Boris Johnson To Raise Visa Quota For Africa

 

 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson told African leaders Monday that Britain would be more open to migrants from their continent after Brexit as he hosted a summit intended to boost trading ties.

He also promised an end to direct UK state investment in thermal coal mining or coal power plants overseas, saying London would focus on supporting a switch to low-carbon energy sources.

Johnson was speaking at the start of the first UK-Africa Investment Summit in London, a clear pitch for business less than two weeks before Britain leaves the European Union.

He told leaders including presidents Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt and Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya that he wanted to make Britain their “investment partner of choice”.

After highlighting all that Britain has to offer, he said Brexit would mean an end to preferential treatment for EU migrants.

“Our (immigration) system is becoming fairer and more equal between all our global friends and partners, treating people the same, wherever they come from,” he said.

“By putting people before passports we will be able to attract the best talent from around the world, wherever they may be.”

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, who also attended the summit, said Brexit offered an opportunity for increased free trade across the Commonwealth — and said visas were a key issue.

“While many in the African diaspora enjoy considerable benefits from life in the West, they do not always feel at the heart of the community,” he wrote in an article for The Times on Monday.

“A renewed sense that there are ties that bind us through the Commonwealth, and a concerted effort to grow those links through trade, could act as a spur to encourage togetherness and the certainty of belonging.”

Breathe the same air

Johnson, whose country hosts the next UN climate change summit in Glasgow later this year, also announced a shift in investment strategy to help combat global warming.

Sub-Saharan African faces a number of environmental challenges, particularly the effects of climate change, water and air pollution, desertification, deforestation and over-fishing.

On fossil fuels, Johnson said: “There’s no point in the UK reducing the amount of coal we burn, if we then trundle over to Africa and line our pockets by encouraging African states to use more of it, is there?”

“We all breathe the same air, we live beneath the same sky. We all suffer when carbon emissions rise and the planet warns.”

He added: “Not another penny of UK taxpayers money will be directly invested in digging up coal or burning it for electricity.

“Instead, we’re going to focus on supporting the transition to lower and zero carbon alternatives.”

The British government’s export agency reports providing £2 billion ($2.6 billion) in financing for UK company exports to Africa in the past two years.

The agency says it now wants to “increase its risk appetite” in Egypt and the emerging economies in Nigeria and Rwanda.

The UK government said the London summit will see British and African firms announce commercial deals worth £6.5 billion.

It did not spell out whether these were all firm commitments or included memorandums of understanding that do not always result in actual deals.

Britain will leave the EU on January 31, although ties will remain the same for 11 months while the two sides thrash out a new trading relationship.

The UK has said it will be leaving the bloc’s single market and customs union.

Johnson wants the freedom to strike trade deals with other countries, even at the expense of some of its producers facing trade tariffs and quotas as a result.

US Wants To Reduce Military Presence In Africa – Top Officer

(L-R) Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley arrive for briefing with members of the U.S. House of Representatives about the situation with Iran, at the U.S. Capitol on January 8, 2020 in Washington, DC. Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP

 

The United States wants to reduce its military presence in Africa, Washington’s top military officer said, as France hosts Sahel leaders as it seeks to bolster the fight against jihadists in the region.

Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, said resources “could be reduced and then shifted, either to increase readiness of the force in the continental US or shifted to” the Pacific.

His comments came as he flew in for talks with NATO counterparts in Brussels.

The announcement follows President Donald Trump’s call last week for NATO to do more in the Middle East and comes as French President Emmanuel Macron gathers his counterparts from Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger, Mali and Mauritania.

Milley said his boss, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, had not made up his mind what changes to make.

“We’re developing options for the secretary to consider, and we are developing those options in coordination with our allies and partners,” Milley said.

After 13 French soldiers were killed in a helicopter collision in Mali last month, Macron wants the Sahel leaders to publicly restate their support for France’s 4,500-strong military presence, after local demonstrations against it.

The United States wants to reduce the number of its troops deployed across Africa over the next few years to focus more on responding to the threats posed by Russia and China.

Washington has some 7,000 special forces on rotation in Africa carrying out joint operations with national forces against jihadists, particularly in Somalia.

Another 2,000 soldiers are conducting training missions in some 40 African countries and taking part in cooperative operations, in particular with France’s Operation Barkhane in Mali, to which they provide mainly logistical assistance.

French concerns

One option would be to close a drone base in Agadez, northern Niger, which gives the US a major surveillance platform in the Sahel but has been estimated to cost around $100 million.

Milley said no decisions had been made yet and insisted Washington was not pulling out of Africa completely. “Economy of forces does not mean zero,” he said.

French officials are nevertheless alarmed, with a presidency source saying the US made “irreplaceable” contributions to Sahel operations — particularly in surveillance and air-to-air refuelling.

“We would not be able to get these from other partners, especially when it comes to intelligence,” the presidency official said. Paris would be sharing its concerns with the US “at all levels”, the source added.

NATO military chiefs will use this week’s meeting to debate the future of the alliance’s training mission in Iraq, suspended over security fears after the US killed top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in a drone strike in Baghdad.

The Iraqi parliament voted on January 5 to oust foreign forces, including some 5,200 American troops, who have helped local troops beat back the Islamic State group, angering Trump and throwing international operations there in doubt.

“I can’t guarantee anything about the future and I don’t make the policy decisions,” Milley said.

“I can just say what our current policy is and what our current plans are. And my current guidance from the secretary of defense and the president is that we will stay in Iraq.”

 

AFP

Sixty Years On, Africa Still Seeks Right Model For Growth

 

 

As 1960 dawned, sub-Saharan Africa braced for historic change: that year, 17 of its countries were destined to gain independence from European colonial powers.

But six decades on, the continent is mired in many problems. It is struggling to build an economic model that encourages enduring growth, addresses poverty and provides a future for its youth.

Here are some of the key issues:

Youth ‘explosion’

Africa’s population grew from 227 million in 1960 to more than one billion in 2018. More than 60 percent are aged under 25, according to the Brookings Institution, a US think tank.

“The most striking change for me is the increasing reality of disaffected youth… a younger population that is ready to explode at any moment,” Cameroonian sociologist Francis Nyamnjoh told AFP.

“They are hungry for political freedoms, they are hungry for economic opportunities and they are hungry for social fulfilment .”

Joblessness is a major peril. Unemployed youths are an easy prey for armed groups, particularly jihadist movements in the Sahel, or may be tempted to risk clandestine emigration, often at the cost of their lives.

The continent’s population is expected to double by 2050, led by Nigeria, Ethiopia and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Poverty and inequality

The proportion of Africa’s population living below the poverty line —- less than $1.90 (1.7 euros) per day —- fell from 54.7 percent in 1990 to 41.4 percent in 2015, according to the World Bank.

But this average masks enormous differences from one country to another, exemplified by Gabon (3.4 percent of the population in 2017) and Madagascar (77.6 percent in 2012).

“The inequalities between countries are as extreme as in Asia and the inequalities within countries as as high as in Latin America, where landless peasants coexist with huge landowners,” said Togolese economist Kako Nubukpo.

Christophe Cottet, an economist at the French Development Agency (AFD), pointed out that inequality in Africa is “very poorly measured.”

“There are notably no figures on inequalities of inherited wealth, a key issue in Africa.”

Mega-cities and countryside

Recent decades have seen the expansion of megacities like Lagos and Kinshasa, typically ringed by shantytowns where people live in extreme poverty, although many medium-sized cities have also grown.

More than 40 percent of Africans now live in urban areas, compared with 14.6 percent in 1960, according to the World Bank.

In 1960, Cairo and Johannesburg were the only African cities with more than a million residents. Consultants McKinsey and Company estimate that by 2030, about 100 cities will have a million inhabitants, twice as many as in Latin America.

But this urban growth is not necessarily the outcome of a rural exodus, said Cottet.

“The population is rising across Africa as a whole, rather faster in towns than in rural areas,” said Cottet.

“There is also the problem of unemployment in towns — (rural) people have little interest in migrating there.”

Lost decades of growth

Growth in Africa slammed to a halt in the early 1980s, braked by a debt crisis and structural adjustment policies. It took two decades to recover.

Per-capita GDP, as measured in constant US dollars, shows the up-and-downs, although these figures are official and do not cover Africa’s large informal economy: $1,112 in 1960, $1,531 in 1974, $1,166 in 1994 and $1,657 in 2018.

“If you do an assessment over 60 years, something serious happened in Africa, with the loss of 20 years. But there is no denying that what is happening now is more positive,” Cottet said.

The IMF’s and World Bank’s structural adjustment programmes “broke the motors of growth,” said Nubukpo, whose book, “L’Urgence Africaine,” (The African Emergency) makes the case for a revamped growth model.

The belt-tightening programmes “emphasised the short term, to the detriment of investments in education, health and training.”

New thinking needed

Africa has a low rate of industrialisation, is heavily dependent on agriculture and its service sector has only recently started to emerge.

“We have not escaped the colonial model. Basically, Africa remains a producer and exporter of raw materials,” said Nubukpo.

He gave the example of cotton: 97 percent of Africa’s cotton fibre is exported without processing — the phase which adds value to raw materials and provides jobs.

For Jean-Joseph Boillot, a researcher attached to the French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs, “Africa is still seeking an economic model of development.”

“There is very little development of local industries,” he said.

“This can only be achieved through a very strong approach, of continental industrial protection — but this is undermined by the great powers in order to pursue free trade.

“The Chinese, the Indians and Westerners want to be able to go on distributing their products.”

Governance problem

Lack of democracy, transparency and efficient judicial systems are major brakes on African growth, and wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few, said the experts.

Of the 40 states deemed last year to be the most world’s most corrupt countries, 20 are in sub-Saharan Africa, according to Transparency International.

“Africa is not developing because it is caught in the trap of private wealth and the top wealth holders are African leaders,” said Nubukpo.

“We must promote democracy, free and transparent elections to have legitimate leaders who have the public interest at heart, which we absolutely do not have.”

Nyamnjoh also pointed to marginalised groups — “There should be more room for inclusivity of voices, including voices of the young, voices of women.”

How African Countries Left Their European Colonisers

A Nigerian Military official blows the trumpet during the nation’s 59th independence celebrations. Nigeria achieved independence from Britain on October 1, 1960.

 

A wave of sub-Saharan African countries became independent in the 1960s, 17 achieving self-rule from colonial Belgium, Britain and France in 1960 alone.

Portugal’s colonies would only break free in the 1970s and it took other nations, such as Eritrea, even longer to re-establish their sovereignty.

Here is a breakdown of African decolonisation according to colonising power.

British colonies

In 1957 Ghana became the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to win independence.

Britain tackled the independence of its other territories case by case. Nigeria and Somalia became independent in 1960 and in 1961 it was the turn of Sierra Leone and Tanganyika, which became Tanzania after merging with Zanzibar three years later.

Uganda followed in 1962; Malawi (formerly Nyasaland) and Zambia (formerly Northern Rhodesia) in 1964; and The Gambia in 1965.

Kenya declared independence in 1963 after a brutal crackdown on Mau Mau fighters who battled colonial rule from 1952 to 1960.

Botswana and Lesotho were independent in 1966; Swaziland and Mauritius in 1968; and the Seychelles in 1976.

In 1965 Rhodesia’s white-minority government unilaterally proclaimed independence, which was not recognised by Britain or other countries. A guerrilla war achieved black-majority rule in 1980 and the country was renamed Zimbabwe.

French colonies

In 1958 General Charles de Gaulle called on France’s colonies to choose between joining a Franco-African Community or winning immediate independence. Only Guinea opted for self-rule, declaring independence weeks later.

Fourteen French colonies broke away in 1960: Cameroon in January followed by Senegal, Togo, Madagascar, Dahomey (Benin), Niger, Upper Volta (Burkina Faso), Ivory Coast, Chad, Central African Republic, Congo-Brazzaville, Gabon, Mali and then Mauritania in November.

The process was often difficult, with independence movements facing a harsh ripost from French authorities, for example, in Madagascar where 10,000-100,000 were killed in a clampdown on a 1947 uprising.

The Comoros islands gained independence in 1975, except for Mayotte which decided to remain part of France. Djibouti followed in 1977.

Belgian colonies

Congo, today’s Democratic Republic of Congo, was literally the personal property of Belgian King Leopold II for 23 years before becoming a Belgian colony.

It became independent in 1960, after riots in Leopoldville, today called Kinshasa. Two other Belgian colonies became independent in 1962 under the names of Rwanda and Burundi.

Spanish colonies

Five years after gaining autonomy, Equatorial Guinea became independent in 1968.

In 1975 Spain ceded Western Sahara to Morocco and Mauritania, despite opposition from Polisario Front separatists who declared it as the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic in 1976.

Three years later Mauritania gave up its portion of the disputed territory and it was annexed by Morocco. In 1991, after a 16-year war, Morocco and the Polisario concluded a UN-backed ceasefire.

Today the Western Sahara is the only territory on the African continent whose post-colonial status has not been settled.

Portuguese colonies

Portugal’s dictatorship resisted liberation wars in its colonies of Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde in the early 1960s.

But after it was overthrown in 1974, all four countries achieved independence as did the other Portuguese colony of Sao Tome and Principe.

Other cases

South Africa — first a Dutch and then a British colony, and independent since 1910 — was from 1948 ruled by a white-minority apartheid regime which ended in 1994 with the election of its first black president, Nelson Mandela.

South Africa took over Namibia from Germany after World War I and continued to administer the territory even after a UN mandate was withdrawn in 1966. After a 23-year struggle, Namibia became independent in 1990.

The former Italian colony of Eritrea was in 1952 federated to Ethiopia, which annexed it in 1962. It proclaimed its independence in 1993 after a 30-year independence war.

 

AFP

Pope Francis Decries Extremism In Nigeria, Other African Countries

Pope Francis celebrates from the balcony of St Peter’s basilica during the traditional “Urbi et Orbi” Christmas message to the city and the world, on December 25, 2019 at St Peter’s square in Vatican. Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

 

Pope Francis used his Christmas message on Wednesday to denounce attacks on Christians in Nigeria and other African countries.

He also prayed for victims of conflict, natural disasters and disease on the continent.

The pontiff urged “comfort to those who are persecuted for their religious faith, especially missionaries and members of the faithful who have been kidnapped, and to the victims of attacks by extremist groups, particularly in Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Nigeria.”

The pope prayed for those “who suffer because of violence, natural disasters or outbreaks of disease” as well as migrants undertaking a perilous and potentially deadly sea crossing to Europe to seek a better life.

“It is injustice that makes them cross deserts and seas that become cemeteries,” he said in his “Urbi et Orbi” (To the City and the World) message at the Vatican.

“It is injustice that forces them to ensure unspeakable forms of abuse, enslavement of every kind and torture in inhumane detention camps. It is injustice that turns them away from places where they might have hope for a dignified life, but instead find themselves before walls of indifference.”

Pope Francis also focused on the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, plagued by insecurity for a quarter of a century due to the presence of dozens of local and foreign armed groups.

“May (Jesus Christ) bring peace to those living in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, torn by continuing conflicts,” the 83-year-old pontiff said.

 

AFP

Buhari Arrives In Egypt For ASWAN Forum

 

President Muhammadu Buhari has arrived in Egypt ahead of the ASWAN Forum on Peace and Sustainable Development in Africa.

The forum is expected to hold between Wednesday, December 11 and Thursday, December 12.

It aims to address the interconnections between peace and development in Africa while promoting Africa-led solutions.

Read Also: Buhari, Fintiri, Two Other Governors Depart Abuja For Egypt

The initiative is being launched by the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi in his capacity as the Chairman of the African Union (AU) and as an advocate of post-conflict reconstruction and development in Africa.

President Buhari is expected to return to Abuja on Friday.

New EU Chief Pledges ‘Strong’ Support For Africa

The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen speaks during a briefing to the press during her visit to the African Union in Addis Ababa, on December 7, 2019. EDUARDO SOTERAS / AFP

 

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen assured Africa of the EU’s strong support during a visit to Ethiopia on Saturday, her first trip outside Europe since assuming her post.

The former German defence minister, who took office on December 1, landed in the capital Addis Ababa in the morning and headed to the African Union headquarters for talks with AU chief Moussa Faki Mahamat.

“I hope my presence at the African Union can send a strong political message because the African continent and the African Union matter to the European Union and to the European Commission,” she said after the meeting.

“For us, for the European Union, you are more than just a neighbour.”

Von der Leyen, who has prioritised the fight against climate chang, said the EU and AU could collaborate on the issue.

“You here on the African continent understand climate change better than anyone else,” she said.

She and Faki also discussed migration and security issues.

“Honestly I don’t have all the answers to these challenges but I am convinced that together we can find answers,” she said.

Faki for his part called for greater international mobilisation to counter security threats, including terrorism.

‘We are at your side’

Von der Leyen also met with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, congratulating him on winning this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.

“I think that Ethiopia has given hope to the whole continent,” she said, adding that “I want you to know that we are at your side”.

Abiy thanked her for the EU’s support but said he hoped for more funding to spur economic reforms.

“We’re still demanding more financial support because we are ambitious. As Madam President mentioned, when you are a young prime minister you are also more ambitious and you want to deliver more,” said Abiy, who will receive his Nobel in Oslo on Tuesday.

The EU and Ethiopia also signed agreements worth 170 million euros ($188 million) on Saturday.

Of that sum, 100 million euros will go towards transport and infrastructure in the East African country, 50 million for the health sector, 10 million for job creation and 10 million for elections ahead of landmark polls next year.

Saturday’s agenda also included a sit-down between von der Leyen, the commission’s first woman president, and Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde, the first woman to hold that title.

Speaking to journalists after her meetings, von der Leyen said it was “important” for the EU to continue to support Abiy’s ambitious reform agenda.

“They have started but we need a long breath to see the effects that these reforms are bringing along,” she said.

Migration and security

The EU is Africa’s largest trading partner and biggest source of foreign investment and development aid.

But the two blocs have struggled in recent years to find ways to curb the number of African migrants heading north to Europe using perilous sea routes.

Just this week at least 62 migrants died when a boat capsized off the coast of Mauritania.

Both African and European officials are keen to address the root causes of migration like poverty.

The EU has also been a strong supporter of the AU’s peace and security efforts.

Its African Peace Facility, a mechanism established in 2004, has allocated more than 2.7 billion euros for peace and security operations, targeting 14 African-led operations in 18 countries.

Yet European officials have signalled they want to shift away from providing stipends for troops in places such as Somalia, where the EU is a main backer of the regional peacekeeping force known as AMISOM.

The AU has struggled to get member states to impose a 0.2 percent levy on eligible imports so the body can provide more of its own financing — an initiative the EU supports.

So far just 17 African countries have followed through on that commitment.

 

AFP

Nigeria’s UN Representative, Muhammad-Bande Set To Resume As President Of General Assembly

What We Are Doing To Repatriate Stolen Funds – UNGA President
UNGA President, Professor Tijani Muhammad-Bande

 

Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Professor Tijjani Muhammad-Bande is set to take office as the President of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

This was disclosed in a statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President, Media & Publicity, Garba Shehu.

According to the statement, the ceremony will take place at the UN New York headquarters on September 16 and 17, ahead of the High-Level week of the UNGA when leaders of the nations of the world take turns to address the General Assembly.

Among those who would attend are the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ambassador Ahmed Rufa’i Abubakar and Mr Garba Shehu.

Professor Muhammad-Bande was elected President of the 74th session of the General Assembly by acclamation on Tuesday, June 4.

During the year-long service, Muhammad-Bande is expected to play a role in bridging gaps and promoting collective action to address all international issues that deserve attention, in close coordination and collaboration with the Secretary-General, the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council

He is also expected to ensure the implementation of the existing mandates for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with particular focus on peace and security, poverty eradication, zero hunger, quality education, climate action and inclusion.

Asia, Africa Out Of FIBA World Cup At First Hurdle

Harrison Barnes #8 of USA goes to the basket against Japan during the First Round of the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup on September 5, 2019 at the Shanghai Oriental Sports Center in Shanghai, China. NATHANIEL S. BUTLER / NBAE / GETTY IMAGES / AFP

 

 

It is the largest basketball World Cup ever but there will be no teams from Asia or Africa in the second round of the sport’s global showpiece.

Hosts China with their 1.4 billion population crashed out of contention on Wednesday with a 72-59 defeat to Venezuela.

That came hours after Tunisia surrendered a spot in the next round, and a guaranteed place at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, with an agonising 67-64 loss to Puerto Rico.

Nigeria thrashed South Korea 108-66 at the same time, but the fate of Africa’s highest-ranked team already been sealed after losing both their opening games.

The last time there was no team from Asia or Africa in the second round was in 1998, when the championship had only 16 teams.

Now it has a record 32 but it is almost exclusively teams from the Americas, led by reigning champions the United States, and Europe who will compete for the medals.

Outside of those only Australia, nominally Asian in the FIBA rankings are concerned, have also reached the second round and they could be joined by New Zealand if they beat Greece on Thursday.

Paolo Povia, coach of the Ivory Coast, said there were “a lot of factors” why African sides had failed to make their mark in China.

“There’s definitely a difference in experience and knowledge of the game,” said Povia after his team lost 80-63 to Poland on Wednesday, their third defeat in three games.

“The development of the game (in Africa) is a little inconsistent. In our team we have some guys who have learned to play the game in different places all over the world.

“So you don’t get the same continuity all the time in how the game is learned.”

Basketball is hugely popular in the Philippines but the national team — the joint-shortest at the competition — have lost all three of their matches.

They were drubbed 108-62 and 126-67 by Italy and title-contenders Serbia respectively before narrowly succumbing to already eliminated Angola on Wednesday.

Serbia’s plain-speaking coach Sasha Djordjevic said that the Philippines’ lack of physicality and athleticism “might be the problem”.

“Obviously you are missing quality,” he told a reporter from the Philippines.

After easy wins over the Philippines and Angola, Djordjevic also questioned the format of the enlarged World Cup, containing eight groups of four countries in the first phase.

“There are some groups that from the start you practically know which two teams are going to advance,” he said, shaking his head.

“I don’t know if that’s a good thing for the World Cup in general because what does it serve us?

“What does it serve the Philippine team losing by this points difference?” he said, of Serbia’s 59-point win.

Ousted teams such as the Philippines need to rally themselves, because they now face a low-key “classification” round with Olympic qualifying in play.

Japan PM Warns Africa About Debt As China Grows Presence

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivers a speech during the opening session of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) in Yokohama on August 28, 2019.  TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA / AFP

 

Japan’s prime minister on Thursday warned African leaders against accumulating too much debt, in an apparent reference to Chinese infrastructure projects that some blame for damaging the finances of developing nations.

Addressing leaders from several African nations at a development conference in Yokohama, Shinzo Abe stressed that Tokyo was promoting “quality” infrastructure exports and investments, supported by Japan’s government-backed institutions.

“What should the government do to encourage (entrepreneurs) to exercise their skills?,” Abe asked the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD).

“If partner countries are deeply in debt, it interferes with everyone’s efforts to enter the market,” he said, introducing financing and insurance schemes by Japan’s government-baked institutions aimed at reducing risks to businesses and public coffers.

He also announced that Japan plans to train experts in 30 African countries in next three years on managing risks and public debts.

The comment came as Abe aims to boost Japan’s presence in the promising African market but many businesses are wary of financial and other risks.

But China, with its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative, now enjoys a massive presence in the continent, having announced $60 billion in development funding for Africa last year.

The Chinese efforts, however, have faced criticism for favouring Chinese companies and workers over local economies, saddling nations with debts and ignoring rights and environmental issues.

Japan stresses that its loans and projects come with fewer strings attached and with sound financial advice and support.

Since 1993, Japan has partnered with African countries to hold the TICAD conference around every five years in a drive to promote aid and business opportunities.

Japan, with its own government funding problems, has struggled to increase its foreign aid money.

It has shifted its focus on encouraging the private sector to invest in Africa.

Expert Asks Nigeria To Partner African Countries In Tackling Maritime Insecurity

 

A defence expert, Group Captain Sadeeq Shehu (retired) has asked the Federal Government to partner other African countries in tackling maritime insecurity in the continent.

He made the call on Wednesday during an interview on Channels Television’s breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, three days after President Muhammadu Buhari signed the African Continental Free Trade agreement (AfCFTA).

Shehu noted that since 90 percent of trade is done via maritime, the nation should tighten its security around its water to prevent terrorists from taking advantage of the situation.

“If you don’t have security in your ports, that is going to discourage trade. That will make the trade even more expensive because of the insurance in the maritime industry. If you are saying you are going to the Gulf of Guinea, your premium is going to be higher.

“They believe that there is a higher probability that either piracy or contamination of containers is higher in those areas. So African countries, particularly Nigeria have to work on transport security, transport on roads. 90 percent (of these goods) go by maritime. Of course, there are goods that go by road,” he said.

Speaking on the AfCFTA, Shehu believes that the move would boost continental trade among African countries and beyond and also turn around the economic fortunes of countries.

READ ALSO: Seven Key Facts About AfCFTA

“The African Continental Free Trade Agreement is a Lexus between global or continental trade, human insecurity and also climate change,” he said.

The agreement which has now been signed by 54 of 55 countries is expected to be officially launched later today in what the AU commission Chairman Moussa Faki has said would be a “historic” moment.

It has a goal of creating a single market – the African Continental Free Trade Area, followed by free movement and a single-currency union.

The free-trade area is the largest in the world in terms of participating countries since the formation of the World Trade Organisation.

Member states are required to remove tariffs from 90% of goods, allowing free access to commodities, goods, and services across the continent.

African Leaders Set To Sign Landmark Trade Deal At AU Summit

 

 

African leaders will meet Sunday in Niger for the African Union (AU) summit, to sign a landmark free trade agreement, and to discuss looming security and migration crises on the continent.

In a “historic” moment for the 55-member bloc, according to its chairman Moussa Faki, heads of state will officially launch the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) at the two-day summit in Niamey, the Nigerien capital.

The agreement comes after 17 years of tough negotiations, and was formalised at the end of April when the agreement had crossed the launch threshold, which required ratification by at least 22 countries.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country and largest economy, announced this week it would after all join the pact in Niamey, having unexpectedly pulled back from the agreement last year.

READ ALSO: Buhari Arrives Niamey Ahead Of AU Summit

Nigeria’s chief trade negotiator, Ambassador Chiedu Osakwe, said President Muhammadu Buhari would sign the landmark agreement, “opening Africa up to abundant opportunities.

“We weren’t dragged into this, we are a leading advocate,” Osakwe told AFP. “But it is about assessing how to make it work for Nigeria and indeed the continent.”

State trade ministers agreed the zone should be operational from July 2020, AU Trade and Industry Commissioner Albert Muchanga told AFP, as countries needed time to adapt to the agreed changes.

An official start date will be agreed by heads of state Sunday — with only Benin and Eritrea still to sign the agreement.

There are still key issues that need to be ironed out however, such as setting common criteria to determine rules of origin for traded products.

Amaka Anku, Africa analyst at Eurasia group, described the deal as a positive step but said the AfCFTA was still “a long way from taking off”.

The AU estimates that implementing the AfCFTA will lead to a 60-percent boost in intra-African trade by 2022.

At the moment, African countries trade only about 16 percent of their goods and services among one another, compared to 65 percent with European countries.

High security

Also on the summit agenda is security — an issue afflicting the Sahel in particular.

Summit host Niger has faced constant attacks by jihadist groups.

Its fellow members in the G5-Sahel security pact — Chad, Mali, Burkina Faso and Mauritania — will seek backing at the AU summit to push for a greater UN security force to address the terror threat.

The countries hope to activate Chapter VII of the UN Charter, a Nigerien security source told AFP. The chapter allows for the UN Security Council to determine a threat to peace and propose measures, including military deployment, to deal with it.

“No prosperity, no integration is possible without peace,” said Faki, who stressed the importance of an AU Peace Fund launched in 2018 to finance security activities and called on member states to fulfil their financial promises.

So far, only $116 million has been received for the envisaged $400-million fund.

Niamey is under high surveillance, with summit facilities subjected to strict access controls and a heavy security presence.

“We have a special unit of several thousand men” on duty, said Defence Minister Mohamed Bazoum.

The city has been revamped and boasts a brand-new airport, upgraded roads, and new hotels for the occasion.

Migration crisis

The leaders will also discuss boosting intelligence cooperation and the global migration crisis.

An airstrike Tuesday on a migrant detention centre near the Libyan capital, Tripoli, killed 53 and injured more than 130.

The AU’s Peace and Security Council on Friday condemned what it called a “savage attack”, calling for an independent inquiry into the incident.

AU member states needed to quickly repatriate their nationals from Libya “in order to prevent any further exploitation of their fragile situation,” they said in a statement.