By Kester Kenn Klomegah
Russian diplomats at the Foreign Ministry have been stepping efforts to get first-hand blistering information on the Russia-Ukraine crisis, its primary causes and implications to African governments.
On February 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a special military operation, after both the Federation Council and the State Duma (legislative chambers) approved the implementation of the presidential decision that has since sparked debates throughout the world. It has also pushed for the United States and Canada, European Union members and many other external countries to impose sanctions against Russia.
Long before the special military operation started on February 24 aimed at “demilitarization and denazification” in the former Soviet republic of Ukraine, there has been information disseminated, either fabricated or the absolute truth about Russia’s intentions using the power of social media. As seen in practice, Western and European media have strong operational networks throughout Africa.
Russian Foreign Ministry is worried about anti-Russia publications, the policy of propaganda and misinformation in some African media outlets. Obviously, Russian media is extremely weak on the African continent, and consequently, local African media replicate information from western sources.
Over these past years, Russian diplomats claim to have a common understanding, expressions of solidarity and trusty position with African friends on global questions at international platforms, especially at the United Nations.
Nevertheless, the African Union, Regional Economic Organizations and the African governments are still and distinctively, divided over the Russia-Ukraine crisis due to divergent views and worse, afraid of contradictions and confrontations posed by the seemingly endless crisis and its effects on future relations.
Some policy experts say this Africans’ voting scenario at the UN opens a theme for a complete geopolitical study and analysis. It is necessary to understand its specific policy implications. As a new world is awakening, African leaders still believe that all countries have to respect and operate within the confines of international law. The circumstances demand settling disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice are not endangered. All countries must be guided profoundly by the principles of non-interference in internal matters, respect for national sovereignty and territorial integrity.
There is much of disinformation spreading around, including inside Africa, and consequently, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s special meetings with African diplomatic representatives was to use the diplomatic channels to send down the official situational truth about the Russia-Ukraine crisis to various African governments.
According to reports, Russia and Africa have a close relationship and it becomes necessary to update with substantial information for geopolitical reasons. It was intended to provide an explicit understanding of the genesis of the crisis. With the African diplomatic missions, the Russian Foreign Ministry has held two briefings, and one other special briefing with the Arab countries that included North Africa and the Arab world.
Both on March 10 and 22, Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation for the Middle East and Africa, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia Mikhail Bogdanov held special briefings for the heads of diplomatic missions of the African and Arab countries accredited in Russian Federation. It was fully devoted to the entire situation around Ukraine.
The diplomats were informed the reasons, goals and objectives of the ongoing special military operation, including those to ensure the demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine, protect the long-suffering people of Donbass and eliminate the threat to Russia’s national security emanating from Ukrainian territory. There were also significant issues related to ensuring the security of the civilian population in Ukraine, the organization and operation of humanitarian corridors, and the provision of assistance to refugees.
The Foreign Ministry further explained to the representatives of African embassies questions relating to requests for assistance in providing safe exits (evacuations), including their citizens, from crisis-ridden Ukraine. During the meetings, questions from African diplomats about the activities of embassies in Moscow under the conditions of illegitimate sanctions imposed by Western, European and other countries on the Russian Federation were answered.
In addition to these special briefings, Deputy Minister Bogdanov held bilateral discussions with Ambassadors from Benin, Djibouti, Egypt, Libya, Nigeria, Somalia, South Africa and Tanzania. Interesting to recall here that at the UN on March 2, Nigeria and Egypt were among the 28 African countries that voted to condemn Russia.
On March 22, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Vershinin also held meetings with representatives of African states in the UN Security Council – Ambassador of the Gabonese Republic to the Russian Federation, Johanna Rose Mamiaka; Ambassador of the Republic of Ghana to the Russian Federation, Oheneba Dr Lesley Akyaa Opoku-Ware and Ambassador of the Republic of Kenya in the Russian Federation, Benson Ogutu.
Topical issues of Russia’s interaction with the African “troika” in the UN Security Council were discussed, incl. the humanitarian situation in Ukraine, the state of affairs in Libya, Somalia, and the reform of the Security Council. While briefing the African representatives, Minister Bogdanov indicated and reaffirmed Russia’s long-term intention to strengthen and develop traditionally friendly ties with African states was reaffirmed.
For their part, the heads of diplomatic missions thanked the Russian side for the detailed coverage of events in Ukraine and the opportunity to exchange views on topical aspects of the Russia-African agenda.
Earlier on February 28, Bogdanov received Ambassador of the Republic of South Africa, Mzuvukile Jeff Maketuka, exchanging messages on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Russia and South Africa.
During the conversation, both discussed issues of further development of traditionally friendly Russia-South African relations, with an emphasis on strengthening mutually beneficial cooperation in the trade, economic, scientific and humanitarian spheres. Moscow and Pretoria eternally hope to deepen political dialogue and maintain effective coordination of positions in the UN, BRICS, the G20 and other international platforms. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has also spoken with his African counterparts, including Equatorial Guinea, Morocco and South Africa.
Russia and South Africa are members of BRICS group. Soviet Union (now Russia) has maintained ties dating back from apartheid times and during the struggle for political independence. South Africa was one of 17 African nations to abstain on the UN resolution demanding that Russia immediately withdraw from Ukraine. It took a similar stance during Putin’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has come under fierce criticism over the official stand on the Russia-Ukraine crisis.
Prior to the February 24 crisis which unfolded in Ukraine, Russia indicated strong preparedness and high interests to broaden cooperation in trade and in the economic sectors in Africa. With an invariable commitment to strengthen and develop relations in a positive and constructive manner, and especially in these challenging circumstances, Moscow is still planning for the second Russia-African summit. The question of state support and business facilitation has been on the agenda these several years and was discussed during the panel session in Sochi.
Now Russia plans to open trade missions in a number of African countries, and of course, looking forward to exploring several opportunities in the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which provides unique and valuable access to an integrated African market of over 1.3 billion people. In practical reality, it aims at creating a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of businesspeople and investments in Africa.
That, however, it has been, oftentimes trumpeted that the Russian business community lacks awareness regarding the current fast-changing state of the African market, along with trade and investment opportunities. There is an insufficient level of trust towards potential partners. It is necessary to establish an effective system of communication to guarantee reliability and integrity, sharing business information, between business associations in Russia and Africa.
According to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, preparations for the Russia-Africa summit are in the active stage. The dates of the summit have not been determined yet. The first Russia-Africa summit took place in October 2019, and it was co-chaired by Russian and Egyptian Presidents, Vladimir Putin and Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. The next summit is scheduled for autumn 2022.
AfDB Board Okays $1.5bn to Avert Food Crisis in Africa
By Adedapo Adesanya
The Board of Directors of the African Development Bank Groups (AfDB) on Friday approved a $1.5 billion facility to help African countries avert a looming food crisis.
With the disruption of food supplies arising from the Russia-Ukraine war, Africa now faces a shortage of at least 30 million metric tons of food, especially wheat, maize, and soybeans imported from both countries.
The Abidjan-based bank, among other institutions, has disclosed that African farmers urgently need high-quality seeds and inputs before the planting season begins in May to immediately boost food supplies.
The Abidjan based bank’s $1.5 billion African Emergency Food Production Facility is an unprecedented comprehensive initiative to support smallholder farmers in filling the food shortfall. It will provide 20 million African smallholder farmers with certified seeds.
Also, it will increase access to agricultural fertilizers and enable them to rapidly produce 38 million tons of food, which is about a $12 billion increase in food production in just two years.
The President of AfDB Group, Mr Akinwumi Adesina, said: “Food aid cannot feed Africa. Africa does not need bowls in hand. Africa needs seeds in the ground, and mechanical harvesters to harvest bountiful food produced locally. Africa will feed itself with pride for there is no dignity in begging for food.”
Also, the Vice President of AfDB for Agriculture, Human and Social Development, Ms Beth Dunford, said, “The Africa Emergency Food Production Facility builds on lessons learned from the African Development Bank’s Feed Africa Response to COVID-19 programme. That programme has provided a strategic roadmap to support Africa’s agriculture sector and safeguard food security against the pandemic’s impact.”
The facility has benefited from stakeholder consultations, including those with fertilizer producers and separately with African Union agriculture and finance ministers earlier this month.
The ministers agreed to implement reforms to address the systemic hurdles that prevent modern input markets from performing effectively.
The bank’s $1.5 billion strategies will lead to the production of 11 million tons of wheat; 18 million tons of maize; 6 million tons of rice; and 2.5 million tons of soybeans.
The plan is to provide 20 million farmers with certified seeds, fertilizer, and extension services. It will also support market growth and post-harvest management.
Also, the bank will provide fertilizer to smallholder farmers across Africa over the next four farming seasons, using its convening influence with major fertilizer manufacturers, loan guarantees, and other financial instruments.
The facility will also create a platform to advocate for critical policy reforms to solve the structural issues that impede farmers from receiving modern inputs. This includes strengthening national institutions overseeing input markets.
It has a structure for working with multilateral development partners. This will ensure rapid alignment and implementation, enhanced reach, and effective impact and will increase technical preparedness and responsiveness.
In addition, it includes short, medium, and long-term measures to address both the urgent food crisis and the long-term sustainability and resilience of Africa’s food systems.
SA Startup Nile Raises $5.1m for Direct Agric Purchases
By Adedapo Adesanya
South African agriculture technology startup, Nile, which enables buyers to purchase directly from Africa’s leading food producers through its marketplace, has raised a $5.1 million equity funding round led by Naspers Foundry.
The startup’s end-to-end process connects farmers to commercial retailers of fresh produce both in South Africa and across the continent.
The business-to-business (B2B) platform facilitates transactions and safeguards payments on behalf of farmers, resulting in increased transparency and improved cash flow.
Nile’s new equity round was led by Naspers Foundry, which contributed $2.5 million, alongside Platform Investment Partners, Raba Capital and Base Capital.
This transaction makes it Naspers Foundry’s 10th transaction, with its portfolio also including SweepSouth, Aerobotics, Food Supply Network, The Student Hub, WhereIsMyTransport, Ctrl, Naked Insurance and Floatpays.
Speaking on this, Mr Louis de Kock, co-founder and CEO of Nile, “We are delighted to have Naspers Foundry support our mission to make fresh produce more accessible to people across the African continent.
“While we were able to bootstrap Nile through our initial growth phase, we look forward to having the backing of an internationally respected investor and experienced operator like Naspers as we scale our cross-border operations to the rest of Africa.”
Adding his input, Mr Fabian Whate, head of Naspers Foundry said, “Nile provides a fully integrated ecosystem that creates trust between buyers and sellers on the platform and is a great example of tech entrepreneurs building innovative solutions that address people’s everyday needs.
“We are excited about the growth potential of this business and its contribution to transforming the trade of fresh produce.”
Nile was founded in 2020 to provide farmers with digital solutions that can address various pain points inherent to food trading – including price transparency, quality verification, speed of payments, the traceability of the produce and food waste.
Since Nile’s inception, approximately 30 million kilogrammes of fruits and vegetables have been traded on the platform, with buyers originating from five countries and 35 towns and cities across Southern Africa.
Nile’s services are used by farmers of all sizes, from small-scale farmers to large commercial farmers, with buyers ranging from large South Africa-listed companies to small family-owned retailers and wholesalers.
Nile also operates in Botswana, Namibia, Eswatini and Mozambique.
Migrating to Canada from Nigeria – Provincial Nominee Programs
There continues to be a high demand for high-skilled immigrants in many developed countries worldwide, and Canada isn’t an exception. The country’s skilled immigration system recognizes that immigrants can be instrumental in addressing labour market needs and economic growth, especially when they have in-demand skills, experience, and education. Hence, the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) is an important component of Canada’s economic immigration system.
This provincial program creates a platform for the federal and provincial governments to work together to create industrial growth in Canada. The initiative makes it easier for qualified, skilled foreigners to become permanent residents. Provinces can nominate skilled immigrants who have been invited to apply for PR through Express Entry or the paper-based process.
Who Can Apply for PNP?
Although the nominee program is exclusive to workers, not all applicants in the job market are eligible. Some workers may be eligible, depending on their occupation. If an applicant holds a high human capital that is in demand in the province, the individual can apply for nomination in any of the available PNP immigration programs best suited.
Applicants must apply in the provinces they intend to live in. For example, a foreign senior developer who receives a “notification of interest” from Alberta is not qualified to apply under British Columbia’s PNP, especially when the individual has no interest in becoming a long-term resident there. Using the same scenario, the software engineer may not be considered for this program if there’s no intention to become a permanent resident in Canada.
Breaking Down the PNP Framework
As previously highlighted, there are two approaches to the PNP application process. The procedure entails undergoing some background checks, like police clearance and medical examinations for the province of application. The applicant must clear them successfully, as they make up part of the overall assessment. For those who consider the standard process, the requirements share some similarities with its counterpart.
To begin with, the applicants must meet the eligibility requirements for the province; likewise the Express Entry stream. Their skills must match one of the listed programs. That way, the province can invite such persons to apply. If nominated, they can submit the application to the IRCC. This approach has a longer wait time, compared to the second option.
Generally, the Express Entry stream is faster and more straightforward than the standard process. The skilled immigrant visits the province’s website to apply for nomination. Whereby the province finds the applicant an ideal fit for its labour market needs, it proceeds to nominate the professional, earning the individual 600 CRS extra. The next step would be to create an Express Entry account and proceed to apply for permanent residence.
Another option would be to flip the process around. This time, the Express Entry account creation comes first, which the professional notifies the province of. This is where the “notification of interest” comes into play. With this approach, there is direct communication between the candidate and the province officials in charge of the application. The former can then apply to the latter’s Express Entry stream and proceed to send the PR application to the IRCC.
Is Permanent Residence Available to Families of PNP-Nominated Immigrants?
The Provincial Nominee Program is one of the selected initiatives that encourage families to be united. Under this program, a spouse or child can accompany the foreign-born applicant when they make Canada their permanent residence. Those who move to Canada are eligible to become permanent residents as well. Plus, it extends to the children of the dependent children.
What Are Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) Points?
When seeking permanent residence, various prerequisites must be met. Still, the Comprehensive Ranking System majorly determines whether a candidate is eligible for PR status. Points are allocated depending on the following:
- Language proficiency
- Academic background
- Work experience
- Province ties
Some are given points for obtaining professional degrees, like the Master of Business Administration (MBA) or other specializations that require significant academic efforts. The same is true for a foreign skilled worker, such as a financial advisor, who is fluent in the required language (often English or French). When a province nominates this skilled professional, additional CRS points are added to the person’s profile.
These points combined with those from other considerable aspects of the program, help the IRCC officials determine if the financial advisor qualifies for permanent residence.
How Can Applicants Improve Their Chances of Being Nominated?
Given a large number of skilled foreigners in the Express Entry pool, the possibility of being nominated quickly may be dicey. As such, applicants are advised to build a strong profile. Those who end up securing a job or enrolling in an academic program in Canada increase their CRS points and thus, their chances of getting a provincial nomination for PR application.
For example, an IT project manager seeking a PNP nomination from New Brunswick can boost his or her profile by acquiring a Master’s degree from a Canadian university. This tech professional can boost the chances of being nominated for PR by securing an IT-related role, such as computer programming at a New Brunswick-based tech firm.
The CRS points for such an expert would be higher than someone in the same field who has no connection to the province. In other words, the province will be more inclined to nominate the former than the latter. In the end, it is not simply about being skilled, as many highly skilled individuals are in Canada seeking permanent residence; it is about being the best fit for a province’s labour needs.
PNP Application Language Requirements
The language requirements for any of the streams in the PNP can vary. In general, the provinces nominate applicants who can integrate successfully into Canada. To this effect, applicants must be fluent in either English or French, depending on the stream. They’ll need to demonstrate their competence by taking any of the exams below:
- TCF Canada
- TEF Canada
The first two tests are English-based, whereas the last two are used to measure foreigners’ French language skills. They evaluate an applicant’s capability to converse, write, and listen in the language.
Canada’s Provincial Nominee Program is not difficult to understand. With proper research and planning, foreign-born professionals can apply, get selected, and become part of the country’s permanent population. There’s so much more to Canada than the majestic snow-capped mountains and lakes. Those looking for a career upgrade can consider moving to Canada, particularly if they are competent and willing to settle down.
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