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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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Africa speaks

African Development Bank President Adesina confident of “very promising future” for continent

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The Bank expects growth of 4% this year and 4.1% in 2020

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast, February 5, 2019/ — “The future of our continent is looking very promising indeed,” African Development Bank Group (www.AfDB.org) President Akinwumi Adesina declared in the opening words of his address to diplomats  at a lunch organised today, Tuesday, in Abidjan.

Adesina referred to the Bank’s recent flagship publication, the African Economic Outlook 2019 (https://bit.ly/2yXn4pr), which noted that the recovery in commodity prices is driving domestic demand and infrastructure investment, while real Africa’s GDP continued to improve in 2018 to 4.1%. The Bank expects growth of 4% this year and 4.1% in 2020.

Economic opportunities in Africa are generating considerable interest globally. For example, the agreement in March 2018 establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) will create the largest free trade area in the world. The CFTA will provide an unprecedented framework with the capacity to increase trade by at least 100% in Africa.

“The African Development Bank is at the centre of the actions taken to ensure the success of the continental free-trade area. We have invested over one billion dollars to support the financing of trade in Africa,” Adesina said.

The Bank, whose triple-A rating with stable outlook has been reconfirmed by the four major global rating agencies, has also invested $1 billion in Afreximbank, including $650 million in credit lines for trade finance and $350 million in insurance.

The free movement of people on the continent is another important driver of development. “We need to break down all barriers that impede the free movement of people across the continent, especially that of workers, because this is vital for promoting investment,” Adesina said.

In its report on intra-African investment (https://bit.ly/2zvCvYC), the African Development Bank emphasised the significant increase incross-border investments – $12 billion last year, up from $2 billion in 2010. Under the G20 Compact with Africa, the Bank has worked with the World Bank and the IMF to provide assistance to African countries, particularly to improve company regulations and the business environment.

“Africa will not develop through aid, but through investment”, said Adesina. This is whythe African Development Bank, with its partners, launched the highly successful Africa Investment Forum (AIF) (https://AfricaInvestmentForum.com), in Johannesburg, South Africa last November, securing investment interest in 49 deals across Africa worth over $38 billion in just two days.

The African Development Bank continues to invest in infrastructure to connect countries and improve their competitiveness. It has provided $16 million to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) for the preparation of feasibility studies for the Lagos-Abidjan corridor. It has also funded 1000 kilometres of road between Addis Ababa and Mombasa, which has increased trade fivefold between Ethiopia and Kenya (https://bit.ly/2DUkzZT).

The Bank was the lead lender for the construction of the historic Senegambia bridge linking Gambia and Senegal (https://bit.ly/2HTYIG4), which opened on 21 January 2019. And the Bank’s investment portfolio in Côte d’Ivoire has tripled in the last three years, reaching $1.8 billion in 2018.

The Bank is taking a lead role in the “Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation” (TAAT) initiative, which seeks to accelerate the dissemination of agricultural technologies throughout the continent, not only to improve yields, but also to fight against the consequences of global warming and against pests, such as Fall Armyworm. “The crucial point for the economic development of Africa is that we have to radically transform our agriculture,” Adesina declared.

The Bank’s High 5( https://www.AfDB.org/en/the-high-5/) priorities are already producing significant impacts across the continent,” said the Bank’s President.In 2018, 4.5 million people were connected to electrical grids.Nearly 20 million more people have access to improved agricultural technologies.Industrial investments in the private sector have benefited 1.1 million people.Some 14 million people have gained access to improved transport services, while another 8 million people have benefited from better access to water and sanitation.These impacts encourage the Bank to redouble its support for economic and social development in Africa.

“We need to achieve universal access to electricity. We need to help Africa to become self-sufficient in food. We need to achieve a fully integrated continent. We need to industrialize Africa and improve the quality of life for its people,” Adesina concluded.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of African Development Bank Group (AfDB).

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Women Empowering Africa

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Women in Egypt Via Wikimedia Commons

CAIRO – 7 January 2018:The Business for Africa and the World summit, Africa 2018, focuses during its first day on the theme “Women Empowering Africa.” The summit will discuss ways to further empower African women and to enhance their engagement as agents for change in the continent through active participation in shaping economic and social policies. It seeks to mobilize established and emerging women leaders from across Africa to propel their success as well as provide a platform for them to showcase and celebrate their achievements.

Investing in women’s economic empowerment sets a direct path toward gender equality and respect for women’s rights, poverty eradication and inclusive economic growth. Women make enormous contributions to economies, whether in businesses, on farms, as entrepreneurs or employees, or by doing unpaid care work at home. But they often face discrimination and persistent gender inequalities, with some women experiencing multiple discrimination and exclusion because of intersectional identities including ethnicity or social class. Gender discrimination means women often end up in insecure and low-wage jobs. It restricts women’s access to economic assets such as land, loans and productive assets. And, because women perform the bulk of household work, they often have little time left to pursue economic opportunities. Hence, women’s participation in shaping economic and social policies is very limited.

Having empowered women in any country means great reduction in dependence rates, reduction in violence against women, increased house- hold income leading to an improved standard of living. Women’s economic participation and empowerment enables them to have control over their lives and exert influence in society. It leads to independent decision making regarding career, education, health in general and reproductive health in particular, investments and rights. Therefore, it is inevitable that empowering women economically will directly enhance sound public policies leading to any country’s development and equal distribution of resources.

The approach to empower women economically was first recognized at the Beijing conference, the fourth global conference on Women: Action for Equality, Development and Peace in 1995. Ac- cording to the Beijing platform of action, the areas that need improvement if the position of women is to be improved include: reducing poverty among women, stopping violence, providing access to education and healthcare and reducing economic and political inequality. Twenty years later, the Sustain- able Development Goals (SDGs) were launched, in line with Goal 5 called for gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls by 2030. The global development agenda suggests that emphasis should be placed on the preconditions necessary for women to become economically empowered and that gender-aware economic policies should be promoted to advance both economic and social development.

Both the Beijing platform of action and the SDGs should no longer be viewed as a set of aspirations, but must be used as a tool to push for the adoption of gender-sensitive policies and to emphasize the accountability of all actors. They should also in- form partnerships for women’s economic empowerment and translate to increased dialogue among development actors to improve support for women at the global level.

Despite global improvement in the health and education levels of women and girls, no such progress has been seen in economic opportunity as women continue to consistently trail men in formal labor force participation, access to credit, entrepreneurship rates, income levels, and inheritance and ownership rights. Women can no longer be discounted as the weaker sex, particularly given their impressive success as micro-entrepreneurs around the world and as thoughtful leaders and community-builders. Under-investing in women limits development, slows down poverty reduction and economic growth.

Status of gender equality in Africa

Gender equality in the African continent witnessed some progress; but African women are held back from fulfilling their potential by many constraints, whether as leaders in public life, in board- rooms, or in owning and growing their businesses. The constraints are not only limited to widespread poverty, but also include social constrains, lack of access to education, poor health and highly segmented labor markets. Despite the fact that women of Africa make a sizeable contribution to the continent’s economy by growing most of Africa’s food, they remain at the bottom of the social hierarchy. Some areas of the law, such as family laws governing marriage, divorce, inheritance and land rights, limit women’s economic rights, hindering their economic and social decision-making and restricting their ability to enter into contracts to own, administer, or inherit assets and property.

By limiting women’s options and alternatives, such laws hinder their ability to contribute as economic and social actors to Africa’s development. Furthermore, gender inequalities are exacerbated by weak institutional structure, particularly among those mandated to promote gender equality such as ministries for women, and by lack of reliable gender statistics.

In 2015, the African Development Bank (AFDB) launched the “Africa Gender Equality Index”, a comprehensive tool that provides ongoing evidence on gender equality for 52 of Africa’s 54 countries. The index is designed to promote development and inform actions in three important dimensions of gender equality that can bring out change: economic empowerment, human development, and laws and institutions.

The Gender Equality Index concludes that across

Africa, women and men often experience different opportunities conditions and privileges; they earn different wages, do not have the same access to education and are not always equal before the law. It also shows that gender inequality in Africa is exacerbated by the fact that primary development policies in many African countries, known as poverty reduction strategies, still do not take into account differences in income and power between men and women, hampering efforts to finance programs that reduce inequality. This in turns holds back the productive potential of more than one billion Africans and negatively affects the continent’s economy.

It also highlights that the most inhibiting factor is that women in Africa continue to be denied an education, often their only ticket out of poverty. Disparities between girls and boys start in primary school and the differences widen up through the entire educational system. Since the early 1990s, Africa registered the highest relative increase among region in total primary school enrollment due to policies specifically targeting girls – but the continent is still far behind. African education-gender-responsive policies included special programs to sensitize parents through media, reducing school fees for girls in public primary schools in rural areas and increasing the proportion of female teachers to equalize the gender balance among teachers as Africa has the lowest global proportion of female teachers. Also, many African countries embarked on programs to build latrines, assist pregnant students and distribute free textbooks. On the high school and collage levels, the gender gap becomes even wider especially in science, mathematics, computer sciences and technical programs. On the bright side, the index shows that Africa has registered improvements in adult literacy rates. However, in some countries the female illiteracy rates are still much higher than the regional average of about 50%.

Widespread poverty also hampers the expansion of education in Africa; poorer families often face the stark choice of deciding whom to send to school and often it is the girl who stays home. Costs of tuition, the requirement to wear uniforms, long distances between home and school, in- adequate water and sanitation, all are factors that further re- strict girls’ access to education. Moreover, poverty in Africa continues to wear a woman’s face as women make up the majority of the poor, as much as 70% in some countries.

The gender gap in employment remains high in terms of pay, labor segregation and access to support from institutions such as banks. Women dominate informal sector employment and they work 50% longer than men but they rarely own land.When they do, their holdings tend to be smaller and less fertile than those of men. Removing the hurdles women face in their economic activities, which are mainly concentrated in the informal sector, will help unlock potential for economic growth in the continent. For example, the Gender Equality index shows that if women farmers had the same access to inputs and capacity building as males, overall yields could be raised by between 10 and 20%.

Poor infrastructure, including clean water, sanitation, electricity and transport, in the majority of African countries also limits women’s economic participation and impacts how women allocate their time. Thus, efforts to provide affordable infrastructure for water, food and energy in Africa will help women engage in more productive market activities and promote growth.

One area where Africa is showing progress in relation to world averages is in women’s political participation. Seventeen African countries established quotas for women’s political participation at the national and sub-national levels. As a result, in women hold close to one-third of the seats in parliaments in 11 African countries, more than in Europe. African women also have made significant strides in the continental political body, the African Union (AU), in 2003 five women and five men were elected as AU commissioners. The following year, the AU’s Pan-African Parliament was headed by a woman and ever since; women make up 25% of AU members.

Actions by Africa countries to achieve gender parity

Despite the presence of national government bodies that deal with gender issues in almost all African countries, since Beijing, these units, departments or ministries showed weakness and inability to be responsive to the challenges presented by the struggle for gender justice in the continent, according to discussions at the African Social Forum in Lusaka, Zambia in 2004. They have poor resources, few staff and no power or authority within governments to advance equality and justice for women.

However, a number of African countries took action to redress the bias in macroeconomic policies that favor men and boys at the expense of women and girls through adopting an approach known as gender budgeting. This approach drives countries to allocate a percentage of its national budget to implement gender-trans- formative programs; guided by a thorough analysis of governments’ spending choices and their impact on women and men, boys and girls to identify dis- parities. In turn, it helps mobilize more financing to narrow the gaps.

Some African countries also adopted a women- quota system to increase attention to reform in areas like family law, and affirmative action policies that address economic inclusion, land rights and increasing women presence in decision making positions including in businesses.

Women Economic Empowerment themes discussed at Africa 2018

Pro-women policies can drive change

To enable women to escape poverty, African development policies should place more emphasis on women contributions to the economy through labor force participation or entrepreneurship. Policies should also facilitate the process of obtaining basic opportunities for women and actively thwarting attempts to deny those opportunities.

Promoting African women’s ability to influence how decisions are made, how public policies are shaped and how resources are allocated can have a significant impact on boosting their productivity rapidly.

The first step is to build knowledge for evidence- based policy making that is based on real-time diagnosis and analysis of the current landscape. Next is reforming and enforcing laws. While all African countries recognize the principle of nondiscrimination in their constitutions, the traditional practices are not in sync especially in areas like marital property, inheritance, land ownership and labor where women are not treated as full citizens. By custom, often only male heads of households are able to enter into contract, travel and access markets. Many men also exercise sole control over household finances even when the women contribute equally to the household’s earnings. As a result, women’s participation in society and the economy continues to be mediated by male members of their families.

Introducing reforms to available laws, including family laws, to increase the minimum marital age for women, remove the husband’s ability to deny the wife permission to work outside the home, requiring the consent of both spouses to manage marital property and guaranteeing women access to reproductive health services including family planning commodities; can lead to increased levels of women’s labor participation and levels of vocational skills that increase women ability to move from self- employment into more sustainable entrepreneur- ship.

Adopting a pro-women agenda of action

Translating gender-sensitive policies and laws re- quires a progressive pro-women economic agenda of actionable strategies, plans, justice mechanisms, programs and interventions to strengthen African women’s economic empowerment in all sectors. Such an agenda can also facilitate the elaboration of a clear road map that supports increased country level dialogue on gender equality, contributes to closing the gender pay gap and maximizing women’s economic security.

Actionable steps to promote gender equality include adopting gender-responsive free trade agreements and agriculture policies that ensure women’s access to local and regional markets, support women’s access to agroprocessing and post-harvest management, investing in regional centers for excellence and business incubation hubs to foster training and learning processes focusing on women’s financial literacy training for women and entrepreneurs, increasing countries’ focus on providing financial services for women, including loans, savings, guarantee schemes, insurance and grants, and building partnerships with the private, social and voluntary sectors. Countries should also seek to address constraints on women’s access to quality employment in the formal sector and invest in promoting women’s access to new and labor-saving agricultural technologies to boost production, including innovative technologies aimed at supporting climate-smart agricultural approaches.

Removing hurdles faced by African women can create future business leaders and drive growth

To end poverty and accelerate development in the continent, women in Africa must be able to develop their full potential as business leaders. According the AfDB Gender Index, African women are both economically active and highly entrepreneurial. They form the backbone of Africa’s agricultural labor force, and they own and operate the majority of businesses in the informal sector. However, they are predominantly in low-value-added occupations that generate little economic return and they face an array of barriers that prevent them from moving into more productive pursuits. The challenge in Africa is not one of encouraging women to be more economically active, but rather to remove the barriers to women becoming more efficient business leaders.
Outside agriculture, African women’s labor force participation rates are high throughout Africa, except in North Africa. However, African labor markets are heavily gender segregated, with women working primarily in low- paying occupations. African women are far more likely to be self-employed in the informal sector than to earn a regular wage through formal employment where they earn on average two-thirds the salary of their male colleagues.

– EGYPT TODAY

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Again Morocco not on agenda of ECOWAS summit

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ECOWAS Heads of state still wont discuss membership of Morocco. (NAN)

Morocco is not on the agenda of the 54th Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS’ Heads of State and Government, the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports.

Morocco had requested to be a member of ECOWAS while Tunisia requested to be an observer country.

The 51st Ordinary Session held in Monrovia, Liberia in June 2017 agreed, in principle, to Morocco’s membership of the sub-regional bloc and directed the commission to consider the implications of the country’s membership.

The commission confirmed that study on the impact of Morocco’s membership was carried out and the outcome would be submitted to the Authority.

Morocco’s Foreign Ministry had reportedly said that the country had to wait until the first quarter of 2018 to know the decision of the ECOWAS Heads of State, which would be announced at an extraordinary session.

The decision was, however, expected to be considered at the 2018 session taking place in Abuja on Saturday.

The summit would, nevertheless, consider the reports on ECOWAS Single Currency, the political situation in Guinea Bissau and Togo among any other business.

According to the Draft Work Programme, the session would also sign Community Acts and Decisions and read to the ECOWAS Political Declaration and Common Position on the Return of Cultural Artefacts to Africa.

The Authority would also consider the Annual Report of ECOWAS, reports of the 41st Ordinary Meeting of the Mediation and Security Council and the 81st Session of the ECOWAS Council of Ministers. (NAN)

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