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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

Foreign

Arts, cultural exchange strengthen relationships between countries – Emirati Artist

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Hamid Al-Ali, a United Arab Emirate artist, says arts and cultural exchange programmes can help harness the foreign policy of nations.

Al-Ali said this in an interview with the Nigeria News Agency on Saturday in Lagos.

According to him, the creation of art through photography exhibitions, strengthen the relationship between countries.

Photography, for Al-Ali, is the ability to freeze a moment in time and preserve it forever while sharing it with others, making it more valuable.

NAN reports that Al-Ali, who is in Nigeria for the art exhibition, has travelled to about 77 countries, including Nigeria, in search of natural beauty.

He said that travelling and visiting other countries could open the horizons to the acceptance of other races and cultures.

“In my country, this year for us is that of forgiveness and tolerance.

“This means the acceptance of others, regardless of their nationality, religion, gender or race.

“One of my works, which portrays acceptance, was done during my trip to Kenya.

“A lady that speaks a different language accepted that I take pictures of her and that is tolerance to me,’’ he said.

He added that people must learn to always look at the positive side of life because of its many benefits.

“In every country, there is the good and the bad but it’s up to us to select what we want to portray.

“Relationships last longer when we look at the positive side of things,’’ Al-Ali said.

Edited by: Abdulfatah Babatunde

(NAN)

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All the 2020 Democrats threatening to skip next debate in LA

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All the 2020 candidates who qualified for the next Democratic presidential debate have vowed to bow out of the event because they don’t want to cross a picket line to get there.

Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, Andrew Yang, Amy Klobuchar, and Tom Steyer announced on Friday that they would pull out of the Thursday Democratic debate in Los Angeles if a local labor union dispute can’t get resolved.

The Democratic National Committee decided last month that it would move the debate from the University of California, Los Angeles to Loyola Marymount University following a conflict between UCLA and AFSCME Local 3299.

Now, however, the DNC finds itself in the crosshairs of another dispute. UNITE HERE Local 11, which represents 150 workers who prepare and serve meals for Loyola Marymount students, said it would boycott the next presidential debate after negotiations broke down with Sodexo, the university’s food services subcontractor.

“We had hoped that workers would have a contract with wages and affordable health insurance before the debate next week. Instead, workers will be picketing when the candidates come to campus,” said a statement from Susan Minato, co-president of UNITE HERE Local 11.

Shortly after the announcement, Warren, Sanders and Yang took to Twitter and committed to not crossing the picket lines.

“The DNC should find a solution that lives up to our party’s commitment to fight for working people.

“I will not cross the union’s picket line even if it means missing the debate,” Warren wrote.

Yang said “there is nothing more core to the Democratic Party than the fight for working people,” while Sanders said he stood with the university workers “fighting Sodexo for a better contract.”

Biden, Buttigieg, and Steyer also offered their support for the Loyola Marymount workers, with Biden calling for them to receive “affordable healthcare and fair wages,” Buttigieg saying he would not “undermine” workers’ rights and Steyer urging the Democratic National Committee to “find a solution ahead of the debate.”

Klobuchar said at an event with labor leaders in Miami that she, too, would not cross the picket lines.

The debate is the first (and likely the last) to be held in California before the state’s March 3 primary election.

The Democratic National Committee announced that its next four debates will be held in January and February in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina, leaving room for two more planned debates between March and June.

The Democratic National Committee said it’s working with the labor union and others involved and expects the debate to go on as planned.

“We are working with all stakeholders to find an acceptable resolution that meets their needs and is consistent with our values and will enable us to proceed as scheduled with next week’s debate,” said Xochitl Hinojosa, the committee’s communications director.

YEE

Edited by: Emmanuel Yashim

(NAN)

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Verdict in corruption trial for Sudan’s al-Bashir expected Saturday

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A verdict in the corruption trial of Sudan’s ousted president Omar al-Bashir is expected to be delivered on Saturday.

The court in the capital of Khartoum heard final testimonies in the case on Nov. 16, including that of the government’s auditor.

After being overthrown during a military coup on April 11, al-Bashir was found to be in possession of large sums of local and foreign currency, as well as other assets, without legal justification.

While the former president admitted he had received 25 million dollars from Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, he pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Al-Bashir, who was in power for 30 years, was deposed when members of the military arrested him after months of nationwide anti-government protests.

He is currently being detained in Kobar prison – where he once sent many of his political opponents and which is a far cry from his luxurious palace.

According to his lawyers, al-Bashir was summoned this week to answer questions about the coup that brought him to power in 1989 and the killing of protesters earlier this year.

He is also wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague for crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide in Sudan’s Darfur region.

It is still unclear whether or not he will be handed over.

Despite the international warrant for his arrest since 2009, al-Bashir managed to travel to several countries in recent years, including Arab and African nations.

The north-eastern African country of Sudan is currently ruled by a transitional civilian government and is one of the world’s 25 poorest countries.

YEE

Edited by: Emmanuel Yashim

(NAN)

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Trump appears to back short Senate impeachment trial

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On the day the House Judiciary Committee approved impeachment articles against him, President Donald Trump claimed it is strengthening him politically. And with those articles headed to the House floor next week, he appears to be warming to a quick election-year Senate trial.

In brief but animated remarks, the president defiantly declared of the shape and length of an expected Senate trial: “I’ll do whatever I want.”

The remark could have been a message to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republicans who favor a short trial with no GOP-White House witnesses; Trump favors the opposite.

But just as quickly, the president appeared to defer to McConnell, adding: “I’ll do whatever they want to do.”

A couple hours after the House Judiciary Committee voted along party lines to send two impeachment articles – abuse of power and obstruction of Congress – to the full chamber, the president called the panel’s action “a very sad thing for our country.”

But he cast the probe in political terms, contending Democrats might have hurt their chances at defeating him next year and winning other races.

“But it seems to be very good for me politically,” he said.

Before Speaker Nancy Pelosi moved ahead with the impeachment inquiry in September, polls mostly showed Americans favoring the president’s impeachment. Since the probe began, public opinion has mostly leveled.

A Monmouth University poll released this week, for instance, found 45 per cent of Americans want Trump impeached and moved out of his job. Despite public hearings in recent weeks, that is only 1 percentage point higher than the same poll found in the two previous months.

An average of polls compiled by FiveThirtyEight found a relatively stable level of opinion about impeachment, with less than half of Americans favoring the House making Trump only the third sitting president to be impeached.

The president also took a shot at Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a National Security Council Ukraine expert who testified during the impeachment probe and raised concerns about an American president asking another government to investigate US citizens.

“The ‘lieutenant colonel,’” Trump said, bringing up Vindman Friday without being prompted. “He’s another beauty.”

The president also repeatedly slammed Democrats, saying they have misused impeachment, calling it “something that shouldn’t be allowed,” adding: “I’ll tell you what, some day there will be a Democratic president and a Republican House.”

Under such a scenario, he said he suspects his fellow Republicans will “remember that,” referring to his expected impeachment.

In a lighter moment, Trump – who agreed to a still-murky “phase one” trade pact with China as Republican and Democratic lawmakers claimed to have struck a spending deal – noted, “This has been a wild week.”

Next week likely will only be wilder.

The House is slated to take up that year-end spending package on Tuesday that is needed to avert a government shutdown next week. The impeachment articles are expected on the floor Wednesday, followed by his proposed U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade pact on Thursday.

Edited by: Emmanuel Yashim

(NAN)

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17-year-old Nigerian winner of Chinese Bridge competition pledges to tackle Nigeria’s electricity challenge

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Mr Samuel Miracle, 17-year-old Nigerian student and winner of the World Chinese Bridge Language Competition has pledged to solve Nigeria’s electricity challenge after completing the scholarship he won to study Engineering in China.

Miracle made the pledge on Friday in Abuja during an interaction with the media on his educational journey to studying Mandarin and participation in the competition.

Nigeria News Agency reports that the Chinese Bridge Competition is the highest stage for foreign language learners to compete in language competence and cultural understanding worldwide.

Miracle who won the 2019 World Chinese Bridge Competition held in Henan Province, China competed alongside 120 other participants from 105 countries from across the world.

He said that the scholarship he won would be meaningless if he did not achieve something that would impact positively on the development of Nigeria.

Miracle said that he decided to study the Chinese language in order to learn electricity engineering from China which is a developed country occupying a leading position in the world.

He promised to return to Nigeria after completing his scholarship programme to help tackle the problem of “blackout”.

He said that the prize for winning the competition was a four-year fully-funded scholarship to any university/institution to study any course of his choice.

“After my secondary education I went to study the Chinese language when I was introduced to the competition by a friend.

“I thought that it was a very good opportunity because it is a language I am really interested in.

“Before I started studying the Chinese language, I always had the dream of becoming an engineer and to be very good in it to help the electricity in sectors in Nigeria’s  which is a big challenge.

“I will come back to impact in my country because you have not achieved the main goal of studying abroad if you do not return to your country to make an impact.

“I would do everything to help Nigeria, make a change where possible and correct the negative impression that other  countries have about Nigeria”, Miracle said.

On winning the competition, Miracle said it was a great challenge as he only started studying Chinese at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University China Confucius Institute in Oct. 2018.

He said that winning the competition was as a result of determination and the help of his teachers as he adviced other youngsters of the advantages of being bilingual.

Miracle said that Nigeria and China had strong ties and it would be good for Nigerians to take learning Chinese language seriously to further promote the cultural ties with both countries.

Also speaking, Mr Zhang Jianle, Lecturer at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Conficius Institute commended Miracle who now bears the Chinese name Gu Siyan for his commitments to learning Chinese.

Jianle said that Miracle’s speed at learning the language was remarkable as a result of his determination.

He said that he was proud to be his teacher as he made the Institute which was participating in such category of the competition for the first time proud in winning the star prize.

Jianle urged the Nigerian institution to further build on the relations between Nigeria and China to introduce learning Chinese language in their curriculum especially from Primary School levels.

“It is important to learn Chinese language now because Chinese is getting stronger in the world and  more Chinese companies are coming to Nigeria.

“It will help in deepening bilateral ties and interaction in order to enhance communications.

“It would be good to introduce Chinese in Nigerian schools.  They have degree courses in Nnamdi Azikiwe University in Chinese Language but should also be introduced at primary level of education”, Jianle said.

Until 2019, the Chinese Bridhe series of competitions has attracted more than 1.4 million  teenagers from more than 150 countries and region across the world.

More than 6,500 students from more than 110 countries were invited to China to participate in the World Chinese Bridge rematch and finals.

Last year, another Nigerian with Chinese name Ding Jiaming, a Student of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Confucius Center also won the African Championship of the 17th World University Chinese Bridge Competition.

Edited by: Emmanuel Yashim

(NAN)

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