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After 28 years, U.S. opens Diplomatic Mission in Somalia

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The U.S. has renewed a “permanent diplomatic presence” in Somalia, the State Department said, 28 years after the U.S. embassy was closed as a civil war raged in the country.

Somalia has been trying to recover from the conflict that engulfed the country in 1991, when clan warlords overthrew a dictator and then turned on each other.

“This historic event reflects Somalia’s progress in recent years and is another step forward in formalising U.S. diplomatic engagement in Mogadishu,” the State Department said in a statement.

Somalia has in recent years faced an insurgency by the al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab militant group, as well as famine and maritime piracy.

While parts of the country are plagued by militant violence, a degree of stability in the capital, Mogadishu, has drawn investment from Somalis at home and abroad.

In September, the World Bank approved 80 million dollars in grants to Somalia to fund public finance reforms, the first disbursement to the country in 30 years.

The U.S. carries out periodic air strikes in Somalia in support of the UN-backed government and its fight against al-Shabaab.

The militant group withdrew from Mogadishu in 2011, but it retains a strong presence in areas outside the capital.

“Our return demonstrates the U.S. commitment to further advance stability, democracy, and economic development that are in the interest of both nations,” the State Department said.

NAN reports that U.S. President Donald Trump expanded operations against al-Shabab in March 2017 and the US military has conducted more than two dozen air strikes, including drone strikes, in Somalia this year,

Traditionally, U.S. presidents have been wary of intervening in Somalia since 18 special forces soldiers died fighting militias in Mogadishu in 1993, a battle dramatised in the film Black Hawk Down.

In November, the U.S. announced it was cutting 700 counter-terrorism troops from Africa over the next few years, although its activities in Somalia will remain largely the same. (NAN)

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African Economic Conference 2018 focusses on Africa Visa Openness and integration

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For millions of ordinary travellers, inter-African travel is still too often a nightmare. Be it border hassles, lack of road or air routes linking key cities, or the frustrations of being refused entry to a country because of visas, the end result is to curtail the free movement of people, viewed by the African Development Bank as one of the pillars of regional integration.

That freedom of movement is inextricably tied to the Bank’s vision to create the next global market in Africa. As the African Economic Conference opens in the Rwandan capital Kigali, the theme this year:  Regional and Continental Integration for Africa’s development,” also aligns with another major Bank priority – placing infrastructure development at the centre of Africa’s regional integration efforts.

Host nation Rwanda has taken bold leadership steps to champion regional integration, announcing at the beginning of this year an entry visa on arrival for travelers from all African countries.

The third edition of the Bank’s Visa Openess Index, to be launched on day two of the meeting, will be an important opportunity to measure which countries are making improvements that support free movement of people across Africa.

“The Index has helped raise awareness and drive visa policy reforms across the continent to ease movement of people, unlocking opportunities for intra-African tourism, trade and investment.  In so doing, the Bank is directly contributing to the objectives of the AU initiative for a Single African passport,” Gabriel Negatu, Bank Director General, East Africa Regional Development and Business Delivery Office said in his remarks during the opening plenary.

Speaking on behalf of Rwandan President Paul Kagame, Hon. Claudine Uwera, Minister of State in charge of Economic Planning said the conference addressed a theme “close to our hearts.” “This conference is important to charting the way for inclusive integration…that would benefit all,” Uwera said.

“Governance will determine the development path for our countries,” Uwera added, noting the equally important role of political will and commitment from African leaders.

The annual African Economic Conference is the continent’s leading forum fostering dialogue and knowledge exchange in the search for solutions to the development challenges of Africa. It brings together leading academics, high ranking government representatives and development practitioners from across the globe.

AEC 2018 will highlight “transformative initiatives for accelerating progress in infrastructure integration that are inclusive and promote equity, including the removal of barriers for movement of people, goods, and services across borders.”

Other convening partners to the Conference, the United Nations Development Programme UNDP) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), commended Rwanda’s role as a front-runner for integration efforts in Africa and spoke on the urgent need to build on the momentum for an inclusive and equitable integration.

“The government of Rwanda is walking the talk and continues to set the pace,”Ahunna Eziakonwa, Assistant Administrator, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Regional Bureau for Africa, said.

Also speaking at the plenary, Giovanie Biha, Deputy Executive Secretary, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), said while there were still major steps ahead, “we are moving in the right direction.”

Highlighting the Bank’s emphasis on research and knowledge management as important drivers of policy dialogue, good policy planning and implementation, participation this year’s AEC is being organized under the leadership of the Bank’s Research Department and Regional Integration Complex.

Sessions over the three-day meeting will examine the social, cultural and political frameworks for successful integration, building on the landmark signing this year of the Africa Free Trade Agreement the world’s potentially biggest free trade agreement, which aims to create a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments across Africa.

Participants will also look at the role of the private sector and civil society institutions.

Given the urgency of regional integration – “no longer a choice,” according to its organizers, this year’s meeting is a must attend for those interested in Africa’s Development agenda.

“Important pages of our continent’s development history are being written,” Uwera said. “Let’s take this opportunity to move the continent ahead.”

The 2018 African Economic Conference is taking place at the Marriot Hotel in Kigali, from 3-5 December.

African Development Bank
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ECOWAS Female lawmakers elect President

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The ECOWAS Female Parliamentarians Association (ECOFEPA) has elected Filomena Martins of Cabo Verde as president replacing Sen. Stella Oduah of Nigeria.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that Oduah’s two-year tenure, which began in May 2016, expired in May 2018.

The female parliamentarians, on the side lines of the ongoing Second Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Parliament in Abuja, elected Martins on Dec. 3 for a two-year tenure.

In an interview with newsmen on Tuesday, the president said the action of the new bureau would focus on education of children and training of women for empowerment.

“The new Bureau is going to meet and come up with an action plan for its term of office and beginning of implementation.

“Our first action incidentally, is going to take place in Cabo Verde, because in February next year, the ECOWAS Parliament is going to have an Extraordinary Session in Cabo Verde.

“We will meet with Cabo Verdean women and sensitise them to equality, laws and all the other matters that concern them; that is the first activity that ECOFEPA is going to carry out,” she said

The ECOFEPA had in recent times criticised the poor representation of female parliamentarians in national parliaments in the region.

In its recent ECOFEPA Regional Membership Scorecard of Feb. 2018, only 334 female parliamentarians out of 2,385 parliamentarians in the region were recorded, making it a 14 per cent representation.

She said the association would continue to sensitise member states to appreciate the need to enforce legislation that would enhance female representation in the region.

“What we are going to do is that we are going to work with national parliaments to ensure that they all have laws and pass legislation on gender parities.

“There are certain countries that don’t have any laws on gender parities at the moment; some have given 30 per cent to women and others have given 50 per cent.

“What we want is that all parliaments in all member-countries at their next elections, women are on the list and they run for positions for which they can be elected.”

She added that the association would also work with organisations globally that supported activities on women. (NAN)

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Africa’s obese population fastest growing in World – FAO

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The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has raised the alarm over what it termed “fastest rising incidences of obesity in African”, noting that an estimated 672 million people are affected globally.

The Director-General of FAO, Mr Graziano da Silva, said this at the 160th session of the FAO Council in Rome, citing the “2018 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World” report.

He said that “obesity affects around 672 million people, with Africa increasing faster than any other region.”

He pointed out that more than two billion people globally suffer from micronutrient deficiencies.

He added that “obesity affects millions of people, and several billion suffer from diseases caused by vitamin- or mineral-deficient diets, known as micronutrient deficiencies.”

The UN agriculture chief, therefore, called for “transformative changes to our food systems.

“The coexistence of undernutrition, obesity and micronutrient deficiencies – what we know as the triple burden of malnutrition – is spreading and affecting almost every country in the world.

“The international community needs to urgently address this situation by promoting transformative change in our food systems.

“Our Zero Hunger Goal is not just about feeding people, but also providing everyone with the necessary nutrients for a healthy life.” (NAN)

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