Capacitating Civil Society Actors to Advance Digital Rights in Africa

Internet freedom in Africa has been on the decline over the past years with several countries continually adopting repressive measures that curtail civil liberties. Many governments have embraced digital authoritarianism, which has resulted in criminalisation of speech online, internet disruptions, arrests and prosecution of social media users, and abuse of citizens’ data rights, thus undermining free expression and civic participation. 

Several governments have continually enhanced their technical capacity to intercept and monitor electronic communications, including through the installation of equipment and software or spyware that enable remote controlled hacking and eavesdropping, and deployment of video surveillance systems, some of which have facial recognition capabilities. These enhancements have been partly aided by introduction of regressive laws ostensibly to fight terrorism and to protect national order. 

Some control measures – such as trolling and cyberbullying – target critical democracy actors, including women human rights defenders (WHRDs) and journalists, and have far-reaching impacts on rights protection, including free expression, access to information and civic participation. Other measures, such as digital taxation, registration and licensing of online users, greatly undermine internet access and affordability and weaken the potential of digital technologies to catalyse free expression and civic participation.

These measures are worrying not only because they directly undermine citizens’ digital rights and their appetite for public participation but also because they endanger the safety of some critical democratic actors. Without adequate digital security capacity, activists and human rights defenders (HRDs) are not able to meaningfully undertake advocacy and engagements around human rights, transparent and accountable governance. Concerningly, digital security and safety skills are lacking among some of the most at-risk groups, yet trainers and support networks are in short supply. In this brief we review some key intervention measures necessary to  grow the capacity of  civil society actors to navigate the rising digital authoritarianism and highlight CIPESA’s work in this regard.

Shrinking Civic Space

Recent years have seen an increase in the number of reported incidents of governments in the region cracking down on civil society organisations, especially those addressing human rights and social justice issues. Various illegal means, including physical assaults, arbitrary detention, torture, killings, intimidation and surveillance by security agencies, have been adopted to limit the rights to freedom of assembly, association, expression, and access to information.

The situation was exacerbated by measures adopted by national governments to curb the spread and mitigate the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. The different measures including the clamp down on media platforms, intimidation, arrests, detention and prosecution, affected the work and operations of HRDss and civil society organisations (CSOs) in many countries. The ability of citizens to participate in civic matters and the conduct of public affairs were also eroded. Meanwhile, HRDs, journalists, activists, the political opposition, and ordinary citizens have been forced to self-censor, disengage from participating in public affairs, and refrain from exercising their rights to participate.

Limited Capacity of Civil Society Actors

Although there has been a growing number of civil society and justice actors responding to, and challenging government excesses, some of them have been hampered by lack of requisite knowledge, skills, and tools to engage in meaningful policy advocacy. There is also limited understanding of the linkages between Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), human rights and democracy and how government control measures undermine democratic participation.

According to Ashnah Kalemera, Programme Manager at CIPESA, advancing digital rights is a new phenomenon for most of the traditional human rights organisations in Africa, “with many still trying to understand the relationship between ICT and human rights, on top of dealing with an already hostile environment.” 

Through various interventions, CIPESA is building the capacity of different social justice organisations and equipping them with the requisite skills, including research, communicating digital rights, designing evidence-based advocacy campaigns, as well as digital resilience, especially how to cope with the increasing cyber attacks.

Findings from a 2017 joint research study conducted by Small Media, DefendDefenders, the Centre For Intellectual Property And Information Technology Law (CIPIT), and CIPESA showed that in Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda, most CSOs failed to demonstrate a baseline of digital security knowledge and practices.

The study noted that although the internet and other ICT had empowered CSOs to engage with the public, share information, and advocate for citizens’ rights in sometimes challenging and closed political environments, it had also offered means and tools that regional state and non-state actors utilised to interfere with their work, surveil them, and censor their voices.

Similarly, an assessment CIPESA conducted in five countries during 2020 indicated a need to bolster capacity, organisational practices, and implementation of security and safety measures for social justice organisations and staff. It also found that skills and protections (software and hardware) were low and inadequate among many HRD organisations and individuals. 

Building Digital Resilience Among CSOs

In many countries in the region, skills in digital security and safety are lacking among some of the most at-risk groups, yet trainers and support networks are in short supply. Without adequate digital security capacity, activists and HRDs are not able to meaningfully continue advocacy and engagements around human rights, transparent and accountable governance.

For several years CIPESA has provided digital security resilience including conducted training for civil society groups, HRDs and other democracy actors. Through the Level-Up programme, CIPESA has provided security support to 16 HRD organisations in Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, South Sudan, and Uganda. 

The initiative helped to strengthen the participating entities’ organisational and information systems security capacity, entailed a Training of Trainers (ToT) component – which benefitted 19 individuals – to grow the network of individuals and organisations that offer digital security training and support to journalists, activists, and HRDs, and organisational security assessments. The training and support were delivered through innovative approaches to geographically distributed individuals that could not meet physically due to Covid-19 social distancing and travel restrictions.

The individuals trained in turn conducted safety and security training sessions which benefitted 120 staff of HRD organisations. The Level Up programme also conducted an assessment of organisational digital security needs and practices which informed the provision of hardware, software and security equipment to nine beneficiary organisations in four countries, and the development of organisational digital security policies.

“Several justice actors, both individuals and organisations, have fallen victims to cyber attacks, hacking, and online harassment, with some reporting loss of  their brand assets. It is therefore important to bolster their capacity, enhance their organisational practices, especially the implementation of security and safety measures related to digital and social media platforms usage by the organisations and their staff,” says Brian Byaruhanga, Technology Officer at CIPESA.

Supporting Impactful Digital Rights Advocacy and Communication

Digital rights advocacy and communication has become crucial in promoting human rights in Africa. Accordingly, CIPESA has over the years supported capacity development for CSOs, HRDs particularly WHRDs, and key duty bearers, to cultivate cross-country and cross-sectoral partnerships, and promoted joint advocacy and communications campaigns. 

In June 2022, CIPESA convened a regional advocacy and engagement training workshop in Lusaka, Zambia that brought together media, civil society and technology policy actors from 10 African countries – Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. The regional engagement equipped participants with a keen understanding of key digital rights trends in the region, alongside practical skills in impactful digital rights advocacy and communication.

Also in June 2022, CIPESA convened a digital rights policy advocacy webinar where participants shared their experiences, challenges and lessons learned in advocating for digital rights in Africa. Panelists were mainly drawn from the Africa Digital Rights Fund (ADRF) beneficiaries, a grant facility managed by CIPESA whose main purpose is to offer flexible and rapid response grants to select initiatives in Africa to implement activities that advance digital rights, including advocacy, litigation, research, policy analysis, digital literacy and digital security skills building 

In July 2021, CIPESA in partnership with the African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME), conducted an intensive training course on Digital Rights and Impact Communication for grantees of the ADRF. The training was preceded by a capacity and training needs assessment. The ADRF was launched in April 2019 to offer funding and capacity development to expand the pool of actors that advance digital rights in Africa, amidst rising digital rights violations.

These capacity building efforts serve to equip civil society actors with skills, knowledge, and tools to effectively engage in evidence-based advocacy as well as communicating digital rights issues. They inspire these actors to approach advocacy and communication systematically in order to increase the visibility of digital rights issues in different media and to promote public discussion of digital rights issues.

Building Capacity and Collaborations for Digital Rights Research

Evidence-based digital rights advocacy has become particularly crucial in Africa as a growing number of governments and powerful private actors continue to undermine citizens’ online rights through legal and extra-legal means. However, as the need for internet policy advocacy that is informed by research grows, it is essential to increase the amount and depth of research originating from, and relevant to, Africa. 

Over the last few years, CIPESA has responded by building capacity and enhancing collaborations for digital rights research among academia and CSOs. During the 2019 Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa (FIFAfrica19) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, CIPESA organised a Digital Rights Research Methods Workshop as one of the pre-events. The workshop was attended by 58 participants who included university lecturers, staff of international human rights organisations, digital rights researchers, activists, technologists, and lawyers.

The Ethiopian training built on the foundations of a five-day intensive training on internet policy research methods co-organised with the Annenberg School for Communications Internet Policy Observatory in 2018, which aimed to train, connect, and build collaboration between researchers, activists, academics and internet freedom advocates, and brought together 40 participants from 17 countries.

CIPESA has continued to build this capacity through additional training, and providing research and grant opportunities through the CIPESA Academic and Media Fellowships, which seek to nurture university students’ and early career academics’ understanding of ICT for governance, human rights and development, as well as enhance the media’s understanding of and coverage of ICT, democracy and human rights issues, respectively.

Digital rights continue to evolve alongside technological changes and advancement. CIPESA will continue to tap into the opportunity of skilling civil society personnel to facilitate knowledge building and enhance their capacity to continually engage in digital rights proactively and securely.

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Internet freedom in Africa has been on the decline over the past years with several countries continually adopting repressive measures that curtail civil liberties. Many governments have embraced digital authoritarianism, which has resulted […]

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Botswana detects new Covid-19 Omicron sub-variants

Botswana has detected new sub-variants of the Covid-19 Omicron variant, the government announced Friday, saying the sub-lineages have been dominant in other countries in Europe and Asia.

In a statement, the Botswana government also said that the sub-lineages of BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 have been detected following routine genome sequencing of Covid-19, adding that the impact of the observed changes remains to be established.

As at December 2, Botswana had recorded 326,633 coronavirus cases, 2,790 deaths and 323,747 recoveries.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Omicron variant is of concern and remains the dominant variant circulating globally.

“While we are looking at a vast genetic diversity of Omicron sub-lineages, they currently display similar clinical outcomes, but with differences in immune escape potential.”

BQ.1* is a sub-lineage of BA.5, which carries spike mutations in some key antigenic sites, including K444T and N460K, the WHO says.

In addition to these mutations, the sub-lineage BQ.1.1 carries an additional spike mutation in a key antigenic site (i.e. R346T).

 “based on currently available knowledge, protection by vaccines against infection may be reduced but no major impact on protection against severe disease is foreseen,” WHO said.

“The two (BQ.1 and BQ.1.1) are sub-lineages of the existing BA.5 Omicron variant that has been dominant in Botswana for the last few months and has additional changes to the virus,” Botswana Health Permanent Secretary Christopher Nyanga said in a statement.

“The Ministry of Health advises Botswana and all residents to remain vigilant and take precautionary measures of protection,” Dr Nyanga said.

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Botswana has detected new sub-variants of the Covid-19 Omicron variant, the government announced Friday, saying the sub-lineages have been dominant in other countries in Europe and Asia. In a statement, […]

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Girls in sub-Saharan Africa 3 times more likely to get HIV: Report

More needs to be done for Tanzania and the rest of the world to end the Aids public health threat by 2030, a newly launched global HIV/Aids report shows.

Although Tanzania has had a positive impact in fighting HIV/Aids, the new report reveals that the key populations in the country still lag behind when it comes to testing and treatment.

Launched in Dar es Salaam on Tuesday, the new report titled ‘Dangerous inequalities’ shows early testing, prevention and treatment measures have slowed down, hence Aids-related deaths and new HIV/Aids cases are rising.   

Available data shows there are over 4.9 million people living with HIV/Aids in Tanzania while only 1.3 million are on treatment.

According to UNAIDS data, Tanzania has over the past ten 10 years consistently reduced new HIV infections and reduced Aids-related deaths by 46.6 percent and 50 percent respectively.

Key populations left behind

Prof Tumaini Nagu, Tanzania’s Chief Medical Officer, noted that although the country has made progress, more needs to be done since with the new report findings, it is evident that some key populations — including adolescence girls — have been left behind.

“50 percent is a good progress but we haven’t really made progress when it comes to adolescent girls, which is actually what our strategic health plan requires us to do. That is why we are currently targeting them together with other groups such as migrants, fisheries, people living in rural areas for we cannot fight the epidemic disease with one-size-fits-all kind of solution,” she said.

On her part, Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director for the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and Aids, (UNAIDS), commended Dodoma’s efforts in the fight against HIV/Aids.

“Tanzania is the leader, a strong performer in the fight against this disease. The country has succeeded in reducing new infections by almost 50 percent and successful treatment scale up has led to over 50 percent reduction in the number of Aids-related deaths,” said Ms Byanyima.

New infections rising

“The world is not on track to end the Aids pandemic.  New infections are rising and Aids deaths are continuing in too many communities. Inequalities are holding us back,” added Ms Byabyima

The report shows that gender inequalities, inequalities faced by key populations and inequalities between children and adults have had negative impacts on Aids response by countries.

In sub-Saharan Africa, adolescent girls and young women are three times more likely to get HIV than their male counterparts, according to the report.

“The world will not be able to defeat Aids while reinforcing patriarchy. We need to address the intersecting inequalities women face. The only effective route map to ending Aids, achieving the sustainable development goals and ensuring health, rights and shared prosperity, is a feminist route map. Women’s rights organisations and movements are already on the frontline doing this bold work. Leaders need to support them and learn from them,” added Ms Byabyima

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More needs to be done for Tanzania and the rest of the world to end the Aids public health threat by 2030, a newly launched global HIV/Aids report shows. Although […]

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Kenya Airways targets corporate travel in new Ghana-Senegal flights

Kenyan flag carrier Kenya Airways has announced a new service linking the capitals of Ghana and Senegal starting this December 11. This is the first sign that African governments are serious in implementing the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM).

The twice weekly service that complements the airlines’ existing schedule to the two destinations will increase options between Nairobi and Accra to nine flights a week and four to Dakar.

This comes hot on the heels of a new Nairobi-Mombasa-Dubai service, also to be launched this December, reflecting KQ’s push to get its growth plans off the ground following the two-year Covid-19 pandemic disruption.

The ease with which the Kenyan carrier will be able to pick intermediate traffic between Accra and Dakar without a reciprocal service by a Ghanaian airline to Kenya signals the beginning of a long-awaited era of open skies in Africa.

Pilot scheme

Kenya and Ghana were among the 15 African states that last week in Dakar signed up to pilot a scheme to test operation of air services under SAATM. Under existing restrictions such flights would operate under fifth-freedom rights on terms agreed on in a bilateral air services agreement.

According to Julius Thairu, Kenya Airways chief commercial and customer officer, the new connection “will offer our guests more travel and connectivity options within West Africa. Strategically, the bigger picture is to support the Single African Air Transport Market and the African Continental Free Trade Area, which are key pillars for Africa’s growth, by growing and deepening our network connections within the continent.”

KQ hopes to tap into existing demand from corporate travellers, traders as well as leisure travellers between Ghana and Senegal to support the service, which will be the first direct connection between the two west African capitals.

The proposed flights will be available twice a week. The outbound leg (KQ514) will originate in Nairobi at 21.30 local time on Tuesdays and Sundays, arriving in Accra at 12.10 local time. The leg to Dakar will commence 01.10 arriving at 04.15. The return flight KQ 515 will depart Dakar at 05.15 local time, and make one-hour a stop in Accra.

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Kenyan flag carrier Kenya Airways has announced a new service linking the capitals of Ghana and Senegal starting this December 11. This is the first sign that African governments are […]

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Hopes for big finance at Cop27 fade in climate of war, high energy prices

Big business more than ever is under pressure to channel money into curbing climate change – and yet the chances of UN talks providing the necessary spur have slimmed as the Ukraine war, high energy prices and geopolitical tensions take precedence.

In interviews, more than a dozen US and European finance leaders were pessimistic the climate conference in Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt starting November 6 can make clear progress.

What they want are signals on the pace of regulation that would allow company boards to plan their climate policy.

But as governments have lately been distracted by world events, they fear countries will fail to provide any major new commitments.

“Geopolitical relations going into COP27 are at one of the worst levels in recent history,” said Luke Sussams, head of ESG and Sustainable Finance, EMEA at Jefferies.

“The age-old dilemma of climate finance, facilitated between the developed and the developing world, will of course be critical. We, I don’t think, are too optimistic that many resolutions will be met in that regard.”

Emissions must drop

A UN report published in October underlined the urgency of the climate problem and that emissions must drop 43 percent by the end of the decade to prevent the worst impacts of a hotter planet.

The best hope could be to prevent the progress so far being undone.

“Avoiding a rollback of existing pledges and commitments… could probably be considered a success,” Benedict Buckley, research analyst at ClearBridge Investments, said.

Many companies made pledges to cut emissions last year, but like many governments, they have yet to work out how those will be implemented.

More than 550 financial firms are members of the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero, aiming to cut their emissions and push companies in the real economy that rely on their financing to do the same, but the pace of action has been slow.

Not enough done

“The reality is that not enough has been done in the last 12 months – some would argue we have moved backwards,” said Hortense Bioy, Global Director of Sustainability Research at Morningstar.

The biggest disruption since last year’s Glasgow climate talks has been the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, a major oil and gas exporter.

Europe in particular has been forced to rethink its previous reliance on Russian gas and to seek alternatives. In the short term that includes coal, undermining a deal the UN summit in Glasgow to phase out its use. However, as this year’s high oil and gas prices have rewarded those producing fossil fuels.

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Big business more than ever is under pressure to channel money into curbing climate change – and yet the chances of UN talks providing the necessary spur have slimmed as […]

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DR Congo army clashes with rebels as Angola pursues peace bid

M23 rebels and DR Congo troops clashed heavily in North Kivu province on Friday as Angola’s president pursued diplomatic efforts to bring peace between neighbours Kinshasa and Kigali.

Tensions between DR Congo and Rwanda are at their highest in years, with the DRC accusing its smaller neighbour of backing the M23, charges the Rwandan government denies.

In eastern DRC, locals reported hearing heavy artillery fire around Rugari, in Rutshuru territory, from early morning as the army targeted M23 combatants.

The DRC military had this week deployed Sukhoi-25 jets and Mi-24 helicopters against the M23, a mainly Tutsi Congolese militia.

People flee for safety

The clashes sent more people fleeing for safety, one witness told AFP by telephone from Rumangabo, 10 kilometres (six miles) from Rugari.

“We can hear the sound of the bombing,” he said.

Medical sources said at least five civilians, including two children, were killed and 11 wounded in Friday’s fighting.

The artillery fire was coming from Kibumba on a main road that runs to the regional capital Goma.

An AFP reporter on the edge of the city saw an army tank and lorry loaded with munitions heading towards the combat zone.

“Fighting continues at Rugari. We are making progress,” a security source said.

Power disruption

During the afternoon, power was disrupted in Goma after a transmission line from a hydroelectric plant was hit, Virunga Energies said.

Meanwhile, the World Food Programme (WFP) said gunmen had attacked UN-backed school canteens in the Rutshuru area, which is under M23 control.

“Six primary schools were targeted for now and food stocks taken forcibly,” a WFP statement said.

‘Regional efforts’

“Armed groups came with lorries and took the stocks that were at the schools in Kiwanja and Rutshuru,” said the WFP coordinator for the region.

“At the moment, in Rutshuru territory, it’s M23 who are active. Obviously we suspect them, because they control the two towns,” in North Kivu province, he added.

The M23 has won a string of victories against the DRC’s army in North Kivu province in recent weeks, dramatically increasing the territory under its control.

Mineral-rich DRC is struggling to contain dozens of armed militias including the M23, which rose to prominence in 2012, briefly occupying Goma.

Dormant for years

But after laying mostly dormant for years, it resumed fighting in 2021, claiming the DRC had failed to honour a pledge to integrate them into the army, among other grievances.

Eastern DRC has been plagued for nearly three decades by armed groups, many of them inherited from the wars that bloodied the region in the wake of the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Angolan President Joao Lourenco was visiting Rwanda on Friday as part of diplomatic efforts to resolve the dispute with the DRC and is due in Kinshasa Saturday.

Kinshasa expelled Rwanda’s ambassador at the end of last month, while also recalling its envoy from Kigali.

Lourenco was to hold talks with Rwandan President Paul Kagame “as part of the regional efforts to normalise relations between Rwanda and DR Congo”, the ruling party newspaper The New Times said.

The meeting comes on the heels of talks between the countries’ two foreign ministers who agreed on Saturday to accelerate efforts to resolve the diplomatic crisis.

Roadmap to end hostilities

A roadmap for ending hostilities had been reached at an Angola-brokered summit between Kagame and his Congolese counterpart Felix Tshisekedi in July. 

On Wednesday, Kenya’s parliament approved the deployment of more than 900 troops to the DRC as part of a regional force established to try to restore security in the east.

Kenya’s former president Uhuru Kenyatta, the East African Community bloc’s mediator for the situation, will visit Kinshasa on Sunday for a 48-hour working visit, the DRC’s presidency said.

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M23 rebels and DR Congo troops clashed heavily in North Kivu province on Friday as Angola’s president pursued diplomatic efforts to bring peace between neighbours Kinshasa and Kigali. Tensions between […]

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Kenyans’ visa-free stay in S. Africa comes with costs if one overstays

Kenyans planning to travel to South Africa will from January next year enjoy a visa-free stay of up to 90 days per calendar year, but those who overstay their welcome, or enter illegally will pay a huge penalty.

On Wednesday, Kenyan President William Ruto and his South African counterpart Cyril Ramaphosa witnessed an agreement that could end decades of complaints from Nairobi on immigration policies by South Africa.

It means that Kenyans will no longer need to apply for e-visas or regular visas before travelling to South Africa for business or tourism. The tradition has been that Kenyans apply for a ‘free’ visa from an agent of the South African High Commission who charges an ‘application fee’ to handle the paperwork. The visa often comes out after four working days.

With the new agreement, all Kenyans will need is an invitation and return ticket, as well as proof of vaccination for yellow fever and Covid-19; and proof of financial ability to stay in South Africa during the intended duration for tourists.

“This has been a challenge that has been with us for many years. Under the new dispensation, we can build a greater relationship,” said President William Ruto at a joint press conference in Nairobi. His South African counterpart said the deal could take business and tourism “to greater heights.”

Deportation costs

But there is a catch: Each country will bear the cost of deporting their nationals caught overstaying. This means that a Kenyan overstaying in South Africa or caught entering illegally will be returned at the cost of Nairobi. In essence, officials said this will mean the travel filters between the two countries will be stringent, sieving out illegal immigrants, criminal suspects and all those with no paperwork taking advantage of the system.

“People who abuse the system…don’t deserve to be in South Africa, and they don’t deserve to be in Kenya,” President Ruto added.

“This agreement will be implemented to ensure the bad elements that try to infiltrate our countries are dealt with firmly and decisively.”

Age-old complaint

South Africa, by easing the visa rules on Kenya, is merely responding to an age-old complaint. And President Ramaphosa’s predecessors often dodged the bullet, accusing Kenya of being a conduit for illegal migrants, mainly from Ethiopia and Somalia. But Ramaphosa’s regime has tried to ease things, including allowing those on student visas to renew their stays while still in south Africa and ending the need to travel back home for the same.

Ramaphosa also allowed Kenyans to transit through South African airports without a transit visa, but as long as they do not leave the airport. In the past, one needed a transit visa regardless of whether he or she would leave the airport or not. Until January next year, however, Kenyans will still need transit visas if heading to neighbouring countries via South Africa by land.

President Ramaphosa described the new ties as based on a “wonderful foundation that exists” between Nairobi and Pretoria.

Implemented fully

“We are committed to ensure that the agreements that we have signed now and in the past will be implemented fully,” he said before describing the visa issues as “thorny”.

“Our officials will speed up the processes to implement it. This dispensation will be available to Kenyans over a 90-day period in a given year, meaning that, yes, you can use the 90 days, ten days, 20 days or whatever. Kenyans will have a full 90 days to be able to visit south Africa and we would be able to review this and get reports from our ministers within a year and see how this is functioning,” he explained.

It means Kenyans must ensure their stay in South Africa does not exceed 90 days per year, cumulatively, to qualify for visa free stay.

“This will also be underpinned by other processes that we have agreed can take place: closer monitoring of the implementation process and also be able to have a return policy of those elements that would be undesirable to be able to be returned to Kenya.

“We are going to be monitoring this much more closely and we are setting in place various mechanisms to make sure that what we have agreed to is adhered to and that no one takes advantage of the agreement.”

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Africa has least default rate on infrastructure projects, say leaders

African leaders have said the continent’s investment risk has been exaggerated, making investors hesitant to put their money in its development projects.

Quoting a Moody’s Analytics report on defaults on infrastructure investments, African Development Bank (AfDB) president, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, noted that Africa has the lowest default rate on infrastructure projects in the world, at 5.5 per cent.

“Africa is not as risky as you think. Perception is not the same as reality,” Dr Adesina said at the opening of the Africa Investment Forum in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, on November 2.

The biggest defaulter, according the Moody’s report, is Latin America at 12.9 per cent, followed by Asia at 8.8 per cent, Eastern Europe (8.6 per cent), North America (7.6 per cent), and Western Europe (5.9 per cent).

Recovery from Covid pandemic

“Africa has shown resilient recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. Foreign direct investment (FDI) declined from $47 billion in 2019 to $40 billion in 2020 because of Covid. Africa recovered in 2021, as FDI rose to $83 billion, doubling the flows in 2020,” he said.

Heads of state attending the forum amplified Dr Adesina’s sentiments. They included Ghana’s Nana Akufo-Addo, Zimbabwe’s Emmerson Mnangagwa, Ethiopia’s Sahle-Work Zewde and Ivorian Vice-President Tiemoko Koné.

The leaders said that having one of the world’s largest young populations, natural resources and renewable energy potential, the continent is the investment frontier in the world.

President Akufo-Addo said the African premium risk has become a huge obstacle to development as it hampers investment. Noting that the global investment environment is difficult, he said Africa has excellent returns on investment and urged businesses to take advantage of the continent’s demographic dividend to foster growth.

Electric cars

Dr Adesina said the future of electric cars in the world depends on Africa because it has the largest sources of cobalt in the world, with massive sources of lithium in Zimbabwe, Namibia, Ghana, Mali, and Democratic Republic of Congo.

“The African Continental Free Trade Area is the largest free-trade zone in the world, connecting economies worth $3.3 trillion,” he said.

The Africa Investment Forum — Africa’s premier investment marketplace now in its fourth year — helps to connect investors to Africa. The African Development Bank, the Africa Import-Export Bank, the Trade and Development Bank, the Africa Finance Corporation, the Development Bank of South Africa, the European Investment Bank, the Islamic Development Bank and Africa50 support it.

It is aimed at mobilising investments for Africa, and showcase the continent’s bankability to the world.

Investment interests

In four years, it has helped to mobilise $110 billion in investment interests to Africa, said Dr Adesina.

“The $600 million securitised finance to support the cocoa board of Ghana has helped Ghana to grow its cocoa production by one million tonnes, with infrastructure for warehousing and cocoa processing. The landmark $24 billion liquefied natural gas project of Mozambique, which was structured and closed at the Africa Investment Forum, is the largest-ever foreign direct investment in Africa. It will turn Mozambique into the third-largest exporter of natural gas in the world and add $66 billion to its economy,” he said.

The leaders have curated investment projects in renewable energy, hydropower, gas, railways, roads, and water transport, agriculture, health, mining, fertiliser manufacturing, port infrastructure and urban green transport to woo investors.

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African leaders have said the continent’s investment risk has been exaggerated, making investors hesitant to put their money in its development projects. Quoting a Moody’s Analytics report on defaults on […]

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Don’t mortgage countries for loans, development banks tell Africa

Development finance institutions in Africa have cautioned governments against using countries’ natural resources to back infrastructure loans, as it amounts to mortgaging their future to creditors. Instead, they want states to explore public-private partnerships to finance their development projects.

While addressing a press conference in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire during the African Investment Forum, executives of eight multilateral finance institutions in Africa said most states in the continent had become heavily indebted and the volatility of the global economy was making their debt situation worse, hence the need to go slow on borrowing to explore cheaper ways of financing development.

The multilateral development banks are working with wealth funds to have them finance infrastructure development.

Repaying infrastructure loans well

Led by the African Development Bank (AfDB), the organiser of the African Investment Forum, they vouched for the continent’s creditworthiness, noting that Africa has done well in repaying its infrastructure loans.

Dr Akinwumi Adesina, the AfDB president, noted that Africa has the lowest default rate on infrastructure loans in the world, at 5.5 per cent. The biggest defaulter, according Moody’s Analytics, is Latin America at 12.9 per cent, followed by Asia at 8.8 per cent, Eastern Europe (8.6 per cent), North America (7.6 per cent), and Western Europe (5.9 per cent).

“We must begin to see infrastructure as an asset to us. The issue of the risk of investment in Africa is exaggerated. The issue is not risk but the risk-adjusted return and how you manage risk,” Dr Adesina said.

“So, we must not be de-risking bias risk. In other words, perception risk is not what we should be de-risking. But we don’t want countries taking too much debt to do infrastructure, it will only make the debt situation worse for them. So they need to open up the space to the private sector and I believe strongly we must have, at the very minimum, public-private partnerships: allow the private sector in energy, transport, medical, infrastructure and so on. Let the private sector space be expanded for infrastructure.”

Build Africa’s capacity

The lenders have committed to collaborate with African governments to build the continent’s capacity for agriculture, renewable energy and manufacture of electric cars.

On agriculture, they are going to support special agro-industrial processing zones across Africa to turn agriculture into a wealth sector.

On electric cars, the banks are looking to fund value chains for the minerals making parts and batteries such as nickel, cobalt and lithium.

“We will put our resources together, technical resources in terms of technical assessment, our project development capacity here, our co-financing capacity here with others to be able to develop value chains for the batteries on the continent and attract investors to manufacture the cars,” Dr Adesina said.

Solar energy

On energy, the institutions plan to invest $20 billion to build 10,000 megawatts of solar across 11 countries, which will provide electricity for 250 million people.

“There is overconcentration of solar panel manufacturing in the world. So as Africa tries to maximise and optimise renewable energy — we have 11 terawatts of solar — so we decided collectively, that we will support designing, support and planning for the manufacturing of polysilicon and solar panels,” Dr Adesina said.

The institutions are AfDB, Africa50; Africa Finance Corporation, Africa Export-Import Bank, Development Bank of Southern Africa, European Investment Bank, Islamic Development Bank and Trade and Development Bank.

They are also pushing the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to channel the special drawing rights (SDRs) cash through them for use in infrastructure development.

“The world is going through all kinds of challenges right now. The big one, of course, is climate change, Covid-19, the war in Ukraine and what it has done in terms of energy costs, in terms of food prices, inflation… we have a big financing gap for infrastructure and there’s not a whole lot of money on the table to support developing countries. One of the ways to actually deal with this is the special drawing rights,” Dr Adesina said.

The IMF in 2021 issued $650 billion of special drawing rights, which is the highest it has ever issued. But Africa only got $33 billion out of that amount.

The multilateral lenders have been making a case for the SDRs to be given to them to fund growth and poverty reduction programmes on the continent.

“I commend the efforts of IMF for their resilient trust that they have, which is great. However, the SDR transactions will be one-to-one while multilateral development banks like ourselves can actually invest the SDR money. Now, for us, $1 of SDR will become $4 for the country. So, if you got $10 billion, that becomes $40 billion; $20 billion becomes $80 billion. So that’s the leveraging impact. That is very important for the SDR to complement the efforts of the IMF.

“And I think that this is important because as we look at global challenges, we have to ask ourselves: What is the best way to optimise the global financial architecture starting from the IMF down to multilateral financial institutions? If we leverage the SDR four times, that is money we can use to recapitalise and support the Development Bank of South Africa, the Africa Finance Corporation, Africa50, Trade Development Bank, Islamic Development Bank and others.”

But they called for transparency and accountability in the expenditure of infrastructure finance.

“It’s not just how much money you’re putting into infrastructure; it’s the efficiency of that expenditure.”

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US sanctions suspected terrorists, weapon traffickers in East Africa

Days after a deadly attack in the Somali capital of Mogadishu where twin car bombs killed at least 100 people and injured more than 300, the United State has issued sanctions targeting nine suspected terrorists and weapon traffickers in Eastern Africa.

The US Treasury Department on Tuesday took its first action against Islamic State in Somalia (ISIS-Somalia), designating members of the group and others it accused of having ties to the terrorist affiliate.

ISIS-Somalia pledged allegiance to ISIS in October 2015 under Abdiqadr Mumin (Mumin), previously a senior leader of Al-Shabaab faction operating in the Somali region of Puntland.

The designation of the nine comes barely four years after the US State Department categorised ISIS-Somalia a specially designated global terrorist.

Disrupt terrorist financing

The US in a statement said several of the suspected traffickers have sold weapons to, or were active Al-Shabaab members, with threats to issue additional action in coming weeks as it seeks to expose and disrupt terrorist financing in Africa.

Those mentioned in the suspected weapons trafficking network include Liibaan Yousuf Mohamed (Mohamed), Abdirahman Mohamed Omar, Mahad Isse Aden (Aden), Isse Mohamoud Yusuf (Yusuf), Abdirahman Fahiye Isse Mohamud (Fahiye).

Others are Mohamed Ahmed Qahiye (Qahiye), Ahmed Haji Ali Haji Omar (Haji Omar), Liibaan Yousuf Mohamed and Osama Abdelmongy Abdalla Bakr (Bakr).

The US said the ISIS-Somalia usually works with other terrorist organisations such as Al-Shabaab, Somali pirates and smuggling groups.

Illicit networks

“Many of the relevant individuals are also involved in other illegal activities, including piracy and environmental crimes, demonstrating their integration with illicit networks operating in the region,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement.

The individuals and the designated entities are said to be critical nodes for a weapons trafficking network that is closely integrated with ISIS-Somalia.

These networks operate primarily between Yemen and Somalia and have strong ties to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and Al-Shabaab. The US Treasury also designated a vital supporter of ISIS in Brazil, who has attempted to serve as a liaison for the terrorist group.

Terrorist groups operating in the region continue to commit violent acts in Somalia, targeting Somali civilians, civil servants and first responders in order to instil fear.

Attacks against civilians

ISIS-Somalia has also continued to conduct vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) attacks against civilians.

During last week Saturday’s attack, the Al-Qaeda-linked Islamist group Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the two car bombs that exploded outside the education ministry in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, killing at least 120 people in the deadliest blasts since a truck bomb killed more than 500 people at the same location five years ago.

“We extend our heartfelt condolences to all who lost loved ones and were injured in Saturday’s horrific attack and strongly condemn this indefensible act of terrorism,” said Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson.

Direct aim at networks

He added, “Today, we take direct aim at the networks funding and supplying both ISIS-Somalia and al-Shabaab that support their violent acts. The involvement of those designated in other criminal activity, including piracy and illegal fishing, demonstrates the extent of ISIS-Somalia’s integration with illicit networks and other terrorist organisations operating in the region. Treasury is committed to working with partners in the region to disrupt the financing of ISIS and Al-Shabaab.”

As a result of the US action, all property and interests in property of the persons that are in the United States or in the possession or control of people in the US must be blocked and reported to the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).

In addition, any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50 per cent or more by one or more blocked persons are also blocked.

OFAC regulations generally prohibit all dealings by US citizen or people within the United States, including transactions transiting the US that involve any property or interests in property of designated or otherwise blocked persons.

In addition, people who engage in certain transactions with the designated persons may themselves be exposed to sanctions or be subjected to an enforcement action.

The ultimate goal of sanctions is not to punish but to bring about a positive change in behaviour.

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Countries seek joint approach to fight climate change in Horn of Africa

Development organisations predict that up to 5 billion people will face water shortages by 2050 globally as the climate change bug continues to bite and the effects intensify.

The Horn of Africa region is already highly affected by climate change and is facing the worst drought ever experienced in the last four decades.

Besides the impacts of climate change, other significant trends and issues affect the continent, including rapid population growth, with urbanisation rates expected to triple by 2050.

In a hybrid meeting held both physically and via zoom at Nairobi’s Trade Mark Hotel, stakeholders deliberated on how to deal with development issues in the Horn of Africa, especially regarding climate change and its effects.

The gathering was the second to be held this year and for the third time in history. Dubbed the Horn of Africa Resilience Network (HoRN) learning event, the annual event brings together stakeholders, including representatives from both national and regional governments, development partners and private sector actors. Other participants include the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) bilateral mission representatives and academic and research institutions.

Stakeholders follow proceedings during the HoRN learning event in Nairobi On October 26, 2022. Dr James Nyoro, an agricultural economist and food security expert from kenya, outlined some gains made in g climate change adaptation in the past few years. PHOTO | RACHEL KIBUI | NMG

Knowledge sharing

The HoRN acts as a platform for interaction and knowledge sharing among stakeholders. It is also an opportunity for creating partnerships through engaging in effective multi-stakeholder partnerships to leverage the comparative advantages critical to making developing countries and communities more resilient and self-sufficient. During the forum, participants also explore discussions around the future of resilience in the Horn region.

On October 26, participants at the HoRN learning event discussed climate change, its effects, the future, resilience and the development agenda, among other related subjects. Under the theme ‘Climate change adaptation and resilience: Managing risks for a more resilient future’, the half-day event brought to light various issues through cultural lenses, livelihoods, economies, health and access to fundamental rights that affect local communities in the region.

Climate shocks and stresses

“Everyone around the globe is vulnerable to climate change. Even though other countries are more vulnerable, climate shocks and stresses are increasingly impacting all of us,” said Laurie Ashley, the Resilience and Climate Adaptation Advisor-Centre for Resilience at USAID.

She noted that most impacts of climate change are related to water— too much of which results in flooding and too little of which results in drought — as is the current situation in many places within the HoRN region.

Climate change has threatened development progress and exacerbated inequality, including increasing water and food scarcity, the need for humanitarian assistance and displacement.

USAID, Ms Ashley noted, has developed a new climate change strategy for 2022-2030 with six ambitious targets that sustain the gains already made in building resilience in the face of climate change-related shocks and stresses.

The strategy is built on the understanding that without urgent action, climate change could push an additional 100 million people into poverty by 2030. The strategy’s targets include adaptation, which will improve the climate resilience of 500 million people, and finance, through which USAID will mobilise $150 billion in public and private finance for the climate agenda.

Residents of Mtito Adei in Kenya’s Makueni County fetching water from a dam. The Horn of Africa region is already highly affected by climate change and is facing the worst drought ever experienced in the last four decades. PHOTO | RACHEL KIBUI | NMG

Reduce carbon emissions

Under the mitigation target, USAID will collaborate with countries to support activities that reduce, avoid, or sequester an equivalent of six billion metric tonnes of carbon dioxide. Through the Natural and Managed Ecosystems target, there will be support for the conservation, restoration, or management of 100 million hectares, with a climate change mitigation benefit. Under the Critical Populations target, USAID will support its partners to achieve systemic changes that increase meaningful participation and active leadership in climate action for indigenous people, local communities, women, youth, and other marginalised and underrepresented groups in at least 40 partner countries.

“Achieving these targets will require a holistic approach — every USAID sector, mission, and the programme has a role to play as we work towards more resilient systems in areas like agriculture, energy, governance, infrastructure, and health,” said Ms Ashley.

“With all hands on deck and using locally-led and equitable approaches, we will greatly increase our ability to address current and evolving climate risks,” she added.

In her opening remarks, USAID Acting Mission Director for Kenya and East Africa Sheila Roquette called for the adoption of a joint implementation approach, saying it would yield the maximum results needed to ensure communities become resilient and interventions lead to desired results.

“Only together can we achieve resilient systems guided by national and regional priorities. There is a need for greater and strengthened regional and cross-border collaboration to advance resilience in the region,” said Ms Roquette.

Climate change adaptation

In his presentation, Dr James Nyoro, former governor of Kenya’s Kiambu County, who is also an agricultural economist and food security expert, outlined some gains made regarding climate change adaptation in the past few years.

Significant policies and strategies have been formulated in Kenya, which include the National Climate Action Plan 2008/2022, National Climate Change Response Strategy 2010, the National Disaster Management Authority strategic plan, and Vision 2030 for the development Strategy for Northern Kenya and other Arid Lands. 

Regarding climate mitigation, several approaches have been adopted. They include enhancing the use of green energy in Kenya by up to 85 per cent, enhancing reforestation and afforestation (the current government proposes to have every citizen plant at least three trees over the next five years), enhancing efficient energy utilisation methods and popularising the use of renewable energy in rural areas.

Dr Nyoro stressed the need to ensure the engagement of community members across the board. In addition, there is a need to employ measures that focus on climate change adaptation. Such measures include promoting climate-smart agriculture and sustainable, regenerative and conservative tillage, enhancing capital-intensive precision agriculture, solarising streets and water sources, enhancing drought and flood management and developing more early maturing drought-resistant crops.

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AU, EAC call for ceasefire in war between DRC army and M23

The African Union (AU) and the East African community (EAC) have called on the parties in the conflict between between the Congolese army (FARDC) and rebel group M23 to begin a ceasefire in order to enable a peaceful solution to the ongoing war.

The call came on Monday, a day after the Democratic Republic of Congo expelled Rwandan ambassador Vincent Karega.

In a statement, Senegalese President Macky Sall, who is the AU chairperson, together with AU Commission chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat, expressed their deep concern about the deteriorating security situation in the eastern part of the DR Congo, and urged “all stakeholders to engage in a constructive dialogue. This, they said, should be within the framework of the existing African Union peace, security and cooperation framework for the DRC and the region, and the East African Community Inter-Congolese Peace Dialogue.

The whole region is particularly concerned about the escalating violence that is trapping civilians. The war has intensified and the rebels have taken over two villages — Kiwanja and Rutshuru centre in North Kivu — in addition to Bunagana.

Military confrontation

In view of the current situation, the city of Goma, the most populated in North Kivu, risks experiencing a military confrontation like it did in 2012.

The possibility of an escalation in the most populated parts of eastern DRC could threaten the stability of the entire region. This is what African leaders are trying to avoid at all costs.

Former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, the AU-Kenya peace envoy and facilitator of the EAC-led Nairobi process, called on “all parties to recognise that there is no military solution to the conflict and embrace a peaceful means to the settlement”.

Although DRC and Rwanda diplomatic relations are breaking down, both countries said they are fully committed to the Luanda process, where they had already begun negotiations in search for peace, under the aegis of Angolan President João Lourenço, who had been mandated by the African Union to spearhead the process.

Find a peaceful solution

On Sunday, the Angolan leader sent an emissary to DRC President Félix Tshisekedi to discuss the situation in eastern Congo. The Angolan Minister of External Relations Tete Antonio brought Lourenço’s message to President Tshisekedi that his Angolan counterpart intends “to continue his efforts to find a peaceful solution to the dispute between Kinshasa and Kigali through the application of the Luanda roadmap established in July 2022”, the communication office of the Congolese head of state reported.

The heads of state in the sub-region are clear have insisted on the need to resume negotiations within the framework of the ICGLR, the Nairobi process and the Luanda process.

With regard to the Nairobi process, the stakeholders, namely the Congolese state and various armed groups, are due to meet in the Kenyan capital for the third round of the Inter-Congolese Peace Dialogue.

The third session, which was initially slated for November 7-14, 2022 has been rescheduled for November 21-27, 2022 in Nairobi.

During the first two sessions of these consultations, 30 representatives of the armed groups were present to negotiate for peace with representatives of the Congolese state.

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Africa’s cryptocurrency market marches to its own beat

Majority of Africans in the crypto scene use cryptocurrencies for economic and commercial purposes, deviating from the trend observed in developed markets, where crypto assets are mainly used to diversify portfolios.

Trends indicate that many African youths that are unemployed or lacking economic opportunities are turning to cryptocurrencies to build and preserve wealth, while in other countries, such digital assets are used only to multiply existing wealth.

This trend reflects in the volume and nature of transactions recorded in Africa, which significantly deviates from the rest of the world, according to cryptocurrency research firm, Chainalysis’s latest Geography of Cryptocurrencies report, released last week.

In sub-Saharan Africa, small transactions, less than $1,000, accounted for 80 per cent of all transfers recorded on crypto exchanges and wallets in the past year, which is greater than any other region globally, the report reveals.

Trading ‘to make ends meet’

According to Adedeji Owonibi, founder of Convexity, a Nigeria-based blockchain consultancy, these ‘small-scale’ crypto traders are actually trading “to make ends meet.”

“We don’t have big, institutional-level traders in sub-Saharan Africa. The people driving the market here are retail,” he said in an interview, adding that cryptoasset have come to the rescue of many ‘highly educated’ Africans that cannot find jobs in the market.

“It’s a way to feed their family and meet daily financial needs.”

P2P transactions

The dramatic surge in peer-to-peer (P2P) transactions – which allow crypto users to trade directly with one another – also distinguishes the African market from the rest of the world and points to the prominence of small transactions in the continent.

P2P exchanges made up six percent of all cryptocurrency transactions in Africa, while in the next closest region, central and southern Asia, which also consists mostly of emerging markets, the share was only 3.1 percent.

Paxful, one of the continent’s leading P2P platforms, has registered a dramatic surge in transactions over the last year. In Kenya, it recorded a 140 percent rise, according to Ray Youssef, the platform’s chief executive.

According to the Chainalysis report, P2P transactions could be much more than estimated, as there are also informal dealings through group chats, for instance, that have been reported in countries like Kenya and Nigeria.

At the same time, the use of cryptocurrencies in commercial activities and remittance is also taking shape in Africa, powering crypto adoption, occasioned by dwindling local currencies and expensive transaction costs among established money transfer platforms.

Drop in rank

In the aftermath of the Ukraine crisis and other economic shocks, the report shows, many businesses that rely on international suppliers turned to crypto as a means of payment, as rapidly depreciating currencies put the dollar out of reach for several small and medium-sized enterprises.

High costs of cross-border transactions, which are sometimes as high as 20 per cent of the transaction value, is also incentivising the use of cryptocurrencies for remittance to African countries over conventional methods.

With remittances to Africa projected to grow 4.2 percent this year, according to the World Bank, the use of cryptocurrencies for that purpose is expected to grow as long as the underlying challenges persist.

“We expect cryptocurrency usage in sub-Saharan Africa to continue growing as long as residents face issues crypto has proven it can solve such as preserving savings through economic volatility and enabling cross-border transactions in places with strict capital controls,” Chainalysis said in the report.

Despite the rising number of ‘small-scale’ crypto activity, sub-Saharan Africa accounts for only 1.7 per cent of the total value of cryptocurrency received globally in the last year, with many countries in the continent dropping in rank in the crypto adoption index.

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Free-for-all bush-meat trade adds pressure to wildlife conservation efforts

In June last year, over 180 slaughtered dikdiks were seized by authorities in Akales, Galana Ranch, Kilifi County in Kenya. Five people were arrested in association with the crime.

A few weeks later, three people were arrested at Didima Bula in Tana Delta sub-county, Kenya, with the carcasses of more than 140 dikdiks.

Earlier in May, at least 88 kilogrammes of bushmeat was confiscated between Tsavo East and Tsavo West in Kenya. The meat was likely headed for the capital Nairobi or nearby Voi town, where it would be mixed in with livestock meat as has become custom.

This — killing wildlife for meat — is not confined to Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and the region in general are in on it.

Wildlife conservationists now say they are worried about the rise in poaching for bushmeat in the region and the imminent destabilisation of wildlife resources. They blame it all on legal and administrative loopholes.

Annual seizure

In Tanzania, official data estimates that more than 2,000 tonnes of illegal game meat is seized annually in the country.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, an estimated one million tonnes of bushmeat flows to urban markets each year, according to a recent survey by wildlife conservation bodies.

While in Central and West Africa as much as five million tonnes of bushmeat is consumed every year, according to the study “Bushmeat trade in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda,” unsustainable hunting for bushmeat is among the important threats to East Africa’s wildlife.

But the illicit trade in bushmeat — and its commercialisation — which seems to have exploded in recent years, with traders found to earn between $300 and $500 per month, has drawn renewed fears of a sector in peril.

During the period of the study (between November 2020 and May 2021) it was found that 81 percent of the bushmeat catches consisted of ungulates, seven percent primates, five percent rodents, three percent birds, three percent carnivores, and one percent pangolins.

A market in Libreville where bushmeat, including pangolin, is sold. PHOTO | STEEVE JORDAN | AFP

Most hunted ungulates

Of the ungulates, dikdiks, buffalos, impalas, wildebeests, bush pigs, warthogs, zebras, gazelles, elands and hartebeests, were among the most hunted ungulate species for bushmeat exploitation.

According to Kenneth Kimitei, landscape ecologist for the Tsavo-Mkomazi Landscape at the African Wildlife Foundation, “Most of the bush meat poachers in Tsavo are targeting the giraffes to supply Nairobi, Voi, towns in Taveta, and  Tarakea and Rombo areas in Tanzania. Hence the Maasai giraffes in Tsavo are facing a slight decline.”

The Maasai giraffe is listed as a vulnerable species by the IUCN.

“It may be that right now the other ungulates seem to be in abundance, but if unsustainably hunted like this… other ungulates may be headed down the same road if nothing is done.”

“During the rainy season most of the poaching dies down as most of the people move to farms to prepare for the planting season,” noted Kimitei who operates on the border of Kenya and Tanzania, “but immediately after that there’s a resurgence…. the snares come back in their multitudes mostly July to December when people are idle, not preparing land for planting.”

Triggered by poverty

Although he describes cartel-like syndicates in the trade complete with a chain style business operation from village-based poachers, brokers, transporters and wholesalers, according to Kimitei, poverty is one of the drivers for both commercial and subsistence-driven poaching for bushmeat, as mostly poverty stricken residents seek household income.

“The three main drivers for bushmeat poaching are poverty, unemployment and the impacts of climate change. The climatic conditions in this region are not very favourable for agriculture. And sometimes when they plant crops they end up drying up midway through the season. So food security here is a big problem.”

“But there also exists a class of poachers who do it as a second source of income. For this category this is a quick money-making enterprise.  For instance, a giraffe is also equated to a motorbike in terms of value. It is said that if you want to buy a motorbike all you need to do is to kill and sell the meat of a giraffe.”

Primary source of income

The multi-agency study found that for an estimated 20 per cent of bushmeat traders this is their primary source of income.

“There is a huge problem of lack of awareness of the laws and regulations in relation to bushmeat,” he added. “Others have got cultural beliefs that they have to depend on bushmeat.”

Closely behind, the eland and zebras too are victims to the bush meat poachers.

“The giraffes and elands are the most poached in terms of total body weight, but in terms of numbers, the dik-diks and impalas and small game are the biggest causalities probably because they’re all over and are easy to catch and kill with the snares.”

Kimitei says he is worried the poaching is leading to an ecosystem imbalance that has also been amplifying human-wildlife conflict as carnivores now go after livestock.

“The numbers of herbivores are going down at an alarming rate and sometimes carnivores will go for the docile livestock.”

A man from the Bagyeli Pygmy community in the Kribi region of Cameroon displays captured rats for sale. PHOTO | NABILA EL HADAD | AFP

Bushmeat consumption

Tanzania leads in bushmeat consumption with 83 percent of those interviewed in the survey confirming that they regularly consume bushmeat. In Kenya, the number is 82 percent and in Uganda the number is 78 percent. The survey was carried out in Uganda (in Murchison National Park, Masindi, Kasese, Kampala, Lake Mburo National Park , Queen Elizabeth National Park); in Tanzania (in Kigoma, Musoma, Mkomazi, Dar es Salaam, Mikumi National Park, and Katavi) and in Kenya (in Laikipia Conservancies, Narok, Nairobi, Maasai Mara, Voi and Tsavo National Park ).

In these sites surveyed in the three East African countries, 823 traders of bushmeat were counted.

Traffic — under the Usaid funded project, Connect (Conserving Natural Capital and Enhancing Collaborative Management of Transboundary Resources in East Africa) has been working with Usaid and WWF to collect data on the trends in bushmeat consumption in East Africa, to guide management of wildlife.

Covid-19

According to Kimitei, there has been an upsurge in bushmeat consumption since the onset of Covid-19.

“The Covid-19 pandemic exacerbated poaching of wildlife for bushmeat due to reduced presence of law enforcement and worsened economic conditions for communities living next to or adjacent to national parks and high food prices,” he noted during a recent seminar “The Story Behind Bushmeat” that discussed and highlighted the relationship between rising viral diseases and diminishing animal communities.

“At the height of Covid-19 in 2020, increased cases of bushmeat hunting were recorded. Even though this hunting is illegal in many African countries, including Kenya, killing wildlife for recreation and for food remains common in places such as Tanzania, Uganda and places such as DRC….. there was a marked increase especially during the pandemic, when many lost their tourism income.”

Export connection

Yet, according to Wildlife and Protected areas manager—WWF Uganda, Daniel Ndizihiwe, the threat does not stop at the roaring domestic market for wildlife meat and body parts for traditional medicine.

“Even though a significant amount of this meat is consumed locally, a good chunk also finds its way abroad, especially to Asian countries,” said Ndizihiwe.

He says many communities consume bushmeat because they believe it cures various diseases.

According to the study, while 85 percent of those who consume meat do it as food, 10 percent consume it as medicine and five percent as both food and medicine.

International trade pangolin

“Pangolins in Africa, and in Uganda, specifically, have been traditionally hunted for bushmeat and traditional African medicine. However, there is growing evidence of international trade taking place with Asia as the main destination. Both the legal trade data from the CITES Trade Database and the recent seizure data from within Uganda show an increasing demand for pangolin scales,” he said.

The Ugandan NGO NRCN and UWA report 20 seizures of pangolin scales from 2012 to 2016. In 2015, about 2,000kg of pangolin scales was seized in Entebbe International Airport together with 700 kg of ivory destined for Amsterdam.

“As a region, we’re looking at mitigating the problem using national bans in bushmeat trade and consumption,” he said noting that Uganda with the help of WWF was supporting ex-poachers under the Reformed Poacher Groups associations to undertake appropriate entrepreneurial projects of their choice in exchange of poaching for bushmeat.

“The projects include commercial beekeeping and resource use agreements to be able to exploit certain resources within the parks in a more sustainable manner under collaborative management partnerships to reduce dependence on wildlife for meat.”

“But the limitation is in scaling up to other places where the crime is also high,” explained Ndizihiwe.

Inadequate research

Although he said investigations had not established association to bushmeat yet, Ndizihiwe, said “the (initial) Ebola case in Uganda could have originated from the consumption of bushmeat. We know that originally this disease came from primates and we know that most of the communities in Uganda eat primates.”

This April, the World Health Organisation (WHO) urged countries to suspend the sale of live wild animals at food markets – saying it was the source of more than 70 percent of emerging infectious diseases in humans, and the suspected culprit behind the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, which has killed over 6.54 million people worldwide, and counting.

A joint report by the WHO and Chinese authorities last year demonstrated the Covid-19 pandemic was caused by the spillover of disease from animals to humans.

“And the more humans and animals come into contact with each other, especially when humans eat infected animals, the more likely it is that additional diseases will emerge. Currently, diseases such as HIV, Ebola, Covid-19, Marburg, Swine Fever, Monkeypox, Simian Foamy and other forms of Covid such as SARS-CoV-1 and now SARS-CoV-2 are all disease that whose transmission to humans was believed to be from wild animals,” said senior project manager, wildlife and trade, Dr Daniel Mdetele, a scientist who works for Traffic International East Africa, while addressing consumption of bushmeat and its association with zoonotic diseases.

“We need to have an alternative source of protein for communities that mostly rely on bushmeat. As well as alternative livelihoods for those relying on it for income.”

He explained that the high incidences of the viral and zoonotic diseases emerging from Asian countries can be attributed to the high consumption of bushmeat, noting that Asia and Africa are all regions along the Equator and are hotspots for pathogens as the climatic conditions favour and survival multiplication of these zoonotic pathogens.

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African airlines operating below capacity

African airlines are still operating below 40 percent of their routine capacity in spite of easier restrictions on movements following the Covid-19 pandemic.

The local airlines only served 39.5 percent capacity of the domestic market, carrying about a third of the expected passenger numbers.

About 30 percent of all passengers carried were travelling from one African country to another.

The data from the African Airlines Association (AFRAA)’s September update shows that African airlines had resumed traffic on 99.2 percent of routes they operated in before the pandemic.

The review shows eight African airlines have exceeded the number of international routes they operated before Covid-19 outbreak. These include Ethiopian Airlines, Egyptair, Nouvelair, Air Cairo, Air Arabia Maroc, Asky Airlines, Air Arabia Egypt and Nile Air.

Some improvements

“There are improvements in airline capacity in the month of September in sub-Saharan Africa as the region is reopening and easing movement restrictions linked to the Covid-19,” reads part of the report.

“In Europe, there are renewed fears of the occurrence of an 8th wave of Covid-19 infections, especially in the UK where a rise in the number of new cases is growing but reduced number of cases in Africa have helped in increasing number of airlines operations,” it says.

In Africa, AFRAA estimates $3.5 billion revenue loss for 2022, equivalent to 20 percent of 2019 full year revenues.

The projected revenue loss due to Covid-19 for the third quarter of 2022 is approximately $800 million.

Meanwhile jet fuel price continues an upward trend. Year to date, global average price per barrel is $142. The impact on global airlines fuel bill is estimated at $131.6 billion for the full year.

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African airlines are still operating below 40 percent of their routine capacity in spite of easier restrictions on movements following the Covid-19 pandemic. The local airlines only served 39.5 percent […]

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WHO sounds alarm over suicides in Africa

Africa needs to combat a suicide rate that is the highest in the world yet remains widely unrecognised and often stigmatised, the UN has said.

Six of the 10 countries with the greatest suicide rates in the world are in Africa, and the continent’s per-suicide rate is more than a fifth higher than in other regions, the World Health Organization (WHO) says.

“Around 11 people per 100,000 per year die by suicide in the African region, higher than the global average of nine per 100,000 people,” the agency’s Africa branch said on Thursday.

Death by hanging or poisoning by pesticide head the list of methods.

The agency launched an appeal for awareness of the problem ahead of World Mental Health Day on October 10.

“Suicide is a major public health problem and every death by suicide is a tragedy. Unfortunately, suicide prevention is rarely a priority in national health programs,” said regional director Matshidiso Moeti.

Stigma is a key problem, as is lack of funding, the WHO said.

Africa has on average only one psychiatrist for every 500,000 inhabitants — a ratio 100 times lower than the WHO’s recommendation — and the lack of therapists is especially serious in countries that have been in conflict.

Spending on mental health in Africa is under 50 cents per head, less than a quarter of UN recommendations.

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Campaigners want health funding cuts reversed amid Africa crises

Global leaders have been challenged to reverse funding cuts to vital health services for women, children and adolescents caused by Covid-19, conflict and climate change.

Civil society groups and health professionals, speaking on the sidelines of the ongoing 77th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, said there was an urgent need for targeted investment in programmes and policies to tackle the devastating social and economic impact of crises, including the food crisis in Africa and the conflict in the Democratic of Congo (DRC).

 “It is essential for citizens to be heard at the highest levels of government and leadership. Leaders need to understand what people want, and to play their part as champions in creating robust and responsive health systems and communities,” said Helen Clark, the board chair of Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health (PMNCH), at a breakfast meeting on Thursday.

Covid-19 has led to food price hikes and the overall rise in the cost of living in most African countries. Some countries have been limiting access to food and other essentials, even if food is available at increased prices in local markets.

Read: Drought-ravaged Horn of Africa in need of funding: envoy

About 5.5 million children in East Africa are facing high levels of malnutrition due to the compounding effects of Covid-19, intense drought, and the Ukraine crisis. About 97 million more people are living on less than $1.90 a day because of the pandemic, increasing the global poverty rate from 7.8 percent to 9.1 percent.

Data from the World Health Organisation, for instance, shows that in 2021 alone, 25 million children did not receive the basic vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis on account of the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak.

Further, conflict in Africa increased women’s mortality by 112 deaths per 100,000 person-years which translates to a 21 percent increase above the baseline.

The DRC continues to witness one of the most complex and long-standing humanitarian crises arising from conflict. More than 27 million people face severe and acute food insecurity, with nearly 5.5 million IDPs forced to move sometimes several times. Some 500,000 refugees and asylum seekers are hosted in neighboring countries.

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Kenya’s Ruto: Climate crisis ‘Africa’s biggest problem’

Kenya’s President William Ruto on Wednesday asked continental colleagues to see the climate crisis as Africa’s biggest problem, suggesting more financial focus on taming its effects.

Speaking on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, the President indicated while the world should focus on rebuilding from the Covid-19 pandemic and other crises, Africa may find itself hurt more by climate change, in spite of contributing the least of its causes.

“While these are important issues affecting the entire world, the greatest challenge that connects our world is Climate Change: unfortunately, due to many pressing concerns, CoP27 has not been given the prominence it deserves,” he told a gathering of African leaders at the continental meeting of the 3rd Committee of African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change (CAHOSCC).

The Committee is expected to push for one voice for the continent ahead of the Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (CoP27) due in Egypt in November this year.

Africa produced under four percent of greenhouse gases, the pollutants that have caused global warming over the past decades, contributing to irregular climate such as frequent floods, longer droughts as well as the spread of pests like desert locusts.

Adaptation funding

Senegalese President Macky Sall, the current African Union chairman, said Africa must be given its adequate share of resources to adapt to climate change.

“It is legitimate, fair and equitable that Africa, the continent that pollutes the least and lags furthest behind in the industrialisation process, should exploit its available resources to provide basic energy, improve the competitiveness of its economy and achieve universal access to electricity,” President Sall told the UN General Assembly on Tuesday. 

“We see adaptation funding not as aid, but as a contribution by industrialised countries to a global partnership of solidarity, in return for efforts by developing countries to avoid the polluting patterns that have plunged the planet into the current climate emergency,” he said.

Under the Paris Agreement on climate change, developed countries are to raise $100 million annually for mitigation programmes in developing countries. The pledge has never been fulfilled, however.

An earlier dispatch from Kenya’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs had indicated President Ruto would insist on more focus on climate change because Kenya sees most other problems tied to it. According to President Ruto, African countries have already been doing their bit to ensure mitigation, including 10 percent of GDP annual allocations.“

African countries will need financial and technical support for a just transition to low carbon, clean technologies to drive our industrial and productive sectors such as agriculture, infrastructure development and job creation.

“It is my hope that we will, at CoP27, call for enhanced adaptation efforts, fulfilment and implementation of pledges.

“Building resilience to address the multiple crises and risks, while ensuring the impact of climate change on Africa remain high on the global political agenda, and must remain a priority for CAHOSCC.”

President Ruto gave his maiden speech to the Assembly, as head of state, on Wednesday night. Watch here

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Africa set for fertilizer boom as food crisis remains critical

A fertiliser boom is breaking out across Africa as calls for food security gain momentum amidst a widespread continental food crisis.

With an estimated 346 million people on the continent negatively impacted by a severe food crisis, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the use of fertilisers has become more central, even as environmental and green farming activists call for caution.

The global production of fertilisers is responsible for around 1.4 percent of annual CO2 emissions, and fertiliser use is a major contributor of non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions, according to Carbon Brief.

World consumption of the three main fertiliser nutrients, nitrogen, phosphorus expressed as phosphate, and potassium, is estimated to have surpassed 186 million tonnes, up by more than 1.4 percent since 2015.

That said, Africa has barely used fertilisers. Only six percent of Africa’s cultivated land is irrigated, and the average fertiliser consumption in sub-Saharan Africa is estimated at 17 kilogrammes of nutrients per hectare of cropland, according to the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (Agra). 

That is only a drop in the ocean when compared with a world average fertilizer consumption of 135kg/ha.

At the just-ended AGRF Summit in the Kigali, Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa, urged Africa to increase fertiliser use, irrigation and thermal power in order to ensure food security.

“I recently inaugurated a fertiliser plant in my country… and I for one would not abandon thermal power,” he said, much to the amusement of the audience at the Kigali Convention Centre.

Cost for going green

“We have all the resources necessary to ensure food security for our countries and all the inputs for fertilisers security. Africa must be allowed a reasonable transition, but if they [international green energy agencies and governments] want us to leapfrog to their level, they must pay the cost.”

Zimbabwe, which suffered a failing economy and sanctions imposed by Western powers for two decades, now offers a rare example on food security policies and programmes.

For example, with multiplied irrigation and fertiliser use, the country has increased its wheat production from a three-month supply to a 15-month supply, according to the country’s Ministry of Agriculture.

“So the wheat crisis emanating from Ukraine does not affect us now,” President Mnangagwa said.

“Our wheat came from Ukraine and our fertilisers from the Russian federation. We have introduced a model that says that we need to have food security by exploiting domestic resources, and we have solved that big problem.”

Magic bullets?

Much as there is no single silver bullet to make Africa self-sufficient in food and cease to be a net importer, fertiliser use and irrigation are touted as key tools. But such projects cannot happen without good leadership.

Enock Chikava, the director of Agricultural Development at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, says that “trial and error” farming — which is practised across Africa — is not sustainable. He argues that leaders across sub-Saharan Africa are largely to blame for not adopting the so-called “green revolution of Africa.”

“If there is anything close to being a silver bullet that guarantees food security in Africa, it is good leadership. We can outsource technology but we cannot outsource good leadership.

‘‘We need leaders who understand the need to prioritise modern agriculture and deliver the Green Revolution,” he said.

Tanzania is among those that have acted fast. The government introduced a three-year programme that will see the construction of dams for irrigation in each of its regions – to cover an area of up to 360,000 hectares.

The country is also constructing a second fertiliser plant – expected to be completed by the end of 2022 – to benefit the 65 per cent of its population that are engaged directly in farming.

“Productivity in agriculture in Tanzania has remained low due to low technology and limited use of fertiliser. We still depend on the vagaries of weather…we still have huge post-harvest losses to the tune of 30 per cent,” Philip Mpango, Vice President of Tanzania said.

Chilli bucks in Rwanda

“But we now have a fertiliser factory under construction and soon we shall have two, to cover up for the deficit in fertiliser use. We also increased our budget allocation to agriculture from an average of around $125 million per annum, to $404 million, targeting research, irrigation, seed multiplication and training.”

Rwanda President Paul Kagame, however, sees the possibility for greater diversity in Africa to agriculture.  He argues that Africa has enough biomass and resources to shift to organic farming, and stop being too exposed to external shocks.

“The food crisis is a serious one and in order to deal with it we need to develop a sense of urgency…to treat food like a business,” he said during the AGRF summit.

“If you look at the crisis in Ukraine, the whole of Africa suffers because we cannot get wheat or fertiliser. All these are lessons we should learn from; but these lessons have been here for a long time. We need to act quicker.”

Rwandan chilli farmer Diego Twahirwa has benefitted from agribusiness. In 2019 he signed a $500 million deal to supply 50,000 metric tonnes of chili annually to a Chinese firm, GK International.

Twahirwa’s company, Gashora Farm, also exports chilli products to Europe.

“I have now expanded into Zimbabwe, where we have about 2,000 hectares to grow chilli in partnership with a Zimbabwe company,” Twahirwa told The EastAfrican.

“At our Gashora Farm, we use modern farming technology, and irrigation and fertilisers to ensure that the effects of climate change do not affect us much. It may not be easy at the start but eventually agribusiness pays off massively.”

Rwanda targets to reach agricultural exports of $1 billion, up from $465 million made in 2018/2019.

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A fertiliser boom is breaking out across Africa as calls for food security gain momentum amidst a widespread continental food crisis. With an estimated 346 million people on the continent negatively […]

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Ruto to rally African leaders on climate change

enya’s President William Ruto will use his maiden trip to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York to rally African peers to raise their voice on the danger of climate change.

Africa is expected to be take the biggest hit from climate change.

Dr Ruto is expected in New York on Tuesday afternoon to attend the 77th UN General Assembly. He will be travelling from London where he had attended the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II on Monday.

A tentative programme from the Kenyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that Ruto will meet African heads of state to discuss climate change and its effects, including the ongoing drought in the Horn of Africa and flooding in Sudan.

“In his capacity as Coordinator, President Dr Ruto will also chair a meeting of the Conference of African Heads of State on Climate Crisis (CAHOSCC),” said a dispatch from the Ministry on Monday.

“The 77th UNGA coincides with the worst drought in the Horn of Africa with many countries in the region, including Kenya, are experiencing unprecedented effects in the last forty years.

“At the United Nations Headquarters, Kenya will seek to promote its foreign policy at the multilateral system including enhancing participation in the quest for realisation of SDGs and global leadership in emerging issues including climate change.”

Dr Ruto is scheduled to address the General Assembly for the first time as head of state, although he had given a speech here in 2016 then as Deputy President representing President Uhuru Kenyatta.

According to the schedule of speeches publicised by the UN, he will speak in the afternoon on Wednesday just after the Slovenian representative.

US President Joe Biden will kick off the speeches and will be followed by representatives from Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Zambia, Libya and Moldova.

As is tradition, leaders converge in New York every September for the UNGA where they give speeches, hold bilateral meetings and attend mini conferences on issues important to their countries.

This year’s UNGA theme is “A watershed moment: Transformative solutions to interlocking challenges”, under which leaders are expected to discuss the impact of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the global energy crisis, climate change, and the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In his inauguration speech last week, Dr Ruto promised to place climate change among priority items to deal with.

“Among the central concerns of my government will be climate change. In our country, women and men, young people, farmers, workers and local communities suffer the consequences of climate emergency,” he said, suggesting he will encourage alternatives to fossil fuels.
“Africa has the opportunity to lead the world. We have immense potential for renewable energy. Reducing costs of renewal energy technologies make these the most viable energy source. We call on all African states to join us in this journey.”

Egypt is due to host the upcoming UN Conference of Parties (Cop27) on climate change in November. And African countries have demanded financial backing to pledges meant to lower temperature rise and for technological transfer to help adapt to changes. 

At the UN, Kenya is finishing its final year as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council and Dr Ruto is expected to meet with various leaders whose countries sit on the Council.

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Concerns as Africa struggles to contain drug-resistant pathogens

Africa’s low testing on anti-microbial resistance has been blamed on lack of lab facilities. A study across 14 sub-Saharan Africa found that only five out of the 15 antibiotic-resistant pathogens prioritised by the World Health Organisation for surveillance are being consistently tested — and all five had a higher-than-expected prevalence.

The patchy surveillance is compounding an obscure but complex problem that threatens to jeopardise achievement of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and lead up to catastrophic health outcomes.

In the countries included in the study only 1.3 percent of medical laboratories there conduct any bacteriology testing.

The erratic use of available antibiotics, also contributes to resistance.

New data on antimicrobial resistance (AMR) from the 14 countries released Thursday at a meeting held at the African Union in Addis Ababa, reveals the under-reported depth of the AMR crisis.

“When pathogens are repeatedly exposed to an insufficient dose or an abbreviated treatment time of antimicrobials they may survive and evolve into resistant strains. These new strains lose their susceptibility to antimicrobials that had previously been effective — creating antimicrobial resistance. Resistant pathogens can be transmitted through contamination, but also can pass their mutation mechanisms to similar ‘bystander’ pathogens, and the resistant infections spread,” said the study.

The results provide stark insights on a health situation the research describes as dire and “a crisis within the crisis” that needs urgent policy interventions.

The report says AMR pathogens of immediate concern include Enterobacterales a large order of bacteria that includes E.coli, a common food poisoning infection, and Klebsiella pneumoniae, a common infection in health care settings. More than half of all samples tested were resistant to penicillins and cephalosporins.

Poor data foundations

More than 40 percent of samples tested were classified as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a lethal pathogen, drug resistance combination that globally accounted for more than 100,000 deaths in 2019. It is the source of a skin infection that can turn deadly if drug resistant.

Pseudomonas aeruginosa is bacteria common in hospitalised patients can cause infections in the blood, lungs (pneumonia), and other parts of the body after surgeries. More than 30 percent of samples tested were resistant to Carbapenems, a class of antibiotics used to treat infections that have not responded to commonly available drugs. Resistance to these is a grave threat.

The researchers warned, “Failing to consistently test for all priority resistant pathogens translates to substandard care, where antimicrobials are used to treat infections without first determining whether they will be effective. But retrospective lab records collected also revealed that clinical and treatment data were not included in lab results.”

“Africa is struggling to fight drug-resistant pathogens, just like the rest of the world,” said Director of Science and New Initiatives of the African Society for Laboratory Medicine (ASLM), Dr Pascale Ondoa. “This study shines much-needed light on the crisis within the crisis.”

The results of the study, which was supported by the Fleming Fund, provide insights into the AMR burden and antimicrobial consumption in the 14 countries; areas where most available data on AMR is only based on statistical modelling.

The WHO has warned that AMR is one of our time’s leading global public health threats. A study estimated that, in 2019, nearly 1.3 million deaths globally were attributed to antimicrobial resistant bacterial infections. Africa had the highest mortality rate from AMR infections in the world, with 24 deaths per 100,000 attributable to AMR.

Furthermore, current estimates of AMR are based on poor data foundations in low- and middle income countries, and especially in Africa, hence limiting understanding of the efficacy of commonly used antimicrobials as well as the drivers of resistance in humans.

Across the 14 countries, clinical and treatment data are not being linked to lab results, making it hard to understand what’s driving AMR. Out of almost 187,000 samples tested for AMR, around 88 percent had no information on patients’ clinical profile, including diagnosis or origin of infection, presence of indwelling devices (such as urinary catheters, feeding tubes and wound drains) often associated with development of healthcare-associated infection, comorbidities, or antimicrobial usage.

Based on the findings, MAAP is calling for a drastic increase in the quality and quantity of AMR and AMC data being collected across the continent, along with revised AMR control strategies and research priorities.

“The future of modern medicine and our ability to treat infectious diseases reliably hinges on our ability to control AMR,” said Director and President, One Health Trust Dr Ramanan Laxminarayan.

Researchers found that most laboratories across Africa are not ready for AMR testing with only 1.3 percent of the 50,000 medical laboratories forming the laboratory networks of the 14 participating countries conduct bacteriology testing. And of those, only a fraction can handle the scientific processes needed to evaluate AMR. Researchers also found that in eight of the 14 countries, more than half of the population is out of reach of any bacteriology laboratory.

“Across Africa, even where data on AMR is collected, it is not always accessible, often recorded by hand, and rarely consolidated or shared with policy makers,” said chief executive officer for ASLM, Nqobile Ndlovu.

“As a result, health experts are flying blind and cannot develop and deploy policies that would limit or curtail antimicrobial resistance.”

“This study is an important step forward for Africa’s health systems and the health of people across the continent. I hope MAAP inspires more investment in essential data collection and desperately needed resources.”

According to the researchers, while the common understanding is that AMR is usually driven by incorrect or excessive consumption of antimicrobials, many African populations still lack access to effective and affordable medicines, emphasizing the need to address AMR by improving universal health. Little information exists on how resistance patterns are affected by the use of standard (and non-standard) antimicrobial medicines in human health or in agriculture and food production systems — those used to produce livestock, crops, fish, and even in beekeeping.

There is also a dearth of information on antimicrobial consumption and antimicrobial use in Africa — both in human medicine and for agriculture and food production systems. Without understanding antimicrobial usage, effectiveness and resistance patterns, health experts cannot develop and deploy policies that would limit or curtail AMR.

“The disconnect between patient data and antimicrobial resistance results, coupled with the extreme antimicrobial resistance burden, makes it incredibly difficult to provide accurate guidelines for patient care and wider public health policies,” said Dr Yewande Alimi, Africa CDC AMR Programme Coordinator. “Hence, collecting and connecting laboratory, pharmacy and clinical data will be essential to provide a baseline and a reference for public health actions.”

Antibiotic groups

The research also found that only four drugs comprised more than two-thirds (67 percent) of all the antibiotics used in healthcare settings. Stronger medicines to treat more resistant infections (such as severe pneumonia, sepsis, and complicated intra-abdominal infections) were not available, suggesting limited access to some groups of antibiotics.

“Collectively, the data highlights a dual problem of limited access to antibiotics, and irrational use of those that are available,” said Head of Public Health (Africa and Middle East) and Head of Real World Evidence (Middle East) at IQVIA, Deepak Batra. “As a result, people don’t get the right treatment for severe infections, and irrational use of antibiotics drives antimicrobial resistance for existing available treatment options. Routine monitoring of antimicrobial consumption could help monitor the limited access and irrational use.”

The researchers said the growing threat of AMR poses a major threat to progress made in health and in the attainment of Universal Health Coverage, and is likely to take a heavy toll on the health systems on the continent.

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IMF roots for cross-border Africa trade to stem rising food insecurity

The International Monetary Fund is appealing to African countries to open up their local markets to commodities from their regional peers as a long-term solution to persistent food shortages.

Last week, the fund released a policy paper urging countries to expand cross-border trade to better deal with the rising food crisis on the continent.

According to the paper How Africa can Escape Chronic Food Insecurity amid Climate Change”, only 15 percent of food imports into the continent are from neighbouring countries.

“African countries have not lifted most of the restrictions even though it could benefit both net food importers and exporters from trading with one another,” states the document authored by a team of African economists.

The report underscores the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) as a step in the right direction, noting that opening up of markets would further reduce trade costs by 16 to 17 percent.

“In the context of climate change, greater regional trade integration can enhance food availability and affordability,” the paper says. “Combined with resilient storage and transport infrastructure, it can facilitate sales of one country’s bumper harvests — that may have gone to waste — to a neighbouring country facing shortfalls.”

Also read: Africa losing 15pc of GDP growth to climate change

The economists called for robust fiscal, monetary, and financial policies to improve the affordability and accessibility of food products. They are also recommending targeted interventions such as social cash transfers to allow families and small businesses to invest in resilience-building equipment and technology.

According to the paper, the targeted interventions are “more effective at containing inequality than agricultural subsidies”.

Digitalisation has also been encouraged, to improve farmers’ access to early warning systems, mobile banking and other platforms to buy farm inputs and sell output, enabling small-scale farmers to a wider market in the continent.

Financing

Access to credit and financing from private markets for small-scale farmers and traders also needs to be improved to better position Africa as a food-secure continent.

“In the interim, micro-finance or public-private partnerships can help provide credit to people who currently don’t have access through banks,” the authors state, adding that developing the required financial markets to improve access could take time even as the risk is urgent.

The IMF paper follows an earlier report by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), which stated that the war in Ukraine and other economic shocks on the continent have pushed nearly half of its population to the brink of starvation.

The July 2022 report showed that 124 million people in Africa are already starving, 300 million more are at risk of food insecurity and several others spend majority of their household budget on food.

The food crisis on the continent, according to ECA, results from a mix of economic shocks instigated by the conflict in Eastern Europe, the Covid-19 pandemic, and natural calamities like droughts and floods occasioned by climate change.

ECA recommends the utilisation of the African Trade Exchange (Atex) platform, which was created in May this year in collaboration with the African Development Bank, African Export-Import Bank and the AfCFTA secretariat.

The Atex platform aims to ensure Africa’s supply chain resilience by enabling trade of major agricultural commodities and inputs imported from Russia and Ukraine, consequently improving their price stability.

According to the IMF, climate change is intensifying food insecurity, and Russia’s war in Ukraine and the Covid-19 pandemic are also adding to food shortages and high prices.

The fund notes that climate events, which destroy crops and disrupt food transport, are disproportionately common in the region.

According to the fund one-third of the world’s droughts occur in sub-Saharan Africa, and Ethiopia and Kenya are enduring one of the worst in at least four decades.

Countries such as Chad are being severely impacted by torrential rains and floods.

The resulting rise in poverty and other human costs are compounded by cascading macroeconomic effects, including slower economic growth. Supplies and prices are especially vulnerable to climate change in sub-Saharan Africa because of a lack of resilience to climatic events, food import dependence, and excessive government intervention.

Most people live in rural agricultural and fishing communities that can’t afford infrastructure to protect them from adverse weather. For instance, they depend on rain to water their crops, as less than one percent of arable land is irrigated.

Weather-sensitive domestic food production results in heavy reliance on imports, with some 85 percent coming from outside the region.

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Tanzania’s Samia backs African Court building permanent premises in Arusha

Tanzania President Samia Suluhu has affirmed the country’s support for the African Court for Human and People’s Rights.

President Suluhu made the pledge when the court’s judges paid her a courtesy call at State House Dar es Salaam early this week.

Led by the court President, Lady Justice Imani Daud Aboud, the delegation discussed the building of permanent premises for the Pan-African legal institution with the Tanzanian head of State.

The African Court, which executes duties from the northern Tanzanian city of Arusha, plans to move into its own permanent buildings.

Read: Treaty changes to give African court teeth

Currently, the African Court is hosted at the Tanzania National Parks’ premises in Majengo, Arusha.

Tanzania has since approved funds for the court’s building.

The National Assembly in Dodoma endorsed Tsh4 billion ($1.7 million) for the construction in the outskirts of Arusha.

The Tanzanian government has allocated about 25 hectares of land to the court along the Great North Road on the hill known as ‘Laki-Laki.’

Also read: Tanzania makes U-turn on African court pull out

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Uproar over proposal by African leaders to invest in fossil fuels

Climate lobbyists have faulted African leaders over their retrogressive proposal on investment in fossil fuels despite scientists warning that countries should move away from the production and use of the fuels.  Fossil fuels are made from plants and animals that decompose to form natural gas, petroleum and coal.

Scientists have persistently warned that the production of such fuels contributes to greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon dioxide, which are responsible for the changing climate. This call on investments was done during a meeting held in July by Africa’s technical committee on energy in their 41st Ordinary session, which adopted the African Common Position on Energy Access and Just Transition.

Amani Abou-Zeid, the African Union Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy, said such investments push for favourable outcomes in energy and infrastructure. “This is an important and major step forward in ensuring and confirming Africa’s right for a differentiated path towards the goal of universal access to energy, ensuring energy security for our continent and strengthening its resilience, while at the same time acting responsibly towards our planet by improving the energy mix,” he said.

The leaders suggested that natural gas, green and low carbon hydrogen and nuclear energy will play a crucial role in expanding modern energy access in the short to medium term while enhancing the uptake of renewables in the long term for low carbon and climate-resilient trajectory.

Read: ADOW: Why continent should lead the Green Revolution

The damning proposal comes at the backdrop of the backing of the European Union’s recent vote in favour of a new rule that will consider fossil gas and nuclear projects “green,” making them eligible for lost-cost loans and subsidies.

The climate activists now warn that this plan would distract from the clear need for renewable energy such as the use of solar, and embracing fossil fuels, while also shifting dangerous nuclear technologies shunned by Europeans on African soil.

Mohamed Adow, Director of Power Shift Africa, said in a joint statement from the lobbyists that African leaders should be maximising this potential and harnessing the abundant wind and sun, which will help boost energy access and tackle climate change. “Africa is blessed with an abundance of wind, solar and other clean renewable energies.  What Africa does not need is to be shackled with expensive fossil fuel infrastructure, which will be obsolete in a few years as the climate crisis worsens,” said Mr Adow.

This new call is ahead of the 27th Conference of Parties (COP27), a global climate change meeting that will be held in November in Egypt.

Mr Adow added: “It would be a shameful betrayal of African people, already on the front line of the climate crisis, if African leaders use this November’s COP27 climate summit on African soil to lock Africa into a fossil fuel-based future. Africa does not need the dirty energy of the past, it needs forward-looking leadership that can take advantage of the clean energy of the present and future.”

Dr Sixbert Mwanga, the coordinator of Climate Action Network Africa, urges leaders to transfer those resources to renewable energy such as solar, wind, and geothermal, which are safer for the planet. “At COP27, we call for the African Union and African leaders to announce the utilisation of these sources for the benefit of our people and leave aside fossil fuel development for export.”

Read: ATELA: What agenda will an African champion bring to COP27?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which brings together science experts on climate change, warned in its latest report that human activities such as fossil fuel production and use adversely affect our climate. Lorraine Chiponda, Africa Coal Network Coordinator, reiterated this, saying the world needs to cut carbon emissions to prevent catastrophic climate impacts.

“The globe already has seen the temperature rise and we will exceed 1.5ºC by 2030 and suffer an increase in intensity and frequency of climate disasters. The prospect that African leaders are presenting and pushing for gas developments and investment is overwhelming and reckless given the climate impacts that threaten the lives of millions of people in Africa having seen worsening droughts and hunger, recurring floods and cyclones,” she said.

“We have seen in the past the acceleration of gas projects in Africa is another colonial and modern Scramble and Partition of Africa amongst energy corporations and rich countries. Fossil fuel projects have neither solved energy poverty in Africa where 600 million still live in energy poverty nor brought any socio-economic justice to Africans. We shall continue to strengthen calls for a people’s just transition away from fossil fuels,” she added.

One of the contested fossil fuel projects in Africa is the East African Crude Oil Pipeline Project (EACOP), which will be in Uganda and Tanzania. Coordinator #StopEACOP Omar Elmawi said it is time for Africa to invest in green energy that supports and meets African needs and not extract oil and gas for Europe’s needs as we leave all the impacts and destruction to be faced by the African people.

Joab Okanda of the Pan Africa Senior Advocacy Advisor, Christian Aid feels that Africa is being shortchanged by its own leaders. “The African Union is in danger of falling for the con of African gas at a time when other countries are investing in renewables, which will be what powers development and progress in coming decades. It would be the ultimate betrayal of African people if their leaders missed the opportunity to become a renewable energy superpower by locking us into a doomed experiment with fossil fuels that is hurting Africa through climate breakdown.”

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Africa’s real food problem is households are too poor to purchase it

ccording to recent data 72 percent of Uganda’s land is arable, compared with Kenya’s 48 percent, Tanzania’s 45 percent, Ghana’s 65 percent, Malawi’s 60 percent, Burkina Faso’s 44 percent and Mozambique’s 53 percent, Leo Kemboi and Emmanuel wa-Kyendo explain.

This is part 5 of our food and politics series.

Part 5: The recent food crisis caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Covid-19 supply chain shocks has led people back to discussing the African food problem. Africa’s real food problem is a demand-side problem.

African households, both rural and urban, are relatively poor. Their low incomes restrict the access they have to food markets. For the African rural household, food problems comprise both climate shocks and market shocks.

Climate shocks affect both the supply of food and the source of income for rural households. Market shocks that result in increased prices also make it more difficult for both rural and urban households to access food. Many discussions, however, don’t sufficiently address the matter because they are framed largely as a supply-side problem.

Pundits lament that African farmers do not grow enough food. In practice, the selection of crops that African farmers grow faces intense global competition. Furthermore, variations in national productivity are great. Many international institutions that work on food and agriculture are focused on supply-side solutions of different flavours.

In joining the majority of African nations in tackling the food problem, institutions including the African Development Bank (AfDB), the Africa Export-Import Bank (AFREXIM), and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) have proposed supply-side interventions to resolve Africa’s food problem.

The AfDB is a multilateral financing institution. AFREXIM is a pan-African multilateral trade finance institution. AGRA is a promoter of technology and financing solutions for Africa’s productivity problem.

Read: AfDB arm releases $5.4 million for Somalia food security

At the nation-state level, proposals for African food sovereignty comprise another set of supply-side solutions that are usually import substitution by another name.

To evaluate the food systems and their dynamism in East Africa, it is important to understand the nature of food production, which can be classified into homestead production where production is on a small scale, and labour intensive while large-scale production is capital intensive and application of more scientific methods.

Smallholder farming is practised by a sizeable portion of East African households, who primarily grow cereals that are highly competitive on a global scale. Low incomes per unit are a result of stagnant productivity in countries like Kenya and the surrounding region over the past 20 years.

fishing
William Kiarie feeds goldfish at his Green Algae Highland fish farm in Sagana, Kirinyaga County, central Kenya. This project is a beneficiary of the Africa Solidarity Trust Fund of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to improve agriculture and food security across the continent. PHOTO | AFP

Zero alternatives

Smallscale farmers automatically experience income shocks and food shocks when weather shocks cause the yield per unit to decrease. On the other hand, because there are no market alternatives available to them, middle-class and higher-income earners only experience access issues.

The food systems problem and how it affects the food market in sub-Saharan Africa can be defined through a variety of factors; economics, environmental, innovations, political factors, and degree of urbanisation.

Historically, it is unheard of for any country to have attained self-sufficiency in all different categories of food. How income causes problems in the food system is something that is not always obvious in the public affairs field. Households plug into the food market using income, which determines largely whether they face food shocks or not.

If a household deals in the livestock economy, income earned from the sale of livestock allows families to use that income to buy food, and this explains why there are famines whenever the rangeland economy is affected by weather as is currently happening in the Horn of Africa and parts of Uganda like Karamoja and northern Kenya.

Environment

The second factor that shapes the food system is the environment which includes climate change and natural resources. A large portion of Horn of Africa nations’ agriculture is rain-fed and vulnerable to weather shocks, which have been made worse by climate change, and this has been exacerbated by the fact that the climate shocks in the recent past have been frequent.

Climate shocks effects on agricultural productivity manifest themselves both directly and indirectly through unprecedented rainfall patterns, droughts, flooding and outbreaks of pests and diseases.

The unfavourable effect of temperature and rain variance on agricultural production results in uncertainty in food sufficiency in the region. Floods and droughts are harmful to agricultural production that cause food problems in the region that is highly dependent on rainfed agriculture.

Available land

In terms of natural resources, the proportion of total land that is suitable for agriculture determines the type of food system a country has. Agricultural land refers to the share of land area that is arable, under permanent crops, and under permanent pasture.

According to data from the World Bank, Uganda has 72 per cent of its land used for agriculture, compared with Kenya’s 48 per cent, Tanzania’s 45 per cent, Ghana’s 65 per cent, Malawi’s 60 per cent, Burkina Faso’s 44 per cent and Mozambique’s 53 per cent. This means that already the food system is constrained by the natural conditions of a country.

The degree to which agriculture can be mechanised is determined by additional natural resource factors like water availability and terrain. Because Uganda and Tanzania have more water resources than Kenya, they have a comparative advantage over Kenya when growing crops that require a lot of water. If Kenya makes investments in capital-intensive irrigation systems, it may be able to compete.

The paradoxical relationship between low productivity and excessively low incomes makes up the third factor. In the East African region, some minor improvements to the seed and animal breeding systems have been made but have been slowed by required resources. This is constrained by the correlation between those innovations and the amount of capital that each nation’s agricultural sector can amass and deploy to improve productivity.

Political factors

The fourth factor that is important is the political factors that affect food systems, including public policies, conflicts, and general governance of the economy. To illustrate this, public policies in Kenya on food are built around guaranteeing high income to producers at the expense of the consumers. This kind of food regime has made Kenyan food expensive compared with other countries.

For example, the benefit incidence of the fertiliser subsidy in Kenya is appropriated by suppliers and big farmers, while smallscale farmers are not able to appropriate the same benefit. The subsidy is smaller and has not been able to cover all farmers. This is a market distortion generated by political action.

The fifth factor that shapes the food system is demographic, which include the degree of urbanisation. Some of the factors such as the rural-urban dimension, affect incomes and preferences (which include tastes).

The urban folk in East Africa like other African countries consume more rice, wheat and its derivatives relatively compared with rural areas.

In joining the majority of African nations in tackling the food problem from the supply side, some international organisations have proposed some supply-side interventions.

One of the principles that has impacted food security on the continent is the idea of African food sovereignty. Sovereignty is an idea that is difficult to argue against. In Africa, an argument that runs against state sovereignty is a political loser, for it can be construed to be an argument for Africa’s perennial bogeyman — colonialism. Yet, the term sovereignty hides bad policy ideas from scrutiny.

Food sovereignty is the idea that a country should be fully sufficient in the production of its food basket and that anything less is tantamount to a breach of sovereignty.

Essentially, Africa should produce its coffee, tea, rice and chicken. The phrase makes it seem the smart, obvious and foundational approach to food policy.

In other words, the need to import agricultural products is an unacceptable vulnerability. Other states may use the so-called over-reliance on, say, grain imports to starve the importing country for political purposes.

Market shocks are anxiety-inducing events that tend to cause a clamour for security-oriented policy responses. Anxiety is the domain of the populist.

Economist and prominent theorist of the classical school of David Ricardo proposed that comparative advantage is the principal argument for international trade. That is, countries specialise in the production of one good or a set of goods — say agricultural products — because they can produce it more efficiently than any other nation can.

Countries then trade those goods in which they have a comparative advantage for the goods in which they have no comparative advantage.

The principle reveals that countries that produce goods for which they lack a comparative advantage incur the opportunity cost of foregone revenues from specialisation.

By the principle of comparative advantage, consumers get the cheapest goods at the highest quality possible. International trade allows Kenyan consumers to buy Ugandan bananas and Malaysian palm oil. Absent specialisation or trade, consumers would have a limited choice between pricey, possibly lower-quality goods. Bye-bye palm oil.

Furthermore, a country that tries to produce all the goods represented in its food basket must forego the use of land, labour and capital for the production of other goods.

If African countries must engage land, labour and capital in pursuit of African food sovereignty, they must incur the opportunity cost of foregone revenues from specialisation in the production of other goods.

Kenya cannot meet its demand for bananas at the same quality and price that Uganda can, for it has an abundance of water and rich soils Kenya lacks.

Policies of food sovereignty also assume that access is a matter of food supply. The Russia invasion of Ukraine has caused a sharp drop in the supply of specific grains.

Demand-Incomes ratio

Curiously, only the poorest consumers of this grain have felt the sharp increase in prices. Not-so-curiously, the wealthier consumers are relatively less affected. But this is not the way the problem is framed in Africa’s policy-making centres. Rather, policies seek to correct the lack of supply through interventions that will increase domestic supply.

These policies would go further by restricting foreign supply. The effect is that domestic suppliers are subsidised at the expense of domestic taxpayers and domestic consumers. In other words, African food sovereignty is import substitution in all but name.

In truth, food access is a demand-side problem. More precisely, food access is an income problem. This means that it is not the abundance of food that determines whether consumers get it but the levels of income.

The Russia invasion of Ukraine and other food crises of the present and past have had greater effects on poorer households the world over because those households are too poor to continue purchasing food at high prices.

In the short term, African nation states should respond to food crises with cash transfers to the most affected. A country like Kenya can reach its affected population with precise cash transfers through tools like M-Pesa.

Read: OBBO: Business people, you can take food to our hungry at a profit

In the long term, lowering barriers to trade and instituting policies that are conducive to structural transformation and economic growth would result in rising incomes that would then allow those consumers to access the foods they can afford.

African food sovereignty is a vehicle for state rents waiting to happen.

Africa’s food security problem can be resolved primarily through interventions that raise African household productivity and incomes.

When smallholder farmers encounter climate-related shocks, crop failures result in less food and lower incomes. They have less crops to sell and little money with which to buy food.

Spending a bulk of their income on food, urban households are also vulnerable to international food market shocks. Supply side solutions alone will not overcome the problem that African households are too poor to purchase food.

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Museveni lauds Africa-Russia ties as US fires back on Lavrov’s visit

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says his country is ready to sell oil and wheat to African countries even as the US Mission in Uganda opened a Twitter storm against Moscow.

Mr. Lavrov on Monday met with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in Entebbe, where they discussed the issue of rising fuel and food costs in Africa following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

In a joint press conference at State House Entebbe, Mr Lavrov, on the second leg of his trip to four African countries, said the two discussed “the current energy situation and the food crisis”.

“We sell oil to all the interested countries, and if there is a state that is interested or willing to buy our oil, whether it’s India or an African state, then there are no obstacles to this,” said Russia’s top diplomat.

“Not only do we sell oil, but we provide assistance in terms of developing its own infrastructure like refineries and oil products. So we are committed to having a discussion with our Ugandan friends on this topic,” he added.

Mr. Lavrov, who started his four-nation Africa tour in Egypt, then the Congo Republic before heading on Monday to Uganda, from where he will proceed to Ethiopia, observed that Africa has been hard hit by the economic dimension of the sanctions imposed against Russia.

US reaction

But upon arrival in Kampala, Russia’s top diplomat immediately triggered a reaction from the US Embassy in Uganda, which took to Twitter on July 25 to comment about the current food crisis in the country.

“Great to see the $21 million USAid food aid for refugees and vulnerable groups in [Uganda] reaching people through WFP’s Karamoja response.

“We applaud WFP’s work to address the dire food security situation exacerbated by price [increase] due to Russia’s unprovoked war in Ukraine,” the Embassy tweeted.

Both Ukraine and Russia are major producers and exporters of wheat, whose supply on the global market was affected after the war started in February this year, which triggered sanctions against Moscow that prevented it from selling its oil.

While the sanctions do not affect food supplies directly, they have prevented Russian banks from using an international payment settlement system that would otherwise make it quick for importers to pay for supplies. Ukraine can also not export its wheat as its key ports are mined to prevent the entry of ships.

Last week, the two countries, on the mediation of Turkey, agreed to reopen the ports, but it may take several weeks before mines are removed and trust is re-established. In fact, there were reports of continued shelling even after Ankara brokered the deal.

Read: Russia, Ukraine seal grain deal in Istanbul

Africa’s stance

In Uganda, President Museveni did not give details but hinted that the two leaders discussed how to avert the food crisis in Africa while millions of tonnes of wheat cannot be shipped from Russia.

“In the sanctions by the West against Russia, they don’t mention that they have sanctioned wheat or fertilisers – it’s not part of the list. But the West has stopped Russian ships from calling on a number of ports. So, how will the fertilisers go?” President Museveni posed.

The Ugandan leader also said sanctions against Russian banks were top on the agenda of the discussions as it is also fuelling the food crisis because the global financial institutions are not allowed to do business with Russia, which affects payment for wheat imports.

President Museveni explained Africa’s position on the Ukraine-Russia war, which saw Uganda and other countries from the continent abstain and take a neutral stand on the sanctions during the UN General Assembly in March.

Read: Why Africa is divided on Putin’s war

Also read: Russia reacts to Kenya’s stand on Ukraine war

Mr Museveni said that people with “limited understanding” want African countries to condemn Russia for its invasion of Ukraine but argued that the Eastern Europe nation had “stood with Africa for the last 100 years” as part of the continent’s anti-colonial movements and can only be condemned when “it makes mistakes”.

“We highly appreciate the right balance and responsible position that has taken Uganda together with other African states in light of the current events in Ukraine,” Mr. Lavrov said.

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Somalia gets a warm reception in its quest to join the EAC

The East African Community Heads of State Summit, sitting in Arusha, Tanzania, on Friday evening, agreed to fasttrack the verification of Somalia’s application to join the bloc.

Mogadishu had applied, for the second time, in 2019, but the Community never sent a team of experts to the country to determine if it qualified for membership. The decision on Friday means the procedure for joining will now commence and could take at least two years.

“The Summit directed the Council of Ministers to expeditiously FastTrack the verification exercise in accordance with the EAC procedure for admission of new members into the EAC and report to the 23rd meeting of the Summit,” the leaders said in a joint communique.

President Samia Suluhu Hassan of Tanzania (left) speaking in Arusha on Fridat at the commissioning of the Arusha Bypass. The event was on the sidelines of the EAC Summit. In attendance was President Hassan Mohamud of Somalia (second left), and Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta (centre), Yoweri Museveni (with mask) and Evariste Ndayishimiye (right). PHOTO | IKULU

After barely three months in office, Somalia President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud this week formally requested the EAC to consider his country’s application to be the eighth partner.

On July 12, DR Congo deposited the instruments of ratification and formally became a member of the bloc.

President Mohamud has previously led the country from 2012 to 2017.

After being sworn in in May, he chose Hamza Barre, who hails from the volatile Jubbaland, to be the country’s Prime Minister, and the push to join the EAC indicates that President Mohamud is ready to advance national rather than partisan interests, as seen in past Somali administrations.

This week the president was on a whistle-stop tour of East and the Horn of Africa capitals in pursuit of an obvious outward foreign policy.

“We don’t want to be a liability anymore,” he told a gathering of Heads of State and dignitaries in Arusha, where he was a special guest at the just concluded High-Level Retreat of the EAC Common Market protocol.

“We want to be a contributing partner to this great community of nations. It will be a dream come true on the day that Somalia will access this great community,” said President Mohamud.

The sentiment within the bloc is that Somalia’s membership should be considered. According to the regulations, it will take at least 18 months before a decision is made.

Closely linked

“Somalia belongs to East Africa. There is no country among the seven countries sitting here that Somalia is not linked to by business, by community or by any other means,” said President Mohamud in his address.

Four months ago, when Somalia was facing uncertain elections, the idea of joining the EAC may have been dismissed. The country had asked to join the community in 2012, but the other partners were reluctant.

In 2019, then president Mohamed Farmaajo reapplied alongside the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Last February, the bloc decided to begin admitting Kinshasa but delayed a decision on Mogadishu, pending verification by a team of experts to determine Somalia’s readiness.

On Thursday, President Mohamud told the Summit that he understood where his country was coming from. He said Somalia now feels ready to play its part, using its pool of industrious entrepreneurs and exploiting its blue economy — natural resources such as fish and expansive coastline — to boost regional economies.

Tanzania was the fourth country in the region that President Mohamud visited after taking power, having already been to Djibouti, Eritrea and Kenya. He also went to Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, international partners that have heavily funded projects in Somalia.

On his visits, he spoke of “cordial” relations and “brotherly” ties.

Read: Somalia’s new President: Expectations of better regional ties

As far as seeking membership to the EAC is concerned, Somalia’s problems — from the civil war to al-Shabaab attacks, internally displaced people and refugees — have affected its neighbours too.

President Mohamud thanked neighbouring countries for doing their part to protect Somali citizens.

Joining the EAC means Somali citizens will have freedom to move and do business across the bloc, and the country would benefit from the economic, political and social support programmes of the Community.

Medal of honour

In Djibouti on Monday, host President Ismail Guelleh awarded him the country’s highest medal of honour, which he said was to “reaffirm the deep ties”.

In March 2021, Mogadishu accused Djibouti of siding with Kenya in interference with its internal affairs. This was after President Guelleh, in December 2020, volunteered to nominate a team of experts to help look into Somalia’s allegations. After a month of interviewing officials from both sides, Djibouti published a report saying there was no evidence.

Relations have since thawed after President Mohamud met with President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya last week.

President Mohamud’s visit to Kenya is significant because he was president when Somalia sued Kenya at the International Court of Justice in 2014 over the maritime border. The case was determined last year, largely in favour of Somalia, but Kenya said it would not obey the decision.

After the visit, the two countries agreed to iron out their diplomatic issues through the Joint Commission on Co-operation.

President Mohamud is expected to visit Ethiopia and Uganda, regional countries crucial to Somalia’s internal security. Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Burundi contribute troops to the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS), which is currently building the country’s security capacity.

Chequered relations

But these countries have chequered relations with Somalia.

Mogadishu had initially severed relations with Kenya over allegations of “interference”. Then Djibouti offered to mediate, but Mogadishu accused it of “abandoning” a brother by allegedly siding with Kenya. The federal government in Mogadishu had improved ties with Ethiopia, but federal member states remained suspicious of Addis Ababa.

Meanwhile, Eritrea’s decision to train thousands of Somali troops, without parliamentary approval by Mogadishu, remained controversial and the nature of the training is unclear three years on.

Following his visit to Asmara, a joint dispatch said the visit “underscored the historic fraternal ties and mutual solidarity between the peoples of Eritrea and Somalia”.

On his recent visit, President Mohamud signed an MoU that Eritrean Information Minister Yemane Gebremeskel said “covers co-operation between Somalia and Eritrea in the spheres of politics, diplomacy, economy, social co-operation, culture, defense and security”.

The question of the whereabouts of the Somali troops Eritrea has been training for the past three years remains unanswered.

Last week, President Mohamud appeared in public with some of the said troops in Asmara but did not say when or if they will return to Somalia. He met with their relatives and offered to reconnect them soon.

Read: Somalia President meets army recruits sent to Eritrea

Adam Aw Hirsi, an ex-civil servant turned political analyst, said President Mohamud’s early days in office show that many lessons were learned, both from his earlier stint as president and his predecessors’.

“Severing diplomatic relationship with a country that has hundreds of internationally sanctioned military personnel in your country has always been impractical. There ought to have been other avenues to address the grievances and flare-ups,” said Mr Hirsi told The EastAfrican this week in reference to Kenyan troops in ATMIS. They have been there for 10 years, earlier as members of the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom).

On his visit to Kenya two weeks ago, President Mohamud lifted a ban on miraa imports from Kenya and permitted Kenya Airways to start scheduled flights to Mogadishu, frozen in the past five years. He told a joint press conference that he was ready to “repair” relations with Kenya based on mutual respect and to tackle common challenges.

“There is more to bring us together than to divide us,” he said in a joint briefing with President Kenyatta at State House, Nairobi. “The common challenges we have are not limited to terrorism or droughts. We have a lot more challenges that require us to work together for our people.”

A joint communique later said that miraa exports from Kenya to Somalia and fish exports from Somalia to Kenya will resume “with immediate effect”.

Read: Somalia reopens market for miraa, allows in KQ

Open borders

The two countries also agreed to formally reopen their borders closed in 2007 that are a conduit for terror merchants and trade in illegal consumer goods.

The two governments “agreed to facilitate, diversify and promote trade and economic co-operation between the two countries” as well as amend visa processing to a maximum of 10 working days on the application for ordinary passport holders, and visas on arrival for diplomatic passport holders who get an endorsement from their respective Foreign Affairs ministries.

“President Mohamud’s priority with neighbouring countries is to defuse tensions, which paves the way for more security, and economic cooperation,” said Abdirisak Aden, the executive director at Farsight Africa Research and Policy Studies, a Mogadishu-based think tank.

And it seems now Mogadishu is pushing for cooperation with neighbors.

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The East African Community Heads of State Summit, sitting in Arusha, Tanzania, on Friday evening, agreed to fasttrack the verification of Somalia’s application to join the bloc. Mogadishu had applied, […]

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The M23 problem, Kigali’s headache and some truths few want to hear

Soon after Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni was elected President of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) – the predecessor to the African Union — the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) composed of Rwandan exiles and refugees, mostly Tutsis, decided to attack Rwanda on October 1, 1990 using his country as a launch pad.

Four years earlier, the Rwandans had helped Museveni rise to power in Kampala and had held key positions in the new Ugandan army. Paul Kagame, the current president of Rwanda, was a senior officer in the Ugandan military intelligence, while his comrade in arms Fred Rwigema, killed at the frontline in the early days of the campaign, had been minister of State for Defence.

Museveni was upset, his election at the helm of the continental body meant the elevation of the former rebel leader, brought to power by the force of arms, as an equal among world peers. And now these “boys,” as Museveni used to call them, risked ruining his moment. The situation seemed all the more upsetting as he had trouble convincing anyone that he was not behind this “aggression” on a neighbouring and brotherly country.

Museveni recounted how it happened while he was attending the United Nations General Assembly in New York: “The news reached me at night, I tried to wake President [Juvenal] Habyarimana in vain. The man was a heavy sleeper.”

Thirty years later, Rwanda was likely in the position Museveni was, following the recent attacks of the Congolese rebel movement of March 23rd, as M23 – in reference to an unfulfilled peace treaty signed on March 23, 2009, between its leaders and the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

It came as Kigali was getting ready to host, in less than a month, 50 heads of state, members of the Commonwealth. While relations between Rwanda and the DRC had finally warmed up with the advent of Félix Tshisekedi to power in Kinshasa, Kigali would have done without another M23 attack, which put it in a delicate geopolitical situation, provoking fresh anti-Rwandan rhetoric in DRC.

Congo problem, Rwandan exhibits

rebels
A rebel group in Ituri Province, the northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo on September 19, 2020. PHOTO | AFP

The DRC public often conflates the M23 with the Rwandan army, and for good reason. Some commanders of the rebel group had joined the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA), the military wing of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) in its own armed struggle of the 1990s which put an end to the genocide against the Tutsi.

Once the war was over, the Congolese Tutsi returned home to their highlands of Kivu, eastern DRC, where in the meantime, anti-Tutsi hatred had been shifted by the genocide perpetrators, who had been defeated back home. Supported by then Zairean strongman Mobutu Sese Seko, the “genocidaires” were targeting the Tutsi in Zaire.

This is how, with the support of Rwanda and Uganda, they took up arms again to defend their community in a struggle that galvanised other Mobutu opponents with their own national grievances, leading them to march on Kinshasa, ousting Mobutu, and replacing him with Laurent Désiré Kabila in September 1997.

Once installed, Kabila would fall out with his hitherto allies who had brought him to power, even going as far as collaborating with the same genocidaires. His replacement by his son Joseph Kabila would not change much.

In Rwanda, there was hope with the advent, at last, of a new first name in the Congolese political spectrum since its independence in 1960: in the absence of Antoine, the patriarch; his heir Felix!

Read: Kagame stars in DR Congo Tshisekedi ceremonies

All seemed well at first, with the coming to power of Felix Tshisekedi, relations between the DRC and Rwanda were almost repaired. It was mostly the Congolese diaspora, aggrieved by “the aggression of little Rwanda on great Zaire,” who disliked the new rapprochement.

Short-lived honeymoon

To understand the “M23 problem” one needs to appreciate that there are three types of rebels in the DRC. The first, small militias with no national political agenda, that attack civilians, rarely fight each other, coexist with the regular army (FARDC) and UN peacekeepers (Monusco). These constitute the majority, their interests do not go beyond their communities. There are more than 100.

Then there are foreign groups that exploit the weakness – some read it as an absence – of the state and national army, to use the vast DRC territory as a breeding ground for attacks against their countries of origin. It is in this category that we find the Rwandan genocidaires, known as FDLR, and the Ugandan terrorists known as ADF-NALU. In the past, there were other Sudanese and Ugandan groups – including the infamous Lord Resistance Army (LRA) of Joseph Kony, Congo-Brazzaville groups and even Angolans. The dense forests of the DRC are a festering ground for all manner of armed groups from the region.

Then there is the M23. Congolese citizens, with national grievances linked to lack of security, discrimination of their community and poor governance at large.

The first and second categories of militias are rarely bothered because they do everyone’s business: smuggling, illicit trafficking of minerals, enriching FARDC commanders and multinationals, sponsor political careers in Kinshasa and justify the presence of both UN forces in the DRC for more than 20 years and that of the Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) for 10 years.

The M23 pose a (geo)political problem, because they seize territory, threaten power in the capital Kinshasa, which in turn exposes the weaknesses of the national army, of national politics, and of the UN. To make themselves heard, the M23 are fighting against everyone, including the two other categories of rebel groups, the FARDC, and even Monusco – sometimes all three in a coalition.

Read: DR Congo’s M23: A rebel group re-emerges

According to an “incident monitoring think tank” manned by international researchers in eastern DRC, the Congolese army FARDC is one of the most violent against civilians, at times their killings surpass those of Ugandan Islamists ADF-Nalu, and Rwandan FDLR genocidaires.

Ten years ago, M23 was defeated by a UN-backed Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) made of South African, Tanzanian and Malawian armies. FIB’s mission was to defeat “all the negative forces” in eastern DRC. At the time, M23 posed little resistance and with some political assurances, withdrew into Rwanda and Uganda.

The FIB seems to have since “acclimatised” to Congolese “Rumba” like everyone else, read: doing nothing, and allegedly engaging in illicit trade.

Rock and hard place

map showing conflict-prone DRC provinces

Upon accession to power, President Tshisekedi wanted to be seen as tackling the protracted armed conflict in eastern DRC. So he declared a “State of Siege” in North Kivu and Ituri. State of emergency means the region is run by the army and most civil rights are suspended. State of emergency also means a hefty budget sent to eastern DRC and managed by the army.

Read: Military replaces civilian authorities in eastern DRC

However, a recent parliament audit revealed that of the $74 million allocated to “State of siege” to be sent to Kivu and Ituri, 68 percent was “eaten” in Kinshasa, 12 percent went to unknown expenditure of the army, and only the remaining 20 percent was sent to eastern Congo.

Following the recent attack by the M23 two months ago, the occupation of the towns of Bunagana and the province of Ruchuru on the border with Uganda, Tshisekedi accused Rwanda of supporting the rebel movement, a charge Kigali vehemently denies.

But what alternative did Tshisekedi have? Should he have explained to the Congolese that they have no army? That they never had one? That Mobutu appealed to mercenaries (Jean Schramme, Bob Denard) or to foreign countries (Morocco, Senegal, Chad, Togo) to help keep security and power? There are more than 58 countries contributing troops to Monusco for over 20 years, with dismal results.

Read: DR Congo wants UN mission to leave

monusco
Monusco soldiers fire at Codeco militia during the extraction of a Red Cross team which had been ambushed in Dhedja on December 19, 2021 in Ituri, DR Congo. PHOTO | AFP

The FARDC spend their time playing “Sobels” (Soldier by day, Rebel by night) – a sobriquet borrowed from Sierra Leone and Liberia civil war of the 90s. They change clothes to loot the populations they are supposed to protect, collaborate with the FDLR, and sell weapons and ammunition on the black market from Uvira to Beni.

Read: How M23 and Congolese army commanders benefited from $57m illegal trade in Kivu

Are the Congolese ready to listen to these truths? The first politician to venture there would immediately sign his political death, a year before the elections, and Tshisekedi is not suicidal. Using Rwanda as a scapegoat seems like the only political card in his hand.

Read: DR Congo, Rwanda agree to ease tension

Hate speech revived

While no proof of these accusations has been brought forth, the streets, from Kinshasa to Brussels, need no further convincing. Unfortunately, accusing Rwanda brings with it the old demons of “Tutsiphobia”. Anti-Tutsi hate speech across DRC has risen to troubling proportions. Congolese social media is awash with anti-Rwanda hate speech, lists of Tutsi members of the FARDC are being published online with rewards promised to anyone who would “cleanse our army”.

Tutsi of Banyamulenge community in South Kivu’s high plateau have left their homesteads after their cattle were looted by various militia, and now live in UN-protected IDP camps.

Images of young militias affiliated to Tshisekedi’s ruling party (UDPS) were seen in the streets of Kinshasa, armed with machetes, stopping cars looking for Tutsis. Several people have been killed by Congolese mobs, for allegedly “looking” Tutsi, including one Lt-Col Joseph Kaminzobe, member of the Banyamulenge community and officer of the regular army, burnt alive by young people in Lweba, South Kivu. Many Congolese Tutsi civilians are reported to have been burnt alive, and at least in one case, Mr Semutobo, a Munyamulenge, was lynched by a mob of young people in Kalima district who posted it online.

Read: Rising hate speech in Congo conflict alarms UN

M23’s beef with Kinshasa

peace agreement signed in Nairobi in December 2013, between the Congolese government and the M23 consisted of:

  • Amnesty to all M23 fighters who did not commit war crimes and crimes against humanity;
  • Register M23 as a legitimate political party.
  • Repatriation of “Rwandophone” of Congolese nationality, sheltered in refugee camps in Rwanda and Uganda.

The agreement has never been implemented for ten years hence, causing the recent attack by the M23.

Ironically, M23 claims it doesn’t want to fight. While they are occupying important towns of Bunagana and Ruchuru in Noth Kivu, they claim to do so to compel the DRC government to implement the Nairobi accords and are ready to relinquish them.

bunagana
Bunagana in the Democratic Republic of Congo on the border with Uganda. PHOTO | MORGAN MBABAZI | NMG

Amid the accusations against Rwanda and its denials, there is one fact: Kigali is not going to fight the M23.

Indeed options of possible support to the DRC army in fighting M23 were being studied in Rwandan quarters until Congolese politicians started accusing Kigali and FARDC shelled Rwandan territories of Rubavu and Kinigi, heightening tensions between the two neighbours.

As a reminder, the M23 political wing, which has been sheltered in Rwanda for the last ten years, has not left their camps, while those of Uganda, led by Commander Sultani Makenga quietly left Uganda five years ago, and have since been based in DRC forests near the Ugandan border.

Following routs on the battlefield during the war that opposed it to the RPF in the 90s, then Habyarimana’s government accused “Ibyitso Tutsi” internal spies of the loss. My mother, who had run a hairdressing salon in Kigali for 10 years, and who had never been involved in politics, was arrested and detained for a year with thousands of other civilians, for the simple reason that they were Tutsi. Today, it is the turn of any Congolese with “Tutsi facial expressions” to “prove their citizenship”.

I am not worried about the repeated calls by Congolese populists to attack and annex Rwanda, after all, as Wole Soyinka would say, “A tiger does not proclaim his tigritude, he pounces”. What worries me is the resurgence of hate speech and violent killings targeting Congolese Tutsi, and anyone with “doubtful” features; the Luba, Ngbandi, Bashi… all Congolese citizens.

source

Soon after Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni was elected President of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) – the predecessor to the African Union — the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) composed […]

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South Sudan suspends dredging of Nile tributaries

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir Mayardiit has suspended all dredging activities on Nile tributaries following opposition within his government, environmentalists and activists over the deal with Egypt.

Mr Kiir’s order put to end weeks of public debate sparked by the arrival a month ago of a 21-truck convoy from Cairo with dredging equipment, which brought to light the agreement signed in April last year.

The President said environmental studies on the project’s impact on the communities and ecosystem must be done before any dredging of the Naam River and resumption of the Jonglei canal project.

“In the last few weeks, the country has been engaged in an emotive debate over the issue of dredging the Bhar-el-Ghazel basin, especially the Naam River. In this debate, the contending sides have put forward legitimate arguments both for and against dredging.

“For example, those who support dredging see it as a permanent solution to floods in the low areas. Others in some groups see it as a means of opening our waterways for river transport that will ease transportation bottlenecks in the country,” said Mr Kiir during his address on the country’s 11th independence anniversary on July 9.

He added: “On the other side of the debate, dredging without proper studies is viewed as a path to an ecological disaster that will change South Sudan’s biodiversity forever.”

He noted that after following the arguments keenly, he “realised the outcry from both sides came because we have not conducted informed public consultation that addresses the concerns.”

The 30km canal project involves dredging and aquatic weed control in the Bahr el Ghazal basin and creating landing spots along the canal.

While some argue it would mitigate the perennial floods that displace thousands in Unity State, others say the project will only benefit Egypt at the expense of South Sudanese.

President Kiir stressed that evidence-based studies on the impact of the activities on the environment, communities and ecology of the Sudd region be carried out by competent persons.

He ordered the Environmental and Forestry ministry to engage experts for the feasibility studies.

source

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir Mayardiit has suspended all dredging activities on Nile tributaries following opposition within his government, environmentalists and activists over the deal with Egypt. Mr Kiir’s order […]

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Photo AFP

Hope springs eternal for UK-Rwanda migrant deal

The UK-Rwanda migrant deal is likely to go on despite leadership change in the Conservative Party after the resignation of Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

A judicial review to consider the lawfulness of the asylum arrangement is due to be heard in the High Court in the UK soon. The hearing is expected to last three days and a decision delivered by end of July.

While the change of leadership in the UK’s Conservative Party is expected in October, a change of policy is unlikely as the party had already backed the asylum arrangement.

This is part of a broader package of reforms in the recently enacted Nationality and Borders Act, which the UK government says will “deter illegal entry into the UK, breaking the business model of people smuggling networks, and speed up the removal of those with no right to be in the UK.”

“The (refugee ) policy will continue,” a well-placed UK official told The EastAfrican. “I am sure this important relationship will only be invigorated by a change of leader at this point. Rwanda won applause for the Chogm and there are great hopes for the Commonwealth under its new Rwandan chair.”

This is part of a broader package of reforms in the recently enacted Nationality and Borders Act, which the UK government says will “deter illegal entry into the UK, breaking the business model of people smuggling networks, and speed up the removal of those with no right to be in the UK.”

“The (refugee ) policy will continue,” a well-placed UK official told The EastAfrican. “I am sure this important relationship will only be invigorated by a change of leader at this point. Rwanda won applause for the Chogm and there are great hopes for the Commonwealth under its new Rwandan chair.”

The UK and Rwandan governments are promoting the arrangement as an innovative solution for a “broken” international refugee protection regime. They contend it will deter criminality, exploitation and abuse and support the humane and respectful treatment of refugees.

Kigali says migrants will be entitled to full protection under Rwandan law, equal access to employment, and enrolment in healthcare and social care services as well as the issuance of necessary identification documents.

But the deal has been criticised by a broad range of stakeholders. Some Conservative MPs have voiced doubts about its legality, practicality and value for money.

Asylum rights advocates have practical concerns about the arrangement and Rwanda’s suitability as a host. They also say the deal undermines the post-WW2 international protection regime.

Last week, the UK announced a migration deal with Nigeria to “tackle illegal migration and speed up the removal of foreign criminals.”

Source

Photo: AFP

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Kenya and Uganda cry foul as reality of new taxes checks in

Just a week after the new East African Community common external tariff (CET) band came into force, businesses are already feeling the pinch and crying foul over the “unintended consequences” of the regime.

Kenya and Uganda have filed complaints to the East African Business Council (EABC), the regional lobby, over the law that raised import taxes on goods from non-EAC countries to 35 percent. They say that some basic commodities outside the band have also been affected.

The bloc’s Trade and Finance ministers in May adopted 35 percent as the maximum rate for products classified under the 4th Band of the EAC common external tariff.

The CET, one of the key instruments of the Customs Union, is meant to foster regional integration through uniform treatment of goods imported from third parties. It also seeks to protect local manufacturers against competition from similar goods imported from outside the region.

According to experts, a 35 percent duty on imported finished products has the potential of growing intra-EAC trade by $18.9 million. In addition, the region’s industrial production will increase by 0.04 percent to $12.1 million and tax revenues by 5.5 percent.

It also has the potential to create an additional 6,781 jobs.

Affected products

The new band took effect on July 1 but consumers seem to not have been prepared for the price increment. The band features dairy and meat products, cotton and textiles, iron and steel, edible oils, soaps and beverages and spirits imported from outside the EAC.

Other commodities covered are furniture, leather products, fresh cut flowers, fruits and nuts, sugar and confectionery, coffee, tea and spices, textiles and garments, headgear, ceramic products and paints.

But Kenya and Uganda now say the new tax has pushed up the cost of importation, spilling over onto basic commodities.

The EABC has, in the past week, received letters from organisations raising concerns over the implementation of the common external tariff.

“Kenya is raising concerns over wood products while Uganda is concerned about industrial sugar. We are going to address the complaints after deliberations,” said John Bosco Kalisa, EABC’s chief executive.

Kenya has been importing wood from EAC partner states, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, after the government banned logging. Now, with the new CET band, imported wood is fetching the same price as finished furniture already in the market.

Kenyan furniture manufacturer PG Bison Kenya Ltd says the increase of import duty on raw materials used to produce furniture products has forced it to increase prices of products.

“Due to these policy decisions, and along with the recent increases in fuel-related logistics and a rapidly depreciating local currency, our prices will change effective Friday, July 8, 2022. A revised price list will be issued and distributed accordingly,” the company told its customers in a notice.

Price reviews

Raw materials such as particleboard, plywood and blockboard now attract a 35 percent import duty, up from 25 percent.

“The differential in tariffs that existed to incentivise value addition of raw materials have been removed,” said Amit Maru, the firm’s operations manager.

“We would like to bring to your attention that our prices need to be reviewed upward with immediate effect in relation to increased import duty on raw materials. The duty on raw materials are now the same as the rate that applies on a finished furniture item. The tariff calculation also allows for a rate to be applied per metric tonne or cubic metre, which can equate to a tax payable amount that can exceed the 35 percent value calculation,” he added.

The EastAfrican has learnt that Uganda is also facing challenges exporting surplus industrial sugar within the region yet Rwanda and Burundi are facing a shortage.

But even if Rwanda and Burundi were to import industrial sugar from Uganda, they would not satisfy their demand as they are net importers. The problem comes in differentiating sugar from the region and one from outside.

“The two countries will have to retain their stay of application for sugar imports,” said Kalisa.

He, however, noted that there should be no cause for alarm “as it is still too early to tell the full impact of the new import taxes.”

“The issue is not the current CET; the issue is the classification and other new rates that are emerging that need clarity because everything could be wrongly blamed on the CET. The CET is very clear: There is no new point in increasing the prices of goods that are available in the region,” Kalisa said.

The 35 percent CET targets goods that are available in the region and are produced in substantial volumes, including grains, potatoes, vegetables, maize and beans.

While the maximum tariff band at 35 percent was the most appropriate rate, it was noted that in its application, a welfare loss would be expected but would be cured from generated jobs from the switch to local production.

However, the rising cost of living due to global events such as the Russian invasion of Ukraine, higher crude prices, Covid-19, inflation and dollar shortage have complicated implementation of the CET.

EAC states domesticated the new tax measures in the Finance Act 2022, which became operational on July 1.

The Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) has cited the Act as one of the major causes of high cost of living.

“Some of the tax measures in the Finance Act 2022 are set to have an impact on the manufacturing sector,” said Mucai Kunyiha, KAM chairman. “This is unlikely to spur growth in the agriculture and manufacturing sectors.”

Regional tax variance could be the new stumbling block to lowering the cost of food.

Last week, Kenya waived import levies on maize. The move, meant to improve supply to millers and in turn lower the cost of maize flour, may, however, have little impact as the variance in taxes charged on commodities by EAC states and new taxes on imports combine to further raise the cost of food.

Kenya’s main sources of maize imports are neighbours Tanzania and Uganda and Zambia further south.

In the past Nairobi has gone as far as importing maize from Mexico to alleviate shortages.

Shipments from countries that are not members of the EAC or the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) are usually subject to a 50 percent tariff. But Kenya waived import fees on white non-genetically modified maize of up to 540,000 tonnes until end of September as millers face an acute shortage of grain, but no vessel carrying maize is scheduled to dock at the Port of Mombasa soon.

A Kenya Ports Authority ship schedule seen by The EastAfrican shows no vessel carrying maize is expected to dock at the port before July 14.

The schedule indicates that Mombasa will handle majorly conventional cargo from July 4, with 16 vessels expected to call at the port. Five are oil tankers.

Major millers have had to stagger their operations while small ones have closed altogether.

Maize imports impacted

Now Nairobi is pleading with Zambia, Tanzania and Uganda to stop exporting maize to other countries at its expense.

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya says the country has opened talks with the three countries to guarantee Kenya a share of the maize exports to plug shortfall in supplies.

“We are now talking to these countries to have them set aside some stocks of maize to be purchased by our traders to boost supply locally,” said Mr Munya.

Zambia has started harvesting its main crop while Tanzania and Uganda have surpluses that Kenya is seeking to import.

Kipngetich Mutai, chair of the Grain Belt Millers Association (GBMA), a lobby, said the Kenya’s move to suspend charges on imported maize will not translate to lower prices as there are bottlenecks in importation of the commodity, such as the increased cost of export permit from main market source, Tanzania.

Millers associations Cereal Millers Association, Association of Kenya Feed Manufacturers Eastern Africa Grain Council and GBMA are now urging for harmonisation of EAC tax regimes and policies to facilitate trade.

“It is critical for EAC countries to support logistics for importation of maize from different countries to lower cost of flour. The cost of ferrying maize from Tanzania to Kenya has become expensive as the countries operate disparate tax laws,” they said in a statement.

Last week, in a webinar on domestic tax regimes and proposed measures for 2022/23 budgets for the partner states, EABC too urged for harmonised taxes in the region to improve intra-EAC trade.

The lobby’s CEO said the EAC Treaty obliges partner states “to harmonise their tax policies to remove distortions and bring about more efficient allocation of resources within the bloc.”

With harmonisation of the CET, all member states are supposed to levy 35 percent on goods manufactured outside of the region that can be produced locaaly. It means countries that had a lower tariff have had to raise it, adding to the rise in price of goods such as fuel, which directly affects the cost of food as transporters pay more to transport commodities like maize.

Kenya has traditionally restricted purchases to cushion local maize growers but at a cost to consumers who are forced to pay a higher cost for the cereal.

High prices

Kenya is mainly relying on maize stocks from Tanzania to meet the rising demand for flour after the supply in the local market dwindled. Most stocks from Uganda are sold in South Sudan because of higher prices there.

According to importers, a bag of maize which retailed at $40 is now being sold at $61, pushing the price of maize flour from $1.42 to up to $2.5 for a two-kilo packet.

In July and early August, western Kenya farmers are expected to harvest their annual maize crop but this can only sustain the region.

Narok in the South Rift will have maize in September before the big harvest in North Rift in mid-October. Until then, Kenya will rely on imports and, from the look of things, imports from the neighbours could be impacted by taxes.

The country’s maize production is estimated at 3.2 million tonnes per year against a demand of 3.8 million tonnes, with the deficit covered by imports from the region.

The production of maize, a staple, declined by 12.8 percent from 42.1 million bags in 2020 to 36.7 million bags in 2021 after a prolonged drought hit agriculturally productive regions for an extended period last year.

Source

Just a week after the new East African Community common external tariff (CET) band came into force, businesses are already feeling the pinch and crying foul over the “unintended consequences” […]

Continue reading "Kenya and Uganda cry foul as reality of new taxes checks in"

DR Congo becomes full-fledged member state of East African Community

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is now an official member of the East African Community (EAC) after depositing instruments of ratification on the accession of the EAC Treaty with the bloc’s secretariat.

At a function held at the EAC headquarters in Arusha, Tanzania, on Monday, the DR Congo delegation led by its Vice Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Christophe Lutundula Apala Pen’ Apala, completed its final step in joining the regional bloc.

“This is a formalisation of a situation that has always been in existence. Somehow we can say the DRC joined their people,” said Mr Apala Pen’ Apala.

“In the name of the DRC, all the institutions and the people of Congo, we totally trust the EAC.”

He reaffirmed his country’s commitment to being part of the Community and joining the various areas of cooperation in all the sectors, programmes and activities that promote the four pillars of regional integration — the Customs Union, Common Market Protocol, Monetary Union and the Political Federation.

“Today marks the completion by the DRC of the processes and procedures towards becoming a full member of the EAC,” said Dr Peter Mathuki, EAC secretary-general.

“Article 11 of the Treaty of Accession by the DRC to the EAC Treaty provides that the Accession Treaty shall enter into force on the date the DRC deposits the instrument of ratification with the Secretary-General of the EAC. So, I am very happy to declare that, today, 11th July 2022, the DRC has become the 7th Partner State of the EAC.”

Source

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is now an official member of the East African Community (EAC) after depositing instruments of ratification on the accession of the EAC Treaty with […]

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Why Muhoozi’s stature is making generals in Uganda uncomfortable

n just a short time, Lt-Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba, the once quiet military officer who until recently had not shown any political ambitions, has become a household name. The First Son and Commander of Uganda’s Land Forces has stormed the national political stage, assisted by social media platforms, especially Twitter.

His army of youthful supporters call him “presidential material,” “Chairman MK,” “next president,” “role model,” among other flattering titles.

Then there are Team MK, MK 2026 and others who don tee-shirts with the general’s photo and billboards and posters declaring their support for him.

His increasing influence, both in the army and the general population, has elicited mixed reactions. There are many in the senior ranks of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) who are silently uncomfortable with the general’s growing status and influence, especially those in the bush war that brought President Yoweri Museveni to power in 1986.

Read: Muhoozi in Nairobi to deliver ‘special message’

His involvement in combat has included engagements in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia — where Uganda is part of the African Union’s peacekeeping force — and, more recently, in Karamoja, a region bedevilled by cattle rustling for many years.

So, some of the veterans in the NRM and the army feel sidelined in favour of an upstart who is inexperienced to handle serious military assignments.

Hamstrung by history

Some have told local media of the fear among UPDF rank-and-file to oppose Gen Muhoozi because of the possibility of becoming president after his father.

Sources say that although senior generals are not sure Museveni will relinquish power to his son, they are taking the gamble to support the son’s plans just to be on the right side of history.

According to sources within the army, Gen Muhoozi’s presidency is supported by most colonels and majors-general below the age of 60, who see themselves as the biggest beneficiaries in case of promotions and job postings.

Gen Muhoozi’s contemporaries are now senior officers in influential positions. He enjoys support in the elite Special Forces Command who are charged with security of the President and other national strategic installations and whom he commanded for years.

A couple of months ago, a Kampala lawyer, Gawaya Tegulle, sued Gen Muhoozi, saying his national and district birthday celebrations, and political pronouncements, were inconsistent with Article 208 (2) of the Constitution that provides that UPDF shall be non-partisan, national in character, patriotic, professional, disciplined, productive and subordinate to civilian authority as established under the constitution. But the court is yet to summon Gen Muhoozi or set date for hearing of the case.

Read: What’s in a birthday? The curious case of Muhoozi’s national event

Using the same Constitutional provisions and army code of conduct, in May 2005, the former director-general of the Internal Security Organisation (the country’s intelligence network), Henry Tumukunde was arrested and jailed for comments during a radio show in which he made political statements.

He was blocked from retiring from the army, but forced to resign as army representative in Parliament. In November 1999, Col Kizza Besigye authored a dossier critical of the government.

His quick decision to challenge Museveni in the presidential election saved him from court martial.

In December 1996, senior army officer David Tinyefuza (now David Sejusa) accused the government of failing to end the war in the north of the country. Sensing danger, he quickly opted to resign, but was blocked by the establishment.

The army has always come out to clarify tweets from Gen Muhoozi. For example, Brig-Gen Felix Kulayigye, UPDF spokesperson, recently said tweets by Gen Muhoozi about the Ethiopian Tigray rebels were personal, and not of the army.

Read: Uganda distances itself from Muhoozi tweets on TPLF

While talking to BBC’s Focus on Africa this week, Mr Kulayigye said: “I am aware of everything the military does. And if you noticed, that was a tweet not from the Commander of the Defence Forces of UPDF, not from the spokesperson of the Ministry of Defence. So it can’t be our official position. Information concerning the official position of Uganda’s Defence ministry on matters relating to other militaries is given officially, not through tweets.”

SOURCE

n just a short time, Lt-Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba, the once quiet military officer who until recently had not shown any political ambitions, has become a household name. The First Son […]

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