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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40 cases in 40 days: Regional court settles EAC treaty violations suits

The East African Court of Justice (EACJ) has ended its rotational inter-state court session in Uganda, where it determined cases related to violations by member states of the East African Community (EAC) Treaty.

The president of the regional court, Nestor Kayobera, said the 40 days that the court held its session in Kampala at the Commercial Division of the High Court, saw a total of 40 cases disposed of.

EACJ held court from November 2 to December 2, ending its annual rotation of sessions in a member country.

“During this period, the court handled 40 cases. You can see, we spent 40 days in Uganda and we have handled almost 40 cases. I don’t know why 40, maybe we ask the philosophers why that number of 40,” Mr Kayobera told the media on Friday.

He added that the appellate division handled matters regarding the revocation of sale agreements, terms of employment of the East African Community and criminal defamation, among other cases.

“All the cases we handled were about the violation of the Treaty by the partner states,” he said.

Read: Regional court needs more autonomy, says president

On the rotation of the East African Court of Justice among the member states, Mr Kayobera said this was initiated last year when the court was celebrating its 20 years anniversary in Bujumbura, Burundi.

He said this was being done to implement Article 7 (1) of the Treaty that states that a community is people-centred and market-driven.

The next partner state to host the regional court after Uganda will either be Rwanda or Kenya, according to Mr Kayobera.

The EACJ is a treaty-based judicial body of the EAC tasked to ensure adherence to law in the interpretation and application of and compliance with the East African Community Treaty of 1999.

Justice Anne Mugenyi Bitature, the deputy head of the Commercial Court, said they were happy to have been chosen by the Judiciary top management to host the regional court session.

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S. Sudan fails to pull its weight in EAC amid missed deadlines

Six years since South Sudan was admitted to the East African Community, domestic problems, including weak institutions, have eaten into its will to integrate, leaving neighbours feeling the burden.

South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011 but plunged into a civil war three years later. Today, even at relative peace, it has been constantly on the brink of war.

By joining the EAC, leaders argued back in 2016 that the country could tap into regional support, including the safety of neighbours with whom it could trade and improve lives. Instead, it has been a humanitarian burden, needing food aid and refuge for its fleeing citizens.

The country has failed to implement the Customs Union and the Common Market protocols, two of the basic pillars of the EAC. In fact, more than 18 months since he was appointed, the South Sudan minister in charge of EAC Affairs Deng Alor Kuol is yet to set foot in Arusha, the EAC headquarters where the council meets regularly to make decisions.

 “South Sudan joined the EAC in 2016, with expectations that joining will be able to stabilise their institutions politically, socially and economically,” said John Kalisa, chief executive of the East African Business Council.

“But after joining they fell off again. The conflict distorted all the programmes, progress and projects because they even threatened the donors who were ready to support their integration agenda. So they created a lot of fears, because of their political risk,” he told The EastAfrican.

South Sudan applied for EAC membership in 2011 but the process of admission was delayed for a number of reasons, key among them internal conflicts. The country would be admitted during the 17th Ordinary Heads of State Summit in Arusha on February 2,2016.

Missed deadlines

In Juba, delays in the ratification of protocols and non-implementation of ratified protocols have combined to impair the smooth enforcement and execution of EAC plans.

Bloc decisions requiring amendments to national laws have often remained outstanding for a long time.

In terms of trade integration, the Customs Union is operational within the EAC – except in South Sudan, which is yet to fully meet the accession requirements to the EAC. It has missed the deadlines twice. DRC will have at three years to operationalise the Customs Union.

Adopt common laws

EAC’s establishing treaty doesn’t have provisions for expelling errant members as leaders thought members would at least show will to adopt common laws.

While EAC partner states have adopted the CET (common external tariffs) e-Tariff tool kit framework and the Single Customs Territory (SCT) procedures, which have been simplified and harmonised, South Sudan is still learning the ropes.

During the 39th meeting of the Sectoral Council on Trade, Industry, Finance and Investment held in Arusha on November 12, 2021, South Sudan’s National Revenue Authority observed that the country is yet to fully implement the Customs Union.

The meeting was informed that the Secretariat and partner states have updated the SCT Procedure manual to incorporate changes to the Single Customs Territory clearance processes that have taken place since 2014.

The changes include transmission of data through a centralised platform, multi-modal importation process, process for inland waterways/lakes to cover goods transported on ferries and process for temporary transfer of motor vehicles.

Common market protocol

The recently-released African Integration Report 2021 on the Status of Regional Integration in Africa reveals that South Sudan is yet to enjoy the benefits of a common market protocol that came into effect in 2010.

“The free movement of people within the EAC is a reality grounded in the EAC CM (common market) Protocol. However, whereas all the states have signed and ratified this protocol, national laws in South Sudan are yet to be fully harmonised to conform to it,” the report reads.

“East Africans can move across the region without the need for visas except in the case of South Sudan that is still in the process of conforming.”

Common market

Nevertheless, bilateral arrangements exist that have seen Kenya lift visa requirements for South Sudan citizens with effect from July 26, 2021. However, the majority of Kenyans visiting South Sudan are still forced to pay for a visa.

South Sudan hardly remits its contributions to the EAC yet its citizens and MPs have been accommodated in the EAC’s organs and institutions.

South Sudan was yet to disburse $27.4 million while Burundi had not disbursed $7.44 million by February.

Insecurity, extortion and harassment by security agencies of Sudan are also hindering trade at the Nimule-Elegu border post between South Sudan and Uganda, the busiest land border in South Sudan, where 90 percent of goods imported from Uganda are processed.

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Rwanda expects GMO responsibility as African scientists back Kenya

Rwanda says it is counting on Kenya to be a responsible member of the region by ensuring transparent information is shared with neighbouring EAC countries on all genetically modified (GM) seeds and food products imported.

Kigali’s sentiments must have come as a relief to the Kenyan government, coming on the back of recent support by a scientific lobby of African scientists who this week said genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are safe for human consumption and the environment.

There is public debate in Kenya after the government in September lifted a ban on GMO foods and seeds, prompting a suit that resulted in a temporary court order stopping importation.

Now Rwandan authorities have jumped into the fray, saying they want Kenya to abide by international laws such as the Cartagena Protocol to ensure others are not harmed by its actions on GMOs.

The Rwanda Inspectorate, Competition and Consumer Protection Authority (RICA) said it expects Nairobi to keep the imported products within its borders.

Be transparent

“In this regard, testing is not a very important aspect as countries are requested, under the Cartagena Protocol, to which both Kenya and Rwanda are signatories, to be transparent and to share information on transboundary movement of GMO. Both countries have competent authorities that have the mandate to implement provisions of the protocol,” the authority said.

“We believe that this particular trade will be handled through the existing regulatory framework and through the existing good collaboration between the two parties.”

The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity, passed in 2003 is the basic international law on biosafety, allowing countries to restrict importation of GMOs if they believe there is insufficient evidence on their safety. Countries routinely require GMO foods to be labelled as such and retain rights to restrict biosafety technologies that could harm public health.

Porous EAC borders

Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda have raised concerns over potential infiltration of banned GMO products through the porous EAC borders, with Burundi warning that it had neither the capacity nor the technology to test for GMOs.

Rwanda said it uses a national reference laboratory for testing but does not have a GMO policy in place. Officials say this complicates regulation and gatekeeping of GMO products.

But the lobby of African scientists backing Kenya on GMOs has sought to re-assure Kenyans.

“We would like to assure Kenyans that GMO products are safe,” said Prof Ratemo Michieka, the chair of the Kenya National Academy of Sciences, at the close of a three-day conference for scientists under the Network of African Science Academies (Nasac).

The scientists recently met and discussed GMOs as a solution to the growing hunger problem in Africa at the African Science Academies 2022 held in Nairobi from November 28-30.

Enhance research

The scientists called on governments to put in place structures to enhance research and collaboration on the continent.

“Many African countries are facing declining agricultural productivity and food insecurity. The discussions during the three-day conference were focused on the latest ideas and appropriate solutions and technologies that come and enhance sustainable agriculture and food systems in Africa,” said Prof Nobert Hounkonnou, Nasac president.

In Kenya, trials on GMOs have been ongoing in laboratories and in research fields throughout the decade despite the ban.

“GMO plants have no danger whatsoever to the indigenous plants,” argued Prof Michieka.

“They can grow side by side or even mixed, with no impact at all.”

Africa lags behind in the adoption of modern food production technologies and especially GMOs. Only a handful of countries on the continent have commercialised GM crops at various levels, namely South Africa, Sudan, Egypt and Burkina Faso.

“African countries have the scientific infrastructure and the human capacity to carry out the research and give the right advice. We can’t just say don’t allow it without scientific evidence, yet we have a worsening food situation in the region,” said Prof Michieka.

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EAC member states not ready yet for single currency rollout

East African Community member states will have to wait longer for a monetary union. A taskforce to look into the matter has proposed to delay the implementation of the East African Monetary Union (EAMU) until 2031 from initial date of 2024, saying it is too soon considering members have not attained all requirements.

The proposed delay is an indictment on the members’ commitment to achieve EAMU, a key pillar of integration.

The EAMU is the third pillar of the EAC, others being the Customs Union and the Common Markets Protocol. The region, under EAMU, is expected to adopt a single currency by 2024.

“We have a roadmap that was supposed to be implemented between 2013, when the Monetary Union protocol was signed, and 2024. But we did not manage to implement most of the activities in that roadmap,” said Dr Pantaleo Kessy, Principal Economist, EAC Secretariat.

“According to the roadmap, the EAC convergence criteria were to be attained by 2021 and be maintained for three years in the run-up to the establishment of the Monetary Union in 2024.”

Behind schedule

However, going through each activity, shows that all the partner states – Burundi, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and South Sudan – are behind schedule.

According to the EAMU roadmap, four broad prerequisites need to be achieved ahead of the establishment of the Monetary Union and the first one includes the full implementation of the Customs Union and Common Market protocols.

However, both the Customs Union and Common Market Protocols are currently under implementation. Although much progress has been made, the protocols are not yet fully implemented.

“Partner states are at different levels of implementation and that partly slows the implementation of the EAC third pillar, the EAMU,” said Dr Kevit Desai, Principal Secretary at the EAC and Regional Ministry of Kenya.

Second, not all partner states have attained the four macroeconomic convergence criteria, for the implementation of the monetary union.

Headline inflation

These include ceilings on headline inflation of 8 percent; reserve cover of 4.5-month import; on overall deficit of 3 percent of GDP; and on gross public debt of 50 percent of GDP.

“Attainment of these criteria has been challenging to most Partner States, partly due to increased demand for infrastructure development and spending to mitigate the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic,” Dr Kessy explained.

“Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda attained the headline inflation target of less than 8 percent in 2021. But only three Partner States attained the official foreign exchange reserve target of 4.5 months of imports.”

Long past deadline

Further, three Partner States attained the debt to GDP target of less than 50 percent; while none was able to attain the fiscal deficit criterion of 3 percent of GDP (including grants).

The EAC is yet to put in place institutions that will carry out the mandate and implement the EAMU protocol.

The taskforce is made up of financial experts from EAC’s partner states’ ministries of Finance, Central Banks, capital markets, insurance and pension firms.

The East African Monetary Institute is one of the institutions expected to carry out the preparatory work for the One Single currency under EAMU which was planned to be in place by 2024.

The Council of Ministers designated July 1, 2021, as the date for the coming into effect of the EAMI, the precursor to the East African Central Bank.

But the deadline is long past.

The other three institutions proposed under the EAMU include the EAC Financial Services Commission; the EAC Surveillance, Compliance and Enforcement Commission; and the EAC Statistics Commission. Establishment of these institutions is lagging behind, partly due to lack of resources.

The fourth criteria that is still lacking behind is the harmonisation of Policies and legal frameworks to support implementation of the EAMU Protocol.

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Pope Francis to visit DR Congo and South Sudan early 2023

Pope Francis will visit the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan early 2023, Monsignor Ettore Balestrero, the Apostolic Nuncio to the DRC, has said.

Monsignor Balestrero made the announcement after meeting President Felix Tshisekedi on Thursday in Kinshasa. He said that Pope Francis will make the already announced trip to DRC from January 31, 2023 to February 3. He will visit Kinshasa and South Sudan on an ecumenical pilgrimage of peace.

Prime Minister Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde revealed that Pope Francis will arrive in Kinshasa at the invitation of President Félix Tshisekedi, adding that the pontiff’s arrival is “a comfort for the Congolese people”.

The prime minister asked all DRC citizens to “remain in an attitude of prayer” as they welcome the pope, especially at a time “when the DRC is going through all these security situations”. He also asked the Congolese to re-launch the preparations for the visit which had been prepared a few months ago.

Initial visit postponed

Pope Francis had earlier been expected visit to the DRC and South Sudan in July but the visit was called off after he developed a knee problem.

“Accepting the request of the doctors and in order not to cancel the results of the knee therapies still in progress, the Holy Father is forced, with regret, to postpone the apostolic journey to the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, planned for 2-7 July, to a new date to be determined,” the director of the Pope’s press office Matteo Bruni announced then.

In the postponed papal trip, the pontiff had been scheduled to visit the DRC capital Kinshasa and Goma in North Kivu province, where M23 rebels have been fighting with government forces. But in the January 2023 trip, the pope will stay in Kinshasa before flying to Juba, in South Sudan, skipping Goma

The announcement of the pope’s planned arrival in the DRC has already started generating enthusiasm among the Catholic faithful.

In July, several towns in the DRC had put up billboards with the image of the pope under the theme “All reconciled in Jesus Christ”.

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Pope Francis will visit the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan early 2023, Monsignor Ettore Balestrero, the Apostolic Nuncio to the DRC, has said. Monsignor Balestrero made the announcement […]

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Experts: New approach needed to resolve conflicts in E. Africa region

Political settlements as a means of resolving conflicts in the eastern Africa region are not fully working and the region should put more emphasis on the social peace approach, experts have said.

This is because various peace agreements in the eastern Africa region are concentrating on political settlements while ignoring the socio-economic aspects to improve the lives of civilian victims.

At a three-day seminar held in Bujumbura, Burundi from November 22 to 24 hosted by Principles for Peace, experts noted that political settlements are failing because politicians are eager to portion their percentage in government, but they do not often translate into socio-economic improvement of the masses.

The seminar on Regional Dialogue in the Great Lakes region was hosted by the International Commission on Inclusive Peace (ICIP) and the Principles for Peace, a global initiative to develop a new set of principles to reshape how peace processes are structured, sequenced and achieved.

Security experts noted that the region should develop a new approach that is based on social peace, where people have a two-way relationship with the state and other community groups, and feel that the agreements are made fairly, even if they do not directly benefit from them.

Desire Yamuremye, a Burundi security expert, said that most of the political agreements after conflicts do not reflect social realities on the ground because they do not consider the economic and psychological damage and hardly provide a change in the lives of the common people.

“For a conflict to be transformed into full peace, there must be economic progress that is seen to be open to all. Social peace is more important than a politically-negotiated settlement. The absence of war does not necessarily mean peace,” said Mr Yamuremye.

Participants concurred that lack of legitimacy and inclusion continues to drive protracted conflict globally and that it is important to adopt a new approach to dialogue based on respect, solidarity and reciprocity.

Prof Alain Ndedi, a Burundian scholar and author who is also the founding president of the Young Entrepreneurs for the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (YENEPAD), said that political settlements are like a pyramid that is fraught with uncertainty because if the majority at the base feel that they have been excluded, they can cause a lot of instability.

Clinging to power

He said that in the absence of social peace, leaders in many of the fragile states in Africa employ political settlement including behind-the-scenes resources in order to hold on to power. He gave the example of Cameroon, Rwanda and Uganda.

“Holding power refers to the capability of an individual or a group to engage and survive in conflict, and impose costs on others and also hold the capacity to absorb costs inflicted on them,” said Prof Ndedi.

The East African region has seen various peace agreements in Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Burundi that could not be effectively implemented because the masses believed that pollical agreements would translate into better socio-economic well-being.

In Somalia, the 2004 peace deal signed in Nairobi concentrated on the formation of the government and parliament in exile but did not address the unemployment and illiteracy among the youth. The same was the case for the 2015 and 2018 South Sudan peace agreements that put more emphasis on power-sharing but neglected ingrained inter-ethnic divisions and youth unemployment.

On the other hand, the Kenya National Accord following the 2007 post-election violence came up with a four-point agenda, of which the most important for social peace was Agenda 4 which sought to address long-term issues including land reforms, institutional reforms and tackling poverty and unemployment among the youth.

But the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission report is yet to be implemented, which contributed to another violent election in 2017.

Lazy

Ariya William Aida, a South Sudan peace activist, faulted the common approach of arranging for political settlements between ethnic groups which she described as lazy.

“We were fighting one enemy since 1983 but now we are fighting among the 64 tribes of South Sudan. Citizens have been traumatised and without counselling and rehabilitation, any small incident can spark conflict,” said Ms Aida.

In Burundi, Mr Yamuremye gave the example of the Burundi Arusha Accord of 2000, in which an agreement that was presided over by the international community came up with power-sharing percentages between Hutus and Tutsis.

The international community put pressure on the combatants to end the 12-year conflict through a power-sharing agreement in 2000 in Arusha. The agreement commonly known as the Arusha Accord set out the modalities for power sharing between Hutus, Tutsi and Twa ethnic groups to ensure that no community was overrepresented in government, and the country’s leadership was to be rotational.

However, the Forces for the Defence of Democracy (CNDD-FDD), which was created by the late president Pierre Nkurunziza did not sign the agreement and continued fighting till it came to power in the 2005 elections. CNDD-FDD later violated the Arusha Accord when Nkurunziza contested the 2015 elections.

Power-sharing percentages

“It was absurd that the international community offered power-sharing percentages to Hutus and Tutsis. It was shameful to categorise people as Hutu and Tutsi while we speak the same language,” said Mr Yamuremye.

Social peace is a method of sustaining social life in the absence of internal conflict. It is one of the goals of social politics to provide peaceful solutions to disputes and conflicts that may arise from disagreements and social tensions among various sectors of society on a national and regional scale.

Fred Ngoga Gateretse, an ICIP commissioner and African Union ambassador, said that for a long time, peace processes on the continent have been facing challenges because of the multiplicity of regional and international actors that often push the socio-economic interests of the victim to the back burner.

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Political settlements as a means of resolving conflicts in the eastern Africa region are not fully working and the region should put more emphasis on the social peace approach, experts […]

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Surrender or face military action, rebel groups in DR Congo told

The M23 rebels, who are not represented at the ongoing inter-Congolese dialogue in Nairobi and are currently under sanctions by DRC, have been asked to hand themselves over to the government failure to which military action will be taken against them.

The Democratic Republic of Congo government has reiterated that it will not offer amnesty to the group which continues to defy calls for cessation of hostilities and exit from the areas of Bunagana, Rutshuru and Kiwanja where they were last week asked to leave after the last meeting of the Luanda process in Angola.

“If they are your brothers and sisters, I advise you to tell them to come while the arm is still stretched towards them. Do not want to be in conflict with the government and the East African Community Regional Force (EACRF),” President Felix Tshesekedi’s special envoy Serge Tshibangu Wednesday told the armed groups attending the third Nairobi Peace Process on.

He reiterated that Kinshasa will not engage the foreign armed groups fighting in eastern Congo and that they must leave the country forthwith.

“We have met only six percent of the M23 group who are represented here. The rest have decided to isolate themselves and they continue to carry out attacks,” Prof Tshibangu added.

Former Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta, the EAC facilitator for the Nairobi process. He said the Nairobi meeting only involves armed groups that have agreed to silence their guns. PHOTO | YASUYOSHI CHIBA | AFP

Groups in Nairobi meeting

The EAC facilitator for the process, former Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta, said the Nairobi meeting only involves armed groups that have agreed to silence their guns.

“The Luanda process was very clear that M23 should ease hostilities — which they have done — and vacate from three locations. Until that is done, M23 cannot be part of these discussions,” Mr Kenyatta said.

“The other foreign armed groups were told to leave the DRC territory and go back to their home countries. If they will not, they shall face military action by FARDC and the EACRF,” he added.

ReadM23 asks to meet Uhuru Kenyatta

Day two of the Nairobi Inter-Congolese dialogues was off to a slow start following the late arrival of yet another group of 82 representatives of armed groups, community leaders, civil society groups and youth groups from Goma.

Largest inter-Congolese dialogue

The arrival of the group on Tuesday afternoon added to the groups that arrived over the weekend from North Kivu, Ituri and other regions, bringing the total number of participants to 350, who include over 50 armed groups, making it the largest inter-Congolese dialogue since the inception of the Nairobi peace process in April this year.

The late arrival of the team pushed Tuesday’s negotiations to Wednesday.

Participants who spoke to The EastAfrican expressed hope that the meeting would find a lasting solution to the recurrent conflict in eastern Congo, which some claimed is mainly fuelled by foreign fighters.

ReadM23: Ceasefire deal doesn’t concern us

Others intimated that the conflict has entirely destabilised their lives as a result of a growing number of victims who are now disabled as a result of the war, besides cases of rape and defilement — resulting in the siring of “unwanted” children — and a delayed school calendar among other woes.

“We thank Kenya for the part it is playing in helping us find lasting peace because we need an end to all of the trouble happening back at home. I have just received a call from my children telling me that there was a fight in the morning. We hope the M23 can go back to where they came from,” one of the victims said.

Counselling for war victims

Psychiatrists from the Kenya’s Ministry of Health have been seconded to the week-long event at Nairobi’s Safari Park Hotel to offer counselling to the victims as they come face to face with some of the persons suspected to be behind the crimes committed against them.

One rebel group’s representative confessed that the support for some of the armed groups indeed comes from some neighbouring countries, which he declined to mention, but quickly pointed out that they were ready to surrender their guns to the DRC government if the issues affecting the region are addressed.

ReadExperts: Don’t include rebels into DRC army

Regarding the decision by EAC member states to deploy troops to the region, he said they are waiting to see if indeed their intention is to ensure peace.

“If that is indeed their intention, we shall be happy to support them. All we have been fighting for is the protection of our fellow countrymen and resources. We have seen some groups that are supported by foreign countries steal our minerals and fight our people, we want an end to that and a country that is peaceful,” he said.

Hope in Nairobi process

Prof Tshubangu expressed hope that the Nairobi process would bear fruit and come up with strategies that bring peace in eastern DRC.

“We think we are going to leave this country with resolutions and commitments. Remember all the eyes of the entire world are on us. I’d like to urge all of us that it is important that what we discuss here is executed for the sake of our country and future generations,” he said on Tuesday.

“This is your historical moment. Use it to bring lasting peace to your home country,” Kenya’s Foreign Affairs PS Macharia Kamau told the participants.

The dialogues are meant to create mechanisms for bringing back peace in eastern DRC where more than 120 armed groups are fighting.

They kicked off on Monday with a resolution by EAC heads of state to deploy military action against armed groups that defy calls to ease hostilities, create channels for voluntary repatriation of internally displaced persons and refugees hosted in neighbouring countries in addition to a call for the unconditional departure of foreign armed groups from DRC territories.

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The M23 rebels, who are not represented at the ongoing inter-Congolese dialogue in Nairobi and are currently under sanctions by DRC, have been asked to hand themselves over to the […]

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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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EA pastoralists fault governments for slow pace of land reforms

Pastoralist communities across East Africa have faulted their governments for the slow pace of land reforms which they argue have adversely affect their livelihoods as the region battles climate change.

At the East Africa Indigenous Peoples’ Land Summit held in Nanyuki, Kenya, representatives from seven countries said that while various land reform programmes had been launched to enable pastoral communities own and manage natural resources, there was lack of political goodwill to complete the processes.

For instance, in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, the process of community land registration has been bogged down by a myriad of challenges, which the governments appear not keen to address.

Registration of communal land is meant to empower the pastoral communities in management of natural resources, including enabling them to transact business using the titles, or to seek compensation in case of compulsory acquisition by government for mega projects. When this is not done, it means the communities cannot have legitimate claims.

Land-related challenges

The summit is seeking to identify land-related challenges for indigenous peoples and to lobby continental bodies like the African Union for desirable land reforms.

The meeting brought together representatives of nomadic herders, agro-pastoralists, hunter-gatherer and fisher folks from Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia, Rwanda Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In Kenya, the National Land Commission (NLC) is sorting more than 3,000 historical land injustice claims.

“A good percentage of these claims emanate from what we can describe as indigenous populations,” said NLC Chairman Garshon Otachi.

He noted that most communities from arid and semi-arid areas are yet to benefit from the Community Land Registration Act 2016 that gives legal ownership to communities whose land has for years been held in trust by the government.

“Only about 10 percent of communal land has been registered under the new Act six years down the line. The enactment of the 2016 Land Act was a game-changer as it offered a pathway for the management and governance of customary and indigenous land in Kenya,” said Otachi.

Extremely slow

Gemechu Berhanu, a representative from the Oromo community in Ethiopia, complained that the process of registering communal land, which began in 2021, is extremely slow and as a result, most pastoral lands are not registered.

Hunters and gatherers from the Batwa community in Burundi and the DRC accused their respective governments of kicking them out of their ancestral forests without an alternative.

“We are a population of about 117,000 and traditionally we used to eke a living out of hunting animals, gathering honey and wild fruits and moulding pots… We are no longer able to access clay which is the raw material for moulding pots,” said Gervais Ndihokubwayo.

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Pastoralist communities across East Africa have faulted their governments for the slow pace of land reforms which they argue have adversely affect their livelihoods as the region battles climate change. […]

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Looming global recession sparks fear in East Africa region

East Africans are second-guessing what the projected global recession in 2023 could mean for them, given the International Monetary Fund says about a third of the world will be in recession, led by the globe’s largest economies including the US, China, and Europe.

The recent growth projections by the international financier puts East African countries’ prospects for this and next year better than the global average, but analysts say the region will not be spared from the coming recession.

According to the IMF’s World Economic Outlook report released last month, the global GDP growth rate will fall from six percent last year to 3.2 percent in 2022, further decelerating to 2.7 percent in 2023 as a result of disruptions caused by the eastern Europe conflict.

East Africa’s economy is, however, predicted to grow by averagely 5.2 percent this year, dropping from 6.4 percent last year, but is expected to accelerate to 5.6 percent next year, highlighting a better performance than the rest of the world.

Harder economic times

But despite this, economists and financial analysts say citizens will need to brace for harder economic times next year as the looming recession could result in mass job losses, pay cuts, and a general slump in economic activity disrupting livelihoods.

“Most of the global economies are rapidly headed towards recession and Kenya is no exception,” said Rufas Kamau, the lead markets analyst at Nairobi-based financial markets broker FXPesa.

According to Mr Kamau, Kenyans should take necessary actions to save the most they can right now to be able to stay financially stable in the event of pay cuts, and improve their work efficiency to reduce their chances of retrenchment.

“With October inflation hitting 9.59 percent and the CBK raising policy rates to 8.75 percent, the environment for economic growth becomes tougher for Kenyans as the cost of loans becomes more expensive and consumer budgets continue being suppressed by inflation,” Kamau told The EastAfrican.

“Access to credit is still tough for the SMEs as banks prefer investing in government bonds since they bear less risk and the highest returns of any asset class in the country.”

Hold on to cash

American billionaires Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk have also been very vocal lately of the looming recession, similarly advising people to hold on to their cash instead of spending on luxuries such as cars, television sets or refrigerators.

Ken Gichinga, the chief economist at Kenyan analytics firm Mentoria Economics, agrees that Nairobi and the rest of East Africa might slump into recession next year, but the effect won’t be as fast nor as vast as it will be in the more developed markets.

“The effect will be immediate in the more developed western countries which have a wider credit market, meaning that rising interest rates will impact more people and entities almost instantly,” Mr Gichinga told The EastAfrican.

“In East Africa, the dynamics are a little different. Many people won’t feel the pain of rising interest rates immediately because they don’t rely on credit and the impact won’t be immediate.”

The rising interest and inflation rates and job losses resulting from the recession in the west, Gichinga said, will eventually trickle down to the region ultimately causing “what will feel like a recession.”

Tread carefully

According to both Kamau and Gichinga, while there is no certainty that East Africa’s economy will fall into a recession next year, people should tread carefully with their finances as there isn’t a guarantee the economy will evade the coming global recession either.

Eyes are now on policymakers to employ the best tools to stabilise economies to minimise the impact pf the looming recession and help save jobs and livelihoods as the coming recession sparks fear.

Kristalina Georgieva, the IMF managing director said countries should try to get the right mix of monetary and fiscal policy measures to overcome the threats posed by the global financial conditions.

“With monetary policy stepping on the brakes, fiscal policy should not step on the accelerator,” Ms Georgieva said last week while speaking at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders’ summit. “We should be in a mode of alert, not alarm, and develop policies to address these risks.”

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East Africans are second-guessing what the projected global recession in 2023 could mean for them, given the International Monetary Fund says about a third of the world will be in […]

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Road toll charges remain a hurdle to EAC cross-border trade

Road tolls have again emerged as hurdles to smooth trade between East African Community member countries as each government charges its own fees on trucks moving into its territory.

The region’s business stakeholders are however optimistic that trade in the bloc will increase by 11 percent in 2022-2023 if toll fees and domestic taxes are harmonised to prevent distortion and create a level playing field for businesses.

“We are proposing that EAC partner states charge a uniform fee of $10 per 100km on all trucks the way Uganda does,” said John Kalisa, chief executive of the East African Business Council.

“Once collected, the amount should be used for the purpose for which it was intended — that is to repair and maintain the same roads,” he added. Tolls are usually implemented to help recoup the cost of road construction and maintenance, as well as finance other infrastructure projects.

The $10 charge that the EABC has proposed translates to close to $144 for the region, down from $500.

Flat rate

he anticipated $144 levy is the flat rate across the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa).

EABC is reacting to complaints by importers who have highlighted the rising cost of doing business in the region occasioned by the varying charges in each member country even as normal cross border trade returns free of pandemic restrictions.

The reopening of the Katuna-Gatuna One Stop Border Post on January 31, 2022, for instance, has seen some 160 trucks cleared daily to cross between Uganda and Rwanda, paying at least Ush470 million ($125,735) in tax collections to Uganda per month. At least 1,000 people cross here daily too.

However, the two countries are charging different road tolls.

“Rwanda charges a fixed rate of $76 for small trucks and $152 for large trucks, while Uganda charges $10 per every 100km,” said Kalisa.

“Tanzania is charging more than $156 per truck, which is very expensive,” he added.

The same applies at the Mutukula border crossing between Tanzania and Rwanda where trucks are also charged different road tolls.

“As the business community in the region we are advocating for a common standardised fee because any variation distorts trade,” Kalisa said.

Most affected

He identified Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda as some of the most affected EAC partner states where different toll fees are distorting intra-regional trade, which is still below 15 percent.

Tanzania — which serves as a gateway to the sea for its landlocked neighbours Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia and Malawi — is charging Ugandan cargo trucks $500 as fees for road repairs and maintenance.

Rwanda has also threatened to levy a similar amount on Tanzanian trucks coming through the Mutukula border crossing. The two countries are in discussion over the same.

“There is a need to harmonise road tolls across the region and we are glad that the EAC Secretariat and respective ministries have been tasked to hasten harmonisation of road toll fees in the region,” said Pascal Bizimana, commissioner general Rwanda Revenue Authority, when he held talks with the EABC last week.

Mid this year, Tanzania announced plans to cut road toll by about 71 percent on Uganda-bound cargo trucks, as part of an agreement reached at bilateral talks between Presidents Samia Suluhu Hassan and Yoweri Museveni.

However, the plans are yet to be effected.

Reduce costs

The harmonisation of the toll fee is expected to reduce the cost of doing business.

Transport and logistical barriers to regional trade are estimated to cost East African economies between 1.7 percent and 2.8 percent of gross domestic product every year.

Trade liberalisation and improvements to infrastructure will help reduce these costs, creating ease in doing business across the region and in turn benefitting consumers through lower prices.

The EAC has been tasked with harmonisation of toll fee on the Northern Corridor (1,700 km long) that begins at the Port of Mombasa and serves Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Eastern DRC.

The Central Corridor (1,300 km long) begins at the Port of Dar es Salaam and serves Tanzania, Zambia, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and Eastern DRC.

The improved infrastructure is expected to have a large knockoff effect in poverty reduction in the region through trade-induced changes in prices while reduction in border delays and costs will cut the overall cost of investment for businesses.

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Road tolls have again emerged as hurdles to smooth trade between East African Community member countries as each government charges its own fees on trucks moving into its territory. The […]

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How Myanmar became destination for trafficked East Africans

On a Facebook page routinely appearing in the East African region, ‘models’, saleswomen and teachers of English are invited to apply for jobs ranging from marketing, language classes and translation.

And the promised pay is hefty, by East African standards. One offer for a ‘sales specialist’ promises one to earn Thai Baht (TBH) 7,5000 (about KSh256,000 or $2,098) per month. A bilingual translator could earn up to $3,000, mostly to work at a call centre where clients are foreign speakers of English or some other language. It is an added advantage if you can speak Chinese and are white, but good looks generally will do you fine.

The qualification, the advert shows is simple. You must be a university graduate, good at communication skills and have a “cheerful” personality. What is more, a human relations manager whose salary is Ksh150,000 ($1,229) can more than double their take-home if they recruit more workers. One offer says they will get $139 times the number of employees under their watch.

Flight ticket guaranteed

The jobs also require one to have fast typing skills and that one must be able to relocate to Thailand with a promise to have their visas sorted and a flight ticket guaranteed.

This type of recruitment, it turns out, has gotten more East Africans travelling in droves to Thailand, but ending up enslaved in Myanmar, according to a bulletin by the Kenyan Foreign and Diaspora Affairs ministry.

One survivor, recently rescued from Myanmar, told The EastAfrican they were duped into the jobs but were moved to an unknown location as soon as they landed in Thailand, initially on a tourism visa. That place turned out to be a remote location inside Myanmar, a country under a state of emergency since last year when the military junta deposed a democratically elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.

“They said they wanted their employees to be taught English so they can speak fluently to their clients,” Martha* said.

“After we arrived, they took our passports and we were moved mostly through remote locations. They said they were avoiding dangerous security points. But they had not told us we would end up in Myanmar,” she explained.

Rescued

Martha, a Kenyan, was among 24 East Africans rescued in September from Myanmar in a concerted effort by the Kenyan and Laos government with HAART Kenya and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). The group also included a Burundian and a Ugandan. Earlier, a group of 13 had also been rescued after the Thai military responded to distress calls.

The Kenyan Ministry of Foreign and Diaspora Affairs said on Wednesday that the Laos security forces had rescued another group of six, collaborating with the UN agencies. But the response has been to only those who manage to sneak out their call for help.

“Already, one young Kenyan has died as a result of a botched operation by quack doctors operating in the so-called special economic zones in rebel controlled areas in Myanmar,” the Kenyan ministry said, suggesting organ harvesting is fuelling the trafficking. Officials did not reveal the identity or gender of the dead Kenyan. But most of those rescued recently have been all women.

“Others who have been rescued have returned home in crutches and with broken limbs after being beaten severely by up to 20 gang members operating in the factories.”

Coordinated gangs

The gangs are coordinated, given that travelling between Nairobi and Myanmar is treacherous. With no direct flights and no diplomatic missions between any east African country and Myanmar, travellers are lured as though they are going to Bangkok, a popular destination for tourists, and famous for its blind masseuses. Others are advertised as jobs in Mae Sot, a town in Thailand near the border with Myanmar.

“The jobs that are purported to be in Mae Sot town in Thailand are fake. The cartels use Mae Sot as a bait. As soon as one lands in Mae Sot, they are whisked across the river to the factories in Myanmar,” the Kenyan government warned on Wednesday.

“Kenyans continue to fall prey to online job scammers, who are unrelenting in their search for innocent Kenyans to sell to Chinese cartels. Many of the agents, wanted by the police, are still advertising sales and customer care jobs purported to be in Thailand with impunity, well aware that there are no such jobs.”

Since August, Nairobi says 75 victims of trafficking have been brought back home. They include ten Ugandans and a Burundian, rescued in cooperation with the governments of Thailand, Laos, IOM and HAART Kenya. Authorities estimated there could be more still trapped, as there at least 30 distress calls pending rescue.

Those rescued say they had to work long hours and the pay was not forthcoming. Those trafficked were mostly women under 35. They also said they were working in an area controlled by rebels opposed to the junta in Myanmar. Nairobi says “the rebels provide protection to the Chinese criminal cartels” who sometimes threaten Thai and Laos government officials planning rescue operations.

Kenya now says it will raise supervision on any East African travelling to Thailand through the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to purge anyone travelling after getting an ‘online job’ there. In addition, those travelling to Thailand on ‘tourist’ visas will have to show exact address and return tickets even though the government said it invites any Kenyans “to Thailand and other countries in the region who come for legit work and leisure but not as victims of trafficking”.

At least 2,5O0 Kenyans work and study in Thailand, according to official government records.

“Some are teachers, doctors, IT professionals, international civil servants working with UN agencies and others doing business. We have Kenyans who have lived in Thailand for over 30 years and married Thai citizens.”

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On a Facebook page routinely appearing in the East African region, ‘models’, saleswomen and teachers of English are invited to apply for jobs ranging from marketing, language classes and translation. […]

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Hunger for FDI relegates labour rights, conservation to back seat

The growing appetite for investors is pushing countries in the East Africa region to turn a blind eye to labour rights laws and conservation obligations in order to attract multinationals.

And experts warn the long-term danger is that of a region that will have rogue players dominating the corporate scene, trampling on basic rights of the communities.

The revelations emerged even as the world enters the second decade into voluntary UN-endorsed soft power instruments referred to as the United Nations Guiding Principles (UNGPs) on Business and Human Rights. They are meant to ensure that states are aware of their duty to protect human rights and prevail upon companies domiciled within their territory to do so.

The UNGPs, which are voluntary, also emphasise corporate responsibility to human rights at all times, especially in conflict-affected areas, and access to remedy for victims of rights abuses.

Remained on paper

For Africa the UNGPs, they have largely remained on paper, with only two countries. Only Kenya and Uganda have pioneered a National Action Plan (NAP) to domesticate and enforce the principles.

“Initially, businesses were not very open to have dialogue with us, said Ms Claris Kariuki, a senior state attorney at the Attorney General’s Office in Kenya.

“From Kenya’s NAP consultations, the common human rights issues that always came up were access to land, access to remedy, environment, transparency and labour,” she told The EastAfrican.

Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania, South Africa, Zambia and Mozambique have initiated processes to conclude a NAP. Critics argue that these countries have continued to overlook violations by corporates.

Implementing standards

The revelations emerged during the African Business and Human Rights Forum in Accra, Ghana. Organised by the African Union on October 12 and 13, it was meant to identify progress, gaps and challenges, and pick lessons from the world’s other regions that are already implementing these standards.

Arnold Kwesiga, member of the African Coalition for Corporate Governance argues that that questions remain as to whether poor and weak countries can call multinationals to order.

“We have to question and look at the capacity of the state to regulate and also the capacity of the state to ensure that all affected communities on the ground are part of the process,” he says.

Harriet Asibazuyo, Social Safeguards Specialist at the Gender, Labour and Social Development Ministry in Uganda, says part of the challenge is the number of stakeholders that need to be brought on board, before she rollout.

“This is a complex subject. We need political support to lend weight to this action plan in its implementation.”

Implementation gaps

The problem may be global, but in Africa, implementation gaps and challenges that undermine compliance means multinationals playing by tough rules elsewhere enjoy impunity in Africa.

“In February, the European Union adopted the due diligence protocol, which requires EU companies to undertake due diligence on human rights wherever they operate,” says Oyeniyi Abe, researcher and law lecturer at the University of Huddersfield, UK.

“This has implications for Africa where the state is often silent or indifferent to human rights violations,” adding that the protocol imposes a corporate due diligence duty on large EU and third-country companies to ensure a human rights regime that is universal.

This is especially companies in certain high-risk sectors, such as extractives. Under the EU law, they will be tasked to identify and take steps to remedy actual, prevent or mitigate potential adverse impacts on human rights and the environment in the companies’ own operations, and their subsidiaries and value chains.

In Germany, for instance, whose multinationals have a large supply chain footprint in Africa in the automobile, logistics, infrastructure, energy, mining and pharmaceutical sectors, has already enacted a law, to effect the EU due diligence protocol.

Mandatory rights due diligence

“Our new mandatory human rights due diligence regime has possible impacts and implications for the Africa region,” says Marlene Landes, Senior Policy Analyst, Sustainable Transformation of Global Supply Chains, at the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The law, which experts say will be replicated across the EU, has a direct bearing on African businesses, including small and medium sized companies, because suppliers of German MNCs will have to share more information and meet human rights and environmental requirements, as laid down in contracts with their business partners, Ms Landes explains.

The German Due Diligence Act will enter into force next year for companies with at least 3000 employees, and in 2024, businesses with at least 1000 employees will fall within the scope of the law.

A study commissioned by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, and published in August this year, says African states are weak and hampered by lack of regulatory clarity and enforcement provisions to call transnational corporate actors to order, when the latter abuse human rights.

Mr Abe, who authored the study, titled “African Union and the State of Business and Human Rights in Africa”, says while the worst cases of human rights violations by corporate entities occur in Africa, such cases are dealt with in the homes states of these multinational companies (MNCs).

“Challenges range from governance of MNCs, weak corporate laws and lack of political will,” he wrote.

Law on minimum wage

Trade unions in Uganda, for instance have for decades pushed for a law on minimum wage, as a labour right, and this culminated in the passing of the Bill into an Act by Parliament in 2019, but President Museveni declined to sign it into law arguing that the current law is sufficient.

Analysts said the president was shielding multinationals, which establish in Uganda to take advantage of a cheap labour pool that would be threatened by signing into law the minimum wage Act effectively leaving companies to determine what to pay workers.

Labour rights activists say this state of affairs, massaged by the UNGPs and a NAP on business and human rights that is voluntary, cannot guarantee adequate compensation for workers.

“We want to see things passed into law [because] the law allows you to hold anyone, even the government, accountable,” says Matthew Parks, Parliamentary Coordinator the Congress of South African Trade Unions.

Binding regime of principles

In their statement, civil society actors at the Forum said they want a binding regime of principles that will cure the gaps and challenges in implementation of the UNGPs, and therefore guarantee that businesses respect for human rights.

“While the UNGPs have triggered and facilitated the critical debate on business and human rights, their voluntary and non-binding nature renders them inadequate and ineffective in addressing increasing corporate abuses and enhancing corporate accountability on the continent,” the statement said.

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The growing appetite for investors is pushing countries in the East Africa region to turn a blind eye to labour rights laws and conservation obligations in order to attract multinationals. […]

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Yellowstone, Kilimanjaro glaciers likely to vanish by 2050: UNESCO

Glaciers at many UNESCO World Heritage sites including Yellowstone and Kilimanjaro National Park will likely vanish by 2050, the UN agency warned Thursday, urging leaders to act fast to save the rest.

The warning followed a study of 18,600 glaciers at 50 World Heritage sites — covering around 66,000 square kilometres (25,000 square miles) — which found glaciers at a third of the sites were “condemned to disappear”.

The study “shows these glaciers have been retreating at an accelerated rate since 2000 due to CO2 emissions, which are warming temperatures”, UNESCO said.

The glaciers were losing 58 billion tonnes of ice every year, equivalent to the combined annual water use of France and Spain, and were responsible for nearly five percent of observed global sea-level rise, the agency explained.

Condemned to disappear

“Glaciers in a third of the 50 World Heritage sites are condemned to disappear by 2050, regardless of efforts to limit temperature increases,” UNESCO said.

“But it is still possible to save the glaciers in the remaining two thirds of sites if the rise in temperatures does not exceed 1.5°C compared to the pre-industrial period.”

Countries have pledged to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels — a goal the world is set to miss on current emission trends.

“This report is a call to action,” said UNESCO head Audrey Azoulay, ahead of the COP27 climate summit in Egypt starting on Monday.

“Only a rapid reduction in our CO2 emissions levels can save glaciers and the exceptional biodiversity that depends on them. COP27 will have a crucial role to help find solutions to this issue.”

Gone by 2050

In Africa, glaciers in all World Heritage sites will very likely be gone by 2050, including at Kilimanjaro National Park and Mount Kenya, UNESCO warned.

In Europe, some glaciers in the Pyrenees and in the Dolomites will also probably have vanished in three decades’ time.

The same went for glaciers in the Yellowstone and Yosemite national parks in the United States.

The melting of ice and snow is one of the 10 key threats from climate change, an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report published in February said.

Glaciers at many UNESCO World Heritage sites including Yellowstone and Kilimanjaro National Park will likely vanish by 2050, the UN agency warned Thursday, urging leaders to act fast to save […]

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Why Somalia struggles with ‘dangerous’ tag for journalists

Somalia’s labelling as the most dangerous place for journalists to work in continues to endure, even as authorities promised to rework their guard on press freedom.

As the world marked the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists on Wednesday, Somalia was yet again counting the costs of insecurity on free journalism.

Isse Hassan aka Kona, a reporter with M24 TV, channel was killed on Saturday after a twin bomb explosion caught him and three others near a junction close to the Federal Ministry of Education. Three other journalists were seriously wounded in an attack Somali government officials say more than 100 people were killed.

Kona and his colleagues are said to have been hit by a second explosion as they rushed back to their office to record the events on tape, a local press lobby indicated. His other colleagues, Feisal Omar Hashi, Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdulle and Bile Abdisalan Ahmed — who worked for various international agencies — were seriously wounded.

Isse becomes only the latest figure to be added to the death toll.

54 journalists killed in decade

According to the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), which condemned the attack, Kona’s death means 54 journalists have been killed in Somalia in the past decade, making the country a place where journalists are most in danger on the continent.

On Wednesday, Somalia Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre issued a statement vowing to defeat Al-Shabaab and make the country safe for everyone, including journalists.

“Without journalists working in a safe and secure environment, Somalia cannot attain the development it aims for,” Barre said on Wednesday.

Crimes against journalists

November 2 is the day sanctioned by the UN to draw attention to the level of impunity for crimes against journalists.

“I would like to underscore that those crimes against journalists in all [their] shapes and forms have no place in Somalia,” PM Barre added, promising to punish all perpetrators.

Somalia has made such promises in the past in but they have not been implemented. A report by NUSOJ on Wednesday said impunity in Somalia has ensured that crimes against journalists are overlooked.

Al-Shabaab fighters have killed several journalists in Somalia, especially for reporting on issues the militant group did not like. In November last year, Abdiaziz Guled aka Afrika, the director of state-owned Radio Mogadishu, was killed in a targeted suicide bombing as he rode in a car with a colleague identified as Sharmarke Mohamed Warsame, the director of Somali National TV, also a government media outlet. Afrika had been a veteran of the airwaves and criticised Al-Shabaab in a radio show. The militants marked him for elimination.

State officials on the spot

Government operatives have also not escaped blame. According to NUSOJ, government officials and politicians too have intimidated, threatened or refused to protect journalists. And even when culprits are known, they are never punished.

“The widespread acceptance of impunity for those who attack journalists in Somalia is in itself a major cause for concern. But it also signals a lack of collective political will to tackle the problem head on,” said NUSOJ Secretary-General Omar Faruk Osman.

In Somalia, the problem is beyond culture and the government has been criticised for refusing to amend archaic laws, such as the penal code, which are seen as punitive to press freedom and violate international principles.

“Across the country, journalists increasingly face the risk of prosecution as the legal regime is skewed towards control rather than facilitation and protection of journalistic freedoms,” NUSOJ said.

But there is hope as the Somali PM Wednesday promised to implement the UN and Somalia’s National Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists, which would address key challenges that make it unsafe for media practitioners.

The UN Plan was issued in 2012 to tackle impunity after the global body learnt of rising cases of attacks on journalists globally.

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EAC defence chiefs to meet over conflict in eastern DR Congo

The Kenya Defence Forces has released a statement indicating that Kenyan troops will be deployed to the Democratic republic of Congo (DRC) following a decision endorsed and adopted by regional leaders at the third East African Community (EAC) Heads of State Conclave on Peace and Security in Eastern DRC held in Nairobi in June 2022.

At the same time, Burundi President Evariste Ndayishimiye, who is the chairman of the East African heads of state summit, has said that after consulting with his counterparts, the regional heads of defence forces will be meeting as soon as possible.

“President Evariste Ndayishimiye made a telephone conversation with his counterparts in the region with the aim of harmonising the views on the ways and means of managing the security crisis in the East of the Democratic Republic of Congo,” said a statement from the president Ndayishimiye’s spokesman Alain-Diomede Nzeyimana.

“At the end of the exchanges, it was decided that a meeting of the heads of defence forces of the EAC member countries should be held as soon as possible to study the parameters of a concerted and sustainable response, which will be followed by an Extraordinary Summit of Heads of State,” the statement added.

Fighting intensifies

This comes as fighting between DRC forces and M23 rebels intensified in the eastern part of the country, forcing thousands of people to flee the country.

Kinshasa has accused Rwanda of supporting the M23 rebels, allegations that Rwanda has denied.

While addressing the East African Legislative Assembly in Rwanda’s capital Kigali on Tuesday, President Paul Kagame said his government is committed to peace and stability in the region.

“Rwanda remains committed to peace and stability efforts within the frameworks at both regional and continental levels,” said President Kagame.

His comments came after the DRC expelled Rwanda’s ambassador Vincent Karega. He was given 48 hours to leave the country.

Regional forces deployment

In June this year, Kenya’s former president Uhuru Kenyatta, who was then chairman of the East African Community heads of state summit, ordered the deployment of regional forces into DRC. The move came after M23 announced the capture of Bunagana city in the eastern part of the country, forcing hundreds of Congolese to flee to neighbouring Uganda.

Since then, there had been no any official announcement of deployment of the EAC standby force to DRC.

The Democratic Republic of Congo joined the East African Community in March this year. One month later, the new regional bloc member accused Kigali of destabilising the country by supporting the M23 rebels.

“There is concern about the escalation of the conflict between Rwanda and DRC, but the president (Kagame) was very clear that Rwanda is committed to existing regional and continental frameworks,” said George Odongo, a member of the East African Legislative Assembly from Uganda.

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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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East Africa’s economic recovery falters on debt, fiscal deficits

The increasing risk of debt distress, widening fiscal and current deficits and limited economic diversification plans in the economies of East Africa, have combined to weaken prospects for growth this year.

The African Development Bank forecasts the region’s GDP at four per cent this year, before recovering to 4.7 per cent in 2023, helped by the reopening of the economies after the Covid-19 containment measures.

However, countries are yet to achieve their pre-Covid growth levels, according to the bank’s East Africa Regional Economic Outlook 2022 released last week.

According to the report, the projected strong growth is not uniform across the wider eastern African region, with top performers being Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Seychelles, Tanzania, and Uganda.

Invasion of Ukraine

The Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has increased global food and energy prices, could further slow the economic recovery, according to AfDB.

The report reviews economic performance of 13 countries (Burundi, Comoros, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda) over the past year with short to medium-term projections.

According to the IMF review of fuel taxes remains an option for countries seeking to deal with the high fuel prices and surging inflation in the region but this will depend with the countries’ internal revenue and expenditure policies.

Harsh, unpopular prescriptions

The fund has also backed elimination of fuel subsidies, prudent management of public resources, complete reforms of inefficient and loss-making state-owned enterprises and balanced funding plan tilted towards concessional loans to help navigate the biting economic crisis.

“The options to consider those taxes (fuel taxes) are things that countries can consider. Countries have the options to consider the domestic tax systems and reform measures taking into account the specific government policies. It is a sovereign decision they can make,” said Catherine Pattillo, the fund’s Deputy Director-in-charge of African Department.

Rising crude prices

EA’s pace of economic recovery from the pandemic faces new threats from rising crude prices and the Russia-Ukraine war that has disrupted global supply chains leading to higher food and energy prices, depreciating currencies, and falling forex reserves.

Currency depreciations have resulted in higher energy and wheat prices in local currency terms compared with the price in dollars. Also, consultants at Deloitte say EA countries are going through difficult period that will see economic decline this year, driven by political instability and unreliable rainfall that has adversely impacted agricultural yields.

The economists in the report “Resilience through tough times” show that the region’s GDP has been heavily impacted by political instability in Kenya and Ethiopia, the major economic growth drivers in the region, and reduced agricultural sector growth.

EA’s inflation is forecast to increase to 8.6 per cent in 2022 from 7.7 per cent in 2021 driven by elevated global food and energy prices, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

According to the World Bank’s latest Commodity Markets Outlook report released last week the weakening of currencies of most developing economies is driving up food and fuel prices in ways that could deepen the food and energy crises.

Elevated prices of energy commodities that serve as inputs to agricultural production have been driving up food prices, with food inflation in Africa averaging between 12 and 15 per cent.

Globally, energy prices are forecast to still be 75 per cent above their average over the past five years , next year while the price of Brent crude oil is expected to average $92 a barrel in 2023 — well above the five-year average of $60 a barrel.

“The forecast of a decline in agricultural prices is subject to an array of risks,” said John Baffes, Senior Economist in the World Bank’s Prospects Group.

Globally, inflation is expected to increase to 9.2 per cent in 2022 from 5.3 percent in 2021 largely attributable to the high energy and food inflation that is a result of negative spillover stemming from the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

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Kenya’s KCB Bank now eyes Ethiopia financial market

Kenya’s KCB Bank on Thursday expressed its desire to engage in the Ethiopian financial sector, becoming the latest bank to show such an interest in Africa’s second most populous country with an estimated population of 120 million people.

The expression of interest comes after a delegation of senior executives from KCB Bank, including the bank’s CEO, finance officer and secretary, visited the Ethiopian Investment Commission (EIC) in Addis Ababa where they held talks with Ethiopian finance officials.

The delegation commended the Ethiopian government’s recent decision to open up the financial sector to foreign investors.

Temesgen Tilahun, Deputy Commissioner of EIC, briefed the delegation about the investment policies, recent economic reforms and the objective of opening up the financial sector to foreign investors.

Landmark decision

In September, Ethiopia’s Council of Ministers passed a landmark decision to open up the country’s banking sector to foreign investors.

The first ever move was a part of the government’s economic reform that is opening previously state-controlled sectors to foreign investors.

The National Bank of Ethiopia (NBE) has been working on amending the law and regulatory system in a bid to change the banking policy.

According to the prime minister’s office, opening the sector to foreign investment is expected to support banking services in Ethiopia and would take the country’s economic link with the international market to “a higher level”.

Bring efficiency

The move would also bring about competitiveness and efficiency in the financial sector while boosting the inflow of foreign capital and job opportunities, the council observed.

According to NBE, the financial sector has shown strong growth in the last four years, during which the number of commercial banks increased from 18 to 30, and their branches reached 8,944 from 5,564 as of June 30, 2022.

The total assets of banks also grew from 1.3 trillion Birr ($242 billion) to 2.4 trillion Birr ($446.8 billion), registering a 92 per cent growth. 

Their cumulative annual net profit has jumped by 122 per cent to 49.9 billion Birr ($9.3 billion) in the recently concluded financial year as compared to 2019.

Get ready for competition

The fact that Ethiopia has closed its doors to foreign banks has benefited the sector until now, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed told lawmakers in February.

“But after this, banks need to prepare themselves with modern ways and information technologies,” he added.

KCB’s interest to enter the Ethiopian finance sector also comes as Kenyan banks are threatened by another crisis triggered by the deteriorating economic environment and the persistent Russia-Ukraine military conflict after demonstrating strong recovery from the economic falling-out effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

KCB has over 125 years of experience in the banking sector and is operating in seven East African countries, according to EIC.

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EAC drafts guidelines on transferring pension within member countries

Workers in the East African Community member countries could soon transfer their pension savings from one country to another, guaranteeing no losses even when one moves jobs.

This is part of a proposal for the bloc to harmonise and make pension funds attractive to workers who until now have been saving in state-sponsored or private schemes in countries where they work.

Retirement savings

The urgency of reform was touched off last week by Kenyan President William Ruto, who tabled proposals to reform Kenya’s National Social Security Fund (NSSF).

One such proposal is to make it mandatory for anyone with a regular income to contribute to the fund for their pension irrespective of their contractual terms, as well as making employers liable to match the regular contributions by employees.

“We intend to overhaul our social security infrastructure to make it inclusive. To encourage those excluded to save, I will be proposing a national savings drive to encourage those in the informal sector to set up their retirement savings plan,” said President Ruto in an address to the joint house of parliament two weeks ago.

For every Kenyan who will save Ksh6,000 ($49.65) per month, the president said, the government of Kenya will contribute an additional half of that every month.

At the regional level, the East African Community is expected to publish a report on the social protection laws and policies that will inform and guide the legal process for the portability of social security benefits as directed by EAC ministers of Labour.

On October 6, stakeholders in labour regulation met to discuss the portability of workers’ retirement savings within the EAC.

Benefits

A draft on the EAC co-ordination of social security benefits that is being validated in each partner state will provide rules and procedures for the co-ordination of social security benefits.

These benefits fall within the framework of the free movement of workers and self-employed persons in order to contribute towards improving their standard of living and conditions of employment.

The draft proposes that employment benefits such as maternity, employment injury/occupational disease, health and sickness benefit, family benefit, and unemployment benefit shall be applicable according to the legislation of partner states; and shall not be portable.

However, it is President Ruto’s calls for enhancing Kenya’s NSSF contributions that have ignited calls for reforms in the labour sector.

Kenyans save a flat rate of Ksh200 ($1.65) per month in the scheme, which Ruto argued is too low to build savings that would offer decent living upon retirement.

In Tanzania, the law provides for savings of 10 percent of one’s gross earning and the employer contributes a similar amount to the NSSF.

In Kenya, the NSSF is a social security provider for Kenya’s workers in the formal and informal sector. But for many years since its formation, NSSF only serves those in formal employment, which is about three million people.

The draft EAC policy proposes that the processing and payment of a legitimate claim shall be completed in a period not exceeding45 days after the date of receipt of the said benefit application.

Policies

Where the claim cannot be paid within the stipulated period, the institution shall notify the relevant Competent Institution and explain reasons for the delay.

“There is a need to promote labour migration in the region, through the harmonisation of labour laws, enhancement of the use of ICT in collection, analysis and dissemination of labour market information, and data and statistics on migrants,” said Simon Chelugui, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary nominee for Labour and Social Protection, and Cooperative.

Chelugui chaired the EAC Labour ministers’ committee who came up with the draft proposals.

“EAC partner states may in future have to consider honorary consul services in key labour destination countries to improve the provision of necessary consular assistance and protection of the social, economic, labour and human rights of EAC migrant workers,” he added.

The Kenyan leader is promising to overhaul that completely so that it can work for all Kenyans including those in the informal sector who form the largest population outside the pension sector.

He may have to work on the institution’s credibility as NSSF’s history has been marred by scandals and ill-conceived investment policies.

Critics are worried that President Ruto’s call for more contributions without the requisite legal regime to protect the funds from theft is just another way for those in government to interfere with the management of NSSF funds.

“That is not the case right now. You know pension is protected. If I take it and keep it you can’t reach it,” said Anthony Omerikwa, managing trustee of NSSF, defending the leadership direction the fund has taken in the recent past.

“Currently, the contribution and people who are in the ambit of NSSF are around 2.9 million. But those people in the informal sector are about 18 million. The way to get them on board is two ways; make it statutory and thus incentivise contribution. That awareness is also not there. We are moving into ‘space’ for citizenry who not only want to spend more but they also want to spend what they don’t have. We are moving into a new deep credit space.”

Critics of the NSSF also argue that efforts by NSSF to convert it from a National Provident Fund Scheme to a Social Insurance Pension Scheme have been hampered by lack of a clear legal and lack of political will.

If converted as a social insurance scheme, the new NSSF will operate as a mandatory National Social Insurance Pension Scheme, serving as workers the 1st pillar of social protection.

“We have a draft bill in place. It is very important so that Kenya start saving. The employer matches for those in employments; for those in voluntary scheme, the government matches. You remember the 1 to 2 ratio and I think that will expand the saving space and also facilitate the government to do so many things that it needs to do,” said Omerikwa.

“We already have the NSSF Act of 2013. But we also need mandatory contributions by people from the informal sector and so we need a voluntary provident fund within the NSSF Act. Both of hose components are very important for us as a country, which calls for a law that will guide the pension industry,” said Sandeep Raichura, Group CEO of Zamara, a pension and investments firm.

“Whether you are in casual, contractual or permanent employment there is a mandatory contribution. It has to be an automatic contribution by the employer as well. It has to be made compulsory irrespective of your employment status.”

Compliance

Everyone with an income should be registered as a contributing member and a law enacted to ensure compliance.

“The truth of the matter is that the money we are paying to NSSF cannot even run or sustain the administrative work at NSSF. They require more funds and we as Cotu had agreed on that,” said Francis Atwoli, Secretary General of Cotu (K). “So what the president is saying is what we had endorsed sometimes back.” Atwoli said permanent jobs are on decline, thereby reducing contributions towards NSSF.

“They are about 6 to 7 million of people on permanent jobs. But the rest of Kenyans are in the informal sector on contractual and casualization jobs. Of these categories majority of Kenya workers are seasonal and those categories of workers are not contributing to NSSF because they are not on a check off system.”

He added, “My proposal was that we had already agreed that for those people who are not on the check off system be paying directly to NSSF, to open and boost their own accounts.”

According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Country Director for Tanzania and EAC region, Wellington Chibebe, Africa has a high informality rate which currently is estimated at 82.9 per cent.

“When measured in terms of gender, the informality rate of women at 86.6 percent is higher than that of males, which stands at 80 per cent. Africa’s informality rate translates into 379 million people being in informal employment. The problem of informality is higher in Sub-Saharan Africa than in North Africa at 84.9 percent and 70.8 per cent in North Africa,” said Mr. Chibebe.

“Informality” is a term used to describe the collection of firms, workers, and activities that operate outside the legal and regulatory frameworks or outside the modern economy.

Mr Chibebe revealed that the social protection expenditure in Africa amounts to less than 5 percent of GDP compared to a global average of 12.9 per cent, thus adding to the reasons as to why the region is in need of a common social protection legal framework.

The draft EAC policy proposes that the processing and payment of a legitimate claim shall be completed in a period not exceeding forty-five (45) days after the date of receipt of the said benefit application.

Where the claim cannot be paid within the stipulated period, the Competent Institution shall notify the relevant Competent Institution and explain reasons for the delay.

“There is a need to promote labour migration in the region, through the harmonization of Labour laws, enhancement of the use of ICT in collection, analysis and dissemination of labour market information, and data and statistics on migrants,” said Simon Chelugui, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Labour and Social Protection, and Cooperative CS nominee.

Hon Chelugui chaired the EAC Labour ministers who came up with the draft proposals.

“EAC partner states may in future have to consider Honorary Consuls services in key labor destination countries to improve the provision of necessary consular assistance and protection of the social, economic, labor and human rights of EAC migrant workers,” he added.

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Lenders save stalled Eacop with $300m

The East African Crude Oil Pipeline (Eacop) has attracted $300 million from alternative lenders as its proponents rush to save the project from pressure groups citing environmental concerns.

This week, Uganda received an additional pledge of $200 million from the Afriexim Bank towards erecting the pipeline whose total cost is $5 billion.

On October 3, Afriexim Bank executives, led by their chairman, Prof Benedict Oramah said they viewed the implementation of Eacop and related oil and gas projects, including financing of Uganda’s refinery, as a strategic business that will uplift African economies’ armoury to fight poverty.

Last month, the Islamic Development Bank also announced $100 million for the construction of Eacop, saying the lender’s Board of Executive Directors was ready to help in funding the project due to the importance of the oil and gas industry to the Uganda economy.

The money may be a trickle for now, but it could provide backup for the governments in Uganda and Tanzania to swat away growing pressure to abandon the project over pollution concerns.

French oil major TotalEnergies last month received censure from the European Parliament, citing rights violations and environmental problems.

Eacop is financed on a 60-40 percent debt-equity split, with lenders expected to provide loans while the shareholders – TotalEnergies, Uganda National Oil Company, Tanzania Petroleum Development Corporation and CNOOC – would raise the remainder through equity contribution.

The governments of Uganda and Tanzania have defended the project’s route as an integrated energy corridor that will transport crude oil and carry gas exports to the region, while eventually saving the environment by providing cleaner cooking fuel to villages.

Last week, President Yoweri Museveni said he initially did not support the idea of a pipeline as the best means to commercialise Uganda’s oil but later changed his mind on Eacop as it provides an alternative import channel for gas to Uganda.

“While we have a lot of oil, we don’t have much gas. Tanzania and Mozambique have a lot of gas. The same corridor where Eacop will run can bring a return pipeline to transport gas to Uganda. This is one of the reasons I am in support of the pipeline,” he explained at an oil and gas forum in Kampala.

Tanzania envisages final investment decision in 2025 for its $30 billion liquefied petroleum gas project, and production in 2029. Standard Bank Group, through its Ugandan subsidiary Stanbic Bank is one of the transaction advisors for the financing of Eacop, whose cost jumped from $3.5 billion to an estimated $5 billion, due to the increased cost of loans after major banks shunned the project as an environmental risk, lead investor TotalEnergies said in 2021.

Energy Minister Ruth Nankabirwa says Uganda is aware of the global push from fossil fuels to clean energy, but the country’s oil and gas projects are critical to enabling it to make the energy transition and should be accorded patience and understanding of the stage of its development.

“As a country, we are earnestly pursuing energy integration before we can talk about energy transition,” she said during the seventh edition of the Uganda International Oil and Gas Summit held in Kampala September 27 to 28.

She added that the Lake Albert oil and gas projects will see the government provide LPG to its citizens that still use biomass and argues that the oil and gas sector will thus play a key role in enabling the country to meet its climate change obligation as it provides cleaner energy options.

“The discovery of oil in Uganda is a unique chance to transform its economy by improving infrastructure and reduce poverty. We are proud to support the government with $100 million for the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline Project to help export its oil,” the board said.

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The East African Crude Oil Pipeline (Eacop) has attracted $300 million from alternative lenders as its proponents rush to save the project from pressure groups citing environmental concerns. This week, […]

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East African states lead in domestication of AfCFTA trade requirements

East African member states have dominated the list of countries that have domesticated the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) adequately to facilitate commencement of trade under the trading bloc’s framework.

Speaking during the launch of the Guided Trading Initiative on October 7 in Accra, Ghana, AfCFTA Secretary General Wamkele Mene said that so far three out the eight countries that have set the stage for trading under AfCFTA are from East Africa.

The Guided Trade Initiative facilitates trade under AfCFTA through matchmaking businesses and products for export and import between these interested state parties.

“I want to thank those countries that have expressed readiness to start trading under the AfCFTA. Those countries are Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Egypt, Mauritius, Cameroon and Tunisia. More and more state parties are expressing interest as they conclude the process of domesticating the AfCFTA in their law,” Mene said.

Kenya and Uganda have already undertaken trade under the AfCFTA Guided Trade Initiative with Kenya having exported exide batteries worth $77,000 on September 23 to Ghana following importation by Yesudem Company Ltd. Kenya made its second export under the AfCFTA Guided Trade Initiative on October 5 which consisted of tea exports to Ghana.

“In Kampala, there was a very successful trade fair where goods that are traded under the AfCFTA were being flagged off by the Prime Minister for export to Zambia. In Kenya, President William Ruto told me that all of the tea consignment that was being exported to Ghana had been produced by small-scale farmers and so there is a significant opportunity for small-scale,” Mene added.

Kenya’s High Commissioner to Ghana, Eliphas Mugendi Barine, says that whereas this is a step in the right direction, Africa still faces significant challenges in navigating logistical hurdles which present non-tariff barriers to the acceleration of trade under the Guided Trade Initiative.

“Logistics still remains one of the hindrances because moving goods within the continent is becoming a challenge. I just learned that the container that was launched for the tea export to Ghana from Nairobi will take six weeks to arrive in Accra. Six weeks is quite a long time and therefore we need to re-think matters infrastructure and logistics,” Barine said on the sidelines of the launch of the AfCFTA Guided Tourism Initiative in Accra.

AfCFTA has been billed as one of the interventions geared towards deepening the penetration of pan-African trade.

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) places intra-African exports at 16.6 per cent lagging far behind Europe’s 68.1 percent and Asia’s 55 percent. The agreement establishing the AfCFTA was signed in Kigali, Rwanda, on March 21, 2018.

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A father’s pain: Why president’s ‘avenger’ son is EA’s nightmare

After a storm of 16 tweets that threatened war on Uganda’s eastern neighbour Kenya, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni seemed to have had just enough headaches from his son, Lt-Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba.

So he sacked him from the position of Commander Land Forces but, in a surprise twist, promoted him to the highest military rank of Uganda’s armed forces – General.

It was unprecedented, needless to say, that unlike generals before him who’d waded into political commentary and were detained, charged at the Court Martial and kept away from both position and rank, Gen Muhoozi even got a prized apology issued on his behalf by the president to the Kenyan people.

But what is distinctive about Gen Muhoozi? Is it simply that he is the president’s blood? Does he represent a core part of Museveni’s rule and succession? Or is it, as some have pointed out, a case of a privileged, spoilt child?

Read: Museveni apologises to Kenya over Muhoozi tweets

It’s a complicated picture.

Politicians vs securocrats

In November 2020, smack in the heat of the presidential campaigns, the arrest of National Unity Platform leader Robert Kyagulanyi alias Bobi Wine changed the nature of Uganda’s security forever.

President Museveni had toyed with political solutions to beat back the growing dissent, mostly in central Uganda. After a 36-year rule, the fatigue of supporting his National Resistance Movement (NRM) had started to show in Uganda’s population. In by-elections, voters punished the NRM for service delivery failures. Their candidates, for whom the president campaigned, were voted out. The winning trick for Bobi Wine was populism matched with a massive stoking of social anger.

Read: Uganda sees ‘parallel’ diplomacy from Muhoozi

Unable to fully understand the unfolding defeats, Museveni asked the party to “go to the ghetto” and sell its agenda. In a few months, it had scraped up new friends. Buchaman, a singing duo of Bobi Wine, came close; Catherine Kusasira, a musician, even got a job as a presidential adviser; Bebe Cool, a singing nemesis of Bobi Wine, became a prominent campaign figure for the NRM.

But the political dissent wasn’t abating. In the kitchen, security officials were mooting their own ideas. For one, many of them were uncomfortable with the rise and rise of Bobi Wine.

He had sailed through a by-election in Kyadondo East against the combined force of the NRM and the opposition Forum for Democratic Change. After a bitterly fought by-election in Arua, in the northwest, which the NRM lost to the opposition candidate Kassiano Wadri, Bobi got into the crosshairs of the securocrats.

He was accused of pelting the presidential convoy with stones and was arrested, tortured and dragged before a military court. Security officers told the court that guns had been found in his room, and an elaborate plan was laid out as part of evidence to pin him to a treason charge. The trial picked the eye of many international actors.

Muhoozi had been watching the events from the background. Then, only a special adviser to the president on special operations, he had limited scope. But his role in the country’s security was becoming more pronounced.

Read: Muhoozi Twitter storm reveals the app’s new power in Africa

After the November 2020 riots, it wasn’t in contest where power lay in Uganda. The boots stepped out, and 54 people were shot and killed in a 47-minute army operation.

A snap reshuffle saw Muhoozi returned to the centre of Museveni’s rule as Commander of the Special Forces Command, an elite army set up to guard the president initially, but which morphed into the most tactical and fluid of Uganda’s different army sections.

Muhoozi and his friends in the army returned to command Uganda’s security infrastructure – the Late Lt-Gen Paul Lokech was at Police, Muhoozi at SFC and Maj-Gen Kayanja Muhanga as overall commander for Kampala.

Read: Muhoozi’s ambition putting Museveni-Ruto ties at risk

That trio delivered what Museveni initially wanted of Kampala: A quiet, subdued and politically numb city.

But the ensuing headache is what Museveni wasn’t ready for.

The Rwanda problem

After crossing the border to Rwanda and meeting with President Paul Kagame, Muhoozi returned triumphant, ending a standoff that had seen the two countries’ borders closed for three years. He had cleared a mountain of errors committed by Ugandan security that had led to icy relations. He pushed for border reopening, and openly invited President Kagame to his 48th birthday.

To crown the moment, at his birthday celebration, he would secure a handshake between Museveni and Kagame, former bosom buddies, who had not spoken to each other for long.

But it’s at the height of this diplomatic win that Muhoozi muddied the waters. In a tweet in early April, he said the Rwandan army would be allowed into the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo to help deal with the security crisis there. The tweet, which was fast-deleted, caused a stir in the Congolese parliament. Uganda had negotiated careful entry into the DRC for its “Operation Shujaa” to pursue Ugandan extremist Islamist group Allied Democratic Forces, and thereafter help construct roads. In terms of access, the Congolese army limited the UPDF’s operational area to a triangle in eastern DRC, and insisted that any or all operations would be carried out jointly with the government’s Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, FARDC. Uganda would seek, in that small triangle, to destroy ADF and FARDC would learn from them operational efficiency. The agreement was tabled before the DRC parliament after pressure from Congolese politicians. Uganda army’s history in eastern DRC hadn’t all been pretty, having been accused of plundering the DRC in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and fined heavily for it. Their re-entry had to be carefully managed.

Museveni picked on a battle-tested soldier, and friend of Muhoozi, Maj-Gen Kayanja Muhanga to lead the operation. Muhoozi, as Commander of the Land Forces, would play a pivotal role in planning and co-ordination. The Congolese looked at Muhoozi as the commander and prosecutor of the war, and when his tweet announced that Rwandan forces would be granted access to the eastern DRC, even though it was only his opinion, it was hard to tell fact from opinion.

An agreement for Uganda to construct roads was retracted. A stormy parliamentary session in Kinshasa rebuked Muhoozi and asked that he be reprimanded.

Sources in Kampala say Museveni called Muhoozi for a dress-down on the tweets. Angry at the reprimand, Muhoozi tweeted in quick succession that he would quit the army and retire. Then, in 11 hours after that tweet, he deactivated his account. People familiar with this episode say Muhoozi was unhappy with his father.

In a more recent tweet, Muhoozi had given away bits and pieces of this troubled moment in which he wrote; “My father doesn’t drink… I drink and I have saved him many many times”.

Muhoozi had been, in that tweet, defending “perfectly capable people” who were victimised due to their drinking of alcohol. That tweet too, was deleted.

In comes Ethiopia

Museveni had steered clear of the Ethiopian conflict, choosing silence with the strategic aim of mediating the conflict between Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s federal government in Addis Ababa and the rebel regional Tigray Peoples Liberation Front, TPLF. His son, on the other hand, was of a different mind, tweeting in November 2021, of support for the TPLF much to the horror of Uganda’s diplomats and Ethiopian government.

Abiy flew to Entebbe to insist on Uganda’s position being clear on the conflict. Ugandan diplomats sought to allay the concerns of Addis with limited success. Months later, this August, Muhoozi was sent, together with Uganda’s state minister for Foreign Affairs Okello Oryem – also a former first son – to Ethiopia to meet with PM Abiy. After the meetings, he tweeted that he was “optimistic” that an African solution would be found to an African problem, but remained adamant about deleting tweets in which he supported the TPLF.

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After a storm of 16 tweets that threatened war on Uganda’s eastern neighbour Kenya, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni seemed to have had just enough headaches from his son, Lt-Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba. So […]

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Kenya Airways drops in global ranking as EA airlines fail to make top 100 cut

Kenya Airways dropped three places in the latest global ranking of airlines, trailing its regional rival Ethiopian Airlines, which recorded a significant jump to fly within the top 30 carriers in the world.

Skytrax World Airline Awards—which rates the world’s best carriers—placed KQ in position 81 in this year’s ranking, down from 79th in last year’s report.

Ethiopian Airlines, which rose 11 places to position 26, emerged as Africa’s best carrier, with South African Airways and Air Maroc coming in at position 66 and 79 respectively to stay within the top 100 carriers globally.

RwandAir, Uganda Airlines and Air Tanzania did not make the cut in the top 100 carriers in the ranking. However, the Rwandan carrier scooped some category awards in ‘Best Cabin Crew in Africa’ and ‘Best Airline Cabin Cleanliness’.

“While the awards celebrated the best of aviation, the industry is still tackling the strain of Covid, staffing shortages and fuel price surges caused by the conflict in Ukraine,” said Edward Plaisted, Skytrax chief executive officer.

Rising global fuel prices inflicted a ninth consecutive half-year loss on Kenya Airways increasing its default risk and sinking it Ksh15 billion ($124.1 million) deeper into a negative equity position.

KQ, which has been surviving on State bailouts since the Covid-19 pandemic, reported a Ksh9.8 billion ($81.1 million) loss last month — a better performance than the Ksh11.48 billion ($95 million) loss it recorded in the same period a year earlier.

The Skytrax awards are based on customers’ surveys. Travellers are asked about the performance and service quality of more than 350 global airlines.

The ranking comes at a time when the aviation industry is recovering from the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic that saw the industry record one of the worst losses after passenger flights were grounded to curb the spread of the virus.

Overall, Qatar Airways was named the best airline in the world, a title it has now won seven times since 2001.

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Porous borders stoke Ebola fears across the region

Uganda health officials are suggesting expanded lockdown measures but President Yoweri Museveni has clarified that the government will not enact Covid-like restrictions that saw schools and worship centres shut down

Health authorities across the region are scratching their heads on how to counter the health and economic threats posed by the growing Ebola emergency in Uganda, even as economies struggle to recover from the effects of Covid-19.

This week, President Yoweri Museveni clarified that his government has ruled out Covid-like restrictions that saw borders, schools, entertainment and worship centres shut down for more than one year.

Ebola threat

The Ebola fear is not restricted to Uganda as health officials in the region continue to contend with porous borders that put the entire region at risk.

But an even bigger fear is that restrictions at border points could hurt movement of people and goods.

Read: Uganda Ebola outbreak: Here’s what you need to know

On Thursday, Dr Anthony Kafumbe, the East African Community (EAC) acting deputy secretary-general for Productive and Social Sectors, said the EAC Secretariat would work with partner states to co-ordinate emergency preparedness and response at common borders.

“I urge partner states to enhance surveillance and laboratory testing especially at border areas; to implement appropriate infection prevention and control measures and increase risk communication and community awareness of the disease,” he said.

“I ask partner states to consider the deployment of the EAC mobile laboratories to the strategic outbreak hotspots and at the various border point of entries.”

Taking measures

This week, Rwanda reinstated the use of non-contact thermometers across all its border crossings.

Rwandan health workers, in protective gear and face masks, were at the Gatuna and Kagitumba borders, engaging cross-border travellers, taking their temperature and noting down their travel history.

Although Rwanda has not suffered a single Ebola case in the past, Uganda’s Mubende District – the epicentre of this year’s outbreak – is about a six-hour drive from the border.

“The Ministry of Health strongly urges each and every one to be cautious and seriously comply with the preventive measures against Ebola,” reads a statement from Rwanda’s ministry of Health.

It warned against “unnecessary visits and contacts with people who have travelled to areas affected by the Ebola outbreak.”

The public has been advised to report all visitors from Uganda and observe high hygiene.

Read: Uganda closes clubs, limits gatherings to curb Ebola spread

By Friday, Ebola cases had been detected in Mubende, Kyegegwa, Kagadi and Kassanda across 120 kilometres, the World Health Organisation said in its bulletin.

“Some 400 had been identified and will be monitored as the search continues to identify other people who may be at risk,” it said.

WHO said confirmed cases need supportive care to improve their survival chances. The agency deployed three viral haemorrhagic fever kits with medical supplies, medicines and personal protective equipment to an isolation unit set up in the Mubende Regional Referral Hospital with plans underway for an additional Ebola treatment unit. “More kits will be deployed based on need,” a statement said.

Uganda will also receive $500,000 to support the country’s control efforts and another $300,000 from WHO’s preparedness programme to support readiness activities in the neighbouring countries, including screening, awareness campaigns and isolation centres.

Read: Focus on prevention, no vaccine for rare Ebola strain, Uganda told

The WHO had earlier in the week praised Uganda’s response and especially testing capacity for Ebola, with 5,000 tests having been done by Wednesday.

But health officials in the affected areas are expressing frustration that the localised measures imposed to contain the spread were being violated, and suggested expanded lockdown measures.

So far, there are 31 confirmed cases and six confirmed deaths.

Dr Henry Mwebesa, the Director General of Health Services at the Ugandan Health ministry, said some people suspected to have contracted the disease had escaped from Mubende Hospital a week ago before samples taken from them had been tested. Results for one of the said people turned out positive, but his whereabouts remain unknown.

Risky behaviour

Officials say they have since tightened security at quarantine facilities, but are still worried of a possible community infection.

Yet when detected and treated early, the risk of dying from Ebola is significantly reduced.

In Kasese district bordering DR Congo, another suspected Ebola patient escaped from a health facility on Wednesday morning.

As the emergency escalated this week, the country has reported that five doctors and an anaesthetist have been gone into isolation for treatment after contracting Ebola in the line of duty.

“Initially, there were issues with personal protective equipment. In the areas where the patients reached first, the health workers there were not having PPEs,” Dr Herbert Luswata, the president of an association of doctors in the country said.

One of the health workers, a Tanzanian doctor, died on Saturday while receiving treatment. He was in Uganda pursuing a Master of Medicine in Surgery course at Kampala International University.

Sheila Nduhukire, the spokesperson of the National Medical Stores, says they have since supplied adequate PPE stocks to the Mubende Regional Referral Hospital.

On Friday, Health officials in Kenya said they were investigating a suspected case of Ebola in Kakamega County, western Kenya. The patient had recently travelled to eastern Uganda to visit relatives, officials said.

Mumias West Disease Surveillance Co-ordinator Boaz Gichana said the patient had been admitted at St Mary Hospital isolation unit awaiting laboratory results.

Last week, the Kenyan government issued an Ebola alert and called for screening of travellers at entry points on the border with Uganda.

Read: Ebola survivors to forego sex for 90 days

Tanzanian Minister for Health Ummy Mwalimu has meanwhile directed regional commissioners from high-risk Ebola regions to strengthen the rapid response teams to control possible spread of the disease.

The high risk regions are Kagera, Mwanza, Kigoma, Geita and Mara in the Great Lakes zone and Kilimanjaro, Dar es Salaam, Arusha and Songwe for their high interaction with foreign citizens.

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Uganda health officials are suggesting expanded lockdown measures but President Yoweri Museveni has clarified that the government will not enact Covid-like restrictions that saw schools and worship centres shut down […]

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Erratic weather, global crises push cost of food to record high levels

Governments in East and Horn of Africa have rolled out food aid programmes to communities hit hard by inconsistent weather patterns and global crises that have pushed food costs beyond the reach of many.

This week, Kenya launched a relief food programme for communities trapped in a cycle of four failed agriculture seasons, and Uganda had already been distributing relief food to people in Karamoja regions.

UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha)is predicting the likelihood of a fifth failed crop season. Uganda, which has generally enjoyed above average food production from its arable fertile soils, having two harvest seasons annually, is now increasingly facing food challenges due to less erratic and less predictable rains and unprecedented prolonged dry spells.

According to the Uganda National Meteorological Authority (UNMA), some rainy months now have only 18 wet days compared with 20 previously which impacts on food yields.

According to meteorological information, 40 per cent of all rainfall received in Uganda is influenced by natural features such as wetlands and forests, which have been encroached on and destroyed by developers for housing or peasants for farming and others decimated for firewood and charcoal.

Hilary Onek, the Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, says the Ugandan government has been forced to provide food to areas that have “had pockets of hunger,” costing upwards of Ush19 billion ($4.9 million) in the past three months alone.

According to the Meteorological department, the country steadily been receiving less rainfall over the past 16 years. However, there are those that argue that the food shortages being currently experienced in the region is also effects of bad national policies, rather than the weather.

In Kenya, President William Ruto flagged off relief food to drought-stricken counties on Tuesday, but admitted it was only a short-term measure.

The programme is targeting 3.5 million people. Kenya’s Meteorological Department has declared severest drought in 23 out of the 47 counties.

And Ocha’s National Drought Early Warning data for September 2022, says 10 counties are under an alarming drought phase with at least 4.35 million people in danger.

The Horn of Africa, including parts of Kenya, is facing the worst drought with at least 20 million people in immediate need of food. This includes Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Uganda and South Sudan, and Djibouti and Eritrea

Kipkorir Arap Menjo, the director of the Farmers Association, a lobby for local food producers, said Kenya’s maize growing regions are expecting a harvest early October. But even in countries touted as having almost sufficient food supplies, like Tanzania, prices are soaring and limiting access for many.

As countries struggle to get cheaper grain from traditional sources like Russia and Ukraine, world prices and growing world demand is making the situation harder in the region.

According to the Bank of Tanzania, the price of maize alone has more than doubled over the past year, hitting Tsh87,383 ($37.66) per 100-kilogramme sack in July compared with Tsh43,371 ($18.69) in the same month last year. Other key basic foods like rice and beans have also registered sharp price increases.

In its latest monthly review report for August 2022, the BoT says wholesale food prices had increased “mainly due to low harvests associated with delayed short rains and a high demand for food from neighboring countries.”

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TotalEnergies walks a tightrope as fresh hurdles threaten to delay pipeline project

International oil major TotalEnergies will on October 10 answer to charges of environmental and human rights abuse before the European Union parliament in Brussels in a new threat to the actualisation of its East African Crude Oil Pipeline (Eacop) and related upstream oil projects in Uganda’s Lake Albert region.

The European parliament has summoned chief executive Patrick Pouyanné to Brussels to justify the project that the lawmakers denounced last week.

He will appear before the parliamentary Committee on Environment, Food and Natural Resources, as well as that of Human Rights. The outcome will determine how the company navigates this latest crisis.

Hit by opposition from environmentalists on one side and beleaguered by financiers on the other, Total is now walking a tightrope as it pushes ahead with the Eacop.

Last week, the European Union parliament passed a resolution calling for the French oil major and its joint venture partners to delay the projects by one year, to address environmental and human rights concerns.

That decision was dismissed by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni who said the country will look for alternatives if Total obeys the European Parliament.

The oil company, siding with President Museveni, has also vowed that the projects – now in the development phase – will not be halted.

As Total pondered how to navigate this crisis, President Museveni was on a warpath with the company, whose 62 percent stake makes it the biggest shareholder in Eacop. Uganda National Oil Corporation (UNOC) and Tanzania Petroleum Development Corporation own 15 a percent stake each, with China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) owning eight percent shareholding.

First, while meeting ruling party MPs’ caucus on September 16, the president warned that should TotalEnergies cave in to pressure from the EU parliament and halt Eacop or pull out of the project agreement, he is ready to drag them to the international court of arbitration.

He later tweeted dismissing the EU parliament’s resolution but more significantly, he fired a warning shot at the French oil giant.

“We should remember that TotalEnergies convinced me about the pipeline idea; if they choose to listen to the EU parliament, we shall find someone else to work with,” read the tweet on September 16.

Total is a corporate citizen of the EU and could be swayed by the lawmakers.

However, it is obvious that the EU parliament’s resolution has shaken government officials in Uganda’s ministry of Energy, as well as those at TotalEnergies and the Eacop Company, who have all previously been very economic with information. They are all now scrambling to volunteer information about the project, either through media briefing or on their websites.

For example, the Eacop Company this week uploaded on its portal the status of compensation of project affected persons (PAPS) – a key tenet on which the EU censure is partly based, as well as the environmental and social impact assessment.

Before the Brussels resolution, this information was not available.

Displaced persons

With construction slated to start by end of this year, only 331 out of a total of 9,513 Eacop’s PAPs in Tanzania will be physically displaced and have been selected for replacement housing, but the website says “construction of these houses is ongoing” without giving completion timelines.

In Uganda, out of 3,648 PAPs, only 203 will be physically displaced, and majority of these have elected for replacement housing. These too are under construction according to the website, but no completion dates are given.

The EU parliament resolution puts the figure of those affected at more than 100,000 – mainly farmers, who are already being displaced from their lands without prior and fair compensation, a number that the resolution also quotes as putting communities at imminent risk of displacement.

Uganda government agencies are also sweating to dispel claims that Eacop will cross numerous protected ecosystems, which will be impacted by the heated pipe operating at 50 degrees Celsius. Officials counter that there only five small rivers and out of the 1,443km of the pipeline, only eight percent is a forest reserve.

Protected areas

The EU resolution called for an end to the extractive activities in protected and sensitive ecosystems, including the shores of Lake Albert, referring to the 132 wells that Total plans to dig into the Murchison Falls National Park.

“They will find it very hard to navigate past this,” said Omar Elmawi, co-ordinator of the Stop Eacop campaign, a network of organisations opposed to the project.

“This project has many problems. The biggest amongst them is the human rights violations,” he added.

EU parliament resolutions often bite those targeted if the European Council, the arm that implements policy, adopts them. So far, the council has said little.

TotalEnergies has kept a brave face in the face of the EU parliamentary resolution’s far reaching ramifications, which could put on hold the $10 billion investment.

The project was signed off in February this year by TotalEnergies with joint venture partners CNOOC and Uganda National Oil Company.

Since the resolution was passed on September 15, the French oil giant has played the sovereignty card, tweeting that Uganda and Tanzania are sovereign states that have made the strategic choice to exploit their natural resources to contribute to the development of their countries, and as such, are not bound by resolutions of the EU parliament.

“TotalEnergies recalls the significance of the Lake Albert/Eacop project for Uganda and Tanzania, and we shall do our utmost to ensure the project is carried out in an extremely exemplary manner in terms of transparency, shared prosperity, social and economic progress and sustainable development, including the environment and respect for human rights,” said Pouyanné.

“The EU resolution to stop the construction of pipeline is not binding on all nations in the world, Europe, European Commission or even a sovereign country like Uganda or Tanzania,” said Ali Ssekatawa, the director of Legal and Corporate Affairs at the Uganda Petroleum Authority.

“The progression of our project will go ahead, and even rigs that are needed to extract oil have reached Mombasa, and efforts are underway to bring them to Hoima and Buliisa so that they start operating,” Ssekatawa added.

Sticking with schedule

Indeed, executives of TotalEnergies and state-owned UNOC say the projects will proceed according to schedule, with site preparation for the two upstream oil production infrastructure at Kingfisher and Tilenga currently underway.

The joint venture partners – TotalEnergies, CNOOC and UNOC – target commercial production of oil and gas in 2025, and are prepared to defy EU calls to delay the project.

The projects main infrastructure is a $5 billion 1,443km long pipeline from Hoima in western Uganda to the Tanzania port of Tanga.

The EU resolution piles on a series of financial and reputational crises that Eacop faced as well as protests in several cities over the project. There were also delays and postponement due to tax disputes between Uganda and TotalEnergies.

For instance, the shareholders were expected to announce financiers that would put in the project’s debt financing before end of July 2022, according to Peter Muliisa, the chief legal and corporate affairs officer at UNOC.

But UNOC chief Proscovia Nabbanja says the shareholders are yet to reach financial close for the project and are still raising equity contributions, which will make up 40 percent of the required $5 billion, while the remaining chunk is debt financing, which “is proceeding as planned.”

She revealed that all International Finance Corporation standards on the environmental and social impact assessment, land acquisition process and technical standards – which are key to obtaining financing – have been achieved and verified by independent auditors hired by lenders.

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East Africa exporters brace for impact as Suez Canal tolls rise

The increase in transit tolls for ships passing through the Suez Canal by 15 percent is likely to impact exports to Europe from the region, the shippers warned.

Egypt has raised the fees for all vessel types, except bulk and cruise ships, whose fees will increase by 10 percent from next year.

Suez Canal Authority chief Osama Rabie said in a statement that the increment will take effect from January 1, 2023.

The authority cited rising energy prices, freight rates, and daily charter rates for ships, which are predicted to continue next year.

“The (tolls) increase is inevitable and is a necessity in light of the current global inflation, which translates into increased operational costs and the costs of the navigational services provided in the canal,” said Mr Rabie.

The key waterway connecting the Red Sea and the Mediterranean accounts for nearly 10 percent of global maritime trade.

The Shippers Council of Eastern Africa (SCEA) chief executive Gilbert Lagat said exports from East Africa destined to Europe would be the most affected.

“East Africa depends on most of its imports from Asia, which uses an alternative channel, whereas goods being exported from the region have to pass through the Suez Canal. This will complicate export, and some ships might opt to change their destinations considering the economies of scale,” said Mr Lagat.

He added, “We hope as shippers we shall come up with solutions or renegotiate with the authority for better rates.”

Exports to Europe from the region are mainly agricultural commodities such as coffee, tea, tobacco, cut flowers, fruits, vegetables and fish. Others are textile and clothing, and handicrafts, among others.

The Suez Canal is the main route used by vessels from Europe to the East African ports.

Daily charter rates for crude oil tankers increased on average in 2022 by 88 percent compared to 2021, while daily charter rates for liquefied natural gas (LNG) carriers rose on average by 11 percent during this year compared to the year earlier.

Mr Rabie said the current increased energy prices also impacted the authority’s fees calculations.

“The continued rise in crude oil prices above the level of $90 per barrel and the rise in the average prices of LNG above the level of $30 per million thermal units have led to a surge in the average prices of ship bunkers,” he said.

Consequently, there was an increase in the savings that ships achieve by transiting through the Suez Canal compared to other alternative routes, he explained.

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South Sudan, Djibouti plan to lay fiber optic to Juba

South Sudan and Djibouti have signed an agreement to lay fibre optic cable from Djibouti through Ethiopia to the capital Juba.

The Ministry of Information, Communication Technology and Postal Services said the government and Djibouti officials would form a technical team to deliberate on the project, after they signed a memorandum of understanding on Monday.

The deal was inked by the Minister of Information Michael Makuei Lueth and senior officials from Djibouti.

Read: Internet down in South Sudan due to ‘technical problem’: minister

South Sudan said it is also working closely with the World Bank to connect the country with another fibre optic cable from Kenya. The deal was signed in 2015.

The country gained independence from Sudan in 2011 but years of civil war have denied it infrastructure to offer high speed Internet connections.

The country aims to link its citizens with the rest of the world as well as cut the high cost of using the internet.

Read: South Sudan youth look at a future driven by tech

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East African standby force seeks to correct past mistakes in DR Congo

The imminent deployment of the East African regional force to the eastern parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo will be preceded by a massive civilian awareness campaign. Officials say they first want to correct errors committed by other international missions by educating civilians on the tasks of the force, which will include engagements with locals to abandon war.

It is a new tactic endorsed last week by Kinshasa to help begin a peacebuilding programme on a clean slate.

Christophe Lutundula, the DR Congo Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs last week signed agreements on the status of the regional force with Peter Mathuki, Secretary General of the East African Community, effectively permitting member states to deploy their troops.

But while it’s only a matter of time for troops to hit the ground, military chiefs from member states agreed in their Concept of Operations to give prominence to civilian engagements. They agreed that past deployments by the UN and regional bloc SADC faced routine public suspicions. For the UN, the forces have in the past been accused of atrocities including rape. Since July, protesters have targetted UN peacekeepers’ camps in eastern DRC, accusing them of failing to beat down rebels.

Read: One killed during anti-UN protest in east DR Congo

The standby force by the EAC will have an initial timeframe of six months, renewable, and will, besides combat, work on civilian programmes such as setting up social amenities and holding peace meetings with villagers in a new strategy meant to endear locals to the authorities.

“The objective is to stabilise the region, to put an end to terrorist and criminal activities and to promote cooperation, a true partnership, beneficial to all,” said Lutundula.

Vast distances

The deployment of this force will take place in North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri, three huge provinces whose combined area is seven times the size of Rwanda but which have not known peace for three decades. These provinces are also where a hundred or so armed groups of various kinds are hiding.

The deployment of the regional force will take place in a particularly tense context: The M23 rebels have resumed attacks on civilian and military bases, including the town of Bunagana, on the border with Uganda.

Additionally, Uganda’s ADF terrorists have been able to resist both the Congolese and Ugandan armies despite a joint operation launched in November. Last month, the ADF managed to carry out an escape operation of more than 800 prisoners in North Kivu. Authorities said some of the prisoners have now been recruited to fight for ADF.

Conservative estimates show that at least six million people have died from conflict in eastern DRC since 1994. This is in spite of various missions of peacekeeping, including the UN stabilisation mission (Monusco). Recent protests against Monusco were an expression of the inefficiencies of the missions.

Besides the forthcoming East African regional force, the area is already patrolled by the FARDC (the Congolese army), the UPDF (the Ugandan army) since last year, the Burundian army since last month and Monusco since 1999.

Expectations are high for the contingents. Reacting to the disillusionment of Monusco, with its 16,000 soldiers, in June, Bintou Keita, the head of Monusco explained the need for “a regional solution” to overcome the insecurity.

The contrast between the enormous expectations of the Congolese authorities with regard to the regional force, and the reticence of the same force by a part of the Congolese is striking, however. Roger Manzakele, spokesperson for the North Kivu civil society association said most Congolese “fear unnecessary and disorderly over-militarisation.”

“On top of that, there have been many other forces that have been here for a long time and yet the situation has never changed. We think that with this, the DRC will be too dependent on others for security,” he said.

The Congolese are trying to maintain a good hope that peace will return thanks to the actions of neighbours.

Nobel Prize winner Denis Mukwege and opposition leader Martin Fayulu have been among the doubting Thomases. Mr Fayulu told The EastAfrican last month that “DR Congo must not leave the issue of security in the hands of foreign armies.”

The deployment may bank heavily on a supportive vote by the public. But this early excitement may be pricked if rebels put up a fight.

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Cybercriminals on the continent target East African firms most

Businesses in East Africa have reported the highest number of cyber-attacks in Africa, implying the rising threats that come with massive digital transformation.

A survey by audit firm KPMG focusing on 300 companies, both large corporations and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), reveals that about three in 10 businesses in the region have fallen victim to cyber-attacks.

The survey blames this on “rapid development and adoption of digital technology across business sectors with limited expertise and awareness around technology and digital infrastructure.”

About nine in ten firms in the region are currently undertaking a digital transformation or have already finished transitioning, compared to 82 percent in West Africa.

John Anyanwu, Africa cyber lead at KPMG, said many economies in the continent have managed to shake off pandemic woes and the effects of other shocks to increase “consumption and adoption of digital technologies at grassroot level.”

The threats

But cybercriminals have revamped their tactics to prey on unsuspecting organisations, primarily posting ransomware, business email compromise and data leakage threats to firms across the continent.

“Today, there is a much larger focus needed on not only mitigating threats, but in the way organisations are set up to deal with them,” said Anthony Muiyuro, cyber lead at KPMG East Africa.

Even so, a quarter of firms across the continent are yet to develop any form of strategy to prevent or deal with cyber-attacks, with only 34 percent of those with a strategy having independent cyber and information security functions.

“This function should be a strategic focus, cut across all business functions. Therefore, establishing an independent information security function is touted as a critical success factor for mature information risk management,” Mr Muiyuro said.

In East Africa, where there is the most threat, 77 percent of businesses have well-defined and regularly reviewed cyber strategies, even though all countries in the region except the Democratic Republic of Congo have established cyber security legislation that requires some form of information protection.

Budget constraints and shortage of skills still hinder African companies’ efforts at building strategies and security operation centres.

While 55 percent of African firms said they are planning on recruiting cybersecurity professionals in the next 12 months, more than two-thirds of the companies find it hard to recruit and retain qualified personnel.

A 2022 report by the International Systems Audit and Control Association estimates that there are currently three million cyber security job vacancies globally that remain unfilled, and this is projected to rise to 10 million in the next few years.

Other challenges that impair organizations’ ability to establish cybersecurity strategies include an influx in the number of security alerts reported, difficulty managing and analyzing related data, and lack of documented processes.

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DR Congo pledges to pay EAC dues and cement role in bloc

The Democratic Republic of Congo says it will settle dues to the East African Community on time, reflecting the country’s commitment to its new membership in the bloc.

On Thursday, DRC Deputy Prime Minister Christophe Lutundula said Kinshasa is ready to send representatives to EAC organs to cement role in the bloc it formally joined in May. The country, like other member states, is required to pay at least $8 million a year.

Most countries owe the bloc membership fees, however, with South Sudan leading with more than $20 million due.

DR Congo needs to pass amendments to its laws to allow free movement of people, localise trade protocols of the EAC and send members to the East African Legislative Assembly, East African Court of Justice and the Secretariat.

He spoke as the EAC kicked off its first mission to the country led by Secretary General of the EAC Peter Mathuki.

Read: EAC team on orientation tour in DR Congo

Governance instruments

The mission aims to reflect on the key priorities for deepening integration and exploiting investment opportunities, a dispatch said.

It is also meant to help the DRC to improve the understanding of the integration pillars; Common Market, Customs Union, Monetary Union and Political Federation protocols; and the various governance instruments of the EAC to help it easily join the community.

Mr Lutundula said the DRC is preparing to “reorient its policies and resources to create favourable conditions for the development of international trade, to create favourable conditions for the development and achievement of the objectives of the Community.”

“As a member, the DRC will adopt legislation to ensure the effective implementation of the provisions of the Treaty establishing the East African Community.”

Kinshasa says it is already working on a policy for free movement of people, workers, labour, goods and services in the region.

Dr Mathuki said the DRC’s membership will expand the Community’s consumer market from 177 million to 260 million people, raising the GDP from $193 billion to $240 billion.

Although lacking in infrastructure such as roads linking the provinces, the DR Congo has 80 million hectares of arable land, over 1,100 different viable minerals and a market of 90 million people.

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EAC troops get nod for deployment in east DR Congo

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has signed a troop deployment deal with the East African Community (EAC), signalling the imminent formal sending of forces to combat rebels in the east of the country.

President Félix Tshisekedi witnessed the signing of the agreement by Foreign Minister Christophe Lutundula and Peter Mathuki, the secretary-general of the EAC.

Mr Lutundula said “the deployment of this force will be in the execution of the political will expressed by all the Heads of State of the community, namely to definitively settle the issue of stability, security and peace in the Great Lakes region within the community”.

Dr Mathuki and Macharia Kamau, Kenya’s special envoy to the Nairobi Process launched by President Uhuru Kenyatta to seek peace in the DRC, have been in Kinshasa as part of the EAC mission to discuss the key priorities for deepening integration and exploiting investment opportunities in the region.

The troop deployment was agreed on in June by the EAC conclave of Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and the DRC. It was later endorsed by the EAC Summit, indicating an entire agreement of the bloc to support the DRC peace process.

Read: East African army awaits nod on rules for DRC mission

But the actual deployment has been awaiting a formal agreement, which will describe the terms of reference, legal obligations and rights of troops and financial responsibilities of troop contributors. The EAC deal is supposed to be followed by individual member states signing the document before troops are deployed.

Mr Kamau stressed that the security situation in eastern DRC is of great concern. He said the threat requires closer cooperation and collaboration in the region and internationally to eradicate it.

A conclave of East African heads of state held in Nairobi in April decided to create a regional force made up of troops from member countries that would be deployed to the troubled provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri to help combat insecurity.

The DRC authorities have ruled out Rwanda’s participation in the force, following accusations of alleged support by the Rwandan army for the Congolese M23 rebels.

Since August 15, Burundian troops have been deployed in South Kivu to fight local armed groups and rebels from that country who are in eastern Congo. DRC authorities explained that this deployment was part of the East African regional force. South Sudan has also prepared a contingent of 750 soldiers as part of the regional force expected in eastern Congo.

The diplomatic mission was also in the DRC to help Kinshasa improve its understanding of the integration pillars and the various governance instruments of the EAC, such as protocols, laws, regulations, policies and strategies, in order to ensure a smooth entry into the community for the DRC.

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How Kenya’s unemployment rate rose highest in East Africa

The number of Kenyans out of work has doubled over a decade of infrastructure-fuelled economic growth and faster adoption of technology that has left East Africa’s largest economy with the highest unemployment rate in the region.

World Bank data shows 5.7 percent of Kenya’s labour force was out of work in 2021, up from 2.8 percent when the Jubilee administration took over in 2013.

In the same period, unemployment as a portion of the labour force fell from 2.9 percent in 2013 to 2.6 percent in Tanzania while the rate went up in Ethiopia from 2.3 percent to 3.7 percent.

In Uganda unemployment rose from 1.9 percent to 2.9 percent while in Rwanda the rate rose from 1.2 percent to 1.6 percent.

The Kenyan economy has grown by an average of 5.0 percent but this growth has come from capital-intensive infrastructure projects which have not trickled down to the average citizen.

Analysts say the country’s private sector has also rapidly taken up technology that saw massive job cuts, especially in the services like insurance and banking.

Kenya’s unemployed is almost twice the 2.7 percent East African average, with Rwanda having the lowest rate of unemployment at 1.6 percent.

Tanzania, which had a higher rate of unemployment than Kenya in 2013, has lowered its rate below second-placed Ethiopia and third-placed Uganda in the region.

“One of the reasons is the greater adoption of technology which led to a rise in unemployment. Remember banks and fintech shedding jobs?” Prof XN Iraki, an economist at the University of Nairobi, said.

“Secondly, there has been less than expected economic growth, we never reached the magical 10 percent envisaged in Vision 2030. The growth has also been driven by large capital projects which are not labour-intensive.”

The incoming government has the difficult task of kick-starting an economy deeply troubled by high inflation and a lack of jobs.

The Kenya Kwanza administration faces the uphill task of delivering poll promises on jobs, cost of living, economic reforms, infrastructure and housing amid a public sector job freeze and a slump in the private sector due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The situation is worsened by the more than one million young people who graduate from colleges and universities annually in an economic setting that is plagued by reduced hiring on the back of sluggish corporate earnings.

Companies have also been shedding jobs due to technology. For instance, the rise of mobile banking has allowed lenders to reach customers directly, reducing the need for physical locations in a move that has also led to massive job losses among clerical staff.

Banks shed 6,574 clerical jobs between 2014 and 2019 as they move towards digital banking over mobile phones, allowing lenders to employ technology to eliminate mundane tasks, manage costs and increase efficiency.

Prof Iraki says that over the last decade most of the country’s resources have also been spent unwisely, especially by county governments, which devolved corruption and failed to stimulate the economy by consuming Exchequer issues instead of funding development.

The Jubilee administration also failed to deliver job growth due to unfriendly practices like the failure to settle half-a-trillion shilling pending bills that killed many small businesses due to cash flow constraints.

Latest Treasury statistics show pending bills climbed to Sh504.7 billion at the end of the last financial year in June, a 40.39 percent jump over Sh359.5 billion the previous year, making it the biggest annual jump on record.

“Resources sucked into the public sector after devolution were not as efficiently used as expected. They would have created more jobs if they were in the private sector,” Prof Iraki said.

“The regulatory environment has also not been friendly to job creators. Beyond covid-19 stimulus, we have rarely stimulated our economy.”

Kenya has a youth bulge, with 18-34-year-olds making up 25 percent of the population, and those below 15 making up 43 percent.

This part of the population can be a blessing or a curse, for instance fuelling crime and social unrest. Without jobs, insurance or pension when they advance in age, they will weigh heavily on the state’s health and social spending.

Prof Iraki said for businesses the huge number of unemployed youth could bring labour costs down and would be ideal for companies producing goods for exports.

A large number of jobless youth, however, means companies do not see market potential as they will not be able to afford goods and services, thus making the country unattractive for investments targeting local consumers.

“High unemployment rate could put pressure to reduce wages and salaries and investors should be cheered by such low wages. But the low purchasing power would discourage them too unless they are producing for the export market,” Prof Iraki said.

“This might not have a big effect regionally because labour mobility is not that high in Africa. But we have seen Kenyans seeking jobs abroad.”

Kenyans are indeed going abroad in search of jobs with the Central Bank of Kenya Diaspora Remittance Survey indicating 63.6 percent of Kenyans in East Africa left their motherland in search of jobs.

The exodus has not always meant better fortunes given the Survey indicated that income levels are lowest in Asia and East Africa where the majority of respondents earn less than $2,000 per annum, which is a pointer to the type of jobs held by migrants.

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Inflation rises as East Africa battles high food costs and polls anxiety

The East African region is facing a wave of inflation as disruptions in the global supply chain continue and prices of essential commodities rise.

In Kenya, the region’s largest economy, inflation hit 8.5 percent this week — the highest in 62 months —from 8.3 percent in July, on a surge in food and fuel prices.

The Kenya shilling also continued to tumble, partly blamed on jitters around the presidential election results dispute, which has seen former prime minister Raila Odinga challenge the victory of Deputy President William Ruto, who was pronounced president-elect on August 15.

The Azimio la Umoja One Kenya presidential candidate and his running mate Martha Karua filed a petition challenging the outcome of the presidential election on August 22, claiming the election was manipulated to favour Ruto. The Supreme Court is expected to issue a verdict on September 5.

Read: Anxiety in East Africa as Kenya Supreme Court settles election dispute

On August 31, the shilling had fallen 0.03 percent to Ksh120.05 against the US dollar as the apex court began hearing submissions by the petitioners challenging the declaration of Ruto as president-elect.

Foreign reserves had fallen to $7.6 billion— equivalent to 4.39 months of import cover — during the week ending on August 25, from $7.74 billion, equivalent to 4.46 months of import cover, during the week ending July 28.

This breaches the region’s convergence criteria that demands that countries maintain their foreign currency assets above 4.5 months’ worth of imports cover— which is one of the conditions for implementing a single currency regime.

In February, the shilling traded at Ksh113 against the US dollar.

Food, fuel prices

Foreign currency dealers at pan-African foreign exchange firm AZA Finance warned that the political instability in the country would continue to weigh heavily on the local currency in the coming days, possibly surpassing the Ksh120 level against the greenback. Market research report by property consultancy firm Knight Frank predicts that the Kenyan currency will depreciate a little further but stabilise by the fourth quarter (October-December).

Also read: More pain for Tanzanians as fuel prices soar

Besides the uncertainty in Kenya, the war in Ukraine has also triggered a spike in crude oil prices that have fuelled inflation in the region.

According to monthly data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), the country’s inflation figures have been on an upward trend from a low of 5.1 percent in February before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine disrupted supply chains, pushing up global energy and food prices.

The situation has been compounded by the removal of a government food subsidy that had seen the price of a two-kilogramme packet of maize flour fall to Ksh100 ($0.83) from Ksh240 ($2). On July 20, outgoing President Kenyatta announced the fifth stimulus package of his regime focusing on food subsidy to cushion households from hunger. The one-month subsidy elapsed after the General Election of August 9.

In August, oil-marketing companies warned of another fuel crisis due to the government’s failure to honour its obligations under the state-funded fuel subsidy programme. The marketers are demanding a huge Ksh65.06 billion ($542.16 million) from the government, an amount which has been in arrears for three consecutive cycles (June, July and August).

In Uganda, the monthly inflation as measured by Consumer Price Index for August increased to nine percent from 7.9 percent registered in July, despite government interventions to lessen the hardship.

The Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) blames the rise to high prices of foods like plantain (matooke), which has risen from Ush709 ($0.187) per kilograme to Ush802 ($0.212), compared with an average of Ush493 ($0.130) at the same period last year.

Transport costs

Aliziki K. Lubega, the UBOS Director of Economic Statistics, said the cost of transport, a direct result of higher fuel prices, had also increased from 7.3 percent in August 2021 to 8.7 percent in August this year.

“The rise in transport inflation is specifically attributed to long-distance bus fares, which increased to minus 9.5 percent, from minus 27.8 percent,” she said.

She added that monthly petrol inflation increased by 4.5 percent last month from the 7.6 rise registered in July.

Ms Lubega noted that solid fuels inflation increased to 4.7 percent from minus 0.8 percent in July and charcoal, which rose to 4.8 percent in August, from minus 0.7 percent the previous month.

Prices for fresh milk also rose from Ush1,825 (0.482) in July to Ush2,050 (0.542) per litre in August, UBOS report shows.

Other increases in the prices of food were noted in commodities like fish from Ush11,603 ($3.06) to Ush13,339 ($$3.527) per kilogramme; dry beans from Ush3,607 ($0.95) to Ush3,805 ($1.006); maize flour from Ush3,343 ($0.88) to Ush3,421 ($0.904); fresh cassava from Ush827 ($0.218) to Ush914 ($0.24); and green cabbages from Ush810 ($0.214) to Ush1,012 ($0.267).

This rise in inflation comes at a time when government intervention saw an increase in the central bank rate to nine percent in August, from 6.5 in June.

Read: Uganda increases key rate for third time in a row

The central bank also provided exceptional funding to maintain access to money by supervised financial institutions and aided borrowers that were affected by Covid-19 pandemic as they provided credit relief measures that permitted loan rescheduling for a year.

Other inventions are prioritising debt servicing and other statutory obligations and focused expenditure on growth by enhancing sectors with higher multiple effects in economy to support recovery, create jobs and have high impact on poverty reduction, Mr Ggoobi explained.

Globally, inflation in the Eurozone hit a record high of 9.1 percent in August fuelled by soaring energy costs exacerbated by the war in Ukraine.

The United Kingdom currently has the worst inflation of all the G7 countries, hitting 10.1 percent in the 12 months to July.

In the US Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell said on August 26 that the monetary policy could be kept tight ‘for some time’ to stem the rising inflation

The US central bank has so far overseen three consecutive rate increases of 75 basis points to deal with high inflation.

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EAC team on orientation tour in DR Congo

The East African Community officials are set to visit the Democratic Republic of Congo to enhance awareness of how the bloc works.

The team led by the EAC Secretary General, Dr Peter Mathuki will comprise heads of EAC organs and institutions and eminent regional business leaders.

The DRC delegation will be led by Vice Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Christophe Lutundula Apala Pen’ Apala.

The EAC mission to the DRC will take place in Kinshasa, between September 6 and 9.

The mission will kick off with a two-day forum with DRC government officials and the EAC Secretariat, the East African Legislative Assembly and the East African Court of Justice as well as the eight institutions of the EAC.

“This forum will create a platform to enhance understanding of the DRC government officials on the EAC instruments-protocols, laws, policies and strategies,” Dr Mathuki said.

Dr Mathuki said the forum will provide a platform for heads of EAC Organs and Institutions to enhance awareness and understanding of the various commitments in the integration pillars and the governing instruments that are in place at EAC level to DRC government officials.

The mission aims at enhancing awareness to the DRC government officials on the existing instruments, create trade synergies, explore and build business partnerships and immediate linkages for business associations.

During the forum, the private sector accompanying the Secretary General will hold business-to-business (B2B) meetings aimed at exploring opportunities for building business linkages and partnerships on areas of common interests in aim of developing trade and investment relations.

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Tshisekedi chairs SADC but banks on East Africa for trade, security

The Democratic Republic of Congo has signalled interest in remaining in the Southern African Development Cooperation (SADC), even as it cements its place in the East African Community.

Two months after it joined the EAC, President Felix Tshisekedi this week took over the mantle of SADC, indicating for the first time his country’s desires to remain in a bloc whose role in Kinshasa was mainly security issues.

Read: Tanzania’s Samia in Kinshasa for SADC summit

Tshisekedi succeeded Lazarus Chakwera of Malawi, during the 42nd ordinary summit of heads of state and government of the SADC which brought together a dozen heads of state in Kinshasa for the first time under Tshisekedi rule.

The summit was themed on economic development and industrialisation of the bloc including transformation of agricultural production and the processing of minerals, an indication of the potential of DRC.

But it also touched on the elephant in the room: insecurity in the DRC.

“Allow me to thank our community, SADC, for its solidarity with the Congolese people at a time when our country is the victim of a cowardly and barbaric aggression on the part of its neighbour Rwanda,” Tshisekedi told the audience, referring to Rwanda which it accuses of fanning rebel activity but which Kigali denies.

“Although particular emphasis will be placed on the development of infrastructure,” the condition for successful regional integration within the SADC remains the guarantee of peace and security, without which, “all this vision will be an illusion,” he stressed in his closing speech.

The final communiqué said SADC leaders “expressed their concern and solidarity over the recent security-related events in the eastern part of the DRC.”

Mr Tshisekedi paid tribute to the military personnel from SADC member countries, who are part of the Monusco intervention, deployed in eastern DRC.

“Our heartfelt thanks go to the Republic of South Africa, the Republic of Malawi and the United Republic of Tanzania, whose valiant soldiers are sharing their fate with ours at the cost of the supreme sacrifice so that peace can return to the eastern part of our country,” he said. Among those in attendance were Tanzania President Samia Suluhu and South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa.

This was the first time that the Congolese leader had spoken extensively about security issues before his SADC counterparts.

When he came to power in January 2019, Tshisekedi had preferred to turn mainly to the East African Community, even to the point of asking to join the bloc. DRC is now the 7th member of the EAC.

Tshisekedi indicated that his country was in there to reap from economic cooperation. “I would be active in implementing programmes to develop infrastructure and services in the region that is directly linked to our main strategies to stimulate economic integration and eradicate poverty in the SADC.”

Inclusivity, Resilience

The leaders endorsed a theme of Inclusive and Resilient Economic Growth for the 42nd SADC Summit of Heads of State and Government.

The communiqué said SADC will be a peaceful, inclusive, competitive, middle- to high-income industrialised region where all citizens enjoy sustainable economic well-being, justice, and freedom by the year 2030.

“Our targets 2030 as SADC put emphasis on industrialisation. During my days as chairman, I will ensure we foster that goal and especially by utilising our agricultural products to build an industrial economy,” Tshisekedi said.

Like other regional blocs, SADC’s Gross Domestic Product growth contracted by 4.6 percent in 2020, from a growth of 2.1 per cent in 2019, attributed to the Covid-19 pandemic that forced closure of borders and a slow-down of major economic activities.

While economic development is the target of all leaders, SADC’s problems are also internal and external. For example, the global crises such as Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine have meant that the region is faced with rising cost of living.

But internally, its troubled DRC is a bother for all.

Reporting by Patrick Ilunga and Beatrice Materu

The Summit also approved and signed the Agreement Amending the SADC Treaty on Transformation of the SADC Parliamentary Forum into a SADC Parliament.

The two-day Summit was graced by President Samia Suluhu (Tanzania), Presidents Cyril Ramaphosa (South Africa), Wavel Ramkalawan (Seychelles), Hage Geingob (Namibia), Lazarus Chakwera (Malawi), Philippe Nyusi (Mozambique) and Emerson Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe.

King Mswati III of eSwatini, Zambia’s President Hakainde Hichilema, Prithvirajsing Poopun of Mauritius and a leader from Lesotho.

Others were Botswana’s Vice President Ponatshego Kedikilwe, Angola’s Foreign Minister Tete Antonio who represented their heads of state.

Tanzania and DR Congo are also members of the EAC.

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Ethiopia, South Sudan sign security cooperation agreements

Ethiopia and South Sudan on Wednesday signed security cooperation agreement to jointly fight terrorism, armed groups and organised crime in the region.

The agreement was signed by the Director General of the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) of Ethiopia, Temesgen Tiruneh, and the Director General of the Internal Security Bureau of South Sudan, Akor Kor Cook.

The agreement states that “the countries will work together to control and take action against terrorist groups, rebel forces, armed groups and organised criminals who have taken the mission to disrupt peace and security in the border areas and destabilise the East African region.”

In addition, the two countries will work together to prevent illegal arms trafficking, organised crime in the border area, drug trafficking, economic fraud and information technology related crimes.

South Sudan’s Security Affairs Adviser Tut Gatluak Manime said the agreement commits the two countries to exchange information; conduct exchange visits; and enhance training, capacity building and information on immigration, counter-terrorism and border crossing crimes.

“We conveyed the message of assurance of unflinching cooperation and coordination of issues of mutual concern and benefit to the citizens of the two countries,” he said.

According to Ethiopia’s spy agency, the agreement will further strengthen the strategic partnership between Ethiopia and South Sudan.

The two countries also signed a deal to cooperate with the Civil, Citizenship, Passport and Immigration Registration Directorate of South Sudan Ministry of Internal Affairs.

This will enable the two countries to work together to ensure the activities of their citizens are peaceful and their freedom is guaranteed.

The agreement will also play a significant role in ensuring that the activities carried out, especially at the border, protect the social and economic benefits of the citizens of the two countries.

On Monday, the South Sudanese high-level delegation led by Presidential Advisor General Kong Titipip Gatluak, along with senior security and civil officials, visited the construction site of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

After visiting the site, the South Sudanese delegation said the Nile dam project will play an instrumental role for regional integration through the supply of electricity.

“After witnessing the GERD’s construction site, we found that the dam is a large project and can provide all neighbouring countries with electricity…We have really seen a very big job,” Manime told state media.

The South Sudanese official urged Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt to resume stalled talks over the Nile dam filling.

Ethiopia’s Defense Minister Abraham Belay said, “The dam we are building is not only for Ethiopia but also for Africa. The rumours about the dam and the reality on the ground are totally different. The countries of the river basin should also understand that this dam ensures mutual benefit. For instance, our Grand Renaissance Dam has two bottom outlets for the purpose of downstream countries so that they can get water throughout the year.”

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Ethiopia and South Sudan on Wednesday signed security cooperation agreement to jointly fight terrorism, armed groups and organised crime in the region. The agreement was signed by the Director General […]

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Kenya polls: Former Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete to head EAC observer mission

Retired Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete will head the East African Community (EAC) election observation mission to Kenya.

The mission of 52 observers drawn from key governance and independent institutions and civil society organisations across the seven-member EAC bloc except Kenya is expected to be in the country from August 1st to 12th. Kenyans will vote in the general elections on August 9.

Speaking during the launch held on Monday at a Nairobi hotel, Mr Kikwete said the mission would assess the level of preparedness of key electoral stakeholders in Kenya.

“We are here to assess the level of preparedness of the key electoral stakeholders for this election. We are also looking at the level of compliance of the electoral processes and management and how they meet international, regional and national standards including established laws, principles and practices,” said Mr Kikwete.

“Our mission will interact with a number of key stakeholders in pursuit of peaceful elections. Among these will be IEBC, political parties, candidates, the judiciary, security organs, media and civil society.”

Read: Kenya’s change of guard: Why neighbours watch every step

The mission will build on the outcomes of the Joint African Union/EAC/IGAD/COMESA pre-election assessment conducted over the last one month.

The EAC will then announce the findings of the mission through an interim statement on August 11.

“We are committed to offer objective recommendations for continuous improvement for the conduct of this general election,” said Mr Kikwete.

The EAC Secretary-General, Dr Peter Mathuki, in remarks read on his behalf by the EAC Principal Political Affairs Officer, David Onen said that the bloc’s mandate to observe elections in the partner states is governed by the Treaty and the EAC Principles for the Observation and Evaluation of Elections.

“As a region, we have a conviction that regional observation is critical to enhancing the credibility of the elections, reinforcing the work of domestic observer groups and enhancing public confidence in the entire electoral process,” he said.

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Retired Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete will head the East African Community (EAC) election observation mission to Kenya. The mission of 52 observers drawn from key governance and independent institutions and […]

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Change of guard in Kenya: 5 reasons neighbors watch every step

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta – whose final term in office ends after the 9 August polls – has been a key figure in east Africa. Over the last nine years, he has tried to create markets and address issues like peace, malaria and climate change. Within the East African Community, he signalled the end of an era on 21 July when he handed over the bloc’s leadership to his Burundian counterpart, Evariste Ndayishimiye.

International relations scholar Nicodemus Minde explores five reasons neighboring states follow the change of guard in Nairobi very keenly.

1. Participatory politics and term limits

Kenya’s democratic trajectory has always been viewed by east African neighbours as the bellwether for being fairly participatory. The annulment of President Kenyatta’s electoral victory on 1 September 2017 also offered crucial lessons to neighbours.

As court reversed Kenyatta’s win, John Magufuli (Tanzania’s president at the time) had banned all political party activities, ushering in an era of brutal dictatorship. In Rwanda, President Paul Kagame had just been declared winner with 98.8% of the votes.

In neighbouring Burundi, President Pierre Nkurunziza had controversially extended his stay in power through a “third term”. Over in Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni was just clocking 31 years in office and showing no signs of letting go. The other East African Community member state, South Sudan, was still embroiled in a civil war.

Only Tanzania has enjoyed periodic transitions, albeit through the one-party dominant system.

Kenya has experienced many democratic transitions since the reintroduction of multiparty politics in 1992. Despite its ethnic cleavages, Kenyan elections have been competitive. In 2002, there was a transition from the independence party, the Kenya African National Union, to the opposition National Alliance Rainbow Coalition.

Since the 1990s, Kenya has been the only country in east Africa to transfer power smoothly from a ruling party to the opposition.

2. Political and economic network

Kenya has always projected itself as a regional economic hub and an international political player. It has the largest economy in east Africa, almost double that of Tanzania and nearly three times that of Uganda.

Tanzania, which previously had lukewarm relations with Kenya, has benefited immensely from rapprochement between Presidents Samia Hassan and Kenyatta. Recent reports indicate that bilateral trade hit US$905.5 million in the first 11 months of 2021 as their trade relations improved.

Over the years, Kenya has been Uganda’s biggest trading partner. Uganda accounted for 29.3% of Kenya’s exports to Africa in 2020. Kenya’s exports to the East African Community increased from Ksh140.4 billion ($1.28 billion) in 2019 to Ksh158.3 billion (US$1.44 billion) in 2020.

Kenya has also maintained close economic ties with Rwanda and South Sudan.

3. Transit trade

The landlocked countries in the region rely heavily on Kenya’s seaport and transport corridor. The maritime port of Mombasa serves parts of Tanzania, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda, South Sudan and Uganda. These countries often follow very keenly how elections unfold in Kenya.

Kenya’s bungled 2007/8 political transition came as a surprise to many regional traders whose transit goods were destroyed along the transport corridor. The Northern Corridor and the Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia-Transport Corridor that run through Kenya are designed as key commercial arteries for landlocked countries in the region.

4. Regional integration

In February this year, presidential candidate William Ruto made a diplomatic gaffe when he said the DRC did not have a single cow. He was speaking about Kenya’s dairy and beef investments.

The storm that erupted showed how quickly regional relations could sour. The remark epitomised the low priority assigned to the east Africa policy agenda among Kenyan presidential candidates – Raila Odinga included.

The DRC became the seventh member of the East African Community in April this year. President Kenyatta has steered the regional agenda, including the admission of the DRC. In June he hosted the east African leaders to discuss the tensions between Rwanda and the DRC. He has also taken political leadership in stabilising Somalia and South Sudan.

Read: Exit Uhuru, EA’s big hugger and master of soft power

The neighboring states may wish to have as Kenya’s next president a person who continues to seek solutions to the conflicts of the region.

5. An ally as Kenya’s president

Who do the east African leaders want to be Kenya’s next president? Today’s personal friendships can be used to advance or safeguard bilateral interests tomorrow. In July 2021, Museveni hosted Ruto as the chief guest when laying the foundation of a new vaccine facility. Museveni’s action was interpreted as an endorsement for Ruto.

Museveni has had a tepid relationship with Odinga since 2007 when Odinga’s supporters uprooted the railway line during the post-election violence, disrupting exports to Uganda. In an apparent attempt to heal old wounds and appear even-handed, Museveni hosted Odinga in May this year. The two later said they discussed ways of strengthening relations between Kenya and Uganda.

Odinga had flown to Uganda from South Sudan, where, as the African Union High Representative for Infrastructure Development, he had gone to commission a 3.6km bridge that will connect Juba to the rest of the east Africa region. He was received there by President Salva Kiir. At the event, Odinga talked of his presidential bid, pledging to reopen the troubled border with South Sudan and prioritise construction of a Mombasa-Juba highway, if he won the 9 August elections. President Kenyatta had in May 2018 appointed Odinga as his special envoy to South Sudan in the effort to reconcile Kiir and his vice-president, Riek Machar.

Key Odinga ally

In Tanzania, the late Magufuli was a key ally of Odinga’s, thanks to a friendship forged when both were works ministers in their countries. Magufuli’s support for Odinga against Kenyatta in the 2013 and 2017 polls led to a perfunctory relationship with Kenyatta and tense relations between the two countries.

His successor Hassan was quick to restore friendly terms. But Tanzania, just like Rwanda and Burundi, has not shown any signs of leaning towards one candidate. Many Tanzanians have, however, been excited by rank outsider George Wajackoyah’s eccentric promises.

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Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta – whose final term in office ends after the 9 August polls – has been a key figure in east Africa. Over the last nine years, […]

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Private sector to blame for blocking trade, East African integration

The private sector has come in for blame for the enduring non-tariff barriers (NTBs) that have perennially choked trade in spite of policies to eliminate them.

At a retreat on the EAC Common Market held on July 20 in Arusha, it was revealed that NTBs have significantly contributed to the declining intra-EAC trade, which is below 20 percent.

What is more, local laws and regulations of partner states continue to present barriers to increased cross-border trade and investment. And these laws are often the result of lobbying by local business groups in a bid to protect themselves from the competition beyond borders.

Since the Common Market Protocol was passed 10 years ago, the EAC Partner States have managed to resolve 230 NTBs as at the end of February, only for new ones to emerge.

Read: EAC Common Market scorecard falls short

“I have heard that business rivalry among individual companies that trade within the EAC borders canvass and connive to increase or reduce tariffs on their goods in order to deny others a chance to sell their goods,” said Betty Maina, chairperson to the EAC Council of Ministers and Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Trade, Industrialisation and Enterprise Development.

She is also acting Cabinet Secretary for EAC and Regional Development.

“Some of the trade issues that the private sector raise in the form of NTBs could be sorted out at the individual government level and should not find its way to the EAC level,” she told the retreat.

Read: Tax disputes, trade wars headache for new EABC board

Diversification call

Businesses are also blamed for churning out similar products such as maize, eggs, and sugar but then impose internal taxes to prohibit the same products from being imported.

Speaking at the retreat, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni observed that EAC partner states were competing to sell the same product instead of diversifying to give due advantage to the best or largest producer.

“Policy can make things fail. For instance, a country like Uganda easily produce enough food such as maize, milk and sugar, but we don’t produce a lot of rice like Tanzania does,” President Museveni explained.

He said it was better for Uganda to import more rice from Tanzania as it was better placed to produce more and efficiently than Uganda, instead of levying taxes on rice ostensibly to protect Ugandan rice growers.

Away from food, the implementation of the high charges and taxes in the region is contributing to high telecommunications and broadband internet costs.

Read: Lack of product diversity leaves East Africa exposed

These, together with high licensing and numbering fees, unharmonized inter-operator tariff rates and the non-adoption of the One Network Area (ONA) model across the EAC Partner States has contributed to the high costs of doing business.

“For instance, the cost of making a telephone call between Kigali (Rwanda) and Arusha (Tanzania) is similar to the cost of flying between the two cities,” said Prof Manasseh Nshuti, Rwanda’s Minister for EAC Affairs.

If the one network area is implemented, it would result in eliminating charges for receiving voice calls while roaming in Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania.

Sovereignty vs freedom

“It is high time partner states implemented decisions they themselves agreed upon. This could save us a lot of time we spend in discussing what is not working under the CMP,” said Prof Nshuti. “Why can’t we all be under the ONA by the end of 2022?”

Government policy on agriculture (food), manufacturing, telecommunication, communication, the bureaucracy by civil servants manning the immigration and Customs, and partner states’ failure to cede sovereignty over the free movement of goods and services has contributed to the slow implementation of the common market.

In goods, the partner states have deviated from their commitments through application of tariff equivalent measures, resulting in an increase in non-tariff barriers while in services, they remain non-compliant in implementing their commitments, with the total number of non-conforming measures (NCMs) rising.

It is no better in capital as partner states maintain restrictions against freedom of movement of capital.

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The private sector has come in for blame for the enduring non-tariff barriers (NTBs) that have perennially choked trade in spite of policies to eliminate them. At a retreat on […]

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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.

Source

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 […]

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Kenya, Tanzania struggle to run shipping lines

Plans to revive national shipping lines in East African ports are facing usual delays over lack of capacity to compete internationally.

Kenya and Tanzania recently formed shipping lines, but are struggling to establish themselves without own vessels. Tanzania’s bid to sell its disused vessels has been a struggle, with few people coming forth to buy, and leaving it with an unwanted burden of storage.

Read: Kenya launches shipyard as it eyes ship building, repairs in Sub-Saharan Africa

As a result of increasing operating costs, Zanzibar Shipping Corporation, Tanzania’s shipping line is auctioning three of its vessels, leaving it with none of its own. Zanzibar Shipping Corporation, in May this year, floated a tender to dispose of three public vessels MV Maendeleo, MT Ukombozi and MV Mapinduzi 1. Those vessels are still unsold.

According to documents, the assets are being disposed of through the international competitive bidding procedures specified in the public procurement and disposal of public assets.

Interested bidders were required to inspect the MV Maendeleo in Mombasa, Kenya, at African Marine Dockyard, while MV Mapinduzi 2 and MT Ukombozi are at Zanzibar port.

This is the second time ZSC is disposing of the three vessels without anyone willing to purchase them due to their neglected state. In 2017, the national shipping corporation floated the same tender in its bid to overhaul the Shipping Company. It found no buyer.

MV Maendeleo, which has a capacity to carry 600 passengers and about 600 metric tonnes of cargo, has been at Mombasa African Marine since 2017 after it was said to be written off due to lack of maintenance and its old state.

Despite the tender closing in June, ZSC is yet to get buyers of the three vessels again. Last year in September, Zanzibar President Dr Hussein Ali Mwinyi announced his government’s decision overhaul the state-owned shipping company by first and foremost auctioning all its loss-making vessels in what he termed as “time to start afresh”.

Julius Nguhulla, a maritime consultant in Dar es Salaam told The EastAfrican he agrees with the decision by the Zanzibar government to sell the ships because they were unfit. The MV Maendeleo and Ukombozi were built in 1980. Mr Nguhulla Zanzibar Line ran a series of loss-making voyages due to high fuel costs.

In Kenya, the government’s effort to revive the Kenya National Shipping Line isn’t bearing many fruits forcing it to partner with Mediterranean Shipping Corporation to handle key government cargo and operate the second container terminal at the Port of Mombasa.

Two years ago, the Kenyan government unveiled plans to revive KNSL, with hopes that it would have the ability to contribute $3 billion annually to the economy and create 6,000 jobs. However, the process has gone cold over concerns that this may not take off.

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Plans to revive national shipping lines in East African ports are facing usual delays over lack of capacity to compete internationally. Kenya and Tanzania recently formed shipping lines, but are […]

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