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Rethink foreign missions closure, activist urges FG

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Closure

by Ismail Abdulaziz

Abuja, April 25, 2019 The Federal Government has been urged to rethink the plan to close some of its foreign embassies in order to maintain the flow of Foreign Direct Investments (FDI).

Mr Sunny Ofehe, Founder and Executive Director of Hope for Niger Delta Campaign based in The Netherlands, disclosed this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria in Abuja on Thursday.

He said that rather than closing these embassies completely. The option of reviewing activities carried out in such embassies in relation to the need of Nigerians and foreign partners.

‘’A country like Nigerian that enjoys this robust global acceptability and respect must not compromise and diminish its international diplomatic posture before the world.

”It is therefore imperative that as a country, we must ensure adequate representation in global affairs and at the same time serve our citizens and promote our core socio-economic values around the world.

‘’I clearly understand the challenges that our economy back home is facing but you must remember that these problems are peculiar with all countries around the world today.

”In spite of the need to cut spending and prioritise government expenditure, we must set our priorities straight.’’

Ofehe said that the current global economic downturn required government take measures to reduce the impact on citizens as well as balancing global obligations.

‘’At a time Nigeria is facing issues such as poverty, serious income inequality, battered economy and poor quality of life for average citizens, it can be quite difficult to justify the allocation of limited government funds to maintaining embassies.

‘’However, Nigeria as a developing country will require foreign direct investments and increased market access for their goods and services to help grow the economy, and embassies play key roles in bringing these into the country.

”I am aware that our embassies usually send profile of foreign companies willing to invest and do business in Nigeria to the relevant ministries and government agencies after properly vetting the legality and legitimacy of such companies.’’

The 2019 governorship aspirants of Delta under the All Progressive Congress said that the idea of using Information and Communication Technology to replace staff was not tenable yet.

He said that developed countries like America and Netherlands still maintain physical presence in spite of the advancement in ICT.

‘’Another advantage of having people on the ground is the extensive people-to-people contact it allows the host country. While communication may be maintained via phone and e-mail, and air travel makes it easy for officials to fly in for crucial meetings, these tools cannot replicate the relationship that can be established through constant personal contact and interaction.

Particularly in countries like China, India and the Middle-East whose cultures put a premium on personal relationships as part of doing business, a lot more is usually achieved over formal and informal meetings compared to constant exchanges of emails or phone calls.’’

There are fears that based on the 2019 budget estimate of the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Nigeria may be forced to close some of its foreign missions over the bad state of the embassies across the globe, due to poor funding.

Nigeria at present has 110 missions around the world.

edited by Sadiya Hamza

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UN agency says extreme poverty, inequality remain Africa’s top challenges

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The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) said on Friday that Eradicating extreme poverty and reducing existing inequality have remained the African continent’s biggest challenges.

Thokozile Ruzvidzo, Director of Gender, Poverty and Social Policy Division at the ECA made this known while addressing a high-level continental meeting of the committee on gender, poverty and social policy, in Addis Ababa.

“Eradicating extreme poverty and reducing inequality remain some of Africa’s biggest challenges,  which the ECA is trying to help member States tackle through various policy recommendations and actions,” Ruzvidzo told the meeting.

The policy which aimed at looking into the core role of the ECA’s newly-formed Gender, Poverty and Social Policy Division that was reformulated to address gender, poverty and social policy as key African priorities.

“Inspite of  strides the continent has made in reducing the incidence of poverty, under the current trajectory, it is unlikely that extreme poverty will be eradicated by 2030,’’ the ECA director said.

“Global extreme poverty is predominantly concentrated in Africa, and is declining much slower in the region compared to the rest of the world,’’ she added.

“In Africa, this megatrend has largely not been translated into diversification of the economy, structural transformation, and the creation of productive jobs away from substance agriculture, in manufacturing and modern services,’’ she said.

Figures from the ECA show that more than 50 per cent of urban residents in Africa live informally, increasing by 4.5 million annually and an estimated 210 million live under conditions of poverty in urban slums, excluding North Africa, a figure which is projected to rise to 256.4 million in 2020.

In half of African countries, less than 35 per cent of the population has access to improved sanitation facilities, less than 76 per cent has access to potable water, and the urban housing deficit stands at 20 billion U.S. dollars to 25 billion U.S. dollars, according to the ECA.

“These figures suggest that extreme poverty in Africa is moving from rural to urban areas,’’ the ECA said in a statement issued on the margins of the meeting, adding the situation is equally challenging in terms of inequality in the region.

“The interaction between poverty and inequality requires urgent attention in order to resolve human ill-being, fulfill everyone’s human rights, and achieve collective peace, prosperity, and genuine democracy,’’ Ruzvidzo said.

“Poverty and inequality do not only mean human deprivation, they often lead to social unrest and uprisings, growing radicalisation, worsening of polarisation within countries and communities, risks, and sometimes actual conflicts and wars,’’ she added.

According to the ECA, particularly relevant to the new priorities of the newly-formed Gender, Poverty and Social Policy Division is urbanisation.

The reformulated division is said to be home to sub-programs that seek to address emerging issues impacting the lives of African women and girls, promote and support African countries in their work to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment.

It also envisaged contributing to Africa achieving inclusive and equitable sustainable human and social development, it was noted.

“The principal rationale for its recent reform was to re-affirm that the Commission was re-oriented to effectively implement its mandate, including effectively supporting the implementation of, and follow-up to, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the African Union’s Agenda 2063,’’ Ruzvidzo said.

The ECA noting existing “uncertain and volatile global environment, slower growth in the region, and rising inequality, had to embark on reforms to ensure it remained in touch with Africa’s development efforts,’’ Ruzvidzo said.

The ECA’s new strategic direction, which focuses particularly on 23 African countries, aspires to increase its ability to make impactful interventions and remain forward-looking, it was noted.

Experts in the fields of urbanisation, planning, social policy and gender, research institutes, UN specialised agencies and civil society are attending the two-day meeting to evaluate the core role of the ECA’s newly-formed division.

Which envisaged addressing gender, poverty and social policy as key African priorities.(Xinhua/NAN)

Edited by Halima Sheji/ Sadiya Hamza

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AU refutes report of China spying on its headquarters

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A senior official of the African Union (AU) on Friday rejected media reports that China has been spying on its headquarters and transferring data from servers in the building.

Victor Harison, the AU commissioner for economic affairs, said he had respect for the response of the chairperson of the AU Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, who refuted a report the French newspaper Le Monde.

The French paper had earlier claimed that China had bugged the AU conference centre it had built and gifted to the AU in 2012.

Harison said, “I think the chairperson of the African Union has responded in this issue. I respect the response of my hierarchy chairperson.’’

Mahamat told the press in China that they were totally false allegations, reiterating that ties between China and the AU are unwavering, and such reports could not damage their relations.

According to a recent report by Reuters, U.S. Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios has criticised countries that open their arms to Chinese 5G networks and artificial intelligence technologies.

Citing the Le Monde report in 2018 that Beijing had transferred data from the AU headquarters to China for five years using Huawei IT equipment.

Reuters also recalled that the AU had previously rejected claims that Huawei was involved in any cyber security breach.

Harison said that the AU and China are enjoying fruitful cooperation, with the AU office complex and conference centre a tangible example in this regard.

“This building is the fruit of collaboration between AU and China,’’ he said.

Refuting the rumour, Liu Yuxi, head of the Chinese Mission to the AU, told reporters on his part that the relationship between China and the AU is based on mutual respect and benefits. (Xinhua/NAN)

(Edited by Hadiza Mohammed/Emmanuel Yashim)

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Kenya pledges support for green finance to combat climate change

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Patrick Njoroge, the Governor of Kenya Central Bank, on Friday pledged support for green finance to combat climate change.

Njoroge said in Nairobi that “now is the time to build a truly sustainable financial system that works for the banking sector as well as the environment’’.

“In the future, all finance must be green,’’ he told a ceremony for sustainable finance catalyst awards.

Kenya is experiencing extreme climate events such as droughts and floods, which hurt the country’s key sources of livelihoods, Njoroge said.

He said Africa, which contributes the least to emission of harmful gases, is bearing the greatest burden of climate change.

“The financial sector has been identified as one of the sectors that can lead the country’s transition toward low-carbon development pathways,’’ Njoroge said.

Habil Olaka, CEO of Kenya Banking Association (KBA), said the banking industry had tremendous potential in aiding the country to transition into a green economy.

He said the country needed an estimated 2.4 trillion shillings ($24 billion) to implement the Green Economy Strategy and Implementation Plan.

Green bonds have also been identified as one of the innovative tools that can lead the country toward the green transition, Olaka said. (Xinhua/NAN)

Edited by Fatima Sule/Abdulfatah Babatunde

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South African Airways reintroduces some flights after strike

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South African Airways (SAA) on Friday  announced that it would reintroduce international flights on Sunday, but would extend its cancellation of regional and domestic flights after a labour strike brought operations to a standstill.

The airline said it was aiming to operate all international flights leaving from Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport from Nov. 17.

“Departures from SAA’s international stations, including London, New York, Washington, Munich, Frankfurt and Hong Kong, are expected to operate from Monday, Nov.18,” the statement read.

The beleaguered airline cancelled almost all flights scheduled for Friday and Saturday ahead of the strike which saw staff walk off the job and protest outside major airports.

SAA check-in desks were empty and many travellers were caught unawares when they arrived to catch their planes on Friday.

The airline said it would assist as many passengers as possible to get alternative flights although not everyone could be accommodated, it warned.

The cancellations are a result of ongoing industrial action by the South African Cabin Crew Association (SACCA) and the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA).

On Thursday, the airline said it would not be able to go higher than its offer of a 5.9 per cent salary increase and that a no work no pay principle would apply to employees participating in the strike.

Workers had asked for an eight per cent raise.

SAA has long faced financial difficulties.

In June, its board of directors announced the national carrier needs an additional four billion Rand (268 million dollars) in immediate funds to survive the current financial year.

Edited by Halima Sheji/Tajudeen Atitebi

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German Bundestag passes large sections of climate package

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The German parliament passed large parts of a climate policy package hammered out in September on Friday, providing for a price on carbon dioxide emissions to take effect from 2021.

The legislation imposes obligations on the different government departments and will force a rise in the costs to the consumer of fossil fuels used for transport and heating.

The price of rail tickets is set to fall from the start of 2020 as a result of a cut in the value-added tax applie, with a view to reducing travel by air and car.

The tax on air tickets to short-haul destinations is to rise as well from April 1 next year.

The Bundestag also passed measures to finance commuters and to refurbish homes.

The measures were criticised by environmental groups for not going far enough, but also by economists saying they would hit less well-off people hardest.

The tax aspects of the package have yet to be approved by the Bundesrat, the upper house of the German parliament where the 16 states are represented.

The Bundesrat is to discuss the package at the end of this month, amid indications that it could press for changes.

Baden-Wuerttemberg Premier, Winfried Kretschmann, a member of the Greens, has described the proposals as “neither rapid enough nor sufficiently effective.”

With the Greens being in coalition in nine of the states, they are able to block or delay legislation.

Edited by Fatima Sule/Tajudeen Atitebi

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Germany to support 50 mosques in integration drive

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The German Government plans to spend some seven million euros (7.7 million dollars) in supporting around 50 mosques and institutions of the Alevi community over the coming three years, the Interior Minister, Horst Seehofer, said on Friday in Berlin.

The 50 mosques and cemevi – as the Alevi places of assembly are called – are to be chosen not by the major Islamic associations in Germany, but by four German institutions.

These are the German Child and Youth Foundation (DKJS), the Goethe Institute, the Otto Benecke Foundation, a politically neutral charity set up by German students and the Paritaetische Wohlfahrtsverband, a charity that supports the ill and weak in society.

The project, announced in Berlin on Thursday, is to be organised by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) guided by a council of experts from Muslim organisations.

It is to support measures aimed at enhancing contacts between communities in the neighbourhood.

Alevism is a syncretic, heterodox Islamic tradition. Alevis are found primarily in Turkey among ethnic Turks and Kurds, and make up somewhere between 10 and 20 per cent of its population.

Edited by Fatima Sule/Tajudeen Atitebi

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