The Presidents of ECOWAS countries are calling for the cancellation of all debts owed by African countries.
They made the call on Thursday at the opening session of the ECOWAS Extraordinary Summit where the leaders made their various contributions via a video conference call.
The teleconference, which had President Muhammadu Buhari in attendance, was presided over by the President of the Republic of Niger and Chair of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, Mahamadou Issoufou.
President Issoufou made the statement on behalf of the ECOWAS leaders in attendance before the meeting went into a closed-door session.
Meanwhile, the ECOWAS presidents have appointed President Buhari as the Champion of the COVID-19 response.
The President’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, disclosed this in a statement at the end of the meeting.
During the teleconference, President Buhari had called on fellow ECOWAS leaders to look beyond the challenges posed by the COVID -19 pandemic and tap into various opportunities it has presented for the betterment of lives in member states.
“In every challenging situation such as the current one, there are also opportunities,” he was quoted as saying in the statement.
The President added, “Our region must, therefore, seek to find those opportunities provided by this gloomy global outlook for its benefit by embarking on the implementation of such critical policies, which before now, will be difficult to accept.”
He called on his colleagues to intensify collaboration in order to save the region from the pandemic by sharing their experiences and best practices.
President Buhari also highlighted some of the measures taken by his government in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, has called on oil-producing African countries to think of a world beyond oil.
He emphasised the importance of redoubling efforts at using oil and gas revenues to pursue diversification, investment in infrastructure and human capital, which according to him, will ensure future economic growth and development.
The Vice-President said this on Monday while declaring opened the Extraordinary Session of the Council of Ministers of African Petroleum Producers Organisation (APPO).
The event is organised by the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Nigeria and is currently holding at the Lagos-Osun Hall, Transcorp Hilton in Abuja.
The Vice President at the event also said Africa needs a united front in the global energy discussion.
He asked that the APPO fund be opened to all, to allow private sector investments just like Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in order to overcome financial challenges as Africa has no reason or excuse to fail.
He underpins that a revitalised APPO will contribute tremendously to the development of the African Oil and Gas industry.
Forty-four African countries have signed an agreement establishing a free trade area seen as vital to the continent’s economic development, the head of the African Union said Wednesday.
The creation of a free trade area — billed as the world’s largest in terms of participating countries — comes after two years of negotiations and is one of the AU’s flagship projects for greater African integration.
“The agreement establishing the CFTA (African Continental Free Trade Area) was signed by 44 countries,” said Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairman of the AU commission.
However, the agreement will still have to be ratified at a national level and is only due to come into force in 180 days.
Nigeria is notably absent from the signatories after President Muhammadu Buhari pulled out of this week’s launch in Rwanda saying he needed more time for consultations at home.
One of Africa’s largest markets, Nigeria hesitated after objections from business leaders and unions — a sign that getting the deal through scores of national parliaments may face several hurdles.
“Some countries have reservations and have not finalised their national consultations. But we shall have another summit in Mauritania in July where we expect countries with reservations to also sign,” said Albert Muchanga, the AU Commissioner for Trade and Industry.
However other economic powerhouses South Africa, Kenya, Morocco, Egypt, Ethiopia and Algeria — known for strict protectionist policies restricting imports and exports — did sign the deal.
If all 55 African Union members eventually sign up, it will create a bloc with a cumulative GDP of $2.5 trillion (2 trillion euros) and cover a market of 1.2 billion people.
Currently, African countries only do about 16 percent of their business with each other, the smallest amount of intra-regional trade compared to Latin America, Asia, North America and Europe.
And with average tariffs of 6.1 percent, businesses currently pay higher tariffs when they export within Africa than when they export outside it, according to the AU.
“If we remove customs and duties by 2022, the level of intra-African trade will increase by 60 percent, which is very, very significant,” Muchanga told AFP in an interview before the summit.
‘No room for the weak’
Proponents of the deal argue that African economies on their own are too small to support economic diversification and industrialisation on their own and will benefit from having a unified platform to negotiate trade deals with wealthier nations.
The “CFTA will make Africa one of the largest economies in the world and enhance its capacity to interact on equal terms with other international economic blocs,” said Faki in a speech before the signing ceremony.
“The world is changing, and changing at a great speed. International competition is fierce. It leaves no room for the weak.”
However, critics highlight a dearth of roads and other infrastructure linking different African nations, as well as the fact that many countries do not manufacture goods their neighbours may want to import, as challenges to the deal.
Sola Afolabi, a Nigeria-based international trade consultant, told AFP the fact already-existing regional trade blocs were not working, should be a red flag.
“If there is no reward for compliance and there is no punishment for non-compliance, then it is going to be a very nice agreement without any teeth or any legs,” he said.
Breaking the trend
Faki acknowledged that Africans “have seen so many proclamations remain a dead letter, so many commitments without practical execution that they have come to doubt the strength of our commitment.”
He urged for a break in this trend, calling for a deal that “must confound those who, outside Africa, continue to think — with barely-concealed condescension — that our decisions will never materialise.”
The CFTA is a key part of the AU’s long-term development plan Agenda 2063, which calls for easing trade and travel across the continent.
At its most recent summit in Ethiopia in January, AU member states agreed to a common air transport market that could drive down airfares, as well as plans for visa-free travel for Africans across the continent.
Also on Wednesday, 27 countries signed the protocol agreeing to the free movement of persons across the continent.
A Nigerian lawmaker, Senator Shehu Sani is urging immigration agencies in Africa to join in the initiative to stop illegal and dangerous migration across the Mediterranean sea.
Several persons have died making attempts to cross the sea to Europe, but Mr Sani is optimistic that adequate collaboration would save the lives and future of thousands of young Africans.
Senator Sani made the appeal on Wednesday at a meeting with the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Immigration Service, Mohammed Babandede.
The Senator stated that the Pan-African Initiative Against Illegal and Dangerous Migration (PAIIDAM) is set to stem the tide of human trafficking which leads to abuse and death by bringing enlightenment and economic succor through joint collaboration.
Nigeria is currently 3rd among countries with high rate of illegal migration whose citizens are rescued daily across foreign waters.
Following the legislation by Nigeria’s National Assembly in 2015 criminalising smuggling of migrants, the Immigration Comptroller General, Mohammed Babandede, says collaboration and sharing of expertise with other African countries is vital in order to nab the perpetrators.
After decades of stagnation, a report by Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa says African countries have enjoyed sustained agricultural productivity growth since 2005.
The report was released on Tuesday Nairobi, Kenya.
The African Agriculture status report says countries that embraced agriculture as a business have seen increases in food production, Gross Domestic Product and nutrition.
Africa remains the world’s most food insecure continent, with relatively low levels of agricultural productivity, low rural incomes, high rates of malnutrition and a worsening food trade balance.
But the trend is changing as a result of the introduction of the African Union’s Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Programme which was created in 2003.
A key component of the programme is its call for African governments to allocate 10 per cent of national budgets to agriculture and to aim for six per cent annual growth in the sector.
Safest Path For Development
Countries that adopted the policies not long after its creation have seen productivity in the agriculture sector rise between 5.9 to 6.7 per cent.
Channels Television’s correspondent, Ayoola Kassim, in Kenya quoted the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa which released the report, as saying that the last 10 years have made a strong case for agriculture, as a safest path for sustainable development.
“If Africa’s agriculture grows and prospers, not only will Africa be able to feed itself better, but the whole price of food in the world market will be fundamentally different,” a Professor of Agricultural, Food and Resources Economics, Thomas Jayne, said.
Nigeria is one of the 13 countries which have adopted the policy and are reaping its reward, but the authors of the report believe that these countries still have to double their efforts for a meaningful agricultural transformation.
The Director for Africa, International Food Policy Research Institute, Dr. Ousmane Badiane, predicted that prices in the global market would skyrocket and asked African countries to take position by increasing involvement in agriculture.
He warned that African countries would be losing money if it they failed to take increase involvement.
“Not only will we have missed the opportunity to sell and make money, everything we are going to buy will be more costly to us. The challenge is just big. The opportunities are there and that is why we need to double our efforts just like the government and stakeholders have to go for excellence in managing the economy,” Dr. Badiane.
The challenges facing agriculture in Africa are many, but progress in the sector is possible when backed with political will, the right policies and technology transfer to improve productivity and reduce post harvest losses.
There is also the need for farmers to have access to quality seeds and of course land reforms that will free up lands for food production.
The report found out that the sustained agricultural productivity growth since 2005 had resulted in decline in poverty rates in places like Ghana, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Burkina Faso.
It also noted that agriculture had had its biggest impact in countries that moved quickly to embrace the African Union’s Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), which was created in 2003.
A key component of CAADP was its call for African governments to allocate 10 per cent of national budgets to agriculture and to aim for six percent annual growth in the sector.
The AGRA report also noted that even if they did not hit the 10 per cent targets, early adopters of the CAADP goals have seen productivity on existing farmlands rise by 5.9 to 6.7 per cent per year.
This boost in turn helped spur a 4.3 per cent average annual increase in overall GDP. Those later to the game achieved anywhere from a 3 to 5.7 per cent growth in farm productivity and a 2.4 to 3.5 per cent increase in GDP.
Meanwhile, countries that sat on the sidelines saw farm productivity rise by less than three per cent and GDP rise by only 2.2 per cent.
The trend is similar for declines in malnutrition, with countries that have embraced the CAADP process experiencing annual declines ranging from 2.4 to 5.7 percent, while those who have not averages only a 1.2 percent decline.
“It is clear that with agriculture now back at the top of Africa’s development agenda, the foundations have been laid for a renaissance in African agriculture that could quickly deliver benefits to the broader economy,” one of the report’s lead authors, who is head of Monitoring and Evaluation for AGRA, David Ameyaw, said.
Former AGRA President, Dr. Namanga Ngongi, who chairs the Board of Trustees for the African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership, said the report should set the stage for a productive meeting when political leaders and agriculture experts converge on Nairobi later this week.
“My hope is that this incisive analysis of the current state of African agriculture will stimulate a more profound and impassioned debate about the kinds of investments and initiatives now required to make transformation of this sector a reality,” Dr. Ngongi said.
The Islamic Movement in Nigeria has faulted the call for its ban by the Supreme Council for Sharia in Nigeria (SCSN).
The spokesman for the Shiites, Mr Ibrahim Musa, made the observation on Monday during in telephone interview with Channels Television.
He claimed that the Sharia group had never respected the beliefs of the movement led by Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, saying they are not surprised at such call.
“The group called Supreme Council for Sharia in Nigeria is a group of some people that are known for their hate campaigns against anybody who is not following their own religious belief, especially Christians and we who are followers of Shiite Islamic faith.
“Islamic Movement in Nigeria is just a collection of Muslims who believe that Muslims should be guided by Allah’s teaching and his prophet’s teachings.
They noted that the acts of impunity exhibited by the Shiite group over the years in Zaria, Kaduna State and other states in Nigeria’s northern region, were against the teachings of Islam and the Nigerian Constitution.
The Islamic group re-emphasised the urgent need to proscribe the Shiites for the interest of peace and security of Nigeria.
The Kaduna State chapter of the Supreme Council for Sharia in Nigeria (SCSN) has called on the Federal Government, to ban all activities of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria and prosecute their leader, Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky.
The Muslim leaders maintained that the acts of impunity exhibited by the group over the years in Zaria and other states in Nigeria’s northern region, were against the teachings of Islam and the Nigerian Constitution.
They re-emphasised the urgent need to proscribe the Shiites for the interest of peace and security of Nigeria.
The spokesman for the SCSN, Sheikh Muhammad Suleiman, told reporters that failure of the government to deal decisively with the alleged excesses of the Shiites would pose a great security risk for the country.
The Islamic group also called on the Federal Government to stop the herdsmen crisis by checkmating the influx of herdsmen that come into Nigerian from other neighbouring African countries.
They stated that the armed herdsmen that have been attacking and killing innocent citizens in some parts of the country are not Nigerians.
President Muhammadu Buhari said on Monday in Abuja that Nigeria will fulfil its financial obligation to the African Union (AU), particularly on programmes and operations aimed at ensuring durable peace, stability and security on the continent.
Receiving the AU Envoy on the Peace Fund, Dr. Donald Kaberuka, President Buhari said that supporting peace operations, under the auspices of the AU, in several countries affected by conflict remains a foreign policy priority for his administration.
Despite competing priorities on security and the economic downturn in the country, the President assured the AU envoy that Nigeria will also play a central role in seeking the EU and the UN to strengthen their support for crisis-prone African countries.
The President used the occasion of the visit of the AU envoy to weigh-in on the situation in South Sudan and appeal for peace and calm in the country.
“What is happening in South Sudan is extremely disturbing and it is a very dicey situation.
“The AU leadership has a crucial role in stabilizing the country and other African countries on the brink.
“What we can do urgently to stabilize South-Sudan is very important as African leaders meet in Kigali, Rwanda this month and later in September at the UN,” the President said.
In his remarks, Kaberuka said funding AU-led peace support operations, which had remained a challenge for member-countries was further compounded early this year with the EU cut in its allocation to the AU Mission in Somalia by 20 per cent.
Kaberuka said the AU summit in Kigali is expected to agree on a roadmap of alternative financing for AU-led peace support operations, including a proposal for African nations to fund 25 per cent of the Fund’s budget while UN contributes the balance.
The President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, has asked African nations to explore other sources of generating power.
He is also urging countries to device other means to move faster and unlock all the potential energy mix which lie untapped across the continent if Africa must meet the 10 gigawatts of electricity by 2020.
Light Up And Power Africa
Dr. Adesina told reporters on Monday at the 2016 AfDB meeting in Lusaka, Zambia, that Africa was currently seating on at least 11 terawatts of unutilised solar energy, 350 gigawatts of hydro and 150 gigawatts of wind power that must be unlocked.
He said proper planning of Africa’s power development was urgently required and attention must be paid to three key needs for power which are light, base load for industries and clean cooking.
Board of governors and officials from 80 member countries on the continent will converge over the next five days for the 51st AfDB’s annual meeting, with a key focus on energy and climate change. It will also focus on one of the regional bank’s high five priority areas which is to ‘light up and power Africa’.
Ninety-six per cent of Zambia’s nearly 2,400 megawatts of electricity is said to be sourced from hydro-power while Nigeria’s all time high of 4600 megawatts comes from hydro-power and gas.
In both countries, as in other African countries, other sources of power such as solar, coal, biomass, lignite and oil remain largely untapped.
With the 10 gigawatts target for Africa by 2020, African countries must hasten to meet the ‘light up and power Africa’ objective with the support of the African Development Bank.
President Muhammadu Buhari is holding bilateral talks with his Turkish counterpart, Mr Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The Turkish President, who arrived in Abuja at about midday on Wednesday, was accorded all the presidential honour by the presidential guards before both leaders retired into the President’s office for the meeting.
At the meeting, President Buhari said that his administration would not be demoralised by the terror situation in the nation’s northeast.
He maintained that the Federal government would remain focused on its resolve to develop the country, create jobs for the teeming youths as well as provide security.
“We will maintain focus in terms of developing our country, creating job for our people and maintaining security,” he said.
President Buhari commended Turkey for identifying with Nigeria at all times, especially now that terrorism was ravaging the whole world.
He expressed gratitude to the Turkish government for training the Nigerian Police on how to deal with insurgency issues.
In his remark, President Erdogan described Nigeria as a global actor in peace keeping, promising to maintain strategic partnership with the government and people of Nigeria in the areas of trade, economy, military and culture.
President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria says the global community must resolve to act with more determination and vigour against radicalisation and extremist ideologies which encourage terrorism.
The President made the statement on Wednesday while speaking at a memorial service in Eldoret, Kenya, held in honour of the Kenyan soldiers that were killed recently by Al-Shabaab in Somalia.
President Buhari said that peace-loving nations of the world must come together and deal with the threat posed to global security by terrorism with greater zeal and cohesion.
‘Defeating Undesirable Elements’
“Terrorists should not have a place in our communities, villages, towns, cities and countries. We must all rise against the culture of intolerance, hatred and extremist ideologies, which drive terrorism.
“We must also act with more firmness against radicalisation and all those who promote values and principles that threaten our unity and cohesion as a people.
“Nigeria is willing to work with Kenya, other African countries and the global community at large with a view to defeating these undesirable elements.
“We must take the battle to the terrorists whoever they are and wherever they are. This requires commitment, sacrifice, resources, collaboration and above all, a realisation that no country is immune to the scourge, as terrorists do not respect national boundaries, race, colour, religion or creed,” President Buhari said.
The President applauded the bravery of Nigerian and Kenyan soldiers as well as other defence forces around the world whom he said had remained faithful and committed to the cause of ensuring a secure and peaceful world in spite of daunting challenges.
He further paid special tribute to the Kenyan soldiers who lost their lives in the terrorist attack on their base in Somalia.
“I wish to use this occasion to pay tribute to all the fallen heroes of the El Adde attack and pray for the repose of their souls. In our efforts to collaboratively tackle terrorism, it is our sacred duty as leaders, politicians and compatriots to ensure that the blood of these fallen heroes was not shed in vain,” he said.
President Buhari, who is on a three-day state visit to Kenya, attended the memorial service in the company of his host, President Uhuru Kenyatta and President Hassan Mohamoud of Somalia.