MonitorsPublished on Jun 17, 2016
Africa Monitor | Volume V; Issue XII

< style="color: #0180b3">THE CONTINENT

Drastic reductions in new HIV infections among children in the 21 countries

Concerted global efforts have led to a 60% drop in new infections among children, which has averted 1.2 million new HIV infections among children in 21 priority countries since 2009.  UNAIDS and the United States President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) announced on June 8 that there has been a 60% decline in new HIV infections among children since 2009 in the 21 countries in sub-Saharan Africa that have been most affected by the epidemic. New HIV infections among children in the 21 countries dropped from 270 000 <230 000–330 000> in 2009 to 110 000 <78 000–150 000> in 2015. Equally impressive are gains made in bridging the treatment gap among children. In 2005, fewer than one in 10 children had access to antiretroviral treatment - this gap has now been reduced to one in two. In the past five years alone, treatment scale-up for children grew twofold. The impact is that AIDS-related deaths among children were reduced by 44%.  "These astounding results show that the world is on the Fast-Track to eliminating new HIV infections among children and ensuring that their mothers are alive and healthy," said UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé. "It's beautiful to know that we could soon have a new generation free from HIV." The results were published in a new report, On the Fast-Track to an AIDS-free generation, which was launched at an event hosted by UNAIDS and PEPFAR on the opening day of the United Nations General Assembly High-Level Meeting on Ending AIDS, taking place in New York, United States of America, from 8 to 10 June.

"This shows what is possible through the combined power of science, communities and focused action," said Deborah Birx, United States Global AIDS Coordinator and Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy. "PEPFAR is building on this success, driving harder and smarter to prevent HIV infections and end AIDS among children, adolescents and young women through our DREAMS Partnership, Accelerating Children's HIV/AIDS Treatment initiative and other efforts." During the event, UNAIDS also released global data for children that showed that new HIV infections among children have declined globally by 50% since 2010 - down from 290 000 in 2010 to 150 000 in 2015. It also showed that 49% of children living with HIV around the world now have access to life-saving treatment. On the eve of the event, UNAIDS and partners announced that Armenia, Belarus and Thailand have joined Cuba in receiving official certificates of validation from the World Health Organization for eliminating new HIV infections among children. Thailand is the first country with a major HIV epidemic (450 000 people living with HIV in 2014) to receive such a validation.

It was during the High-Level Meeting on HIV and AIDS in 2011 that UNAIDS and PEPFAR joined with partners to launch the Global Plan towards the elimination new HIV infections among children by 2015 and keeping their mothers alive (Global Plan). The focus of the Global Plan was to increase efforts to prevent new HIV infections in all countries, but particularly in the 22 countries that, in 2009, accounted for 90% of pregnant women living with HIV. The new report released on June 8 shows the progress made since the Global Plan was launched. It outlines that seven countries have reduced new HIV infections among children by more than 70% since 2009 (the baseline for the Global Plan), including: Uganda, by 86%; South Africa and Burundi, by 84%; Swaziland, by 80%; Namibia, by 79%; Mozambique, by 75%; and Malawi, by 71%. In Nigeria, however, the decline was much smaller, at just 21%. In India, the only Global Plan country outside of sub-Saharan Africa, new HIV infections in children dropped by 44% and coverage of services to pregnant women increased from less than 4% in 2010 to 31% in 2015.

The new report demonstrates that treatment or prophylaxis (excluding the less-effective single-dose nevirapine) coverage for pregnant women living with HIV in the countries most affected by the epidemic increased dramatically from 2009. By 2015, more than 80% of pregnant women living with HIV in the 21 countries in sub-Saharan Africa had access to medicines to prevent transmission of the virus to their child - up from just 36% (excluding the less-effective single-dose nevirapine) in 2009. The World Health Organization recommends that all pregnant women living with HIV should be offered lifelong HIV treatment, extending beyond Option B+ to include all women diagnosed with HIV regardless of pregnancy. By 2015, all of the Global Plan countries, with the exception of Nigeria, were routinely offering lifelong HIV treatment to all pregnant women living with HIV. The massive scale-up of treatment has helped to reduce AIDS-related deaths among women of reproductive age, which declined by 43% between 2009 and 2015.

Six countries - Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland and Uganda - met the Global Plan goal of ensuring that 90% or more of pregnant women living with HIV had access to life-saving antiretroviral medicines. Six additional countries provided antiretroviral medicines to more than 80% of pregnant women living with HIV - Burundi, Cameroon, Malawi, the United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Major successes have also been seen in increasing access to treatment for children living with HIV in the 21 countries: access has increased more than threefold since 2009 - from 15% in 2009 to 51% in 2015. However, this is still only half of all children in need of treatment. Major efforts are required to ensure that all children born to HIV-positive mothers are tested for HIV within the first two months of life. Without immediate access to treatment, around 30% of children living with HIV will die within the first year of life and more than 50% will die before they reach their fifth birthday.

The Global Plan also aspired to reduce new HIV infections among women of reproductive age by 50%. The actual decline was just 5% - well below the target. This suggests that women, including young women, continue to be left behind and are not being reached with HIV prevention services. Between 2009 and 2015, around 4.5 million <3.8 million–5.4 million> women became newly infected with HIV in the 21 priority countries in sub-Saharan Africa, and AIDS-related illnesses remain the leading cause of death among adolescents on the continent. At the launch of the report, UNAIDS, PEPFAR and partners also launched a Super Fast-Track framework for ending AIDS among children, adolescents and young women - Start Free, Stay Free, AIDS-Free. The initiative will build on the progress already made to Fast-Track action to end the AIDS epidemic and sets ambitious targets to eliminate new infections among children, find and ensure access to treatment for all children living with HIV and prevent new HIV infections among adolescents and young women. Together, these steps will put the world on a path to ending AIDS among children.

Source: UNAids

Hamid Ansari’s trip to Morocco and Tunisia

Indian Vice President Hamid Ansari returned home on June 4 after concluding his five-day visit to the North-African countries of Morocco and Tunisia during which he met the top leadership of the two countries and discussed a range of issues of mutual interest. On June 3, Ansari had addressed a gathering at the Tunisian Institute of Strategic Studies and called on Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi. Ansari also met with two influential political leaders – President of the Ennahda Party Rached Ghannouchi and Mufti of the Republic of Tunisia Othmane Battikh.  Before leaving for India, Ansari also visited Carthage Ruins situated on the eastern side of the Lake of Tunis and Sidi Bou Said – a town located 20 kms from the capital. Secretary (Economic Relations) Amar Sinha said during his visit to Tunisia that the Vice President focussed on India’s role in Tunisia whose leadership recalled the visit of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.  India’s past, including role of Mahatma Gandhi in the freedom struggle and visit of Indira Gandhi to North African region in 1984 has a lot of influence in Tunisia, Sinha told reporters.

He also said that the main challenge for Tunisia is to revive its tourism industry. Currently, tourists from Europe visit the region, he said, adding that efforts would be made for Indian tourists to visit the region. Sinha said that India would help Tunisia in the industry sector. Tata, Mahindra and Dabur have started taking interest in the region, he added. According to him, Tunisia has a lot to offer in the health sector and so Indian doctors and health institutions could also explore setting up their units in the North-African country. Besides, the pharma sector could also explore the region to capitalise on those coming to Tunisia for treatment. Sinha said that during interactions, need was stressed for higher level of meetings at the political level. India would like to explore the markets of Tunisia and Morocco, he said, adding that there is a lot of scope for Indian companies in this region. He said that India could learn from Moroccan capital Rabat as far as cleanliness was concerned. In Rabat, Ansari met Moroccan Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane and others including the Speakers of the two houses. India and Morocco signed two MoUs on cultural cooperation and institutional training.

Source: The Indian Express

From North to South, African farmers putting in great technology to work

Agriculture has played a vital role in the growth of civilisations and industry in Africa. The ancient Egyptians were able to make cultural and technological strides in large part due to the fertile soils of the Nile, optimising farming patterns around the flooding of the great river and developing the first known irrigation system to ensure a steady supply of food and raw materials. But in modern times, agriculture is too often seen as a backward sector, particularly where small-scale farmers are involved.

Today, agriculture still accounts for nearly 40% of the GDP of African countries, with much of it carried out at a subsistence level. GE views agriculture as a vital sector, and invests in various projects throughout Africa to advance farming technology and improve the livelihood of small-scale farmers. Below are just a few examples of how GE has helped develop technology for the agriculture sector to enhance quality of life in this continent. An industry thought leader details the importance of utilising Africa’s abundant agricultural resources to enhance trade between the U.S. and Africa. Eighty percent of Africans work in the food and agriculture sector, while one in every four people in Africa suffers chronic hunger, and 227 million people in Africa are considered undernourished. A relationship built on mutual benefits can increase food availability and address food.

All over Africa, companies are using new technologies to enhance agriculture operations. In Kenya, solar powered water pumps have been installed; in Benin and Tanzania, by products of farming palm oil and cocoa are being fed into mini-grids to generate electricity; and in Mozambique and Uganda, solar and biogas technologies are powering refrigeration systems. The Gorge Farm outside Naivasha in Kenya deployed a new pest control mechanism: specially bred bugs to control the spider mite population infesting commercial flower crops. The farm uses GE’s Jenbacher gas engines to pump power back into the community’s inconsistent electricity grid.

An entrepreneur in rural Nigeria noticed the hardship and poverty facing many local smallholder farmers. Determined to create a solution that increased farming efficiency and revenue, she developed solar powered grain mills, allowing farmers to increase yield and income. Small-scale renewable energy, like the examples given above, help farmers to improve productivity and add value to raw materials, thereby raising income. With these kinds of solutions, livelihoods can be improved throughout the continent’s poorest and most rural areas.

Source: GE Africa

< style="color: #0180b3">CENTRAL AFRICA

CAR: Top UN whistleblower resigns

UN whistleblower Anders Kompass, who exposed the sexual abuse of children by French and African peacekeepers in Central African Republic, is to resign in protest over what he sees as the organisation's failure to hold its senior officials to account. "The complete impunity for those who have been found to have, in various degrees, abused their authority, together with the unwillingness of the hierarchy to express any regrets for the way they acted towards me sadly confirms that lack of accountability is entrenched in the United Nations," Kompass told IRIN. "This makes it impossible for me to continue working there."

Kompass, field operations director at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, passed a confidential internal report on the abuse of children by French troops in CAR to the French authorities in 2014 after the UN failed to raise the alarm and stop the exploitation. The alleged abuse involved hungry children — as young as eight — in the M'Poko camp for displaced people, coerced into sex in return for food or a little money. Instead of investigating those allegedly responsible for what proved to be an even wider crime — including the involvement of its peacekeepers, the UN's Office for Internal Oversight Services launched an internal investigation into Kompass' conduct. Accusing the former Swedish diplomat of leaking, it condemned his "misconduct", suspended him from his job, humiliatingly marched him out of his office, and demanded his resignation. An independent panel later found senior UN managers to have "abused their authority" in the handling of the scandal.

Julia Donovan of Code Blue, a campaign to end sexual exploitation by UN peacekeepers, says the UN's attitude left Kompass no alternative but to quit. "I'm not sure how you can work with a system that's gone out of its way to prove it can defeat anyone who tries to expose it," she told IRIN. "Despite the platitudes, the assertions of intolerance for wrongdoing, it's all just empty phrases." Under pressure from several governments, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon eventually appointed a three-person independent panel to review the UN's response to the reports of child sex abuse and its treatment of Kompass. Nine months later, both the internal investigation and the external panel had exonerated him. The panel also excoriated the UN's "gross institutional failure" - which enabled the documented forced oral sex and rape of 13 boys by 16 peacekeepers. Buck-passing meant nobody took action for more than a year, the panel report said. When French investigators tried to delve, just days after Kompass had passed on the evidence, their efforts were frustrated by UN officials. Staff in both the UN mission in CAR, known as MINUSCA, and UNICEF, whose initial joint investigation formed the basis of the internal UN report Kompass shared with the French, failed to ensure that the identified children received proper care, or took steps to protect other potential victims, the independent panel found.

The UN has trumpeted a "zero tolerance" policy towards sexual abuse by peacekeepers since 2005. Ban has now pushed tough new additional measures. These include the addition of response teams in peacekeeping missions to handle abuse allegations, and the recall of units if perpetrators are not held to account. But the reports keep coming. More than 100 new cases of sexual abuse by UN and non-UN peacekeepers were reported in CAR in March — most involving children. The alleged attacks occurred between 2013 and 2015. Currently, 123 countries have troops or police units deployed in 16 missions around the world. According to the UN, of the 60 largest troop contributing countries, only 14 have not reported cases of sexual abuse committed by their forces in the past five years. The UN has historically argued that it has no jurisdiction over the troops provided by contributing countries for peacekeeping missions — they can only be prosecuted at home. The need for peacekeepers may have also acted as a disincentive to demand stricter standards. Some countries have resisted the new reforms.

Human Rights Watch reported on June 7 that African Union peacekeepers from Congo-Brazzaville serving in CAR allegedly killed at least 18 people, including women and children, between December 2013 and June 2015 and dumped their bodies in a mass grave outside their base. The government has so far ignored UN requests for a judicial investigation, the rights group said. The UN is urging member states to work with it to prevent and react expeditiously to abuse. In February, the UN appointed Jane Holl Lute, previously a senior official in UN peacekeeping, as special coordinator on "improving the UN's response to sexual exploitation and abuse". In a briefing to the UN General Assembly last month, Lute stressed that "much has been done", and outlined a package of toolkits and guidelines that is in the works. But nearly two years after the CAR scandal broke, Donovan is scathing. "Although he says he has zero tolerance, Ban Ki-moon has appointed someone to coordinate what has been identified as just a failed, broken system.

"If you set the bar so low — that you are going to coordinate these dysfunctional entities, and try and improve the response — that just says it all," she said. While the UN has focused on reforming the system at the ground level, critics point to the relative impunity enjoyed by those in the highest echelons of the UN civil service - an accountability vacuum they say the Kompass case has laid bare.  The independent panel's report found that three officials had specifically "abused their authority": Babacar Gaye, the special representative of the secretary-general for MINUSCA; Carman Lapointe, under-secretary-general for the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), and Renner Onana, the chief of the Human Rights and Justice Section in MINUSCA. Ban fired Gaye in August 2015 after UN peacekeepers were accused of raping a 12-year-old girl and killing a 16-year-old boy and his father. Lapointe, who initiated the internal investigation into Kompass, resigned in September 2015. But Onana remains a senior official in the UN mission in CAR.

Susana Malcorra, Ban's chief of staff, came in for criticism by the independent report over a "conflict of interest". She facilitated a meeting with OIOS and the UN Ethics Office — two bodies that should operate at arm's length from the UN system — to discuss what to do about Kompass. The report, however, absolved her of abusing her authority. She resigned in November 2015 to become Argentina's foreign minister. Her hat is in the ring as a candidate to succeed Ban as secretary-general. The meeting to discuss the Kompass case was held at the urging of Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and Kompass' boss. He had "a single-minded determination to pursue an investigation" into Kompass and "undoubtedly" risked compromising the independence of OIOS and the UN Ethics Office, the panel report found. Zeid "is still vocally, publicly refusing to acknowledge what Anders did was appropriate, and what he did was wrong and retaliatory," said Bea Edwards of the US-based Government Accountability Project, which tries to protect whistleblowers. Zeid told the New York Times last year that he felt Kompass had done "the right thing wrongly". Zeid's office did not respond to IRIN's requests for comment. Neither did OIOS, the Ethics Office or UN spokesman Stéphane Dujarric.

Kompass says he shared the internal report with the French authorities with the sole purpose of ending the abuse as quickly as possible. Doing so was not in and of itself wrong, according to UN procedures — in fact, sharing information with governments to advocate for changes in behaviour was part of Kompass' job description. But while the UN has suggested that Kompass did not follow normal procedures, the independent panel said it was "disingenuous" for the UN to label his actions as "misconduct". Citing a separate case in which Kompass was accused of providing information to the Moroccan government about Western Sahara for "personal gain", one past media report suggested that he was seen in the UN as "an untrustworthy shill for a foreign government". Such rhetoric and Kompass' treatment may well give other potential whistleblowers pause.

"The point of whistleblowing is that somebody will be held responsible for criminal misconduct," said Edwards. "Those that have taken the risk to report should be protected, commended and rewarded." Kompass, 60, is to resign on 31 August, one year before the end of his current contract. He has accepted a job at the Swedish foreign ministry. "It was a very hard decision for me to take, after a total of 21 years of service with the United Nations," he told IRIN, "but one that I feel was unavoidable."

Source: IRIN

Angola: Red Cross calls for immediate scale-up in response to deadly yellow fever outbreak in Angola

Concerned by the ongoing spread of the yellow fever outbreak in Angola and beyond, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is calling for an immediate scale-up in response. "Limited vaccine supplies, poor sanitation, inadequate disease surveillance systems and everyday cross-border interaction could turn a national outbreak into a larger crisis, if immediate community-based action is not taken," said Dr Fatoumata Nafo-Traoré, Director, IFRC Africa region. The outbreak was first detected in Angola in late December 2015. According to the World Health Organization, close to 2,900 suspected cases have since been reported in all 18 provinces, with 325 deaths. Out of the five countries which have reported imported yellow fever cases that originated in Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Congo are now experiencing outbreaks with local transmission. "Vaccinations are the first and best line of defence," said Dr Nafo-Traoré. "However, given the limited supply of yellow fever vaccine globally, we need to prioritise community engagement as a vital tool to prevent the further spread of the disease."

In Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the IFRC has deployed Regional Disaster Response Team members, and released start-up funds from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund to support operations aimed at halting the spread of the virus. Staff and volunteers with the Angola Red Cross have supported the country's vaccination campaign. They have also been conducting social mobilisation in communities, as have personnel from the Red Cross of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Teams conduct door-to-door visits, instructing people on the measures they can take to reduce their risk of falling ill with yellow fever. This includes vector control to eliminate sites where mosquitoes can breed.

In addition to the ground level work currently being carried out by the World Health Organization, UNICEF and other partners, the IFRC is further deploying a Field Assessment Coordination Team to Angola to conduct an in-depth assessment of needs and gaps, primarily focused on improved community surveillance, vector control, and addressing rumours that are spreading about the disease and vaccinations. The expanded emergency operation will focus on newly-affected districts and in border areas.

Dr Adinoyi Adeiza, IFRC health coordinator, Africa region, said: "With our decades of experience of deploying community-based volunteers to help prevent and respond to vector-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue and chikungunya, the Red Cross can play a key role in managing this outbreak." Five countries have reported imported yellow fever cases confirmed to have come from people who had travelled to Angola: 88 in Congo-Brazzaville; 44 in Democratic Republic of the Congo; two each in Kenya and Sao Tome; and 11 in China. "We are extremely concerned about the further spread of this outbreak, particularly to countries bordering Angola, such as Namibia and Zambia," added Dr Adeiza. "Non-immunised people travelling across these countries could pose a significant risk."

Source: International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

Rwanda: New credit facility to boost forex market intervention


A standby credit facility approved for Rwanda by the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), on June 8, raises the central bank's confidence to manage economic stability, the Finance minister said yesterday. The facility provides financial assistance to low-income countries with short-term balance of payment needs. Claver Gatete, the Minister for Finance and Economic Planning, said the $204 credit facility (approx Rwf159.7 billion), will support the country's reserve capacity. It will equally boost central bank's capacity to intervene in the forex market when need arises, Minister Gatete told The New Times. "This will help support the needed imports while keeping the economy and currency stable," he said.

Currently, there is a lot of currency outflow which government is trying curb by encouraging locally produced commodities. It is, therefore, very important that the central bank remains liquidated enough in terms of reserves to meet the necessary expenditure that may arise. According to the IMF, the Standby Credit Facility will complement the authorities' efforts to address growing external imbalances, by boosting reserves, with an initial 72.09 million disbursement available immediately. Experts believe that it's imperative that the loan facility from the IMF be invested in the country's import substitution drive as the government seeks to reduce the trade deficit gap by tapping into the regional market.

The IMF projects that the Rwandan economy will slow down from 6.9 per cent growth registered last year to 6 per cent for two years as a result of shocks in 2016/17, before picking up in 2018. These shocks are fuelled by a firming dollar which has resulted in the Rwandan Franc depreciating, the falling export revenues and a ballooning import bill, putting pressure on external reserves. Meanwhile, the IMF Executive Board conducted a review of Rwanda's economic performance and established that, despite a slump in global commodity prices, the country continued to post strong performance under the Policy Support Instrument which created a platform for high growth and steady poverty reduction

Both short and medium term adjustment policies to position Rwanda's external position on a sustainable basis will form part of an overall strategy to support growth, boost poverty reduction and improve the country's resilience to future uncertainties in the global economy. The Executive Board also approved the Policy Support Instrument (PSI) for Rwanda in December 2013. Min Zhu, Deputy Managing Director and Acting Chairman IMF, hailed the country's macroeconomic and fiscal policies that have helped keep the economy stable and resilient amidst global economic shocks. "Rwanda's continued strong performance under the Policy Support Instrument has created a platform for high growth and steady poverty reduction," he said.

Growth in 2015 was buoyed by strong construction and services activity, while inflation remained contained. "Nevertheless, the situation has grown more challenging in recent months due to external shocks related to commodity prices and tighter conditions for private inflows. Combined with the appreciation of the U.S. dollar, these have reduced export receipts and put downward pressure on the exchange rate and official reserves," Zhu noted. According to the National Bank of Rwanda, the strengthening of the US dollar against other currencies worldwide, coupled with the decline in international commodity prices that negatively affected the export revenues, has put pressure on the Rwanda franc. As such, the authorities are taking steps to address external imbalances; first, through using continued exchange rate flexibility as the principal adjustment tool. This will be supported by tighter fiscal and monetary policies to help curb demand for imports. Implementation of these policies should maintain GDP growth of around 6 per cent in both 2016 and 2017, while IMF financing under the Standby Credit Facility will help bolster reserves.

Despite the drop in global commodity prices, Rwanda's growth remained strong in 2015, with a GDP growth rate of 6.9 per cent. Mining exports dropped by almost half in 2015, leading to a significant loss in foreign exchange earnings. As such, the current account deficit has also worsened, from a deficit of 16.4 per cent in 2014 to a deficit of 18.1 per cent in 2015. The growth outlook for 2016/17 has also become more uncertain. Consumer price inflation remained contained, averaging 2.5 per cent for the year 2015, though it increased in the second half of the year due to higher food prices and administrative increases in utility prices.

Monetary policy remained largely accommodative through end-2015 but was tightened in the first quarter of 2016. Despite these developments, macroeconomic policy performance through December 2015 remained in line with the PSI programme objectives. Most targets were met and were also supported by structural reforms, notably changes to boost domestic revenue collection, reducing liquidity overhangs, strengthen financial market supervision and functioning, and improving domestic revenue collection. However, IMF says, plans to revise the property tax law and improve the timeliness of public reporting on budget execution are taking longer than anticipated.

Source: The New Times

< style="color: #0180b3">NORTH AFRICA

Libya: Scores of drowned refugees wash up on Libyan beaches

The bodies of at least 85 people who drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea were found washed up on beaches near the Libyan city of Zuwarah, a Red Crescent official has said. Al-Khamis al-Bosaifi said on June 2 that most of the victims appeared to be from sub-Saharan Africa, though their bodies were decomposed and it was not clear when they had drowned. The bodies of two children were among those recovered, he said.

On May 31, the UN refugee agency said at least 880 people drowned over the past week following a series of shipwrecks as departures from the North African coast towards Italy surged. Many of the boats are believed to have left from the shore around Zuwarah and Sabratha in Libya's northwest. A coastguard spokesman in Tripoli said no boats had been intercepted over the past two days, with rougher seas preventing patrols. People smugglers in Libya have exploited political chaos and lawlessness to expand their activities along routes from sub-Saharan Africa, often working with local armed groups.

The head of the EU's Mediterranean naval mission recently said that people smuggling was estimated to account for between 30 and 50 percent of the gross domestic product in northwestern Libya. Refugees and migrants reportedly pay smugglers hundreds of dollars for a place on boats, often flimsy inflatable craft that either sink or are picked up by international rescue missions.

The new Libyan government faces a complex challenge asserting its authority, while efforts to counter people trafficking were thrown into disarray by the conflict that followed Libya's 2011 uprising, and the coastguard feels abandoned. "The only assistance we have been offered so far is promises," Colonel Abdulssmad Massoud, of the coastguard in Tripoli, told the Reuters news agency. So far this year more than 40,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean Sea from North Africa to Italy by paying people smugglers for the journey, broadly in line with a steep increase in numbers since 2014.

Source: Al Jazeera

Egypt: China-Arab States Expo platform for advancing mutual cooperation

"The China-Arab States Expo is a good opportunity for mutual interaction that shortens the long distance and prompts better communication between China and the Arab world," said Amira Salem, an Egyptian businesswomen in her forties. The three-day Comprehensive Exhibition of China-Arab States Expo 2016, the first overseas, has kicked off on June 6 in the Egyptian capital Cairo, with participation of 38 companies and nearly 300 Chinese and Arab participants. Salem, who owns Al Nile Company for Importation and Exportation, believes "the exhibition has become an important platform for high-level dialogues, policy communications, economic, trade and cultural exchanges between China and Arab States."

Covering 800 square meters, the 2016 exhibition is composed of 38 units with four parts as Cultural Exhibition of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region of China, Traditional Chinese Medicine (Hui Medicine) Exhibition, China-Arab States Youth Entrepreneurship Exhibition and Cloud Computing Technology Application Exhibition. "I participated in the exhibition only in search for Chinese construction companies," Ahmed Samir, a 32-year-old businessman, told Xinhua. "After roaming in the Expo's various pavilions, I might conclude some deals on technological products," he added.

Egypt is China's gate to Africa and the Gulf countries which are hungry markets for technological household equipments, Samir said. In the loud Computing Technology Application Exhibition, Xu Xiaoli, Vice-general Manager of Ningxia Hope Information Industry Co.Ltd, said, a sub-project of her company, targets building an on-line shopping website to sell China's household electrical appliances to the Arab people. "High quality with low price is the feature of Chinese household electrical appliances," Xu said. "Through this website, companies and individual customers can do shopping online and we transfer the products from China to the Arab region." She, as other managers at the expo, said that her company takes the expo as the best opportunity to get in touch with customers and cooperative partners in the region.

Samir agrees with Xu that the online website will facilitate and expand exchange cycle and cut the expenses of traveling and contacts, and eventually strengthen the trade between Egypt and China. Besides technological, medical and food industries pavilions, the Expo also focused on the cultural and heritage cooperation between Chinese and Arab. The Cultural Exhibition of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region of China elaborately demonstrates the latest achievements in high-quality artistic products, cultural facility constructions, cultural relic protections, cultural industry development and cultural exchange with foreign resources. At the 100-meter painting scroll named "Muslim World in Chinese Painting," a Chinese handicraftswoman in her thirties displayed "Ga Meizi" Hui Chinese paper-cutting arts, which is an art style in the Hui people, a Muslim minority group in China. "I made a special paper cut, combining the pyramid, camels and China's great wall together," she added, noting this is her first time in Egypt. Her professional and sophisticated paintings mirrored the old history of Egypt and China in a captivating piece of art. "Dating back to the history, the trade cooperation linked the two countries, so I made this paper cut to describe the history and wish a good future," she said with a smile.

In addition to the red paper, which represents luck for Chinese people, the lady also mixed her artistic pieces with different colors to make it more diversified. The Chinese-Arab State Expo is an important mechanism in the joint efforts of China and Arab States to build "the Belt and Road" with remarkable achievements. "The Expo is of important meaning, promoting the communication between China and Arab States, deepening friendship between the two peoples and increasing the level of practical cooperation, main pillars of the Belt and Road Initiative," said a Chinese exhibitor who has an Arabic name of Hassan. "With many branches in Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, my company is specialised in gathering the written heritage, very old versions of holy book of Muslim Qura'an that have been transferred via the old Silk Road, and holding small museums in China and some of Arab and African countries," said a Chinese businesswomen, who used to live in Yemen and was educated in Saudi Arabia. Since the Expo was first held in Ningxia in 2010, some 876 agreements of various types have been signed with a total of 436 billion yuan (66.3 billion U.S. dollars) in contract value.

Source: Forum on China-Africa Cooperation

< style="color: #0180b3">SOUTHERN AFRICA

Mozambique: Renamo attacks contribute to rising prices

The ambushes by gunmen of the rebel movement Renamo against trucks on major roads is pushing up prices in the western Mozambican city of Tete. The Tete provincial director of industry and trade, Joao Feliciano, told reporters on June 7 that basic goods such as maize flour, rice, eggs, sugar and cooking oil are rising in price because the amount supplied in Tete shops is lower than the demand from consumers.

These goods mostly come from other provinces and businesses are reluctant to send large amounts to Tete, for fear that if their trucks come under attack during the journey, they will lose everything. The road from the port of Beira to Tete, via the city of Chimoio, has been repeatedly hit by Renamo gangs, and large trucks are among their favourite targets.

“We spoke with the economic agents”, said Feliciano. “They say they cannot bring large amounts to Tete, because they fear that they might lose everything on the way. The small amounts they bring encourage price speculation, but we, the Government, are making them aware of the problem, explaining that the Mozambican government is working to bring the politico-military tension to an end”. He said his directorate is monitoring price fluctuations. “We explained to the traders that price rises should not be exorbitant, because that punishes citizens. We told them there should not be any price speculation, despite the politico-military situation”.

The opportunism of the Tete shopkeepers is very clear. When goods are running scarce they hike the prices, but in weeks where more goods have reached the city, they sometimes even drop the prices. This is a twisted version of free market economics brought about by military pressure.

Source: AIM

South Africa: GDP contracts in first quarter of 2016

South Africa's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) contracted by 1.2% in the first quarter of 2016, Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) announced on June 8. "The headline figure, the real GDP production decreased by 1.2% in quarter one, that is a quarter on quarter number and real GDP year on year is negative at 0.2%," Statistician General Pali Lehohla said. The decrease follows on an increase of 0.4% in the fourth quarter of 2015.

The key contributors to the negative GDP growth rate were the mining and quarrying industry as well as the transport, storage and communication industry. Mining and quarrying fell by 18.1% and contributed -1.5% to GDP growth while transport, storage and communication decreased by 2.7% which contributed -0.2% to GDP growth. The agriculture, forestry and fishing, as well as the electricity, gas and water industries also contracted in the first quarter of 2016. Meanwhile, finance, real estate and business services increased by 1.9% which contributed 0.4% to GDP growth.

Nedbank analysts earlier in the week had expected economic growth in the first quarter to decline by 0.1% quarter-on-quarter. Commenting on the figure, Nedbank economists said the economic outlook remains relatively bleak. "The economy will struggle to grow in 2016 but it is expected to expand by 1% in 2017," it said. At the media briefing on June 8, Stats SA also announced that expenditure on real GDP fell by 0.7% in the first quarter of 2016 following an increase of 1.4% in the fourth quarter of 2015. "This is the first time we are announcing the numbers both from the production and the expenditure side under one roof under one institution," said Lehohla.

Lehohla said household final consumption expenditure decreased by 1.3% in the first quarter with the main source of the decline being spending on transport while government final consumption expenditure grew by 1%. Both exports and imports decreased by 7.1%. Responding to a question on whether South Africa is heading towards a recession due to the negative GDP figure, Lehohla said Stats SA could not say whether the country is heading for a recession which happens when an economy experiences two consecutive quarters of negative growth. "We can't say that we are heading for a recession, that we do not know, we can only measure going forward. It's very difficult to say what is happening in the future," said Lehohla.

Earlier at the briefing, Reserve Bank Governor Lesetja Kganyago handed over the calculation of the expenditure side of the GDP to Stats SA. Kganyago said just as the central bank keeps a distance from the calculation of the Consumer Price Index (CPI), it will now also keep a distance from the calculation of GDP. "Today we are also going to be keeping a distance from the calculation of the GDP from the expenditure side and we are handing that over to Stats SA. It's been a long journey which we have been comfortable with it's a journey that started long time ago," explained the Governor.

The Statistician General thanked the central bank and described the handing over of the expenditure side of GDP as "the little baby" that Stats SA has received from the Governor. Ben Mphahlele the Chairperson of Statistics Council — which advices the Minister responsible for Stats SA and Statistician General and safeguard the interest of official statistics — welcomed the handover. "I think today is one of the most important milestones of the development of the South African national statistics system. We are very proud of this work," he said, while also thanking the Reserve Bank.

Source: SA News

Zimbabwe: Fury as Matebeleland provinces omitted from public parliamentary hearings

Parliament has stocked controversy by skipping Matabeleland North and South provinces in scheduled public hearings on the Local Government Laws Amendment Bill. The move, which has been played down by National Assembly Speaker, Jacob Mudenda, has elicited strong rebuke from pro-Matabeleland groups. The groups view this as a deliberate ploy to exclude two provinces that allege decades of marginalisation by the Zanu PF led government and to stifle debate on devolution, a subject which the two provinces are known to be passionate about.

The parliamentary committee on local government is set to convene a single meeting for five provinces, Mashonaland East having 3 meetings, Mashonaland West having 2 and Harare having 2. Public hearings shall be held in Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru, Mutare, Masvingo, Karoi, Mvurwi, Mutoko, Murehwa and Macheke. In a statement posted on its Facebook page, the Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights (MIHR) described the omissions as a "glaring act of deliberate exclusion, marginalisation and violation of Constitutional Right to equality and non-discrimination as espoused in Chapter 4 section 56 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe". "Our concern as a human rights think tank is that other provinces have undeserved 2 or 3 meetings whilst the people of Matabeleland North and South are totally deliberately excluded from expressing their views and opinions on the Bill," said the group.

MIHR called on Parliament to "rectify this human right violation" by ensuring that there are public hearings in the two predominately Ndebele provinces. "We also call on the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Chairperson to protect and promote the rights of the people of Matabeleland North and South by compelling Parliament to hold public hearing meetings in these two provinces too," said the group. "We also call on all the Members of Parliament (House of Assembly and Senate) from Matabeleland North and South to stand for the constitutional rights of the citizens of their provinces by demanding public hearings to be done in these provinces."

Matabeleland South proportional representation MP, Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga, was equally surprised her colleagues chose to skip her constituency. "Parliament is the custodian of the constitution," she said in an interview with "I cannot believe that a committee of parliament can expect the institution of parliament to legitimise any hearing that violates section 18 of the constitution." Misihairabwi-Mushonga, who does not sit in the Local Government committee, is MDC legislator, whose party has been vehemently pushing for devolution in the country. She added: "I am waiting to hear how the committee will define that hearing as public, unless 'national' now has a new meaning otherwise that report cannot be a legitimate report and some of us will certainly challenge it."

Mudenda on his part denied the omission was deliberate. "I think it's the first part of hearings but otherwise we cover the whole country. Their turn is coming," Mudenda said. "We still have the second programme; we will see how we go in the first part. The whole country must be covered. "There is indeed local government in Matabeleland as well." Mudenda could, however, not state when the next part was due.

Source: New Zimbabwe

< style="color: #0180b3">EAST AFRICA

Tanzania: Home Affairs Ministry screens another controversial deal

The Ministry of Home Affairs is intending to put on scrutiny the controversial deal signed between the Police and a local firm — Mara World Tanzania Limited — for the construction of residential units in Dar es Salaam. According to a press statement issued yesterday, the ministry's Permanent Secretary (PS), Maj. Gen. Projest Rwegasira, has already directed the police to submit the entire contract signed for the construction of residential complex in Kunduchi, Mikocheni and a police centre at Oysterbay.

President John Magufuli pointed a finger at the ongoing construction of Oysterbay police complex centre in Kinondoni Municipality bringing to light that the pact is likely to be surrounded by a number of uncertainties. "Oysterbay is a prime area, everyone knows it. You entered into contracts that you personally know ... someone was given to build the place for you. What was the problem for you to get a title deed — the document that you could have used to get loan from banks and setup own commercial structure that can also accommodate your police," the president asserted in March, when he chaired a meeting with regional police commanders and prosecutors.

According to the statement, all the contracts regarding construction of various structures by Mara World Tanzania Limited are to be submitted immediately to the PS. Representatives of the company in question were not available for comments yesterday when attempt to get their reactions failed. But the media communiqué noted that the ministry's senior leader requested the contracts to get common — understanding of the ongoing projects in various sites in the region.

"The project is huge and it has been long," reads part of the statement. Maj Gen. Rwegasira made an impromptu inspection of the ongoing construction of police residential units in Mikocheni and Kunduchi to witness the actual progress. The PS also visited the ongoing construction of the police post at Oysterbay. Mara World Tanzania Limited is expected to construct the modern police post, office apartments, hospital, shops and hotel at Oysterbay.

Meanwhile, the PS announced that his office had relocated at least 59 officers from the immigration department in Dar es Salaam to upcountry regional offices as part of improving efficiency. According to the PS, relocation of immigration officers is an ongoing exercise held countrywide. He said the aim is to improve the department's service delivery and increase efficiency. All the officers are required to report to their new work places with immediate effect. The ministry warned that discipline measures will be taken against officers who will fail to report to a new workplace.

Source: Tanzania Daily News

East Africa: Al-Shabab and Ethiopian forces make conflicting claims

Somali armed group al-Shabab and the African Union's AMISOM force have each claimed to have killed large numbers of the other side's combatants in a gun battle in central Somalia. The town of Halgan, where the clash occurred on June 9, lies in the Hiiraan region of central Somalia, about 300km north of the capital Mogadishu. The AMISOM force fighting in Somalia said its troops repelled an attack on one of its bases by al-Shabab and killed 110 fighters. "AMISOM forces killed 110 al-Shabab and captured a large cache of weapons," AMISOM spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Joe Kibet told Reuters news agency by telephone, adding that a claim by al-Shabab that it had killed AU soldiers was a "falsehood".

Conversely, Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, al-Shabab's military operations spokesman, told Reuters: "Our fighters stormed the Halgan base of AMISOM ... We killed 43 AU soldiers from Ethiopia in the fighting." He said "several" al-Shabab fighters had died in the raid but he did not give a figure. Residents said that they heard a huge explosion at the base and a heavy exchange of gunfire shortly before dawn. "Al-Shabab says its fighters drove a car equipped with a suicide bomb into the base, followed by armed men storming the base and killing the soldiers," said Al Jazeera's Mohamed Adow, reporting from Kenya's capital Nairobi.

Al-Shabab often launches gun and bomb attacks on officials, Somali security forces and AMISOM in an effort to topple the government and impose its own brand of government on Somalia. In January, Kenyan troops serving with AMISOM suffered heavy losses when al-Shabab made a dawn raid on their camp in El Adde, near the Kenyan border. Al-Shabab said it killed more than 100 soldiers but Kenya gave no exact casualty figure.

Source: Al Jazeera

Uganda: FDC defiance campaign case hearing flops

The much anticipated hearing of the constitutional petition in which the Attorney General is seeking to completely ban the defiance campaign activities of the largest opposition political party the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), flopped on June 10 after two justices on the panel of five were indisposed. The hearing of the main petition had been scheduled for the morning on June 10 but this was not possible with the Registrar of the Court Deo Nizeyimana informing the concerned parties that one of the Justices on the panel had lost a relative and another Justice was away attending a conference in Nairobi Kenya. However, Mr Nizeyimana did not name the Justices who were indisposed. To that effect, the Registrar adjourned the hearing of the main petition to June 23 at 10am.

The five member panel of justices that was set to hear the RDC defiance campaign petition was led by Deputy Chief Justice, Steven Kavuma. The other justices on the panel include; Richard Buteera, Elizabeth Musoke, Catherine Bamugemereire and Cheborion Barishaki During the short court session held in the chambers of the Registrar, there was a heated argument on the availability of Dr Kizza Besigye to attend court during the hearing of this case since he is one of the respondents but currently held at Luzira prison on treason charges.

Mr Ladislaus Rwakafuuzi who represented FDC party in court, wondered why Dr Besigye had not been produced before court. Mr Rwakafuuzi argued that with the absence of Dr Besigye who is party to the case, the hearing of the main petition cannot proceed. But the Registrar replied that Dr Besigye could not be brought in court because he had not yet responded to the main petition. Deputy Attorney General, Mwesigwa Rukutana told court that as government, they will endeavor to serve Dr Besigye with the hearing notice again for the next date of June 23. But Counsel Rwakafuuzi hit back and explained that Dr Besigye is on remand and that he can't easily come to court by himself unless a production warrant is issued by the court to prison authorities.

In the main petition, the Attorney General claims to be dissatisfied with the defiance campaign conducted by Dr Besigye and FDC whose aim he says is to obtain control of the government yet it is inconsistent with the constitution. The chief government legal advisor also states that by Dr Besigye announcing himself as the winner of the recently concluded presidential elections by over 50 per cent of the valid votes cast is inconsistent with the constitution and wants the court to pronounce itself on the same.

But FDC party in its response to the AG's main petition it filed before the court two days ago, defends the defiance campaign on grounds that it is mandated as a political party to defy anyone who wants to resist democratic change. FDC further in its response to court, states that as a political party, it is mandated to gain control of government through a popular mandate as the constitution stipulates.

Source: The Monitor

< style="color: #0180b3">WEST AFRICA

Burkina Faso: Transition PM risks sanctions

Burkina Faso's transition Prime Minister General Yacouba Isaac Zida risks being sanctioned when he returns to the country from Canada where he has been for some months, RFI reported. President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, who also holds the position of Defence Minister has summoned Isaac Zida back to the country several times in vain.

Without giving Zida an ultimatum, President Kaboré is threatening to consider him as a soldier who has deserted the army in times of peace. The President is likely to take up his responsibilities and implement the regulations in force with regard to indiscipline in the army. Isaac Zida on the contrary is requesting to be considered as being in health evacuation. The President has refused to accept the plea as a medical file has not been presented to him. RFI cited Mr Kaboré as saying that evacuation abroad for health reasons is done within the framework of the law.

The current stay of Isaac Zida has further complicated issues for him. RFI reported that the ongoing audit of the stewardship as transition presidency and Prime Minister's Office indicate that there were some financial mismanagement. The authorities want some clarity in the situation. Reports say, the transition Prime Minister besides military sanctions for abandoning his duties may also face justice to answer charges of mismanagement during the transition period.

Source: Cameroon Tribune

Liberia declared Ebola free for 4th time

Liberia is officially free of the Ebola virus, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced on June 9, after the country successfully passed 42 days without a confirmed case of this often-fatal disease, the Voice of America (VOA) reported. "WHO commends Liberia's government and people on their effective response to this recent re-emergence of Ebola," said Dr. Alex Gasasira, the organisation's representative in Liberia. "WHO will continue to support Liberia in its effort to prevent, detect and respond to suspected cases," he assured.

This is the fourth time that Liberia has been declared free of the virus since the epidemic began in December 2013. The most recent flare-up was traced to a woman who had been exposed to the virus in Guinea and traveled to Liberia with her children. They subsequently became infected thereby spreading the virus. By late last year, when the WHO declared the Ebola outbreak virtually over, the virus had killed more than 11,000 people in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, the three most seriously affected West African countries.

Source: Daily Observer

Mali: Conflict puts over 250,000 orphans at risk

Fighting over the last four years has killed hundreds of people in Mali. There are fewer battles involving government troops, separatists and al-Qaeda fighters but the war is far from over.  As a result, more than 250,000 children in Mali are living without a father, mother or both parents, according to the UN. Aid workers say the number has risen in the last four years, with many orphans living in refugee camps along the Mali-Mauritania border. "Orphans are the most vulnerable among refugees," Tin Albarka Walt Alhassan, a nurse, told Al Jazeera. "The children who lost their fathers rely on mothers. These children need more help, care and protection."

Condition at a Mauritanian refugee camp that houses displaced Malians are dire. There are no dedicated organisations or groups taking care of orphans. "Whatever they are offering me is not enough," Maryama Walt Mahmoud, a widow, said. "The aid runs out within days and I can't afford to feed them . On special occasions, I can't afford to buy them clothes. We're living in catastrophic conditions. We spend days without food."

Source: Al Jazeera

This Monitor is prepared by Harish Venugopalan, Research Assistant, Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi.

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