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Standard Chartered Bank Launches its First-Ever Digital Bank in Africa
March 17, 2018 | 0 Comments
Côte d’Ivoire marks the pilot launch of the digital bank
ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast, March 16, 2018/ — Standard Chartered Bank (www.SC.com) today announced the official launch of its digital bank in Côte d’Ivoire. This marks the Bank’s first digital bank in Africa and the first-of-its-kind to open in Côte d’Ivoire.

Mr. Bruno Nabagné KONE, Minister of Information technologies and communication of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire, was the guest of honour at the official launch event. The event was attended by dignitaries, business leaders, clients and senior management, as well as sporting legend and Ivorian icon, Didier Drogba. As the Bank’s Digital Ambassador, Drogba shared his experience on the ease of opening an account using his mobile phone. He is the first person in Côte d’Ivoire to open a digital account at the Bank.

Commenting on the launch, Sunil Kaushal, Regional CEO, Africa and Middle East said: “We are pleased to launch our first digital bank in Africa with the support of the Government of Côte d’Ivoire. This is a key milestone on our digital journey as a Bank and underlines our commitment to investing and growing in the market. We have been steadily investing in expanding our footprint in Africa over the years, and this will continue to be a priority moving forward. Digitising Africa remains at the heart of our business strategy for the region, and we look to implement our Côte d’Ivoire model across other markets in the coming months.”

Commenting on the launch, Jaydeep Gupta, Regional Head of Retail Banking, Africa & Middle East, said: “Our new digital bank was developed with our clients in mind. We have taken into consideration the feedback received by our clients at each stage of the design process and have incorporated innovative technology to allow them to execute all banking activities from a mobile device. This includes 70 banking services through the app.”

“In addition, for the first time, the client onboarding journey has been digitised and in under 15 minutes a client can open a new account through the app. What has also been introduced is the ability for clients to track and trace a request submitted, which is a first for Standard Chartered. This is something we are very proud of.”

Isaac Foly, Chief Executive Officer, Côte d’Ivoire, said: “I’m pleased to have launched the Bank’s first digital retail bank in Côte d’Ivoire and proud to see the progress the country has made over the past decade. We have seen how digital transformation has contributed to economic development and will continue to do so, in line with the country’s National Development Plan. Our partnership with Didier Drogba has helped raise awareness, not only for our digital offering, but for enhancing financial literacy and improving accessibility to financial services across Côte d’Ivoire. Promoting the social and economic wellbeing of communities is a key component of our strategy to support sustainable development and our digital bank is certainly another step in the right direction.”

The bank’s digital services are available by downloading the Standard Chartered mobile application. New clients can execute all of their banking activities right from their mobile devices, starting by opening their bank account in less than 15 minutes. They can also provide all verification documents by uploading to the application and fully complete their onboarding process within minutes.

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Africa, Latest Theater in America’s Endless War
March 17, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Joe Penney*

Emin Ozmen/Magnum Photos Security forces passing near a refugee camp for Nigeriens displaced by Boko Haram attacks, Niger, 2017

Africa. Niger. Toumour. 2017. Nigerien security forces pass near Toumor refugee camp where 47 thousand Nigerian refugees and internally displaced Nigerians took shelter in southeastern Niger. According to the UN last report (August 2017) 2,3 million people displaced in Lake Chad Basin and 129 thousand Nigeriens internally displaced in Niger after Boko Haram attacks in the region since 2015.

Last October, four American soldiers, four Nigerien soldiers, and a Nigerien translator were killed in combat on Niger’s border with Mali while looking for the jihadi militant Doundoun Cheffou. For the most part, the fallout concentrated on President Trump’s mangled call with the widow of Sergeant La David Johnson. But the incident also called attention to a dangerous development at multiple levels of US politics. From a small village in rural Niger all the way to the White House, the US military has increasing influence over American foreign policy in Africa.

American Special Forces have been operating in Niger since at least 2013, when President Obama authorized forty troops to aid the French intervention against jihadist groups in Mali. At the time of the Tongo Tongo attack, four years later, there were 800 US soldiers in Niger. The American engagement there remains the second largest on the continent, after Djibouti. Special Forces are stationed around the country and carry out missions against jihadist targets and drug traffickers with their Nigerien counterparts. The US Air Force is building a $110 million drone base that is technically the property of the Nigerien military, although it is paid for and built by the Pentagon, and access for Nigerien soldiers is currently restricted.

A senior Nigerien military commander told me that the American military has an expansionist agenda in the country and constantly pushes for more missions on the ground. According to a Nigerien soldier who participated in the operation on October 4, the American soldiers involved in Tongo Tongo had ignored the advice of their Nigerien colleagues, putting their unit in danger. In Niger, buoyant, proactive, and well-resourced security institutions like the Department of Defense, Africa Command, and Special Operations Forces have led policy at the expense of a demoralized and downgraded State Department.

Defense cooperation between the US and Africa took off after George W. Bush established Africa Command in 2007. Since then, the Command, known as AFRICOM, has established a constellation of American forward-operating bases and runs training programs and exercises with nearly every country on the continent. Under Obama, the use of Special Forces expanded to the point where they are like “a command within a command” in Africa, according to Matthew T. Page, a former diplomat and current associate fellow with the Africa program at the British-based foreign policy institute Chatham House. Special Forces can fund and train foreign elite units under a legal precedent set by Section 1208 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2005. By 2017, the 1208 authority budget has swelled to $100 million.

Niger is just one of the many countries around the world in which the US has trained elite military units in the name of counterterrorism. But as Lauren P. Blanchard, an analyst at the Congressional Research Service, told me, “The problem with training elite units is that those forces may be first and foremost in charge of regime protection versus civilian security.” American and host government interests align when jihadist groups are the security priority, but if a government feels that its power is more threatened by democratic protesters, or members of an opposition party, it often employs its special forces in ways the Americans did not envision in their training programs.

For example, the US trained Mali’s elite parachute regiment, known as the red berets, for years in order to fight the growing terrorism problem in the country’s northern regions. Jihadist veterans from Algeria’s civil war had established themselves there throughout the early 2000s, and recruited in the desert areas. But in 2012, lower-ranking soldiers carried out a coup d’état after soldiers in the Kati military camp briefly detained the defense minister, who was visiting them to quell concern over conditions of their colleagues fighting in the north. The soldiers then seized munitions and took control of the presidential palace. The red berets were suddenly out of power, and they launched a counter-coup that failed. In the ensuing violence, almost two dozen red berets were killed. “It was a presidential protection unit and, at the end of the day, [the American training] didn’t professionalize that unit,” said Page. “When this coup attempt happened, half the regiment turned its guns on the other half, killed them and buried them in a mass grave.” In the chaos that followed, jihadist militants took control of the north of the country.

In Burkina Faso, the US worked closely with the Régiment de Sécurité Présidentielle, the feared presidential guard whose chief, Gilbert Diendéré, was also the country’s top intelligence officer. When popular protests forced his boss, former President Blaise Compaoré, to flee the country aboard a French military helicopter in 2014, the government that was then elected began investigating Diendéré and his unit for killing protesters. Diendéré and his soldiers responded by launching a coup, which was eventually put down peacefully by the rest of the military.

A US Army News Service article points to a dilemma faced by soldiers in northern Cameroon, who are stationed there to aid Cameroon’s fight against the militant group Boko Haram. The American soldiers are carrying out a diplomatic role that is not normally within their purview. “With no State Department personnel stationed in the area, soldiers are often placed into a warrior-diplomat role, representing the American government wherever they go.” But even AFRICOM seems worried by the mission creep that inevitably takes place when a solider becomes a “warrior-diplomat.” Posted by AFRICOM to its official website, the article notes that “any misconduct by a soldier could spark controversy and put the nascent relationship between both countries in jeopardy.”

In Cameroon, American Special Forces work closely with the Brigade d’intervention rapide, an elite, Israeli-trained unit that fights Boko Haram. Last year, Amnesty International found that on a small base in Salak, near the border of Nigeria that the American soldiers shared with the B.I.R., at least sixty people “were subjected to water torture, beaten with electric cables and boards, or tied and suspended with ropes, among other abuses.” Some of the B.I.R. soldiers have now been deployed to put down an uprising in Cameroon’s Anglophone region on the border with Nigeria. Reports of human rights abuses in the area are rife, and the Internet has been shut down there for the past year.

Yet, little seems to weaken AFRICOM’s vision of its work as inherently good. “Within US policy circles, or within US training and assistance community, or within the Special Operations community, there are these beliefs in cardinal truths, that US training and engagement makes these units more professional, that we ‘have to do something’ to help them fight terrorism,” said Page, the Chatham House researcher. “This failure to appreciate the consequences of these day-to-day things that we’re doing and what long-term implications they may have… characterizes US foreign policy in the Sahel.”

There is little hope that the US will stop putting heavy emphasis on military solutions in Africa, or, for that matter, elsewhere in the world. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who had no prior experience in diplomacy, is essentially charged with taking apart his own agency. State’s budget has been slashed, and Tillerson has overseen the exit of an entire echelon of senior diplomats from the department. In the meantime, Secretary of Defense James Mattis has secured ever more resources for the Defense Department.

Trump’s choice for Senior Africa Director on the National Security Council is Cyril Sartor, who was the Deputy Assistant Director of the CIA for Africa. There has not been a permanent Secretary of State for African Affairs since January 2017, but in December, the Defense Department named Alan Patterson its new Deputy Assistant Secretary for African AffairsPatterson is another CIA alum, who was previously in charge of clandestine operations in Africa. That former CIA officers occupy two of three leading positions for US engagement in Africa is dismaying. In earlier decades, the CIA was implicated in the assassination of Congo’s independence leader Patrice Lumumba, the coup d’état that overthrew Ghana’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah, and the arrest by the apartheid South African government of Nelson Mandela. More recently, in 2011 the CIA armed rebels fighting Muammar Qaddafi in Libya. The agency’s history of disruptive actions is not a promising backdrop to the general contours of American strategy today on a continent of countries that the US president has labeled “shithole.”

The gap left by the US’s (and, to some extent, Europe’s) lack of economic and political engagement with Africa has led the continent to turn its attention elsewhere for trade and investment. “Essentially, the entire non-military agenda in Africa of Africa’s outside partners has been ceded to China,” said Columbia professor Howard French, author of China’s Second Continent, a study of Chinese involvement in Africa. The lack of engagement is to the detriment of both Africa and the US, he argued.

Abou Tarka, a brigadier general in Niger’s military whose brother-in-law was recently named chief of staff of the country’s armed forces, told me that Niger won’t end up like Yemen, where the US has killed at least 103 civilians, because the relationship between the country’s government and the American military is strong. “The situations are different,” Tarka said. “In Yemen, Americans are belligerent; they don’t cooperate with the government.” A top Nigerien military commander, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to talk to the press, told me that he doesn’t believe the drones will make mistakes because they are only authorized for use in defensive situations.

But this is the same authorization that the US employs elsewhere for manifestly offensive operations. Jennifer Gibson, a lawyer who researches American drone strikes for the nonprofit group Reprieve, explained: “We’ve seen this malleable definition before, most recently in Yemen and Pakistan, where a program that started as ‘defensive’ wound up striking people simply because their behavior ‘looked’ suspicious. Hundreds of innocent men, women and children were killed as a result.”

I asked a Nigerien civilian who works on the drone base what the forces there think about their mission. “The American soldiers themselves don’t know why they’re here,” she said, but the local population is anxious about whether the US will make the same mistakes in West Africa as they have elsewhere in the world. “The Americans are on a balance,” she said. “It’s up to them as to which way they will tip the scale.”

Trump was elected on a platform that pledged to break with past US interventionism, arguing “we cannot commit American troops to battle without a real and tangible objective.” But the latest iteration of the endless global “war on terror”—this time, as a war in Africa with little civilian oversight, dangerous consequences, and ballooning budgets—undermines that resolve. And while America is making war in Africa and military engagement morphs into a proxy for foreign policy run by the Pentagon, China is doing business.


*Source NYR Daily .Reporting for this article was facilitated by a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

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Zimbabwe’s coal output set to quadruple as investors arrive
March 17, 2018 | 0 Comments
Minister of Mines Winston Chitando

Minister of Mines Winston Chitando

Zimbabwe has attracted around $300 million in its coal industry that will quadruple production next year versus 2017, its mining minister told an investment conference in London on Thursday.

The country, which says its abundant mineral resources include more than 40 exploitable minerals, is seeking to lure foreign investment to reboot its economy after a coup that pushed out veteran leader Robert Mugabe last year.

Minister of Mines and Mining Development Winston Chitando said interest had focused on coal, as well as on lithium and platinum.

He was speaking to investors in London, attending his first conference on Zimbabwe outside Africa since taking office.

In Cape Town in February, he had said battery mineral lithium was among the most popular deposits.

He told London investors coal output in Zimbabwe would reach more than 8 million tonnes next year compared with around 2 million in 2017. Speaking to Reuters on the sidelines of the conference he said that followed investment of around $300 million. He did not name the investors.

Zimbabwe says it is trying to develop solar power too, but needs to address its energy needs, which are responsible for around 25 percent of its import bill because of a shortfall in domestic generation.

Many miners see a strong business model in coal as a high-margin business and a cheap way to generate power in remote African communities.

Zimbabwe Minister of Mines and Mining Development Winston Chitando speaking at Zimdaba Conference in London

The world’s biggest shipper of export quality coal Glencore says the best coal will generate profits for the foreseeable future because of a shortage of new supply following a collapse in investment during the 2015-16 commodity downturn.

It says there is still demand, despite environmental opposition to the most polluting fossil fuel.

Zimbabwe is at the same time trying to promote those minerals that serve a cleaner world economy.

Speaking in Cape Town in February, Chitando announced a lithium deal. In London, he said another would soon follow. He also said there was interest in Zimbabwe’s platinum reserves, which are second only in scale to those in South Africa.

International companies seeking to develop lithium in Zimbabwe – which Chitando has said could meet around a fifth of the world’s needs – include Prospect Resources  and Chimata Gold.

As terms for foreign investors get tougher in some African jurisdictions, notably Democratic Republic of Congo, many investors welcome Zimbabwe’s promise of a stable environment and regulatory certainty as well as a crackdown on corruption.

For anyone investing more than $100 million, Chitando said there would be a special mining license, meaning particularly favorable conditions, such as negotiating royalties.

*Reuters

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Russian-Zimbabwean firm to invest $400m in Zimbabwe platinum
March 17, 2018 | 0 Comments
President Mnangagwa is extending an olive branch to foreign companies

President Mnangagwa is extending an olive branch to foreign companies

LONDON – Great Dyke Investments (GDI) said on Thursday it would invest around $400-million to build a precious metals mine and smelter in Zimbabwe, as the country opens up to international business.

The joint venture between Russia’s Afromet and Zimbabwe’s Pen East expects to produce up to 855 000 oz (27 t) of platinum group metals and gold per year from the Darwendale PGM project.

Its deposit, which has total resources of around 1 300 t of platinum group metals (PGMs) is part of the Great Dyke in Zimbabwe and is the world’s biggest PGM asset, the companies said in a statement.

Zimbabwe is the third largest platinum producer at 445 000 oz last year, behind South Africa and Russia, according to the World Platinum Investment Council.

GDI’s CEO Igor Higer expects the project will double the production of PGMs in Zimbabwe. He is one of several investors who have spent more than $100-million, which entitles them to special terms.

The mine life after project ramp-up to full capacity is estimated at 35 years.

“According to our estimates the investment in the first phase the project construction is $400-million,” said Hepsina Rukato, chairman of the GDI board of directors.

The companies said that the initial infrastructure of roads, storage and residential facilities have been built.

The project is expected to create around 8 000 highly skilled jobs at full capacity.

PricewaterhouseCoopers and SFA Oxford provide analytical support to the project. Cresco Project Finance and EY have been engaged as financial advisers.

*Reuters

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Sao Tome, Solomon Island others sets to graduate from poorest nations
March 17, 2018 | 0 Comments

…As Angola, Vanuatu are scheduled for graduation over the next three years

By Olayinka Ajayi

a picture of one of the many beach resorts in Sao Tome and Principe

a picture of one of the many beach resorts in Sao Tome and Principe

Following the strictly observation of the Committee for Development Policy CDP,  Bhutan, Kiribati, Sao Tome and Principe and the Solomon Islands have been spotted to soon graduate from the ranks of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable nations.

Speaking , Jose Ocampo, chairman of the CDP, said these countries has increased their national earning power and improved access to health care and education, which make them eligible to exit the group of least developed countries (LDCs).

He however stated that only five countries had graduated since the UN established the LDC category in 1971.

According to him: “LDCs are assessed using three criteria: health and education targets; economic vulnerability; and gross national income per capita. Countries must meet two of the three criteria at two consecutive triennial reviews of the CDP to be considered for graduation.The committee would send its recommendations to the UN economic and social council (ECOSOC) for endorsement, which would then refer its decision to the UN general assembly.”

Meanwhile, Diane Elson, a member of CDP and professor at the University of Essex in the UK, added that the announcement was good news for millions of women in rural areas.  “The success of the countries that are graduating reflects things like the improvement of the health and the education of the population, which extends to rural women, and the increase in incomes in the country, which extends to rural women,” she said.

Elson further opined that the countries require continued international support because they remained vulnerable to external shocks, including the impact of climate change, currently evident in Pacific Island states such as Kiribati.

According to the UN Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, globally, there are 47 LDCs. Thirty-three are in Africa, while 13 can be found in the Asia-Pacific region, and one is in Latin America. In the 47 years of the LDC category’s existence, only five countries – Botswana, Cabo Verde, Equatorial Guinea, Maldives and Samoa – had graduated.

The CDP said two more countries, Vanuatu and Angola, were scheduled for graduation over the next three years.

Nepal and Timor-Leste also met the criteria but were not recommended for graduation at this time, due to economic and political challenges.

According to Ocampo, that decision would be deferred to the next CDP triennial review in 2021.

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Israel court suspends plan to deport African migrants
March 16, 2018 | 0 Comments
People from Eritrea and Sudan make up a significant number of migrants in Israel

People from Eritrea and Sudan make up a significant number of migrants in Israel

Israel’s supreme court has suspended a controversial government plan to deport tens of thousands of African migrants who entered the country illegally.

It gave the state until 26 March to provide more information on the plan.

In January, the migrants – mostly from Eritrea and Sudan – were offered $3,500 (£2,510) and a plane ticket to leave Israel voluntarily by the end of March.

Otherwise, they faced detention and subsequent expulsion. The UN refugee agency criticised the plan.

The Israeli court issued its ruling on Thursday, following a legal challenge by a group of migrants from Eritrea and Sudan.

The government now cannot deport African migrants until the court receives additional information.

Israeli authorities say there are currently more than 40,000 African migrants in Israel, describing them as “infiltrators”.

Most of them entered from Egypt several years ago, before a new fence was built along the desert border. This has almost ended illegal crossings.

Only single young men are affected by the government plan.

It exempts children, women, parents of dependent minors and victims of slavery and human trafficking.

The authorities have said the migrants’ return will be humane and “voluntary”.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has claimed that an unchecked influx of African migrants could threaten Israel’s Jewish character.

*BBC

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Ex-Zimbabwe leader Mugabe calls ouster ‘coup d’etat’
March 16, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Fanuel JONGWE*

File Picture Former President Mugabe and his former Vice President and successor  Mnangagwa

File Picture Former President Mugabe and his former Vice President and successor Mnangagwa

Harare (AFP) – Former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe described his departure from office in November as a “coup d’etat” that “we must undo” in his first TV interviews since then, aired on Thursday.

Mugabe, 94, spoke slowly but clearly to South Africa’s SABC broadcaster from an office in Harare, dressed in a grey suit, sitting in front of a portrait of himself and his wife Grace.

“I say it was a coup d’etat — some people have refused to call it a coup d’etat,” said Mugabe referring to the brief army takeover which led to Emmerson Mnangagwa assuming power after Mugabe’s resignation.

“We must undo this disgrace which we have imposed on ourselves, we don’t deserve it… Zimbabwe doesn’t deserve it.”

In another similarly vehement interview, with Britain’s ITV News, the elderly former leader said he had no desire to return to power.

“I don’t want to be president, no of course,” he said. “I’m now 94.”

Mugabe told both interviewers he did not hate his successor President Mnangagwa, 75, but alleged that he had “betrayed the whole nation”.

The ousted leader insisted he would not work with Mnangagwa and suggested that his presidency was “illegal” and “unconstitutional”.

“People must be chosen in government in a proper way. I’m willing to discuss, willing to assist in that process — but I must be invited,” he said.

Gideon Chitanga, an analyst at the Johannesburg-based Political Economy Southern Africa think-tank, said that Mugabe’s intervention was significant “coming at a time of elections”.

– ‘The man who turned against me’ –

Presidential polls are due by the end of August in which Mnangagwa will face his first major electoral test.

“In the back of his mind (Mugabe) still sees himself as part of the problem and part of the solution,” said Chitanga.

Mugabe’s media appearance was apparently organised by the new National Patriotic Front (NPF) party which hopes to unseat Mnangagwa’s government in polls expected by August.

Mugabe sent shockwaves through the ZANU-PF ruling party when he recently met with the NPF’s leader, retired general Ambrose Mutinhiri.

In response to a widely-shared image of the two, ZANU-PF Youth League supporters chanted “down with Mugabe” at a rally, a rare outburst from the normally disciplined party that Mugabe led for nearly four decades.

Mugabe was forced to quit the political scene he had dominated since independence from Britain in 1980 when the military stepped in and ZANU-PF lawmakers launched impeachment proceedings against their once beloved leader.

Since his dramatic reversal of fortune, he has largely stayed out of public life — until breaking his silence Thursday.

Despite widespread jubilation following the army’s seizure of power, many Zimbabweans are now disenchanted by what they see as a mere changing of the guard at the top of Zimbabwe’s authoritarian system.

“It was a coup with a script to turn this into a military state. The people wanted a change of the entire ZANU-PF system — not just one individual,” businessman Munyaradzi Chihota, 40, told AFP as he travelled home.

“The situation has not changed since they removed Mugabe. If anything, we are worse off. (Mugabe) is 100 percent right that this was a military coup, that this country has been turned into a military state — and that this has to be undone.”

The military moved against Mugabe after he sacked his then-deputy and heir-apparent Mnangagwa, seemingly fearing the nonagenarian was grooming Grace to succeed him as president.

The former first lady had cultivated her own factional support base within ZANU-PF known as “G-40” that was seen as hostile to the security establishment — Mnangagwa in particular.

“I never thought… he would be the man who turned against me,” said Mugabe.

“It was truly a military takeover, there was no movement visible unless that movement was checked and allowed by the army.”

Evan Mawarire, a pastor who became the face of anti-Mugabe demonstrations last year, tweeted that Mugabe “destroyed our lives”.

“Today he appears on foreign media which he banned and claims he must be invited to a transitional process for Zimbabwe #RetireInPeaceBob.”

Reflecting on his decades in power, which were marked by catastrophic economic policies, Mugabe remained adamant it had been a success story and any errors “weren’t that bad”.

“If anything, in comparison to other countries in Africa, we have had greater prosperity here and people have their land,” he told ITV News.

However, when questioned about well documented human rights abuses throughout his tenure, Mugabe appeared more acknowledging of reality.

“We have been accused of that and on that side, yes some errors were done.”

*AFP

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Somalians, Gabonese happier than Ghanaians – World Happiness Survey
March 15, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Papisdaff Abdullah

Ghana has been ranked as the 108th happiest country in the World, according to the 2018 World Happiness Report.
Ghana ranked lower than African countries such as Nigeria (91), Cameroon (99), Gabon (103), South Africa (105) and Ivory Coast (107).

Somalia which has long been plagued by suicide bombing and constant attacks by terrorist group Al-Shabab ranked 98 on the report, much higher than Ghana.
The report comes at a time the government claims that the living conditions of most Ghanaians have improved.
Burundi in East Africa, scarred by bouts of ethnic cleansing, civil wars and coup attempts, is the unhappiest place in the world. Strikingly, there are five other nations – Rwanda, Yemen, Tanzania, South Sudan and the Central African Republic – which report happiness levels below that of even Syria.

The 2018 World Happiness Report also charts the steady decline of the US as the world’s largest economy grapples with a crisis of obesity, substance abuse and depression.

The study reveals the US has slipped to 18th place, five places down on 2016. The top four places are taken by Nordic nations, with Finland followed by Norway, Denmark and Iceland.Finland overtook Norway to become the happiest nation on earth, according to a UN report.

“Finland has vaulted from fifth place to the top of the rankings this year,” said the report’s authors, although they noted that the other three Nordic countries (plus Switzerland) have almost interchangeable scores.
The report, an annual publication from the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, said all the Nordic countries scored highly on income, healthy life expectancy, social support, freedom, trust and generosity. The rankings are based on Gallup polls of self-reported wellbeing, as well as perceptions of corruption, generosity and freedom.

In Britain, figures from the Office for National Statistics suggest people have become happier in recent years. But the UN ranking places the UK in a lowly 19th place, the same as last year but behind Germany, Canada and Australia, although ahead of France and Spain.

The UN report devotes a special chapter to why the US, once towards the top of happiness table, has slipped down the league despite having among the highest income per capita.

“America’s subjective wellbeing is being systematically undermined by three interrelated epidemic diseases, notably obesity, substance abuse (especially opioid addiction) and depression,” said Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University in New York, and one of the report’s authors.

Despite African countries getting the worst happiness scores, one West African nation has bucked the trend. Togo came bottom in 2015 but was the biggest improver in the 2018 report, rising 18 places. Latvians and Bulgarians are also reporting higher levels of happiness.

Venezuela recorded the biggest fall in happiness, outstripping even Syria, although in absolute terms it remains a mid-ranking country. The report notes that Latin American countries generally scored more highly than their GDP per capita suggests, especially in contrast to fast-growing East Asian countries.

Latin America is renowned for corruption, high violence and crime rates, unequal distribution of income and widespread poverty, yet has consistently scored relatively highly in the happiness report.
The authors attributed this to “the abundance of family warmth and other supportive social relationships frequently sidelined in favour of an emphasis on income measures in the development discourse”.

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South Africa’s Ramaphosa says will stop illegal land grabs
March 15, 2018 | 0 Comments
FILE PHOTO: South African President Cyril Ramaphosa speaks in parliament in Cape Town, South Africa, February 20, 2018. REUTERS/Sumaya Hisham/File Photo

FILE PHOTO: South African President Cyril Ramaphosa speaks in parliament in Cape Town, South Africa, February 20, 2018. REUTERS/Sumaya Hisham/File Photo

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) – South Africa will not allow illegal land grabs, new President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Wednesday, as the country prepares to expropriate land without compensation following a vote in parliament.

Ramaphosa, who replaced Jacob Zuma as president in February, is under pressure to deliver on promises to speed up land reform after slow progress at redistributing land to the country’s black majority since the end of white minority rule in 1994.

“We cannot have a situation where we allow land grabs, because that is anarchy,” Ramaphosa said in a speech in parliament. “We cannot have a situation of anarchy when we have proper constitutional means through which we can work to give land to our people.”

Since parliament endorsed a motion to change the constitution to allow land expropriation without compensation late last month, a Reuters reporter saw people frustrated with the sluggish pace of land reform seizing land outside Pretoria.

The ruling African National Congress (ANC) has long promised reforms to redress racial disparities in land ownership, but moves to expropriate land without compensation gathered pace after the party formally backed the policy in December.

Ramaphosa has stressed that food production and security in the continent’s biggest maize producer, must not be threatened by land reform.

The land issue in Africa’s most industrialized economy remains highly emotive more than two decades after the end of apartheid as white people still own most of South Africa’s land following centuries of brutal colonial dispossession.

South Africa has a history of colonial conquest and dispossession that pushed the black majority into crowded urban townships and rural reserves.

It has worried some economists and farming groups, which have warned of a potentially devastating impact on the agricultural sector.

*Reuters

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South Africa criticises Australian plan to fast-track white farmer visas
March 15, 2018 | 0 Comments

Security studies experts say there’s no evidence to support claims that white farmers are more targeted than anyone else

By *

 Peter Dutton offered to fast-track visas for white farmers saying they “deserve special attention” due to the “horrific circumstances”. Photograph: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

Peter Dutton offered to fast-track visas for white farmers saying they “deserve special attention” due to the “horrific circumstances”. Photograph: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

South Africa has criticised Australian home affairs minister Peter Dutton’s offer to fast-track the visas of its white African farmers, saying his comments on the supposed threat to their lives and land were “sad” and “regrettable”.

A spokesperson for international relations minister Lindiwe Sisulu, said: “There is no need to fear … we want to say to the world that we are engaged in a process of land redistribution which is very important to address the imbalances of the past. But it is going to be done legally, and with due consideration of the economic impact and impact on individuals.”

On Wednesday, Dutton said white farmers deserved “special attention” due to the “horrific circumstances” of land seizures and violence. It follows recent reports in Australian media of “numerous and increasing cases of rape and torture carried out on white farmers” and “a white minority in South Africa being murdered and tortured off their farms”.

However, Gareth Newham at the Institute for Security Studies, one of South Africa’s leading authorities on crime statistics, said there was no evidence to support the notion that white farmers were targeted more than anyone else in the country.

“In fact, young black males living in poor urban areas like Khayelitsha and Lange face a far greater risk of being murdered. The murder rate there is between 200 and 300 murders per 100,000 people,” he said. Even the highest estimates of farm murders stand at 133 per 100,000 people, and that includes both black and white murder victims.

Estimates of the rate of white farm murders are fiercely contested. “It’s a difficult question to answer because we don’t really know exactly how many white South Africa farmers there are,” said Newham.

“All these methodologies are hugely flawed because if you start ring-fencing certain people because of their race you are missing out on the bigger context of how violence and murder takes place in South Africa. I wouldn’t say that white farmers are more likely to be murdered than other groups, we don’t have enough evidence of that,” he added.

Newham said crime rates in general were going up, and the trend was not specific to white farmers.

Fact-checking organisation Africa Check, in a detailed report on the subject of farm murders in general – not just of white farmers – suggested that another credible estimate of the farm murder rate could be as low as 0.4 murders per 100,000 people. But it too concluded that an accurate figure is “near impossible” to determine.

Last month, South Africa’s parliament passed a motion to begin the process of amending South Africa’s constitution to allow for the expropriation of land without compensation. If followed through, this motion is likely to disproportionately affect white farmers, given that this group enjoys a disproportionately large share of land ownership. But no farms have yet been seized, nor is there any immediate plan by the government to do so.

According to the November 2017 Land Audit Report, 72% of agricultural land is owned by white farmers. White people make up 8% of South Africa’s population.

The inequality in land ownership is a legacy of apartheid in South Africa, and all major political parties agree on the need for extensive land reform. The current land reform policy is based on the principle of “willing buyer, willing seller”, and has largely failed to result in meaningful transformation.

Koketso Moeti, executive director of Amandla.mobi, a local community advocacy organisation, said: “Statistics show black South Africans are the most affected by crime, landlessness and violence, as a result of historic and current forms of dispossession and injustices. We hear stories of horrific circumstances from our members every day. Where is the support for them?”

*The Guardian

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Incorruptible. The story of the murders of Dulcie September, Anton Lubowski and Chris Hani to be launched in the Netherlands
March 14, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Wallace mawire

After thirty years Evelyn Groenink’s impressive research into the
murders of three freedom fighters – Dulcie September, ANC
representative (killed in Paris in 1988); Anton Lubowski, SWAPO leader
(killed in Windhoek in 1989) and ANC leader Chris Hani (killed in
Johannesburg in 1993) has finally been published in South Africa,
according to ZAM magazine, an organization in the Netherlands to
support and promote a new generation of African changemakers in
investigative journalism, photography, writing, arts and thinking.
On 27 march, 2018, the book will launched at the ZAM studio in
Amsterdam, Netherlands.

It is reported that at the successful launch of ‘Incorruptible,’ on
4 March, 2018, there were excerpts and news stories and book
presentations in South Africa’s major cities.
Thousands of copies were pre-ordered by bookstores representing
the belated recognition of an inconvenient truth.
According to a press statement by ZAM, September, Lubowski and Hani
were not simply the victims of a ‘dirty war’ by Apartheid forces in
and outside the country.

It is said that the three revolutionaries stood in the way of (arms
trade) mafia’s who had infiltrated their own liberation movements.
They were ‘incorruptible.’ That the book’s findings were inconvenient
became clear already in 2005, when physical and legal threats stopped
the intended South African publication of Groenink’s book by Jacana.

It would take 13 more years before the rise of an impressive movement
against corruption and ‘state capture’ under former president Jacob
Zuma would encourage Groenink to publish the book herself.
The timing of the publication in 2018 is also a homage to Dulcie
September, who was killed exactly 30 years ago on 29 March 1988. It
was her assassination, and the questions it raised around arms deals
and the corruption of strata of her own movement, that led Groenink to
investigate more killings and to the discovery of similar patterns.

Pravin Gordhan, recently re-instated as a minister in new President
Ramaphosa’s government, writes in a preface to Groenink’s book: “We
see the same division and dynamics between right and wrong today. This
book should be read so that we can, once again, be inspired by the
lives and sacrifices of Dulcie September, Anton Lubowski and Chris
Hani and unite in a new national momentum to renew our commitment to a
truly democratic, non-racial, non-sexist South Africa.”

“You are kindly invited to attend the Dutch launch of
‘Incorruptible’. Evelyn Groenink will be present and share her
experiences with regard to the investigation, the publication and the
South African responses to the book so far,” an invitation to this
Reporter reads.
The book launch is part of ZAM’s Mandela100 Programme.

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Egyptian ministry of civil aviation to host aviation Africa summit 2018
March 14, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Wallace Mawire

The Egyptian ministry of Civial Aviation will host the third edition of the Aviation Africa 2018 exhibition and summit covering the full aviation and aerospace spectrum across the African continent in Cairo on April 17 to 18 2018, according to the organisers.

It is reported that the summit will be hosted under the theme ‘Securing Strategy for Africa’s Success.’It is also added that the two-day summit will focus on the key drivers to grow business and opportunities across Africa in the aviation sector. Also, alongside the summit will be an exhibition area featuring more than 70 exhibitors.

Topics at the summit will include understanding the framework for aviation across Africa, understanding the threat and the solutions both in the cyber world and the real one,profit, competition, security or passengers? What keeps CEOs awake at night? airline business – challenging the status quo: Bringing low cost,regional and charter operations and new models to market and surviving surviving accidents and incidents with reputations intact, developing infrastructure and support for Africa’s aviation future on the ground and in the air and on human capital, developing and inspiring future generations to solve people shortage.

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