PMNCH Board Chair Mrs Graça Machel, SDG Advocate and Founder of the Graça Machel Trust and incoming Chair President Michelle Bachelet of Chile have both been named Commissioners to the first-ever WHO.
Standard Chartered Bank today, 16 March 2018, announced the official launch of its digital bank in Côte d’Ivoire. This marks the Bank’s first digital bank in Africa and the first-of-its-kind to open in Côte d’Ivoire.
Italy elects its first black senator: Toni Iwobi of the League
Italy has elected the first black senator in its history, it was announced, and he belongs to the anti-immigration League.
Antwerp and Dakar port authorities are to collaborate more closely in the next few years. In this way Antwerp, the second-largest port in Europe, seeks to reinforce its historic position as leader on the coast of West Africa.
The Senegalese port of Dakar for its part views the collaboration as a way to position itself as the main regional hub for freight.
Commentators in the Swiss press have interpreted the overwhelming rejection (71.6%) of the ‘No Billag’ initiative on Sunday as a strong sign of support for a publicly funded Swiss TV and radio service.
Nevertheless, they believe that the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) must downsize, and opinions vary widely as to how this could be achieved.
Sierra Leone's main opposition leader called for calm Wednesday night after his supporters engaged in running street battles with police, resulting in at least one injury at the end of an otherwise peaceful day of polling in the West African nation, according to the Voice of America (VOA)
One of Ghana’s most successful businesswomen, Lucy Quist, will be traveling to Switzerland for the Campaigning Summit Switzerland 2018. Quist transformed the prospects of Airtel Ghana during her years at the helm, winning 20 awards and successfully leading the company through a merger with Tigo, to become the second biggest telecommunications company in Ghana.
On March 5 in Rabat, the Moroccan minister of industry, investment, trade and digital economy Moulay Hafid Elalamy, the minister of economy and finances, Mohamed Boussaid and the representative of the country’s 12 professional chambers signed a series of conventions related to the development of the chambers of commerce, industry and services (CCIS) and their federation.
The African Guarantee Fund for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (AGF) has entered into a re-guarantee transaction of an amount of up to USD 74 million with GuarantCo to increase its guarantee capacity for SME financing.
Hummingbird Resources announced in a new operational update that it has produced 10,737 oz of gold since the start of operations (Dec. 19, 2017) on its Yanfolila mine in Mali. It has also shipped 5,483 oz to refineries.
According to the company, during the first period of operations, the plant processed lower-grade ore to ensure that its performance and gold recovery were satisfactory before it increases the grades.
The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Strategy and Finance of South Korea Kim Dong-yeon has described the Annual Meetings of the African Development Bank led by the Bank President Akinwumi Adesina as the most important event on their calendar.
Efforts to boost digital financial inclusion in Tanzania and Africa in general have received a shot-in-the-arm following a productive conference organized by FINCA Micro-Finance Bank Tanzania in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation.
The International Organisation for Migration, (IOM), the UN Migration Agency, has presented the results of a pilot project that connected thousands of refugees, employers, migrant groups and local authorities and made strides towards integrating beneficiaries of international protection in the EU into the labour market.
At its 19th Board Meeting in Songdo, South Korea, the Board of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) has approved the first funding proposal of the African Development Bank for Zambia’s Renewable Energy Financing Framework. The GCF will provide a US$ 50 million loan and a US$ 2.5 million grant
Switzerland’s Federal Intelligence Service (FIS) flagged 38 asylum seekers as potential security threats last year – and recommended that their applications be rejected.
The FIS external linkexamined 6,466 asylum applications in 2017, and found that 38 cases were “relevant security concerns”, noted the Federal Council in its annual report released last Wednesday.
The Inter-Parliamentary Union’s (IPU) Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians condemns the exclusion and repression of opposition MPs in the lead-up to critical elections in Cambodia and Venezuela, and the pattern of intimidation against opposition parties worldwide.
International Organisation for Migration (IOM), the UN Migration Agency, reports that 171,635 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea during 2017, with just under 70 per cent arriving in Italy and the remainder divided between Greece, Cyprus and Spain.
The Swiss Federal Council has extended for one year the freeze on the assets of ousted presidents Ben Ali (Tunisia) and Yanukovych (Ukraine) and their entourages. The decision was reached to support the judicial cooperation between Switzerland and the two countries.
Salima — Two Months after the first cholera case was recorded, Salima registered 13 other cases over the weekend within 24 hours, posing a threat that the outbreak is getting out of control as cumulative cases have reached 88 with four community deaths recorded so far.
According to Salima District Health Officer, Dr Ivy Chilingulo, the 13 new cases were registered in Ngolowindo area around a vocational school called KODO.
Dr Chilingulo said out of the 13 cases, 10 have been hospitalized in the cholera camps at Senga-Bay Baptist Hospital and Salima District Hospital (SDH).
"Seven of the patients are being treated at Senga-Bay Baptist Hospital which is the closest hospital to the outbreak area, while three are at the district hospital," said Chilingulo.
She said investigations indicate that the new cases may have occurred after people drunk contaminated water from a borehole and a shallow well.
"When we inspected the source of the cases, we found that people in the affected area use water from a borehole which is close to a septic tank and also an open shallow well within the area.
"As of now, we have ordered the closure of the shallow well and have given the villagers chlorinated water," said Chilingulo.
The DHO further said the sample of water from the two water sources have been taken for test and the results are due on Tuesday.
"As of now we cannot conclude that the cholera out-break is out of control basing on the facts that before the new cases we had gone for some days without registering a case," said the DHO.
Meanwhile, District Commissioner Charles Mwawembe is still calling for well-wishers to support efforts to contain the Cholera out-break.
Salima District Council has taken some measures in the last two months to contain the outbreak. Some of them are banning the sale of ready-to-eat foods in public places, prohibiting mass cooking including the school feeding program and banning of use of water from Lilongwe and Linthipe rivers for bathing and washing utensils.
The council has also been in mass social behaviour change campaigns targeting all affected areas.
Havana — Kenya is on the edge of far-reaching agreements with Cuba that will transform healthcare and deliver on one of President Uhuru Kenyatta's key priorities in his second and final term.
Kenya is looking at agreements on accelerated cooperation in health that will cover prevention and treatment of malaria, hypertension, diabetes and hepatitis B. The cooperation will also cover prevention and treatment of a range of livestock diseases.
Today, President Kenyatta ordered his senior health ministry staff to remain in the Cuban capital Havana, where he is on a state visit, until the agreements with specific details were signed.
The President began his second day of state visit by touring Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, where he was presented with detailed scientific approved health and medical preventive approaches being used in the Caribbean nation.
Cuba has well-researched methods in human medicine that have seen the country become a health leader among developing nations.
The Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) Dr. Rashid Aman who is remaining behind will be joined at the weekend by other ministry of health officials and executives and technical staff from leading research institutions.
The officials will agree and sign a deal on cooperation covering a range of medicines at the stage of clinical trials, vaccines and in-demand pharmaceutical covering a range of diseases common in Kenya.
The Head of State was briefed on why Cuba had opted to invest in social services for better economic results.
Cuba's Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology which began with only six scientists in 1980, is now a force to reckon with in the medicinal world, having 22,000 scientists and producing medicines, especially for tropical diseases.
President Kenyatta later today officially opened the Kenyan Embassy in Havana.
During the opening of the Chancery, Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary, Monica Juma and her Cuban counterpart, Bruno Eduardo Rodríguez Parrilla signed a Memorandum of Understanding on visa exemption for the citizens of the two nations.
The visa exemption will allow Kenyan holders of diplomatic passports and civil servants who are holders of ordinary passports to enter, remain and exit without restrictions for a period not exceeding 90 days.
Speaking after the signing ceremony, CS Juma said the embassy is the first in the Caribbean region and is important not only in terms of Africa's heritage but in also establishing people-to-people interaction.
She said a number of areas will be covered under the MOU taking care of high-level delegations between the two countries.
Delapitated state of health facility in Chiromawa P.H.C
One year after the Federal Government flagged off a scheme to revitalise 10,000 primary healthcare centres across Nigeria to make them 'fully functional', PHCs especially in rural Nigeria remain in poor state.
Under the first phase, the federal government which is collaborating with the lower levels of government and development partners in the scheme, said it will work on a PHC in each of the country's 109 senatorial districts in Nigeria. This means, three in each state and one in the Federal Capital Territory.
PREMIUM TIMES in February randomly selected and visited some PHCs in Kano and Kaduna states in the North-west region of Nigeria and found that very little work had been done.
The Primary Health Centre in Shuwaki is one of the three selected for renovation by the federal government in Kano State. Shuwaki is a village in Kunchi Local Government Area of the state.
As the reporter approached the facility, it became clear that it was still awaiting any kind of makeover. A part of the main gate was falling apart, grass covered the entrance to the main building and the paints were peeling off the walls. The dilapidated PHC was built about 18 years ago and is the only health facility in the community. But it has been provided no equipment or personnel to play the role for which it was built.
"We do not have a doctor or nurse," the officer in charge of the centre, Ado Mohammed, told PREMIUM TIMES.
According to Mr. Mohammed, the workforce consisted of five Community Health Extension Workers (CHEW), one Junior CHEW and a lab technician.
"We don't have qualified medical personnel and the facility is understaffed. The CHEWs take deliveries of pregnant women and also attend to patients. When there is any case we cannot handle, we refer to Bichi General Hospital, which is about 30km from this centre."
The building is old and the beds inside the wards just as dilapidated. Mr. Mohammed said lack of water supply was one of the big problems. "We buy water from our own pockets," he said.
Power supply is epileptic and the centre has no generator or inverter.
The centre also has no ambulance. "When there is a need for referral, we tell the relatives to provide a means of transporting the sick person. So, they hire a bike or vehicle to convey the patient to the general hospital," Mr. Mohammed said.
Aisha Sani, a laboratory technician has been at the centre for over five years. "Since I have been working in this facility, no renovation has been done. The way I met this place, that is the way it is. No water, the toilet is very bad and no resources at all for a standard health centre."
Mrs. Sani said she stopped running HIV tests at the facility when the authorities stopped providing test kits.
"The last time an HIV test was conducted in this facility was about three years ago. Whenever we request for test kits, we don't get them. So we stopped requesting and since then, we don't run HIV tests here," she said with a shrug of the shoulders.
Aminu Musa, a CHEW, was seen administering an intravenous injection on a patient. He does stuffs like that because there is no qualified doctor, he explained.
Mr. Musa said the state government provides some drugs, such as anti-malarial and antibiotics, which the centre dispenses to patients free of charge.
A patient who identified herself as Mariam confirmed this. She had been using the facility since 2013.
"I had my baby here. It is about 15 minutes' walk from my house, so I come here for treatment. It is the only health centre in Shuwaki so I don't have a choice. They give some drugs free of charge, while we pay a token for some other drugs".
The sorry state of PHCs in Nigeria is fully reflected in the abandoned centre in this village in Ungogo Local Government Area of Kano State. Located within a thick bush, the facility was under lock and key at the time PREMIUM TIMES visited.
Through the broken windows, walls and doors, the reporter could see rats and insects that had taken it over. After about 15 minutes, the reporter's inspection of the facility was interrupted by the arrival of a young man in his early 20s.
Musuba Yahaya brought out a key from his purse and opened the gate. The reporter accessed the rooms, old and dirty and covered with cobwebs. The ceilings appeared ready to fall off.
Mr. Yahaya is not the gate or security man. He is a CHEW, he told PREMIUM TIMES. Since the facility was built in 2008, no renovation had been done, he said.
"This facility is an empty building and there is actually nothing going on here.
"Whenever there is a patient, those people over there (pointing towards a group automobile mechanics) will call me and I will give the patient the drug available. There are no drugs now. We refer patients to Waziri Shehu, about six km away or Murtala General Hospital, which is 15km away."
Mr. Yahaya said the facility 'serves' eight villages.
"Binta is in charge of delivery but she is out of town now. She is a graduate of School of Food Hygiene. There are no nurses or midwives in this facility. We only have one CHEW, one JCHEW and one volunteer health worker," Mr. Yahaya said as he gave a rundown of the operation of the PHC.
"We do not have enough health workers, no ambulance, no equipment, no light, no generator, no toilet, no water," he said in response to the reporter's inquiries.
The village head, Umar Chiromawa, said no individual or government official had been around to inspect the facility, "not to talk of renovating it.
"This facility was built in 2008 and ever since then, nothing has been done. As you can see, the building is old, the windows are broken, no equipment, no adequate manpower and no resources at all. And even the CHEWs and JCHEWs that are assisting us here are not being paid," the village head said.
"Government should renovate this facility and also equip it for our community. Other hospitals are far from this community and cannot be easily accessed. About eight other communities depend on this health centre, so the government should make it a better place to (deliver) health services," Mr. Chiromawa said.
PHC Tsangaya Damagar
This centre is located in Doguwa Local Government Area of Kano State. It was 10:15a.m when the reporter arrived. She observed the facility had just been renovated, but it was empty. The main gate laid slightly open but the door of the building was closed, although not locked.
The rooms were newly painted and the environment neat, but there were no equipment to be seen. The labour room was bare. Some record books were left carelessly on an old wooden table, an indication that someone had been in the facility earlier that morning. By 12 noon when the reporter left, no staff had showed up at the centre. Only a man of about 45 years had.
"My wife left the house last night with my sick child that she was going to the health centre and since then, she hasn't come back home. So I came to check on her but she is not here. I don't know where they took my wife," the fragile looking man said before hurrying away on his bike.
All efforts to locate a worker at the facility failed: no resident knew the whereabouts of any of them.
PHC Unguwan Shanu
From afar to a close up view, the facility was welcoming with its gate and building wearing a new coat of creamy orange paint. It is one of the three centres in Kaduna State selected for renovation by the federal government. Located in this community in Kaduna North Local Government Area, the centre is sited to provide care for about 28,000 people from seven villages, including Unguwan Shanu. But despite the evident renovation of the building, basic equipment and manpower remained to be provided.
In a brief conversation with the reporter, Hauwa Ahmad, a medical lab technician, pointed out that the facility was renovated but not yet revitalised. She said the factors that make a fully functional health facility were still missing.
"The government has done well by renovating the building but they should do more on the inside than the outside," Ms. Ahmad said.
"The building is beautiful and neat on the outside but we lack adequate equipment inside it. There are cases we should be able to handle in this facility but because of inadequate equipment, we refer to Kawo Comprehensive site, which is about 45 minutes' walk from here. So the government should provide equipment because we are willing to work but the equipment are not there," she said.
"This building was renovated in 2017 by the state government, in collaboration with the federal government," the officer in charge of the centre, Ruth Yakubu, later explained.
"As you can see, the paintings are still very new and clean and the environment is also clean but that is all that was done. The government did not provide us with equipment that will make our work easy and effective," she said.
Pointing to an abandoned room, she said, "We do not even have a labour ward, talk less of equipment for delivery. That is the corner we use for delivery. We do not have an ambulance or even a small car that can be used for referrals or in cases of emergency. So whenever there is a need for referral, the relatives of the patient hire keke or borrow a vehicle to transport the patient to the destination," she said.
The chairman, Facility Health Committee, Unguwan Shanu, Garba Mohammed, lamented that the centre lacks adequate staff to attend to the thousands of people that access it.
"We have only seven workers and the work is too much for them. We only have one nurse, six Community Health Extension Workers (CHEWs), no doctor or pharmacist at all. So, we need the government to employ more workers to reduce the workload on our staff. About 28,000 people access this centre, people come from six other villages to get medical service here.
"The issues of water and electricity supply are also of great concern. Though we have a solar-powered borehole which the state government mounted for us, we still buy water, as the borehole is not yet functioning," he said.
However, a patient, Bilkisu Abdul, said the centre was providing service to the people "to some extent."
Speaking in Hausa, she said "I have been visiting this hospital for a long time. I had my three children here and I enjoy their services. Whenever I come here for treatment or bring my children for treatment, I pay for some of the drugs. The workers do not collect any fee for immunization, it is given to the children free of charge. The workers are kind as they attend to us as soon as possible whenever we come for treatment," she said.
PHC Kwarbal B.
After several hours driving through bumpy roads, due to wrong directions by passersby, our reporter arrived at the newly renovated health facility. Located in the old city of Zaria, Kaduna State, most of the residents did not know about PHC Kwarbal B.
The reason, though, is not farfetched. When PREMIUM TIMES visited, the centre had just been handed over by the House of Representatives. Until the renovation in 2017, it had been abandoned for several years, so residents were not yet aware of its changed fortune.
Lawal Mustapha is a staff of the state Ministry of Health deployed to head the renovated facility.
"This facility was handed over to the local government a week ago, so we are just a week old here. All the manpower are from the National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Centre. A House of Reps member brought all the equipment as directed by the federal government, so for now we have adequate equipment in the facility," Mr. Mustapha said.
As we drove into Kagarko Local Government Area of Kaduna State, we caught sights of men butchering rams, women cleaning homes or bathing kids in front of huts, and teenagers gathering firewood. We must be very close to Iddah where the PHC we were looking for is located.
But it took a few more kilometres to finally arrive Iddah. The environment of the health centre was eerily silent, like a graveyard; until a bike passed by to change the atmosphere. We drove through a wide-open black gate into an empty building. After almost 20 minutes of waiting and still nobody to be seen, we pleaded with a boy outside to call anybody who works at the facility. The boy soon returned with a young man in his early 30s.
Obadiah Matthew is a CHEW. He was the only worker available at the moment and was only washing behind the building while we waited, he said. He said the building was renovated in 2017; and that was all that was done about the facility.
The surrounding is neat and the building new. Viewing from outside, one would think activities were going on inside the building . But one would be wrong. A tour of the facility showed it could not be functional, as major equipment, manpower, and other resources were missing.
The centre has no ambulance, so patients provide bikes or other vehicles during an emergency.
"We do not have equipment in this facility, I cannot even say adequate equipment," Mr. Mathew said.
"We just need a few equipment, even if they are just tools for our labour room and other small ones. The light here is not stable so when there is no light and we need to take delivery, we use phone lights or torch lights. The patients understand though; they know we are trying our best. They are also aware we do not have a generator."
The facility has no qualified medical personnel - doctors or nurses. The CHEWs treat patients ad take deliveries of pregnant women.
"Though the facility does not meet all our health needs, it is better than none. They still give us some drugs," a patient who walked in some minutes later said.
Speaking in Pidgin English, the patient who simply identified herself as Blessing, said the general hospital in town is too far away so people around use the PHC. She said drugs are dispensed to them at a subsidized price.
In an interview with Premium Times after the visits of the PHCs in the two states, the Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Faisal Shuaib, said the revitalisation scheme of the federal government will be implemented over the course of several years.
"What the government is doing is putting funds dedicated from the Saving One Million Lives programme and we are renovating health facilities. Apart from renovating it, before it is said functional, it needs manpower, equipment, utilities and drugs.
"All of that is happening. Maybe some of the health facilities that you have gone to have not been handed over to the communities because we do not even have the human resources.
"We have started the process of mobilizing about 1,600 basic midwives who will be deployed to help manage some of the health facilities. We are looking at also getting funds from the Basic Health Care Provision Funds which hopefully will provide the resources to equip and provide commodities for some of these health facilities," he said
Mr. Faisal said it will be a misunderstanding of the plan of government to say just 109 centres would be revitalised.
"There is a whole lot more than the 109 health care facilities that are going to be renovated," he told PREMIUM TIMES.
Former Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke has given the South African government three months to compensate the families of those who died in the Life Esidimeni tragedy.
"It cannot be later than the 19th of June 2018," said Moseneke. The compensation is in excess of R1m for each claimant. Reading his order on the last day of the Life Esidimeni arbitration hearing at the Emoyeni Conference Centre in Parktown on Monday, Moseneke ruled in favour of the families.
"The government of the Republic of South Africa - as represented by the national minister of health, the premier of Gauteng and members of the executive government - are ordered to pay an agreed amount of R20 000 to each of the claimants listed in annexure A and B in respect of funeral expenses."
The government is ordered to pay R180 000 to each of the claimants listed in annexure A, B and C in respect of the shock and psychological trauma.
"The government is ordered to pay R1m to each of the claimants listed in annexure A, B and C as appropriate relief or compensation for the government's breach of Constitution."
He slammed the government - particularly former Gauteng health MEC Qedani Mahlangu, former Gauteng health department head Dr Barney Selebano and former Gauteng health department of health director Dr Makgabo Manamela - for the manner in which they handled the Marathon Project.
He found that their decision to move the mental health care patients was "irrational and unconstitutional".
A total of 144 psychiatric patients died after being moved from Life Esidimeni to various unlicensed NGOs.
Many of the families had not been informed about the intention to move their loved ones.Some family members found their loved ones in mortuaries and, in some cases, after post-mortems had been conducted, plastic and paper had been found in their stomachs.
In an effort to prevent further outbreak of Lassa fever, Ebonyi Government is to begin intensive campaigns against rat consumption in rural areas where inhabitants erroneously believe rats have high nutritional value.
The state Commissioner for Environment, Chief Donatus Njoku, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Monday in Abakaliki that the government would explore all avenues to dissuade the citizens from consuming rats.
NAN reports that Lassa fever outbreak in the state in January resulted in four deaths.
Njoku said: "Rats are the primary vectors of the disease, and we are vigorously carrying out enlightenment through mass media, workshops, seminars and various ministries' communication channels.
"We will collaborate with traditional rulers and other opinion leaders at the grassroots to educate rural dwellers to shun such a notion and realise that rat is the disease's primary vector.
"We have also continued to sensitise the populace to urgently report suspected cases to relevant health agencies.
"With the total functionality of the state government-owned South-East Virology Centre, such an occurrence can be expeditiously handled."
On sanitation, Njoku said that contrary to insinuations, non-observance of the monthly sanitation in the state did not affect effective sanitation.
"State and Federal Government functions sometimes fall on the last Saturday of the month, and when this occurs, we have to comply.
"The state government has evolved policies which make the populace to clean their environments on daily basis and not wait for designated days," he said.
Njoku told NAN that the state Ministry of Environment ensured that state government ministries and parastatal-agencies cleaned their environments daily as directed by the governor.
"We assess their performances to ascertain the level of compliance; to show his seriousness toward the directive, the governor visits the ministries for on-the-spot assessments.
"We encourage the people to keep their environments clean to improve their health," he said. (NAN)
The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health is waiting for a report which will reveal whether there has been a listeriosis outbreak in the province.
Spokesperson Ncumisa Mafunda said on Monday that the department was trying to avoid unnecessary panic and the spread of inaccurate information.
"The department wishes to appeal to the media to be patient as it awaits the weekly consolidated situational analysis report from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), due for publication on Wednesday, March 21," Mafunda said in a brief statement.
Over the weekend, the Ladysmith Gazette reported that six people in Ladysmith were affected by the disease and that there was one confirmed death.
It said Uthukela District Health Services received lab test results on Tuesday, March 13 from dairy farms and shops which were tested for listeriosis.
The results apparently came back positive for a dairy farm in Winterton and two shops that sell milk - one in Colenso and the other in Bergville.
Mafunda said the NICD was responsible for performing epidemiological and laboratory investigations of infectious diseases of public health importance.
NICD spokesperson Sinenhlanhla Jimoh did not immediately comment and referred News24 to the department.
According to the Ladysmith Gazette, shops in Ladysmith which have been associated with the disease have been closed until they test negative for listeriosis.
The dairy farm has also been closed so that its systems can be cleaned out and contaminated milk can be disposed of in the correct manner.
The systems on the dairy farm apparently have to be disinfected and after that, further tests will be conducted until they come back negative for the disease.
Uthukela District Health Services said that two people contracted listeriosis in November and another two people in December.
The health district also said one person could not be located because the wrong address was supplied to them.
Those who fell ill with listeriosis have been in hospital and are currently okay.
Earlier this month, Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi announced that the ST6 listeria strain, believed to be the cause of the outbreak, had been traced to Tiger Brands' Enterprise chilled meat factory in Polokwane.
The health department also confirmed that Rainbow Chicken Limited's Wolwehoek plant in the Free State was found to be contaminated with listeria, in line with the announcement made earlier this month.
Preliminary results showed that several ready-to-eat processed meat products from an Enterprise facility located in Germiston also contained listeria monocytogenes, but the sequence type was not known.
Over 180 people have been killed by the disease - the largest outbreak worldwide thus far.
The popular Fuji musician, Wasiu Ayinde Marshal, also known as Kwam 1, has called for concerted action to save the Yoruba Music genre from going extinct.
The 61-year-old Fuji music icon aired his views when he spoke at the 2018 Ariya Repete Roundtable Discourse, which held at Park Inn by Radisson, in Abeokuta, over the weekend.
The Ariya Repete Roundtable Discourse, an initiative of Nigerian Breweries beer brand Goldberg, is a conference dedicated to sustaining the rich heritage of Yoruba music genres, Fuji and Apala as well as discovering new talents.
While making a case for traditional Yoruba music, KWAM said it was high time stakeholders gave Fuji and Juju genres of Yoruba music a direction in order to preserve the language and heritage.
The Fuji musician stated, "I am not happy. How can I be happy when Yoruba language is being threatened? Most Nigerian parents no longer allow their children to speak the Yoruba language. Of course it will affect the music and that's what we're seeing now. Interestingly, the advent of technology has begun to take its toll on some of this music; since many of the present-day musicians are not really versed in the language.
"That is why I tell the younger musicians that want to eke out a living playing any Yoruba music and make a name to always make it a point of duty to learn the language and learn it well."
The keynote speaker at the event, Mr. Kola Adesina of the Department of Mass Communication, Crescent University Abeokuta, also buttressed KWAM's fears.
He said the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization has also listed Yoruba as one of the five thousand languages that are facing the danger of being extinct in less than 50 years.
"A method used to check if this is correct is by attempting to speak the language continuously for 10 minutes, without interjecting with foreign words like 'but, when, because' and so on. How many people can do this?", Mr. Adesina asked the startled audience.
Upon listening to the revelation by the University Don, the audience that comprised of music enthusiasts, media practitioners and other musicians such as Wale Thompson and Taiye Currency, attempted to communicate only in Yoruba language for the better part of the event.
In his remarks, Afro Juju musician, Sir Shina Peters revealed that the decline in the fortune of Juju music as well as the increasing popularity of the Fuji music informed his decision to introduce what is now known as 'fast-tempo Juju music.'
SSP noted, "The younger generation of musicians must be creative and innovative. In fact, my music career would have died a natural death if I had not changed the beat of my music then so it could appeal to the teeming youth population."
Interestingly, the focus of this year's discourse was woven around Fuji, Juju and other traditional genres of the Yoruba traditional music. As such, the panelist discussed how today's technology impacts on the different genres of the Yoruba music.
Organisers of the annual Gwanda Gospel Festival, which is in its third year, have announced dates for this year's edition and preparations are in progress.
This year's festival, which is running under the theme, "The Walls of Jericho Did Fall", will be held from September 7-9 in Gwanda with the line-up of performers being finalised. The event is being hosted by Big Time Strategic Group in a bid to promote local and regional talents, praising and worshipping God.
In an interview, South Africa-based Big Time Strategic Group founder Justice Maphosa said they have already started planning for the event. Maphosa said they chose the theme, "The Walls of Jericho Did Fall" because it signifies strength.
"Any obstacle, any problem, any mountain in your life can be overcome through prayer. The story of the walls of Jericho falling down is one that vividly demonstrates the miraculous power of God.
"But more than that, the utter destruction of Jericho teaches us several grand truths regarding God's grace and our salvation," he said.
He said although the dates and theme have been revealed they are still working on contracts with some musicians who are billed to take part.
"The line-up is being finalised. We usually keep this as a secret up until the final month before the event. This is for us to keep our house in order in case one artiste pulls out, and allows us to minimise the damage caused," he said.
Maphosa said each year they bring new aspects.
"When we praise God, we would always raise the bar. This year people can expect huge sound systems, major fireworks, fancy stage works, state-of-the-art lighting and surprise guest musician."
The business tycoon said the festival has boosted Zimbabwe's tourism industry.
"Religious tourism can be one of the most effective tools for inclusive and sustainable development. It raises awareness of our common heritage, which helps to ensure its preservation. This is what the people of Gwanda are doing with this show. Religious heritage sites have an immeasurable value in religious terms and as a source of public education, identity and pride.
"And we can re-invest the income from religious tourism in preserving our cultural heritage if we build them and model them around such events. Secondly, it can contribute to community development and empowerment. When tourists meet and show interest in the unique values of local communities, these communities can be empowered.
"Currently, we have internal tourism around the Gwanda gospel show," he explained.
Maphosa said although a huge investment is sacrificed for the festival, they also face some challenges.
"As you know that the event has surprised some, its magnitude, its message, the people around it - community participation around it, our God has blessed us all the time. This has kept us humble and praying. However, this does not mean there are no challenges. Clearance at the border posts remains a challenge especially when one is racing against time and working on deadlines.
"Moving tonness of equipment between two countries remains a huge task that cannot be ignored. More than 680km of road travel and heavy tonnage always posee a risk to the event. We do our best to make sure everything goes smoothly under such testing conditions."
He said there is also a challenge of hosting guests because Gwanda has limited accommodation facilities.
Jinja — Political tides are changing in Ugandan politics as political parties become more innovative in rallying support for their parties and candidates using the country's popular music icons.
Previously despised and under looked as rogue elements in society, musician in the recent part have become huge political capital for politicians and the affluent in Ugandan, rubbing shoulders the president and Ministers and sometime CEOs of multi-national companies.
Popular Musician turned politician, Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu alias Bobi Wine has become the symbol of change in Uganda preaching the gospel equality, freedom and human rights. He agenda and message resonates well that longtime opposition leader Dr. Kizza Besigye and this has brought together to fight for Change.
There is a by-election due to take place this week for Jinja East constituency in Jinja district Eastern Uganda and Wine was a show on the campaign trail pulling mammoth crowd for the FDC candidate Paul Mwiru.
"I was running for Parliament last year, Paul Mwiru was the chief campaigner for my opponent Apollo Kantinti. When I won, Mwiru called me to congratulate me and as time went on, we found ourselves on the same side trying to save the constitution from outright abrogation. In the course of time, we have come to realize that since we stand for the same values, we must unite if we are to win. Yes we have the masses behind us, but that's not enough, we must turn those masses into votes and we must protect those votes," Wine said
He said: "I am therefore personally travelling to Jinja East today to support and campaign for my comrade Paul Mwiru because the struggle for equal rights and justice is not a one man fight. As Martin Luther King once said "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." This is Jinja's turn to get pro-people representation."
On the other hand popular music stars like Bebe Cool, Dr. Jose Chameleon and others are held high as a political resource for the ruling National Resistances Movement (NRM) and have been used to drum support for the president, the party and for NRM party candidates.
In Jinja East, they were also a show on political rallies helping the president to drum support for NRM candidate
Businessman Genius "Ginimbi" Kadungure, who is working with a local promotions company to bring Nigerian star Davido for a concert on April 21, has assured music fans that their international star will definitely make it to Zimbabwe for the show.
The concert comes after Davido failed to travel for his 2017 tour on two occasions. Ginimbi, who is Davido's friend, said the Nigerian singer talks about the concert almost every day when they discuss their personal issues.
"Davido is a friend and we regularly communicate. We have known each other for many years and he respects me a lot. I also appreciate his talent and we discuss various personal, arts and business issues. I talk to him almost every day," said Ginimbi.
"When we started talking about the show, he told me that he owed people of Zimbabwe an apology and a big show to make up for his failure to travel last year. He is so passionate about the tour and he told me to deliver the message to Zimbabweans on his behalf.
"The video clip that he sent on social media shows that he is committed, but it does not say all. He has said a lot to me about the concert. He said he will stage a performance that can be folded into three shows because he loves his Zimbabwean fans and feels obliged to express his love through a memorable show."
Ginimbi said Davido will travel with his full band. He is expected to jet into the country two days before the show to assure fans of their commitment to the tour.
The Lily has finally dried30 Dec, 2017
Davido set to light up Harare tonight29 Dec, 2017
Davido to fulfil Zim promise25 Dec, 2017
The concert will see the VIPs and VVIPs having a feel of Ginimbi's trademark all-white parties as they would be required to come dressed in all white to give the concert a touch of style. South African actress Boity will be the host of the night while local artistes to perform at the event include Jah Prayzah, Killer T and Ex-Q.
Jah Prayzah's manager, Keen Mushapaidze, said they are confident Davido will make it this time around after failing to attend their album launch and a rescheduled show last year.
"This time Davido has given a serious assurance. He has apologised and explained the situations that held him back at his previous aborted tours. People have been waiting to see him on stage with Jah Prayzah performing 'My Lilly' and they should look forward to an exciting affair on April 21.
"We are thankful to Ginimbi for being part of this show. We know we will make it this time. We want people to have fun on the day," said Mushapaidze.
Rivalry between Thomas Mapfumo and Oliver Mtukudzi renewed?
Thomas "Mukanya" Mapfumo says he is looking forward to a colourful reunion with his friend Oliver "Tuku" Mtukudzi when the two share the stage at the former's homecoming bira set for Glamis Arena on April 28.
In an interview from his United States base over the weekend, Mukanya said he last performed with Tuku in 2011 at the Standard Bank Arena in Johannesburg, South Africa, when they did a song together.
He described Tuku as his friend of many years and accused some people of trying to create enmity between them by claiming that their relationship is punctuated with feuds. He said people that make such claims are liars.
Last year Mukanya told a local publication that he missed Tuku and the upcoming bira is likely to be an exciting moment for both musicians. It will definitely be an exciting occasions for their fans.
In our interview over the weekend, Mukanya revealed he is working on a collaboration with Tuku and they had briefly laid a groundwork for the duet when they met in South Africa. They are finalising the collaboration and will officially release it when everything is done.
"We played it (the duet) in Johannesburg but it's something we are still working on and once it's finalised we will be releasing it officially," said Mukanya.
"Over the years they have been reports of bad blood between me and him but I can assure you that those are lies.
"Yes, we differ on some issues but our friendship has remained intact. The road we travelled together especially in the 70s was hard and such hardships together bind our friendship."
Mukanya said their working relationship had no boundaries since they deeply understand each other musically.
"We have been good friends since we were young, in the late 70s to be precise. We are still buddies, we communicate here and there, tinonzwisisana chaizvo munyaya dzemusic. Long back we used to tour the country together and takabva kwaMutare neBlacks Unlimited using the same instruments.
"I had first met Oliver kwaSekuru Chogugudza vaizivikanwa nezita rekuti James Bond ndovakanditi pane mukomana anoimba zvikuru anonzi Oliver ndirikuda kuti umuone (Uncle Chogugudza, who was popularly known as James Bond, told me there was a good singer named Oliver and he arranged our meeting) and yes, that's when I started knowing him."
Mukanya's homecoming bira is likely to be historic and organisers of the concert, Entertainment Republic, said the tickets are selling fast.
"The tickets are selling fast and the response is overwhelming. It will be a historic show. We knew it would be big, but it is proving to be a bigger event than our anticipations. It is good that we have known the magnitude of our event early and we are putting all systems in order so that everything will flow smoothly," said Tendai Johannes of Entertainment Republic.
Mukanya also expects it to be a historic event that will likely match his biggest show so far that was held at Boka Tobacco Auction Floors. It was his first show in the country after relocating to the United States.
"The show at Boka Tobacco Floors was the longest and my best-attended show in Zimbabwe. At the upcoming bira Zimbabweans should come in their numbers and enjoy a memorable show. It's been a long time and I am promising them a good show."
Besides his expected reunion with Tuku and their reciprocal understanding of decades of Zimbabwean music, Mukanya said he appreciates some musicians from the younger generation that are doing well to keep traditional music alive.
"I appreciate a lot of musicians from this generation, I can single out Zivai Guvheya who is now based in England, he is a very talented youngster and he used to be my lead guitarist.
"Zivai is one of the few youngsters who is playing our traditional beat so at least I am happy that our music will not die.
"There is also another talented young musician Rudo Chasi, who is a daughter to a friend of mine.
"Rudo sings very well. I have never heard such a beautiful voice, even kuno kuAmerica anokwana. I am planning to perform two songs with her when we come to Zimbabwe. Many other young musicians send their music and I am happy with the abundance of talent that the country has."
Other local musicians that will perform at Mukanya's homecoming bira include Suluman Chimbetu, Winky D, Andy Muridzo and Gary Tight.
Gatundu South Member of Parliament Moses Kuria has offered to bail out an artiste accused of spearheading hatred between two communities through the infamous Ikamba song.
The musician, John Gichiri Njau, early this week pleaded not guilty to three counts of the offence of ethnic contempt.
But in an interview with a local vernacular radio station on Thursday, the MP defended the musician saying he is not the person behind the controversial song.
"Njau will not sleep in the cell tonight. My lawyer is already working on the bail out. I also want to say it here that Njau is not among the two artistes behind that song. He is just an extra who is filmed picking a mango from a wheelbarrow," said Kuria.
The musician is however still in custody at Industrial Area Remand Prison, after he was unable to raise a cash bail of Sh700,000 granted to him by the court.
Njau was arrested after releasing the Ikamba song which mocks members of the Kamba community following a charcoal sale ban by Kitui governor Charity Ngilu.
The lyrics of the song say that the Kamba community will eat dogs and wild birds due to starvation, when the mango season is over.
Although the Kenya Film Classification Board Chief executive Ezekiel Mutua banned the sale and broadcast of the controversial song, the song has attracted a huge following on social media since its release.
Njau's trial is set to kick off on April 11.
Dodoma — PRIME Minister Kassim Majaliwa has challenged higher learning institutions in the county to improve their programmes to provide students with skills for self employment upon graduation.
Mr Majaliwa made the call here at a meeting with the newly appointed University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM) Vice-Chancellor, Prof William Anangisye, who had paid a courteous call on him in his office over the weekend.
"There has been a mindset among our university students that they should be employed after graduation. It's now vital to change that attitude by imparting them with skills for self employment," said the Premier. He said university students were expected to have the capacity to design jobs, noting that the graduates are duty-bound to create employment opportunities for the less educated.
Mr Majaliwa said graduates can create jobs through engaging themselves in agricultural activities to provide industries with the required raw materials to realise the government's industrialisation drive. "Graduates can create job opportunities by engaging themselves in food processing business or mining activities," he observed.
In the meantime, Mr Majaliwa commended the outgoing Vice-Chancellor, Prof Rwekaza Mukandala, for the great achievements the university had registered under his administration. Prof Anangisye promised to work hard to meet the government expectations, adding that UDSM had recently established the School of Fishery and Agriculture to prepare future experts in agriculture and fishery sectors.
"We also plan to set up model farms for various crops to provide our students with practical training," said the don. Last year, the government embarked on 'My Region, My Industry' campaign that aimed at attaining 100 small and medium industries to every region by November this year. The industrial drive also envisages more job opportunities.
Dodoma — THE newly appointed University Vice-Chancellor of the University of Dodoma, Prof Egid Mubofu has pledged a conducive environment for more research at UDOM to enhance its status as a 'centre of excellence' that adds value to training.
Prof Mubofu made his promise at a joint ceremony for valediction and investiture here over the weekend, pointing out that research projects were vital for the growth of any higher learning institution in the world. "... I'm informed that our university performs very well in teaching, but it (also) faces some challenges in research," said the new VC - who takes over from Prof Idris Kikula whose tenure ended on March 17.
Prof Mubofu also pledged to complete construction of two Colleges of Natural Sciences and Mathematics and Earth Sciences at the Main Campus, noting that President John Magufuli had already promised to disburse funds for the construction projects. "I was also briefed on lack of staff houses at campus ... I will work with my colleagues to address this challenge," he observed.
UDOM Chancellor and retired President Benjamin Mkapa expressed gratitude to outgoing Vice-Chancellor, Prof Kikula, noting that UDOM had made significant progress under his eleven-year administration.
He said that students enrollment at UDOM had increased from 1,272 at its inception in 2007 to the current 10,000 students, adding that the number of graduates had since risen from 2,240 in previous years to the current 5,575 graduates .
Mpwapwa District Commissioner (DC), Mr Jabir Shekimweri, who represented Dodoma Regional Commissioner (RC), Dr Binilith Mahenge, reiterated that UDOM had made tremendous contribution to the development of Dodoma through research. "... we're currently carrying out sensitisation campaign to improve the academic performance in secondary schools after a recent study conducted by UDOM," said Mr Shekimweri, who is also one of the varsity's alumni.
He also noted that Dodoma would depend greatly on inputs from UDOM academicians in realisation of the country's industrialisation. The president of the UDOM Convocation, Prof Leonard Mselle, said UniRank ranked the institution second among 26 universities in 2017/2018 academic year, saying UDOM was also ranked second best university after the University of Dar es Salaam.
Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed has settled on Prof Isaac Sanga Kosgey as the new Moi University Vice Chancellor.
He will replace Prof Laban Ayiro who has been acting in the position for more than a year and whose term expires at the end of business on Monday.
The appointment brings to an end a protracted search for a vice chancellor following two interviews that were marred by allegations of tribalism in the award of marks.
The CS is allowed to select one individual from a list of three presented to her by the university council.
In the last interviews held last year, Prof Ayiro was awarded substantially low marks by some council members while he scored higher from other panel members.
Ms Mohamed was confronted with tough options over the appointment immediately she joined the ministry in January and the Nation has learnt that she spent more than a month considering the legal and administrative implications of picking any of the two top contenders for the position - Prof Kosgey and Prof Ayiro.
So bad was the situation that former Education CS Fred Matiang'i did not appoint the Moi University VC when filling eight vacant positions of vice chancellors of other universities in January.
The council, whose chairperson is Mr Jeremiah Ntoloi Koshal, was heavily criticised over the award of marks during the interviews.
Prof Kosgey was in 2016 at the centre of protests after local leaders in the North Rift demanded that he be appointed the vice chancellor.
He had topped in the first interview in which council members were accused of leaking the results to local political leaders and candidates.
Dr Matiang'i cancelled the exercise and appointed a new council with the hope of conducting a credible recruitment in March last year.
With the Copperbelt University set to re-open on Sunday, unionized workers have submitted a 126 page dossier to government detailing reasons Vice-Chancellor Prof. Naison Ngoma should be removed.
The dossier titled "Evidence for vote of no confidence in Prof. Naison Ngoma" has been submitted to Ministry of Higher Education and Ministry of Labour.
The unionised workers have alleged in the dossier that Prof. Naison Ngoma was appointed vice chancellor without having the requisite qualification for the job.
They say Prof. Ngoma has failed to promote social dialogue at the institution of higher learning as evidenced from the perpetual wrangles between management and unionised workers.
The Unionised Workers have further charged that the Prof. Ngoma was behind the police brutality that happened at the university against students in December last year as he personally invited them.
They have also attributed perpetual salary delays to his alleged failed management something they say has affected their livelihoods.
Spokesperson for all the Unions at the University, Dr Derrick Ntalasha said the document was submitted to the two ministries.
He said the document is in public domain for all to see and make their judgement.
"The document has been submitted, and for those who want to see the contents, the document is in public domain," said Ntalasha.
#FeesMustFall activists face criminal charges, long drawn-out court trials and prospects of unemployment. By NKATEKO MABASA.
When President Jacob Zuma made his surprising announcement on free education in 2017, to many people it seemed the battle had been won, and the period of violence and chaos was all worth it. For others, however, another fight continues. Student activists with criminal charges for public violence and disturbance during the protests stand trial to this day, but this time they stand alone.
It certainly has been a tempestuous couple of years for institutions of higher learning as they have had to grapple with the frustrations of students with regards to fees and a host of other demands. Universities were often forced to seek help from the courts in order to uphold law and order within the campus.
Court interdicts and private security became a last resort for vice-chancellors in their attempts to ensure the smooth running of the teaching and learning process. Protests were deemed unlawful if permission was not sought and approval given by university management. As a result, student arrests became a common occurrence when these two forces clashed.
Mosibudi Rassie, a former student of the University of Pretoria, got...
Under a 5-year Strategic Plan for Technical Vocational Education Training (TVET), structural reforms, including the setting up a TVET Service and TVET Council, will be undertaken.
In addition, under the plan, a whole division of the Ghana Education Service will be dedicated to technical and vocational education, which will have its own Director-General.
The President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, who made these known, disclosed that the perennial infrastructure problems of the TVET sector were being addressed and that work would soon start on the construction of 20 modern TVET institutions in various areas of the country.
Furthermore, President Akufo-Addo said, 35 National and Vocational Training Institutes as well as Colleges of Education that specialized in technology were being upgraded across the country, while a major revision of the curricula of TVET schools to make them relevant to the needs of the changing economy was underway.
He was delivering the keynote address at the National Conference on Technical and Vocational Educational and Training (TVET) at the Koforidua Technical University.
President Akufo-Addo said the strategy of his government was to expand technical and vocational training at both secondary and tertiary levels in order to strengthen the linkage between education and industry.
This, he said, would empower young people to deploy their skills that would enable them set up businesses and employ others.
According to President Akufo-Addo, Government considered technical and vocational training a critical and integral part to the development of the country's economy, as the structural economic transformation was hinged on technical and vocational education and training.
"What I envisage in the technical and vocational education sector would involve a truly radical change in attitude on the part of all of us. Throughout the years, enough lip service has been paid to the TVET sector," he said, adding "This time we are backing the talk with money and political will. This time, the interventions will be focused and seen through to proper conclusion."
The President expressed concern about the low regard in which technical and vocational skills and graduates in the country were held, the effect of which, he said, had been catastrophic.
On the other hand, he said, was the challenge of obsolete and inadequate facilities, and equipment, with equally obsolete academic curricula that did not keep up with contemporary labour needs at the technical and vocational training institutions.
In addition, the President said, the country did not also have enough qualified technical and vocational teachers and instructors, a situation compounded by the absence of tertiary degree awarding institutions that would train teachers in skills development.
Government, he said, would, therefore, soon launch a major educational project that would emphasize the importance of TVET, to erase the misconception that technical and vocational education was inferior, and patronized only by less endowed students.
"We are aligning and bringing all public TVET institutions in the country under the direct supervision of the Ministry of Education to streamline their curricula and improve the co-ordination of their training. To this end, one Deputy Minister for Education is to be specifically responsible for technical and vocational education, like there is a dedicated Minister of State for Tertiary Education," he said.
President Akufo-Addo noted further that the success or failure of many of his administration's projects will depend on how TVET fared, and was hopeful that the conference would lead to the raising of interest among investors, who would collaborate with the institutions to bolster their technical capacity and strengthen skills training in the country.
The President told the gathering that his administration was determined to strengthen the Ghanaian economy, adding that a rapid improvement in skills development would quicken the pace of translating these signals into jobs and better quality of living.
He said the success of the government's flagship programme, 1-District 1-Factory, for example, was very much tied to the availability of the type of skilled workforce that TVET would produce.
Source: ISD (Rex Mainoo Yeboah)
Dar es Salaam — Minister of State in the President's Office (Regional Administration and Local Government), Mr Selemani Jaffo, Saturday urged local authorities to support central government's efforts towards promoting tourism.
He made the remarks on Saturday in the city in his address during the launch of a tourism campaign which aims at promoting tourism in Dar es Salaam.
The televised event was attended by local authorities officers based in Dar es Salaam.
"This is the first time I witness a city coming up with such a brilliant initiative. I, therefore, urge other local authorities in to do the same," he said. He expressed his optimism that the initiative would help rake in more foreign currencies.
Meanwhile, Mr Jaffo ordered local authorities to stop charging interest on loans given to youth and women.
"From today all loans should be issued without interest. The applicants will repay the exact amount of money that they were granted as par the terms and conditions," he said. Local authorities are required by law to allocate 10 per cent of collected revenues to empower youths and women through loans.
"The initiative was meant to empower youth and women to improve their incomes, hence uplift their living standards," he said.
At same occasion, Dar es Salaam regional commissioner Paul Makonda said his office was planning to construct at least 200 small, medium and large industries with the view to complement the government's industrialisation drive.
"At least 200 new industries will be built in Dar es Salaam. We have already contracted the investors to implement the projects," he said.
He added "We are also determined to construct a special building which will be used by relevant government authorities to negotiate contracts and other investment related issues with the investors."
He also commended the new Dar es Salaam city management for its efforts to complement the government's move to combat corruption and embezzlement.
"I'm told the collections have climbed to Sh1.2 billion from Sh87 million collected in previous year," he said.
Earlier, Dar es Salaam city director Spora Liana expounded that her office had embarked on formulating strategic plans to promote tourism in the city.
"To begin with, we have launched a book which consists of potential details of attraction sites in the city, and we are planning to buy a car with the view to promoting tourist sites," she said.
For his part Dar es Salaam City mayor Isaya Mwita said his office was determined to renovate existing attraction sites with the view to promote tourism in Dar es Salaam.
Asmara/Massawa — A seminar with the objective of strengthening the knowledge of student's on national tourism resources and enhancing tourism attraction sites was organized in the Central region and in the port city of Massawa.
At the seminar organized by the Ministry of Tourism branch in the Central region, extensive briefing on the meaning and concept of tourism, tourism attraction sites vis-à-vis the expectation of tourists, tourism resources in Eritrea, domestic tourism and its significance among others was provided.
At the event, the head of Information and Promotion in the branch office, Mrs. Elsa Russom stated that peace, hospitability, as well as natural and historical endowments that Eritrea possesses make the country attractive tourism destination.
In the same vein the Ministry of Tourism branch in the Northern Red Sea region organized a seminar on 12-13 March in Massawa, with the aim of increasing the knowledge of students on the ancient and historical tourism sites and relics.
At the seminar, the head of Research and Inspection in the branch, Mr. Abraham Tesfamariam gave extensive briefing on the significance of tourism and its positive and negative impacts. Stating that the region is rich with historical and archeological sites, Mr. Abraham called on the society particularly the youth to increase interest in understanding and preserving the resources.
The students on their part, called for organizing visits to tourism sites with a view to augment the understanding of the youth on the significance of the resources in developing the tourism industry and participation in the preservation activity.
Economics and politics have always been at war - silent, sometimes violent. Like water and fuel, they don't mix well. In developing countries politics tends to enjoy the upper hand, often rubbishing the best of economic sense. Called impasse, these are impregnable walls to stop the advancement of economic argument or interest.
But in the current fuel situation there seems to be no clear winner. In May 2016, there was a strong economic reason to increase the pump price of petrol, and politics could not stop it despite the possible reasoning that a new administration was inflicting hardship on the same people that voted it into power. The gaping hole in the political wall was the massive goodwill or huge credit balance the government enjoyed during its honeymoon.
On May 11, it was able to raise the pump price of petrol from N86 per litre to N145 per litre without any serious protest. There was market satisfaction, which underlined the irrelevance of fuel subsidy - a government financial aid to enable Nigerians buy fuel at affordable prices.
Also, long queues at fuel stations disappeared in the comfort of availability. Economics won, whereas during the previous administration politics won after nationwide song and dance, sometimes volatile protests, dubbed "Occupy Nigeria."
The market fundamentals have since changed, giving economics a stronger voice for a price review, pushed forcefully by profit-driven oil marketers. But the political scenario has also changed, and not even the most advanced explosives seem capable of making holes in the strong wall it has built.
The bottom-line of all current possible scenarios is the welfare of the people, which even weakens the economic argument for fuel price increases. Would a government visit on its people another round of hardship soon after an economic recession because market fundamentals have been changed dramatically?
Both the Petroleum Ministry and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) admit fundamental changes in the market.
The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu has explained that the N145 per litre price was fixed when the price of crude oil was $49. It averaged about $66 per barrel last week.
He said the landing cost of petrol (also called Premium Motor Spirit) has automatically changed from N133.28 per litre in 2016 to N171 per litre.
Expectedly, citing different reasons, the independent marketers stopped the importation of the product ostensibly to protect their bottom-line, leaving the entire burden of supplying the nation's fuel to the NNPC. In private business, where loyalty is to shareholders, patriotism is never a key consideration.
The chairman of Depot and Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, Dapo Abiodun has said that: "Since the price of crude is directly proportional to the refined product, we could not import petrol and sell at N145 anymore. And this business is a partnership between marketers and NNPC. Marketers bring in a certain volume and NNPC also brings in a certain volume.
"In the past, marketers bring in about 60 per cent, while NNPC brings about 35 to 40 percent. But by the month of October marketers completely stopped importing because there was no more subsidy so we can't sell for profit so we have to stop importing.
"So, the burden of importing 100 per cent now fell on NNPC. So you can imagine a situation where NNPC was importing in part and marketers were importing in part and then suddenly NNPC begins to import 100%. Coupled with the fact that in the months we called the ember months from October to December the consumption of petrol is highest in the country."
The increase in the landing cost of petrol from N133.28 per litre in 2016 to the current N171 per litre is a strong economic reason that may necessitate only one scenario - a review of the price of the product.
But the scenario doesn't end there. Despite the availability of the glaring numbers for all to see, the announcement of a price increase is likely to generate protests.
"So the demand for an increase in fuel price now, is like a case one makes passionately only to get the response of 'we have heard,' without any immediate action. This isn't the time to encourage chaos," a top government source said last week.
Reports over the months have indeed shown that the Presidency may be reluctant to add to the economic burden of Nigerians. And if the oil marketers have not been explicitly told, they may have sensed that.
According to the source, "if the reports that oil marketers contributed to the scarcity to push their case are true, they may be fighting a lost battle."
The marketers have denied the reports, although the scarcity seemed to have started with the response of some of them to speculations of a possible price increase.
The NNPC burden
With the cessation of imports from the oil marketers, NNPC has to bear the burden, supplying all the country's needs, starting with spirited attempts to clear unending queues. The Corporation had been singularly importing the product at the volume of 25 million litres per day, until recently when a riddle emerged in the demand for fuel.
According to the Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, Mr. Ndu Ughamadu, efforts by the Corporation to still the storm include:
- Increasing supply of petrol from the initial one vessel per day to two vessels per day, thus effectively providing 100million litres of petrol for discharge into the system every day
- Fully deploying and activating 24 hours real-time Fuel War Room for effective monitoring of the fuel supply and distribution dynamics across the country
- Sustaining 24-hour loading and sales operations in all NNPC depots and mega stations respectively
- Working with officers and men of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) to curtail diversion through escort of trucks and monitoring
- Collaborating and sharing information with the Oil Industry regulator, the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), which is responsible for price enforcement
- Interfacing with security agencies to expose and punish saboteurs involved in sharp practices
- Working closely with the Petroleum Tanker Drivers, an arm of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), to ensure seamless movement of products nationwide and
- Synergizing with the Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN), the Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association (DAPPMA) and the Independent Marketers that have supported the drive towards the 24-hour operations.
During the week, Mr. Ughamadu assured that through its various measures, the Corporation will cut the level of fuel consumed from 60 million to 40 million litres.
... and the riddle
But despite the efforts of the Corporation, the queues persisted in some parts of the country. To some analysts, it became a riddle that needed to be resolved. Although there had been reports of fuel diversion in some parts of the country, there were indications of a bigger problem.
Recently, the riddle was cracked in an alarm raised by the Corporation over the proliferation of fuel stations in communities with international land and coastal borders across the country. It explained that the development has energized unprecedented cross-border smuggling of petrol to neighboring countries, making it difficult to sanitize the fuel supply and distribution matrix in the country.
According to the Group Managing Director of NNPC, Maikanti Baru, a detailed study conducted by NNPC indicated strong correlation between the presence of the frontier stations and the activities of fuel smuggling syndicates.
He said the activities of the smugglers had led to recent observed abnormal surge in the evacuation of petrol from less than 35 million litres per day to more than 60 million litres per day which is in sharp contrast with established national consumption pattern.
Providing a detailed presentation of the findings, the NNPC GMD informed that 16 states, having amongst them 61 Local Government Areas with border communities, account for 2,201 registered fuel stations.
The fuel tank, he noted, had a combined capacity of 144, 998, 700 (one hundred and forty four million, nine hundred and ninety eight thousand and seven hundred) litres of petrol.
In the same vein, eight states with coastal border communities spread across 24 LGAs amongst the states account for 866 registered fuel outlets with combined petrol tank capacity of 73, 443, 086 (seventy three million, four hundred and forty three thousand and eighty six) litres.
"'NNPC is concerned that continued cross-border smuggling of petrol will deny Nigerians the benefit of the Federal Government's benevolence of keeping a fix retail price of N145 per litre despite the increase in PMS open market price above N171 per litre," he said.
He noted that based on the heightened petrol consumption rate of 50 million litre per day, the corporation was incurring an under-recovery of N774 million every day.
With the apparent reluctance of government to increase the pump price for market satisfaction and stability, some experts suggest that efforts should be made in the immediate short term to curb the cross-border smuggling and to encourage marketers to return to the import business.
They do not however wish for a repeat of the last subsidy regime which plundered the nation.
For a medium to long-term solution, stakeholders are agreed that the country's refineries be made functional and relevant. They argue that while legacy issues may justify the public doubt over yet another attempt by NNPC to revamp the refineries, the current industry leadership deserves some credibility and trust to get the job done with its fresh and sustainable approach on investor and funding sources, as well as local participation.
That will also require the support of the National Assembly, which at times contradicts itself over oil industry issues. For example, while the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, has recommended the reactivation of the refineries as a solution to fuel scarcity in the country, the Ad-hoc Committee on the investigation of the state of the country's four refineries, their turnaround maintenance (TAM) and regular/modular licensed refineries has directed Messrs Kachikwu and Baru to halt the planned TAM on the refineries pending the outcome of the committee's investigations.
In May last year, the Senate suspended the planned concession of Port Harcourt refinery to Agip and Oando by the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, and protesters hit the streets in Port Harcourt for support.
Mr. Dogara said last month that only local refining will make fuel available and easily accessible to all Nigerians, adding that every other measure to put an end to the recurring problem of fuel scarcity will always be temporary. He has the support of industry experts who warn that conflicting signals discourage foreign and even local investors.
Making the refineries work again, is indeed one of the measures identified by NNPC for a lasting solution. The others are:
- Rehabilitation of the corporation's 23 products depots which have a combined capacity of 2.91million cubic metres
- Wholistic maintenance of the nation's more than 5,000 kilometres of pipeline network to fasten and keep safe evacuation of products nationwide
- Collaborating with relevant government arms and agencies like the National Assembly, the Judiciary and security agencies to appropriately criminalize pipeline vandalism that has been the bane of easy evacuation of products from depots across the country.
- Encouraging the establishment of private refineries in the country and above all,
- At the most auspicious time, completely liberalize the downstream sector of the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry to engender competition, thus giving Nigerians the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of opening-up the sector as has long been carried through in Telecommunication, Aviation and even the Education sector.
Mr. Daniels is a journalist and author based in Lagos
Lagos — The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) under the Airport Excellence (APEX) in safety programme of Airport Council International (ACI-Africa) is to commence a safety review of the international airports in Port Harcourt, Kano, Kaduna and Enugu.
According to the FAAN MD and President of ACI-Africa, Engr. Saleh Dunoma, the APEX programme has led to drastic reduction in incidents and accidents across African airports.
He spoke in Lagos yesterday during a press conference and unveiling of the logo for the 59th ACI-Africa Regional Conference and Exhibition holding in Lagos between April 14 and 19 with the theme: "Business Transformation for Sustainable Development of African Airports".
Dunoma said the conference was apt as it tended to showcase the country's potentials to the rest of the world.
No fewer than 300 delegates and participants from all over Africa and the world are expected at the conference, which according to the FAAN MD, is an opportunity to woo potential investors into the country's aviation sector.
He said ACI-Africa had focused mainly on safety and security of aerodromes in the continent, saying the organisation had assisted FAAN towards successful certification of Lagos and Abuja airports.
He said building on the safety programme of ACI- Africa, the four international airports would be undergoing a safety review commencing with the Port Harcourt airport.
THE government has established new regulations aimed at overseeing operations of service providers in the tourism and hospitality sector in the country.
Permanent Secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, Major General Gaudence Milanzi, said in Dar es Salaam yesterday that the regulations have been established under the Tourism Act No 29 of 2008.
Major General Milanzi made the revelation yesterday when presenting the final draft of the regulations during tourism and hospitality stakeholders' meeting convened at the ministry's headquarters in the city.
The regulations, according to the PS, are aimed at ensuring that quality services that meet international standards are provided in the sector and in turn boost competitiveness. Major General Milanzi said that the established regulations will see provision and maintaining of employees with knowledge and appropriate skills that will enable them compete in both national and international markets.
Other benefits include provision of job safety and security to employees and to ensure efficiency and integrity in the delivery of hospitality and tourism services. "The guidelines will also put in place a system that will recognise tourism and hospitality professions in the country," he noted, adding that the regulations will also enable the establishment of a professional institution to produce experts that fit the needs of the sector.
Commenting on the current state, the PS insisted on the need for professional ethics as vital tool that will ensure provision of appropriate and international standard services. "Efficiency is the only thing that matters in the sector and for that reason it needs employees who will adhere to professional ethics," he said.
Major General Milanzi further noted that if professional ethics were well observed by employees plus patriotism, there would be no need for special trainings to workers. On the other hand, the PS said that plans were underway to conduct an assessment to establish shortfalls in the tourism and hospitality sector.
He also expressed the need for all stakeholders in the sector, including the private sector, to cooperate and establish a better partnership to drive the sector. According to Major Milanzi, the private sector stands a better chance to take over and manage the sector as the government creates enabling environment. Meanwhile, stakeholders of the meeting are set to discuss the regulations, and deliberate on the way-forward
Asmara — Eritrea took part at the 53rd International Tourism Pavilion in Berlin, Germany, that was held from 7 to 10 March.
At the pavilion, Eritrea staged pictorial exhibition depicting the process underwent to inscribe Asmara in the World Heritage List as well as the tourism resources of the country.
The annual International Tourism Pavilion is an important forum in which countries portray their tourism resources and that yearly 10 thousand tourism institutions and airlines from 185 countries participate and accommodates about 165 thousand visitors.
In the same vein, the national committee in Frankfurt conducted seminar to Eritrean nationals on the objective situation in the homeland.
Indicating that Eritrea is on the right track preserving the peace and unity of its people, the head of Public and Community Affairs, Mr. Kahsai Tewolde called on reinforcing awareness and organizational capacity and resilience.
The head of the Consular Affairs, Mr. Yohannes Debas, on his part gave extensive briefing on the consular service provision, the progress of the new national identity card as well contribution of the community and citizens in the success of the consular services.
Well-known magazine editor, raconteur and author David Bristow recently launched his latest non-fiction novel, Running Wild, published by Jacana Media. Not so well known is that Bristow braved 174 rejection slips from local and international publishers before he finally got the damn thing published. TIARA WALTERS speaks to him about how to stay indefatigable when it seems publishers have lost their mind -- and what makes the story of a safari horse-turned-zebra a delightful, if slightly absurd, bit of Africana nonetheless.
DM: I don't understand. Why not just self-publish after rejection slip number 83, for argument's sake?
DB: I really believed in the story, simple as that. I just had to convince someone else. As soon as Jacana heard the premise, they jumped at it, smart people.
With regards to self-publishing, or not in this case, it was about shelf space and numbers. If your book isn't housewives' porn or young adult fantasy, you don't want to go that route unless you are serious about selling books. Making them is the easy part. This is not my first book by a long way so it was not what they call a "vanity-publishing" exercise. But it was my first paperback, so...
Longhorn Publishers have partnered with media personality Caroline Mutoko in its Soma Initiative that seeks to supplement Government's effort to supply textbooks to schools countrywide.
The Government intends to attain a book-pupil ratio of 1 to 1 in all schools countrywide while the publisher aims to distribute 1 million books to hundreds of schools across the country in the first phase of the initiative.
In collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Longhorn Publishers identifies and shortlists schools that meet the set criteria, and maps the need areas by geography as well as population.
They then seek the support of partners to enable the schools receive the books.
The caravan mainly targets public schools due to a high presence of orphans, children from single parent families, children escaping early marriages and those staying with distant relatives because of challenging situations at home.
The main aim of the Soma Caravan is to end the cycle of poverty due to lack of quality education.
One of the drivers of illiteracy at many of these schools is the lack of access to books and reading material hence the level of literacy, numeracy and educational attainment remains low.
This in turn feeds the cycle of poverty as these children grow up without the skills necessary to succeed in our rapidly advancing society.
To support the initiative, Longhorn Publishers seeks partners who would be interested in working with them either across single geographical areas, by targeting specific types of institutions, sponsoring specific schools or coming on board as global partners.
Chimamanda Adichie continues to push boundaries.
In recognition of the Black Women History Month, her book, Americanah, has been listed as one of the 15 books written by women that have shaped the way "we read and write fiction in the 21st century".
The exhaustive list was compiled by New York Times under the tag, New Vanguard.
One of the NYT book critics, Dwight Garner, described it as a book that has "lessons for every human about how to live".
Adichie has won several awards and recognition for the novel which was written in 2013. Some of them include:
The 2013 National Book Critics Circle Fiction Award
Selected as one of the 10 New York Times Best Books Of The Year
2013 Heartland Award For Fiction by the Chicago Tribune
The 2017 'One Book, One New York' campaign by the Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment and BuzzFeed in March as well as featured in different book reviews.
25-year-old Karen Bugingo on Friday evening launched her debut novel 'My Name is Life', which is a story detailing her struggles as a cancer patient until her recovery.
The book aims at bringing hope and courage mostly to the people battling cancer, pay tribute to those who lost the battle to cancer and young people in general, she says.
Speaking at the launch, Bugingo, who lost both her parents to the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, noted that she wanted people to read her story, be encouraged and look forward to the future no matter what they are going through.
"As I was writing this story, I knew that I was encouraging the young people to also share their stories. "Always remember that the story you are writing is a seed that you are writing in someone's life because you never know how much it will change their lives."
The cancer survivor, at the age of 19, was diagnosed with severe lymphoma (cancer) in her blood.
"I used to wonder why, at 19 years, I was battling cancer but this day tells me this is the reason I was suffering. I have given this book everything, my heart, my soul and today I see the good work and I'm happy and proud of myself."
I look back at the nights when I almost gave up on the idea of writing my story. But, today my social media is full of young boys' and girls' messages telling me how they are fighting some cancer and other real life situations because of sharing my real life story. Writing this novel has taught me so much that I will use in future, she said.
It was published by Imagine We Rwanda - a local organisation.
Bugingo was born and raised in Kigali where both her parents were killed in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and was raised by her grandmother and aunt.
She is a student, currently pursuing a Bachelor's degree in Journalism and Mass Communication at Mount Kenya University in Rwanda.
Francistown — Modest 34-year-old local author, Bridget Buzwani, who goes by the name Brigitta Zwani, is a first time author and publisher of her recently launched novel The Shrink.
The Mosojane-born author says she hopes to one day own an up market book café.
During an interview with BOPA, Brigitta Zwani admits the novel started off as a comic and later she decided to turn it into a novel, adding that the characters are imaginary people with real live problems.
The Shrink is centered on Tebogo, the main character who helps adolescents battling drug abuse, rape, suicidal cases, depression, broken families, different health issues and other disorders after having lived abroad for some years.
She mentioned that The Shrink took her three years to complete because during the day Brigitta Zwani is an assistant to John Mackenzie School head in Francistown and writes during her spare time.
She insists she writes for the love of literature and not for financial gain.
She is currently working on her next book Hope that she notes is half way through.
She considers herself a successful writer because of the positive feedback she gets from her readers; she adds that she writes best when she is travelling or when she is frustrated.
Zwani does not limit herself to writing novels only, she writes poetry, short stories and comics as well as blogging occasionally.
Zwani believes adolescents need people to talk to and be open with apart from their parents and teachers, therefore she insists there is a need for shrinks in schools, both private and public.
As a first time author, she acknowledged facing challenges, some of which included getting enough pre-orders to get the book published, sourcing the novel to big retailers such as CNA and Exclusive Books.
She also noted that supplying customers across the border with the book was a challenge as it requires large amounts of money.
She however stated that she has learnt a few valuable lessons in getting a book published one of which includes saving up money for publishing instead of relying on pre-orders.
Zwani also celebrates her novel being available on Amazon for her readers as well as having an online version of The Shrink comic for her followers.
Her biggest achievement, she says, is being able to publish her own book through her own publishing company, Biggles and Boggles, which she admits has only published her work, though she is hopeful to publish more authors.
Source : BOPA
Bayode, who recently broke the Guinness book of records for Longest Marathon Read Aloud contest spoke to OSA AMADI, Arts Editor and Chris Onuoha at the Eko Hotels and Suites, Lagos, where he was lodged to recuperate from the ordeal he passed through achieving the feat.
Please tell us about yourself
My name is Olubayode Treasures Olawunmi, I studied accounting at Osun State Polytechnic. I am from Ododeyo, Ijebu North East in Ogun State. I was born and raised in Lagos. My dad is late and my mum is alive. She was at the final reading session with me that very day. She was overjoyed at the end of the reading.
What would you say gave you the preparation, background, and ability to become so proficient in reading to attempt this contest?
My drive was determination. And determination comes when there is a vision. Why did I do what I did? It is for the love of books and education because I am a street boy. I discuss a lot with my friends and we do have arguments about social issues that affect us. They would say people are making money these days through sports, entertainment and illegal mean such as Yahoo-Yahoo. I tell them that education is still the best platform for stardom and making of money. Often, the argument would heat up to the point where they would be threatening to beat me up. I told myself that one day I must do something about it.
Now, you can see that pop musicians dominate our TV screens flaunting their cars, partying with winning and dinning while the youths root for them. They believe they can make a lot of money through yahoo- yahoo. Most of them do no longer care about education. Of course they can make it those ways but music is only one platform among others. The entertainment industry employs only a few people but education remains the best platform for professional careers.
Having looked at all these, I promised myself I must do something just for the love of education and reading. For instance, the Western world couldn't have gotten where they are today if not for education and research works. For Africa to get there, we need to take education serious. These are the thoughts that inspired me to decide I must be a voice to change that negative perception among our youths. One of my visions now is to go round Africa to talk to young ones and sensitize them about education and cultivate their interests in reading books so that in the nearest future, Africa will boast of icons in all walks of life.
How old are you?
I will be 40 years old by September this year.
At what point did you start having this thought about doing something that will rekindle our people's interests in education and reading?
I have always been a reader. I started reading when I was in Primary Three. But reading books, aside my normal school books, started in 1999 when I picked a book titled How to win friends and influence people by Dale Carnegie. That book opened my mind. There's a lot in books. That book taught me how to make friends and make them feel comfortable; how not to be domineering and how to make people feel important. Based on what I learnt from that book, I told myself I must continue to read. Since that day, I have never regretted reading any book. Every book has information and knowledge that can transform your life. One paragraph of a book can change your life. The Bible says study to show thyself approved. It is not referring only to the Bible, but to all types of books that inspire knowledge and wisdom. Through books, Daniel discovered that the children of Israel were to spend 70 years in exile. After 74 years, Daniel opened the scroll and saw and read. If God does not approve reading, why did he not show Daniel such revelation through dreams?
Daniel said he understood by books. God himself takes reading very important. We need to read. People say there is no shortcut to success but I say there is - by reading books. Through reading of books, you can learn in few days something that should have taken you about 20 years to learn through other means. When I wanted to study accounting, I did not go asking questions about how to go about it, rather, I picked up books and discovered what I needed to do.
Reading aloud is different from reading silently. How did you build up the power to read aloud?
When I set out to do this, I went through the Guinness world record and checked the category. By his grace, I am the only graduate in my family. There was no one in my family I can say I took inspiration from. We are five children in my family. The next person that would have been a graduate was my late sister.
Was that not some kind of motivation for you - the fact that no one in your family was a graduate before you?
Yes, the determination to be first fruit; the vision to be an icon that people can look up to, like children coming after me saying I want to be like Bayode.
Tell us the process that got you to this place
I applied through the Guinness world record category. When I looked through the list, I discovered that the one I fancied was the Longest Marathon Read Aloud. That was around May last year. It took about 12 to 20 weeks. When they approved the application to attempt, the next step was how to prepare for the task. I applied online. I tried to contact the former record holder but I couldn't because the contact was not available anywhere. I wanted to ask the record holder how to go about it, what it entails and the challenges therein, so that I could prepare my mind before embarking on the project. But there was no advice from any one, no one to help me or counsel me on the challenge I was going to face. Eventually Guinness approved my application and I became a bit confused psychologically. However, I summed up courage to do it.
Did you start by practicing reading books aloud?
Yes, I read for 3 to 4 hours during rehearsals. I stopped the work I was doing at that time to afford me more time to practice. Then I started reading for longer time. I also read aloud in my room. Later, I approached one of my sponsors, GTBank. Other sponsors were Lagos State government and Multipro Company.
What form of support or sponsorship did you need at that time?
When I got the approval, I started going around looking for sponsors because the contest must be in a public place where people can come and be witnesses. That means I have to hire the place and pay for all the logistics. This is all for Guinness world record to recognise and be sure that the reading actually took place. There are guidelines because I have to submit evidence to them. Many companies I went to for sponsorship did not show interest. At a point I was demoralized and discouraged. If this was sports or music they would have jumped at it, I said to myself. But this is about education, about reading books, and no one was interested. If it was a perverse reality show like BB Naija that corrupts the minds of young people, they would see the business prospect in it. But I kept pushing until I got a meeting appointment with Multipro Company which first listened to me. They offered to help me on humanitarian grounds. They gave me food items and cash to encourage me.
Multipro was the first to come to my aid. After that, I kept pushing for more support until God led me to GTBank. One day as I was going to Oyinbo from Yaba I passed through Herbert Macaulay Way and noticed the You Read Library facility at Yaba Central Library along the road. I quickly jumped down, entered the place and discovered that it is a suitable place to conduct such a contest. Quickly I enquired about the facility to know if I could use it. When I spoke to the Librarian, I was directed to write to the Lagos State Government for approval and also to GTBank, the managers of the You Read facility. I wrote to them and waited for some time before they responded. For the GTBank, they were hesitant at first, asking if I could do it and I said "yes."
Deen Sanwoola, the lawmaker representing Ikorodu in the Lagos State House of Assembly also became interested in the project because he is someone who has been encouraging youth empowerment programmes and initiatives like this. He was happy and encouraged me to use his facility for a trial run which I did for 96 hours for 4 days. I could have done 120 hours then out of enthusiasm. Then I said to myself: why break the record before the contest actually begins. I stuck to the Guinness world record guidelines and as well streamed it life for GTBank to watch and believe that it is possible. When they became convinced, they now called to fix a date for the proper contest. Thereafter, February was chosen which eventually coincided with the World Book Week. I never knew it will be this loud. My aim was just to read and prove it to myself that I could read and have been dying to read books. I only set out to make a difference. Lagos State at last, keyed into the vision and encouraged me by providing ambulance, health facilities and other things, while GTBank supported with other needs. I became amazed at such a support and that alone encouraged me more to work harder. When I was reading, students from various schools in Lagos came in to be witnesses and that encouraged me the more. My initial intention was not to break the record.
What was the reading session like?
During my trial reading before the contest I read for 96 hours for 4 day, I had a sour tongue. My teeth cut my tongue and for one week I could not talk normally. For the real contest, I was afraid of that same painful experience but because I have committed a lot of people, organisation and my conscience, I told myself not to give up. For the love of books, I was willing to sacrifice anything. On the fourth day of the reading session, fatigue set in. I was hallucinating. My tongue ruptured and I almost gave up. The GTBank team became emotional and afraid I might collapse and give up the ghost. At some point, they wanted to stop me when they noticed that my health was failing but I told them I must continue and finish. After the fourth day, I received new strength and felt like I had never suffered anything. I became more determined to cross the finishing line. I was supposed to do 120 hours but I eventually did 122 hours at the end. The former record was 113 hours broken by a man from Nepal and I set out to do 120 to surpass him but ended up doing 122 hours. All the evidence will be sent to Guinness world record for approval. Independent witnesses from University of Lagos and Yaba College of Technology were present to record the proceedings without my knowledge. All these showed the authenticity of the entire process. I read over 13 books comprising books written by Nigerian and foreign authors. The number of books read does not really matter. What counts is reading aloud non-stop for a long period of time. Right now, Eko Library has taken over the books I read as relics for the archives.
Did you have the freedom to choose the books you read?
Yes I did. I chose all the genres. I could have even chosen to read the Bible if I had wished.
Was there any representative from Guinness World Record?
No! That is why there were independent witnesses from Unilag and YabaTech. One of the guidelines was I must foot the bills and show them evidence that I did it before they will publish it in their coveted book of records. Secondly, since the entire cost should come from me, I did not deem it wise to invite them to Nigeria because of the huge cost.
Could you talk more on the difference between reading aloud and reading silently?
Reading aloud and reading silently are different ball games. When you are reading silently, you are reading with your mind and eyes alone, but when you are reading aloud, you are engaged with your mouth moving up and down, your tongue, your cheek, your muscles, your brain, your eyes and the entire body. There was a time I was reading and my vision became blurred. I was looking at the book the whole day but was not reading.
Did your interest in books and your love for reading prepare you for this contest?
I love reading books, trust me. I can tell you the story of all the books I have read from A to Z. One of the books I read, by Norman Vincent, had a lot of encouragement in it. I chose that book specifically because of the information in it. While reading it, the book spoke to me and motivated me to move on because of the inspiring words written in it.
Could you share with us some of the titles of the books you read?
Norman Vincent, Miles Munro, T.D. Jakes, Napoleon and some inspirational books that have encouraging messages. I read a lot of autobiographies. I believe reading about people and their lives helps teach you how they made it to where they are now. I love realities, I love fictions too. Toni Kan's book was among the books I read.
Among all, who would you say is your best author?
Norman Vincent Peale.
Is there any financial reward attached to the contest?
No. there is no financial reward but I am expecting some endorsement from discerning organisations who value the effort and what I did. Besides, my joy is breaking the record and I will be fulfilled to see young people aspiring to be like Bayode. I would also like financial support from government so that the vision will be actualized. There need to be financial reward to this, to avoid young people saying: and so what? He broke the world reading record, how much money did he make from it? Wizkid can sing for 5 minutes and make N5 million, and Mikel can be bought with millions of dollars. We must halt such destructive mindsets because it is anti-education and dangerous to the survival of human civilization. The way to change such prevailing mindset is to empower people like us financially. I would like to travel across Africa, preaching the gospel of sound education and sound reading culture. Education pays and I want to be that role model. I want to show that education icons are more valuable to society than entertainment or sports icons. I also want to change the mindsets of the young people who believe that taking a shortcut through music or illegal means is better than earning a living through reading of books. I want be a voice and embark on a sensitizing campaign that will re-orientate the mind of our youths. It is a huge project but I believe it can be achieved through adequate supports from philanthropists, private and corporate bodies that value such vision.
More so, every youth must know that every worthwhile career chosen in life is best when founded on education. You won't really go far in any career - music, sports, comedy or anything else - without education. You can make all the money you will ever need, without education it amounts to little or nothing.
Dar es Salaam — Tanzania Gender Network Programme (TGNP) has launched an online programme to empower young women in leadership.
Through its Gender Training Institute (GTI), the gender networking group is set to mentor women on how to ascend to and manage top leadership positions.
GTI coordinator Jane Tesha said yesterday at a press briefing in Dar es Salaam that the programme would focus to direct young women.
According to her, the launching of the programme goes along with informing the society about the leadership opportunities that are on tap for women.
"For a start, a total of 33 young ladies will have an opportunity to be trained for six months, the training will be offered by the young women who have already undergone through leadership programmes so that they can learn from them," she said.
Ms Tesha further explained that most women are capable of being good leaders but they have not been given a chance.
"It is the time to recognise contribution of young women... . And to give them an opportunity in leadership positions," she said.
Every month, she noted, GTI would be uploading online materials on leadership to help young women access better techniques on how to be good leaders.
TGNP executive director Lilian Liundi explained that for the start, they were focusing on youth located in urban centres.
"We are currently working on a programme that will focus on rural young women. After finalising the preparations, we are going to launch it," she said.
One of the critical targets for countries that are trying to meet the sustainable development goals is reducing the number of mothers who die from complications during or immediately after their pregnancies. The target for 2030 is that each country will have less than 70 mothers dying for each of the 100 000 live births that happen each year. This would eliminate almost all preventable maternal deaths.
In Kenya, this is still a challenge. Every year for every 100 000 births 495 women die. One of the major contributors to this figure are the complications that women sustain during unsafe abortions.
Unsafe abortions happen when a pregnancy is terminated by someone who lacks the necessary skills and in places that aren't medically certified.
In Kenya, abortion is only legal when there is a need for emergency treatment or the life or health of the mother is in danger. Permission for an abortion must be made by a trained health professional.
The latest data for Kenya (from 2012) shows that there were close to half a million unsafe abortions in the country that year. At least 100 000 of those women needed to be treated in hospital. And roughly a quarter died due to complications.
In our study we evaluated the costs - both financial and those related to human resources in health facilities - that Kenya's public health facilities incurred treating complications stemming from unsafe abortions.
We calculated that in 2012 the Kenyan government would have spent an estimated USD $5.1 million treating women who had developed complications from unsafe abortions. We estimated that by 2016 this figure would have gone up to USD $5.2 million.
This is roughly what the Kenyan government spends funding free primary health care for six months of the year. And the same amount could provide effective contraceptives to about 50 000 Kenyan women who are of reproductive age. Treating these women also puts additional strain on Kenya's already stretched health care system.
To manage the problem Kenya needs to take urgent action to implement policies and laws that it has in place that are designed to protect women, particularly their reproductive rights. For example, women need better access to a range of contraceptives.
But this kind of change requires political will to strengthen governmental institutions and agencies mandated to protect women's health.
Counting the costs
For our study we analysed the national and regional distribution of abortion complications by caseload and severity along with data on the direct costs attached to these. We interviewed health care providers in panels and individually. And then we also looked at the amount of time health care providers spent with patients, the drugs they prescribed, and the supplies they required.
Using these details we were able to calculate the costs for treating mild, moderate and severe complications. We were also able to establish which region in Kenya spent the most to treat complications.
We found that most of the complications were moderate to severe. These were classified as medical emergencies, meaning they either were or could quickly become life threatening if they were not treated immediately. To treat these complications patients required extended hospital stays, intensive care, and needed to be attended by highly skilled health providers.
Health care workers could spend over 12 hours treating a patient with such complications. The procedures ranged from draining an abscess in the pelvis to repairing a cervical or vaginal tear.
About 35% of the cases were classified as severe but they accounted for more than half of the total costs. As expected, severe complications cost the most: USD $2.7 million in total while treating moderate complications totalled USD $ 1.7 million. Mild complications cost USD $ 646,234.
At the per-case level, typical treatment could cost on average US$ 39 for mild complications to USD $108 for severe complications. But our cost estimates were conservative. They exclude patients' missed days of work, facility space, cost of referrals, and overheads.
Our analysis showed that facilities in Rift Valley and Western regions of Kenya had spent more than the other seven regions treating the complications of unsafe abortions. They also had the greatest numbers of women admitted.
Responding to the problem
To reduce the number of unsafe abortions in Kenya, the root cause of the problems need to be addressed. There are several.
For one, Kenya has a variety of policies around sexual and reproductive health rights through which public facilities are mandated to protect girls' and women's health. But in many regions women don't have access to contraceptives.
If these policies are implemented it would accelerate access to contraception. Health providers, women, and communities need to be educated about these policies and what they mean for womens' rights to contraception, the prevention of unsafe abortions, and the availability of quality post abortion care.
Women and men must also be able to access information about the most effective methods of contraception to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions, and the complications that arise from these procedures.
In addition, family planning services need to be improved and more contraceptive choices need to be offered to girls and women. And post-abortion services - both family planning counselling and access to services - need to be available.
* Hailemichael Gebreselassie, a senior research advisor at Ipas, a global non-profit that works to reduce maternal mortality, contributed to the writing of this article.
Zimbabwe has put on its first "Miss Albino" pageant in an effort to stamp out discrimination and stigma surrounding the condition. The 22-year-old winner says she wants to fight for the rights of children with albinism.
Sithembiso Mutukura beat 12 other contestants to claim the crown at Zimbabwe's first-ever Miss Albinism beauty contest -- an achievement she hopes will inspire others living with the rare disorder.
"We must continue to advocate for our rights and I hope my win will empower the girl child," the 22-year-old social work student said.
"I have gone through a lot, but I want people living with albinism to be brave and persevere in life."
During the event in Harare on Friday night, the contestants had to respond to questions on stage and model a range of gowns and traditional African robes. Mutukura was awarded US$85 (almost €70) in prize money after being named winner.
Pageant organizer Brenda Mudzimu said a lack of funds had made it difficult to get the initiative off the ground. In the end, the contest only attracted one sponsor, but Mudzimu says she hopes to one day make the event international.
"This will be an annual event which will later be advanced to Miss Albinism Africa and Miss Albinism World because we want to reach all corners of the world," she said.
In many African countries, people with albinism routinely face discrimination and persecution because of the way they look. The genetic disorder prevents skin cells from producing melanin , resulting in abnormal pigmentation of the skin, hair, and eyes. People with the condition also suffer from vision problems and are susceptible to skin cancer.
"The pageant aims to instil confidence in girls living with albinism in Zimbabwe as well as reduce the stigma," Mudzimu said.
Attacks and discrimination
Tapuwa Muchemwa, a Zimbabwean government representative who was the guest of honor at the pageant, said the country's leaders "strongly advocate that people with albinism deserve their right to life and security and to be protected as well as the right not to be subjected to torture and ill-treatment."
The rate of albinism in Africa is much higher than in other parts of the world. Communities in some countries believe albinism can bring magical powers, wealth and good fortune -- a superstition that has led to attackers kidnapping and murdering albinos to sell their body parts to witch doctors on the black market.
According to the United Nations, there have been over 600 attacks on people with albinism documented in 28 countries in sub-Saharan Africa over the past decade. Many more cases are thought to go unreported.
nm/rc (AFP, dpa)
Nollywood actor, John Okafor, a.k.a Mr Ibu, does not pretend when it comes to the issue of marriage. And that's why when his first marriage crashed, he stayed away from women for six years before he found love again. The comic actor and producer will tell anyone that cares to listen that he married the most beautiful woman in the world. Call her his 'first class' or 'queen', Mr. Ibu believes that his latest wife, Stella Maris Okafor, is a compensation from God, after what he calls the ugly experience he had with his former wife. His story is inspiring...
I call her, my first class. I don't have anything to do with any woman out there that can be compared to my wife. I have the best wife in the whole world. You can quote me. This is because when you have a wife that has the key to your heart, a woman that is in charge of your memory card, what are you looking for again? She's a rare breed in the species of womenfolk. Sometimes, I say to God that 'you saw my tribulations and you decided to bless me with this woman'. I was married before I met her but the marriage did not work out. But here I am today, living like somebody who is already in heaven. My wife's name is Stella Marries Chinyere Okafor. Anywhere you meet her, call her, Chibest or First Class. I want to popularize that name so that people can see the stuff she's made of. She's my first class in everything. She's the best cook I have ever met. In fact, she came up with a recipe known as 'Ibu Stew', which is currently enjoying patronage in Enugu, Awka and now Lagos. The stew has a very unique aroma that will make you to ask for some more. That woman from Mbaise, Imo State is a very wonderful woman.
Marriage because she's a good cook?
Not at all. When we started dating, I didn't know she's a very good cook. It was after she came into my life that I discovered the stuff she is made of. She's my wife, I don't sell shares. So, whatever testimonies I'm giving about her is real. She's the best woman I have ever met. If she provokes me by mistake, she cries throughout the day, and if I provoke and find it difficult to apologize to her, she will also cry throughout the day. Why wouldn't I give her the key to my heart? Do everything to please her!
Finding love again
Even if I die now, I will say 'God, thank you for giving me the love of my life.' I have practically experienced true love. But I'm not going to die any time soon. She has the mechanism to build new things in me. My children always copy intelligent people and she's one of them. I have grown-up children. My first son is married with kids; some have graduated from the university. She lacks nothing as my wife. But because of the nature of my job as I'm not always around, she would say she lacks, sometimes, my presence.
How she came into my life
There is this orientation from my mum about having respect for women. That's why each time I see any woman crying, I try to go close to her to find out why she's crying. I met my wife crying. She was seated alone in her world and I demanded to know why she was crying. Immediately, she showed me a text message from her ex- boyfriend which read, 'Do not call this number again and do not come close to me in your life, this is the end. I'm fine, I'm satisfied with you. Do not come close to my house again. It's over.' I was like, 'is that why you are crying... ? There are one thousand and one young men that see you as a beautiful woman'. I tried to console her, but little did I know that I'm one of those men that would come for her. Coincidentally, I was in Port Harcourt, and we were trying to find out something and she came to me. That's how it started. Soon, I discovered the rare qualities in her and I said to myself, 'Mr Ibu, this is your wife.' I wasted no time, as I dragged her to a corner and said to her, 'Congratulations'. 'Did I win anything?' she exclaimed! I replied, 'You won my heart'. It was amazing but, to her, the proposal came as a shock. Today, we are living together as husband and wife peacefully. I have been living with her since 1998. She has five children for me, while my ex-wife had four for me. But, unfortunately, she lost her first son, who was kidnapped then. He returned home before he died.
We were not compatible. If you marry another man's wife, you are finished. You must suffer from the beginning of the marriage to the end, and when it ends in the long run, you cannot recuperate on time to find your rhythm, that's when you start begging. Compatibility is something that people don't really see on time when they talk about marriage. When you talk of love at first sight, that's when your attention is ceased from making proper investigation about the woman you want to spend the rest of your life with. Sometimes, it is difficult for men to find out who is actually their flesh and blood. They don't take their time to investigate properly before going into that spiritual and life contract called marriage. Women are so flexible; they can be manipulated any minute. In some churches today, most of the people pastors conduct deliverance on are women. That's the best way to say that women have very flexible hearts and can be manipulated. But I am a very different person. Because of the orientation I got from my mum, just give me few minutes, I will discover that woman. My former wife hailed from my home town. I tried my best to keep the marriage to avoid people blaming me because we hail from the same village. I allowed people out there to watch and complain about what was going on between us then. But God is good. My decision to take another wife was not just a day's job. And it was accidental for the next choice. I thank God for everything that happened in my life. But my piece of advice to all young men out there is that they should take their time and try to find out who their would-be life partners really are. Do not pronounce anything, but go close to her and discover who she is before venturing into marriage.
After marriage crashed
Everybody knows my tribulations, temptations and sufferings. I tell my friends who have challenges in their marriages that, any time they are praying to God, they should ask Him to give them their own wives. When I saw my own, I knew and I got inspired. 29 people have married through me. It will be my pleasure to be part of anybody's success in marriage. If 29 people could marry through me and they are living in peace, what happens to me? Every woman wants to marry and settle down. But the question is: Who is my wife or who is my husband?
If I'm not working, I am always with my family. I am a movie actor and locations take me outside Lagos. But each time I'm around, my children feel my presence.
How family sees him as comic actor
They always laugh and they are so happy to have me as their dad.
Wife as an actress
Yes, she an actress. What I do now is to guide her acting career. If I'm on set, she should not be on the same set with me. When I'm there, she should stay at home. It shouldn't be the case of when I'm there and she's not there too and the children are crying.
I was actually scared of women after my ugly experience with my former wife. I was scared to allow a woman come close to me. I stayed for six years without having anything to do with any woman. In Nollywood, I saw all the actresses that came around me as my sisters.
It is a fact that access to management positions in any organisations is not an easy task for lots of women in Nigeria.
This has led to relatively low representation of women in top management at work places compared to their male counterpart.
AXA Mansard an insurance company, bothered with this trend and set out to curtail it recently launched a women's network tagged: Super Heroes Everyday (SHE).
Part of its objectives is to foster a community where the company's employees thrive through career development by way of coaching, mentoring and other engagement activities, which will ultimately ensure that their women are empowered.
"The network would also ensure policies that nurture a better working environment for women," said the General Counsel and Human Resource Director at AXA Mansard, Omowunmi Adewusi.
According to her, family support is crucial to be a successful career woman. She lamented cases where some women resign from their jobs just because the spouses are not comfortable with it.
She tasked organisations to do more by supporting young women to make the transition from young wives and mothers to senior managers easy.
"I believe that women need to be empowered. This is a self-determination, and ability to make choices that are truly free. A woman should be entitled to have her own dreams and chase such dreams; family support will enable her to progress at the workplace.
"Our men should help by supporting us. We do not want a boss that would cage us and feels we cannot rise in our careers just because we are women. When organisations do not treat female indifferently then there will be no limit to what they can achieve."
Adewusi also task the government to step up in educating the girl child and noted that this would boost the morale and self esteem of the children at an early stage.
Cindy Mthembu, 27, and her sister, Thando, 20, sit on a threadbare couch in a lopsided garage outside Glebelands R Block. The sheet of corrugated zinc behind them is peppered with bullet holes, testament to the wave of violence that in recent years has plagued this apartheid era hostel on the fringes of Durban.
Their father, William Mthembu, was murdered. An estimated 108 Glebelands residents, most of them men, have been murdered in politically linked violence since 2014. Some residents claim the number of victims is much higher.
Cindy recalls how her father was shot dead in the middle of the day on 12 September 2015. Her voice shakes slightly, and while she speaks, her sister stares at the litter-strewn ground in front of her.
Cindy and Thando had moved from their family home in the rural Eastern Cape to live with their father and pursue tertiary education in Durban. William Mthembu worked odd jobs. After his death, the two sisters could not cover the rent without the help of their father's salary. Thando, as the youngest sibling, was forced to put her studies on hold, perhaps indefinitely.
A friend of Mthembu said, "It is particularly painful that now one of his daughters can't afford to study. He always said he'd do anything for them to get an education so that their life would be better than his."
"It is still very hard for us," Cindy told GroundUp, "because we are still sharing the same house that we used to share with our father when he was alive. We want to move out but we don't have money for somewhere else."
The plight of the Mthembu siblings is shared by many women in Glebelands, a formerly male-only hostel for migrant labourers. Its population has swelled to more than 20,000, with most residents housed in cramped, shared rooms across approximately 48 four-story red brick blocks.
Situated in Umlazi township about 17 kilometres south of Durban city centre, Glebelands was built in the 1960s as part of the apartheid government's push to meet the labour needs of a rapidly industrialising city. Black migrant workers, many of them from the Eastern Cape, moved to Glebelands to work in Durban's manufacturing and shipping industries.
Though an increasing number of women joined their husbands and fathers at the former hostel since the end of apartheid, it remains a male-dominated community. According to Vanessa Burger, an independent activist who has been heavily involved in Glebelands since 2014, most women in the hostel are unemployed. The spate of killings has left widows, orphans and even extended families bereft of their sole breadwinner.
Mamthina Pina, 46, followed her husband, Themba, to Glebelands in 1996. Themba was shot in the head on his way to work at a local butchery on 5 June 2015. Pina says that he'd been receiving death threats over the phone for two days before the shooting; he'd also been hospitalised following a knife attack earlier in 2015.
She says that her husband, a block committee member, had become embroiled in a disagreement with the local ward councillor, Robert Mzobe, who had been widely accused of dividing the community and not consulting them on developments in the area. Many Glebelands residents told GroundUp that the violence in the hostel originally stems from a rift between an ANC faction that supports Mzobe and one that opposes him.
An analysis of the Glebelands deaths by Burger shows that many of the victims were linked to block structures that opposed Mzobe. According to a 2016 report by violence monitor Mary De Haas, "From the outset, police were accused of being complicit with the ANC faction supporting the councillor." The councillor has denied these claims. However, a Glebelands-based SAPS officer was arrested in December last year in connection with a number of the assassinations. (Mzobe did not want to comment for this article.)
Since her husband died, Pina has sold vetkoeks and packets of Niknaks out of the kitchen of her small, dank, third-floor hostel unit, which she shares with two of her children and two young grandchildren. She says she's struggling to support the family on her own.
"It's very difficult because my husband was the one who was looking after the kids and me," she says. "I knew I had someone I could speak to whenever I felt that I had a problem."
Pina says that her 15-year-old son has been hit particularly hard by his father's death. Shortly after the shooting, he threw himself out of his bedroom window in an attempt to take his own life. He landed on soft ground and suffered minor injuries.
Pina told GroundUp that she has never heard from SAPS concerning any arrests for her husband's murder. "I just notice that people continue to die. Even if there are any arrests, it will not take away the pain of losing my husband."
In a 2016 report that looked into the violence at Glebelands, outgoing Public Protector Thuli Madonsela found that the residents of the hostel had been repeatedly failed by the police, as well as eThekwini Muncipality and the Department of Social Development. (Here is an updated 2017 version of the report.)
"The violence that wracked the Glebelands Hostel is reported to have produced many victims who required material relief of distress like food parcels and non-material forms of relief like counselling and mobilisation and co-ordination of resources for which the department's policy on relief of distress makes provision. Sadly, the department woefully failed to fulfil its responsibilities in this regard," Madonsela's report said.
The Department for Social Development has repeatedly denied such accusations, claiming that a lack of contact details has made it difficult for social workers to track down and help victims. However, in just three days GroundUp managed to get hold of seven families who had lost their breadwinner, including some in the Eastern Cape. All of them said they had received no support from the Department of Social Development.
According to a Glebelands community leader who asked to be unnamed because of concerns for his safety, "It pains us to live in an environment where we are surrounded by orphans and widows and no one is assisting them. They don't know who to cry out to for help."
In 2016, KZN Premier Willies Mchunu set up the R15 million Moerane Commission of Inquiry to investigate political killings in the province, including those occurring at Glebelands. Last year, Burger told the commission that the hostel was a "reservoir of hitmen", some of whom she claims were involved in the targeted killing of block committee leaders including Themba Pina.
But women relatives of alleged hitmen have also suffered as a result of the continual violence at Glebelands. Nqobile Hlophe's brother, Bongani, who has been linked to many of the killings in Glebelands, was gunned down in his room in Block 52 in October 2015. Another of Nqobile's brothers, Wonderboy, was arrested along with six other alleged Glebelands' hitmen in December 2017 and is currently awaiting trial. Sanele, a third Hlophe brother, was recently released from jail after three years.
"Our family has been through hell in the last three years," Hlophe told GroundUp. "It's been a very painful experience having to deal with so much loss."
The morning after Bongani's death, Hlophe and her 70-year-old mother, who also lost her husband some years previously, travelled more than 150km from KwaDlangezwa to clean Bongani's blood off the floor of his unit. Sanele was arrested on various charges the same day.
Despite all of the allegations against Bongani, Nqobile says that the family "never really got answers as to why he was killed."
"Sometimes it's just like that. Men are unable to tell you about certain things," says Ntombikayise Jamjam, 37, who came from the Eastern Cape to join her husband in Glebalands in 2003. Her husband was shot and killed on 12 September 2014. Jamjam says she still doesn't know why.
Jamjam is unemployed and, although she receives a child benefit grant for her four-year-old daughter, she says it is not enough for them to live on. Jamjam says she has never heard anything from the police concerning any suspects in her husband's murder.
Two SAPS investigating officers assigned to the Glebelands murders, who spoke to GroundUp on condition of anonymity, say that their investigations have been routinely hampered by the unwillingness of witnesses to come forward. "People are afraid. They know that they could also be eliminated if they give testimony," one of the officers said. The officers conceded that the lack of prosecutions for crimes committed in Glebelands has further fuelled the violence.
Jamjam, like the other women GroundUp interviewed for this story, has little hope that there will ever be any justice for the damage caused to her family. Most of the women had never heard of the Moerane Commission. De Haas, like many outside observers, has expressed doubt that the commission's findings will have any tangible impact for the women of Glebelands.
Meanwhile, Jamjam says that her young daughter still looks expectantly at the front door every evening, waiting for her father to return home. "It's like it has still not sunk in that he's dead."
Research for this series was supported, in part, by a Taco Kuiper grant.
The United Nations' (UN) World Happiness Report 2018 has ranked Malawi as one of the least happiest countries in the world but government has rejected the findings as flawed.
The report, an annual publication from the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, ranked Malawia at 147 out of 156 countries.
The World Happiness Report measures "subjective well-being" - how happy the people are, and why.
But government spokesman and Minister of Information and Communications, Nicolas Dausi, has rejected the report saying it is faulty.
"Malawians are happy people and can be seen with happy faces in the village and urban areas."
Dausi said data on happiness are notoriously subjective and should be interpreted with a dose of caution.
Despite African countries getting the worst happiness scores, one west African nation has bucked the trend. Togo came bottom in 2015 but was the biggest improver in the 2018 report, rising 18 places. Latvians and Bulgarians are also reporting higher levels of happiness.
Finland has overtaken Norway to become the happiest nation on earth, according to a UN report.
The African Union (AU) has adopted a Free Movement Protocol and a draft plan of action to go with it.
The idea was first set out in the Abuja Treaty, which was endorsed in 1991 at the establishment of the African Economic Community. The AU's protocol defines free movement as the right to enter and exit member states and move freely within them, subject to the states' laws and procedures. It regards the freedom to travel or move goods across the continent as likely to boost the economic integration of Africa.
There are several reasons why the protocol is an important development.
First, it will directly affect ordinary people. Up until now the effects of most of the AU's treaties and protocols have filtered down to people's lives from a distance, if at all. This protocol applies directly to citizens' movement.
Second, it moves the AU closer to the progress that sub-regional groupings have made on migration. For example, the East African Community (EAC) launched its passport in 1999 and has recently started a process to issue an EAC e-passport. This is a passport with digital identification features.
In West Africa, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) launched a regional passport in 2000, but implementation by member states has been slow.
Lastly, free movement of people in other regions has been beneficial. For example, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development reports that the average unemployment rate has been lowered by 6% in Europe due to free movement within the European Union (EU). And according to the International Monetary Fund, free movement has resulted in better institutions and better economic management in Eastern Europe.
Advantages of free movement
There's a great deal of evidence that migration boosts the economies of receiving countries. Free movement in Africa can be expected to enhance business and investment as the EU example has shown.
According to an African Development Bank report, tourism in the Seychelles increased by 7% annually between 2009 and 2014 when the country abolished visas for African nationals. By 2015, thanks to increased revenues, it had become a high income country with thriving real estate, aviation and service industries.
The same report also states that African travel to Rwanda has increased by 22% since it eased its visa requirements in 2013. Since then Rwanda's cross-border trade with Kenya and Uganda has increased by 50%. This is evidence that free movement of labour and capital, boosts economic activity.
Addressing the challenges
But the protocol in its present form doesn't go far enough, and the AU needs to revisit parts of it. For instance, it should choose a biometric African identification card rather than an African passport . A biometric ID is cheaper to produce than a passport and could be based on existing designs of national IDs instead of brand new documents. This could help overcome resistance to the passport on the grounds of cost.
The biometric ID could be introduced alongside existing national IDs. It could be rolled out in instalments and, for example, issued to diplomats, business people and students to begin with.
The ID would accompany ordinary sub-regional passports and exempt the bearers from visa requirements. It is instructive to note that national IDs can and do facilitate free movement too.
For example, 15 ECOWAS member states have introduced national IDs and plan to launch a biometric card to serve as a travel document in the region. Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda have an agreement to use national IDs for travel within the three countries.
Finally, there are some overlaps between the protocol and other African Union instruments such as the Refugee Convention, which recognises the special needs of vulnerable groups. Rather than restate the provisions of the convention, the protocol should be refined to provide unique protections for these special groups.
Security issues and xenophobia
Free movement does not have to become a security threat for individual member states. The protocol does not encourage undetected movement. Rather, it requires stricter security controls at ports of entry. This means that blacklisted individuals who could be a threat to national security can be kept out.
The AU's Special Technical Committee on Defence and Security can also be given the job of improving intelligence sharing as well as cross-border police co-operation.
Xenophobia is also a legitimate concern when it comes to free movement. The AU could use structures and instruments like the Continental Early Warning Systems, and the Economic, Social and Cultural Council ECOSOC to help it manage issues of security and xenophobia.
Gains to be made
The protocol is poised to deliver significant gains for Africa. It embodies the spirit of African integration and marks progress in regional partnerships. It promises great investment and trade opportunities, as well as the possibility to boost physical infrastructure such as roads, as has been the case in America and Asia.
However, various state and non-state actors must sensitise domestic populations on the benefits of free movement in order to avoid a surge of nationalism, anti-immigrant hysteria and the kind of right wing politics that has swept across Europe and America over the past four years.
In this article I will borrow from Professor David Moore's characterisation of the to be one of "primitive accumulation, nation-state formation, and democratisation", simply put, how to create wealth and distribute it, building a community of citizens and the capacity of citizens to exercise agency to resolve issues in a civil manner. This point is generally applicable to the African Crisis in the post-colony.
There are three key areas of contestation when considering the future, namely questions of citizenship and rights, how people are governed and how they relate with their leadership and lastly, how wealth is acquired and distributed. The way these three issues are interconnected has made it difficult for leadership to successfully address Africa's challenges.
There are those who argue that for Africa to industrialise and develop they have to negate the democracy question. This argument feeds into the long-held myth that Africa needs "strong men" or radical policies for transformation to take place. Strong and persuasive arguments have been put forward stating that democracy is a luxury and that democratic institutions have failed to deliver economic transformation.
A gaze into history refutes such rhetoric, as the Malaysians successfully managed to build an ethnic Malay business class without disenfranchising the Chinese. Over and above this, the pursuit of economic transformation cannot escape reality, a reality in which the world has become sensitive to the question of property rights. Interestingly, the debate on property rights has been dominated by disingenuous and deceitful arguments from Africa's elites; our modern Achilles heel.
In Zimbabwe, the new administration has already hit the ground running, projecting itself as reformist in the mould of China's Deng Xiaoping or Tanzania's John Pombe Magufuli.
In South Africa, the new leadership has also projected itself as the new brooms that will cleanse the ruling party and country from State Capture. However, in order to maintain their reformed status and regain significant government control, the ANC will have to contend with President Jacob Zuma's last two years in office.
Interestingly, both successors in Zimbabwe and South Africa are former vice-presidents who have fallen out of favour with their president. In both cases, the common fault line is allegations of State Capture in one way or another. In the case of Robert Mugabe, it was Grace Mugabe's alleged grooming for the presidency as well as the G40.
While in South Africa, it was allegations of State Capture regarding the Gupta family. Although Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma is a political actor in her own right with a reputation for efficient administration, shown by her position as Minister of Home Affairs and arguably at the AU, and clean hands, she was seen by some as a protégé of her ex-husband and likely to protect the Guptas.
Both Zanu-PF and the ANC held elective congresses in 2017 and will be heading into national elections in 2018 and 2019 respectively.
Already, the two countries are in election mode and at the center of policy debate has been the question of economic transformation, in particular, the inclusion of blacks within mainstream economics as well as controlling the levers or means of production.
The major outcome of the Zanu-PF extra-ordinary congress was the watering down of the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act, whereas for the ANC it was the adoption of Radical Economic Transformation (RET) and appropriation of land without compensation.
It is my contention that supporters or leaders of the ruling parties have tended to advocate for populist and redistributionist policy positions without paying heed to economic fundamentals and, in the end, breed authoritarian governance.
At the centre of this authoritarian governance is a creation of messiahs and subjects, rather than leaders and citizens, a necessary dynamic that has been lacking in the African democracy matrix.
In Africa, in general, there has been a flip flopping between radical economics and neo-liberalism with adherents of each school adopting populist solutions that seek to empower black people on the basis of socialist dogma or market fundamentalism without paying heed to the nexus of the local and international political economy.
The end result of this politics has always come to naught, thus leaving people in abject poverty and ultimately the diminishing of the people's belief in democratic institutions to bring a good life.
Thus, the argument becomes that Africa needs strong men or benevolent dictators, who can commandeer the economy and politics. The danger of this logic is to reduce every challenge in our society to a nail and thus the need for a hammer, even where unnecessarily so.
In South Africa, there is the argument that Mandela and democracy failed to give people their economic freedom and in particular land. It is also argued that in Zimbabwe, Mugabe gave the people their land and economic freedom despite the many problems he brought to the country.
It is for this reason that Mugabe became popular in Africa and the developing world, as he is seen as a messiah of black people against white supremacism and imperialism.
Interestingly, those who succeeded Mugabe, whilst claiming to extol his legacy have revised the economic indigenisation programme and the position on compensation of land.
A key point to note has been that the toppling of president Mugabe from power exposed shady deals in which the ruling elite have been secretly compensating farmers using the state in the form of Treasury Bills and, at the same time, venturing into 'partnerships' (fronting) with deposed white farmers.
The Zimbabwe Independent of 08/12/2017 reveals that the ruling elite sought title deeds to their newly acquired land, yet it has consistently argued against property rights for ordinary Zimbabweans. Similarly, after her dethronement from power, Joice Mujuru, met the farmer whom her family dispossessed of land to arrange compensation.
The sustained attack on property rights and their characterisation as only white and Eurocentric by African Elites, speaks of duplicity within our policy circles. In addition, Mugabe's revealed relationship with Interfresh Holdings' Hamish Rudland exposes the duplicity of African elites who Nicodemously seek property rights, yet discouraging the citizenry against their pursuit.
Mugabe is on record speaking out against leasing of land to whites by Zimbabweans. This challenge of duplicity has also been observed in South Africa's Black Economic Empowerment, where elites have become fronts of Capital (white or Gupta) at the expense of real economic transformation.
Programmes of economic transformation do not need to be radical to take people out of poverty, but should be well thought out within a broader economic strategy. For instance, when one looks at land, the idea is not to seek vengeance but to address questions of social justice and economic transformation at the same time.
Beyond the socio-cultural significance of land, we also have to think of the neglected question of production (i.e. in terms of food security, employment and role of land in economic value chain).
The failure to appreciate the role of land and any other economic asset beyond the culture of rent seekers will only breed acquirers in the sense of Mobutu's Zaire or what Moeletsi Mbeki describes in Architects of Poverty as "an anti-developmental parasitic elite, only interested in their personal accumulation projects and not development of the ordinary person". At the same time, there is the danger of policy makers swinging from one dogma to another at the heed of false prophets.
Already, in Zimbabwe, the new administration of President Emmerson Mnangagwa is now on a local, regional and international charm offensive to former white commercial farmers to return to land and farm. Mnangagwa's administration has gone further to promise compensation of white farmers and remove the 51% indigenisation threshold, except for diamond and platinum mining.
This marks a radical departure from Zanu-PF's radical politics. However, this, without policy and institutional reforms, will not solve the African challenges of unemployment, poverty and underdevelopment, as it reduces policy reform to swinging from left dogma to neo-liberal dogma without paying attention to detail.
These policy somersaults in Zimbabwe provide a poser to the ANC, especially after the adoption of Radical Economic Transformation and appropriation of land without compensation as policy positions.
South Africa' leadership has to be cognisant of the fact that the realities of the modern economy and its sensitivities to radical and uncertain policies have the potential to lead the country down the Zimbabwe Crisis path. This is an argument that many have often wanted to dismiss or not contemplate discussing.
South Africa will not transform its economy on the basis of dispossessing whites and replacing them with blacks. Building a modern economy is not that simple, unless South Africa simply wants replacement of black faces with white faces in the economy.
The challenge is that of RET without structural transformation. But some would argue, structural transformation by nature takes a long time. Frantz Fanon warned us many years ago of the structural limitations of this approach to economic change in his book, The Wretched of the Earth.
While the ideals and arguments of radical economic transformation and appropriation of land without compensation may appeal well for the ordinary South African, the realities of cases from elsewhere in Africa is that these have failed to work.
In Mozambique they had to re-open the country to the Portuguese after dispelling them. In Zambia, they had to re-privatise the mines after nationalising them and in Zimbabwe they are now begging the white farmers to return.
South Africa does not need to follow the Zimbabwe or Mozambique route of destruction and then to somersault years later and clamour for the return of white capital to the economy.
Going forward, it is critical for the new Zanu-PF and ANC leadership not to pander to revolutionary gusto and emotions while being oblivious to the mutual interconnectedness of the nation-state formation, democracy and wealth creation and distribution questions.
One of these questions cannot be successfully resolved whilst neglecting the other two. These questions are symbiotically linked.
It is often argued that democratic institutions cannot deliver economic transformation, a position that is not supported by evidence. Perhaps it is time for Zimbabwe and South Africa to consider debates around the democratic developmental state.
In this case, the is instructive for our learning. It was hinged on building a craft competent and policy literate bureaucracy and working institutions. Whilst race played a critical role in creating the current inequalities, the realities of the modern world is that attempting to build policies on racialism and exclusivist policies is bound to fail.
There is a need to re-imagine a new Africa that recognises its citizens not on the basis of race, creed, discrimination or any form of difference and yet, at the same time, address the colonial imbalances. This is the challenge that modern day African leaders face.
The world has moved from Cecil Rhodes' 1890 and Jan van Riebeeck's 1652, yet the impacts still haunt our quest for nation building, democratisation and building socio-economic just societies.
The answers are not easy but then such are the demands for more well thought-out solutions for Africa's challenges.
African asylum seekers demonstrating outside Israel's parliament in Jerusalem shortly before being arrested and returned to a new "open" holding facility in the southern Negev desert.
Rwanda has reiterated its readiness to receive African migrants from Israel and Libya.
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Louise Mushikiwabo, affirmed that Kigali would accept the refugees and asylum seekers as long as the process of relocating them was in line with international laws.
"We have told the state of Israel that our country as part of its policy is ready to receive any African migrant that would be leaving Israel in the context of international law," she said.
"We have also agreed that we will provide as a country the basics that we provide to our own citizens. It is the same for refugees and other foreign nationals coming to Rwanda. We have yet to get a number of those migrants to arrive here in Rwanda but we are ready, we have been ready," Ms Mushikiwabo added.
She said Rwanda's 'open-door policy' on refugees, migrants and asylum seekers remained as was even as Kigali continues to deny a controversial deal with Israel to have refugees relocated from Tel Aviv.
"That policy is not going to change, to receive anybody who is not comfortable for various reasons and all this of course within the means of our country," she said.
"We are not pretending to be able to receive the whole world here but it is something we are considering," she added.
Ms Mushikiwabo said the same policy is being applied for the migrants who are in Libya "under extremely horrendous conditions including being sold on markets and being mistreated".
"On the migrants in Libya we are still waiting to reach an agreement within the context of the African Union which is corroborating with international organisations on migrations to figure out which type of migrants and their identifications, the numbers that would be coming to Rwanda but that would be in the next several weeks," she said.
Rwanda has offered to take in at least 30,000 African immigrants stranded in Libya as well as African asylum seekers in Israel.
However, the offer came under scrutiny last month after 11 Congolese refugees in Kiziba camp in western Rwanda were shot dead by police during a food protest.
More than 17,000 refugees have been protesting against a 25 per cent cut in food rations since January by the UN World Food Programme as a result of underfunding.
Following the protests, questions have been raised on whether Rwanda is able to provide basic needs for even more migrants.
Ms Mushikiwabo, addressing these concerns, said the Congolese refugees, who have been in Rwanda for more than 22 years, have "complex demands and have resorted to using violence, even against security forces, to resolve existing challenges."
She said in mid-2000, Rwanda offered the refugees citizenship but many declined.
"We have had cases, which are at the heart of the revolt in the refugee camp, of individuals who have actually applied for a national Rwandan identity card and want to go back and request for a refugee card and at the same time want to go home to the DRC," she said.
"Basically you have individuals who want to be three things at the same time. They want to be Rwandan, they want to be refugees and that is not really possible. That is really the heart of the matter," Ms Mushikiwabo said.
She claimed those who led the revolt were angling for relocation to Western countries under existing resettlement programmes but at the same time seeking Rwanda citizenship.
"The revolt has to do with the fact that actually some of them are young and they became extremely violent, attacking the law enforcement agents, trying to hold hostages and our law enforcement agency was not prepared for that kind of violence," she said.
The government says reduction of food rations affected all of the 173,000 refugees hosted in different camps in Rwanda and not one particular group.
Ms Mushikiwabo said the Kinyarwanda-speaking Congolese refugees' issue was that of an identity crisis and difficulty to choose what they want.
She, however, said the government would facilitate anyone wanting to be repatriated but would not allow anyone to go home with a Rwandan national ID and at the same time wanting to be resettled in the United States or Europe.
On the influx of over 2,500 Burundi refugees last week, the government said it is yet to figure out how to deal with the group because of their "strange religious beliefs".
The refugees said they left DR Congo for fear of repatriation. They claimed they fled Burundi due to religious persecution.
Ms Mushikiwabo said the refugees, who belong to a Catholic sect, have refused biometric registration and vaccination or modern medicine, a situation that Rwanda's policies and laws won't allow.
"It is something we are trying to figure out, how to deal with this group," she said.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General (left) with former Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete and Mrs Toyin Ojora Saraki, president of the Wellbeing Foundation Africa
Abuja — H.E Mrs Toyin Ojora Saraki has been named as special advisor to the Independent Advisory Group (IAG) of WHO AFRO, the World Health Organization’s presence in Africa.
The appointment was made earlier this month by Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, in a move intended to bring Mrs Saraki’s considerable frontline experience to bear on WHO strategy and policy.
Mrs Saraki’s first engagement in the new role will take place this week at the 3rd meeting of the Independent Advisory Group (IAG) in Johannesburg, South Africa. The meeting will focus on repositioning the work of the WHO in Africa in the context of the WHO’s 13th General Programme of Work (GPW13) and the global WHO Transformation Plan.
Responding to her appointment, Mrs Saraki commented:
“I welcome the Advisory Group meeting’s focus on the health of women, children and adolescents as flagship indicators for Universal Healthcare Coverage (UHC) progress. As a global champion for UHC, I advocate for a fuller understanding of its benefits, which go beyond health outcomes and include improved gender equality, higher levels of preparedness for epidemic outbreaks and transformative economic effects.”
"As Global Goodwill Ambassador for the International Confederation of Midwives, I particularly welcome the introduction of WHO AFRO's focused curriculum for the professional qualification education of Midwives and Nurses in Africa."
“I am looking forward to hitting the ground running in my new role as special advisor at the Independent Advisory Group meeting this week in Johannesburg.”
“The experience I have gained as Founder-President of the Wellbeing Foundation Africa, working closely with our midwives on the frontline, as part of the global Every Woman Every Child Strategy to end all preventable maternal, newborn and child deaths, including stillbirths, by 2030, will inform my advice to the WHO."
“Last year Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus became the first African Director-General of the WHO. His commitment to Universal Health Coverage represents bold leadership and I look forward to working closely with him, Dr Moeti and all partners to make affordable and accessible healthcare a reality across Africa.”
It is relatively rare for a young person to leave school knowing on their own exactly what they want to do next. And, even if they do, it's unusual to seamlessly and independently go to university, complete the degree of their choosing, graduate, and move into the working world.
For most young people the world beyond school is complicated. They need a great deal of support - particularly from their families and universities - to navigate their higher education choices. This is borne out by a recent study which tracked the experiences of 73 students who, some six years before, had started bachelor's studies at one of three research-intensive South African universities.
The study focused on how young people navigate the opportunities and constraints of university study. One of the key findings was that the country's universities seem mostly to have limited capacity for giving students advice about academic choices. In some other parts of the world, most notably the US, this is a whole field of expertise within a university, with dedicated staff focused solely on giving students advice.
There is substantial literature showing the positive effects of academic advising on student retention and progress, especially for those from underrepresented groups in higher education.
As we point out elsewhere in the book on which this research is based, many of the students we interviewed didn't have the support structures at home that could offer informed advice about issues such as the choice of institution, degree, funding routes. Proper advisory systems in universities can be especially helpful in this context.
It's not easy. South Africa's universities are dealing with a huge resource crunch and it takes money to set up many of the systems that would be needed.
But it's a worthwhile investment. Universities that can formalise academic advising and make it more accessible are likely to see better results in students progressing from enrolment to graduation.
While few universities appear to have formal, full-time advising structures, there are one-off or informal interventions at some South African institutions.
At one institution for example, there were sample introductory lectures at the start of the year. Students found this very helpful though they pointed out that attending just one lecture wasn't necessarily enough to make a fully informed decision about whether to pursue that course or degree path.
Some universities also allowed students to change courses within the first few weeks of the academic year. But this can be tricky because students then need to make up what they've missed.
Some students spoke of establishing a rapport with individual lecturers and even their deans. This meant they could discuss their plans and choices with someone who was well informed. But this was relatively rare at the larger universities and was left largely to chance - requiring both students with confidence and initiative, and supportive, engaged academics
It also wasn't always a successful approach: in our study we did hear of situations where the advice students received from academics was incorrect or even insulting. One student who was struggling in a science degree, for example, was told that she was a "pretty girl" and maybe she should change to a degree in education.
Some work is being done in South Africa to improve the situation. The National Student Financial Aid System is looking at models for more broader support for the students it funds. This is good news, since these students are often those whose families may not have the social capital and information to support their decisions.
Another thing that universities should consider is a more flexible curriculum structure. Our research also found that where the curriculum is fairly fixed and university rules preclude much movement between programmes, there is little opportunity for navigating a successful pathway. This is a problem for students who only become aware of their skills and passions along the way and wish to change their degree course. A flexible curriculum coupled with strong advice structures could make a real difference to such students.
_This is an edited abstract from "Going to University: The influence of Higher Education on the lives of young South Africans" (2018) Case, J., Marshall, D., McKenna, S. & Mogashana, D. African Minds. Available for download here.
The other authors of the book from which this piece is extracted are Professor Sioux McKenna (Head of Postgraduate Studies, Rhodes University), Professor Delia Marshall (Faculty of Natural Science at the University of the Western Cape) and Dr Disaapele Mogashana (student success coach and consultant at True Success Institute).
Still reeling in the pain of its shock defeat in the first round of this month's presidential election, Sierra Leone's governing party has accused the National Electoral Commission (NEC) of conniving with foreign forces to push for regime change.
The All People's Congress (APC) party has subsequently made several demands it wants met before the presidential run-off slated for March 27.
The APC's candidate, Dr Samura Kamara, will face off with the main opposition Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP) candidate, Brig. (Rtd) Julius Maada Bio, in the second round after both failed to secure the constitutional threshold of 55 per cent in the first round.
Brig Bio emerged on top with 43 per cent of the votes cast, ahead of Dr Kamara's 42 per cent. There were 14 other candidates.
APC Secretary-General Osman Foday Yansaneh, told journalists and international observers at a press conference in Freetown that they had enough evidence to prove that that NEC had been compromised, and could not guarantee a free, fair and transparent poll. He claimed there were widespread irregularities, including ballot stuffing to deny the incumbent party a first round win.
He added that in spite of the many concerns raised by the party, NEC neither acknowledged nor took any action and instead went ahead to announce the final results.
"It is therefore abundantly clear that the Commission woefully failed to execute its constitutional remit in a manner befitting a democratic Sierra Leone," Mr Yansaneh said.
He alleged that international observers, with the intention of ensuring regime change, were also piling pressure on NEC to announce the results even without addressing the party's concerns.
"Our people are anxious, but it would appear that some people from without are more anxious for the announcement of the results that undue pressure was exerted on the NEC," he said.
The APC secretary-general noted that because of the apparent interference by foreign forces, they had decided to control which international observers had access to tallying centers in the run-off.
APC also demanded that NEC conducts a forensic audit of the March 7 vote before the run-off.
Spike in violence
The party also wants to see a series of reforms within the commission, including a review of its staff in key positions who they alleged helped manipulate the results in favour of the opposition.
The ruling party will also want results from the regions be transferred manually to the national tally centre, instead of being transmitted electronically. APC officials were pushing for the police and military to supervise such a process.
The two parties were currently jostling for support among the smaller parties. But the last few days have witnessed a spike in violence, fuelled by ethnic tensions.
APC blames SLPP for attacking its supporters.
There have been appeals both locally and internationally for calm.
Zanu-PF will meet soon to review the membership of former party first secretary and president Mr Robert Mugabe following his political activities that saw him being involved in the formation of a new opposition outfit, the New Patriotic Front (NPF), a senior official has said.
Zanu-PF Secretary for Legal Affairs Cde Paul Mangwana yesterday said Mr Mugabe risked losing his Zanu-PF membership, constitutional privileges and respect for dabbling in opposition politics.
A fortnight ago, Mr Mugabe met Brigadier-General Ambrose Mutinhiri (Retired), who fronts the NPF, at his Blue Roof mansion in Borrowdale, Harare, where they discussed the formation of the party, an outfit drawing membership mainly from members of the vanquished G40 cabal.
Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko has set his eyes on a member of the First Family in his hunt for a Deputy Governor.
Sonko on Sunday unveiled his short listed candidates for the Deputy Governor vacancy in a Facebook post. The list includes President Uhuru Kenyatta's brother Muhoho and his nephew Jomo Gecaga.
Jomo Gecaga's partner and the mother of his twins Citizen TV's Anne Kiguta is also on the list.
Sonko's list of 22 men and women also featured State House employees Njee Muturi and George Kariuki.
Sonko's former deputy Polycarp Igathe is also in the list, alongside self-declared National Resistance Movement General Miguna Miguna.
RUNNING THE SHOW
Eala MP Simon Mbugua, reported to be running the show at City Hall since Igathe's resignation, is also in the list.
Others shortlisted candidates include businesswoman Agnes Kagure Kariuki and city tycoon Jimnah Mbaru.
Sonko's list also had former presidential candidate James ole Kiyapi, former town clerk John Gakuo and Raymond Matiba formerly of KTB.
"Great people of Nairobi, some say politics is about numbers. This FB page of mine has over 1,300,000 fans out of which 925,892 are Nairobians. I believe it is you the great people and God who have the powers of nominating leaders. Hence hebu munisaidie hapa whom do you think deserves to be my Deputy Governor?" Sonko wrote.
A former Chairman of the Nairobi Central Business District Association Timothy Muriuki advised Mr Sonko to appoint somebody who is well versed with business in Nairobi.
"I vouch for Mrs Agnes Kagure Kariuki the award winning Insurance expert," he said.
Here is Sonko list of candidates for the Deputy Governor job.
1. Ann Kiguta - Citizen TV news anchor.
2. Miguna Miguna - Lawyer.
3. Janet Ouko - Educationist and current County Executive for Education, Youth Affairs and Gender.
4. Agnes Kagure Kariuki - Businesswoman.
5. Bishop Margaret Wanjiru - Former MP.
6. Hon. Dennis Waweru - Former MP.
7. Millicent Omanga - Nominated Senator.
8. John Gakuo - Former Nairobi City Council Town Clerk
9. Karen Nyamu - Lawyer.
10. Jimna Mbaru - Current chairman Dyer & Blair Investments.
11. Raymond Matiba - Former chairman Kenya Tourism Board.
12. Prof James Ole Kiyapi - Former presidential candidate.
13. Polycarp Igathe - Immediate former Nairobi Deputy Governor.
14. Esther Passaris - Nairobi Woman Representative
15. Irungu Nyakera - Former PS Infrastructure.
16. Susan Matiba
17. Jomo Gecaga - State House
18. Njee Muturi - State House
19. George Kariuki - State House
20. Muhoho Jomo Kenyatta - First Family
21. Rachel Shebesh - Former Nairobi Woman Representative and current CAS Gender & youth ministry
22. Simon Mbugua - Former Kamkunji MP and current EALA Member
Former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe has reportedly been urged to approach the courts of law "if he believes President Emmerson Mnangagwa's administration" is not legitimate.
This came after Mugabe told journalists in Harare last week that the Mnangagwa led government lacked constitutional legitimacy.
Mugabe described his departure from office in November as a "coup d'etat".
"I say it was a coup d'etat - some people have refused to call it a coup d'etat," said Mugabe referring to the brief takeover by the army which led to Mnangagwa assuming power after his resignation.
"(...) We must undo this disgrace we have imposed on ourselves," he said.
The nonagenarian also said that a meeting between him and his successor would restore constitutional order.
Mugabe was forced to quit when the military stepped in and Zanu-PF lawmakers launched impeachment proceedings against their once beloved leader.
But, according to the state-owned Sunday Mail newspaper, presidential spokesperson George Charamba trashed Mugabe's claims, saying that it was absurd for the nonagenarian "to place himself above the entire State and polity, and arrogate power to bestow legitimacy".
"... I can't see how an order which is allegedly unconstitutional gets cleansed by a meeting of two individuals over a cup of coffee.
"That is to assume that the two, in the sum, constitute the State and the two define constitutionalism.
"Is this not really an issue that he (Mugabe) should take to the courts for them to determine?," Charamba was quoted as saying.
Mnangagwa on Friday maintained that Zimbabwe "has moved on", adding in a short statement that Mugabe "is entitled to express himself freely, as is the case for any private citizen".
"Our focus at this time shall remain on preparing for free, fair and credible elections in 2018," said Mnangagwa.
Buhari arriving on a red carpet to visit the families of the missing Dapchi Girls.
Shehu Sani, senator representing Kaduna central, has criticised President Muhammadu Buhari for acknowledging the grand reception in his honour during a trip to Government Girls Science Technical College (GGSTC), Dapchi, Yobe state.
Pictures of the president smiling as he adjusted his native attire on the red carpet sparked anger on social media. Most of those who criticised the president said the trip ought to be devoid of fanfare since he went there to condole parents whose children were abducted by Boko Haram insurgents.
A total of 110 students were kidnapped when the insurgents invaded the school on February 19.
Writing via his Twitter handle on Thursday, Sani said the school is not the right place for red carpet.
According to him, such gesture is for international events such as the Grammy musical awards or the Academy Awards popularly known as Oscars. "A red carpet should be for the Oscars or Grammy or Caines but not for Dapchi," he wrote.
A Red carpet should be for the Oscars or Grammy or Caines but not for Dapchi.
- Senator Shehu Sani (@ShehuSani) March 15, 2018
Former cabinet minister, Samuel Undenge.
Former Energy and Power Development Minister Dr Samuel Undenge's two children studying at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, have been ejected from campus over failure to pay fees.
Bongai Tafadzwa Undenge (third year) and Kumbirai Christian Undenge (second year) have failed to register for the new semester that started last month over fees arrears in excess of R140 000. The two should also raise fees amounting to R60 000 each for the new semester.
They have since been served with a 72-hour notice to vacate the university campus if they do not pay the required fees, which has since lapsed.
The High Court has heard that while the politician's two biological children were suffering, his stepchildren were living a luxurious life at European universities.
The pair's mother, Mrs Angeline Undenge, has filed an urgent chamber application at the High Court on behalf of the children seeking an order compelling the politician to pay the fees.
Mrs Undenge was formerly married to Dr Undenge, but their union was terminated in 2006. Dr Undenge then married his current wife Letina. The politician lost his ministerial position when President Mnangagwa announced the new Cabinet in December last year.
The High Court, in another court case involving Dr Undenge's daughter, ruled that the politician must pay for the children's fees, despite the fact that they would have attained 18 years.
Mrs Undenge said her children were being unfairly treated.
"Because of respondent's failure to pay the sums highlighted above, the college has now cancelled or withdrawn the housing offer and has now demanded that applicants move out of the college within 72 hours," reads her affidavit.
She said the children had not been attending lectures since February 19 this year after failing to meet the 2018 first semester registration deadline by February 16.
Mrs Undenge stated in the court papers that the politician was in contempt of court.
"Respondent has not, in spite of him being under the direction of the court to pay the educational costs, done so, contemptuously," she said.
Mrs Undenge said the children risked failing to complete their studies.
She said she was once threatened by Dr Undenge's wife, who boasted of her links to "the most powerful woman" of the time and blocked the payment of the fees.
"The respondent's wife approached me with a security man threatening me saying she would not allow respondent to pay for foreign university fees for both applicants," she said.
"She further said she would, indeed, achieve it since she was connected to the most powerful woman in the country. When respondent married his fourth woman, he is staying with, they do not have any children, but respondent is the one paying fees for his wife's children, one of which is at a European university.
"Thus, respondent has the luxury to do the best for another man's children, while he is prescribing his biological children to such colleges that offer the lowest fees because he suddenly professes that he has no money for them."
Last week, Dr Undenge, who is on remand for allegedly prejudicing Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) of $12 650, told the court that he was now broke and could not even afford fuel to travel from Chimanimani to Highlands Police Station weekly for the routine reports stipulated in the bail ruling.
Transport on the busy Maai Mahiu-Narok road was once again disrupted on Monday morning after the section that was cut-off last week dipped again.
The Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA) said the road caved in again after it developed a volcanic fault line.
KeNHA corporate communications assistant director Charles Njogu said motorists plying the route had been instructed to use alternative routes, including the Narok-Nakuru road.
"KeNHA has embarked on an immediate emergency exercise to restore the section using rockfill," said Mr Njogu.
"Meanwhile motorists are requested to bear with the situation, which is expected to necessitate traffic interruption, which may last up to four hours."
Mr Njogu said KeNHA might create a traffic diversion should the problem, which has hit commercial vehicles the most, persist.
Maai Mahiu Chief Zachariah Igeria confirmed that the road was impassable and cautioned motorists against using it until it is repaired.
Last Wednesday, motorists plying the route spent the night in the cold after a section of the road was washed away by floods.
The busy road was totally cut off, with a fissure extending more than three kilometres upstream and 200 metres on the opposite end.
Engineers from the China Communications Construction Company immediately embarked on major repairs of the road.
By Thursday afternoon, the road was being used amid fears that it would not last.
Infrastructure Principal Secretary Julius Korir, who inspected the section, said the road had "inherent" weaknesses.
He also hinted at a possible redesign of the road as it is prone to damage during rainy seasons.
KeNHA director-general Peter Mundinia, who was among the high-ranking officials who visited the scene last Wednesday, blamed geology for the damage.
He said the Rift Valley region was prone to volcanicity, adding that repairs would include filling up the fault line.
Former President Kibaki inaugurated the Maai Mahiu-Narok Road on August 26, 2011.
The road is a busy highway that connects Nairobi to the South rift, the world famous Maasai Mara game reserve, western Kenya and Luo Nyanza.
It is also an alternative route to the neighbouring Tanzania through Isibania in Migori County.
One of the defunct Nakumatt supermarket branches in Kampala.
Troubled retail chain Nakumatt owes the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) Sh1.8 billion in unpaid taxes, according to an audit of the retailer's accounts.
Peter Kahi, the supermarket's court-appointed administrator, told the company's creditors that the KRA debt is part of the Sh35.8 billion that Nakumatt owes.
Mr Kahi wants the taxman to allow the retail chain to pay the debt in six staggered and annual instalments beginning February 2021 and to clear the outstanding amount by February 2026.
The KRA, which is struggling to meet its revenue targets, will be paid five equal instalments of Sh300 million in the first five years and a final payout of Sh318 million.
"KRA would ordinarily levy penalties and interest on amounts due to them, their liability is also restructured to taxes due in the past one year prior to appointment of a liquidator," the administrator's report says.
Nakumatt also owes several banks Sh6.9 billion, while commercial paper and short-term note holders have a Sh4.8 billion claim against the retail chain.
Nakumatt is further indebted to unnamed entities to the tune of Sh1.14 billion in the form of private placement loans.
The supermarket's employees, who have halved to 3,000 in the wake of successive branch closures, are owed Sh1.4 billion while trade and other creditors are seeking to be paid Sh19.7 billion.
This huge mountain of debt and unchecked expansion using cash flows, lower sales, fraud and mismanagement have seen Nakumatt suffer the wrath taxmen across the region.
In Uganda, where the business is also under administration, the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) last September sold Nakumatt's goods seeking to recover Sh7.24 million ($71,000).
The auction came a month after the Ugandan taxman took over Nakumatt's operations in the country and gave itself first priority on all income.
The KRA last October published a notice signalling its intention to auction Nakumatt's property that had arrived by air at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi over unpaid taxes.
The goods facing the auctioneer's hammer were five consignments of Clarks footwear and handbags.
Nakumatt's run-in with the KRA is, however, not limited to the Sh1.8 billion tax claim.
Mr Kahi has hired experts to conduct a "special audit" of a significant discrepancy in Nakumatt's books of accounts where stock worth Sh18 billion is booked as an adjustment in its accounts for the year to December 2017.
Nakumatt's former management has said the discrepancy was the result of massive "theft, pilferage, stock shrinkage and losses arising from stock obsolescence", a response Mr Kahi says is "unsatisfactory."
The administrator is hopeful that the fresh stock audit will help the business secure a partial "tax write-off" from the KRA and afford it headroom to map out a recovery path.
"The explanations are clearly unsatisfactory and raise more questions than answers, if we're to claim this expenditure for tax purposes," the administrator's report says.
"KRA will need a very clear and transparent response as to the make-up and nature of these losses."
African Heads of State and Government as well other African leaders are expected to start arriving in the country today ahead of the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement signing due on Wednesday.
So far, The New Times understands that 29 Heads of State and Government have confirmed attendance while 16 others delegated top government officials.
This means that over 35 countries could sign the agreement, which seeks to make Africa the world's largest trade zone where goods and services can be traded with no restrictions among member states.
The meeting will be preceded by Executive Council meeting which brings together foreign affairs ministers today and a business summit scheduled to take place tomorrow drawing top African business leaders and Heads of State and Government.
Countries which confirmed their Heads of State to attend include Niger, Uganda, Chad, Congo Brazzaville, Djibouti, DR Congo, Togo, Mauritania, Gabon, Guinea, Senegal, Kenya, Mali, Madagascar, Guinea Bissau, Mozambique, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Libya, Comoros, Sahrawi, Ghana, Lesotho, The Gambia, Somalia, Angola, Zimbabwe and South Africa, according to organisers.
Countries that are sending other delegates at the level of Vice President, Prime Minister or Minister of Foreign Affairs include: Ivory Coast, Seychelles, Morocco, Swaziland, Tanzania, Benin, Malawi, Mauritius, Botswana, Cape Verde, Egypt, Namibia, Sao Tome, Tunisia, South Sudan and Eritrea.
The summit will also be attended by leaders of international organisations and eminent persons.
Among those expected include the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa chief, Vera Songwe, President of African Development Bank Adesina Akinwumi and COMESA Secretary General, Sindiso Ngwenya.
Others include New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) Secretary-General Ibrahim Mayaki, Special Envoy of African Union Peace Fund Dr. Donald Kaberuka, former Nigerian President Olesegun Obasanjo, and Executive Director of the International Trade Centre (ITC) Arancha González.
Tomorrow's business summit is themed around leveraging the power of business to drive Africa's integration.
The multi-stakeholder dialogue will be the first ever meeting of its kind.
The business summit will feature speeches, presentations and panel sessions with an aim to gather inputs from private sector on integrating Africa's economies.
Among the topics to feature at the business summit include; diversification of African commodities, opportunities for one market, jobs, women and youth empowerment, reducing cost of doing business, and financing trade.
The guarantee of a larger and easy-to-access market is expected to boost production capacities of firms in the continent leading to other benefits such as increased job creation and more tax receipts for government.
Barely four days after the leadership of the National Assembly met with President Muhammadu Buhari at the presidential villa to discuss some burning national issues, including the 2018 Appropriation Bill, the two chambers of the federal legislature are divided over the passage of the budget.
According to a source in the Senate, there is no way the 2018 budget can be passed before June this year, contrary to the ultimatum given to ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) by the Red Chamber two weeks ago to submit their budget estimates latest Friday this week in order to pass the budget.
The Senate had on February 28, 2018 issued a one-week ultimatum to ministers, and the heads of departments and agencies of government, to appear before its relevant committees to defend their 2018 budget estimates.
The upper legislative chamber said the attitude of the heads of MDAs is responsible for the delay in the passage of the N8.612 trillion national budget bill into law.
The Senate warned that the failure to adhere to its ultimatum would compel it to adopt the proposal submitted for such MDAs by the executive arm of government.
The matter was again discussed at plenary when Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, sought an update on the status of the bill from the Appropriation Committee.
The vice chairman of the Committee, Senator Sunny Ogbuoji (Imo APC), said most sub-committees have been complaining about the attitudes of the MDAs that have failed to properly defend their budget estimates.
"Since January, the doors of the Appropriations Committee have been opened to receiving reports from the sub-committees, but most of the sub-committees have a huge challenge with the MDAs because majority of the MDAs are not coming forward to interface with them", he said.
But the source, a Senator, who spoke to LEADERSHIP said the budget process is still at the committee level and is yet to be transmitted to the Appropriation Committee to collate all the submissions of the committees.
He said, "The senators will proceed on two to three weeks Easter Holiday in the next two weeks. There is no way the budget can be passed before the Senators proceed for Easter.
"After the Easter holiday, the Appropriation Committee will work on the budget for three weeks and that will take the senate till end of May 2018 to early June 2018 before the budget can be passed. Besides, the mood of my colleagues is not enthusiastic or lightening enough with respect to the passage of the 2018 budget".
Recall that the senate last week said it can't categorically tell when the 2018 budget will be passed, even when it declared that the legislative work on the budget is highly in top gear in the senate.
While fielding questions from Senate correspondents, Senate spokesman, Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, said he couldn't tell which day the budget will be passed.
This is in response to the question on whether the budget will be passed before the Senators proceed on Easter Holiday in less than three weeks from now.
"The budget process is on and I can't tell you this is the specific date it is going to end. We are working very hard on it and we want to assure Nigerians that at the end of the day, we will have a budget that will serve the purpose of Nigerians", Senator Abdullahi said.
But a Senator who did not want to be mentioned said there is no way the 2018 budget can be passed before June this year, contrary to the ultimatum given to the MDAs by the Senate two weeks ago to submit their budget estimates latest Friday this week even if it has to be passed the way President Muhammadu Buhari presented it to the legislature.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives yesterday expressed optimism that the proposed 2018 Appropriation Bill being considered by the National Assembly would be passed before the expiration of the life of the 2017 budget.
The House insisted that the delay in consideration of the budget is largely due to lapses on the part of some Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government.
Spokesperson of the House, Hon Abdulrazak Namdas, who spoke to LEADERSHIP at the weekend noted that it was the wish of the House to pass the budget by the end of March 2018.
Despite Central Bank of Nigeria's (CBN) effort to promote financial inclusion,Nigerian banks lost over 2 million customers between 2016 and 2017.
According to statistics from the Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS), the number of active bank accounts also reduced by 1.5 million, dropping from 65 million to 63.5 million.
The statistics obtained by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) from the NIBSS website on Sunday, showed that the total number of bank customers dropped from 61 million in 2016 to 59 million in 2017.
According to NIBSS, the banking sector, however, made great strides in linking customers' account using the Bank Verification Number (BVN).
The report showed that linked BVN accounts grew from 26 million in 2016, to 41.3 million in 2017.
According to a banking industry source, the reduction in banking customers is not unconnected to the Federal Government's declaration to fight against corruption.
"When Buhari assumed office, many people abandoned their accounts, especially civil servants because of fear of investigation.
"While some out rightly closed down their accounts, others opted for gradual withdrawal so as not to raise alarm," the source said.
The source, who works at one of the top five banks in the country, blamed the BVN for the low patronage of banking products, especially in the rural areas, where awareness was already very low.
A bank customer, Mr Olaitan Alagbe told NAN that she closed some of her accounts due to unnecessary and illegal charges by banks.
"First of all, the interest rate is next to nothing, so there is little reason to keep your money at the bank when you can turn it over doing other businesses," she said.
Another customer, who preferred to remain anonymous said he opened several accounts during the Ponzi scheme boom in the country, but was forced to abandon them after the schemes crashed in late 2016 and early 2017.
However, a source at the CBN told NAN that the reduction in the number of banking customers was caused mainly by the introduction of BVN.
"The reduction may not necessarily be a bad thing. For example, many people opened accounts using different variations of their names.
"A person bearing Musa Salisu Mohammed, may have other accounts as Salisu Mohammed or Musa Salisu.
"So with the introduction of BVN, such customers were forced to regularise their names, however, some opted to close down their accounts, which resulted in the reduction of active bank accounts and customers," the source said.
The CBN source was, however, optimistic that the financial inclusion strategy of the bank would succeed in bringing in more people into the formal banking system.
The Financial Inclusion strategy aims to ensure that major bulk of the money in the economy remains within the banking sector.
A major challenge in the financial inclusion process is how to ensure that the poor rural dwellers are carried along considering the lack of financial sophistication among this segment.
The CBN, Money Deposit Banks, Micro Finance Banks and other stakeholders are curre implementing different policies designed to enhance financial inclusion in the country.
President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa and President Emmerson Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe meet in Harare on March 17, 2018.
The recent decision by South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa to make his first official tour of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region so soon after taking office hopefully reflects a desire to prioritise it in the country's foreign policy.
South Africa chairs SADC this year and Ramaphosa visited three countries – Angola, Botswana and Namibia – which currently play important roles in the regional body.
Angola chairs the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation; Botswana is home to the SADC Secretariat; and Namibia is set to chair SADC in 2019. Namibia also hosts the SADC Parliamentary Forum.
SADC was established in 1992 and South Africa became a member in 1994. Its objective is to achieve economic development, growth, peace and security through regional integration, but assessments of its ability to achieve this have tended to be very negative, with the region missing several self-imposed deadlines in its integration agenda.
Whereas the ambition was to have created a customs union by 2010, SADC has only implemented a free trade area. It is now hoping to achieve the ambition of deeper integration by focusing on regional industrialisation and the creation of regional value chains. Intra-SADC trade accounts for only 15 to 17 percent of the member states' trade portfolio, with most countries still predominantly trading according to colonial ties and with China.
Politically, integration remains weak, with electoral crises affecting a number of member states, including Lesotho and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Ceding sovereignty to the regional body has remained the main stumbling block preventing deeper integration.
However, winds of change have been blowing in the region. In recent years peaceful and democratic change took place in Angola and early elections were held in Lesotho, allowing for a more stable government.
Bigger change, of course, happened in Zimbabwe where Robert Mugabe stepped down after 37 years in power following what many regarded as a coup, albeit a "soft" one. South Africa soon followed suit with the resignation of Jacob Zuma to make way for Ramaphosa, the newly-elected president of the ruling party, to take over the reins and to proclaim a "new dawn" for the country.
Reversing progress made
During the Mandela presidency it was often said that South Africa could ill afford to become "an island of prosperity in a sea of poverty." However, in the period since, South Africa has not projected strong leadership in the region and many of SADC's aspirations have suffered as a result. These aspirations are not only in the economic field but also in the setting of common political values and norms through the institutions that underpin the integration effort.
One of the biggest travesties of justice occurred when former presidents Mugabe and Zuma orchestrated the collapse of the SADC Tribunal. This followed rulings that the Zimbabwe government's seizure of a white farmer's land without compensation was racist and unlawful, and violated the SADC Treaty because he had been denied the right of recourse in the Zimbabwean courts.
The Pretoria High Court recently found that Zuma acted "unlawfully, irrationally and unconstitutionally when he supported and took part in a resolution suspending the operations of the SADC Tribunal".
Tipping point for the regional mining industry
The SADC Summit which will take place in August this year is themed "Partnering with the Private Sector in Developing Industry and Regional Value Chains". The action plan for an SADC Industrialisation Strategy was adopted in Swaziland in 2017 and is focussing on promoting agro-processing in the region alongside the development of the pharmaceutical industry.
Mineral beneficiation remains an important ambition on SADC's agenda and the SADC Protocol on Mining states that the industry is one of strategic importance in Southern Africa. Roughly half of the world's vanadium, platinum and diamonds originates in the region, along with 36 percent of its gold and 20 percent of its cobalt.
Ramaphosa's private sector and mining background could bring important direction to the future of mining in SADC. He could focus strongly on the sustainability of the mining sector throughout the region and bring a future-oriented approach by anticipating future trends and potential new areas of strength for the region. Think here what the shift towards the electric car in Europe may mean in terms of their mineral needs, or how increased mechanised mining could affect the labour market if the industry started to retrain its workers to become miners of the future.
While South Africa will chair SADC only for 2018, it can contribute towards building a long-term vision and action plan for the regional mining industry. For this to happen, it will have to work closely with like-minded SADC member states in order to convince the group of the urgency of planning for the future.
For these reasons closer relationships with Angola, Zambia and Namibia are important. In Namibia, large cobalt deposits have recently been found, which could see the country playing a critical global role in supplying the renewable energy battery sector. Solving the political problems in the DRC becomes even more critical in the context of mining.
Strengthening SADC institutions
On the governance side, SADC remains an organisation that is in effect run by heads of state. The institutions created by the SADC Treaty remain weak and as a result the region struggles with building regional protocols into domestic systems and in getting member states to adhere to their contents.
The SADC Secretariat in particular has remained a weak institution. Despite restructuring on a regular basis, the problem at the core of its ineffectiveness is that it has no enforcement powers and acts only as a coordinating entity.
SADC has to rethink drastically how it can ensure that regional decisions and policies are domesticated into national laws. As it stands, the SADC Parliamentary Forum plays no role in promoting domestication and is restricted to sending electoral observer missions and working on capacity developing programmes for national parliaments. President Ramaphosa could voice his support for a SADC Parliament to replace the current, largely ineffectual, Parliamentary Forum. Apart from Namibia advocating for this change, regional support for it has been weak.
Unless SADC member states become serious about domesticating SADC protocols and policies, the integration agenda will remain a distant, unrealisable ambition. Giving a SADC Parliament legislative teeth could convince national governments of the importance that regional integration deserves.
Talitha Bertelsmann-Scott (@TalithaBerScott) heads the Regional Observatory at the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA). She writes in her personal capacity.
Kampala — Muhammad Shaban's promising genius, especially in his days at Onduparaka, came with a mixture of gem and volatile temperament; the latter often having some question his head.
After Saturday, no one will question the KCCA striker's head, literally, after Shaban's Shs75m header delivered the Ugandan champions Shs1.9b and a Caf Champions League group stage berth.
The 21-year-old scored the game's only goal as KCCA beat St George of Ethiopia 1-0 at StarTimes Stadium, Lugogo to advance to the group stage of the Champions League for the first time.
Shaban received Shs50m sign-on fee from KCCA, with Shs25m going to Onduparaka for a combined fee of Shs75m for the striker's signature.
The stress of waiting that KCCA absorbed as the controversial transfer dragged (strain on parent club Onduparaka notwithstanding), and the Shs75m, were all repaid in one glancing header on Saturday evening.
The game saw impressive Muzamiru Mutyaba force Uganda Cranes St George goalkeeper Robert Odongkara into saves, with Paul Mucureezi, Shaban, Derrick Nsibambi and Allan Okello combining well. KCCA also survived a counter attack scare when Amara Malle player rounded Charles Lukwago only to shoot just inches wide.
With thousands urging on KCCA, manager Mike Mutebi's boys returned from the break rejuvenated and within two minutes the yellow brigade were on their feet, celebrating. Mutyaba took a short corner, which Mustafa Kizza - the youngster that has been impeccable since breaking through from KCCA development side, curled in.
As cunny as a midnight thief, Shaban stole in between motionless Ethiopian defenders to head home past Odongkara on 47 minutes.
Both sides pushed from then on, with the Ethiopians throwing everything at KCCA for that one goal that would advance them on away goals rule but the hosts withstood the storm to craft more history.
"The target now is getting to the quarterfinals," vowed coach Mutebi, "We are not going to the group stages as passengers but to compete."
In advancing, KCCA joined Mbabane Swallows of Swaziland, Township Rollers of Botswana and Horoya of Guinea as the first clubs from their countries to reach the group stage of the Champions League.
Club competition composition was increased from eight to 16 teams last year making it possible for many clubs to share the continental cake. KCCA were the first Ugandan beneficiaries.
The league and cup champions made the Caf Confederation Cup group stage, the second tier competition, last year after being eliminated from the Champions League by Mamelodi Sundowns.
For for their Champions League feat, KCCA will earn Shs1b more than what (US$275,000 [shs990m]) they got for the lower tier competition group stage last season.
Winner: $2.25m (Shs8.1bn)
Runners up: $1.25m (Shs4.5bn)
Semifinals: $875,000 (Shs3.1bn)
Quarterfinalist: $675,000 (Shs2.4bn)
Third in group: $550,000(Shs1.9bn)
Fourth in group: $550,000(Shs1.9bn)
KCCA FC player ratings
Charles Lukwago (GK).
Produced two good saves in the second half. 7/10
Did not offer much going forward but combined well midway through the second half with a solo run past four that won the team a corner. 5/10
Timothy Awany (C)
The captain at times lost his line but made crucial clearances and remained calm in key moments. 5/10
Hard to fault at the left of the three-man defence. His physical presence often got the edge over Behailu Assefa during one-on-one situations. 6/10
His tactical awareness kept opposite captain Umema Mentsenot quiet. Gave cover to the back three. 6/10
Could have had his first goal on the continent but Robert Odongkara saved his header. Had neat interplay with the strikers, Mucureezi and Mutyaba but got tired early in the second half. 5/10
His coach struggled to choose the best player on the day in the post-match press conference. But Mutyaba deserves it. He was impressive with ball retention and made endless runs through the middle. 8/10
Countered Bune Butako on the right but his industry did not materialize further. 6/10
The consistent element in the team that keeps delivering. Made a routine assist to Shaban from the left. 7/10
Missed out on tucking the ball away on two occasions from Odongkara. 6/10
Got the vital goal to open his continental account. Took the game to centre-backs Salahadin Bargicho and Aschalew Tamene. More involved in a 3-5-2 system than before. 7/10
Compiled by Darren Kyeyune
The hero: Shaban’s headed goal wrote a new chapter in KCCA history. PHOTO BY Eddie CHICCO
Kevin Anderson, runner-up in the U.S. Open 2017.
South African tennis star Kevin Anderson has moved up one spot to No 8 on the official ATP rankings.
This follows his run to the quarter-finals of last week's Indian Wells Masters.
There Anderson lost to Croatia's Borna Coric to miss out on the opportunity of reaching his first Masters 1000 semi-final.
It was however enough for the South African to jump one spot in the latest rankings.
Anderson's current ranking has seen him equal his career-best which he first achieved in February this year.
The 31-year-old will now set his sights on this week's Miami Masters where another deep run is not out the question.
ATP rankings on March 19 (change in ranking in brackets):
1. Roger Federer (SUI) 9660 pts
2. Rafael Nadal (ESP) 9370
3. Marin Cilic (CRO) 4905
4. Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) 4600
5. Alexander Zverev (GER) 4505
6. Juan Martin Del Potro (ARG) 4155 (+2)
7. Dominic Thiem (AUT) 3675 (-1)
8. Kevin Anderson (RSA) 3235 (+1)
9. David Goffin (BEL) 3190 (-2)
10. Lucas Pouille (FRA) 2420 (+2)
11. Jack Sock (USA) 2335 (-1)
12. Novak Djokovic (SRB) 2300 (+1)
13. Tomas Berdych (CZE) 2275 (+2)
14. Sam Querrey (USA) 2265 (+7)
15. Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) 2255 (+1)
16. Diego Schwartzman (ARG) 2220 (+1)
17. John Isner (USA) 2170 (+1)
18. Fabio Fognini (ITA) 2155 (+1)
19. Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP) 2045 (-5)
20. Nick Kyrgios (AUS) 1945
Windhoek — Exciting featherweight professional boxer, Onesmus Nekundi, headlines a mouth-watering menu for tomorrow's Legacy Independence Boxing Bonanza at the Ramatex Hall on the outskirts of Katutura, west of Namibia's commercial capital, Windhoek.
Boasting a remarkable record of eight wins, four defeats and two draws in the paid ranks, Nekundi will square off against the equally dangerous Niikoti Johannes in the main bout of their non-title six rounder.
In other action, Immanuel Mungandjela will trade leather with the less experienced Steven Shimbonde for the International Welterweight title over six rounds.
Several enticing undercard bouts promise to have the crowd on the edge of their seats, including the eagerly awaited clash between the undefeated Charles Shinima and debutant Sakaria Kleopas in a non-title Welterweight four rounder.
Andreas Amupolo makes his sixth appearance as a pro boxer when he comes up against rookie fighter Ruben Kandiba in a non-title flyweight four rounder.
All eyes will be fixed on Sam Mathew as the strongly built Bantamweight boxer makes his pro debut against the equally inexperienced Gabriel Jamba over four rounds. Nghitumbwa Phillipus should have little trouble when he climbs into the ring to confront fellow Bantamweight boxer Frank Kativa. The latter is saddled with an unimpressive patchy record of three losses from the same number of bouts and should be cannon fodder for his opponent.
Bantamweight prospect Andreas Mwenyo completes the line up with a date against debutant Petrus Gustavo in a non-title four rounder. Action gets underway at 14h00 tomorrow afternoon.
The phrase "Welcome to Hell' may be the copyright of Galatasaray fans but at the 60,000-seater Stade Olympique Rades in Tunisia on Sunday, the demons were out in full force.
This was during the return match of the second round of Caf Champions League qualifiers, where local champions Gor Mahia came up against home team Esperance.
The hosts won 1-0 to progress to the tournament's group stage.
In the highly emotional and ill-tempered match, K'Ogalo players and technical bench members were assaulted, threatened and manhandled by Tunisian authorities, as the partisan home crowd chanted chauvinistic slogans.
Gor coach Dylan Kerr, his assistant Zedekiah Otieno, team manager Jolawi Abondo and goalkeeper trainer Willis Ochieng were all assaulted in the 90-minute melee, after which Kerr declared that "it was the worst football game" he has ever had to be part of.
"It was very scary and at one point we had to go into the pitch for our own security. We were all attacked. Willis was even roughed up and thrown to the ground by the stewards and when Zico went to help he was also assaulted.
"From the touchline I ducked and missed at least three objects made of hard plastic that had been aimed at us while the game was going on. The worst thing is that when I turned to look, I saw that it was a uniformed police officer aiming the missiles," Abondo told Nation Sport on Mondayfrom Tunis.
Gor CEO Lordvick Aduda said the club will launch an appeal through the Football Kenya Federation (FKF).
The stakes were indeed high for both teams, as the first leg clash had ended in a barren draw. This gave both teams equal chances of making it to the prestigious group stage where clubs are rewarded with a fat bounty worth Sh54 million.
The match had a three-minute stoppage just before half time, when the K'Ogalo technical bench ventured onto the pitch in a bid to escape missiles being launched from the stands.
The Esperance fans were protesting against what they thought was biasness from Botswana referee Joshua Bondo.
During the match that was beamed live online, Esperance coach Khaled Yahia was seen unlawfully entering the pitch twice in protest of the referee's decision.
He escaped with a verbal caution, although Fifa rules are clear that such an offence warrants more severe punishment, including a red card.
The local champions were however able to survive the intense hostility, but lost 1-0 courtesy of Anice Badri's goal.
Badri got his chance in the 21st minute, when he capitalized on a moment of poor clearance from Wesley Onguso and shot into the net giving Boniface Oluoch no chance.
The 16-time champions will now await their fate in the Caf Confederations Cup playoffs round, where Caf Champions League losers will be pooled against Confederation Cup first round winners.
The draw has been scheduled for Wednesday at Caf headquarters in Egypt, and possible opponents include Algeria's CR Belouizdad (Algeria), Al Masry of Egypt, Nigeria's Enyimba, CS La Mancha of Congo and SuperSport United of South Africa.
The team is expected back home on Wednesday. From Tunis, they fly to Doha and later connect to the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi.
Oliver Bekker took home five awards, including the prestigious Commissioner's Award at the Maslow Hotel where the Sunshine Tour and Golf RSA held their awards ceremony on Sunday.
Bekker, who won three times during the 2017/18 Sunshine Tour season, was recognised for his overall contribution to golf on the Tour in the citation for the Commissioner's Award.
He was also honoured by his fellow professionals in winning the Players' Player of the Year award, and by the golfing media when he took the Media Player of the Year award.
He also won the Gary Player Trophy for the best stroke average of players who played in 60 percent or more of the Sunshine Tour tournaments during the season. He averaged 70.21 over 71 rounds of tournament golf.
His fifth award was for his feats on the par-fives during the season, where he averaged 1.97 under par throughout his 24-tournament campaign.
The ceremony also saw Irishman Neil O'Briain being named the Rookie of the year to win the Bobby Locke Trophy, beating Zack Byrd of the United States in a race which went right down to the wire during the last event of the season.
Sunshine Tour Commissioner Selwyn Nathan said, "It's always good to celebrate excellence, and we've had another good year on the Sunshine Tour. The commitment of the players is something which sets the Sunshine Tour apart, and it's one of the reasons we consistently produce players who shine on the world stage. The season which has just ended reinforces that.
"We're able to do what we do because of long-standing and fruitful relationships with our partners and sponsors. Without them, the success we are celebrating would not be possible, so excellence seems to be the least we can do to repay them.
"We also believe that if the season just finished was successful, things will get even better as we kick off the new season."
All the winners:
Sid Brews Trophy - Sunshine Tour Order of Merit : George Coetze e
Gary Player Trophy - Stroke Average winner : Oliver Bekker
Bobby Locke Trophy - Rookie of the Year : Neil O'Briain
Commissioner's Award : Oliver Bekker
Players' Player of the Year : Oliver Bekker
Media Player of the Year : Oliver Bekker
Newcomer of the Year : Kyle McClatchie
Gary Player Class Awards: 1st, Keenan Davidse ; 2nd Makhetha Mazibuko ; 3rd Toto Thimba Jnr
Par-fives : Oliver Bekker
Par-fours : Peter Karmis
Par-threes : Louis de Jager :
Sunshine Ladies Tour:
Order of Merit: Stacy Bregman
Sunshine Big Easy Tour:
Order of Merit: Jacquin Hess
Malcolm Dreyer Stroke Average Award: Jacquin Hess
Fresh off her 1 000m SA record, Caster Semenya will be chasing the women's 1 500m South African record at the Dal Josaphat Stadium in Paarl on Thursday, March 22 at the third and final Athletix Grand Prix series meeting.
In fine form, Semenya broke the 35-year-old record of Ilse de Kock Wicksell on Thursday, March 8 at the second Grand Prix meeting at Tuks.
She will face USA-based Dominique Scott in the 1 500m at the 3rd and final meeting in Paarl.
Scott won the SA 5 000m title last week clocking 16:55.05.
Semenya has already come close to the SA record of 4:01.81, set as far back as 1984 by Zola Budd-Pieterse when she clocked 4:01.99 in Durban on 24 June 2016 at the Africa Championships.
The World Championship bronze medalist over 1 500m has already raced the metric mile once in 2018, clocking 4:23.26 in Tshwane on February 3. Not much should be read into this performance though, especially after her blistering 2:35.43* SA 1 000m record.
Scott has raced the 1 500m twice this season on the indoor circuit where she first ran a national record of 4:05.25 (Boston, February 10) and 4:09.81 (Birmingham, March 2). That 4:07.25 lowered her previous national record by 3/10th from 4:10.90. The indoor track is very different to running outdoors which makes it difficult to extrapolate how good the 1 500m indoor time is in comparison to the outdoors.
With no pace maker, Semenya will have to do the work herself. She will need to go through the 300m mark in around 46-48sec, the 400m in roughly 62-64sec with 2:08 targeted for 800m if she hopes to break the record. A tough ask for someone to do on their own.
"At SA's it is all about the title," says Semenya who recently graduated in Sports Management. "So the race is more likely to be tactical. I am really looking forward to chasing Zola's record. I have the 800m and the 1000m record so it will be good to get the 1 500m record too."
Semenya is raw speed, while Scott seems to get better as the race progresses, making the 1 500m an exciting tussle.
Semenya will be seeking an 800m/1 500m double at the National Championships, a feat she last achieved in 2016, where she also won the 400m title.
*(SA record awaiting ratification)
Pretoria, South Africa — This month, five landmark expert assessment reports by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) will be considered by Governments for final approval in Medellín, Colombia.
Four of the assessment reports present the best-available and most recent evidence about biodiversity and ecosystem services in the world's major regions, including Africa. The fifth assessment report describes the state of global land degradation and restoration.
At the request of IPBES' 128 member Governments, these assessments were initiated to better inform decisions about sustainable development.
The Africa assessment, over the past three years, involved extensive work by more than 100 leading experts from 32 countries. Scheduled for release on Friday 23 March is the report's summary for policymakers, which includes:
* The main findings about the status of Africa's significant natural assets and projections to 2050.
* Findings about how Africa's biodiversity and ecosystem services are changing, and why. Critical here is the consideration of both negative findings (such as biodiversity loss and fragmentation) and positive findings (for example, where progress is being made, and how we can learn from such examples).
* Findings about how Africa is faring with respect to internationally-agreed targets, including the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, the African Union's Agenda 2063 and the Paris Agreement on climate change. The report also evaluates our chances to achieve these targets under a range of different policy and action scenarios.
* Options for policy and action.
Important to note that the IPBES reports are designed to be policy relevant, rather than policy prescriptive. In other words, our role is to consider key findings and then discuss the range of available options, including evidence for and against the effectiveness and potential of different types of responses.
Likewise in the IPBES land degradation and restoration assessment report (being launched Monday 26 March), having laid out key findings, we consider available response options, including evidence for and against certain choices.
Healthy soils and ecosystems are vital to agriculture, sustainable rural livelihoods and to many other aspects of human well-being. The findings in these assessments are likely to concern all African countries and Governments.
Realizing the potential role of these assessments in better decision-making will require commitment throughout the science-policy community. We will be working hard to ensure that the findings of the assessments reach decision makers in Governments, business, the not for profit sector and communities - to raise and support understanding of the nuances and implications of our findings.
We hope that, in turn, Governments will work closely with us -- unpacking the implications of our findings for their priorities and their people, and engaging in further dialogue around these messages, which are so important to ensure African well-being today and tomorrow, as well as responding with concrete actions in the interests of both people and planet.
As part of their mandate to spearhead the implementation of governmental campaign programmes, staff of the Information Services Department (ISD) and the Ministry of Information have undertaken a clean-up exercise at their offices in Accra.
The two-hour clean-up exercise, which took place on Friday, aimed at leading the implementation of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo's 'Clean Ghana Campaign' programme which has been strategically rolled out to wipe out the filth engulfing the ministerial enclave of the country.
The 'Clean Ghana Campaign' programme operates on three strong pillars including; increase in awareness about the importance of sustainable sanitation for all; Keeping sanitation at the center of development discussions at both the local and national levels; and promoting informed debate and decision-making about the funding, implementation and monitoring of sustainable sanitation programmes.
A letter received by the Department through the Office of the Head of Civil Service from the Chief of Staff reiterated government's commitment to sustaining the adequate measures it had put in place to ensure that Accra became the cleanest City in Africa by 2020.
According to the letter, the exercise--a practical demonstration of government's commitment to improving sanitation conditions in Ghana--would continue and gradually scale up until the entire government business is cleaned up to the standard required of a clean city.
Source: ISD (Priscilla S. Adjarkoh)
The families of the nearly 150 mental health patients who died in the Life Esidimeni tragedy will know on Monday how much they will be compensated.
It has been called a tragedy. A calamity. A scandal. But this was no accident, no rash decision made under pressure, no force of nature.
It was sheer arrogance, political manoeuvring, incompetence, indifference and possibly greed and corruption that sent 144 of the most vulnerable patients to their deaths.
Some analysts have branded the #Life Esidimeni tragedy mass murder.
Now judgment day has arrived. On Monday morning, 9:30am, two days before Human Rights Day, former Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke, who headed up the past few months' Life Esidimeni arbitration hearings, will announce the amount of compensation that the Gauteng government will have to pay to the families of mental health patients who had died in the tragedy.
The controversial Gauteng health department project had nearly 2 000 mental health patients shambolically removed from private health facilities in the province, for which the state had paid, largely to nongovernmental organisations (NGOs). The then Gauteng Health MEC, Qedani Mahlangu, claims it was in an effort to save money.
And some - between 45 and 62, depending on whose list you check - simply went missing. No one knows whether they're dead or alive.
Listen: My son had death in his face
A father speaks out about the terrible conditions his son died in after being removed from state-funded hospital care at Life Esidimeni.
During the last week of the arbitration hearings in mid-February, family and state advocates reached an agreement to ensure that the Gauteng provincial government pay families R20 000 each to cover the funeral costs of burying their loved ones and a further R180 000 in psychological damages.
In her budget vote speech in March, Gauteng MEC Barbara Creecy allocated R28 million to the Office of the Premier to compensate the families of victims - that amount more or less covers the cost of compensating 144 families.
But families are also asking for R1.5 million in Constitutional damages, in addition to the R200 000 per patient, because that is the amount the state would have spent on patients had they not been placed with ill-equipped and often unlicensed NGOs.
People can claim Constitutional damages when a government official has violated their Constitutional rights such as the right to health, life or equality, according to Penelope Andrews, dean of the University of Cape Town's (UCT) law faculty.
To successfully claim for such damages, advocates must show that there is no alternative way to obtain redress for human right violations under common law, Andrews explains. "It requires the plaintiff to show something much more than negligence (by the state), for example, but almost reckless disregard."
But the state vehemently opposed a claim for Constitutional damages at the arbitration hearings. State advocate Tebogo Hutamo argued: "Families should be compensated for trauma and shock but not for the trauma the deceased went through as a result of the implementation of the project."
The families of Life Esidimeni patients walked out en masse after the testimony of former Qedani Mahlangu at the arbitration.
The question left unanswered during the arbitration hearings is why the trio of Mahlangu, the head of her department, Barney Selebano, and the director of mental health, Makgoba Manamela, were so adamant to push through the transferrals of patients. Was blind resistance to their critics' advice the only factor, or was there corruption, greed and political gain involved?
Gauteng Premier David Makhura connected financial irregularities to the payment of NGOs and vowed that the government would continue to investigate the reasons for Mahlangu's decision. The Special Investigating Unit is investigating possible corruption related to project, he said.
Not one of the health department's senior leaders took personal responsibility and instead claimed that no one in government works in a silo, and the department, therefore, needs to take collective responsibility. Mahlangu alleged her senior staff never informed her of the details of the project, while Selebano and Manamela claimed the exact opposite - that their boss bullied them into it.
"At the start of the arbitration hearings, we had very high expectations to help us answer our questions of why, why why," says the South African Depression and Anxiety Group's Cassey Chambers. "But we were very disappointed and frustrated by Manamela, Selebano and Qedani's testimonies. Both at their stall tactics, blaming everyone else - even NGOs like us who were trying to help and doing the work that they should have been doing."
Two weekends ago, Mahlangu felt comfortable enough with her actions to turn up at one of President Cyril Ramaphosa's community health walks last weekend. In a "Vote ANC" T-shirt, smiling and waving, she joined the president as he strode the streets of Soweto.
Journalists asked Ramaphosa for his opinion on Mahlangu's actions. He told News 24 Mahlangu should not be rejected, that she had been held accountable for her actions by being asked to resign from her position and appearing before the arbitration hearings.
Health activists were outraged.
"It seems comrades will still be comrades before being moral leaders," social justice organisation Section27's executive director Mark Heywood said on Facebook.
Heywood continued: "It's not good enough to say she gave evidence at the arbitration. Actually what she gave was a pack of lies."
The former Gauteng health MEC says it wasn't her job to visit organisations prior to transferring state patients into their care.
Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, who referred to Mahlangu's behaviour as "criminal conduct", also took the stand during the hearings. "I have been asked why I don't fire MECs," he said. "But I cannot do that. The premier hires and fires MECs."
"There was a clear intention that officials wanted to hide this from the minister and the premier. But for what reason?" Motsoaledi asked.
"When I read the ombudsman report about how people were bundled in vans and tied with sheets, and how they are chosen ... like cattle at an auction... " Motsoaledi said, unable to finish his sentence.
"For human rights to be breached in such a manner that is reminiscent of our apartheid era in our democracy is very painful that's why I feel personally betrayed."
What set The Life Esidimeni abitration hearings [apart from many others into government failings is the warmth, compassion and incisiveness of retired chief justice Dikgang Moseneke, who presided over the hearings. "We finally felt like someone was listening to us. We need more people like the justice in our country's leadership," Chambers says.
At the end of the hearings in March, Joseph Maboe, a reverend who lost his son, Billy because of the Life Esidimeni project, stood up and prayed: "Lord, thank you for Ntate Dikgang Moseneke. He has been chosen to be our Moses to lead us through the wild desert of the life of this country."
Bhekisisa will be live tweeting from the arbitration hearings on Monday, March 19. Follow us on @Bhekisisa_MG.
Have something to say? Tweet or Facebook us on @Bhekisisa_MG
Wazi Vision founder Brenda Katwesigye with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni during the US-Africa Business Forum held in New York, September 21st 2016.
Brenda Katwesigye traveled thousands of kilometers from Uganda in eastern Africa to Austin, Texas with a vision. She wants to find help for Wazi Vision, the startup that she founded in 2016 to make eyeglasses more affordable. Katwesigye's company, named for the Swahili word that means "clear," says Wazi Vision makes the frames from recycled plastic and that they cost 80 percent less than what is currently on the market.
"We need people that are here that can sell them in their stores. We need people with online e-commerce platforms that can help with logistics and everything," she said.
Katwesigye hopes to find these partners at South by Southwest (SXSW), the music and film festival and tech conference held in Austin in the spring every year. Her home away from home at the event is Africa House, a venue where Africans can meet members of the diaspora in the United States and other Africans from Africa.
"It's quite incredible. We’ve traveled all the way from Africa to meet Africa here and to meet people that we otherwise would never have had a chance to meet back home." Katwesigye added, "I’ve met some really meaningful contacts that I plan on following up on."
Her trip would not be possible without the help of the United States African Development Foundation (USADF), which funded her travel.
"It’s a global environment. These are people here again, who are artisans and who are tech entrepreneurs and who are people who are really social change makers in the U.S. who want to meet African counterparts," said C.D. Glin, president of USADF.
U.S.-born Bunmi Akinyemiju grew up in Nigeria, went to college in the U.S. and returned to Nigeria to become managing director and chief executive officer of Lagos-based Venture Garden Group, a payment and data analytics company.
"We look for new technologies. We look for new startups, so while we look for startups, that allows us to actually make investments in those startups that can collaborate with our parent company," said Akinyemiju.
USADF and two other organizations have joined forces to sponsor the first Africa House at SXSW this year. The other two are U.S. public relations firm Insider, which works with emerging market entrepreneurs, and Temple Management Company, a talent and events management agency based in Lagos, Nigeria.
"Really to be able to showcase Africans and their social enterprises to the community at South by Southwest was something we felt like was a must do this year," said Glin.
Azariah Mengistu is making a premium handcrafted leather sneaker in Ethiopia, in part to change Africa's image abroad.
"We want everyone to challenge global perceptions of what people thought when they saw Africa. So we want people to engage with the product, something physical that was made with the best quality at the best standards with the best materials. We wanted it all to be done in Africa."
For Nigerian musician 9ice, Africa House is a venue "to network. It is to make more fans."
Glin says that while this is the first Africa House at South by Southwest - it won’t be the last.
Egypt's Minister of Electricity Mohamed Shaker and Aswan Governor Magdy Hegazy inaugurated on Tuesday 13/3/2018 the first phase of Egypt's Infinity Solar power plant.
The project includes 32 stations that will produce 1465 megawatts, Shaker said, noting that the first station that was opened in Aswan's Benban village will produce 50 megwatts.
Three giant stations are being set up with a 14,400 megawatt capacity in collaboration with the German company Siemens.
The plant began trial operation last December.
The Benban project is set to be completed by mid-2019.
Egypt aims to increase its use of renewable energy to 22 percent by 2020.
ZANZIBAR's Minister for Trade and Industries, Ambassador Amina Salum Ali is optimistic that sound investment in strategic industries, blue and knowledge economies will lead to envisaged economic prosperity on the Isles.
In an exclusive interview with the 'Daily News', Ambassador Amina said the government here is looking to invest more in knowledge economies and urged investors to invest in strategic industries and blue economy, saying they are the future of the Isles' economy. "Our presidents are pushing for industrial-driven economies and this is per the CCM manifesto as envisioned in 2020 and 2015 visions," Ms Ali said.
"We're promoting the construction of strategic industries; type of industries that would use domestic materials and add value to local materials. We also need organic industries and produce goods for regional market," she added. The Minister said the government of Zanzibar in collaboration with UNIDO had to review its industrial policy, a move sought to analyse factors behind the collapse of most industries in Zanzibar in the past so as to avoid similar fate. The review also sought to propose the best approach towards new industrial economy.
"We said we should avoid past mistakes; we had so many industries in the past such as those that produce cloth, mattress, soap and sugar, to mention but a few, but all these collapsed due to a number of factors, ranging from our failure to utilise domestic raw materials to managerial problems." On Zanzibar's industrial plans, Ambassador Amina Ali said; "We're going to a modern economy where the size of a country doesn't determine your economy but your knowledge do. Therefore, we're going to invest more on knowledge economy."
According to the Minister, the Isles government has set up five priority areas of investments in a bid to spur her economy. The first priority area, she said is given on investing in strategic industries that use agricultural raw materials, especially spices, honey and fruits produced on the Island.
Already a few spice industries have been established in Zanzibar, but the Minister challenged investors to commit more sound investments on strategic industries that could serve as a new growth engine for the economy. "We're adding value to our spices through processing and branding them; these spices have a wide foreign market already.
You can find Zanzibar's spiced salt in some of the European countries," she said, adding that Zanzibar organic products are the most genuine across the globe. She said in order to promote domestic industries, the government will ensure locally produced products are protected against imported goods. The Minister pointed out to sustainable ocean economy as another area the government is focusing on to improve Zanzibar's economy.
She said the ocean remains one of the least developed regions on earth and the government of Zanzibar is trying to exploit abundant resources available on the sea. "We have not tapped on ocean resources.
The ocean represent new economic frontier for growth, development and investment and efforts are already underway to utilise the blue economy." "Therefore, our second priority is blue economy; we want to perform deep sea fishing. We're going to promote blue economy and the government is planning to purchase a boat with the view to support our fishers to fish as far as possible," she said.
With most developing countries keen on pursuing modern economy, Ms Ali says Zanzibar cannot remain stuck on traditional economies; hence, the government has identified knowledge economy as another priority. "We need to move to knowledge economy, service- based economy.
With our tiny size, we should invest more on the intellectual capability of our people." She said the government and other development stakeholders should encourage entrepreneurship and use of knowledge, which are key components knowledge economy - the system of consumption and production that is based on intellectual capital.
The government of Zanzibar has also embarked on a project that brands Zanzibar products, dubbed made-in- Zanzibar. This involves the branding of clothes, oiliness products and traditional medicines.
"In Zanzibar, we've the expertise to produce a wide variety of traditional medicine and brand them," Ambassador Amina said, insisting that the Indian Ocean Archipelago boasts most authentic organic products.
Vusi Sibiya is a soft-spoken but highly knowledgeable YouTuber who has both set up successful YouTube channels for media organizations and sells advertising for channels. Russell Southwood interviewed him and discovered his commitment to African mother tongue languages and understanding how digital media in Africa works.
What do you do and how did you come to be doing it?
I am a producer in the television industry, with a career goal of establishing a digital broadcast media enterprise that will have the preservation of African languages and the culture of Ubuntu as its key focus and value propositions; trading a creative mind and valuable technical skills in the era of the digital revolution for the advancement and preservation of all African languages and in particular the Zulu language.
It is my firm belief that for our people to overcome the oppression of past colonial injustices; the travesties of which; today also finds itself rooted in the subconscious minds of many, the revival needs to begin with Africans embracing our own cultural heritage and it is through the distribution of media content that is empowering the culture of Ubuntu created in our mother tongue languages that we will be able to rise to our full potential as African people.
How did you get involved in working on You Tube channels and advertising for them?
My involvement with YouTube came after having struggled to get buy in from the locally dominant MVPD - Multichannel Video Programming distributor, to consider providing such channels as Disney, Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, etc. with dubbed audio offering that would be in isiZulu and seSotho; so that we could begin to arrest the eroding of our mother tongue African languages from an early age.
I had also proposed that such channels as Discovery, History, as well as various others be also provided with a dubbed audio offering that would be in the popular, most spoken African mother tongue languages; and cited as an example the similar case as is common across Europe for such content to be made available with audio dubbed into German, French, Spanish, etc.
Unfortunately, this was shot down at the same time where same MVPD was having such Afrikaans channels as Kyknet offerings forming part of the bouquet offerings which we were having to pay for whilst there was clear reluctance on the part of the local MVPD to cater to the people who formed the masses and had a definite need to advance the preservation of their mother tongues.
Although, it was still in its infancy as a platform that would be able to serve the masses locally, I began the exploration of YouTube as a content platform in 2008 and established a partnership with the local radio station broadcasting in isiZulu to create the YouTube Channel UkhoziFM PictureStream. From this exploration, of looking to create a channel to serve content that would be in isiZulu that would be advancing and empowering our cultural heritage of Ubuntu, I then developed an interest in the monetization of content on YouTube which eventually lead to becoming a Google Engage Partner.
How does it work for you as an agent of You Tube?
The benefit derived from being a Google Partner agent has primarily been with grasping how media content distribution is evolving in the digital revolution and being able to foresee the real challenges that one would be faced with in the pursuit of my career goal that I've already described.
Internet access locally, hasn't as yet reached into the masses of the rural population and the cost of data for those who do have access remains high and prohibitively unaffordable for streaming media content. The monetization from YouTube is definitely audience volume driven and there are very few channels locally that would be generating sufficiently sizable audience volumes to generate the kind of income that would allow one to be involved full-time on YouTube.
Being an agent has the advantage of being able to invoice customers for the skill of setting up YouTube campaigns for clients and there are indeed some agencies that are able derive huge benefits for clients and are also able to generate income for themselves.
In my experience, however; Google is in a balancing act of having to incentivize content creators to upload their content onto YouTube with a promise of revenue generation and at the same time, as a Google partner agent, these popular channels may not be having the audience that converts to sales for a client that one is running a campaign for. Moreover, as a content creator seeks to become fulltime on YouTube, they learn and apply optimization tactics/tricks to their channels and content that will maximize monetization of each video. This doesn't always mean that a client working with you as an agent is going to be benefiting from views or impressions which are on the very same channels that YouTube wishes to entice to remain on the platform with more revenues.
In my opinion, having come from the traditional broadcast media world; the budget wastage in comparison to gains is now becoming increasingly proportional on both platforms but with YouTube you do have representative and more quantifiable statistical data that is of interest to advertisers. However, I'm still finding that with traditional broadcast media there's definitely a greater impact on conversion to sales with customers and a definite direct correlation to frequency of running of campaigns.
Give me some idea of how many monthly views some of the channels you're involved with get?
The channel which I partnered with Ukhozi FM to create - UkhoziFM PictureStream - has between 175,000 - 250,000 monthly views; the LesediFM PictureStream which is the seSotho radio station's channel has between 75,000 - 125,000 monthly views; and TOX TV channel which features and showcases Gospel Music and productions from EclipseTV has views between 600,000 - 750,000 monthly views.
Which YouTube channels do really well in South Africa and why?
I do find it most enthralling that amongst the Top10 channels in SA measured by views, is Disney Channel Africa, Cartoon Network Africa and TheSupaStrikas and this certainly serves as encouragement given that my exploration of the YouTube platform began with looking at an option for serving content in mother tongue African languages and have a focus on arresting the erosion of our language at an early age by having such popular children's content dubbed into isiZulu and seSotho amongst other indigenous African languages.
The Top channel in SA with the most views is Kruger Sightings and there are several top performing wildlife YouTube channels in the mix also doing well. Music channels also perform very well and SABC News is also amongst the Top10 measured by views. (see Top 10 listing in Social Media section below)
In my assessment being able to upload many videos is particularly useful to growing a channel in SA and that is where SABC News has been successful because their focus is on more uploads and not so much on views per video; and because their content is mainly current affairs, viewers tend to regularly find content of interest when searching trending stories.
The Kruger Sightings channel is also having plenty of content that is submitted through the app, developed by Nadav who created the channel and app, with a purpose of having visitors to the Kruger National Park sharing their wildlife sightings given that not every visitor to the game reserve will be lucky enough to see attention-grabbing as well as fascinating behavior of all the animals on every occasion. The frequent uploading of content that is of interest to one's niche audience is what will always help to grow one's channel.
What's the balance of access between mobile, tablet and laptop?
On the channels where I have access to analytics: Mobile watch time and views ranges between 55% - 65%; computer/laptop ranges between 32% - 42%; Tablets is just under 5%; and smartTV & game consoles is under 1%
What advice would you give someone running a South African You Tube channel on how they might reach more people?
With the recent developments in monetization for partnering of YouTube channels that require watch time of 4,000 hours in the past 12 months and a minimum of 1,000 subscribers, my advice would be to only get involved as a content creator on YouTube if you are going to put in the effort and be serious about building your channel. There are useful learning materials as well as video content from YouTube and Google as well as other creators on the YouTube platform that will definitely assist one to successfully approach building and growing one's channel.
Be sure that you always create content that is for a specific niche rather than attempting to be a Jack of all trades; and it will certainly be most productive to be involved with the creation of content that you are passionate about sharing and truly believe that it can be influential in changing the lives of people who will derive benefit from the content.
What You Tube channels do you enjoy watching yourself?
The channels that I enjoy watching on YouTube are such channels as Video Creators that offer valuable insights on developments with YouTube and how to work your way towards having a successful YouTube Channel. I also watch Trevor Noah's Daily Show videos and other African comedy channels; and just like the majority of YouTubers, there are plenty of VEVO music videos that I regularly watch.
United Nations — The opportunities that artificial intelligence (AI) can unlock for our world - from discovering cures to diseases that kill millions each year to significantly reducing carbon emissions - are growing at a shocking pace.
Technology that leverages the ability of machines to learn from vast quantities of data and use those lessons to make predictions (a subset of AI technology called machine learning (ML)) is already enabling pathways to financial inclusion, citizen engagement, affordable healthcare, and many more vital systems and services.
Every day, we are uncovering new ways of using machine learning to improve people's lives, and oftentimes we can translate those discoveries into real-life impact in a matter of weeks or even days. Machine learning is one of the most powerful tools humanity has created - and it is more important than ever that we learn how to harness that power for good.
A lot of the excitement surrounding AI systems has to do with automation: what happens when robots take our jobs, or take on military roles, or drive our vehicles for us? One dimension of automation that receives less attention is the automation of decision making.
Machine learning technologies are already making life-altering decisions for human lives on a daily basis. In New York City, machine learning systems decide where garbage gets collected, how many police officers to send to which neighborhoods, and whether a teacher should keep their job.
Learning not to discriminate
As we empower machines to make critical decisions about who gets included and excluded from these types of vital opportunities, we need to be aware, cautious and deliberate to prevent discriminatory outcomes.
After all, machine learning is only a tool, and the responsibility falls on people to use this tool ethically. In other words - to design and use machine learning applications in a way that not only improves business efficiency but also promotes and protects human rights.
While using technology to automate decisions isn't a new practice, the nature of ML technology- its ubiquitousness, complexity, exclusiveness, and opaqueness- can amplify long standing problems related to unequal access to opportunities.
Not only can discriminatory outcomes in ML undermine human rights, but they can also lead to the erosion of public trust in the companies using ML technology.
These risks are not going anywhere unless we do something to address them by evaluating the ways discrimination can get built into ML systems, and intervening accordingly to get these systems to 'learn' not to discriminate.
What happens when machines learn to discriminate?
Most of the stories we've heard about discrimination in machine learning come out of the US/ European contexts -- including media coverage of events like a Google photo tagging mechanism that mistakenly categorized an image of two black friends as gorillas, or predictive policing tools that have been shown to amplify racial bias.
In many parts of the world, particularly in middle and low income countries, the implications of using ML to make decisions that fundamentally affect people's lives -- without taking adequate precautions to prevent discrimination -- are likely to have far reaching, long-lasting, and potentially irreversible consequences. Already we're seeing how this can look:
- There are now ways for insurance companies to predict an individual's future health risks. At least two private multinational insurance companies operating in Mexico today are using machine learning to figure out how they can maximize the efficiency and profitability of their operations. The obvious way to do this in the health insurance field is to get as many customers who are healthy (i.e., low cost) as possible and deter customers who are less healthy (i.e., high cost).
We can easily imagine a scenario in which these multinational insurance companies, in Mexico and elsewhere, can use ML to mine a large variety of incidentally collected data (from shopping history, public records, demographic data, etc.) to recognize patterns associated with high-risk customers and charge those customers exorbitant and exclusionary costs for health insurance. Thus, a huge segment of the population - the poorest, sickest people - would be unable to afford insurance and deprived of access to health services.
- In Europe, more than a dozen banks are already using micro-targeted models that leverage machine learning to "accurately forecast who will cancel service or default on their loans, and how best to intervene." Consider the example of an engineer building an ML system to classify mortgage applicants in India who chooses to weight variables related to income with greater importance than variables reflecting timeliness of past payments.
Chances are that such an ML application would systematically categorize women (especially those who are further marginalized based on their caste, religion, or educational attainment) as less worthy of a mortgage loan - even if they are shown to be better at paying back their loans on time than their male counterparts - because they historically make less money than men do.
While the algorithm might be "accurate" in determining, which applicants make the most money, it overlooks crucial, context-specific criteria that would contribute to a more accurate and more fair approach to deciding how to provide the often-crucial opportunities afforded by mortgage lending.
What companies can do
These scenarios tell us that while Machine Learning can do incredibly good things for this world, those benefits are not inevitable. We need to look closely at the ways discrimination can creep into ML systems, and the ways that companies can act proactively to secure a bright future for ML.
To that end, we've arrived at 8 things all companies involved in machine learning can and should do to maximize the shared benefit of this game-changing technology while minimizing real risks to human rights:
1. Develop and enhance industry-specific standards - for fairness and non-discrimination in ML.
2. Improve company governance - through internal codes of conduct and incentive models for adherence to human rights guidelines.
3. Assess wider impacts - map out risks before releasing an AI system, throughout the lifecycle of ML products, and for each new use case of an ML application.
4. Take an inclusive approach to design - ensure diversity in ML development teams, and train ML designers and developers on human rights responsibilities.
5. Optimize ML models for fairness, accountability, transparency and editability - include fairness criteria and participate in Open Source data and algorithm sharing.
6. Monitor and refine algorithms - monitor ML model use across different contexts and communities, keep models contextually relevant, and organize human oversight.
7. Measure, evaluate, report - where ML is used in circumstances where it interacts with the public and makes decisions that significantly affect individuals, ensure that appropriate notices are provided.
8. Provide channels to share ML impact transparently - establish open communication channels with representative groups of the people that ML applications can affect.
If we want to work together to "shape a future that works for all by putting people first, empowering them and constantly reminding ourselves that all of these new technologies are first and foremost tools made by people for people," (as WEF Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab calls for), we need to design and use machine learning to maximize the shared benefit of this game-changing technology while minimizing real risks to human rights.
ECONET Wireless Zimbabwe says it has begun the process to invest over $250 million into a solar power systems project amid indications the corporate has placed orders for nearly 20MW.
The investment, Econet said, could eventually dwarf its investment in telecoms of almost $2 billion over the last 10 years.
Econet, Zimbabwe's largest mobile telecoms company, said the investment will be done through its subsidiary, Distributed Power Africa (DPA), and will provide solar energy solutions for industrial, commercial and home use.
Econet said the multi-million dollar investment is aimed at creating over 5 000 new jobs in Zimbabwe over the next two years. Econet said it had already placed an order to replace most of its conventional power systems with solar power and lithium batteries. Zimbabwe is touted to be headed for a game changing era through exploitation of lithium, which is also used in the manufacture of electric vehicle batteries, whose global demand is growing.
The country, the world's fifth largest producer, has discovered several lithium deposits around the country, but only one is now producing. Projects such as DPA's will drive lithium demand.
Several of the systems, which DPA intends to install for customers, have reportedly already arrived in the country with Econet's headquarters in Harare already moving to solar power and off grid.
Other leading Zimbabwean companies have also placed orders for the system which completely eliminates the need for getting power from the national grid except in emergency.
It also replaces the need for diesel powered generators, which require foreign exchange for diesel imports and also harm the environment.
"Our order book from corporates in Zimbabwe is already over 20 MW and growing daily," said Norman Moyo who heads the technology portfolio within Econet Wireless Zimbabwe.
The concept of distributed power, from which the company (DPA) derives its name, works on a reverse model to that used in traditional power utility models such as State utility, Zesa.
Instead of having a central power station, controlled from a central control centre, in a distributed power system, each customer has a "mini (power) generating" plant on their premises.
This is then controlled from a central control point managed by DPA, which has over 100 engineers and technicians in Zimbabwe.
DPA, Econet Wireless said, works with financial partners, including local banks to finance the solution for each customer.
Once approved the customer pays for the system using a leasing model, whereby they pay a flat monthly fee for 15 years.
"This is off balance sheet financing, like leasing a car or industrial machinery," said Mr Moyo in a statement on Friday.
Although the initial focus is industrial and commercial customers, the company hopes to start adding homes in the next 12 months.
"We are about to build for 100 homes just to demonstrate our capability but we are not yet ready for that sector," Mr Moyo said.
One of the key benefits of the DPA model is its capacity to create jobs for young people. This is a high tech business, but it requires skilled installers to roll out each system installation.
There will be thousands of jobs created around the country for young people in particular. "Already we are ramping up rapidly, and we expect to add 5000 jobs when we are at full capacity."
Meanwhile, Econet founder Strive Masiyiwa says Zimbabwe has the potential to be a global manufacturing centre for the type of Lithium batteries required by companies like DPA Africa.
"We are already using Lithium battery systems in DPA and we are partnered with some of the key players in that industry.
"Given our ambitions in this space for our Africa wide roll-out, we would be keen to see local manufacturing in Africa itself.
"It would make a lot of sense for Zimbabwe to position itself as a manufacturer of the finished products rather than as a miner of raw materials. We are neither miners nor manufacturers.
"It's really up to government if they want to get investment in manufacturing to come up with the policies that would make it attractive to invest in large scale manufacturing," he said.
One person's trash: Waste products from nearby banana plantations are spun into a fluff that will become eco-friendly menstrual pads.
In Rwanda, schoolgirls can now buy locally produced, cheaper sanitary towels
Banana plantations stretch as far as the eye can see, covering the rolling hills. At the end of a red dirt track sits a rectangular building with walls painted an eye-wateringly bright shade of blue.
It is an hour's drive from Rwanda's capital, Kigali, to get here to the eastern Ngoma district.
So many visitors flock to the unassuming blue building - including Rwandan government officials, scientists and engineers from the United States and representatives of multinational companies - that one person has been designated tour guide.
Marie-Louise Umurisa leads guests into a workshop where a dozen or so women in safety goggles and overalls are working at stainless steel benches. She picks up a handful of fluff. It's pale brownish grey, odourless and rather nondescript but Umurisa talks about it in a tone approaching reverence.
The fluff is processed from banana fibres, a waste product from the thousands upon thousands of banana plants that are cut down when they are harvested. The stalks of the banana plants are worthless and would normally either be fed to animals or left to rot on the ground where they emit greenhouse gases and disease can spread.
But in this rural workshop it is spun into a product that, according to Umurisa, is worth its weight in gold: the core of ecofriendly, cheap sanitary pads that rival imported products with big brand names.
Since she first started menstruating, Nicole Uwase has skipped school every month when she had her periods. Now 22 and in her last year at the Ecole Secondary De Musanze in Rwanda's Eastern Province, Uwase says she must have missed at least 500 days of school because of her periods. That is a year and a half of teaching that she lost out on.
How many of Uwase's peers also miss school because of menstruation is hard to know, because there are no official figures. A 2008 survey of 500 girls in one area in Rwanda, conducted by the international women's organisation Sustainable Health Enterprises campaign, showed that close to one in four girls in the country miss between three and four school days a month as a result of menstruation.
But those results cannot be generalised to the rest of the country. It's therefore impossible to know how many menstruating schoolgirls in the country miss school days.
When she had her period, Uwase - who is tall and athletic - did not even consider playing sport. She simply couldn't afford sanitary pads. They cost about $1 for a box of 10 and are taxed at 18%.
Many girls use rags when they have their periods but the pieces of cloth are difficult to clean and therefore unhygienic. They feel uncomfortable drying the washed rags in the sun where anybody can see them. Some even use bark or mud to stem the flow.
Like Uwase, they dread stains on their clothes or the slightest hint of a "smell" and so rather stay at home than risk being ridiculed by their classmates.
In 2005, Elizabeth Scharpf was a bright-eyed intern at the World Bank in Mozambique when the young American was told there were women who couldn't work while they were menstruating because a small pack of commercial maxi pads cost more than what they earned in a day.
It was the first time she had heard of this: at the time, hardly anybody was talking about menstruation. The topic was taboo and avoided because of the "ick factor", but there was also little emphasis on how the prohibitive cost of expensive sanitary pads and a lack of knowledge were shaming girls into skipping school and women into taking time off work.
Scharpf's initial shock turned to outrage, she wrote in 2016 on the social action platform Global Citizen. She went back to the US to finish her joint degrees at Harvard University's business and government schools, but continued to ask about women's experiences in other parts of the world. When Scharpf realised this was a global problem, she decided "to do something".
"Most of the efforts to respond to this problem [of not being able to afford sanitary pads], as well as most problems in resource-poor settings is charity," Scharpf wrote in a Harvard Business School blog for its Alumni for Impact series, published in September last year. "But charitable efforts alone are not enough to address the breadth and complexity of socioeconomic and health problems that exist in developing and developed markets."
Donating pads is not a long-term solution, she argues. Besides, she wanted to create jobs. So, instead of a charity, Scharpf started an organisation not only to develop affordable maxi pads locally but also to help girls and women to set up their own businesses to make and distribute pads. In 2008 Sustainable Health Enterprises (SHE) was born. The idea was to use a business approach to solve social problems, she explains in a video posted on the organisation's website.
Scharpf had experience in the field, including with international pharmaceutical companies, and she had her contacts in academia but she also asked for advice from engineers, scientists, agriculturalists and, critically, women and girls she wanted to help.
"I headed to Rwanda with two engineering students, a tape recorder and a hand-held blender," Sharpf wrote in Global Citizen.
They tested a variety of products to find an absorbent, widely available material for the maxi pads - from cassava leaves, banana leaves and fibres from banana plant trunks to foam mattresses and textile scraps. They would boil various natural fibres, let them cool overnight and then test them.
"We would drop Coke on it to measure absorbency," Scharpf told the New York Times in 2010. "We saw, hey, those banana fibres really slurp up the Coke."
With the help of experts, Scharpf developed and patented the process to transform banana fibres into an absorbent material in the US. She also worked with professionals to build a production site in Eastern Rwanda.
SHE started lobbying the Rwandan government to drop tax on sanitary pads and a campaign called "Break the Silence" spurred the authorities to distribute pads to in-need schools. The organisation also worked to dispel myths and taboos about menstruation through health and hygiene education in schools.
But the aim ultimately was to get a scalable business model going that could be replicated in other countries.
Rwanda was an obvious choice to build the blueprint. Not only does it produce a lot of bananas - it is a staple crop - but the country is small, which made it feasible to get a sense of the market and who they wanted to serve, Scharpf told Euromonitor International in an interview published last year.
It was easier to get things done in a small country with a small population, Scharf said.
Rwanda is also business-friendly; when Sharpf registered her business, it took only 48 days to do so. These days it happens even faster. A business can be registered and ready to operate within six hours, according to the Rwanda Development Board.
In the latest World Bank report on the ease of doing business, Rwanda is ranked second in sub-Saharan Africa and is in 56th position out of 190 countries globally.
Women-friendly policies also made Rwanda an attractive option. Not only are most members in Parliament women, it is also the first country in the world where the Parliament is dominated by women.
Women are viewed as key to the country's recovery and development following the genocide, states a 2008 document by the World Bank Group's International Financial Corporation, titled Voices of Women Entrepreneurs in Rwanda.
After the 1994 genocide, women made up 70% of households and found themselves the heads of families and the main income earners, also in farming. Laws were changed so that women could, for the first time, own land. But as the tiny country is densely populated and the average land holding is tiny, government has encouraged farming co-operatives.
It is with these women co-operatives they wanted to work, says John Uwayezu, managing director of SHE in Rwanda.
"We worked with the local government right from the beginning," Uwayezu explains. "We asked them to approach the women co-operatives to establish who wanted to work with us."
The farmers are shown how to extract the fibres from the banana trunks with equipment provided by SHE. The organisation then buys the fibres from the co-operatives.
One of SHE's first suppliers was the Umunezero banana co-operative. Selling banana fibres to SHE contributes more than a third of their annual income, according to information on the SHE website.
This has since been expanded to four co-operatives, says Uwayezu. "This means there are more than 800 beneficiaries in the co-operatives."
Local women make up the vast majority of the production team at the site. SHE partnered with the ministry of education in Rwanda and recruits graduates from a nearby technical vocation school, many of whom struggled to find work.
Godence Umugwaneza (27) used to work as a casual farm labourer: back-breaking, low-paid digging jobs. She now operates the machines that process the banana fibres. They are cut, washed, fluffed and solar-dried before they are compressed into the pads.
"Life was really bad without a stable job but now I get a salary at the end of every month," she says. "We also try to become ambassadors in our areas and try to educate fellow women to use pads."
Eco-friendly banana pads have inspired women in Rwanda to support other people who menstruate in their communities (Sustainable Health Enterprises)
A lot of research has gone into making a product that women and girls would want to use, says Uwayezu. "We made sure we got feedback from our customers. We found that they wanted pads that looked like the ones made by the established brands.
"So, at the beginning, the pads did not have wings. We added those in the design. We also asked them for input on our packaging. They wanted something bright and modern, with an English name."
The pads are ecofriendly: no water is used in making them and also very little electricity. And, unlike pads made by established companies, the banana pads don't contain any chemicals or non-biodegradable super-absorbent polymers.
But the high cost of production remains a huge problem, Uwayezu explains. It means SHE has been running at a loss. "Our biggest expenses are the salaries. If we manage to keep the number of employees and increase production, we can break even," he says.
Just over 1 000 pads are made each day at the site. They want to increase this tenfold in May, Uwayezu says -- and by the end of the year reach 30 000 pads a day.
The project in Rwanda is not the only one making banana fibre pads: there are, for example, also small-scale operations in Uganda and a big venture in India.
The SHE team focuses on becoming sustainable: in 2015 the consumer giant Johnson & Johnson signed on as technical advisers, which boosted and streamlined production.
"We loved their approach of using locally sourced banana fibres for absorbency," says Johnson & Johnson's Michael Moscherosch.
The team brought experience in engineering, the making of sanitary pads and knowledge of absorbent products. They also built customised business tools for SHE.
The two technical teams are developing equipment that produces the pads semiautomatically, according to Moscherosch.
"If we can create a model [to profitably manufacture affordable sanitary pads in developing countries], we believe it can be adapted and replicated in many tropical regions where bananas are grown. Scalability for such projects is the Holy Grail."
Market research showed people preferred pads - even locally made, ecofriendly ones - to have colourful packaging and an English name. (Sustainable Health Enterprises)
Olive Umuhoza's small shop is a dazzling assault on the senses: sweets in shiny wrappers compete with biscuits, cooking oil, toothbrushes and Umuhoza's bright smile for attention. Behind her, the shelves are stacked with the pink and green packages of SHE's go! pads.
"Many clients used to complain about the high prices [of established brands of sanitary pad] and others would not buy but now they are willing to come and buy," she says.
Umuhoza's kiosk is one of the many that sells the banana fibre pads. A pack of 10 is sold for about R6.90 (58 US cents) - up to 50% cheaper than commercial pads. The go! pads are also distributed to schools and through nongovernmental organisations. Other sanitary pads at Umuhoza's shop cost between R11 (92 US cents) and R13 (about one dollar).
Her customers include teenage girls and casual labourers. "Young girls are now more comfortable to ask for sanitary pads. I think they now understand it is okay to buy pads."
Although the banana fibre pads were initially met with scepticism and Umuhoza sold only about 20 packets of pads a week, she now reaches that number in a day. She uses the pads herself, she says.
For the past three months, Uwase has not missed school. "When I discovered that there was a factory making pads in our area, I asked about the prices," she says.
Her parents can afford to give her the 500 francs she needs to buy the banana fibre pads - the first time she can buy any sanitary products.
"They are very comfortable," Uwase says. "I have now also started playing basketball and volleyball. It feels really good."
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My cousin Osaretin Guobadia is a very dynamic person, and I struggle to keep pace with him. He left his Goldman Sachs investment banking job to come back home to lead change, and he has been succeeding.
He is on the board of Renaissance Capital and runs the infrastructure company DBH. He is quite passionate about everything related to Edo State and has genuine intentions. He set up a community of Edo State Professionals looking at how to bring progress to the state. One of the areas of improvement was innovation and technology.
Osaretin and I discussed setting up an innovation hub and co-working space for technology people at the heart of our hometown Benin City. We were all initially excited at the prospect, and I even registered the domain BeninHub.Com and started building on it. Osaretin also started doing some preliminary designs for the location and was already planning to allocate a lot of resources to it when I asked myself a question - why were we assuming that nothing was happening yet in the technology innovation space Benin City? Did we ask anyone?
We were falling into the regular trap common with African innovation support activities. We made stereotypical assumptions not backed with any data or facts and were already about to execute based on them.
I remembered that one of our technology giants in the country Yemi Keri who now leads the "Rising Tide" female investment movement was once the state's CIO. Logically, she would not have been there in Benin for that long without much happening there. I decided to do a simple web search, and it led me to discover the StartupGrind technology community in Benin (supported by Google for Entrepreneurs) which I now follow actively on social media. I have been impressed with the activities so far and decided that whatever we do in Benin must consider them.
Do hubs and co-working spaces add value?
The process we went through with Benin Hub made me question the basis for the creation and proliferation of physical spaces for innovation communities across Africa. Do they add value to the real communities? I recently read a complaint on Twitter by Neo Ighodaro the CTO of Hotels.ng about how difficult it was even to hold events at these spaces.
Very few people have asked how successful most physical spaces around Africa have been when it comes seeding and propagating innovative activities, the default assumption is that they are necessary. I even justified them myself in the past until I started to see the other side.
I met Thomas Van Halen of VC4Africa Research, together with my friend Kelechi Ofoegbu the COO of ImpactHub Accra, last week to discuss the issue of local innovation ecosystems and the value they create. Thomas had asked the question, do local ecosystems create value? After some minutes of the conversation, I realised that Kelechi and I were trying to provide personal validation as proof of an innovation ecosystem success in Africa rather than seek aggregate market data as proof.
I realised all we have been doing wrong at that meeting: We were selling the dream of innovation in Africa the same way real estate developers sell off-plan housing developments. They first build models then set up a show house or show apartment where they pitch to prospective buyers. The problem in Africa is that we have been changing the designs of these showpieces and moving furniture around, but we have never completed the housing developments. We have been in the business of showing real estate prospects and never finishing the projects.
Innovation communities are not about the real estate but about the people and how they work together to create value. Spaces are useful, but they are not enough. We should be asking ourselves critical questions after years of the existence of these spaces. Why have the communities not outgrown these spaces? Why do we keep repeating or recycling the same ideas at these locations or repeating the same models? Why have tech companies not grown fast enough to build their campuses locally and why do we keep depending on shared spaces? Are they a manifestation of stunted growth or are they responsible for it?
The Startup Pageant
The first time that I went to TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco was in September 2011. Some exciting startups were on display on what they call "Startup Alley." I went back there again in 2012 and saw a different set of startups and new founders. Most of the startups I met the previous year had all died or morphed into something else. I realised that while the event was more of "innovation theatre", idea iteration was also happening rapidly in that ecosystem. People were not stuck on the same ideas; they were dynamic.
We seem to have copied the same Silicon Valley theatre in Africa, but the difference in Africa is, each event I attend is typically filled with the same set of people or the same ideas recycled once again. Startups I meet are almost always into payments, e-commerce, education or agriculture with little iteration. This charade cannot continue. Building the future involves "building and growing". We cannot teach people how to dream big, but we should stop encouraging them into thinking small.
Ministry say that a strong national technological, innovation capability is essential to make the currently prevailing economic growth sustainable.
Director of Policy Research and Future Planning with Ministry of Science and Technology Desta Abera said that fast grown countries experiences show that successful economic and social development came from having both an export-based market economy and accumulation of technological capabilities, which indicates that Ethiopia must focus on Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) to support its export driven economy.
Ethiopia's implementation of innovation policy targets at establishing a clear and effective STI governance structure, building technological capacity in learning, adapting, and utilizing effective foreign technologies, as well as producing well-trained technicians, engineers and scientists.
As one of the critical policy and strategy issue, technology transfer activities currently carried out in the country are not in line with the envisaged technology demands of the development programs, the Director claims. He added that the level of qualified manpower capable of transferring foreign technology is low, and inadequate to facilitate the effective transfer of technology.
Moreover, he mentioned that manufacturing and service providing institutions, whose involvement ranges from conducting and supporting research and technology transfer activities to contributing and implementing the policy framework, have no clear value-adding linkages between them and their role in advancing the STI.
Universities, research institutes, TVET institutions and industries are core actors in the national innovation system. The strength as well as effectiveness of the established linkages among these institutions largely depends on their tendency and capability to be involved in activities dealing with technology transfer.
As far as technology learning is concerned, the current situation of the country confirms that universities are not taking the leading role and are lagging behind the industries, Desta said.
He suggests for the linkages that exist among these actors to focus on contributing on the productivity of manufacturing and service providing enterprises. "The shared effort should also focus on identifying appropriate technologies and their sources, understanding the technologies through learning-by-doing and adaptation as well as effective utilization."
Thus, joint cooperation and support system among the actors will be established with the aim to support and facilitate the search, selection, importation, adaptation and utilization of effective technology transfer, Desta added.