By Ahmed Rahma
The Director of the Macroeconomic Policy, Forecasting and Research Department of African Development Bank (AfDB), Ms Hanan Morsy, has described agriculture as an important tool for inter-regional food integration.
Ms Morsy said this at the African Economic Conference 2020 themed Africa beyond COVID-19: Accelerating towards inclusive sustainable development and organised by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), African Development Bank and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
“The agriculture sector is among the most vulnerable. Agriculture is important not only for food security issues but also for inter-regional food integration,” she said.
“We see this as an area that needs particular support, an area of opportunity going forward to increase inter-regional integration and to increase resilience against external shocks,” Ms Morsy added.
During a high-level panel session titled Africa beyond COVID-19: How to move towards inclusive and sustainable development, participants proposed tapping renewable sources of energy, adopting new technologies and leveraging the African Free Trade Agreement as some of the ways African countries are working to build back better from the COVID-19 crisis.
The panellist included Director Morsy, Bartholomew Armah Chief, Renewal of Planning Section Macroeconomic Policy Division; Ahunna Eziakonwa, Assistant Administrator and Director Regional for Africa, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); Sanjay Pradhan, Chief Executive Officer, Open Government Partnership; Dorothy Jane Anika, Convener, Young Women in Political Party Leadership (Kenya) and, Member, UN Women Beijing 25+ Global Youth Task Force; and Dr Raymond Gilpin,
Chief Economist and Head of Strategy, Analysis and Research at UNDP Africa.
Speaking, Pradhan said, “We are seeing a catastrophic health crisis, a devastating economic crisis, a climate crisis that is ravaging communities, a crisis of inequality laid bare by the pandemic and a crisis of democracy reflecting citizens eroding trust in their governments. No single stakeholder group can tackle these crises on its own.”
“This year, we published a report that looked at what it would take to provide a temporary basic income in a COVID-19 affected world, and this is most important for Africa, where most people do not have any safety net to address the ravages of COVID-19,” Gilpin said.
According to Anika, “People need to see a human face and human feeling in response to COVID-19.”
World Bank Gives $300m Budget Support to Mozambique
By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh
By June, the World Bank plans to provide $300 million to support the national budget of the Republic of Mozambique, according to the World Bank country director for Mozambique, Idah Pswarayi-Riddihough.
After a meeting with the Mozambican Minister of Economy and Finance, Max Tonela, the global lender’s country director said that priority sectors would include health, education, energy and agriculture. The budget support proposal will be presented to the World Bank board by June.
“We are talking about the first instalment of 300 million dollars, which we hope to take to our administration for approval by 30 June this year. Then we can consider other windows of financing for 2023 and 2024”, said Pswarayi-Riddihough.
International organizations and financial institutions have returned after the Government of Mozambique started to undertake necessary reforms.
In April, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) also returned with a set of new funded programmes to Mozambique, six years after the lender halted its previous deals in the wake of a financial scandal involving three fraudulent security-linked companies, and two banks – Credit Suisse and VTB of Russia, on the basis of illicit loan guarantees issued by the government under former President Armando Guebuza.
Popularly referred to as the “Hidden Debts” scandal involving $2.7 billion (€2.3 million), the financial scandal happened in 2013, and the case has since left an image of a corrupt country and brought high-level government officials to testify as witnesses in the controversial judicial trial. It prompted 14 foreign donors, including IMF, to cut off aid and simultaneously sparked a currency collapse and debt crisis.
The IMF said in a report that its funds would be used to support sustainable, inclusive economic growth and long-term macroeconomic stability, in the world’s third poorest country measured by gross domestic product (GDP) per capita. The programmes will address transparency in debt management and the natural resource sector.
Unlike many of Mozambique’s other partners, the World Bank did not cut off financial assistance entirely after the scandal of Mozambique’s “Hidden Debts” became public knowledge in April 2016. World Bank aid continued, but in relatively small amounts, project by project.
Now the bank seems prepared to return to the modality of direct budget support. Pswarayi-Riddihough said that the improvement in good governance supposedly recorded in recent years contributed to the resumption of World Bank support. She claimed that this was an important step toward regaining the trust of the country’s partners.
Major work had been undertaken around questions of transparency and good governance, she alleged – but admitted that Mozambican civil society is continuing to demand greater advances in these areas. Mozambique’s new programme with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), she added, could give a strong signal to the market. Indeed, it will send a strong signal to all of Mozambique’s partners.
The agreement between Mozambique and the IMF, approved by the IMF Executive Board, will make $456 million available to the country. An amount of $91 million will become available immediately. At the time, Tonela said the agreement with the IMF marked the start of a new phase, leading to the resumption of sustainable growth of the Mozambican economy.
With an approximate population of 30 million, Mozambique is endowed with rich and extensive natural resources but remains one of the poorest and most underdeveloped countries in the world. It is a member of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC).
Adesina Seeks US Support to Fund $1.5bn Africa Food Plan
By Adedapo Adesanya
The President of the African Development Bank (AfDB) Group, Mr Akinwumi Adesina, has appealed to the United States to back the institution’s $1.5 billion emergency food production plan which seeks to avert a looming food crisis in Africa caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Mr Adesina was part of a team that testified about global food insecurity and persisting impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic before the US Senate subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs.
Senators Chris Coons (Delaware), Lyndsey Graham (South Carolina), Dick Durbin (Illinois), Chris Van Hollen (Maryland) and Roy Blunt (Missouri) also participated in the hearing.
Senator Coons, Chair of the Senate subcommittee, stressed that the US should move fast and provide sufficient funding, saying, “We should be concerned and even alarmed about the widening food security crisis that this war is causing for hundreds of millions far beyond Eastern Europe.”
On his part, Senator Graham expressed support for the establishment of a global fund for food security.
Speaking live via videoconference from Accra, Ghana, Mr Adesina said the proposed Africa Emergency Food Production Plan would result in the rapid production of 38 million tons of food across Africa over the next two years.
“The African Development Bank, with your support, is prepared to meet this new challenge and others head-on,” he said.
He explained that the plan is anchored on the provision of certified seeds of climate-adapted varieties to 20 million African farmers and with the disruption of food supplies arising from the Russia-Ukraine war, Africa faces a shortage of at least 30 million metric tons of food, especially wheat, maize, and soybeans imported from the two countries.
Speaking further, the AfDB chief said the lender would invest $1.3 billion in the plan’s implementation and called on the US to make up the funding balance.
“With US support to reduce the $200 million financing gap – we can ensure the Africa Emergency Food Production Plan’s success,” he said.
The Africa Emergency Food Production Plan is currently before the bank’s Board of Directors for approval.
Also providing testimony were Mr David Beasley, Executive Director of the World Food Programme and Ms Tjada D’Oyen McKenna, Chief Executive Officer of non-governmental organization Mercy Corps.
Ms McKenna said, “A perfect storm is leading to heightened global food insecurity, worse, much worse than the previous food crises over the past decade.” She cited the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change as factors sharpening the current food insecurity.
Mr Beasley said food insecurity had already begun to rise sharply before the war. He said 135 million people were acutely food-insecure before the onset of the pandemic. “COVID comes along and that number went from 135 million to 276 million people marching toward starvation.”
Mr Adesina, then, emphasized that the African Development Bank’s food production plan would foster the production of nutritious food rather than simply calories.
“One of the things we will be supporting through this emergency food production plan is bio-fortified foods. Sorghum fortified with iron. Nutritional supplementation is important,” he said
The bank’s president also said the AfDB was setting up meetings with international fertilizer companies to discuss ways to ensure that African farmers continued to have access to such inputs.
“If we don’t solve the fertilizer problem, we cannot solve the food problem.
According to him, the Africa Emergency Food Production Plan would have a long-term impact on Africa’s food productivity.
The initiative will “drive the structural changes in agriculture, to unleash the full potential of Africa to become a breadbasket to the world.”
Elon Musk Puts Twitter Acquisition on Hold
By Adedapo Adesanya
In a new turn of events, Elon Musk on Friday put his $44 billion deal to acquire Twitter Inc temporarily on hold.
The world’s richest man is carrying out the decision to put the Twitter acquisition on hold citing pending details in support of the calculation that spam and fake accounts indeed represent less than 5 per cent of users.
“Twitter deal temporarily on hold pending details supporting calculation that spam/fake accounts do indeed represent less than 5% of users,” Mr Musk tweeted on Friday.
This latest move sent the shares of the social media company falling 18 per cent to $37.10 in premarket trading, their lowest level since he disclosed his stake in the company in early April and subsequently made a best and final offer to take it private for $54.20 per share.
Twitter had earlier this month estimated that false or spam accounts represented fewer than 5% of its monetizable daily active users during the first quarter when it recorded 229 million users who were served to advertise.
Mr Musk, a self-proclaimed free speech absolutist, had said that one of his priorities would be to remove “spam bots” from the platform.
This is the latest drama ensuing from the deal after its General Manager of Consumer, Mr Keyvon Beykpour, was relieved of his job on Thursday as part of a major shake-up in the company heralding Elon Musk’s takeover.
The disappointed Beykpour took to the social medial platform to announce the termination of his appointment and said he got the shocking message while still on paternity leave.
According to him, the CEO of Twitter, Mr Parag Agrawal asked him to leave “after letting me know that he wants to take the team in a different direction.” Mr Beykpour, says he never imagined leaving Twitter in such a manner and time.
Mr Musk has other specific plans for Twitter products like verifying users who pay for Twitter Blue subscriptions, charging for embedded tweets, and other changes designed to grow Twitter revenue and users.
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