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Senator Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation named among Most Influential African Woman in the world, as “African Woman of the year 2020”, for the third time
December 30, 2020 | 0 Comments

  • NAW: Senator Dr. Rasha Kelej, is truly a force of nature and one of Africa’s unsung ‘sheroes’ of women’s empowerment and health advocates. Here at the NAW, we will be right behind this inspirational woman, all the way.
  • -SENATE APPOINTMENT in December 2020: Dr Rasha Kelej appointed as a Senator, member of the Egyptian Senate (2020-2025) by President of Egypt, H.E. Mr. ABDEL FATTAH AL-SISI
Dr Rasha Kelej, the CEO of the Merck Foundation, is the brain behind the inspiring ‘More Than A Mother’ campaign

Cairo, Egypt: Senator Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation and Member of Egyptian Senate (2020-2025) has been named one of the most influential African women in the world for 2020, for the third time. She has been nominated this year as the “African Woman of the Year 2020” by the New African Woman Magazine UK, and most influential African woman 2020, by Avance Media, for her efforts to advocate for women empowerment and healthcare capacity building especially during these challenging times of Coronavirus pandemic. Senator Dr. Kelej has been previously recognized as One of 100 Most Influential Africans – 2019 by New African Magazine in UK for creating historic campaign “Merck More than a Mother” to break stigma around infertile and childless women in Africa and beyond.

Senator Dr. Rasha Kelej is PROLIFIC WOMEN AND HEALTH RIGHTS CAMPAIGNER:

Dr Rasha Kelej, the CEO of the Merck Foundation, is the brain behind the inspiring ‘More Than A Mother’ campaign – rallying call against female infertility stigma – for which she was recognized as one of the Most Influential Africans of 2019. The campaign, one of the most successful causes that have been taken forward by Merck Foundation, empowers childless and infertile women through access to information, health, change of mindset, and economic empowerment. More than 18 First Ladies rallied behind the campaign as ambassadors of Merck more than a Mother campaign, which is very impressive.

Some of Its and innovative initiatives include: Health Media Training, Media Recognition Awards, Fashion Awards, and Film Awards. Dr Kelej has also worked closely with local artists to develop local songs to break the stigma of infertility in their communities. More than 18 songs have been developed so far.

But that’s not all! Dr Kelej has in her capacity as CEO of Merck Foundation, also developed many other impactful programs such as the Merck Foundation First Ladies Initiative (MFFLI), Merck Capacity Advancement Program, Merck Cancer Access Program, Merck Foundation Diabetes Blue Points Program, and Merck STEM for women and youth. These programs are focused on building healthcare capacity and improving access to health and empowering women and girls through education in Africa and other developing countries.

In a challenging year that was 2020, Dr Kelej remained steadfast in her work, and led the Merck Foundation COVID -19 response in Africa in partnership with 18 African First Ladies and Miniseries of health, education and media and communication of more than 45 countries, with focus on four major areas: community support; online education for health-care providers in six different fields (diabetes, cardiovascular, sexual and reproductive health, endocrinology, respiratory and acute medicines); community awareness through “Stay at Home“ Media Recognition Awards; and community awareness through a children’s storybook The Right Choice.

Transforming Public healthcare sector and TRAINING DOCTORS:

In the midst of the pandemic, Senator Dr Rasha Kelej has also spearheaded an online training of more than 600 doctors from 25 African countries and 10 developing countries in Asia and Latin America – an important impact in a challenging time.

It has been more important than ever to build capacity and training of specialized doctors. In some of these countries, they have never had not even one oncologist, for example. They may have the general practitioner, but they don’t have specialized doctors, they simply made history in these countries such as The Gambia, Burundi, Guinea & Liberia.

During this difficult period, we have therefore provided a one year online Diploma and two year master degree in Respiratory Medicine, Acute Medicine, Endocrinology, Diabetes & Cardiovascular health and Sexual & Reproductive health,” she explains.

“Our strategy and our program have been crystal clear – to invest in professional healthcare capacity building through providing scholarship for health care providers. And helping train skilled doctors in the midst of this pandemic, has made a big difference,” she adds.

In the meantime, Dr. Kelej also produced and directed an inspiring pan- African song called My White Army’ as her personal contribution to thank the doctors and nurses fighting on the front lines of the COVID-19 battle. The song, featuring singers from 11 African countries in three languages Arabic, English, and French has been received to high acclaim across the continent.

SENATE APPOINTMENT:

In December 2020, Dr Rasha was among 100 Egyptian experts appointed to the Senate House by President of Egypt, H.E. Mr. Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi. She will be one of the advisers on economic, social and health development and partnership between Egypt and the rest of Africa.

HOW DOES SHE DO IT ALL?:

“I think one of the most important factors that keeps the Merck Foundation strong and continuing with our programs even during this pandemic is that we establish very strong partnerships, and trust levels with our partners. And this has been the case long before COVID-19,” she says adding: “On a personal level, I can say that I transform under pressure, no matter the challenge. That is just my personality. I don’t break, I transform and I have this work/life fusion, in which my life and work are totally fused. With any challenge I face, I just keep the same energy levels. I transform to a different shape and mode. And for me, new challenges give me an opportunity to be innovative and be different. COVID-19 was unexpected and unpredicted, but it helped us to transform to a stronger mode and prepare ourselves to be innovative out of our comfort zone.”

As we enter into an uncertain 2021, Dr Kelej remains characteristically optimistic and hopeful, as she looks forward to breaking new ground. “I’m very optimistic. And with my new position in the Egyptian Senate and what great job our President El- Sisi is doing for  Egypt and Africa , I am hopeful that, while I continue with my work, I can utilize and capitalize on this opportunity of doing my job successfully as CEO of Merck Foundation and as a Senator  and continued making  an impact. There are lots of opportunities for bringing the Egyptian and rest of African youth together for achieving the sustainable development goals of our beautiful African continent, and I want to explore these opportunities with them, this coming year.”

“I am honored to be nominated the African Woman of the year 2020 by New African Woman Magazine, UK to acknowledge my efforts and dedication to advocate for women empowerment and healthcare capacity building specially during these challenging times of Coronavirus pandemic. Thanks to those who believed in me. I am also very honored to be appointed by The President of Egypt, H.E. Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, as a member of Egyptian Senate ( 2020-2025) to help strengthening  collaboration and partnership  between Egypt and rest of Africa with the aim to continue our contribution to the social , economic and health development of our beautiful  continent. Moreover, I will continue my mission to empower other women and improve access to equitable and quality healthcare in Africa and developing countries. It is my personal commitment”, said Senator Dr. Rasha Kelej CEO of Merck Foundation, Member of Egyptian Senate ( 2020-2025), Most Influential African (2019& 2020) and African Woman of The Year 2020.





Dr Rasha Kelej was recently appointed as a Senator by President Sisi of Egypt

The New African Woman (NAW) has listed 30 strong African women as Women of the Year 2020, chosen from various career backgrounds. The list includes many famous names like; Amina J. Mohamed: Deputy Secretary-General At United Nations; Fadji Maina: Earth scientist at NASA; Bozoma Saint John: Global Chief Marketing Officer of Netflix; Michaela Coel: Producer, Actor, Director; Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, amongst others.

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Zimbabwe:Women remain at the receiving end .
December 7, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Nevson  Mpofu


Director of Pan-African Women Tendayi Westerhof

Pan-AFRICAN Positive Women Coalition PAPWC- has taken Zimbabwe by storm this year celebrating years of achievements towards ending HIV and AIDS by 2030. Yes, Zimbabwe has done it given the figure on ground. In felicity to this effective annual time event at Global level, the coalition cheers on this year’s theme ‘’Global Solidarity, Shared Responsibility.’’

Pan-African Positive Women Coalition took it in a strive action-pack with emotions to die-down on the prevalence of HIV in the country. In achievement to this the workshop held on 2 December a day after the World AIDS day carried the objective, promoting shared responsibility and involvement of families in EMTCT, [ elimination of mother to child transmission of HIV] address Gender-Based-Violence and promote up-take of viral load testing during pregnancy and at delivery.

Taking a snap-shot from the ground Director of Pan-African Women Tendayi Westerhof says women voices must be amplified right from the grass-roots. This, done, captures all net-works from all walks of life.

‘’Let us amplify voices of women and girls living with HIV at all levels. This is done right straight from the rural community roots, in marginalized, vulnerable and poverty-stricken communities. Women remain on the receiving end. It means we have to network for that Health reason to address issues that matter most.’’

‘’The Women focused civil-Society build skills for women living with HIV in advocacy, Health Rights, Community monitoring and collection of evidence towards engagement in Unit-Health coverage.’’

‘’ As a country we are a bit step ahead because the prevalence rate of HIV transmission in adults is at 12 ,9% . It used to be far much high than that. Now that we have taken in Health interventions, prevention, treatment, care and support effort we are better than never at all.’’

‘’As an organization, we have looked at elimination of mother to child transmission of HIV in babies. Secondly on sexual and reproductive health rights looking at young girls exposed much to HIV and AIDS due to early forced marriages, early age of consent and lack of access to information. Also, we take a stretched looked out on factors fueling HIV that progresses to AIDS. ‘’

Doctor Mushavi , EMTCT  Elimination of Mother to Child Transmission  of HIV in Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Health and Child Care  takes the country down memory lane  and back to the current situation on the ground .

‘’We have come a long way ‘’ , she adds  taking into accountability that 86,8% adults are aware of their HIV status . 97,0% are on ART [Anti-Retroviral Therapy] . 90,3% achieved viral-load suppression. ‘New infections rate is at 0,38% , 0,54% in women and 0,20% in men  . We have 1,23 million adults living with HIV and AIDS. It is high in women 15,3% , 10,2% men ‘’.

‘’What we are saying is that we want to see and observe complete elimination of HIV and AIDS by 2030. This is in line with the UNAIDS Goals. Moving on as we reach 2030, we completely eliminate HIV in babies born, meaning that HIV will be close to total elimination even in adults.’’

Africa Remains a burden to HIV.

Sub-Saharan Africa remains a threat to HIV dating back from the initial start. The World currently with 36 million people living with HIV, 28 million are from Africa. Africa remains impacted by issues that are social, political and economic. Social factors relate to culture and tradition like on cases of early child marriages exposes young girls to sexual transmitted infections, HIV and spread of other communicable diseases like water and food bourn, respectively cholera and gastro-intestinal infections.

Sub-Saharan -Africa especially Southern Africa is invaded by HIV-1 caused and more fueled by retroviruses which are more and most virulent than lentiviruses which are part of HIV-2 found in west Africa, Western World and American Region. It has been concluded that Africa with a total population of 1,2 billion population, above half of the total population is in absolute poverty. Still, situational poverty impacts more causing severe vulnerability. This has been an experience in Zimbabwe as result of Cyclone Idai. On top of the mentioned there are disasters, floods caused by lanina and elinina leading to types of droughts like meteorological, hydrological and Agricultural drought, a menace in many land-locked countries.

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African Energy Chamber (AEC)’s Latest Top 25 Movers & Shakers Watch List 2021 Shows Strong Women Leadership in Energy
November 19, 2020 | 0 Comments

The latest list released this week by the Chamber demonstrates the growing role played by women in the fight against energy poverty.

The number of women within the African Energy Chamber’s Top 25 Movers & Shakers Watch List has made a significant jump from 3 to 8 between 2020 and 2021. Released annually, the list highlights the government officials, public and private executives whose work and decisions can profoundly impact the way Africans access and consume energy.

The latest list released this week by the Chamber demonstrates the growing role played by women in the fight against energy poverty, not only from the ground but also from African and global boardrooms where their leadership and decisions are shaping up the future of African energy.

Across the continent, the Chamber expects several women to make headlines in 2021 through key projects and actions. These notably include Rebecca Miano’s leadership in increasing geothermal production capacity by the Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen), Khadija Amoah’s piloting of the Pecan field development in Ghana, or Ugandan Minister Kitutu’s ability in shaping up the development of an inclusive hydrocarbons industry in Uganda. Further north in Morocco, Amina Benkhadra is spearheading Morocco’s efforts to further develop its natural gas industry in her role as Director General of the National Office of Hydrocarbons and Mines (ONHYM).

Women are also positioning themselves to be at the centre of key financial and investment decisions. Vibhuti Jain at the US International Development Finance Corporation, or Hu XiaoLian at the Export-Import Bank of China, are both overseeing key investment programmes that could significantly support capital inflow into Africa’s energy sector in 2021. The same goes for Heather Lanigan, Regional Director for sub-Saharan Africa at the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA), which currently supports several important midstream gas and gas-to-power projects in West Africa.

The Chamber continues to believe that building an inclusive and sustainable energy industry that works for every African goes through the hiring and promotion of more women across the value-chain. From engineers to executives, women must be given more opportunities to participate in the continent’s fight against energy poverty. 2021 will tell if they continue to seize such opportunities and become the energy advocates the continent needs.

*African Energy Chamber

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FIFA Secretary General inducted into International Women’s Forum Hall of Fame
November 5, 2020 | 0 Comments
FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura
FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura
In joining the IWF Hall of Fame the FIFA Secretary General joins women who were inducted for their work on tackling urgent issues the world is facing.

FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura has been inducted into the International Women’s Forum (IWF) Hall of Fame as recognition for her transformative contributions to society.

Fatma Samoura, who worked on United Nations projects for 21-years before becoming the first-ever African, and woman to hold the role of Secretary General at FIFA in its 116-year history, was joined by fellow Hall of Fame honourees Mary Barra, Chairman and CEO of General Motors and Ginni Rometty, Executive Chairman of IBM, at the online 2020 IWF Hall of Fame Awards Gala.

The gala was held online this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and featured interviews with each of the three inductees about the paths they took to lead them to their current roles, the advice they have for young women and the causes that motive them in their daily work.

The FIFA Secretary General’s interview touched on her 21-year career working on United Nations projects, her work at FIFA under the leadership of President Gianni Infantino, her six-month mission as FIFA General Delegate for Africa to assist CAF on its reform journey, her zero tolerance for racism and racist behavior and her advice for women.

In a video interview with FIFA’s first-ever Chief Women’s Football Officer Sarai Bareman, Fatma Samoura said: “In my 21 years as a development and humanitarian actor I met people from different backgrounds, whether religious, ethnic or also based on gender and I could see how they were reacting in the face of difficult and stressful situations… so this wealth of experience I brought in definitely to FIFA where, as I said, the human being is a key aspect of everything we do. Whether you are a coach, a football player or a fan, you deal with human beings. The core values I brought along with my 21 years at the UN are respect of diversity, fighting discrimination, fighting for equal opportunity and a world that is more just and fair to everybody.”

In joining the IWF Hall of Fame the FIFA Secretary General joins women who were inducted for their work on tackling urgent issues the world is facing including: Maya Angelou, American poet and author; Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, United Nations Under-Secretary-General; Rosa Parks, mother of the American civil rights movement; Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia; Nawal El Moutawakel, first Moroccan and first African Muslim woman to win Olympic gold; Ella Fitzgerald, American jazz artist; Ruth Bader Ginsburg, US Supreme Court Justice; Louise Arbour, Chief Prosecutor, International Criminal Tribunals in the Hague; Hillary Rodham Clinton, former US First Lady, US Senator, Secretary of State; Mary Robinson, President of Ireland; Wilma Mankiller, Chief of the Cherokee nation; Audrey Hepburn, international film star and Shirley Temple black child star and US Diplomat.

Referring to advice for women Fatma Samoura said: “Ladies you have to remember this, if you have been trusted enough to be given a position it’s because you have the skills and qualifications necessary to do the job. Look to your sisters for support and count on them.”

The IWF was founded in the US by Elinor “Elly” Guggenheimer – chair of the New York City Planning Commission, in 1974. Its aim is to bring together women of diverse accomplishments and provide them with a forum for the exchange of ideas and experiences, as well as advancing women’s leadership globally and locally. It has over 7,000 members worldwide.


*SOURCE Fédération internationale de football association (FIFA)
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Malawi First Lady partners with Merck Foundation to build healthcare capacity and strengthen COVID 19 response in Africa
October 26, 2020 | 0 Comments

Merck Foundation will enroll the selected Malawian doctors by the First Lady office and Ministry of Health to their various training programs for the next 10 years.

LILONGWE, Malawi, October 26, 2020/ — Merck Foundation appoints Malawi First Lady as the Ambassador of Merck More Than a Mother to empower infertile women; Merck Foundation in partnership with Malawi First Lady and Minister of Health to provide speciality training to Malawian doctors in various fields such as; Oncology, Diabetes, Fertility, Embryology, Respiratory Care, Acute Medicines, Sexual and Reproductive Medicines to transform public healthcare sector in Malawi.

Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany announced their long-term partnership with The First Lady of Malawi, during their first Video Conference Summit of Merck Foundation First Ladies Initiative (MFFLI).The MFFLI VC Summit was attended by 13 African First Ladies to discuss their joint efforts to build healthcare capacity and strengthen the response to COVID-19 in the country and Africa at large.

Appreciating the programs of Merck Foundation, H.E. Mrs. MONICA CHAKWERA, The First Lady of Malawi emphasized, “I am very happy to be appointed as Ambassador of Merck More Than a Mother. I will be fully supporting this campaign as The First Lady of Malawi, as a woman, this cause is very close to my heart. I will work in collaboration with our ministries to sensitize our communities, particularly in rural areas to better understand infertility hence to break the stigma around infertile women and to empower them through access to information, education, health, and change of mindset. Moreover, I am looking forward to building healthcare capacity in the country, through the programs of Merck Foundation, as it will contribute to the social and economic development of Malawi”.

Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation and President, Merck More Than a Mother expressed, “We are very happy to partner with The First Lady of Malawi, and underscore our long term commitment to build healthcare capacity, empower girls in education and break the stigma of infertility in Malawi. We are also very proud to appoint The First Lady of Malawi as the Ambassador of Merck More Than a Mother. We are going to work very closely with her and the Government of Malawi to make history together by providing training for the First Specialists in many fields such as; Fertility, Sexual and Reproductive Medicines, Oncology, Diabetes, Endocrinology, and Respiratory and Acute Medicines with the aim to improve access to quality and equitable health care in the country”.

Merck Foundation will continue their important program “Educating Linda” together with Malawi First Lady to sponsor the education of 20 best performing girls in their secondary schools till they graduate.

“I truly believe that Education is Power and educating girls is empowering them to make their own decisions, stand up for their rights, and help them to access economic opportunities”, added Dr. Rasha Kelej, One of 100 Most Influential Africans (2019, 2020).

Merck Foundation will enroll the selected Malawian doctors by the First Lady office and Ministry of Health to their various training programs for the next 10 years.

Moreover, Merck Foundation also celebrated three winners from Malawi for their “Stay at Home” Media Recognition Awards from Southern African Countries to raise awareness about COVID 19 in the country.

About Merck Foundation First Ladies Initiative Summit – MFFLI:
Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany conducted their first Video Conference Summit of Merck Foundation First Ladies Initiative (MFFLI) to define and follow up on different joint programs that aims to advance public healthcare sector capacity and strengthen the response to COVID 19 in their countries.

The MFFLI VC Summit 2020 was hosted by Prof. Dr. Frank Stangenberg Haverkamp, Chairman of the Executive Board of E. Merck KG and the Chairman of Merck Foundation Board of Trustees and Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation and President, Merck More Than a Mother and One of 100 Most Influential African (2019 & 2020) and attended by 13 African First Ladies, who are Ambassadors of Merck More than a MotherH.E. AUXILLIA MNANGAGWA, The First Lady of Zimbabwe; H.E. ESTHER LUNGU, The First Lady of Zambia; H.E. FATIMA MAADA BIO, The First Lady of Sierra Leone; H.E. AÏSSATA ISSOUFOU MAHAMADOU, The First Lady of Niger; H.E. MONICA GEINGOS, The First Lady of Namibia; H.E. ISAURA FERRÃO NYUSI, The First Lady of Mozambique; H.E. MONICA CHAKWERA, The First Lady of Malawi; H.E. REBECCA AKUFO-ADDO, The First Lady of Ghana; H. E. FATOUMATTA BAHBARROW, The First Lady of The Gambia; H.E. BRIGITTE TOUADERA, The First Lady of Central African Republic; H.E. ANGELINE NDAYISHIMIYE, The First Lady of Burundi; H.E. NEO JANE MASISI, The First Lady of Botswana; H.E. ANA DIAS LOURENÇO, The First Lady of Angola.

The MFFLI VC Summit, special edition aims to share experiences, discuss challenges, and define solutions to further strengthen healthcare capacity to better respond to this global pandemic in Africa.

About Merck Foundation:
The Merck Foundation , established in 2017, is the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany, aims to improve the health and wellbeing of people and advance their lives through science and technology. Our efforts are primarily focused on improving access to quality & equitable healthcare solutions in underserved communities, building healthcare and scientific research capacity and empowering people in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) with a special focus on women and youth. All Merck Foundation press releases are distributed by e-mail at the same time they become available on the Merck Foundation Website.

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Merck Foundation partners with Burundi First Lady to build healthcare capacity, empower girls in education and break the infertility stigma
October 22, 2020 | 0 Comments
Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation & President, Merck More Than a Mother during her meeting with H.E. Madam ANGELINE NDAYISHIMIYE, The First Lady of Burundi and Ambassador of Merck More Than a Mother
Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation & President, Merck More Than a Mother during her meeting with H.E. Madam ANGELINE NDAYISHIMIYE, The First Lady of Burundi and Ambassador of Merck More Than a Mother

The First Lady of Burundi was also appointed as the Ambassador of Merck More Than a Mother during the meeting.

Merck Foundation , the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany partnered with The First Lady of Burundi, H.E. Madam ANGELINE NDAYISHIMIYE, during a high-level meeting held between Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation and Burundi First Lady. During the meeting, Merck Foundation underscored their long-term commitment to continue their efforts to build healthcare capacity, empower girls in education and break the infertility stigma in Burundi. The First Lady of Burundi was also appointed as the Ambassador of Merck More Than a Mother during the meeting.

H.E. Madam ANGELINE NDAYISHIMIYE, The First Lady of Burundi and Ambassador of Merck More Than a Mother expressed, “I am very happy to partner with Merck Foundation and excited to capitalize on their valuable programs in our country. These programs will create a very significant impact on our people’s advancement, as health is very critical to our social and economic development. As the Ambassador of Merck More than a Mother, I will work closely with Merck Foundation to sensitize our communities to better understand infertility and empower women through access to education, information, health and change of mindset and also empower our girls through education”.

Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation and President, Merck More Than a Mother emphasized, “I am very proud of our partnership with Burundi First Lady and welcome her as the Ambassador of Merck More Than a Mother and new member of Merck Foundation First Ladies Initiative-MFFLI . We have discussed our long-term collaboration and partnership with her Foundation and Ministry of Health & Ministry of Education to build healthcare capacity in Burundi, by providing training to doctors in the fields of Cancer, Fertility, and Diabetes care. With the outbreak of the global pandemic, building healthcare capacity is more significant than ever, and through our long-term partnership we are looking forward to creating a strong medical army in Burundi.

The Burundi First Lady had also attended Merck Foundation’s first Merck Foundation First Ladies Initiative (MFFLI) VC Summit held last month, which was attended by a total of 13 African First Ladies and introduced her development programs in Burundi”.

Merck Foundation has conducted their capacity building programs in Burundi for the past three years through their partnership with Burundi government and Former First Lady of Burundi, H.E. MADAM DENISE NKURUNZIZA 

Merck Foundation has provided specialty training to more than 31 doctors from Burundi and will continue doing so for the next 10 years plan.

Merck Foundation made history by providing training to the first oncologist and fertility specialists and embryologists in Burundi.

So far 10 doctors have completed the fertility and embryology training, and together with Burundi First Lady, more doctors will be trained to improve access to quality and equitable fertility care in the country.

Merck Foundation has also trained the first Oncologist in Burundi and will continue enrolling doctors for oncology fellowship program as a contribution to improve cancer care in the country.

Moreover, Merck Foundation has provided Diabetes care training to twenty doctors and is going to train more doctors, one from each province. After completion of the training, these doctors should be able to establish a diabetes clinic in his/her Health Centre or Hospital with the aim to help prevent and manage the disease in their respective communities.  

“We will continue our new important Program “Educating Linda”, in partnership with the First Lady of Burundi together with the Ministry of Education. Under this program, we have sponsored 20 girls in 2019 and will sponsor the education of 20 best performing girls in their secondary schools this year and fir the next 10 years. We strongly believe that Education is one of the most critical areas of women empowerment”, added Dr. Rasha Kelej, One of 100 Most Influential Africans (2019, 2020).

Merck Foundation also announced a winner from Burundi for their “Stay at Home” Media Recognition Awards from French speaking African Countries.

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

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

The Ambassadors of “Merck More Than a Mother” are:
H.E. NEO JANE MASISI, The First Lady of Botswana
H.E. FATOUMATTA BAH-BARROW, The First Lady of The Gambia
H.E. MONICA GEINGOS, The First Lady of Namibia
H.E. ANGELINE NDAYISHIMIYE,

The First Lady of Burundi
H.E. REBECCA AKUFO-ADDO, The First Lady of Ghana
H.E AÏSSATA ISSOUFOU MAHAMADOU, The First Lady of Niger
H.E. BRIGITTE TOUADERA, The First Lady of Central African Republic
H.E. CONDÉ DJENE, The First Lady of Guinea Conakry
H.E. AISHA BUHARI, The First Lady of Nigeria
H.E. HINDA DEBY ITNO, The First Lady of Chad
H.E. CLAR WEAH, The First Lady of Liberia
H.E FATIMA MAADA BIO, The First Lady of Sierra Leone
H.E. ANTOINETTE SASSOU-NGUESSO, The First Lady of Congo Brazzaville
H.E. MONICA CHAKWERA, The First Lady of Malawi
H.E. ESTHER LUNGU, The First Lady of Zambia
H.E. DENISE NYAKERU TSHISEKEDI, THE First Lady of Democratic Republic of Congo
H.E. ISAURA FERRÃO NYUSI, The First Lady of Mozambique
H.E. AUXILLIA MNANGAGWA, The First Lady of Zimbabwe
 
Merck Foundation launched new innovative initiatives to sensitize local communities about infertility prevention, male infertility with the aim to break the stigma of infertility and empowering infertile women as part of Merck More than a Mother COMMUNITY AWARENESS CAMPAIGN, such as;
‘Merck More than a Mother’ Media Recognition Awards and Health Media Training
‘Merck More than a Mother’ Fashion Awards
‘Merck More than a Mother’ Film Awards
Local songs with local artists to address the cultural perception of infertility and how to change it
Children storybook, localized for each country
About Merck Foundation:
The Merck Foundation , established in 2017, is the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany, aims to improve the health and wellbeing of people and advance their lives through science and technology. Our efforts are primarily focused on improving access to quality & equitable healthcare solutions in underserved communities, building healthcare and scientific research capacity and empowering people in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) with a special focus on women and youth. All Merck Foundation press releases are distributed by e-mail at the same time they become available on the Merck Foundation

*SOURCE Merck Foundation
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Report: Violence against women costs Lesotho economy $113 million annually
September 30, 2020 | 0 Comments

Commonwealth report has revealed violence against women and girls costs Lesotho more than $113 million (about 1.9 billion Lesotho loti) a year.

The report estimates the total cost, including loss of income and expenses associated with medical, legal and police support, equates to around 5.5 per cent of Lesotho’s gross domestic product (GDP). The cost of $113 million means each Lesotho citizen loses at least $50 every year to violence against women and girls.

The cost of $113 million means each Lesotho citizen loses at least $50 every year to violence against women and girls.

The bulk – $45 million – is attributed to legal protection, healthcare, social services and learning loss. This is more than twice the amount – $21 million – Lesotho spent on health, education and energy in the last fiscal year.

The report sets out policy recommendations for the health, education, legal and private sectors to better meet the needs of victims, which include: 

  • Updating the forms used for collecting data on violence against women and girls;
  • Using digital services to collect and share the data with stakeholders;
  • Training staff responsible for recording, analysing and sharing data;
  • Developing a broad approach involving all sectors to prevent the abuse; and
  • Making strategic shifts to allocate resources to carry out these recommendations.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said: “This report proves once again that ending violence against woman and girls is not only the right thing to do but it is also the smart thing to do and beneficial to us all.

“Tackling this issue will prevent immense pain and suffering for individuals and communities and will also end the damage this violence does to our economies and prosperity.

“As the first report of its kind to focus on Lesotho in this way, our intention is that it should provide the basis for designing more clearly focussed national policies and programmes, and help ensure that adequate resources are allocated for priorities such as training service providers.

“The findings put a price tag on the endemic scourge of gender-based violence, and demonstrate that the consequences of ignoring the problem are far higher than the cost of taking preventative and remedial action.

“By providing the baseline for a series of periodic costing studies and practical intervention, we hope the report will help pave the way towards significant progress on eliminating violence against women and girls, thereby saving many lives.”

The loss of income for women who experience violence due to missed days of work and lost productivity comes to $22 million annually. Income losses result in less spending which triggers a negative impact on commodity demand and supply of goods and services.

Lesotho’s Minister of Gender and Youth, Sport and Recreation Mahali Phamotse said: “Violence against women and girls is a problem in Lesotho which affects national development.

“The report will help Lesotho come up with appropriate strategies that will help eradicate violence against women and girls as we are now aware of its causes and economic implications.

“The report calls for immediate action through which my ministry will embark on a project to ensure the protection of women and girls.”

In Lesotho, about one in three women experience sexual or physical violence in their lifetime, similar to the global prevalence rate. 

The Commonwealth worked with Lesotho’s Ministry of Gender and Youth, Sport and Recreation to conduct the study and produce this report.

This is the second country report completed by the Commonwealth. The first was produced for Seychelles in 2018.

Read: The Economic Cost of Violence Against Women and Girls: A Study of Lesotho

*Commonwealth

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Centurion Law Group’s Oneyka Cindy Ojogbo receives African Legal Awards’ Private Practice Rising Star award
September 24, 2020 | 0 Comments
Oneyka Cindy Ojogbo
Oneyka Cindy Ojogbo
Presented by Legal Week, the annual ceremony aims to celebrate Africa’s legal talent and recognize the legal community’s achievements each year.

South Africa, September 24, 2020/ — Centurion Law Group (Centurion) was also nominated in the categories International Law Firm of the Year and In-House Rising Star; Centurion attorneys have previously received awards and been nominated by the African Legal Awards.

Last week Centurion Law Groups (Centurion) Senior Attorney and Business Lead, Oneyka Ojogbo was named the Private Practice Rising Star by the African Legal Awards (ALA) 2020.

Presented by Legal Week, the annual ceremony aims to celebrate Africa’s legal talent and recognize the legal community’s achievements each year through presenting categories such as International Law Firm of the Year, African Law Firm of the Year, General Counsel of the Year and Legal Department of the Year.

“I am honored to be recognized in this category with the other nominees who are by all account heavy hitters. I am grateful for a firm that really allows one discover themselves and grow and for the most supportive team ever; they make all things possible. I can only hope to continue the good work that has brought us this far,” said Ojogbo.

“We are delighted once again to have one of our attorneys be recognized by the ALA, with a prestigious recognition” said NJ Ayuk, CEO of Centurion Law Group. “ While I am not surprised, this is yet another testament to the work Oneyka and her team does on a daily basis, we are extremely proud of Oneyka and I can’t wait to see where she will be in five years,” he added.

Oneyka Ojogbo is a Senior Associate Attorney at Centurion’s Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria and South Africa offices with significant experience in banking, energy, infrastructure and projects financing. She holds an LL.M. from the Columbia Law School and an LL.B. From the University of Ibadan.

View the full list of awards at The African Legal Award here 
About Centurion:
Headquartered in Johannesburg with offices in Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Cameroon and Mauritius, Centurion is an all-African law firm transforming the way law is done on the continent.

Our internationally trained lawyers (the UK and the US) are renowned for advising governments, foreign investors, local companies, other law firms and the private sector, and are able to draft and negotiate deals in English, Spanish, French and German.

Our team has unrivaled oil and gas expertise across Africa – advising on a number of first-of-a-kind deals in our core jurisdictions and with our affiliate firms in South Sudan, Uganda, Chad, Congo-Brazzaville, Angola, Nigeria, Zambia, Gabon and Senegal.

Ask us about services: info@centurionlg.com
*SOURCE Centurion
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Cameroonian granted humanitarian release from US Immigration after revealing her fallopian tube was forcibly removed in ICE custody
September 22, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Amos Fofung

Pauline Binam, 30, has been in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody since 2017. Courtesy of the Binam family
Pauline Binam, 30, has been in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody since 2017. Courtesy of the Binam family

Pauline Binam, a Cameroonian lady was almost deported last week by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE if not for the intervention of members of US Congress.

Pauline who has been in the US since when she was 2 years old was on the tarmac when members of Congress say they intervened. Pan African Vision has gathered that she was granted humanitarian release.

“It felt like ICE was trying to rush through her deportation,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat from Washington state. “I can’t say that for certain, but all of this is extremely troubling.”

Binam, now 30, says she was involuntarily sterilized while held at the privately owned Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia, has been granted humanitarian releaseafter intervention by congress.

Attorney Vân Huynh says Binam’s fallopian tube was removed without her knowledge by the same doctor who is accused of performing forced hysterectomies on several other prisoners, and who is reportedly not a board-certified OB-GYN. Last week, Binam’s deportation was halted at the last minute after pressure from immigration rights advocates and members of Congress.

 

Members of Congress are demanding an investigation into allegations from immigrant women who say they were subjected to medical procedures without their consent while detained at an ICE facility in Georgia. Some women say they underwent hysterectomies or other surgeries that left them sterile.

Jayapal, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, wants Binam in the U.S. so that she can tell her story to investigators. More than 170 U.S. lawmakers have signed a letter calling for an investigation by the Homeland Security inspector general and want investigators to report back on the status of the investigation by next Friday.

According to NPR, ICE denies any link between her allegations and her scheduled deportation saying she was pulled off the plane because of a paperwork snafu with the Cameroonian government — not because of congressional intervention.

In a statement, ICE says that all female detainees receive routine gynecological care and that “a medical procedure like a hysterectomy would never be performed” without informed consent.

Binam’s lawyer, Vân Huynh, says her client sought treatment for an irregular menstrual cycle and thought she was getting a routine procedure known as dilation and curettage to remove tissue from her uterus last year.

“When she woke up from the surgery, the doctor informed her that they had to remove one of her fallopian tubes,” says Huynh, with the non-profit Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, which also helped prepare the whistleblower complaint.

“Of course, Pauline was very upset and sort of appalled that this had happened without her consent,” Huynh says.

The long-term medical implications are not clear, but that the procedure could prevent Binam from conceiving a child, Huynh says.

“Detention itself takes so much away from a person’s life,” Huynh says. “And then for her to have gone through this experience while she was in immigration detention just robs her of so much more than her time.”

Huynh says Binam complained to the staff at the detention center, but those complaints went nowhere. Binam is one of a growing number of over 17 immigrant women complaining about care they received while they were held at the privately-operated Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia.

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Gambia:Banjul Mayoress Shortlisted to Contest for Presidency of Mayors of Africa Capital Cities
September 22, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Bakary Ceesay

Banjuk Mayor Rohey Lowe-Saidykhan
Banjul Mayor Rohey Lowe-Saidykhan

The Mayor of Banjul, Rohey Lowe-Saidykhan has been shortlisted to contest the presidency of mayors of 54 Africa capital cities. 

She will contest the prestigious position against three others, Muhamed Sidiq of Rabat Morocco, Madam El Wardani of Dakar, Senegal and Juliana Kaduya of Lilongwe, Malawi. The election will be held in three week’s time.

A preamble announcing the nominations said the nomination of the Banjul mayor by ULCD to contest the presidency is based on the trend of development that has been delivered to the citizens of Banjul barely two years after her election as the first female mayor in Gambia’s history.

The person elected to the presidency of the African Capital Cities Sustainability Forum (ACCSF) will, apart from being the main promoter of the ACCSF to institutions such as AU and during summit or conference if elected, will be in charge of the strategic direction and development.

He/she will also represent entire 54 African capital cities mayors and governors of ACCSF.

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Cameroon:Women Groups Call for six month ceasefire in conflict-ridden Anglophone Regions
September 21, 2020 | 0 Comments

In honour of the International Day of Peace, September 21, five women’s organizations in Cameroon have joined their voices to call for a ceasefire in the conflict-ridden Anglophone regions. Below is the statement.

A CEASEFIRE CALL FROM WOMEN

In early 2020, the United Nations characterized the situation in the English-speaking regions of Cameroon as a complex humanitarian emergency with 2.3 million people in need. This is a dramatic increase from 2019’s 160,000 persons in need of humanitarian assistance. Although estimates of persons killed as of 2019 by the UN stood at 3000 people, this number has since risen, and could today even be doubled or tripled. UNHCR estimates over 600,000 people have been internally displaced, and a further 60-70,000 refugees are seeking asylum in neighboring Nigeria. UNICEF estimates that more than 855,000 children are out of school due to the conflict. The situation since has been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic; an escalation of violent clashes; and continued human rights violations as well as the perpetration of many dehumanizing acts on the civilian population. As such:

-Alarmed by significant human rights abuses committed by both security forces and separatist armed groups in Cameroon—including summary or arbitrary killings, forced disappearances, torture, arbitrary detention, repression of fundamental rights, and violence against women and children, as cited in the Department of State 2019 Country Report on Human Rights Practices for Cameroon;

-Recognising the loss of thousands of human lives, massive destruction of properties, and displacement of persons occasioned by the conflict;

-Considering the damage to livelihoods, disruption of peace and security to the entire Cameroonian nation and most especially within the North West and South West Regions (former British Southern Cameroons), the loss of human dignity, and:

• Four years of no schooling,

• Increased child and maternal mortality,

 • Absence of primary health care,

 • Increased food shortages and other basic necessities;

-Determined to encourage and engage parties to the conflict to arrive at a peaceful and lasting settlement through negotiations;

-Convinced that as women, we bear the brunt of this violent conflict irrespective of our historical background, cultural, linguistic and political affiliation;

-Focusing on the provisions of the United Nations Security Council Resolution UNSCR 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, and basing our call on the AU’s decade of ceasefire in Africa: Silencing the Guns in Africa 2020 as well as the UN Secretary General’s global call for a ceasefire and United Nations Security Council Resolution UNSCR 2532 on cessation of hostilities in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic;

We provide a thoughtful suggestion for stakeholders to engage in a ceasefire and eventual peace negotiations.

We, the women, urge parties to the conflict to:

Ø Respect human life and dignity and protect the population to stop the alarming death toll.

-Cease all hostilities by all armed actors immediately. We expect all parties to announce a cessation of hostilities within the next 30 days.

Ø Sign a written ceasefire agreement by November 2020, with each party clearly stating its commitment to making the process a success.

Ø Agree to a pilot ceasefire for six months, during which the parties improve their technical and security policies, with the contribution of civil society representatives. This agreement whose terms are borne out of a mutual respect for each faction must be binding on all parties with a local/international monitoring committee, composed of at least 50% women peacebuilders and religious women groups, put in place for follow up.

Ø Work toward a peace agreement and negotiation that is inclusive and sincere where all stakeholders, and not only those with political interest, are involved. A gender-balanced, inclusive commission should be set up to make the peace negotiation gender-responsive. Each faction should make provision for female participation of at least 50%, while civil society and other interest groups should also ensure gender balance for effective representation.

Ø Cooperate with all the humanitarian agencies in their efforts to provide relief and assistance to the ailing population.

Ø Form a think tank with members of the government of Cameroon and separatists armed factions as well as civil society to serve as a monitoring taskforce, aligned with other local/international bodies, to ensure all parties respect the ceasefire. Local women peacebuilders and women leaders should be prioritized.

We call on the Government of Cameroon to:

• Contribute to confidence-building among the parties to the conflict by releasing all arrested in relation to the armed conflict;

• Agree to a 6-month ceasefire to allow for political space to discuss these points with separatist groups and representatives of Anglophone civil society;

• Speed up an inclusive and sincere peace negotiation to address the root causes of the conflict with all factions for the sake of the ailing population within the conflict-affected areas.

We call on separatists armed groups to:

§ Agree to a 6-month ceasefire to allow for political space to discuss these points with the Government of Cameroon and representatives of Anglophone civil society;

§ Engage in sincere talks to identify measures that will return peace to our land.

This call is put out by women in the affected regions and beyond who—as mothers, aunties, sisters, and daughters—ache for a peaceful resolution to this deadly, violent, and traumatic conflict. It is piloted by the following organizations:

  1. South West North West Women Taskforce SNWOT
  2. Southern Cameroons European Women SCEW

3. Christian Women Fellowship CWF (PCC)

 4. Cameroon Baptist Convention Women’s Department CBCWD

5. United Methodist Women Association in Cameroon UMWAC

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Gambia’s Stylish Female Singer Releases Lovers Music Video
September 19, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Bakary Ceesay

Stylish golden Sarah Joy, Gambian female singer has slammed music fans with amazing love music video called ‘Du Teey’ featuring the rap star of Bakoteh (BK) Tam-50.

‘Du teey’ harmonics translate from wollof language meaning ‘the love is not today’, capturing the overall sense of footage gave prolong novel story of relationship between two lovers that shared strong love for each other but could not settle together as couple.

It takes courage to love, but pain through love is the purifying fire which those who love generously know.

Speaking to Sarah Joy in an exclusive the singer said she was inspired by people who complained and regret spending lot of time that will later be term as a waste. She said some relationships, some people spend decades together only to realised that they are not meant for each other. At some point they felt is a waste of time, energy and investment. Many instances you see your younger ones settling down which make the whole issue dramatic.

She said that kind of long waiting relationships frustrate both parties involved because is hard to continue life without the person you pictured yourself with, but however sometimes all they need is little motivation and incentives which will either make them stay or leave yet there is a point when you have to give ultimatum to act on.

“Basically the song is to encouraging them to give alternative to the person either to leave or get it official (marriage).”

The song is recorded, mixed and mastered by leading production house in the Gambia, Stylzz Records.  Produced by KAINAWA Beats and shapely video shoot by Ultimate Media.

Already the video geared 4, 081 views on YouTube and still counting the streams. 
Sarah Joy is not only known for her beautiful melody singing but also a TV and radio mogulist who has won the hearts of many follower. She often used her platforms to champion Joy house entertainment/promotion, identified as music advocacy group established with the primary objective of empowering female musicians in the music business.

In same exclusive she added that very soon her team (Joy House Entertainment/ promotion) will embark on the famous Girl Power project which entail a bundle of things but the basic idea aimed at creating opportunity and using music to empower the women.

Below is the link of the music video Du Teey

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EAST AFRICA SHOWS OFF JOURNALISM PROWRESS AS SIXTH BBC WORLD NEWS KOMLA DUMOR AWARD IS AWARDED TO KENYAN
September 1, 2020 | 0 Comments
BBC Komla winner 2020
BBC Komla winner 2020

Today, the BBC announced that Kenyan TV presenter, Victoria Rubadiri, has been awarded the BBC World News Komla Dumor Award. She is the sixth winner of the award, following in the footsteps of Solomon Serwanjja, Waihiga Mwaura, Amina Yuguda, Didi Akinyelure and Nancy Kacungira. Victoria is the fourth East African, and second Kenyan, to win the award.

Victoria is a features reporter and news anchor with Citizen TV in Kenya where she hosts the channel’s prime-time news. A well-rounded, multifaceted journalist in East Africa, she has interviewed some of the leading names in politics and current affairs, including UN Deputy Secretary General, Amina Mohamed and former Liberian President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

Victoria will begin her three month placement at the BBC by attending a training course with the BBC Academy before joining BBC News teams – across TV, radio and online – which will provide her with the opportunity to gain skills and experience across BBC News platforms.

Following the training and placements in Nairobi, Victoria will work alongside a top BBC producer, to report on a story for a global audience. The story will then be broadcast on BBC platforms, which reaches audiences of 426 million across the world each week.

Victoria said, “Komla was a well-rounded journalist whose style, though authoritative, was also compassionate, empathetic and uplifting. His ability to give the facts comprehensively, and yet still be attuned to his audience, was something I admired and a skill I seek to emulate. The media industry in Africa is growing, with a plethora of content providers and changing consumption trends, and the complexities of reaching audiences in a meaningful way has also evolved. I am excited at the prospect of learning new skills at the BBC to be able to connect with audiences locally, regionally and internationally, no matter on which platform the story is being told.”

Victoria impressed judges with her eloquence and passion for telling African stories on both traditional media platforms and social media. Her passion for connecting with audiences on a myriad of platforms had led to over half a million followers on her social media accounts, and she continues to pursue this engagement on social media. Through her storytelling, Victoria has brought people’s extraordinary experiences to life, a key journalistic trait that resonates with the BBC’s global audiences.

Jamie Angus, Director of BBC World Service Group, said, “We’re delighted to have Victoria on board to bring her insights and passion to the BBC. There’s never been a more significant time for our global audiences to hear grassroots stories from Africa, and it’s really important that we tell these stories with integrity and authenticity. Komla had the incredible ability to give stories from the continent global resonance, and also deliver it with familiarity and understanding. We’re looking forward to seeing Victoria embody that by bringing her perspectives to life.”

The award was set up in honour of presenter Komla Dumor, who died in January 2014, and aims to continue Komla’s legacy by celebrating African journalism and finding exceptional talent. The judging panel included Sam Taylor, Head of Live and Breaking News at the BBC; Miriam Quansah, Assistant Digital Editor at BBC Africa; and award-winning Nigerian journalist, Idris Akinbajo of the Premium Times.

Victoria will be interviewed on Focus on Africa on Tuesday 1st September at 1730 GMT, BBC World News (DStv 400).

For more information go to bbc.com/komladumor

*BBC

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Covid-19 Pandemic Reversing Humanitarian Gains of African Women and Children
August 26, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Nevson Mpofu  

Director of Gender Commission  Zimbabwe and Fiona Magaya of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union
Director of Gender Commission Zimbabwe and Fiona Magaya of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union

The Global up-surge of Covid-19 leaves sad stories told on the side of women and children now facing the social and economic injustices. These according to ZIMCODD [ Zimbabwe Coalition On Debt And Development ] Report posted to Media leaves gaps currently created beyond repair by covid-19 if stronger Global solutions at country levels are not put practically in place.

The Report plunges on issues of good governance, transparency and accountability exercise to be raised on the sidelines of equitable gender 6mainstreaming, equity and equality. Gender justice woven by equality and equity in women during this pathetic era empathy women and children at most for their survival in alleviation of poverty and vulnerability.

However, despite the concerted effort put across by women and children organizations, much that flows carried on by covid-19 effects erodes on women and children’s rights more imp actively. These are on the edges of poverty and vulnerability. Earlier on during the 21 days of lockdown, bevy of women like Virginia Muwanigwa , Director of Gender Commission  Zimbabwe and Fiona Magaya of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union among others on the fore-front reiterated  on the increase of gender based violence  , gender- in-justice and lack of equality exposed to affect  women ..

‘’During this time of covid-19, women remain impacted by gender-based violence which has been exacerbated by the pandemic world-wide. The erosion of family income exposes women to violence. This comes with divorces, separations. Poverty is likely to increase, vulnerability affecting women and children if immediate action is not taken.’’

Fiona Magaya adds that women have at most become discriminated, this widening the gap of gender inequality in families already hard hit by poverty. We have to take collective action to fight these in-equalities at family and community levels. Reducing inequalities is vital and critical as we move on towards the inside of this pandemic.

These in-equalities have increased in many African countries. Women are facing all forms of abuses ranging from physical, economic, social and intense domestic violence. Cases have grown in number in countries like South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and a few I have to confirm with. A number of women have as well moved out of marriage, go away with children whom they care for without maintenance or any support in terms of food.

In-equalities are driven by culture, tradition and African customs.  There are other issues of concern like Patriarchy , meliorism and male domination. This has prevailed for long in Africa, especially South of the Sahara in countries with strong African customs like Nigeria, Ghana, Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya, Namibia, Lesotho, Swathini and South Africa. In-Equalities increase as well fueled by modernism, industrialization and Globalization.

‘’Because of inequalities there rises wide gaps of discrimination in women. Poverty increase opens way for violence in marital relations. This leads to further gender in-justice which results in women and children marginalization. We stand by women at this hour in time using several International protocols like the Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women [CEDAW] , laws and policies at regional and national levels .’’

Sally Dura of Zimbabwe Women Coalition
Sally Dura of Zimbabwe Women Coalition

The report from ZIMCODD further states that women are on the frontlines of Health provision. This means they take care of family members, children and themselves. . Vulnerability comes with the role they take to provide health services. As they strive to bring sanity at homes and in communities, family incomes are eroded, creating chances of gender-based violence, gender injustice, inequity and in equality due to low levels or not at all of the flow of gender mainstreaming. Taking a voice high pitched up in response, a nurse by profession at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals Clara Nyoni said women provide the most health services.  she hits up the subject,

‘’Women are on the frontline in terms of health service provision to populations. It is therefore imperative to hold Public Health and Population Health accountable above all Community Health at community, family and national levels. Therefore, Primary Health Care is vital now. There is no doubt women do all the work right like now.   Most of our patients are women vulnerable due to covid-19. There is less doubt to say.’’ she poses.

World Health Organization reports that from 8 June 2020 187,875 cases of corona had been documented in 54 countries of the African Region.  This means strong commitments in Health budgets at Global, regional and country levels.

A Child Rights Activist and Expert in Children humanitarian well-fare, Father Reverend Nyanhete has ideas that Governments working with Civil Society, Non-Governmental Organizations, churches and Chiefs must take time to look at issues of our past culture and tradition. He says if covid-19 is left alone to affect children, then the Convention on Children’s Rights is then not respected because past practices will turn evil to humanity.

‘’remember children have been victims of our African values, culture, customs and tradition. As long we forget these in this era we hurt and shoot ourselves in the foot. We need to push Governments to re-look at the customs and see to it that we are not being found un-aware by issues that have long time back reversed gains.’’

‘’Cultural and customary marriages have done the worst on the girl child. Girls used to be married to older man under betrothment, a custom that undermines the right of the girl child further with education. Girls are now given house hold chores at home since they have nothing to do. They are not in school. Most of their time is being at home.  They are chances of them taken for a ride by men, sexually abused, economically strained they turn to prostitution under these hard times ‘’

Speaking on the same line of though, Sally Dura of Zimbabwe Women Coalition said women are facing gender-based violence that was no-more in African countries but now it is almost back because of the pandemic we have. She added that unless countries in Africa take holistic measures as fast there are thorny new emerging issues.

‘’Gender-Based -Violence has increased during covid-19 meaning to say, women are being sexually, economically and physically abused at the expense of children whom they take care of. What do you think happens? There are huge implications, divorce, separations, child poverty increase, vulnerability, increase in theft, deviant behavior and emerging health issues related to food-insecurity comes with malnutrition’’.

‘’There are growing cases of early marriages as well with the girl-child a past occurrence that we start to experience in the shadow of the disease.  Women are turned into more growing poverty. This is true that children are affected as well. ‘’

With the voice for children more at cost of the gained now reversed gains, Pascal Masocha another Child-Rights activist notes with deep sorrow on the increase in Child Labour and prodigy on many farms in Zimbabwe. The Increase is almost rising to 30% a figure which tells more to be done.

‘’The increase of child-labour has increased almost 30% high since the end of last year, worse now with covi-19 issues making children lose on education. Families are unable to cope up with food security, a scenario that throws children into child-labour ‘’

‘’Organizations are not in full swing at work fearing for their lives because corona stigma and discrimination is growing as well. It means then there are some children somewhere under child-lab our, prodigy, where-by they carry heavy loads at the expense of their weight, energy and bodies ‘’

A Health Expert in Nutrition working with ZICOSUNA [ Zimbabwe Civil Society Organizations Scaling Up Nutrition Alliance] Kudakwashe Zombe recommends Governments to increase budgets in Health provision at this point in time. Besides, Infrastructural development helps countries prevent covid-19. He advises countries to follow up on the World Organization guidelines so as to meet Global standards. He concludes by making a point on the Abuja Declaration

‘’The Abuja Declaration recommends countries to make effort to come up with 15% amount of budget so as to fight this pandemic. It means then countries need to increase their budgets in covid-19, increase nutrition levels of finance flows so as well to curb malnutrition. This is enshrined in Article 16 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights’’

‘’In order to reduce in-equalities during this time Investments in Health reduces challenges faced by women and children. During this Health crisis nutrition levels decrease. This is a bite of poverty and vulnerability on women and children. Gender injustice follows with impacts on women themselves’’.

A Legislator Dubangani Mpofu standing for Zvishabane- Runde Constituency says there is need to lift people out of poverty by addressing social -economic opportunities at community to national level. He adds that there must be full representation in political spheres by all women without fear and favor, with transparency and accountability.

‘’There must be social and economic opportunities created for women so as to curb gender injustices, inequality and marginalization of women and children. Increase in health budgets makes countries address as well challenges faced by women.’’, he said

Above all, a number of Politicians and Members of Parliament asked to comment advises the Government working with the Anti-Corruption Commission to curb corruption, illicit finance flows and capital flight. Curbing corruption puts women and children on the safe side during these hard times of covid- 19, experts, academicians, policy makers and implementers note.

*Nevson Mpofu a renowned multi-awarded winning journalist is as well a development studies lecturer at Chartered Institute for purchasing and supply at midlands state university campus in Harare . he is advancing in sustainable development ..

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Cameroon’s Anglophone Crisis: Killing of Women and Girls going Unabated
August 17, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Boris Esono Nwenfor

Women from the North West Region of Cameroon gathered on 7 September 2018 to call for an end to the conflict that has resulted in many being killed and thousands displaced
Women from the North West Region of Cameroon gathered on 7 September 2018 to call for an end to the conflict that has resulted in many being killed and thousands displaced

Cameroon, unlike some other countries in Central Africa, was not a war-torn state. Cameroonians lived in relative peace in the Anglophone regions until four years ago (2016). There was no need to flee to the bush; major attacks on civilians in the Anglophone regions were not commonplace before the separatists took up arms.

Families have abandoned their homes, seeking shelter in nearby bushland or safer parts of the country. In some cases, women have been abandoned by their husbands who have joined the secessionist forces. As a result, approximately 68 per cent of Cameroon’s internally displaced persons are said to be women.

Civil society organizations across the English-speaking regions have been calling for the protection of women and girls as the crisis rages on. The South West/North West Women’s task force on several outings has been calling for the respect of international norms by both parties to the conflict. The women in the South West have planned an outing this August 18, 2020, to protest against the ongoing killings.

Children working in their houses have been killed. Recently, some children who were picking snails (Nyama Ngoro) behind their house were killed. The other was shot in the hand, and the other who ran was caught and is now at the army camp.

“We the women them go for D.O office and tok say backside house wey pikin di pick nyama ngoro dey go come killam,” a distressed mother said in Pidgin English. “Woman pikin na Amba? Small woman pikin them killam. Di one so pass we. Dey di leave those that are Amba but di kill innocent pikin them wey nova even reach 13 or 14 years.”

Women and children represent about 80 per cent of the approximately 10,000 refugees registered so far in eastern Nigeria’s Cross River state. Thousands more are among the population of unregistered Cameroonians in neighbouring states.

Some of these are boys and girls who fled to Nigeria alone. Unaccompanied and separated children are particularly affected by difficult access to food and the lack of subsistence opportunities.

UNHCR staff have received numerous reports that children have to work or beg to survive or to help their families. Many children are unable to attend school, as they lack both the time and funds for education. Although schooling in Nigeria is free, there are still some basic costs, such as those for school materials.

As a result of the crisis, women giving birth in the bushes are now a common issue, unable to go to school, struggling to take care of family – women in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions are suffering as the crisis continues, unabated, as women scramble to protect their families and survive during difficult times.

“Everything is changing, and it is affecting women seriously because they have never experienced this kind of situation – every day you learn a new strategy to deal with it. Women have given birth in the bushes, there’s gang rape, and women have been tortured,” one aid worker says.

In recent times, there has been an uptick in violence against women, perpetrated by Cameroon’s security forces and the armed separatist forces. The most recent case is the killing of a 35-year-old lady in Muyuka by separatist fighters.

There have also been several rapes reported, with many more going underreported. In one of the most high profile cases in 2018, Arthur Mbida, a government soldier, stood trial for allergy raping a 17-year-old lactating mother at a military checkpoint in Bamenda, North West Region, Equal Times reported.

The escalating conflict began back in October 2016, when English-speaking lawyers in Cameroon opposed the appointment of French-speaking judges to their courts. A few other frustrated groups, amongst them teachers, later joined in peaceful protests against decades of under-investment and other government policies which they said discriminate against the country’s English-speaking regions. The protests grew and the government responded with force. The peaceful protest has now turned into a full-blown conflict as separatist fighters look to create a state for themselves. 

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Covidhero: Zimbabwean Lady Feeds Thousands Of Hungry Children
August 13, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Prince Kurupati

Samantha has provided food to people in thousands during the lockdown in Zimbabwe.Photo credit Jekesai Njikizana,AFP,Getty Images
Samantha has provided food to people in thousands during the lockdown in Zimbabwe.Photo credit Jekesai Njikizana,AFP,Getty Images

Heroes often emerge during tumultuous times. In Zimbabwe, the COVID-19 pandemic has seen one heroine emerging. Her name Samantha Nyasha Muzoroki. With the little that she has, Samantha has been feeding thousands of families mostly children every day since Zimbabwe put in place a national lockdown in the early months of 2020.

In her own words, Samantha says, “Feeding thousands of families in my hometown, Chitungwiza, on the outskirts of Harare, has become my life since the start of the lockdown in Zimbabwe. Seeing smiles on the faces of women and girls is fulfilling.”

Samantha says her relief kitchen initiative really started modestly. With the sole aim of giving children a good start to their day, she decided to serve free porridge to the vulnerable in her community. As soon as she started, more and more children began to visit her home each morning for a scoop of her nutritious porridge. In no time, adults also started trickling in. Assessing the situation that most of these people were in, Samantha quickly decided to serve two meals each day, breakfast and supper. For breakfast, she continued serving porridge (and occasionally bread when porridge runs out) and for supper she serves sadza (Zimbabwe’s staple food).

As the national lockdown continues dragging for long, the numbers of people who are dependent on her meals continue increasing. In the early days, hundreds were served but now, Samantha’s kitchen now serves close to 3000 each day.

At the very first, Samantha says she “started with a 2kg packet of rice and 500g of beans.” As the numbers of those in need of a meal increased by each day and as her savings were dwindling, she had to barter her jeans and sneakers with food supplies.” Her compassion however has since encouraged the corporate world and some individuals to chip in and help her with food supplies.

Bread Company Lobels has chipped in on occasions donating bread. Other companies that have made donations include EzuluFoods, Chicken Hut, N. Richards Group, Clean City, Quick Fresh, Health Factor Zimbabwe and Fresh in a Box.

Other individuals have also been inspired by Samantha and they have since launched their own relief kitchens’ in their respective communities. In Victoria Falls, some officers in the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, local municipality officers, members from the business community and other individuals have joined hands to launch the Victoria Falls Children’s Feeding Scheme. The Scheme has one aim which is to provide every child with a hot, nutritious meal 5 days a week.

The diplomatic community has also been inspired by the work being done by Samantha. The Chamber of Chinese Enterprises in Zimbabwe made a donation of hand sanitizers and pairs of gloves.

For all those who have chipped in, in helping her with the relief kitchen, Samantha said she is thankful. “I am thankful for the community of Chitungwiza and the world wide community.”

In the early days, Samantha did encounter some challenges as she was shut down by the local council authorities for operating an illegal relief kitchen. However, the differences were ironed out and her relief kitchen is now registered as Kuchengetana Trust. In an interview with a local publication VUKR, Samantha said that she will take her initiative beyond the lockdown when lifted, “Definitely, we are now registered as a trust ‘Kuchengetana Trust’. There is no way I could ever turn back on what we have built in the last couple of months. I have dreams so pronounced I am eager to deliver. I plan to make self sustenance the order of the day. I get goose bumps when I think about it. Social development projects and facilitation of them are my main objectives.”

Children queue for food outside the kitchen of Murozoki in Zimbabwe.Photo CNN
Children queue for food outside the kitchen of Murozoki in Zimbabwe.Photo CNN

With regards to self sustenance, Samantha says she “envision a future where a woman is self-sufficient. I have been talking with some of the women about ideas to help start income generating projects.” She does acknowledge that this is something which requires a lot of resources especially financial resources but is hopeful the desired resources will come.

Samantha is helped by willing volunteers in her relief kitchen. Some prominent individuals including renowned Urban Grooves musician Rockford Josphats aka Roki have helped her serve meals to the thousands who visit her relief kitchen on each day of the week. Some who visit her kitchen in need of a meal often are moved by her work and they end up staying to volunteer. One such person is Anastencia Hove. After visiting the relief kitchen for a meal, Anastencia Hove says she “was moved by her (Samantha) love. It is rare to find people who think about others. So I said as a token of my appreciation for her support, I should volunteer. This lockdown has not spared us at all, so people are suffering. The number of people I see here shows that many are hungry.”

Samantha is an immigration lawyer by profession and a business lady.

*Culled from August Issue of PAV Magazine

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Rolake Akinkugbe-Filani Joins the African Energy Chamber’s Advisory Board
August 13, 2020 | 0 Comments
Rolake Akinkugbe-Filani
Rolake Akinkugbe-Filani
Rolake will be advising and supporting the African Energy Chamber within its Investment and Energy Transition Committees.

 Leading and prominent African energy expert and finance executive Rolake Akinkugbe-Filani has joined the African Energy Chamber’s Advisory Board for 2020 and 2021. Rolake will be advising and supporting the African Energy Chamber within its Investment and Energy Transition Committees.

Currently Managing Director of EnergyInc Advisors and Senior Africa Advisor for the IFU Danish Investment Fund, Rolake brings years of experience providing financial and strategic advisory services to the public and private sector in oil and gas and power. She has built a track record of helping to finance, invest in and successfully scale businesses across Africa’s energy sector.

“Rolake has critical experience in the financing and scaling up of gas and renewable energy companies, which is just what our continent needs at the moment,” declared Nj Ayuk, Executive Chairman at the African Energy Chamber. “Rolake represents the next generation of African business women who is playing the most critical role in shaping the future of our industry.”

Rolake also sits on the global advisory board of Canadian Private Equity firm, Stonechair Capital advising on its #EnergyAfrica Fund for Sub-Sahara Africa. She was previously the head of energy and natural resources for FBN Capital and FBNQuest Merchant Bank, Nigeria’s oldest financial services group, where she helped energy, and oil and gas companies raise debt and equity capital. From 2017-19 she was also a member of the private sector economic advisory group in the Office of the Vice President of Nigeria, working closely with the Chief Economic Adviser to the President on a range of national development policy issues.

For her significant contribution to Africa’s growth story, Rolake was recognized in the United Nations’ MIPAD Top 100 (Most Influential People of African Descent) Under 40, in the Business & Entrepreneurship Class of 2018, and was listed in the 2017, 2018 and 2019 Choiseul Institute’s (France) top 200 Under-40 Young Economic Leaders in Africa.

Rolake has a BSc and MSc degree from the London School of Economics (LSE), and a global executive MBA from TRIUM.

*African Energy Chamber
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WPEC Launches ‘Titans Tank’ to reward best African and African American female entrepreneurs
August 11, 2020 | 0 Comments

The Women’s Program Engagement Council (WPEC) aka “Africa’s Titans®”, is a Global Sustainable Partnerships (GSP) Global Initiative designed to help African and African American women entrepreneurs and business owners expand into new markets, today launches a new initiative christened ‘Titans Tank.’

Titans Tank will entail a virtual business competition to allow women entrepreneurs to pitch their ideas and existing business to the public and the WPEC community. The top five businesses will be selected to participate in the final. These women will get the rare opportunity to showcase their ideas, products, or services to judges and potential investors. To apply, please click on  LINK
According to Kimberly L. Fogg the Founder and Chair of (WPEC), the goal of WPEC is to work with investors to help them look at women entrepreneurs through a “new lens” as it relates to the value of investing in women and to ensure their voices are represented, recognized and championed for their role as innovators, job creators, entrepreneurs, mentors, while helping raise awareness that these women have longevity in the local, national and global markets.

Kimberly noted that the campaign will invite African and African American women entrepreneurs and business owners globally to send in a short video of their idea or existing business. “We will showcase this on all our social media platforms including @TWPEC Facebook page and LinkedIn in the week of August 17th. The judges will select the top five “Titans” and the winner will be announced on Sept 26th 2020.”

In keeping with the theme of Africa’s Titans® the competition will focus on two categories.

  • Titans in Innovation, Technology, and Communication Connectivity
  • Titans in Banking, Business, Investments, and Marketing

WPEC is looking to partner with key female representatives of major Fortune 500 companies, African leaders, company founders, philanthropists, key policymakers and business leaders to serve as mentors to share their journeys through the private and public sector spaces describing not only their successes, but also identifying policy gaps, challenges, obstacles and suggested solutions for future best practices.

WPEC is an innovative social entrepreneurship organization comprised of a global network of women leaders who play a pivotal role in the global support of getting more women in managerial/executive positions and on corporate boards, with a mission of developing, growing, and sustaining women leadership in their own businesses globally. WPEC operates globally through building a committed global black woman led Africa’s Titans® network of entrepreneurs and business owners who are utilizing innovation to drive global sustainable development, addressing existing socio-economic gaps, and integrating social impact in the continent of Africa and the Diaspora through allocating a percentage of their funding to GSP as their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) partner. WPEC works with investors to help them understand the shift in paradigm of development and facilitate local/foreign direct investments through a “new lens” as it relates to the value of investing in women/women-owned businesses who have longevity in the local, national and global markets.

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Mali: Oumou Sangaré tops World Music Charts Europe
August 9, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Bakary Ceesay

Oumou Sangaré

Malian Oumou Sangaré has claimed the No 1 spot on the World Music Charts Europe(link is external) (WMCE) with her album titled Acoustic.

Acoustic rose 13 places after making its entry on the chart at No 14 in July. The offering is essentially an unplugged version of her 2017 release Mogoya. The album was released digitally on 19 June through record label No Format.

“I suggested to Oumou that she record this album after a show in London to celebrate 15 years of No Format,” No Format founder Laurent Bizot said. “At that concert, for the first time, she had agreed to try out this acoustic approach, which is all about letting go. The space it created for her voice was wonderful.”

The Pace Setters, a reissue of Ghanaian band Edikanfo’s 1981 LP, ranks second after its debut on the chart at No 7 in July.

Making its entry at No 4 is The King of Sudanese Jazz by musician Sharhabil Ahmed via the Habibi Funk label. The seven tracks were recorded in the 1960s and feature a mix of rock and roll, funk, surf rock, traditional Sudanese music and Congolese rumba.

Maghreb K7 Club: Synth Raï, Chaoui & Staiif (1985-1997) is another newcomer on the chart ranking at No 7. The album features an impressive compilation of music recorded and produced between 1985 and 1997 by musicians from the Maghreb region in Algeria.

Further down, Santrofi’s Alewa – the No 1 album in July – drops to No 9, while Tamotait by Tuareg band Tamikrest from Mali fell eight positions to No 13. The album was at the top of the chart in June.

At No 17 is Afropentatonism by Nigerien desert blues musician Alhousseini Anivolla and Ethiopian jazz guitarist Girum Mezmur. The pan-African project dropped six places after debuting at No 11 last month.

Nayda! by Bab L’Bluz from Morocco completes the list of African albums on the chart with a debut at No 18. Real World Records says the album features “a new wave of Moroccan artists and musicians taking their cues from local heritage, singing words of freedom in the Moroccan-Arabic dialect of darija (‘nayda’ means both ‘to rise up’ and ‘to party’) and mixing influences as and when.”

The WMCE features albums selected by radio producers and presenters across Europe. The albums are then played for a month on various radio stations, and an official poster is displayed in multiple music stores.

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Gambia:Vice President Touray tested Positive for Covid19
July 29, 2020 | 0 Comments
Vice President, Dr. Isatou Touray

The Office of the President informs the public that Her Excellency, the Vice President, Dr. Isatou Touray has been tested positive for COVID-19. Consequently, the President, Adama Barrow will be on self-isolation with immediate effect for two weeks.

The public is reminded that the Coronavirus is real and exists in The Gambia. The public is advised to properly use face masks, maintain regular hand washing and social distancing in the fight against the virus. Stay at home and stay safe.

* State House Gambia

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Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund (AECF) confirms Chief Executive Officer
July 24, 2020 | 0 Comments
Victoria Sabula
Appointment of Victoria Sabula as its permanent Chief Executive Officer.

The Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund (AECF) announced today the appointment of Victoria Sabula as its permanent Chief Executive Officer.

It follows her appointment as Interim Chief Executive Officer in August 2019 after serving as AGRA’s General Counsel and Corporation Secretary for five years and previously holding several positions at KCB Bank Group.

Hixonia Nyasulu, Board Chair said:

“On behalf of the Board, I am delighted to confirm that Victoria Sabula has been appointed AECF’s Chief Executive Officer.  This decision follows a rigorous recruitment process conducted with an international consulting firm where Victoria rose to the top of a very strong field of candidates.”

“Victoria impressed the board with her strategic vision, depth of management expertise, and proven track record both at AECF as interim CEO, and previously at AGRA and KCB Group.”

Victoria Sabula, Chief Executive Officer of AECF, said:

“I am absolutely delighted to have been appointed as Chief Executive Officer of AECF after having had the opportunity of leading the organisation as interim CEO for the last year.”

“AECF has remained true to its founding purpose which was to make systems work for the poor in sub-Sahara Africa. AECF remains committed to leaving no one behind and we will continue to push the boundaries, being intentional that our investments present opportunities for women, and truly bring the benefits of private sector to low-income households.”

Prior to joining The AECF, Victoria served as AGRA’s General Counsel and Corporation Secretary providing strategic oversight on legal advisory, compliance, risk management and governance for AGRA’s programmatic activities across sub-Saharan Africa. Starting her career with Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) Group, Victoria is a senior institutional leader with C-Suite experience in both private sector and non-profit sector.

Victoria holds a Bachelor of Law (LLB) Degree from Moi University, a post Graduate Diploma in Law from Kenya School of Law, a diploma in Human Resource Management from Kenya Institute of Management and a Master’s in Business Administration from Nazarene University. In 2015 she was named in the Legal 500’s General Counsel Power List Africa, which recognizes the top 100 corporate counsels in Africa.

The Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund (AECF) is a non-profit institution that supports early and growth-stage businesses in the agribusiness and renewable energy sectors to reduce poverty, promote resilient communities, and create jobs through private sector investments.

Since 2008, AECF has invested in 268 businesses across sub-Sahara Africa focusing on Agribusiness, Renewable Energy and Climate Technologies. As of 2019, we have impacted more than 17 million lives and created over 12,000 jobs and leveraged over US$ 750 million in matching funds from the private sector. AECF is headquartered in Kenya with offices in Cote d’Ivoire and Tanzania.
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Africa can tackle medical supply shortages through a regional response
July 22, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Jennifer Freedman

Dorothy Tembo, ITC’s ad interim Executive Director

Africa can position itself strategically and develop a regional response to avoid healthcare product shortages similar to those triggered by the Covid-19 crisis. That’s the main message of Medical Industries in Africa: A Regional Response to Supply Shortages, a new International Trade Centre (ITC) report.

The Covid-19 pandemic has severely burdened the global health system, driving a surge in demand for medical supplies such as masks, gowns and gloves. The World Health Organization warned in early March that international production of such goods – known as personal protective equipment – would have to ramp up by 40% to meet demand.

Africa sources just 8% of its health-related products from African suppliers. But the continent can become competitive in some of these goods while combating the crisis and building its own resilience to future pandemics, the ITC report finds. The African Continental Free Trade Agreement has a key role to play in supporting the regional medical industry, it adds.

“We examine the potential of the African medical supply industry and show how trade can be an important element of the continent’s health response, both in the short and long term,” says Dorothy Tembo, ITC’s ad interim Executive Director. “We suggest a strategic mix of open markets, diversified procurement and stronger regional value chains” to  position Africa strategically in the future trade landscape of the global medical industry while safeguarding the health of Africans.

Keeping the regional market open for essential health products is critical, the report says. ITC business surveys on non-tariff measures have found that companies in Africa frequently struggle to import medical supplies because of inspections and customs charges. In addition, tariffs are relatively high: African countries apply a 10.3% average tariff on these items, compared with 7.9% in non-African developing economies and 2.9% in developed countries.

The report urges African governments to review import regulations and consider temporarily lifting tariffs, taxes and other restrictions that hinder access to these goods – especially as the continent has limited sources of such products.

Regional value chains would help diversify global supply

That’s why it’s also important to diversify suppliers, the report notes. Africa imports roughly 90% of its medical products from the European Union, China and India.

The report urges policymakers to consider regional suppliers with export growth potential. Diversifying would reduce the impact of export restrictions on essential goods and make the continent less dependent on just a handful of foreign suppliers. The report identifies Egypt, Ghana and South Africa as viable alternatives for products such as disinfectants and adhesive bandages.

Governments also should help build up Africa’s capacity to produce key medical supplies by developing regional value chains, the report says. Although the continent produces many of the inputs used to manufacture health-related products – such as rubber, fabrics and ethanol – these goods are often exported without any transformation.

Policymakers could support the development of regional value chains by channeling investments into these sectors, the report says. Furthermore, they could leverage negotiations in the context of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) to keep trade functioning smoothly along these value chains – for instance, making sure these vital goods trade duty-free within Africa and that other regulations are harmonized.

“Tariff cuts and trade facilitation measures to support the free flow of health products and their ingredients regionally will be an important step in supporting regional value chains in selected medical products,” the report says. “Such measures will help build the continent’s resilience to global health crises and diversify the global supply. It remains important for the AfCFTA negotiations and implementation to prioritize these aspects.”

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Kenya:Woman charged will illegal possession of ammunition
July 22, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Samuel Ouma

A Kenyan woman has been charged for being in possession of 30 rounds of ammunition.

Appearing before Embu Principal Magistrate Henry Nyakwemba, Loise Muthoni pleaded not guilty claiming the ammunitions belong to his lover who allegedly let them in her house without her knowledge.

She was released on Sh.50, 000 cash bail or Sh.100, 000 bond with a surety of similar amount.

Muthoni’s plea to have her bond terms reduced fell into deaf years after the Magistrate turned down her request.

 “You should have investigated the character of your boyfriend before falling in love with him. I can’t reduce the bond because what you are telling the court cannot be ascertained since the dangerous items were allegedly found in your house,” emphasized Nyakwemba.

The suspect was arrested on July 19 in Embu West Sub-County, Eastern of Kenya. The police discovered the bullets wrapped with a magazine in her house.

The case will be heard on August 19, 2020.

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Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa, ImpactHER and UN Women Policy Brief exposes disadvantages to women entrepreneurs in post COVID-19 era, offers solutions
July 17, 2020 | 0 Comments

Women-led businesses are more vulnerable to closure than those led by men in the era of the novel coronavirus, due to women’s limited access to finance, shifts in consumer behavior, and the increase in women’s household care responsibilities as a result of extended lockdowns.

All across the continent, the coronavirus pandemic is wreaking economic havoc and hitting women the hardest, with women-led Small and Medium-sized Enterprises(SMEs) at greater risk of closure as they tend to be smaller and on average, operate in lower profit margin, service-based industries.

These and other important findings of a new policy brief highlighting policy solutions to support women-led businesses in Africa in a post COVID-19 world, were released during a webinar organized Wednesday 15 July by the African Development Bank’s Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA) program, working with UN Women(link is external) and ImpactHER(link is external).

“The compilation and analysis of real time data is crucial as Africa responds to the pandemic. The surveying of women-led businesses from across sectors and industries provides opportunity to have targeted interventions aimed at keeping these vital contributors to African economies afloat,” said Esther Dassanou, AFAWA Coordinator.

The brief, titled ‘Transformative policy solutions to support women-led businesses in Africa in a post Covid-19 world,” contained results of an ImpactHER survey of more than 1,300 women-owned SMEs in 30 African countries on the impact of COVID-19 on their businesses. Over 200 participants joined in the virtual webinar, which was moderated by UN Women’s Elena Ruiz, Women’s Economic Empowerment Regional Policy Advisor for West and Central Africa.

“The policy brief and the discussion have put on the table strategies that work for women entrepreneurs in the region. We hope this will contribute to make sure that women entrepreneurs and women-led businesses are at the centre of COVID19 recovery plans, and to help governments and other actors build a post-COVID economy that challenges, rather than reproduces, gender inequalities,” Ruiz noted.

Panelists in Wednesday’s seminar were Ada Udechukwu, Head of Women’s Banking at Access Bank, Nigeria; Efe Ukala, Founder of ImpactHer; Sylvia Natukunda, Founder & CEO of yogurt company Farm Reap in Uganda; Kosi Yankey, Executive Director of the National Board for Small Scale Industries in Ghana and Dr. Boutheina Ben Yaghlane Ben Slimane, Director General, Caisse of Deposits & Consignments in Tunisia.

They shared perspectives from government, private sector and banking on how women-led businesses in tourism, trade, retail, hospitality, education, personal care and similar sectors have suffered as result of COVID-19, and offered recommendations for immediate, short- and medium-term solutions to mitigate the impact on women-led businesses.

“ImpactHER commissioned the survey to allow it to provide practical solutions to women-led businesses,” Efe Ukala, its founder, said. “So far, ImpactHER has offered resilience training, custom business advisory services including financial forecasting, valuation, company restructuring, rebranding, etc., technology tools such as e-commerce websites which are critical to ensure the viability of women entrepreneurs in a post-COVID era.” ImpactHER has provided such support to over 3,000 women entrepreneurs in over 25 African countries, Ukala noted.

The panelists also showcased solutions in action, such as the African Development Bank’s recent approval of a loan of 264 million euros to help support the Moroccan government to mitigate the health and socio-economic crisis brought on by the pandemic. Parts of these funds will go towards mobilizing financial resources for women-owned enterprises whose cash flow has deteriorated due to declining activity. Through Bank Al-Maghrib, women-owned SMEs will have access to guarantees that cover 95% of the credit amount and enables banks to rapidly put together exceptional overdrafts to finance the target companies’ operating capital needs.

 “The fight against the pandemic requires public and private sector involvement to enhance women entrepreneurs’ ability to bounce back from the crisis. Efforts such as the one in Morocco as well as Tunisia and Ghana, should be replicated throughout the continent,” Dassanou said.

The discussions also showed how Coronavirus not only potentially exacerbates already existing inequalities between men and women, but has led to other hurdles for women, including limited access to finance, key networks, information, skills gaps, as well as limited control over assets that they can leverage to obtain financing.

“The AFAWA initiative’s collaboration with UN Women and ImpactHER to provide solutions has great potential to influence policy,” Vanessa Moungar, Bank Director for Gender, Women and Civil Society, noted.

*To access the policy brief, click here.

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Nigerian Actress / Screen Writer Pens Coronavirus hit African lockdown series
June 30, 2020 | 0 Comments
Tunde Aladese

Tunde Aladese is an African film actress and screen writer, she won an Africa Academy Award in 2018, she has recently been a studying BA in Filmmaking at MetFilm School .As a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, a  popular series called, Shuga went into a mini-series nightly show titled MTV Shuga Alone Together highlighting the problems of Coronavirus on 20 April 2020. Tunde is the screenwriter.

The show was originally  to be broadcast for 60 nights, but it’s now been increased to 65 nights and its backers include the United Nations. The series is based in Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya and Cote D’Ivoire and the story is told through with on-line conversations between the main characters. In the Q and A below she discusses the series and her career plans

Do you remember how you fell in love with films and writing? Was there a particular film/ script?  Did it make to feel a particular way? Anything growing up that pushed you in this particular direction? 

This is a difficult one because it’s never really just one thing. It’s the gradual growth of a lifelong romance. My love for writing started with prose, making sorry imitations of any book I enjoyed in order to somehow prolong the experience that the book had given me. Cinemas weren’t much of a thing in Nigeria at the time when I was growing up but VCR was big business and watching movies was a big family pastime.

It’s hard to pick just one film because the exposure was constant, and the genres were varied. It was the eighties so there was a lot of that B movie style action. Also, a lot of the glam mini-series type content, usually centred around a woman who succeeded against all odds. There was ‘The Sound of Music’ which my siblings and I could quote in its entirety. Arthouse came later, as options widened. I didn’t have a proper understanding of how films came to be for quite a while and a couple of appearances on kids’ variety shows were a surreal experience.

I guess primary school drama club was my first proper sense of trying to create a narrative out of thin air and get other people to help bring it to life. But I can say that I fell in love with the film business, this idea of actors and directors and storytellers on screen after reading biographies of some old Hollywood movie stars between the ages of 10 and 13.

I think that was when I began to understand the process of how all that came to the screen. The possibility of anything like that being a tangible and viable career plan, came much later. 

Please expand on the origins of when and why you decided that career in the screen industry was for you. 

I’m not quite sure I decided. I think the timing was fortunate for me. My first job after university led to an introduction between my boss and a producer who was about to make a radio drama series for the BBC in Nigeria. My boss showed him some ideas I had put down and I got invited to be part of a writers’ room, something I’d never heard of. I couldn’t believe someone paid me that much money (not a huge amount but at the time I was making almost nothing) to do something I’d been doing for fun all my life. I figured ‘I could get used to this…’ Success was not immediate but over the next couple of years, enough opportunities came my way that when an international cable company became interested in producing Nigerian series, I actually had a little experience under my belt and could pitch myself for some writing opportunities.

Tunde Aladese  won an Africa Academy Award in 2018
Tunde Aladese won an Africa Academy Award in 2018

Why did you choose Metfilm school? What’s unique about it? What were you experiences there? What were your education experiences beforehand? Where did you grow up and where did you go to college / university… what did you study before? 

My first degree was in English Literature, from the University of Ibadan in Nigeria. After almost 10 years working professionally  as a screenwriter, mostly in television, I wanted new challenges and a wider canvas. I thought learning formally about all aspects of film production would help me with that. Choosing Metfilm was a combination of timing, location (Berlin had been popping up a lot in my timeline in the months preceding), language and investigating their alumni and the things they had gone on to do since leaving the school. It’s a great way to study the European arthouse film aesthetic, which I was very interested in, without having to take the time to learn a whole new language. And because it’s an English speaking school in a very European city, you get to study with students from a wide variety of countries from all over the world.

Tell me about MTV Shuga – how did the project come about about? 60 episodes – it’s quite an ask… how did you manage to complete it? 

We’re still trying to! And I’m not going to deny that it is a challenge. I just take it one block at a time, and fortunately I don’t have to do it all on my own. There’s a co-head writer and co-director who alternates blocks with me and of course, the SAF team. I had worked on 2 previous seasons of the series, including one season as Head Writer and had therefore had some contact with some members of the team. They reached out within the first couple of weeks of lockdown in Germany and told me about this idea they were throwing around, and asked whether it was something I would be interested in coming on board for. I’d been sitting home for 2 weeks, reading about everything going on all around the world, from news headlines to social media posts sharing people’s emotions, so I knew as soon as they asked that there was potential here. I didn’t imagine at the time that it would be 65 episodes (yeah, it’s 65 now)! We’re recording 41-50 this week and then my co-head takes over again for the next batch.

What’s the response been like? From the audience and the industry? 

To be honest? I don’t know. I usually try to stay away from comments because you get drawn in by the good stuff and then one negative comment and you might spend the rest of the day overthinking. I do understand that reactions and feedback from the first few episodes was quite exciting. It’s been challenging trying to find ways to maintain and increase the momentum and interest. But I did say I was looking for challenges, right?

Tunde is the screenwriter  of the mini-series nightly show titled MTV Shuga Alone Together highlighting the problems of Coronavirus
Tunde is the screenwriter of the mini-series nightly show titled MTV Shuga Alone Together highlighting the problems of Coronavirus

What are you working on now, what are your plans for the future? 

I’m almost done with this season of Shuga and there are a couple of things lined up for me to switch over to from next month. But nothing that I am at liberty to talk about right now.

What advice would you give to anyone thinking about becoming a screen writer / considering a career in the screen industries? 

Read a lot of books, watch a lot of movies. Figure out what you like, what excites and moves you and why. And then try to put it into your own work. Write, write, write. Even when you hate it, keep at it. I had a period of about 6 years from secondary school into university where, everything I wrote, I hated soon after. But that made me question why I hated it and what I needed to do differently. The trick is to keep writing so that when an opportunity comes your way, you have something to show of your ability that will make them at least consider you. Don’t wait for someone to find you and make you a writer. And then of course, seek out those opportunities. I know this is a bit glib, and won’t work out for everyone, but it will for some. Oh, and I should mention this magic trick. The first time I went to a writers’ workshop, everyone there introduced themselves as a writer except me. I didn’t think I had the right to claim that about my hobby. The people present in the room made me say it ‘I’m a writer’. When I returned to my life, I started introducing myself that way. And people remembered. And the calls started coming.

*Q & A facilitated by Ruth Sparkes and MetFilm School

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How Rwanda is spurring a generation of women in technology
June 22, 2020 | 0 Comments

Rwanda is renowned as a pioneer for gender equality.

In 2020, it was the only African country ranked in the top 10 of the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report.

It ranked in the top four in the Report’s political empowerment category, in recognition of the high proportion of Rwandese women lawmakers and ministers.

The country therefore seemed a natural fit for a 2018 pilot program of the African Development Bank’s Coding for Employment initiative, with Nigeria, Kenya, Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal.

The Coding for Employment flagship program is establishing 130 ICT centers for excellence in Africa, training 234,000 youths for employability and entrepreneurship to create over 9 million jobs.

Hendrina C. Doroba, Manager in the Education, Human Capital and Employment Division at the Bank, explains how Rwanda is empowering women in technology.

How has the government of Rwanda enabled women to pursue careers in technology, and STEM in general?

The government of Rwanda has been a foremost champion of women in ICT and in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (also known as STEM), by driving initiatives like the establishment of the Carnegie Mellon University-Africa campus, for which the Bank provided funding. Students from 17 different countries pursue highly specialized ICT skills at the Africa campus.

The country also hosts the African Institute of Mathematics (AIMS) which is now recruiting balanced cohorts of women and men. Lastly, the Bank-funded University of Rwanda College of Science and Technology has for many years produced women leaders in the ICT sector in Rwanda and globally.

Rwanda’s government also supports initiatives such as the Miss Geek Rwanda competition, an initiative of Girls in ICT Rwanda, which aims to encourage school-age girls, even those in remote areas, to develop innovative tech or business ideas and to generally immerse themselves in ICT. The Miss Geek initiative has now been rolled out in other countries in the region.

What role has the Bank played in supporting Rwanda’s digital strategy, especially in relation to women?

The strategy of the Bank’s Coding for Employment center of excellence in Rwanda has been to join forces with the Rwanda Coding Academy through a grant agreement to support the school’s activities, like ICT equipment, teacher training and career orientation. The Rwanda Coding Academy started in January 2019 and has so far enrolled one cohort, which is now going into their second year.

Besides the Rwanda Coding Academy, the Bank’s Coding for Employment program held a two-day masterclass for girls and young women entrepreneurs at the 2018 Youth Conneckt summit, where over 200 beneficiaries were trained in using digital tools to amplify their businesses. The session was attended by women entrepreneurs as well as students from girl schools in Kigali, including those from White Dove School, which is an all-girl school fully dedicated to training in ICT. The masterclass culminated into a pitching exercises from various groups who presented their ideas to a panel of judges.

What lessons can other African countries learn from Rwanda’s approach to the 4IR, in particular the role of women?

The government of Rwanda has been a trailblazer in using innovation to improve public services across the country using the e-governance platform Irembo, to bring government services closer to citizens. In addition, the government is driving national digital skilling campaigns by championing digital ambassador programs and platforms such as Smart Africa, which has organized the annual Transform Africa summit since 2013.

Still, gender equality remains a concern, and gender gaps are evident even in schools. Rwanda’s ambitions extend to piloting the Kigali Innovation City, also Bank-funded, to serve as the country’s knowledge and innovation hub by attracting new businesses and incubating ideas. At the same time, the country has created a business environment which is pro-entrepreneurship and welcomes global inventors to test their ideas and concepts. Zipline, a company which uses drones to deliver medical supplies in remote areas, is one example.

Lastly, Rwanda promotes women leaders in the ICT and innovation sector. The country’s Minister of ICT and Innovation is a woman, as is the CEO of the Irembo platform. Appointments such as these are helping to dispel the myth that women are not as capable as men in ICT.

*AFDB

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“Times of Unprecedented Crisis present Unique Opportunities for Unprecedented Action”
June 18, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Graça Machel, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Dr. Vera Songwe, Maria Ramos

Mrs Graça Machel, Founder, Graça Machel Trust and the Foundation for Community Development
We have been presented the opportunity to reimagine and redesign our society into a vibrant and equitable one.

COVID 19 has unearthed massive inequalities within our societies and brought to glaring light the unique burdens which women carry the world over. Allocation of response resources should be targeted towards the immediate needs of managing the virus as well as future-looking to simultaneously dismantle the structural, systemic barriers which reinforce inequality and disenfranchisement. We have been presented the opportunity to reimagine and redesign our society into a vibrant and equitable one. We must place women and women’s leadership at the core of the response and beyond.

COVID-19 has caused massive shocks to both the informal and formal economies in Africa. World Bank estimates that the Sub-Saharan Africa region will see significant economic decline, and plunge to as low as -5.1% this year.

Women have been hit particularly hard by this economic downturn. Emerging evidence from the ILO on the impact of COVID-19 suggests that women’s economic and productive lives will be affected disproportionately. They have less access to social protections and their capacity to absorb economic shocks is very low.

As the economic toll of the crisis is felt, there is also an increased risk that female children will be forced into early marriages, and the number of child marriages and early pregnancy may increase as girls are turned into a source of quick income for families.

Given these shocks to society at large, it is no surprise that our food systems will be dealt a significant blow resulting in the dangerous exacerbation of food insecurity and nearly doubling current levels of widespread hunger.

COVID 19 has disrupted supply chains and thrown the global food economy into disarray. As border closures, production stoppages, and export restrictions limit supply, demand has surged, inflating prices and impacting the world’s poorest and most marginalized people, and Africa is no exception.

Women are central players in the food chain and key to agricultural output on the continent. 50% of the agricultural activity on the continent performed by women, who produce about 60-70% of the food in Sub Saharan Africa.

Studies reveal that the cost of malnutrition has a tremendous impact on a country’s economic growth. A lack of adequate nutrition is a key contributor to unacceptably high levels of both maternal and child mortality as well as stunting– and therefore to the loss of human capital for the overall economic, social and political development of the continent.

The fragility of African health systems is revealing itself and women and children are most vulnerable to the lack of attention and adequate specialized services the diversion COVID 19 is causing resulting in an anticipated surge in child and maternal mortality.

Domestic violence has increased by upwards of 25% in some countries as a result of lockdowns. Victims face limited access to protective services during periods of quarantine.

A Call to Bold Action:
All Responses Must Take into Account Gendered Impacts of COVID and Be Informed by the Voices of Women:  Women and women’s organizations should be at the heart of the COVID-19 response decision making and designing health and socio-economic policies and plans. An intentional focus on the lives and futures of women and girls is an essential part of breaking structural practices which have been marginalizing them. A system for collecting and disaggregating data needs to be put in place to ensure that the impact of the crisis on women is informing the redesign of fragile and inequitable socio-economic and health systems into fully inclusive, equitable ones.
Government and Development Partners Must Implement Gender Lens Economic Policies and Sharpen the Capacity of Women as Engines of Economic Growth: Give women and female businesses direct access credit, loans, tax and social security payment deferrals and exemptions, and preferential procurement. Structural barriers to access to finance, inheritance, and land rights must be removed. Create and support the enabling environment for ICT infrastructure so rural and urban women are able to contribute to the digital economy and access online platforms to facilitate e-commerce and e-health/education/social exchanges.
Invest in Women Along the Local Food Chains to Improve Food Security: Response resources should target female SMMEs and rural women associations to increase productivity in both formal and informal economies, eradicate hunger and malnutrition. Boost local food production and confront head on the indignity of Africa importing its food. Food security is a fundamental investment in the building of healthy societies.
Recognize and Implement Equal Rights in the Workplace: Provide equal pay for equal work.
Narrow Gender-based Education Gaps: Build ICT infrastructure for online learning to bridge the inequality divide and retrain teachers on virtual curriculum so every African child, especially the girl child, has access to quality education. Efforts to protect girls from child marriage and early pregnancy, and provision of safety net resources for households to keep girls in school are also needed.
Strengthen Health Systems, Gradually Implement Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and Provide Mental Health Services needed as key strategies to the improvement of health systems and citizen wellbeing.
Comprehensively Strengthen the Criminal Justice System and Increase Efforts Around Survivor Support and Protection: Prevention/protection efforts must be deemed as essential services and intentional mass media efforts to spur a fundamental change of mindset whereby GBV is rejected and deemed socially unacceptable and intolerable.
COVID-19 presents us with unprecedented opportunities for the regeneration of the African socio-economic landscape and the movement towards a just, equitable and sustainably prosperous continent. Let us dare not squander this opportunity for a rebirth.

Signed

Mrs Graça Machel
Founder, Graça Machel Trust and the Foundation for Community Development

Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
Board Chair, Gavi the Vaccine Alliance, AU Special Envoy to Mobilize International Economic Support for the Fight Against COVID-19, Former Finance Minister, Nigeria

Dr Vera Songwe
Executive Secretary, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa

Ms Maria Ramos
Co-Chair of the UN Secretary-General’s Task Force on Digital Financing of the Sustainable Development Goals and former Chief Executive Officer of Absa Group Limited

*SOURCE .Graça Machel Trust (GMT)

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How You Can Benefit from Cameroon’s Tax and Fiscal Incentives in Response to the Covid-19 Pandemic?
June 15, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Achare Takor*

In response the Covid-19 pandemic, the Government of Cameroon decided on a number of fiscal measures to support Cameroonian businesses and households.

Achare Takor, Associate Attorney
Achare Takor, Associate Attorney

It comes as no surprise that challenges of the Covid-19 crisis are felt harder in the developing world, where reliance on tax revenue from large taxpayers is higher than that of most advanced economies. As a result, developing countries will require more support, especially financial, to help their health and fiscal systems withstand the current shocks. In response the Covid-19 pandemic, the Government of Cameroon decided on a number of fiscal measures to support Cameroonian businesses and households. Amongst these are the easing of tax burdens, and broad support for businesses and individuals with cash flow problems, difficulties in meeting tax reporting or payment obligations, or otherwise facing hardship.

These courses of action are focused on the collection of direct and indirect taxes, the extension of deadlines for filing tax returns without generating interest or penalties, or the suspension of tax prepayments. They mostly apply to corporate and individual income and withholding tax returns, periodic VAT returns or social security contributions, and, to a lesser extent, to customs or stamp and excise duties.

The government has tried to resolve these issues by providing these tax and customs measures below:

I. Suspension of accounting verifications for the second quarter of 2020

The government has taken the decision to suspend all General Accounting Audits for Q2 2020. The only caveat for this are cases where there is a suspicion of tax evasion or fraud. In order for this measure to be accurately implemented, the procedures regarding  the scope of suspension and the exceptions are explained in the subsequent paragraphs.

The suspension of tax audits applies to the accounting verifications provided for in Article LII of the General Tax Code and in general, to all on-site interventions within the company. This applies to spot checks, unannounced checks, the right of investigation, the right to physically establish stocks and the right of inspection is also applicable to regularisation procedures carried out from office, such as those of the pre-filled declaration and the compliance dialogue, are thereby still authorised.

a. Scope of Suspension

The suspension of accounting audits covers the second quarter of fiscal year 2020, which is the period from April 1st to June 30th, 2020. During this period, no general or partial verification of the accounts and in general, no on-the-spot intervention shall be undertaken, all ongoing control procedures shall equally be suspended. This suspension of accounting verifications and  on-the-spot interventions are granted to both the administration and taxpayers. However, it should be noted that the suspension does not apply in a case where the work in the business is completed and the tax payer has made his comments already, following the notification of adjustments. In a case like this, the services are entitled to notify any taxes that may be recalled.

b. Exceptions to the Suspension of on-site interventions

  1. The suspension of general audit or other on-the-spot checks shall not apply where there is suspicious behaviour displayed by the taxpayer. This includes any behaviour giving rise to a presumption of fraudulent practice aimed at evading payment of tax or reducing the amount of tax;
  2. Regarding  the validation of VAT credits, in particular in cases which require prior general checks, in accordance with the provisions of Article 149a of the General Tax Code, or when the business so requests.
  3. For interventions carried out at the taxpayer’s request, the taxpayer must guarantee compliance with the barrier measures necessary to protect all participants in the procedure.

II. Extension of the deadline for filing statistical and fiscal declarations without penalties in case of payment of the corresponding balance.

The deadline for the filing of Annual Statistical Returns (DSF) at the taxpayer’s request may be extended without giving rise to any assessment. However, and looking at it critically, the application of this measure at an earlier time would have proven more impactful as companies in Cameroon were already immersed under the pressure of the COVID-19 pandemic. This had an adverse effect on their business and subsequently their treasuries.

There are some limitations as to those who can benefit from this measure. For instance, the requested deferral cannot be extended beyond the end of the second quarter of fiscal 2020, which is June 30th, 2020.The benefit of the penalty exemption is subject to the payment of the balance of corporate  income tax (CIT) on March 15th, 2020. Consequently, in the event of the non-payment of the balance of corporate income tax by March 15th 2020, the services apply the fine for late filing of the Annual Statistical Return (DSF) provided for in article L99 of the GTC. The fine imposed on a taxpayer who has paid the balance of the tax due on March 15th, 2020, for the filing the Annual Statistical Report (DSF) after the deadline is simply cancelled. In the event that the notified has already been paid, a tax credit to the amount of the fine is recorded in his favour. This in be carried forward to its subsequent payments.

III. Suspension of the application of recovery measures for companies directly affected by the crisis.

Companies directly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic can benefit from tax deferrals and moratoria upon request. This measure is applicable to the following companies:

  1. Subject to the ordinary law moratorium provided for in Article L141 of the GTC, only undertakings in the sectors directly affected will benefit from the deferrals and moratoria due to Covid-19.
  2. The sectors directly affected include tourism (hotels, travel and accommodation agencies), transport and related activities.

Applications for moratoria submitted by undertakings affected by the crisis, although not falling within the aforementioned sectors, are assessed on a case-by-case basis. To add to that, the period of deferral or moratorium on payments to companies directly affected by the Covid-19 crisis is defined on a case-by-case basis.

Measuring Range

The moratorium granted to companies affected by the crisis entitles them to the issue of a certificate of non-indebtedness (Attestation de Non Redevance) valid for one month, in accordance with the provisions of Article L94 of the Book of Tax Procedures.

Non-compliance with a payment deadline shall automatically render the moratorium or deferral null and void and shall result in the immediate reactivation of the collection measures forced by the tax collector.

Methods of Implementation

To benefit from the moratorium or a deferment of payment, an application must be made to the Director General of Taxes. These applications must comply with the conditions as stipulated in the circular No. 20/169/CF specifying the modalities of application of the fiscal measures to respond to Covid-19.

Companies must provide supporting evidence of the impact of the health crisis on the company’s financial situation, where the company does not fall within the above-mentioned sectors. Requests for a moratorium or deferment shall be processed within 72 hours, except where it requires a prior working session

IV. Support to enterprises’ cash flow through the special allocation of FCFA 25bn, for the clearance of stocks of tax credits on the Value Added Tax awaiting reimbursement

In order to support companies’ cash flow, a special fund of FCFA25bn is allocated to the reimbursement of VAT credits.

It should be noted that the competent services of the  Directorate General of Taxes shall take the necessary steps to credit up to this amount to the escrow account dedicated to the reimbursement of VAT credits housed at the Central Bank (BEAC).

In addition, the operational tax departments will have to speed up the validation controls of those VAT credits that are still at their level and ensure that the corresponding files are forwarded to the division in charge of litigation at the General Tax Department for further processing

The question this poses is whether the special fund of 25bn will suffice to cover all the taxpayers who have stocks of VAT credit and are awaiting reimbursement.

The Director of Taxes of Taxes in an interview by a prominent local newspaper (Cameroon Tribune) noted that the difficulty is that there was a stock of VAT credits accumulated before the recent reforms; stock valued at approximately 25bn in mid-May. However, in the case where this does not suffice to cover all the taxpayers who have stocks of VAT credit awaiting reimbursement, hopefully further measures will be taken to this effect.

V. Postponement of the Property Tax deadline for the 2020 fiscal year to September 30th, 2020

The deadline for payment of the property tax which is usually set at June 30th each fiscal year, as stipulated by article 579(1) of the GTC, is extended to September 30th, 2020.

Notwithstanding the postponement of the due date of the Property Tax, the distribution of pre-completed returns serving as a medium for payment of this tax will be able to begin as early as this month of June. The terms and conditions for the issue and payment of this tax remain unchanged

VI. Full deductibility of donations and gifts on the Corporate Income Tax (CIT) for companies who donate against Covid-19

The aim of this measure is to encourage companies to support in the fight against Covid-19 in Cameroon and give them the possibility to benefit from full deductibility of these expenses on their Corporate Income Tax.

Donations and gifts granted to the state or its branches within the framework of the fight against Covid-19 are fully deductible without any limitations. With regard to donations made to other organisations, their deductibility remains governed by the provisions of Article A-5 of the General Tax Code. This measure will be taken will be taken into account in the annual declarations of company results.

VII. Exemption from Hotel Tax for the remainder of the 2020 fiscal year

Accommodation establishments, whether classified or not, are exempt from hotel tax for the last three quarters of the 2020 financial year. Accommodation establishments, which are legally liable for this tax, no longer have to include the said tax in the invoices sent to their customers for the period in question.

This measure is applicable to the hotel tax due from March 1st 2020 until the end of the financial year 2020. In the case where it was previously collected from March 1st, it must be reimbursed and remains definitively acquired by the treasury insofar as it is a consumption tax which is borne by the customer. The implementation of this measure is immediate. It will be subject to subsequent regularization by ordinance or in the finance law.

We will finally note the following additional and custom measures:

  • Exemption from Custom duties on all acquisitions of equipment, consumables and provision of services linked to the fight against Covid-19;
  • Benefit from direct pickup, hoist pickup or pre-arrival declaration procedures for relief or humanitarian shipments ;
  • Reduction of the requirement of certain commercial documents and procedures;
  • RVC exemption;
  • Acceptance of the documentation transmitted electronically (copies) in place of the originals subject to regularization if necessary;
  • Acceptance of electronic invoices;
  • Acceptance of copies of EUR1 movement certificate for the application of EPA tariff preferences;
  • Acceptance of the system receipt in place of the original signed by the recipient subject to regularization;
  • Suspension of the collection of interest for late payment of customs duties and taxes. Suspension for the period of three months of the payment of parking and demurrage charges in the Douala and Kribi ports for essential goods;

What impact will these measures have?  

One issue that these measures will most likely bring about is how it will impact the state treasury. The need of the moment, unlike other distressing economic situations, is to rather have a more short/medium term focus than long-term one. The idea is to contain the economy and protect its people and their interests, by cohesively adopting such fiscal measures that support trade and industry, and ensure economic stability.

Now, the concern is that the interpretation and enforcement of these new measures could easily be the subject of controversy, and this may be rendered more challenging by the fact that some of the provisions of the General Tax Code are not exactly straightforward.

Will Cameroonian authorities maintain the kind of flexible approach which allowed the creation of the legal and operational conditions required for the successful implementation of these tax measures? And will they be willing to accommodate specific project needs with the passing of these tax measures? These questions will be answered soon enough, but there are reasons for a substantial amount of optimism.

*Centurion Law Group.To help you navigate these uncertain times and minimize risk, do not hesitate to contact Achare Takor, Associate Attorney at our Cameroon office at achare.takor@centurionlg.com

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Vice-President Jennifer Blanke bids farewell to the African Development Bank
June 11, 2020 | 0 Comments
Dr. Jennifer Blanke, Vice President for Agriculture, Human and Social Development is leaving the AFDB

Blanke joined the Bank in early 2017 and has overseen a number of the Bank’s key programs

The African Development Bank has announced that Dr. Jennifer Blanke, Vice President for Agriculture, Human and Social Development, will be leaving the Bank effective July 4, 2020.

Blanke joined the Bank in early 2017 and has overseen a number of the Bank’s key programs.

“I thank President Akinwumi Adesina for his strong leadership, guidance and support which have undoubtedly motivated and helped my team and I to play a key role in the transformation of the Bank. I feel privileged to have been given an opportunity to contribute to the Bank’s agenda for accelerating Africa’s social and economic transformation,” Blanke said.

The outgoing Vice-President added, “I am leaving purely for family reasons to rejoin my family in Switzerland, after a very fulfilling time at the Bank. I will miss the Bank and the excellent team we have built. I will continue to strongly support the Bank from wherever I am.”

Bank President Akinwumi Adesina said: “I have been delighted to work with Dr. Jennifer Blanke over the past three and a half years. She has demonstrated genuine leadership skills and moved the needles on so many fronts, especially in the areas of food security, women’s financial empowerment, and job creation. I wish her all the best and look forward to continued partnerships and engagement with Jennifer.”

*AFDB

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Merck Foundation together with 18 African First Ladies respond to the Coronavirus pandemic in four main areas
June 9, 2020 | 0 Comments
Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation with H.E. DJÈNÈ CONDÉ, The First Lady of Guinea; H.E. FATIMA MAADA BIO; The First Lady of Sierra Leone; H.E. Prof. GERTRUDE MUTHARIKA, The First Lady of Malawi; H.E. FATOUMATTA BAH-BARROW, The First Lady of The Gambia; H.E. DENISE NKURUNZIZA, The First Lady of Burundi; H.E. AÏSSATA ISSOUFOU MAHAMADOU, The First Lady of Niger; H.E. BRIGITTE TOUADERA, The First Lady of Central African Republic; H.E. REBECCA AKUFO-ADDO, The First Lady of Ghana; H.E. CLAR MARIE WEAH, The First Lady of Liberia; H.E. ANTOINETTE SASSOU-NGUESSO, The First Lady of Congo Brazzaville; H.E. MONICA GEINGOS, The First Lady of Namibia; H.E. AUXILLIA MNANGAGWA, The First Lady of Zimbabwe; H.E. NEO JANE MASISI, The First Lady of Botswana; H.E. Dr. ISAURA FERRÃO NYUSI, The First Lady of Mozambique and Former First Lady of Mauritania

Merck Foundation has partnered with the African First Ladies to support livelihood of thousands of women and families of casual and daily workers

Merck Foundation (www.Merck-Foundation.com), the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany has raced to respond to the Coronavirus pandemic in partnership with 18 African First Ladies, Ministries of Health, Information and Education focusing on four main areas:  
Community Support: Merck Foundation partners with African First Ladies to support livelihood of thousands of women and casual workers affected by Coronavirus lockdown.
Healthcare Capacity Building: Merck Foundation started Coronavirus healthcare capacity building by providing online one-year diplomas and two-year master’s degree in Respiratory Medicines and Acute Medicines for African Doctors
Community Awareness through media Awards: Merck Foundation announced, ‘Stay at Home’ Media Recognition Awards in Africa, Middle East, Asia & Latin America to raise awareness about Coronavirus.
Community awareness for Children and Youth: Merck Foundation launched an inspiring storybook ‘Making the Right Choice’ in partnership with African First Ladies to sensitize children and youth about Coronavirus
Merck Foundation has partnered with the African First Ladies of Liberia, Ghana, DR Congo, Zimbabwe, Niger, Sierra Leone, Malawi and Burkina Faso to support livelihood of thousands of women and families of casual and daily workers who are most affected by the Coronavirus (COVID -19) lockdown. The relief contribution was also undertaken in Egypt with the aim to support 500 families.

Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation explained, “Lockdown imposed in most countries has hit the daily workers and women the most, making it very difficult for them to survive. Therefore, Merck Foundation decided to partner with the African First Ladies to support up to 1000 women and casual workers families in each country, with the aim to save their livelihood as part of “Separated but Connected” Merck Foundation Initiative”.

Speaking of women being impacted by the lockdown, Dr. Rasha Kelej explained, “I am sad to know that the pandemic has led to a horrifying increase in violence against women. The confinement at home with an abusive partner has resulted in not only physical violence but also emotional violence against women which can have disastrous consequences for their health and well-being. Therefore, we decided to focus on supporting women in our coronavirus community intervention and strongly continue empowering infertile and childless women as part of our signature campaign ‘Merck More than a Mother’. We know they now need our support more than ever.”

“We strongly believe that building professional healthcare capacity is the right strategy to improve access to quality and equitable healthcare specially during this vicious pandemic.” Dr. Kelej added.

Therefore, Merck Foundation will strongly continue their current capacity advancement programs and will specially focus on building Coronavirus healthcare capacity through providing African and Asian medical postgraduates with one-year online diploma and two-year online Master degree in both of Respiratory Medicines and Acute Medicines at one of the UK Universities. This program is in partnership with African First Ladies, Ministers of Health and Academia across the two continents.

As part of their strategy of responding to coronavirus lockdown, Merck Foundation scaled up to more African and Asian medical postgraduates to provide online medical specialization scholarships.

During this lockdown, Merck Foundation will focus more on these online scholarships which will be for one-year diploma and two year master degree in several specialties such as: Diabetes, Cardiovascular Preventive Medicines, Endocrinology and Sexual and Reproductive Medicines.

To apply for these scholarships, please email us on: submit@merck-foundation.com

Merck Foundation has also launched ‘Stay at Home’ Media Recognition Awards in partnership with African First Ladies of African First Ladies of Ghana, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Malawi, Namibia, Niger, Guinea Conakry, Burundi, Central African Republic (C.A.R.), Chad, Zimbabwe, Zambia, The Gambia, Liberia and Congo Brazzaville, Angola, Mali, Mozambique for English, French, Portuguese and Arabic Speaking African countries. The awards have been also announced for Middle Eastern, Asian countries and in Spanish for Latin American Countries. The theme of the awards is ‘Raising Awareness on how to Stay Safe and Keep Physically and Mentally Healthy during Coronavirus Lockdown with the aim to separate facts from myths and misconceptions’ to apply for these awards email: submit@merck-foundation.com

Dr. Rasha Kelej emphasized, “We strongly believe that media plays a critical role in raising awareness about sensitive and pressing issues such as Coronavirus. I am looking forward to receive the creative and informative work of our winners so that they become Merck Foundation health champions in their countries.”

Merck Foundation has also launched an inspiring storybook called ‘Making the Right Choice’ in partnership with 18 African First Ladies. The story aims to raise awareness about coronavirus prevention amongst children and youth as it provides facts about the pandemic and how to stay safe and healthy during the outbreak. It also promotes honesty, hard-work and the ability to make the right choices even during the most challenging times. The story released in three languages: English, French and Portuguese. To read the storybook please click on below links:

English: https://bit.ly/2AVELf6
French: https://bit.ly/3h3WEsF
Portuguese: https://bit.ly/3f5A9S7

About Merck Oncology Fellowship and Master Degree Program:
A part of Merck Cancer Access, the program focuses on building professional cancer care capacity with the aim to increase the limited number of Oncologists in Africa. Oncology Fellowship Program of one year, one and half years, two years in India, Malaysia, Kenya and Master Degree in Medical Oncology for three years in Egypt in partnership with African Ministries of Health, Local Governments and Academia.

Launched in 2016, over 80 candidates from more than 26 African countries have been enrolled in the Merck Oncology Fellowship Program. The program will continue to build cancer care capability in African countries such as Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, CAR, Chad, Congo Brazzaville, DRC, Ethiopia, Gabon, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Mauritius, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia & Zimbabwe.

About Merck Fertility & Embryology Training Program:
Merck Fertility & Embryology Training Program was launched in 2016 as part of Merck More Than a Mother. Under this program, Merck Foundation has been providing hands-on practical training to candidates from Africa and Asia, in partnership with the Indonesian Reproductive Science Institute (IRSI), Indonesia; International Institute for Training and Research in Reproductive Health (IIRRH), India; Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE), India and Indira IVF Hospitals, India.

Through this program, Merck Foundation is making history in many African and Asian countries where they never had fertility specialists or specialized fertility clinics before ‘Merck More Than a Mother’ intervention, to train the first fertility specialists such as; in Sierra Leone, Liberia, The Gambia, Niger, Chad, Guinea, Ethiopia, Myanmar and Uganda. So far, Merck Foundation has provided for more than 180+ candidates, clinical and practical training for fertility specialists and embryologists in more than 35 countries across Africa and Asia such as: Bangladesh, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, CAR, Cote D’IVOIRE, DRC, Congo Brazzaville, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Malaysia, Liberia, Mali, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Nigeria, Niger, Philippines, Russia, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, The Gambia, Togo, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia & Zimbabwe.

About Merck Diabetes Blue Points Project:
Merck Diabetes Blue Points Project in partnership with African First Ladies, Ministries of Health and Academia to help improve access to equitable and quality diabetes care nationwide in African countries. Candidates from different provinces, countries or districts of the respective countries are provided with one-year Online Postgraduate Diabetes Diploma in English for English Speaking countries, or an Online Mastercourse on Clinical Management of Diabetes in French and Portuguese for 3 months duration, for French and Portuguese speaking countries respectively, ensuring geographical coverage of the whole country to help improve the landscape of diabetes care in Africa.

About Merck Foundation:
The Merck Foundation (www.Merck-Foundation.com), established in 2017, is the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany, aims to improve the health and wellbeing of people and advance their lives through science and technology. Our efforts are primarily focused on improving access to quality & equitable healthcare solutions in underserved communities, building healthcare and scientific research capacity and empowering people in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) with a special focus on women and youth. All Merck Foundation press releases are distributed by e-mail at the same time they become available on the Merck Foundation Website.  Please visit www.Merck-Foundation.com to read more. To know more, reach out to our social media: Merck Foundation (www.Merck-Foundation.com); Facebook , Twitter , Instagram , YouTube (bit.ly/2E05GVg) and Flicker 

About Merck:
Merck (www.MerckGroup.com) is a leading science and technology company in healthcare, life science and performance materials. Almost 52,000 employees work to further develop technologies that improve and enhance life – from biopharmaceutical therapies to treat cancer or multiple sclerosis, cutting-edge systems for scientific research and production, to liquid crystals for smartphones and LCD televisions.

Founded in 1668, Merck is the world’s oldest pharmaceutical and chemical company. The founding family remains the majority owner of the publicly listed corporate group. Merck holds the global rights to the Merck name and brand. The only exceptions are the United States and Canada, where the company operates as EMD Serono, MilliporeSigma.
*SOURCE Merck Foundation
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