Posts tagged as: mining

Ex-Street Boy Wins Jubilee Ticket for Bulla Pesa Ward

By Vivian Jebet

Residents of Bulla Pesa ward in Isiolo town have nominated a former street urchin to contest for the seat in the concluded Jubilee primaries.

Despite all odds, Abdi Kasanya, 26 emerged winner after battling out with his three opponents.

Mr Kasanya is optimistic that he will unseat the incumbent Moses Kithinji who is seeking to retain his seat on a PNU ticket in August 8 polls.

He holds a diploma in Social work and has been on the forefront in championing for establishment of a mentorship and rehabilitation centre in the county to help the street families who have turned into drug addicts.

He polled 1,794 votes against Hajj Hajjira Abdi’s 1,161 and Leloon Ismael Lekisho who garnered 781 votes.

He will face off with Mr Kithinji (PNU), Mohammed Ahmed (ANC), Lenah Nkatha (Narc-Kenya), Robert Mugambi (Maendeleo Chap Chap), Mr Idi Kimathi (Independent) and Mr Witherford Mwirigi (Independent) during the general elections.

Mr Kasanya said he will prioritize youth empowerment, talent creation, roads construction and reduction of street families in town if elected in August elections.

Residents led by Mrs Sadia Mohammed said Mr Kasanya who is known to pulling carts at Isiolo market for a leaving is a man of integrity, hard work and principled.

Mr Kasanya thanked locals for nominating him pledging to offer a fresh leadership.

The youthful aspirants said funds allocated to special groups including the street urchins by the national and county governments were benefiting some cartels.

“I will ensure that funds meant for the vulnerable groups will reach to owners if elected,” he added.

Kenya

Thank You! President Kenyatta Says for Active Participation in Jubilee Primaries

President Uhuru Kenyatta on Friday met and thanked Governors Ken Lusaka, Salim Mvurya, Samuel Kuntai Ole Tunai and… Read more »

My Life Is in Danger, Says Opposition Leader

By Moses Havyarimana

Burundi’s main opposition leader and Deputy Speaker of Parliament Agathon Rwasa has claimed his life is in danger following attacks of several of his supporters by unknown people.

He said the attacks and a plot to assassinate him are linked to the coming elections in 2020.

Mr Rwasa pointed an accusing finger at members of the ruling party, Council for the Defence of Democracy – Forces for the Restoration of Democracy, CNDD-FDD, and the police.

Mr Rwasa is one of the few opposition leaders who have remained critical of President Pierre Nkurunziza’s government. Several of his supporters have lately been killed and others kidnapped and he says these incidents have left him fearing for his life. But the government has dismissed the claims, saying he had not even made an official complaint.

“We suppose that he is well protected by the police and the army because he hasn’t yet reported any abnormal situation of his security,” said Burundi police spokesman Pierre Nkurikiye.Video footage surfaced on social media showing the ruling party youth wing Imbonerakure jogging while chanting that they would “impregnate” opposition members so as they “could give birth to Imbonerakure.”

The video stirred up reactions from the international community, with the latest condemnation coming from the UN human rights office.

“The grotesque rape chants by the young men are deeply alarming, particularly because they confirm what we have been hearing from those who have fled Burundi about a campaign of fear and terror by this organised militia,” said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.The ruling party condemned the Imbonerakure, saying it was contrary to the “rules and the mission of the party.”

“CNDD-FDD condemns the use of that language and the disciplinary commission is investigating and whoever involved will be sanctioned,” a statement read from the ruling party.

Efforts have been made by the East African Community to put an end to the political crisis that continued to dog the country since 2015, although the regional mediated dialogue under the facilitation of former Tanzania president Benjamin Mkapa is yet to produce tangible results.

“We had said this before and we will continue saying it that the Burundi government will not sit on the same table with the coup plotters… they only have to face justice,” said Will Nyamitwe, special ambassador of Burundi.

As the country steadily gains stability and the focus turns to the 2020 general elections, the ruling party CNDD-FDD is said to still have the upper hand. The absence of main opposition leaders and weak opposition justifies the dominance of CNDD-FDD.

The intra-Burundi dialogue commission (CNDI) released a report on the findings in the six-month period on what could restore peace.

According to the findings, Burundians called on their lawmakers to scrap term limits that can see the incumbent stay in power.

Burundi is relatively gaining stability after the violent protests in 2015 that led to more than 500 people losing their lives. The country’s Constitution has been at the centerstage of the political crisis the country has faced since the 2015 polls.

Burundi

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Africa: Ghana Drops VAT On Domestic Flights As 10 Investors Seek License

The Ghana Ministry of Aviation has received proposals from 10 foreign and local investors to operate in the country’s domestic airline industry.

The country’s Minister of Aviation, Ms Cecilia Abena Dapaah, made this known at the opening of this year’s International Air Transport Association (IATA) Day in Accra, according to an online publication, graphic.com.gh.

It is being organised by IATA, which is the trade association for the world’s airlines.

Participants include key stakeholders in the air travel industry from Africa.

The conference has the theme: ‘Aviation: catalyst for socio-economic development in Ghana’ and will discuss the impact of aviation on the economy, infrastructure development and safety in the industry.

Although Dapaah did not give details of the proposals received, she said the ministry was studying them and would announce the final decision in due course.

She stated that the government considered the development of the aviation sector a priority, for which reason a lot of investment had been made in infrastructural development at the various airports, aerodromes and airstrips across the country.

She added that all facilities at the airports were being modernised to meet international standards and to improve safety and the comfort of travelers.

To promote domestic air transport, Dapaah said the government had abolished the 17.5 per cent VAT on domestic airfares to encourage more patronage by the travelling public and also reduce the cost of operation of airlines.

Dapaah said as part of plans to establish a national airline, which would fly initially in the West African region, a transactional advisor had been working on finding a strategic investor to partner the government.

To improve the regulation and provision of air navigation services, she said a new entity was being established to take care of air navigation, while the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority concentrated on its core mandate of regulating the sector.

“This is intended to improve safety standards and also properly regulate the operations of the various actors in the industry,” she explained.

An IATA Regional Head in charge of membership and external relations in Africa and Middle East, Ms Adefunke Ademeyi, commended Ghana for transforming its aviation industry in recent years.

She named Ghana and Rwanda as one of the countries in Africa which were using aviation to promote their socio-economic transformation.

“The transformations in the airports in Ghana are visible and positive,” she stressed.

She urged African governments to open up their aviation markets in order to promote connectivity and facilitate easy travel on the continent.

For his part, the President of IATA, Mr. Raphael Kuuchi, said globally, the aviation industry contributed $2.7 trillion, which represents 3.5 per cent of the world’s GDP, and directly employed 9.9 million people.

Demand for air connectivity in the next 20 years, Mr Kuuchi said, was projected to double and that would take a tremendous amount of planning and coordination between airlines and other stakeholders in the aviation industry to achieve.

South Africa: Court Ruling On Zuma’s Nuclear Deal Is a Marker of South Africa’s Political Health

analysisBy David Fig, University of Cape Town

The South African government’s plan to bulldoze through a nuclear energy deal has been dealt what might be a fatal blow by the Cape Town High court which has declared the plan invalid. It found that the government had not followed due process in making the decision to pursue a nuclear power option, as well as in other critical areas.

The court’s decision has put paid to President Jacob Zuma’s hopes of clinching the nuclear build programme before leaving office in 2019 if he completes his term.

The case was brought to court by Earthlife Africa and the Southern Africa Faith-Communities’ Environmental Institute. The two NGOs were challenging the way in which the state determined the country’s nuclear power needs. The plan would have seen South Africa purchasing 9,600 megawatts of extra nuclear power.

The judge, Lee Bozalek, ruled the government’s action unconstitutional and found that five decisions it had taken were illegal. These included the government’s decision to go ahead with the nuclear build and the fact that it had handed over the procurement process to the state utility Eskom. The court also ruled that Eskom’s request for information from nuclear vendors, a step taken to prepare the procurement, which ended on 28 April 2017 was invalid.

If it still wants to pursue the nuclear deal the government will have to start all over again. To do so legally it would have to open up the process to detailed public scrutiny. The country’s electricity regulator would have to have a series of public hearings before endorsing what would be its highest ever spend on infrastructure. And any international agreements would have to be scrutinised by parliament.

All this will take time – something Zuma doesn’t have. And it’s unlikely that his successors will be as eager to champion a new deal as he has been. Meanwhile the facts about the deal will become public. This will undoubtedly demonstrate two of the biggest criticisms of the deal to be true: that the country can’t afford it, and that it’s energy needs have shrunk, making the vast investment redundant.

The court’s ruling has turned the nuclear procurement issue into one of the key markers of South Africa’s political health. It’s not yet clear whether the South African government will appeal the Western Cape High Court’s decision, or comply with the judgement. A third option is that Zuma simply ignores the courts and continues to pursue the deal.

Demand and affordability

South Africa currently has more than enough electricity to meet its needs. This wasn’t the case about five years ago when widespread outages hit the country. Since then new electricity generation capacity has been added, through the the rapid roll out of renewables, and the opening up of two new giant coal burning plants. Consumption, particularly by industry, has steadily declined due to faltering economic growth and higher electricity prices. Demand has dropped so much that Eskom plans to close five coal burning power stations.

The argument that the country needs another 9,600 megawatts was identified in documents that produced in 2011. These are now widely acknowledged as being badly out of date. Recent studies by the University of Cape Town’s Energy Research Centre have shown that the country doesn’t need to consider nuclear for another 20 years.

A number of studies have also shot holes in the government’s argument that the country can afford the proposed nuclear build. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has developed models showing that new nuclear is likely to be much more expensive than coal or renewables. The price ticket for nuclear – which some estimates put at more than R1 trillion – doesn’t take into account the costs of operation, fuel, insurance, emergency planning or the regulation or decontamination at the end of the life of the reactors.

It would also impose a financial burden on the country’s fiscus which it can ill afford particularly now that the economy has been rated at junk status.

Ulterior motives

So why is Zuma still pushing for the deal to go ahead? One source of pressure might be the Russians. South Africa’s former energy minister, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, had been instructed to signed a deal with the Russian utility, Rosatom to build the reactors. South Africa has also already signed nuclear power cooperation agreements with other countries like the US and South Korea, which the court has declared void.

A more likely reason for Zuma’s zeal is the involvement of the Gupta family with whom he has close ties. The family’s web of interests around the nuclear deal are complex.

What is known is that the Gupta family controls South Africa’s only dedicated uranium mine. The family has developed close relationships with key individuals at Eskom. In November last year the country’s then Public Protector pointed to overlapping directorships between Gupta-owned companies and Eskom.

The report also suggested that Brian Molefe, Eskom’s CEO, had a close relationship with the family. These revelations led to his resignation shortly after the report was published.

Another strand in the complex web is the fact that Zuma’s son Duduzane is a business partner of the Guptas while other relatives are directly employed by them.

Despite his determination, Zuma has become increasingly isolated in his quest for nuclear procurement. The African National Congress is clearly divided on the issue. This is evident from the fact that Zuma has resorted to reshuffling his cabinet to make way for more compliant ministers without reference to party officials as would be the norm.

The private sector has also come out against the idea while the list of civil society organisations opposed to nuclear expansion goes well beyond the environmental lobby and includes a broad spectrum of foundations, faith communities, human rights campaigners and defenders of the country’s constitution.

High stakes

The nuclear judgement in Cape Town indicates that South Africa’s legal system has not yet been “captured” by private interests.

The key question is whether Zuma and Eskom will accede to the verdict, or whether they challenge it while continuing to ignore the rule of law. Not only would this subvert the country’s constitution and its democratic form of government, it would also deny the constitutional right to popular participation in energy democracy.

The stakes are high – for the country as well as for the president. Will he continue to treat the country’s energy future with impunity? Or will this judgement symbolise the rollback of the democratic dispensation envisaged by the authors of the country’s constitution?

Disclosure statement

David Fig has had a long association with Earthlife Africa, and serves on the steering committee of the African Uranium Alliance.

U.S. Hunt for Kony Over, Justice for Victims Remains

By Christina Okello

Six years after the US sent troops to Central Africa to help hunt down notorious warlord Joseph Kony, the US Africa command (AFRICOM) announced this week that its mission was over. Critics warn the Lord Resistance Amry (LRA) still poses a risk and that the withdrawal could create a security vaccum in the region.

The US decision to pull out of the Central African Republic this week came as no surprise.

It was announced earlier this year when new US president Donald Trump took over the White House, and began to review his country’s commitment in Africa.

The hunt for Joseph Kony has already cost the Department of Defense nearly 800 million euros in six years. An enormous amount for a rebel group perceived as little threat, according to some sources in AFRICOM.

Even so, analyst Joseph Ochieno says he’s baffled as to why the Americans are leaving empty-handed.

“The original objective was very specific: the mission was to catch and kill Joseph Kony and that hasn’t happened,” he told RFI on Friday, hours after American special forces began withdrawing from Central Africa.

The head of AFRICOM, General Thomas Waldhauser, told reporters that the Lord Resistance Army was living in “survival mode,” but pledged to continue training African troops to avoid leaving a void in the region.

“We are told that there are about 100 of his [Kony] men, and 100 can be a big number, considering what we know about terrorism these days,” adds Ochieno.

Simply put, the “mission is far from accomplished,” he says.

Hidden agenda

US special forces were deployed in 2011 by the former Obama administration to neutralize the LRA, one of Africa’s longest surviving rebel groups.

But Ochieno reckons there may have been more to it than that.

“Cynics have suggested very strongly that the US’ real interests were not about Joseph Kony, but about entrenching its hegemonic programme within East and Central Africa,” he says, suggesting that Kony was merely a way of getting America’s foot in a region, long controlled “by the French”.

In a way, the French will be the ones lumbered with the problem of tracking Kony down, reckons for his part Paul Jackson, a professor of African politics at the University of Birmingham.

“If he resurfaces again within the Central African Republic and starts recruiting again, then that becomes the problem of CAR and by proxy, the French, because of their historical ties and previous intervention; so it’s kind of passing the buck onto the French really,” he told RFI.

Kony the High Priest

Uganda has also pulled out its troops from Central Africa, saying “Kony no longer poses a threat”.

Jackson isn’t so sure: “Kony is the sort of individual that you need to be extremely careful with. Of all the sorts of African insurgency movements, this is the most mystical of all of them, and in a way he is the sort of high priest.”

The Africanist is convinced that as long as Kony remains at large, the LRA could relaunch fresh attacks.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to hear news of kidnappings from schools and all the rest of it, which is how they started to build up the LRA in the first place.”

Since it was founded by Kony in 1987, the LRA has slaughtered more than 100,000 people and abducted 60,000 children who were forced to become sex slaves and child soldiers, according to the UN.

No justice

“The war was devastating on this population,” Oryem Nyeko, the head of advocacy at the Justice and Reconciliation in Gulu, told RFI.

“Millions of people were displaced from their homes, countless numbers are missing,” he says.

Gulu, then the entry point for most of the vigilantes and seekers who became obsessed with Joseph Kony, is today safe.

“I think in the Ugandan context, people aren’t really afraid of the LRA, I think it’s kind of far removed from their lives,” adds Nyeko.

But the hunt for justice isn’t forgotten.

“I think that the question of justice for past crimes that were committed by the LRA is still very much on people’s minds here,” he says, highlighting that most have been surprised to hear about the US’ withdrawal.

The task of finding one of the world’s most notorious and elusive of warlords will now be up to the Central African Republic, if indeed that’s where Kony is.

Difficult hunt

“One of the difficulties about Kony is that he doesn’t just stick to one country,” explains Jackson of Birmingham University.

Although the warlord is most associated with Uganda, he hasn’t lived there for decades, having been reported in South Sudan, the northern DRC, and then in the Central African Republic.

“Finding any one individual or even a group of 100 people in an extremely difficult terrain is like finding a needle in a haystack,” says Jackson.

“The Ugandan military is by far the most capable, and yet they failed,” before adding, “so did the Americans.”

Nigeria: Court Remands Doctor in Prison for Allegedly Raping Patient

An Upper Area Court sitting at Pankshin in Plateau on Friday remanded a medical doctor, Philemon Brazil, in prison for allegedly raping his patient.

Brazil, however, pleaded not guilty to the offence.

The Judge, Mr Joseph Chollom ordered the remand of Brazil in custody and adjourned the case to May 22 for further mention.

The Prosecutor, Sgt. Singbon Hosea, told court that the defendant committed the offence on April 25 at the home of his victim.

Hosea explained that the rape victim had a history of miscarriages and had been a patient of the doctor before the incident.

“But my lord, on that fateful day, April 25, when he visited the patient as usual, he went too far by forcing himself on her and ended up raping her.

“By that action, the accused has committed offences of rape and act of gross indecency, contrary to and punishable under Section 283 and 285 of the Penal Code.”

He said that after the arrest of the doctor, the police conducted HIV test on him and that the result was negative.

Hosea also told court that after the rape, woman suffered yet another miscarriage.

The prosecutor asked court to remand the accused in prison, pending completion of investigation on the matter

Nigeria

There’s No Boko Haram Resurgence, Nigerian Military Assures

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Liberia: Death Toll From ‘Strange Disease’ in Sinoe Climbs to 10

The Chief Medical Officer of Liberia, Dr. Francis Kateh, has disclosed that another person has died from the ‘strange disease’ in Sinoe County, bringing to ten the number of deaths.

Dr. Kateh told ELBC Radio Thursday that another person who has contracted the disease has been hospitalized at the J.F Grant Hospital in the provincial capital Greenvile.

This, he said, brings to 18 the number of persons who have contracted the disease.

Dr. Kateh reiterated that initial tests conducted by the Liberia Institute of Bio-Medical Research in Charlesville, Margibi County have proved that the disease is not Ebola.

He, however, said another test will be performed while authorities and the Liberia National Police have launched an investigation to ascertain the origin of the deaths.

It can be recalled that on April 25, Sinoe County health authorities reported multiple unexplained deaths in five communities in Greenville, Sinoe County in southeastern Liberia from a ‘strange disease.’

The outbreak has instilled fear in Liberians as it reminds them of the Ebola Virus Disease outbreak in 2014 that claimed an estimated 4,500 lives in Liberia and more than 10,600 lives in the hardest hit countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.

Dr. Kateh reiterated that the Ministry of Health has put in place the necessary systems, measures and capacity to contain any outbreak of infectious diseases in the country.

He said the ministry of health will keep the public updated on the situation as it unfolds.

Liberia

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Gambia: NMCP Commemorates World Malaria Day in Nbr

By Abdoullie Nyockeh

The National Malaria Control Program (NMCP), under the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, in partnership with other agencies such as NAS, Global Fund, WHO and Ecobank, celebrated World Malaria Day (WMD) at Essau in the North Bank Region on Tuesday. The theme was End malaria for good.

In remarks, NMCP manager, Balla Kandeh, said WMD sets a platform for intensive debate so that education on, and awareness of, malaria are substantially and widely disseminated.

In this process, the media and all other stakeholders including religious leaders and community-based organizations, must uphold their respective stakes, he said.

The day came as result of the historic Abuja Summit where 44 African Heads of States and Government Representatives met in 2000 and made declaration to halve the burden of malaria by 2015.

During that summit, 25th April was set aside and declared as Africa Malaria Day to be commemorated each year.

During the 60th session of the World Health Assembly in 2007, Africa Malaria Day was changed to World Malaria Day, giving it a global dimension on the magnitude of the malaria disease burden.

The day provides countries with the opportunity to soberly reflect on the efforts being made to tackle the scourge of malaria.

It also provides an opportunity to renew partnerships at the national and international level for malaria control.

It is an opportunity for countries to learn from each other’s experience and support each other’s efforts.

It’s a moment for Research and Academic institutions to flag their scientific advances on malaria to both experts and the general public.

It’s an opportunity for international partners, companies, and foundations to showcase their efforts and reflect on how to scale up what has being worked.

He said, “We cannot contain malaria by working in isolation as members of a specific sector, or in collaboration as members of a loose amalgamation. By working together, as members of a concerted and cohesive force, we can put a stop to the formidable challenge the disease poses and, “End malaria for good.”

For his part, Governor of the North Bank Region, Ebrima Dampha, said the theme was very fitting as Africa bears 90% of the malaria burden.

“The vast majority of malaria deaths occur in Africa, South of the Sahara where malaria presents major obstacles to social and economic development,” he added.

He continued that, “Although malaria is curable and preventable, the disease kills more than a million people each year, mainly young children. In Africa alone, where 90% of malaria deaths occur, malaria is the leading cause of death in children under five-years of age.”

The World Health Organization estimates that 3,000 people die of malaria every day.

Pregnant women and their unborn babies are particularly vulnerable to malaria.

When a woman is pregnant, her immunity is reduced, making her more vulnerable to the infection, which carries dangerous consequences such as stillbirth, premature delivery and low birth weight.

In The Gambia, malaria is the probable cause of 4% of infant deaths and 25% of deaths in children 1 to 4 years.

Although, the economic burden of malaria has not been fully determined, there is no doubt that the disease accounts for considerable loss days of productivity among the adult population, absenteeism from schools and workplaces and increased household expenditure on health.

In The Gambia, a robust partnership is in place, uniting all key actors and stakeholders in malaria control to respond to challenges that no organization or government can face alone.

Gambia: FAO and Partners Commit to Improve Gambia’s Nutritional Status

FAO and partners commit to harness the potentials of Sustainable Food Fortification to improve the nutritional status of The Gambian populace.

24th April, 2017, Banjul – The Gambian Government has joined forces with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in a bid to sustainably reduce the menace of malnutrition, and in particular micronutrient deficiencies which remain both a major public health and development problem for the country. Through funding from The European Union, FAO in close partnership with the Department of Agriculture (DoA), the National Nutrition Agency (NaNA), the Food Safety and Quality Authority of The Gambia (FSQA), the National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI), Private Sector Food Industries as well as Importers, the Consumer Protection Group and other stakeholders is set to develop and implement the sustainable integrated food fortification initiative. The initiative – “Improve Food Security and Nutrition in The Gambia through Food Fortification” aims particularly to improve micronutrient nutrition and health outcomes of vulnerable women and children in The Gambia.

This is a public private partnership initiative that will work with food industries and farmers involved in the production of staple foods to embark on industrial scale fortification, as well as the cultivation of bio-fortified food crops to increase access to essential micronutrients by the population in The Gambia, especially women and children. . Vulnerable children 6-59 months and pregnant and lactating women in food insecure households in the North Bank and Central River North Regions will have increased access to and consume more micronutrient-rich foods through both industrially fortified food staples and bio-fortified food commodities.

The initiative has integrated nutrition education as a key strategy to strengthen nutrition outcomes. It is also designed to strengthen public and private sector capacities, build public private partnership and advance the reinforcement of regulatory systems on food fortification in The Gambia. The intervention will ensure at least 65% of the Gambian population have increased awareness and access to fortified staple foods high in essential micronutrients such as vitamin A, iron, zinc, folic acid and other Vitamin B nutrients.

Dr. Sablah Mawuli, FAO Lead Technical Officer for the project from the FAO Regional Office for Africa in Accra, Ghana concluded a week-long Technical Assistance mission to Banjul on 22nd April 2017 focusing on capacity needs assessment. He also engaged with the various stakeholders to clarify the technical roles of different public and private sector stakeholders, and guide in the development of the detailed project implementation plan.

The FAO Country Representative to The Gambia, Dr. Perpetua Katepa-Kalala, has praised the initiative noting that Food fortification presents an attractive potential area of investment to address micronutrient deficiencies in vulnerable girls, women and children, based on its potential to provide a relatively low-cost, affordable, scalable and immediate tool in response to the challenge of eliminating hidden hunger from The Gambia. She expressed gratitude to the EU and the different stakeholders on their commitment to improving nutrition outcomes in The Gambia. She is enthused about this initiative which will establish the enabling environment through mandatory legislation with standards on food fortification, production and distribution of fortified foods, social marketing with nutrition education under effective public private partnership Gambia Alliance on Food Fortification. Dr. Kalala explained that various capacity building and awareness raising campaigns would be organized on fortification and bio-fortification with mixed farming systems that promote dietary diversification, nutrition education and sustainable strategies for ensuring high coverage of fortified foods to address vitamin and mineral deficiencies in populations in The Gambia.

Potentials for food fortification

Deficiencies of essential vitamins and minerals are widespread in The Gambia with substantial adverse effects on maternal and child health and development. The Gambia Demographic and Health Survey (DHS 2013) reported that 24.5% of children under five were stunted, 16% were underweight and 11.5% were wasted while 4.2% were severely wasted. Similarly, micronutrient deficiencies continue to be a public health challenge to The Gambia with Vitamin A deficiency in preschool children estimated at 54%, iron deficiency related anemia hovering around 72% in this age group and 60% in women of reproductive age.

Mr. Modou Cheyassin Phall, Executive Director, National Nutrition Agency NaNA explained that industrial scale food fortification and bio-fortification including bio-fortified orange flesh sweet potato, cassava and beans will play a critical role in sustainably combating micronutrient malnutrition in a manner easily accessible to food insecure communities. He noted that The Gambia Milling Corporation covering over 98% of the market with wheat flour has initiated voluntary fortification using industry standards which would now be aligned with harmonized Gambian standards to be developed on the broader ECOWAS Standard Harmonization Model (ECOSHAM). Mr. Phall also explained that the rice would also be fortified with essential micronutrient under the programme.

The Director General of the Food Safety and Quality Authority of The Gambia Ms. Zainab Jallow has also praised the intervention as timely noting that it will strengthen efforts aimed at enforcing standards and quality requirements on food fortification in The Gambia.

Source: FAO

Gambia

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Zimbabwe: Government Admits ‘Printing’ Money

By Phillimon Mhlanga

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe’s embattled administration has for the first time admitted printing money in the form of a virtual currency through the Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS), acknowledging this cannot be backed by United States dollar bank notes imported by local banks, the Financial Gazette’s Companies & Markets (C&M) can report.

Finance and Economic Development Minister, Patrick Chinamasa, made the disclosures in Parliament. He said: “Government funds its employees’ salary accounts through electronic transfers over the Real Time Gross Settlement platform. On the contrary, employees would want to obtain physical cash from the banks. This misalignment is the greatest cause of queues at banks for cash as both the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) and banks would be required to withdraw foreign exchange from their nostro accounts to meet local cash demand.”

Nostro accounts are accounts held by local banks with offshore financial institutions. They are used predominantly to settle international obligations, including import of goods. Banks have used their nostro accounts to import US dollar bank notes but these have always been used to support real US dollar bank balances for local deposits.

Government had always been denying that it has been creating or printing its own money to pay wages and salaries for its strong workforce of more than 300 000. The salary bill is gobbling more than 90 percent of revenue, leaving very little for infrastructure development.

The printing of money through the RTGS platform can only be backed by local currency, rather than foreign currency which has to be earned through exports of other foreign currency receipts. It would therefore appear the introduction of bond notes, despite public protestations, was meant primarily to fund the virtual currency, which has been described by some analysts as phantom money.

The reason for government resorting to creation of money in the domestic economy has largely been its huge budget deficits, which it started incurring following the collapse of the inclusive government in 2013.

During the inclusive government, then finance minister, Tendai Biti, insisted that government would only spend what it collected in the form of revenue under his famous “we eat what we gather” policy.

He managed to keep government expenditure under check, despite protestations from colleagues, ensuring stability in the economy.

But since the collapse of the inclusive government, the budget deficit problem, which largely funded recurrent expenditure, emerged. In fact, the size of the civil service suddenly shot up, increasing the salary and wage bill.

Although Chinamasa has tried to curb this cost by reducing the size of the civil service through retrenchments, he has faced opposition from Cabinet colleagues.

Chinamasa has indicated that government employment costs are currently at over 93 percent of tax revenue. When government’s debt of over 40 percent of tax revenue is added to this cost, government expenditure far outstrips revenue.

“This shows that we are living beyond our means through borrowing from the market by way of Treasury Bills that translate into government overdraft at the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe on maturity,” Chinamasa said.

There is indeed an increasing risk that the country may now be drifting towards an inflationary crisis.

Zimbabwe’s inflation was in deflation since October 2014, but since last year, especially after introduction of bond notes, there has been a significant increase in basic food prices.

Annual inflation rate went into positive territory for the first time in over two years in February this year, gaining 0,71 percentage points on the January 2017 rate of -0,7 percent to 0,6 percent.

It went up to 0,21 percent in March, sparking fears among economists of a return to the previous hyperinflationary period that saw inflation reaching a peak of 231 million percent in August 2008.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has projected that the country’s inflation is likely to hit three percent this year and 6,6 percent next year. Given the situation on the ground, this could be a generous assessment from the IMF because it could get worse.

Economists told C&M that the situation is likely to worsen because of the impending elections set for next year.

Prosper Chitambara, an economist with Labour and Economic Development Research Institute of Zimbabwe, said: “The economy is in a roller coaster. It’s in a crisis which will require bold structural reforms. Government knows what’s needed to be done but the will and commitment does not exist.”

He said there were foreign currency leakages because hard cash was going out of the country and not coming back.

“Businesses that are looking to receive money from outside the country are opening accounts outside the country because they have no confidence in government policies and the banking system. With elections coming up next year, we are going to see acceleration of leakages. Inflation, it’s a reflection of bond notes or it pushes inflation factors. In fact, there is a lot of temptation to print more bond notes outside the US$200 million threshold,” he said.

He was referring to the announced $200 million limit in bond notes by the central bank, whose basis is an alleged US$200 facility from the African Export and Import Bank to support exports.

The liquidity squeeze in the country has left many companies unable to pay foreign suppliers, driving many out of business.

According to the IMF, Zimbabwe’s economy is likely to grow by two percent this year.

In March this year, government reviewed Zimbabwe’s economic growth projection from 1,7 percent announced in the 2017 National Budget to 3,7 percent, on the back of a good agricultural season and firming metal prices.

An independent economist, Tinashe Masunda, said: “Zimbabwe has run out of foreign currency resulting in the country completely losing the ability to pay for imports. This means that productivity will continue to suffer as companies fail to access vital inputs because there’s no foreign currency to pay for them. As long as government continues to do things that discourage both local and foreign investment into the productive sector, the situation can only get worse.”

The country abandoned the Zimbabwean dollar in 2009 and adopted a multi-currency regime to escape hyperinflation.

But the foreign currency has been disappearing from the financial market, prompting the central bank to introduce bond notes last year. However, the bond notes appear to be disappearing from the banking system as well.

The severe cash crisis has resulted in banks limiting the amount of cash depositors can withdraw. Most banks have also suspended dispensing money through automated teller machines. In some cases, depositors spend days in bank queues but fail to access cash.

The situation is likely to persist until government urgently fixes the country’s economic fundamentals.

Chinamasa told Parliament that one of the reasons for the shortage of bank notes was that businesses were not banking cash. This, he said, has resulted in long queues for cash at banks.

“This indiscipline is counter-productive and cannot continue to be tolerated. Money is like blood, it needs to circulate for the economy to survive. Money should be circulating in order to deal with queues at banks,” said Chinamasa.

“To date, three traders have been hauled before the courts for not banking their sales proceeds in line with the laws of the country from as far back as June 2016. They have all pleaded guilty to the offence and they now await their sentences,” he said.

Chinamasa implored depositors to make use of plastic money. This, inevitably, would ensure that there is no pressure for the RBZ to print more bond notes to support cash it is creating through the RTGS.

He said: “The factors underpinning cash challenges are beyond banks. Banks find themselves in a difficult position where they are compelled to ration cash withdrawals in order to meet their customers’ demands. Banks have therefore continued to explore pragmatic measures to meet their customers’ demand for cash.

“Government, through the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, is advocating for the use of plastic money in order to ameliorate the mismatch or gap between electronic salary transfers and the demand for cash from banks. Embracing plastic money preserves foreign exchange in the nostro accounts for use for foreign payments whilst at the same time mitigating against non-banking of cash by traders.

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