Famine: UN Scribe Seeks Further Funding
By Dipo Olowookere
On the eve of the London Somalia Conference, United Nations Secretary-General, Mr António Guterres, has called for further scale-up of the humanitarian response in Somalia and strengthening of the partnership between the international community, the Federal Government of Somalia and humanitarian partners to avert famine.
Somalia is facing prolonged drought which has left 6.7 million people — more than half the population of the country – in need of humanitarian assistance.
The situation continues to deteriorate and the possibility of famine in 2017 remains very real, despite an already massive scale-up of assistance since the beginning of the year.
Over 680,000 people have been displaced due to drought in Somalia since November 2016, bringing the total number to 1.8 million. Major disease outbreaks are spreading, with over 36,000 cases of AWD/Cholera and 7,000 cases of suspected measles so far this year. Acute malnutrition is increasing in most parts of the country.
“Since my visit to Baidoa in March, authorities and humanitarian partners have worked together to make extraordinary strides to rapidly reach millions of vulnerable Somalis with water, food and critical health and nutrition services,” Mr Guterres said. “Thanks to early generous funding provided by countries across the globe, we have managed to avert a famine so far. But the level of suffering is unimaginable and we fear the worst.”
The UN Secretary-General and Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed will present a revised humanitarian response plan to prevent famine in Somalia, to international partners at the London Somalia Conference tomorrow. The revised plan seeks US$1.5 billion to reach 5.5 million people with life-saving assistance in 2017. In response to the early alarm that Somalia is at risk of famine, donors have generously provided $672 million since the beginning of the year, leaving a gap of $875 million.
With the resources received thus far, there has been a massive scale-up of the response and millions of people at risk of starvation and disease are being reached with assistance and protection. Further funding is still required to reach millions of people in urgent need of assistance as the current rainy season is expected to produce below-normal rainfalls, necessitating a sustain response through December.
The London Somalia Conference is hosted by the United Kingdom and convenes international partners to accelerate progress on security sector reform, build on the international response to the ongoing drought and humanitarian crisis and agree the new international partnership needed to keep Somalia on course for increased peace and prosperity.
Russian, African Parliamentarians Stand Against United States in Africa
By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh
Russia and African parliamentarians continue forging solidarity against growing neo-colonial tendencies in Africa. The parliamentarians, far ahead of their symbolic gathering, have intensified political dialogue and support for Russia’s war on neighbouring Ukraine and further expressed readiness to support Africa’s economic development.
Russia has come under stringent economic sanctions from the United States and Europe due to the ‘special military operation’ that it began in February 2022, more than a year that has adversely affected Africa. It has also divided Africa’s voting at the United Nations, with some experts arguing that such sharp divisions, in terms of voting either for or against, abstaining or keeping neutral, could influence Africa’s unity in the continent.
Some policy experts still expect high symbolism at the 2023 Russia-Africa summit as official working visits have become more frequent and Africa receives greater coverage in Russian media. The experts say instead of measuring the success of the summit by African leaders’ attendance, as happened in 2019, the parties give greater attention to the substance of the agenda, which is under development. Russia should try to increase its presence in Africa while avoiding direct confrontation with other non-regional and foreign players.
According to the experts, Russia’s efforts, for now, are not practically showing tangible results. Russia has to open its doors more to African visitors and tourists; these could bring together anyone interested in expanding all-inclusive dialogue and anyone who is ready to help promote initiatives possibly for increasing socio-economic development between Russia and the African states and raising the well-being of their citizens.
That however, undeterred by the pressure from the United States ‘to cancel Russia’ in their relationship, African parliamentarians have arrived in Moscow for a two-day working gathering to methodically develop Russian-African relations in various fields. In addition, to the political dialogue, they are also focusing on economic, cultural, humanitarian and scientific cooperation.
According to the plan, Russian parliamentarians and African colleagues fixed topical issues of the international parliamentary agenda for discussions: parliamentary support of scientific and educational cooperation, a legislative response to economic challenges, indivisible security: capabilities and contributions of parliaments, and neocolonialism of the West: how to prevent the repetition of history.
On March 20, the main conference entitled “Russia-Africa in the multipolar world” at the State Duma (the Pillar Hall of the House of the Unions). More than 40 official parliamentary delegations from almost all African countries have already arrived for the conference. Representatives of the scientific, educational and expert communities from Russia and African countries, members of the State Duma, federal executive authorities, senators of the Federation Council, and chairmen of the legislative bodies of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation.
There was a bilateral meeting of the Chairman of the State Duma, Vyacheslav Volodin and the Speaker of the National Assembly of the Parliament of South Africa, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, at the State Duma. The Speaker stressed that the Republic highly appreciated the dialogue with Russia.
Speaker Volodin noted that attempts by Washington and Brussels to isolate Africa and Russia have failed. He is convinced that the parliaments could do a lot for further development of relations on the principles of respect, non-interference in the internal affairs of other states and mutually beneficial cooperation.
He stressed that relations between Russia and the Republic of South Africa were developing with the help of cooperation between the presidents of the two states. “We have great capabilities, and we should use the parliamentary dimension to do everything to enhance our cooperation in various areas,” added Volodin. He suggested preparing and signing a relevant agreement between the State Duma and the National Assembly of the Parliament of South Africa, as well as creating a high-level commission. Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula supported his suggestion.
Mapisa-Nqakula thanked Vyacheslav Volodin for sending the invitation to take part in the Parliamentary Conference before adding “It is very important for us that Russia gives priority to the African continent. Many countries consider Africa as a great possibility to get African resources. But taking into account the history of our cooperation, we, like many other African countries, believe that Russia has other, more genuine interests in Africa.”
“Our cooperation started decades ago. And we felt your support in the worst times for us, during apartheid. We understand that now it is a difficult time for Russia as a country. But I would like to assure you that South Africa will continue cooperation and discuss areas of cooperation that are important for us. We look forward to its start,” said Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.
The speakers also discussed issues of cooperation within the framework of the BRICS, as it is South Africa’s chairmanship. “For us, the cooperation between the parliaments within the BRICS framework is very important, as we can discuss issues of common interest,” emphasized the Speaker of the National Assembly of the Parliament of South Africa.
“Our Conference will be an important stage in the process of preparing for the second Russia-Africa summit, which is planned to be held in Saint Petersburg this summer with the participation of the heads of state,” concluded the Chairman of the State Duma.
According to reports monitored by this author, there are 17 specialized working groups that focus on various areas of cooperation between Russia and Africa. The expectation is that these working would come up with useful initiatives to be incorporated into an action plan for 2023-2026 and further cement the entire complex of relations between Russia and the African countries.
Russian President Vladimir Putin will speak at the Russia-Africa parliamentary conference on Monday, Kremlin aide Yury Ushakov told reporters. “On March 20, when the president receives the Chinese leader, he will address the 2nd parliamentary conference Russia-Africa,” Ushakov, who heads the organizing committee of the summit, said, adding that the event would pave the way for the 2nd Russia-Africa summit, scheduled to take place from July 27-28 in St. Petersburg, second largest city of Russia.
Moldcell Begins Digital Financial Services in Moldova
By Aduragbemi Omiyale
One of the leading mobile network operators in Moldova, Moldcell, has commenced digital financial services in the country through a digital wallet known as Moldcell Money, bringing a new level of convenience and security to its customers.
The service, which is available through the moldcell money app, allows subscribers of any mobile network in the country to easily transfer money and pay for services directly from their mobile wallet.
This financial service is supported by Comviva, the global leader in digital financial solutions, which has deployed its flagship mobiquity Pay platform to make the service seamless.
Users can make payments with their mobile numbers without the need for bank cards or cash and can transfer money to any mobile phone number or pay for services directly from the mobile app. The service also provides the ability to transfer money using an SMS code or through any Moldcell Center store, ensuring the safety of personal data and instant payment.
“Our solution, moldcell money, is the first fintech service on the telecommunications market in Moldova, the purpose of which is to offer subscribers of all communication networks a wide range of financial services.
“The solution consists of three main components: the moldcell money mobile application, which offers various services such as payments, bills, loans, government payments, gaming payments, money transfers to loved ones and bonuses; financial services available in direct Moldcell stores throughout the country, which makes transfers and payments convenient, simple and accessible; possibility to make payments with Moldcell number exclusively for Moldcell subscribers, offering an additional advantage of comfort and simplicity,” the Mobile Financial Services and Business Innovation Director at Moldcell, Olga Pavlic, said.
“Comviva has been the industry leader in the payment space, and our work on this market-first project in the region shall set the stage for many more exciting developments in the payments space in the region.
“We are thrilled to partner with Moldcell in their digitization initiative that will offer a modern, digital-first and secure way to manage payments,” the Chief Transformation Officer for Digital Financial Solutions at Comviva, Srinivas Nidugondi, stated.
Georgia Senate Rejects Sports Betting Proposal
Georgia’s state senate has refused to pass legislation legalizing and regulating sports betting within its borders. The defeat of Senate Bill 57 is one of several efforts to legalize sports betting for Georgians in recent times in the midst of the fight against illegal gambling. Despite the opposition of some parties within the state, the proposed legislation to legalize sports betting in Atlanta has the support of various business groups and professional sports teams.
Opponents of the Bill
Senate Bill 57 was defeated by a vote of 37-19 in the Senate. The bill would have required the state lottery to offer horse racing sports betting as long as the track paid out winnings rather than using a wagering pool system. The traditional system of pari-mutuel wagering allows the odds to be adjusted until the race begins.
The bill received insufficient support in the chamber before the Legislature’s internal deadline, lowering its chances of becoming law. Such bills, on the other hand, can be resurrected as part of other legislation if their language is placed in other bills that have already passed a chamber.
The failure of Senate Bill 57 is the second of four failed sports betting legalization efforts in the state. Several other Georgia legislators have tried to expand gambling in the state for years, but have made no progress since voters approved the state lottery in 1992.
Many people believe that Georgia will eventually have to legalize some forms of sports betting and US online gaming sites because it is already legal in 34 other states, albeit with limited in-person gambling options.
Backing the Bill’s Rejection
The 19 voters thought Georgia should legalize sports betting because it could generate more revenue by legalizing forms of gambling that are currently illegal. According to Sen. Brandon Beach, a Republican from Alpharetta, Georgia, there is a lot of unregulated sports betting going on in underground markets via bookies, which are more harmful to individuals.
The 37 opponents, on the other hand, had a different opinion. They all agreed that Georgia should not expand its gambling options beyond the state lottery. They believe it will generate enough revenue to fund prekindergarten programs and college scholarships. The lottery generates approximately $1.5 billion in revenue each year.
According to Sen. Marty Harbin, a Republican from Tyrone, gambling involves winners and losers, which means that even when the game is played fairly, there must be a loser. As a result, the house or establishment hosting the gambling activity almost always makes a profit.
If Senate Bill 57 is passed, the proceeds from horse racing sports betting would be used to fund college scholarships and preschool programs, which the lottery is already required to fund under the state constitution.
Senate Bill 57 Support Base and Future Prospects
Several individuals and organizations supported the proposed legislation and were disappointed by its failure. The bill was sponsored by Statesboro Republican Senator Billy Hickman, a horse owner, and racer. He argued that legalizing horse racing betting would have a greater economic impact than other forms of sports gambling because it would benefit farmers and horse breeders.
Earlier this year, former Georgia Supreme Court Justice Harold Melton wrote an opinion on behalf of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce stating that sports betting could be legalized in Georgia without requiring a constitutional amendment.
Bill Cowsert, Chairman of the Senate Regulated Industries Committee, is also a supporter of allowing sports betting in Georgia. Prior to that, he attempted to persuade voters to amend the state constitution to legalize sports betting and to establish a gaming commission to oversee and regulate the practice.
Cowsert expressed disappointment that the bill was rejected by the Senate. He went on to explain that the Senate has clearly stated that they do not want sports betting to be legalized in 2023.
Sports betting is not permissible under the state constitution, according to Congressional analysts. Because the provisions in the state constitution were ambiguous, Legislative Counsel Director Rick Ruskell advised in 2019 that a constitutional amendment be introduced to legalize sports betting.
Sports betting supporters claim that it has the potential to generate $30 million to $100 million in annual revenue for the state. Opponents, including those who believe gambling is immoral, addictive, and contributes to criminal activity, have argued that these figures are exaggerated, leaving them in a bind.
The failure of Senate Bill 57 to pass in Georgia’s Senate demonstrates that the state is not yet willing to make the transition to regulated sports betting. However, the current wave of legislation in the United States and elsewhere suggests that change is possible in the near future. Currently, there is the issue that many Georgians are still gambling with unregulated providers, most of which are offshore providers. This translates to the state losing a lot of money. The legalization bill may have failed for the time being, but it will not be the last time it is introduced.
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