22 September 2009

Ethiopia to Build Africa International Trade Centre

Construction of a modern multi-million Africa International Trade Centre is under way in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa.
The trade centre to be called Addis Africa International Trade Centre will be the first of its kind in Africa and will among other things enhance business and economic interaction among Africans.
Trade centre project manager Ayalew Abey disclosed in Addis Ababa that the project which is owned by the Addis Ababa Chamber of Commerce and Sectoral Associations (AACCSA) will cost about US$23million.
Mr Abey said the project is unique because it will see the birth of a trade centre which will bring together all African countries and provide an opportunity for them to sell their products particularly exports to the rest of the continent.
Construction of the trade centre which will start soon is expected to be accomplished in three distinct phases and estimated to take three years to complete.
Zambia's ambassador to Ethiopia Albert Muchanga has described the project as a positive development to Zambia and Africa as a whole.
Mr Muchanga said Zambia would benefit by ensuring she undertakes regular exhibitions of export products potential to Ethiopia, the rest of Africa and even to the Middle East.

Apart from providing a forum for trade, the centre will also have a training, research and information department which will provide African business people with information on business and investment opportunities on the continent.

The trade centre will be constructed by renowned architectural and engineering talents on an area more than 110,000 square metres in front of Addis Ababa's CMC Diplomatic Village.
The AACCSA recently organised a retreat in Sodere Resort (50km south of Addis Ababa) as part of the consultative process towards the establishment of the centre. The retreat attracted participants from the AACCSA, the city administration and African diplomats based in Addis Ababa.
Fikre Binyam a business executive based in Addis Ababa said the trade centre will enable Ethiopian businesspersons to expand sales for their export products.
"Ethiopian businesspersons and women have had opportunities to participate in trade fairs in different African countries but the trade centre to be constructed in Addis Ababa will help us to sell our products to many African countries," he said.
Mr Binyam said the project should be supported because it will be the first trade centre in Africa to help promote trade and investment on the continent.


UNITED NATIONS, Sep 21 (IPS) - When Barack Obama visits the United Nations on three consecutive days this week - a rare gesture by a U.S. president - he will be addressing delegates on subjects ranging from climate change and peacekeeping to nuclear non-proliferation and the global financial crisis.

But one of his closed-door meetings will be a private lunch with heads of state and heads of government from sub-Saharan Africa.

"In my knowledge and experience," says U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice, a former assistant secretary of state for African affairs, the lunch Obama will host "is unprecedented".

"It's an opportunity for him to engage with leaders from African countries on the issues that are frankly most pressing to them: how to deal with the youth bulge and find and generate employment opportunities for their people; how to promote trade and investment; and how to feed those that go without every night," she told reporters last week.

Rev. Gabriel Odima, president of the U.S.-based Africa Centre for Peace and Democracy, says President Obama should not only focus on social and economic issues but also on human rights and good governance.

"For nearly 40 years, democracy and good governance have dodged the continent of Africa and Africans," he told IPS.

As a result, their fundamental rights have been taken away from them by leaders who have come to power by the gun and not the ballot.

These leaders, he pointed out, have used intimidation as means of scaring their citizens from exercising fundamental rights such as freedom of conscience, expression, association, and assembly.

Odima said President Obama should encourage African leaders to move towards a true democratic transition and confront head-on human rights abuses and corruption in countries such as Uganda; the reform process in Kenya; the looming crisis in Sudan; the tragedies in both Somalia and Zimbabwe; and the forgotten war in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

Asked about the U.S. role in Somalia, Rice said Washington's goal is to support the peace process, the new transitional federal government,("which is the best hope that Somalia has had for quite some while"), and the African Union peacekeepers that are there very much on the front lines of supporting the nascent government.

"We want to see a Somalia that is stable; that is not serving as - or able to serve as - a safe haven for al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists; that can end the years of humanitarian suffering and move to a responsible government that's able to assert its authority over all of that territory," she said.

Odima told IPS the Security Council adopted Resolution 751 in April 1992 authorising deployment of the military observers in Somalia.

"This marked the beginning of the Somalia tragedy," he said.

The current African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia has no moral authority in bringing peace to Somalia. Both Ugandan and Burundian troops in Somalia have a dark past in their own countries, he added.

Human rights abuse in Africa stands out as a major threat and a challenge to the Obama administration, Odima noted. The spread of AIDS, poverty, corruption, hunger, poor governance, civil wars, poor leadership and mismanagement of resources continue to haunt the continent.

In 1962, he said, U.S. President John F. Kennedy met with several African leaders who had come to attend the U.N. General Assembly sessions in New York and showed a great interest in helping newly independent African countries.

During the same week of the U.N. General Assembly, Kennedy gave a very important speech to the nation that set a road map of U.S. foreign policy during the Cold War.

"Today, President Obama has an opportunity to engage African leaders in bringing hope and change to the people of Africa," Odima added.

15 September 2009

DEVELOPMENT-CAMEROON: Microfinance Succeeding Despite Obstacles

GAROUA, Sep 4 (IPS) - Mrs Adjoumi Hamidou is the President. One of three surviving widows of Ali Hamidou, she heads Akoldiningnal, a collective that runs a multi-cereal mill at Gashiga village, 15 kilometres from the capital of Cameroon's North Province, Garoua.

Akoldiningal is a 15-member Common Initiative Group (CIG) which started a cereal mill with a loan of $4,400 from the Programme for the Amelioration of Rural Family Incomes (PARFAR), a five-year joint project by the African Development Bank and the Cameroon government. Akoldiningal today runs three additional mills.

"We don't only offer credit, we ensure that they effectively use the money they borrow. That is why our programme includes literacy training, gender awareness, accounting and much more," reveals Foudama, national coordinator of PARFAR.

"We are all happy today thanks to the loan. It is from this project that I now sponsor seven children in school; from primary to the university level," says Hamidou. In a region where cereals are the staple food, an average of 150 households grind their corn or millet at the mill every day, earning the group about 15,000 CFA (a little under $35); a significant daily intake in a country where 2005 figures from UNDP show 50 percent of the population survive on less than two dollars a day.

Ironically, Hamidou's group, which has fully repaid the initial loan, cannot borrow more money because the microfinance institutions (MFIs) running the credit scheme are sitting on huge sums supposed to be paid back to PARFAR for continuous lending to the community. MFIs are the direct providers of funds to PARFAR's beneficiaries.

"Loan reimbursement rate from the MFI is 45 percent as against 80 percent from the beneficiaries which means that loans cannot continue to flow as we want," complains Yatahad Viche, North Province's chief field officer for the project. The MFIs are accused of failing to deposit the money repaid to them into PARFAR accounts immediately, instead investing it elsewhere.

This situation is compounded by conflicts over issues of sovereignty and protocol and other bureaucratic bottlenecks on the government side. There is also the interference of numerous ministries in the project leading to delays and non-compliance with datelines

"Because of these, the project started almost a year late following the signing of an agreement between the government and ADB. By the time we started receiving the money, its value had already depreciated vis-à-vis the CFA. So you can understand our problems," says Viche. Out of the project's total budget of $3.5 million, little of the government's agreed contribution of 2.8 percent has come in.

Out of a population of over 4.5 million in the project area, women constitute 51 percent of an estimated 3,000 beneficiaries of the project.

Rwanda's President Kagame to Participate at U.S.-Africa Business Summit

Washington, DC — The Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) today announced that President Paul Kagame of the Republic of Rwanda will be attending the 7th Biennial U.S. – Africa Business Summit: Realizing the Investment Power of Africa, to be held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., September 29 – October 1, 2009. "President Kagame's leadership has been instrumental in U.S.-Africa relations," said Stephen Hayes, president and CEO of CCA. "His attendance at the summit sends the message that Rwanda and Africa are primed for American investment."
Currently, 85 percent of all U.S. private sector investment in Africa comes from CCA members, several doing business in Rwanda alone. Increasingly, Rwanda is becoming an attractive option for foreign investment. According to the International Finance Corporation, the ease of doing business in Rwanda has grown by 12 percent over the last two years. President Kagame is committed to building a strong private sector in Rwanda. In his recent Financial Times op-ed, he wrote "Government activities should focus on supporting entrepreneurship…because it unlocks people's minds, fosters innovation and enables people to exercise their talents. Entrepreneurship gives people the feeling that they are valued and have meaning."
Entrepreneurship will be a formidable topic at the summit, throughout various sectors such as infrastructure, natural resources, agribusiness, financing, power, health and tourism. Expected to attract more than 1,500 participants, the summit has a stellar track record of bringing together U.S. and African heads of state, cabinet ministers, Fortune 500 CEO's, and heads of international organizations.

12 September 2009





7 September 2009

Straw admits Lockerbie trade link

Trade and oil played a part in the decision to include the Lockerbie bomber in a prisoner transfer deal, Jack Straw has admitted.

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, the UK justice secretary said trade was "a very big part" of the 2007 talks that led to the prisoner deal with Libya.

However, Mr Straw's spokesman accused the press of "outrageous" innuendo.

Scotland's Justice Secretary granted Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi compassionate release because he was terminally ill.

£550m oil deal

The 57-year-old was serving life in Greenock prison for the 1988 bombing of PanAm flight 103 over Lockerbie, which killed 270 people.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Gordon Brown insisted there was "no conspiracy, no cover-up, no double dealing, no deal on oil" over his release.

But officials admit the prisoner transfer agreement (PTA) was part of a wider set of negotiations aimed at bringing Libya in from the international cold, and improving British trade prospects with the country.

"Libya was a rogue state," Mr Straw told the paper.

"We wanted to bring it back into the fold.

The 2009 African Women Leadership Awards, organised by Executive Reach

Lagos — Six distinguished Nigerian women have been honoured in London for their exemplary leadership qualities and community service.

The 2009 African Women Leadership Awards, organised by Executive Reach, was given to Mrs Alanyingi Sylva, wife of the Governor of Bayelsa State; Dr Nechi Ezeako, company secretary of FinBank Plc and Yeye Bolanle Dare, proprietor, Mother Theresa Orphanage and Children's Home, Abuja.

Other awardees include Mrs Seun Olagunju, director of news at Raypower; Dr Nafisatu Muhammad, executive secretary, National Commission for Nomadic Education and Dr Betty Nnadi, proprietor of Home Aid Care Ltd based in U.K.

Two parliamentarians from Uganda - Mrs Ruth Sentamu and Mrs Rebecca Kadaga complete the list of awardees.

A citation read by Esther Austin, mistress of ceremonies at Royal Lancaster Hotel, London, venue of the award and dinner, said those on this year's honours roll "exemplifies visible leadership and strong showing in social responsibilities".

Ms Austin also described the women as "individuals who have provided on unfailing example of the highest level of professionalism, a quiet dignity and bearing, character and integrity".

The awardees, according to the organisers, "have all been known to be consummate team players, bettering any situation through their involvement. Each of the individuals selected are driving development, innovation, growth and providing long term opportunities for the larger society in their various areas of influence".
Specifically, Mrs Alanyingi was recognised for her "exemplary dedication" to women's issues in Nigeria, especially for establishing the Centre for Gender Values and Culture which is dedicated to gender development culture for the protection, promotion, preservation and mainstreaming of women work and values.

Yeye Dare was recognised for "her work as the leader of the widely acclaimed and well-managed, Abuja-based Mother Theresa Orphanages and Children's Home, a non-profit organisation dedicated to providing motherhood and love for the motherless".

This year's African Women in Public Life Excellence Leadership Award attracted more than 500 entries, a 30 per cent increase from last year.

The organisers, Executive Reach, based in U.K. said they are committed to improving the quality of life for all women, babies and families.

Africa: 700 million bednets to help continent sleep better

The East African (Kenya) - September 7, 2009.
Nairobi (Kenya) — Countries affected by malaria in sub Saharan Africa are to benefit from a new campaign involving distribution of 700 million bednets to people living in the region to reduce deaths caused by the disease by 2015.

A number of organisations led by the World Health Organisation have already mobilised $5 billion for the campaign, which will involve setting up more factories to make bednets.

Currently, only factories under a company called A-Z with plants in Tanzania, Nigeria and Ethiopia are making nets for the region.

The campaign is geared at increasing the use of bednets as the most strategic entry point, using politicians, faith-based organisations and the football stars to promote using nets.

A WHO delegation touring Uganda last month said that the most pragmatic solution is bednets, but they would be used in combination with indoors residual spraying and artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT).

They envisage full bednets coverage, intensified malaria control initiatives by all African heads of state and communities, and no deaths caused by malaria by 2015.

"Bednets are the most appropriate. With wider dissemination, we shall achieve our goals, but we need everybody to sleep under a bednet. We promise to do our part and so should everybody," said WHO director general Dr Margaret Chan.

With 700 million bednets for endemic countries in sub Saharan Africa, everyone in Uganda (about 30 million people) could get a net.

The campaign will particularly boost Uganda, given that it is among the most affected countries. Malaria causes about 320 deaths in Uganda every day, mostly children under the age of five years.

According to available information, at least 17 million bednets will be distributed in Uganda over one year from December.

According to WHO, 3.3 billion people or nearly half of the world's population are at risk of contracting malaria, a disease that kills about a million people every year in Africa, most of them children under five years and pregnant women.

"Malaria can be brought to its knees. We have raised $5 billion to fully cover almost everybody under bednets, use residual spraying and ensure that all public facilities are fully stocked with ACTs." Ray Chambers, the UN special envoy for malaria said.

The decision to champion bednets ahead of the other two strategies stems from the successful incidence of malaria reduction in Rwanda, Tanzania, Zambia, Eritrea and Zanzibar -- which recorded no malaria deaths thanks to a similar bednets campaign.

National bednet coverage in Tanzania is 50 per cent compared with 90 per cent in Zanzibar and only 40 per cent in Uganda.

But in this campaign, faith-based organisations and football are going to be key in increasing malaria prevention awareness. This has worked in Nigeria.

WHO officials said they expect more firms to take up production of bednets, thus lowering the costs. However, this will be finalised at the upcoming conference under the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA), a coalition of African heads of state to promote malaria control, to be held later this month.