA maize varieties to farmers. All TELA maize varieties will be made available to smallholder farmers through local seed companies after assessment by national authorities according to the country’s regulatory requirements.

*christawine@gmail.com

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South Sudan opts for School Reopening despite surge in Covid-19 cases
September 15, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Deng Machol

Juba – Schools and learning institutions have started welcoming students and pupils into its premises despite lingering fears of the covid – 19 pandemic .

On Monday, Sept 15 marked the first day that gates of the schools were opened since the global pandemic led to close of learning institutions in March to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus.

The reopening of learning institutions comes after the transitional cabinet gave a green light during its first meeting since March chaired by President Salva Kiir in Juba on Friday.

The resumption of all levels of institutions of learning also comes as the minister of health presented a report on the status of the coronavirus in the country, saying it has waned in the country in recent weeks.

South Sudan that had a fragile health system, blighted by an immense corruption, has recorded over 2,592 cases of covid 19 with 49 succumbed and 1,438 recovered cases since the first infections in April.

Despite the new cases in the country the council of ministers directed the ministers of general and higher education to reopen schools.

Though, the reopening is welcome, parents are still skeptical on the safety of their children at the schools.

“The learners [of primary and secondary] need serious orientations because they cannot understand what the face mask is and they cannot identify what a social distancing is,” said Juma Lado, resident of Juba.  

The parents said there is also need to enforce pandemic guidelines since the health crisis caused by the virus still stands.

“I should be worried because teaching rooms are very crowding and it is easily to contact the virus,” said David Lual, 15 year old, senior two student in Juba, still an incredulous whether to join or not.

Due to massive ignorance on the pandemic in restive country, many students fear that they are going to study without observing all the preventive measures and this will lead ill health.

“Our lives matter and should be protected because if we are safe, then our parents will be safe too at home,” Mary Sebit, a student in Juba.

Meanwhile, the National Taskforce on Covid – 19 pandemic has welcomed the decision by the government to reopen schools but says all necessary preventive measures must be put in place across all schools and institutions of learning to ensure pupils and students protect themselves from the pandemic as they resume learning.

Many children agencies, including the Save the Children has commended the decision of school re-opening but advocates for the transitional government of Juba to provides all children with access to age appropriate information about pandemic in all applicable languages and to track how rumors and misinformation maybe harming or impacting specific groups of children.

“Save the Children welcomes the decision taken by the government of South Sudan to re-open schools to ease concerns on how covid – 19 has affected children’s rights to survival, protection and learning while at home,” said Rama Hansraj, the Country’s Director for Save the Children.

 The decision to re-open schools puts the smile on the face of 2.2 million children whose right to education was impacted by six months of schools’ closure.

“We are very happy to return to school after long time,” said Kiden, 14 years old –girl, but our lives is precious, and therefore, we deserves any protection from the pandemic and then president Kiir’s government shouldn’t only gave okay and go back and sit without provides enough face masks to all the schools in the country.”

However, Save the Children further urge the government to ensure that these children who are out of school are mobilized to resume their education and to be put in place the necessary health guidance to ensure that children, teachers and their parents are protected from potential risks pose by the covid – 19.

Of recent, over 150 cases of child marriage has recorded since a partial lockdown was imposed in the world youngest nation.

The closure of schools comes with traditional cultural practices that promote early marriage in the South Sudanese communities.

South Sudan’s legal marital age is 18 years, but the country had a desperate poverty due to long wars, has for long grappled with high rates of early and forced marriages.

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