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African leaders can end corruption in the continent, says Kagame

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President of Republic of Rwanda, Mr Paul Kagame, says it is within the powers of African leaders to end corruption in the continent.

Kagame made this known at a National Democracy Day Anti-Corruption Summit in Abuja on Tuesday.

The summit, organised by Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has “Curbing Electoral Spending: A panacea to Public Corruption” as theme.

Kagame said that the war against corruption was a campaign fight that could be won, and that tolerating the vice was a choice and not an inevitability.

“It is within our power to end it; that is the most important starting point, otherwise, it will be a waste of time for us to keep talking about it,” he said.

He said that the primary responsibility of tackling the scourge laid with leaders at every level, where corruption “has become the norm, a way of life because leaders have made it acceptable and made it that way”.

The Rwandan president said that corruption needed to be tackled from ‘top to down’, adding that it was one of the freest approaches and one of the most effective.

“This is because it empowers the public to join in the fight and hold leaders accountable through elections and other means.

“Corruption is a universal weakness and not an African one. It is not part of our destiny as a continent.

“Indeed, research has shown that some of the biggest sources and beneficiaries of corruption, are outside of Africa,” he stated.

But, he insisted that the scourge could definitely be reduced to the barest minimum if stakeholders worked collectively.

Kagame listed culture, responsibility, accountability and effectiveness as keys to overcoming corruption, adding that it was time to redefine transparency as a global objective requiring leaders to collaborate to curb corruption.

“Corruption does not take decades to eradicate. We have to set our sights high; it is not enough to fight corruption just as merely fighting poverty.

“It is too small an ambition for Africa. We want to create value, we want to create wealth, not merely fighting corruption,” he said.

Kagame congratulated Buhari on his re-election, saying “I wish to give you our very warm congratulations on your re-election and best wishes for the entire Nigerian people on the role ahead.

 

“President Buhari is African Union’s (AU) champion, in the fight against corruption.”

Edited by Olabisi Akinbode and Olisa Ifeajika

Naomi Sharang: is a graduate and a professionally trained journalist, with experience in national news reporting/editing and verification at the News Agency of Nigeria. NNN is a Nigerian online news portal that publishes breaking news in Nigeria, and across the world. Our journalists are honest, fair, accurate, thorough and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting news in the best interest of the public, because truth is the cornerstone of journalism and they strive diligently to ascertain the truth in every news report. Contact: editor[at]nnn.com.ng

Health

WHO pays tribute to African leaders on fight against COVID-19

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Dr Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organisation (WHO), Regional Director for Africa, has paid tribute to African leaders for the progress they have made in their fight against COVID-19 pandemic.

Moeti gave the tribute on the official twitter account of the WHO Regional Office for Africa @WHOAFRO on Tuesday.

The regional director also commended Africans for their patience and support in the fight against the pandemic.

“So again, a shout out to African people, I thank them so much for the courage that they have shown, the forbearance under sometimes difficult circumstances.

“We are committed to continue in this fight with them.

“I would like to pay special tribute to African communities. It was said by the WHO Director General, Dr Tedro that our leaders have put in place some measures to control the pandemic.

“We have seen African countries take very tough decisions to put in place some of the control measures

“I am very pleased to have joined this celebration of Africa Day yesterday, and especially pleased to have been in the company of special envoys on COVID-19 in Africa,” she said.

Africa Day is the annual commemoration of the foundation of the Organisation of African Unity on May 25, 1963.

The Day is an opportunity to celebrate Africa’s vitality and diversity, and to promote African unity and it is celebrated in various countries on the African continent, as well as around the world.

At a news conference to mark the Day in Geneva, WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus said the Africa Day 2020 was set aside to mark the successes and progress made throughout the African continent.

In his speech posted on WHO website, the director general said the celebrations were more muted because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“So far, although around half of the countries in the region have community transmission, concentrated mainly in major cities, Africa is the least-affected region globally in terms of the number of cases and deaths reported to WHO.

“Africa has just 1.5 per cent of the world’s reported cases of COVID-19, and less than 0.1 per cent of the world’s deaths.

“Of course, these numbers don’t paint the full picture. Testing capacity in Africa is still being ramped up and there is a likelihood that some cases may be missed.

“But even so, Africa appears to have so far been spared the scale of outbreaks we have seen in other regions,” Ghebreyesus said.

He said the early set-up of a leader’s coalition led by the African Union, under the chairmanship of President Ramaphosa of South Africa was key to rapidly accelerating preparedness efforts and issuing comprehensive control measures.

“Countries across Africa have garnered a great deal of experience from tackling infectious diseases like polio, measles, Ebola, yellow fever, influenza and many more.

“Africa’s knowledge and experience of suppressing infectious diseases has been critical to rapidly scaling up an agile response to COVID-19.

“There has been solidarity across the continent. Labs in Senegal and South Africa were some of the first in the world to implement COVID-19 diagnostic testing.

“And beyond that they worked together with Africa Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and WHO to extend training for laboratory technicians for detection of COVID-19 and to build up the national capacity across the region,” he said.

Furthermore, he said health clinicians, scientists, researchers and academics from across Africa were collectively contributing to the worldwide understanding of COVID-19 disease.

“For many years and from the outset of this pandemic, WHO has been working through our country offices to support nations in health emergency preparedness and developing comprehensive national action plans to prevent, detect and respond to the virus.

“With WHO support, many African countries have made good progress in preparedness.

“All countries in Africa now have a preparedness and response plan in place, compared with less than a dozen in the first few weeks of the pandemic.

“48 countries in the region have a community engagement plan in place, compared with only 25 countries 10 weeks ago.

“And 51 have lab-testing capacity for COVID-19, compared with 40 countries 10 weeks ago; WHO continues to support Africa with other life-saving supplies,” the director general said.

According to him, as of last week, millions of personal protective equipment and lab tests had been shipped to 52 African countries.

“In the coming weeks we plan further shipments of PPE, oxygen concentrators and lab tests.

“However, we still see gaps and vulnerabilities. Only 19 per cent of countries in the region have an infection prevention and control programme and standards for water, sanitation and hygiene in health facilities.

“And disruption to essential health services, such as vaccination campaigns and care for malaria, HIV and other diseases pose a huge risk,” Ghebreyesus said.

Edited By: Edwin Nwachukwu/Salif Atojoko (NAN)

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More African countries should heed UN call for global ceasefire: Guterres

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More African countries should heed the UN call for a global ceasefire to push back deadly COVID-19, said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday.

Marking Africa Day, the annual commemoration of the foundation of the Organization of African Unity, now the African Union (AU), on May 25, 1963, the UN chief said in his message that the COVID-19 pandemic “threatens to derail progress” which would enable countries to reach the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and development targets set out in the African Union’s Agenda 2063.

The AU has established a task force to develop a continent-wide strategy and appointed special envoys to mobilize international support, said the UN chief. Its Peace and Security Council has also taken steps to counter the negative impact of COVID-19 on the implementation of critical peace agreements and reconciliation efforts.

He noted that the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention established a response fund, while African member states have undertaken “robust measures to contain the spread of the virus and mitigate the socio-economic impacts.”

Guterres welcomed the AU’s support for his global ceasefire call, an imperative that also reflects the AU’s 2020 theme: “Silencing the Guns: Creating Conducive Conditions for Africa’s Development.”

“Armed groups in Cameroon, Sudan and South Sudan have responded to the call and declared unilateral ceasefires. I implore other armed movements and governments in Africa to do likewise. I also welcome the support of African countries for my call for peace in the home, and an end to all forms of violence, including against women and girls,” he added.

Some 20 African countries are scheduled to hold elections this year, some of which are likely to be postponed due to the pandemic, with potential consequences for stability and peace, noted the secretary-general.

“I urge African political actors to engage in inclusive and sustained political dialogue to ease tensions around elections and uphold democratic practices.”

Last week, the UN issued a policy brief outlining the impacts of the pandemic on the continent. “We are calling for debt relief and action to maintain food supplies, protect jobs and cushion the continent against lost income and export earnings. African countries, like everyone, everywhere, should also have quick, equal and affordable access to any eventual vaccine and treatment.”

An opportunity now exists, for African governments to “use this moment” to shape new policies that bolster health systems, improve social protection and pursue climate-friendly pathways, he said.

Targeting measures to those employed in the informal sector, the vast majority of whom are women, will be an important step to recovery, said Guterres, as will empowering women to ensure their full participation and leadership.

“The inclusion and leadership of young people will also be crucial every step of the way,” said Guterres.

(XINHUA)

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China to continue to stand firmly with African brothers, sisters, says envoy on Africa Day

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A Chinese envoy said Monday that China will continue to stand firmly with African brothers and sisters.

China will continue to stand firmly with African brothers and sisters. I believe that with the joint efforts of China and Africa, we will eventually triumph over this pandemic (of COVID-19),” Zhang Jun, China‘s permanent representative to the United Nations, said on Africa Day, the annual commemoration of the foundation of the Organization of African Unity, now the African Union (AU), on May 25, 1963.

On the day, Zhang sent letters to the permanent observer of the AU to the United Nations, permanent representative of South Africa (chair of the AU) to the United Nations, and permanent representatives of other African countries to the United Nations.

“Since 1963, under the guidance of the Organization of African Unity and the African Union, African countries have made historic achievements in seeking strength through unity, gaining independence and freedom from colonial imperialists and exploring paths of development in light of their own national conditions. Africa has made significant contributions to the world peace and development,” he said.

China is truly proud of the progress made by Africa and deeply grateful for the valuable support provided by African friends,” said the envoy.

Zhang said that the spread of COVID-19 poses an unprecedented challenge to all countries in the world. China appreciates the sympathy, solicitude and support from African countries.

China is also doing its utmost to assist Africa in tiding over the pandemic. China has sent medical expert teams to Africa’s five sub-regions and their neighboring countries, provided large quantities of medical supplies, and organized video conferences with African medical workers to share experience,” he noted.

China and Africa have shared weal and woe. China is willing to enhance coordination and cooperation with Africa under the UN and other multilateral frameworks to jointly safeguard the common interests of developing countries, pursue common development, and build a closer China-Africa community with a shared future,” said the ambassador.

(XINHUA)

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General news

Africa Day: APRA urges African leaders to look inwards for solutions

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The African Public Relations Association (APRA) has urged African leaders to look inwards for homegrown solutions rather than seeking foreign aids to combat COVID-19.

Mr Yomi Badejo-Okusanya, APRA President, gave the advice in a statement on Monday.

He noted that since inception, the need for Africa to stand together could not be over emphasized than now when the continent faced a global pandemic that left every part of the world struggling for its own survival.

Badejo-Okusanya said that rather than brood over the present  situation, this was an opportunity for Africa to look inwards by developing its own homegrown solutions in terms of  medical equipment and innovation to cures.

“African leaders working together offers the opportunity to break away from the preconceived notions and mindsets that have held us bound for too long.

“This year’s theme for Africa Day ‘Silencing The Guns: Creating Conducive Conditions for Africa’s Development and Intensifying the Fight against the COVID-19 Pandemic’ is  quite apt.

“In the words of the founding father of African Unity, the late Dr Kwame Osageyefo Nkrumah, we must unite now or perish.

“We must recognise that our economic independence resides in our African Union and requires the same concentration upon the political achievement, “he said.

Badejo-Okusanya said that “if we must silence the guns and create conducive conditions for the development of Africa by jointly fighting this pandemic, communication was  key.

He noted that APRA would continue to create a positive narrative for the continent and its people.

“We will create synergies with other professions, governments and organisations to achieve this goal,” he said.

Badejo-Okusanya noted that APRA had set up a post COVID-19 advisory team made up of respected professional colleagues from across the continent to advise the association.

He said that the team was charged with the responsibility of giving Africa and APRA a voice on issues of governance, leadership and development.

Edited By: Wale Ojetimi (NAN)

 

 

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Africa Day: Putin congratulates Africa, hails Russia-African close relationship

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Russian President Vladmir Putin has congratulated African Countries and leaders on the occasion of the Africa Day celebration, hailing the close relationship between the Continent and Russia.

In a message signed by Putin and obtained from the Russian Embassy in Abuja on Monday, Putin said that the day symbolizes the aspiration of the countries of Africa to freedom, peace and prosperity.

He added that the celebration was significant to both Russia and Africa as it reaffirms the relationship of the duo which dates back to the colonial era.

“This holiday assumes special significance in the run-up to the 60th anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and people celebrated this year.

“Decades ago, when many African Peoples were just embarking on the path of sovereign development, our country provided them with active political support, extensive assistance in the social and economic sphere, and training of civilian and military personnel.

“Today, African Countries are Russia’s significant and promising partners, who enjoy well-deserved authority on the global arena and play an active role in addressing topical international issues,” he said.

Putin noted that the Russia-Africa Summit which held in 2019 in Sochi, turned out to be an exclusively important milestone in the development of Russian-African relations.

According to him, the dialogue between our Countries has been brought to a qualitatively new level.

“The Russia-Africa Partnership Forum established during the Summit will undoubtedly contribute to building up mutually beneficial cooperation in various fields and coordinating efforts to counter the threats and challenges of our time.

”Including the COVID-19 pandemic, which has become a serious test for our Countries and Peoples.

“I whole-heartedly wish you good health, prosperity and every success in your state activities, and peace and prosperity to all your compatriots,” Putin said.

Edited By: Modupe Adeloye/Felix Ajide (NAN)

 

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AU commission chief urges Africans to drive toward self-sufficiency

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Marking Africa Day, the Chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, on Monday underlined the need for Africans to chart their own course that seeks own solutions for problems of varied natures.

“In a world in which multilateralism is sorely tested, Africa must stop expecting solutions from others,” said the chairperson.

Reiterating that the African continent is endowed with enormous resources, the chairperson called for inward-looking and self-reliance approach, which will be a catalyst for the renaissance of African nations.

Mahamat said Africa mobilized itself from the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, recalling that a continental response strategy was developed and implemented promptly.

“We should however redouble efforts, determination and perseverance in strictly implementing the pillars of the strategy. We should go beyond the present situation, by preparing for postpandemic conditions in the world.”

Africa Day is the annual commemoration of the founding of the Organization of African Unity, now AU, on May 25, 1963.

(XINHUA)

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Foreign

Zimbabwe president castigates West for continued interference in affairs of African states

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Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa has castigated the West for meddling in the internal affairs of African countries and called on Africans to deepen the culture of democracy and good governance as taught by the continent’s founding fathers.

In his address to the nation on the eve of the 57th anniversary of the founding of the Organization of African Unity, now the African Union, Mnangagwa said former colonial powers had no authority to lecture Africa on democracy as the continent had fought to achieve the democracy being enjoyed to this day.

Africans should not be shy to express the rich cultural heritage, languages and identities, he added.

He said Zimbabwe continued to suffer from unwarranted interference and endure illegal sanctions imposed as punishment for reclaiming land.

“However, we are buoyed by the fact that we have re-united with our land, which is now irreversibly reposed into our hands, we its true owners,” he said.

“As we commemorate and celebrate the unity of our continent, we in Zimbabwe deeply thank our SADC region and the whole continent of Africa for standing with us. Africa has rejected and denounced the sanctions against Zimbabwe and the Sudan, urging those responsible for these illegal, heinous measures to immediately lift them without conditionalities.

“They are illegal, unjust, spiteful and undeserved. Above all, they go against the grain and spirit of civilized international relations as espoused in the United Nations Charter. We reiterate that sanctions have no place in modern international relations.”

He said Zimbabwe also continued to pursue robust cooperation with its neighbours and the continent as a whole; subscribing to a fully integrated continent of Africa.

“We must now urgently consolidate the implementation of cross-border projects, to improve our road networks, water, energy and ICT infrastructure, among others. This will inevitably accelerate multi-faceted sustainable development in the region and on the continent,” he said.

(XINHUA)

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S. Africans allowed essential travel abroad amid coronavirus pandemic

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The South African government on Saturday approved essential travel for its nationals who want to return to countries where they are based.

Minister of Home Affairs Aaron Motsoaledi made the announcement following consultations with the Department of International Relations and Cooperation and the National Coronavirus Command Council.

South Africans who wish to leave the country are permitted to depart only for one of the following reasons: work, study, family reunion, taking up permanent residency and receiving medical attention, Motsoaledi said.

South Africa imposed travel restrictions in mid-March as part of the measures put in place to fight COVID-19, only allowing travel between countries under special circumstances.

Under the new policy, South Africans wishing to return to countries where they reside are required to provide necessary documentation. Moreover, if returning by road or connecting via flights, they need to submit permission from each transiting country.

The announcement came amid a surge in confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country.

As of Saturday, South Africa has recorded a total of 21,343 cases, the highest number in Africa, according to Health Minister Zweli Mkhize.

Over the past 24 hours, the country has reported 1,218 cases, the highest single-day surge since March 5.

The number of deaths from COVID-19 has risen to 407, up by 10 from Friday.

(XINHUA)

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Foreign

One-third of S. African university students to return to campuses under lockdown level 3

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A third of the South African universities students would return to the campuses when the country moves from lockdown level four to three, said Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation Blade Nzimande on Saturday.

“Under level 3, a maximum of 33 percent of the student population will be allowed to return to campuses, delivery sites and residences on condition that they can be safely accommodated and supported in line with the health and safety protocols as directed by the department,” said Nzimande.

Currently, final-year students in programs requiring clinical training, particularly in medicine, have been returning since mid-May. All other students have to study through digital and other means until they can return.

Nzimande said some of those who will return first include those graduating this year and final year students who require access to laboratories, technical equipment, data, connectivity and access to residence and private accommodation.

Once Level 3 is announced, students will be given a period of two to three weeks from the announcement date to return back to their campuses. Institutions will issue permits to identified students to allow for their travel.

Students will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms at campus entrances.

(XINHUA)

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Foreign

Biden regrets “ain’t black” remarks about African Americans supporting Trump

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Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said he regrets his remarks earlier on Friday that if African American voters back President Donald Trump’s reelection, then they “ain’t black.”

“Well I tell you what, if you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black,” Biden said on the popular radio show “The Breakfast Club,” sparking sharp criticism from Republicans and some Democrats who accused him of lecturing black people on how to think and of questioning the racial authenticity of black voters.

Biden later described the remarks as “cavalier” and said he never meant to seem as if he was taking black voters for granted or telling them who they ought to support.

“I shouldn’t have been such a wise guy. I shouldn’t have been so cavalier,” Biden said.

Patrick Gaspard, a former top aide in the Obama administration, was quoted by a The Hill report as saying that Biden “is in no position” to “determine who is black enough or not.”

“White liberal elitists have continuously dictated which black Americans are allowed to come to the table and have a voice,” said Katrina Pierson, a senior adviser to the Trump campaign and leader of its Black Voices for Trump group.

(XINHUA)

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Foreign

Poll shows African Americans, Latinos nearly 3 times as likely to know someone who died of COVID-19

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African Americans and Latinos are nearly three times as likely to personally know someone who has died of the coronavirus than white Americans, according to a new poll released Friday.

Thirty percent of black adults and 26 percent of Latino adults across the country said they know a victim of the coronavirus, who died either from the disease or from complications related to the virus. For white adults, the corresponding figure is only 10 percent, the ABC News/Ipsos poll found.

The findings are consistent with local and national data reported by states and cities that revealed racial and ethnic minorities suffer a disproportionate share of the negative health and economic outcomes from the pandemic.

In New York City, black Americans and Latinos are two times more likely to be hospitalized and to die from COVID-19 than whites, said an ABC News report.

In the southern state of Louisiana, although black residents only comprise a third of the population, they accounted for 70 percent of the deaths in the state, as of last month, according to the report.

The new poll came as the death toll approaches 100,000 and confirmed cases of COVID-19 top 1.5 million in the country.

(XINHUA)

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Foreign

S. African police force hard hit by COVID-19

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The South African Police Service (SAPS) has been hard hit by coronavirus, losing six members to the virus and having more than 600 others being infected, Police Minister Bheki Cele said on Friday.

Of the six police officrs who succumbed to the virus, two passed away in the Western Cape province on Thursday, Cele said in his update on the levels of compliance and adherence to the COVID-19 lockdown regulations.

The Western Cape, the epicenter of the pandemic, has reported a total number of four police officers who have died of the disease, according to Cele.

So far, 611 SAPS members have tested positive for COVID-19, with 101 recoveries, Cele said.

The Western Cape led all the other provinces with 441 confirmed cases involving police officers, to be followed by the Eastern Cape with 47 positive cases, he said.

The SAPS has been proactive by intensively screening and testing police officers, and has sent hundreds of its members into isolation, and over 3,000 into quarantine, Cele said.

Countrywide, there are about 121 police stations and 40 police units where members have tested positive and the premises contaminated, according to Cele.

South Africa remains the epicenter of COVID-19 in Africa, recording a total of 19,137 confirmed cases and 369 deaths as of Thursday.

(XINHUA)

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Time to reopen S. African economy despite surge in COVID-19 cases: senior offical

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A national lockdown in South Africa has served its purpose and that it is now time to reopen the economy despite a surge in COVID-19 cases, a senior govenrment official told Parliament on Friday.

The government is finalizing consultations with different stakeholders on how to systematically reopen industries and get the economy back to work, Lionel October, director-general of the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition, said while briefing Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry on measures to reopen the economy.

A large part of the economy is expected to reopen as the country moves to level three of the lockdown next month, October said.

South Africa eased the lockdown, imposed on March 27, from level five to level four on May 1, allowing certain businesses to resume operations.

Despite the rapid spread of the pandemic, there have been growing calls for further easing the lockdown to level three, which will allow more businesses to reopen and greater movement of people.

On Thursday, South Africa reported 1,134 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, the highest daily record since the country recorded its first case in early March. With the newly-added cases, the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in South Africa stood at 19,137, the highest on the African continent.

Although the lockdown has had devastating effects on the economy, it has achieved its objectives, allowing the country to prepare for an increase in cases of COVID-19, October said.

The World Health Organization has advised that the rate of infection must first fall before countries can start relaxing lockdown.

October said industries will be required to ensure worker safety and protection as a condition to return to business and companies which do not put safety measures in place will be forced to close.

South Africa’s economy, like many others across the globe, will no doubt contract quite seriously as a result of the impact of COVID-19, he said.

As part of interventions to keep industries afloat during this difficult period, October said, the government is assisting companies in distress through funding and has also made significant investments assisting companies manufacturing protective equipment.

“The procurement is done by the departments of health and education. Our role is to mobilize the industry to make sure it is able to produce and protect jobs,” he said.

Also on Friday, President Cyril Ramaphosa held a virtual engagement with stakeholders in tourism on plans to sustain the sector affected by lockdown restrictions on the movement of people and the closure of the country’s borders.

The meeting followed the president’s consultations in recent days with the National Economic Development and Labor Council, leaders of South Africa’s interfaith communities and leaders of political parties represented in Parliament, on the country’s move to level three of the lockdown.

These consultations enable the government to share its plans and outlook with stakeholders who are given the opportunity to table concerns and proposals that enable effective partnerships between the government and the social partners in efforts to protect lives and livelihoods alike, Ramaphosa’s office said.

(XINHUA)

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COVID-19 to boost trade digitization: S. African expert

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The COVID-19 will slow global trade but presents an opportunity for trade digitalization, said Standard Bank’s Head of Global Trade Vinod Madhavan on Thursday.

Madhavan said the COVID-19 outbreak will have significant negative impact on trade growth as countries limit physical movement to curb the virus spread. However, artificial intelligence, block chain, cloud computing and data analytics of disruptive technologies could provide a solution to facilitate trade.

Madhavan believed some digital solutions could be used to replace the current situation where trade is reduced by COVID-19 with limited physical human interaction.

“It is hoped that by leveraging basics such as digitized signatures and documents and technological innovations such as data analytics, AI and automation to change and improve the way local and international trade is done today, we can reduce friction in the trade process, boost activity and through doing so, help to reduce the impact from reduced global trade,” he said.

If AI is combined with optical character recognition, it could increase operational efficiencies to the areas of manual document sorting and data entry to reduce the manual nature of trade processes, Madhavan said.

He pointed out that this requires collaboration between governments and industries to remove barriers by amending and aligning regulatory frameworks.

(XINHUA)

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Over 5,000 South Africans repatriated during lockdown

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South Africa has evacuated more than 5,000 from various parts of the world during lockdown, said the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Naledi Pandor on Thursday at a virtual press briefing.

“We have facilitated the repatriation of 5,239 South Africans stranded abroad (by air). Hundreds more have also returned through our land borders. This means that more South Africans have now been repatriated than the initial 3,637 who had requested repatriation,” said Pandor.

South Africa implemented a nation-wide lockdown from March 26 to flatten the curve of COVID-19 and stopped flights from entering or leaving the country which made South Africans who were travelling overseas not able to return home.

The government then stepped in to assist citizens in distress, which included those stranded at airports; students who were asked to evacuate their places of residence as many countries were implementing their own lockdowns; the elderly; and those who needed medical attention.

“The pandemic has disrupted nations, corporations and our daily lives. The repatriation was carried through collaboration across several departments and were fortunate to have the trust of our citizens that we would assist. Several countries supported the repatriation efforts, as did interested organizations,” she said.

Pandor said the government has spent less than 10 million rand (about 560,000 USD) on the repatriation process thanks to the donation of jet fuel, which significantly reduced any cost the government might have had to bear.

(XINHUA)

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GEP funds to help vulnerable African children continue with education

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The Global Partnership for Education (GPE) on Thursday announced an initial contribution of 60 million U.S. dollars for five new grants to support the education of up to 30.5 million children in Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda and Zambia affected by coronavirus-related school closures.

The fund will ensure countries can benefit from learning and best practices, said GPE in a statement sent to Xinhua in Lagos, Nigeria’s economic hub.

“GPE’s COVID-19 education grants will help our partner countries ensure that all girls and boys can keep learning through distance education options that reach everyone, and support teachers and schools so that the most vulnerable children are not left behind,” said Alice Albright, GPE’s chief executive officer.

“Even short disruptions in learning can have a devastating impact, especially for girls and the most marginalized,” Albright added.

The five grants, according to GEP, will boost governments’ efforts to ensure that children can continue learning while schools are closed, support teachers and parents to provide quality learning at home and meet children’s psycho-social needs.

It added that GPE funds will ensure that remote learning reaches the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children, including girls, children with special needs and disabilities, and children without access to electricity or internet connectivity.

GPE is a partnership and funding platform that galvanizes global and national support for education in developing countries, focusing on the poorest and most vulnerable children and youth.

(XINHUA)

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UNICEF seeks to help African children with online learning amid COVID-19

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The UN children’s fund(UNICEF) on Wednesday announced a partnership deal with the mobile operator Airtel Africa to help provide access to online learning and cash transfers for children and their families in sub-Saharan Africa.

Under this partnership, UNICEF and Airtel Africa will use mobile technology to benefit an estimated 133 million school-age children currently affected by school closures in 13 countries across sub-Saharan Africa during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This will help ensure families have additional resources to cope with the ongoing health and economic crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” UNICEF said in a statement issued in Nairobi.

According to UNICEF, the adverse effects of school closures on children’s learning are well documented amid warnings from experts that gains made in increasing access to learning in the previous decade may be reversed completely.

The partnership will also provide UNICEF with a means to facilitate vital cash assistance to alleviate financial barriers for some of the most vulnerable families across the region, including many affected by the growing socio-economic hardships resulting from the suspension of income-earning activities.

Raghunath Mandava, Airtel Africa CEO said the mobile operator will zero-rate select websites hosting educational content, which will provide children with remote access to digital content at no cost.

(XINHUA)

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East African truck drivers praised over delivery of goods amid COVID-19 crisis

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The East African regional business and private sector watchdog on Wednesday praised truck drivers for their continued delivery of essential commodities across the east African borders amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The East African Business Council (EABC) based in Tanzania’s tourist city of Arusha said in a statement that the truck drivers were among those risking their personal health to keep products moving to stores, hospitals, homes and elsewhere during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite the impact of COVID-19, truck drivers continue to deliver essential commodities including food, personal protective equipment(PPE), medicines, raw materials within and across the East African Community (EAC) borders, said the statement.

“The EABC appreciates and recognizes the selfless dedication of truck drivers who are delivering goods to health facilities, factories and consumers,” said the statement signed by Peter Mathuki, EABC Executive Director.

“This will boost the availability of medical, PPEs and food crucial to protecting the health of our citizens and improving food security in the region,” said the statement.

The statement said stigmatization against truck drivers should never be an option, as this may lead to a disruption in the supply chain in the EAC member countries of Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan, thus affecting further trade and investment.

“Let us support our truck driver in the region, our unsung heroes on the wheel delivering essential cargo into and out of our countries,” said the statement.

(XINHUA)

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The Nile River: Tackling an arising African conflict

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The Nile River: Tackling an arising African conflict

News Agency of Nigeria

A scenario is unfolding in Africa between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) project on the Nile River. The project is a gravity dam on the Blue Nile River that has been launched by Ethiopia and under construction since 2011.

As of October 2019, the work stood at approximately 70 per cent completion. Once completed, the reservoir could take anywhere between 5 years and 15 years to fill with water, depending on hydrologic conditions during the filling period and agreements reached between the three countries.

It has an installed capacity to generate around 6.5 GW of Electricity. It is said that at its maximum capacity of 74 billion cubic metre (BCM), the GERD will store 150 per cent of the average annual flow of the Blue Nile, which is 49BCM. This is a serious concern to other riparian Nations along the flow of the river.

In a bid to find a level playing ground for all three countries in this issue, several meetings were held since 2014, with tempo picking up since late 2019 where Washington offered to facilitate talks between the three countries. At least 12 meetings were held between November 2019 and February 2020, culminating in a draft agreement that Ethiopia declined to sign.

In assessing the issue, the International Crisis Group (ICG), a conflict prevention organisation, observed that Ethiopia is moving ahead with the construction in spite of Egypt’s apprehension of a reduced downstream flow of the Nile, the source of around 90 per cent of its freshwater supply.

The ICG states that the Nile basin countries could be drawn into conflict because the stakes are so high: Ethiopia sees the hydroelectric dam as a defining national development project; Sudan covets the cheap electricity and expanded agricultural production that it promises; and Egypt perceives the possible loss of water as an existential threat.

It also added that Ethiopia settled on a dam design featuring a huge reservoir, bigger, some experts contend, than what was needed for a dam intended to generate hydropower rather than to store water for irrigation.

It, therefore, suggested a two-step approach to find a level playing ground among the countries: first, they should build confidence by agreeing upon terms for filling the dam’s reservoir that do not harm downstream countries.

Next, they should negotiate a new, trans-boundary framework for resource sharing to avert future conflicts. Most urgent is the question of how quickly to fill the dam’s reservoir.

Apart from the ICG, other bodies have been involved in finding solution to the challenges facing these countries and the way forwards. In 2013, an International Panel of Experts (IPoE) was given the mandate to “review the design documents of the GERD, provide transparent information sharing and to solicit understanding of the benefits and costs accrued to the three countries and impacts if any of the GERD on the two downstream countries.”

A treaty, the “2015 Agreement on Declaration of Principles (DoP)”, was even concluded between the three countries to guide this process. These Principles embraced relevant International law principles and guidelines governing trans-boundary international rivers, mainly not causing significant harm to riparian states, fair and appropriate use of Nile Water, ensuring sustainable development, regional cooperation, territorial integrity and building common trust, exchanging relevant information in a timely way and peaceful settlement of disputes.

DoP stipulated that the studies recommended by the IPoE shall be used to agree on the rules governing the filling and operation of the GERD and that the entire process should be completed within 15 months.

These provisions also make it incumbent on Ethiopia not to commence the first filling of the GERD, which Ethiopian officials declare could start next July, without an agreement with downstream riparian states.

While Egypt’s letter to the Security Council, a fortnight ago, raises the stakes further, the possibility of armed conflict stemming from the dam dispute is still “very unlikely. We could expect some sort of diplomatic escalation, more aggressive rhetoric.

But a negotiated resolution to this is obviously the best way out for everyone, and there still seems to be plenty of possibility of that,” William Davison of the ICG said.

 

 

Outside partners could help build confidence among parties. The European Investment Bank, which the Ethiopians perceive as less pro-Egyptian than the World Bank, might offer Addis funding for the last phase of dam construction.

Such funding could be conditional on Ethiopia cooperating on sticking points such as the fill rate. The EU and other friendly parties should continue its talks with downstream countries on potential guarantees (including loans) and other instruments to support those countries in years in which drought or other shocks endanger food security.

The U.S. and China, which enjoy close ties to some Nile basin governments, could also encourage parties to resolve their disputes before the GERD is completed.

Egypt and other States could consider rejoining the Nile Basin Initiative after enabling conditions are in place, being an important forum that brings together all riparian countries and a venue available for discussing mutually beneficial resource sharing.

Such talks would consider Egyptian proposals that, currently and in the future, upstream countries carry out major development projects in consultation with downstream nations.

A permanent institutional framework could also help the countries prepare for challenges down the road, including climate change-induced environmental shocks, notably variable rainfall patterns, which could cause greater water stress.

African Union’s 2020 theme of “Silencing the Guns: Creating Conducive Conditions for Africa’s Development” is very instructive in these arising challenges.

The union must give priority to concerns raised by different parties on the GERD project and the development and unity of the continent. The overall historical, economic and engineering impact of the project should form a basis for the way forward in this conflict that has been festering for the last decade.

The United Nations should, likewise, have an input that should significantly see to the attainment of silencing the gun in Africa. (NANFeatures)

**If used, please credit the writer as well as News Agency of Nigeria

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S. African health minister refutes criticism against COVID-19 lockdown

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South African Health Minister Zweli Mkhize on Tuesday refuted criticism against the COVID-19 lockdown, saying the measure has effectively stalled the exponential spread of the novel coronavirus.

With the lockdown, South Africa’s healthcare sector has won time to prepare for the rising wave of infections and deaths, Mkhize said.

“Had we done nothing, estimates show that by this point, as many as 80,000 South Africans would have been infected, and nearly 2,000 of our brothers and sisters would have lost their lives,” the minister said, citing scientific models and estimates.

He was responding to rising criticism from the opposition that some lockdown restrictions are too harsh, nonsensical and not based on scientific principles, and thus should be brought to an end.

The criticism comes at a time when the Western Cape province accounts for 60 percent of the national cumulative cases, with cases increasing exponentially on a daily basis as compared to the rest of the country, Mkhize said in a statement.

The Western Cape province is governed by the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA), which is spearheading the campaign to halt the lockdown.

As of Tuesday, South Africa has recorded 17,200 confirmed COVID-19 cases, up by 767 from Monday, and 312 deaths, an increase of 26, said Mkhize.

The Western Cape remains the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic with 10,639 cases and 187 deaths.

“Our mortality rate of 1.8 percent remains well below the global average, which is currently 6.6 percent, and our recovery rate is 42.4 percent, which is above the global average,” he said.

“Had we not traded freedom for time, hospitals would now be overwhelmed, and our concern would have been drawn away from saving lives by the need to excavate mass graves for those we would have lost,” Mkhize said.

He warned against ending the lockdown abruptly, saying if people are allowed to flood back to the way life was before, infections would surge, effectively undoing everything that has been sacrificed thus far.

In the weeks to come, different areas will experience different levels of lockdown, according to Mkhize.

This district-based approach is seen as the most practical and implementable measure to balance the epidemiology of the virus with the economic risks of a continuous hard lockdown, he said.

Districts with low transmissions will be put on a vigilance program to maintain low levels of the virus infection while those with high transmissions will be classified as hotspots where restrictions are necessary and strong teams of medical experts will be deployed, Mkhize said.

(XINHUA)

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