By Dipo Olowookere
With an ecumenical prayer service on Ash Wednesday in St Mary’s (Sealite Mihret) cathedral of the Ethiopian Orthodox church in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the Ecumenical Water Network (EWN) began its annual Lenten campaign “Seven weeks for water”.
This year during Lent it will raise awareness of water justice issues in Africa.
“Water, the source of life and a gift from God, has yet become the issue of justice”, said moderator of the World Council of Churches (WCC) Dr Agnes Abuom at the service. “As we stop here, in the capital of Africa, we know that the water crisis here falls heavily on women and children, who are walking miles and miles to look for a water. On behalf of World Council of Churches, I invite everyone to resist commodification and commercialization of water at the expense of poor people.”
WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit said, in his sermon, “It is time for water justice. It is time for us who are here and all human beings to stop resisting justice. We cannot in the long run stop justice, as we cannot stop the water”.
Tveit reflected on Amos 5:24: “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream”. The prophet Amos uses the image of water to speak something clearly and strongly about the justice of God, and this is one of the most encouraging, motivating and hopeful verses of the Bible for the many people yearning for justice and recognition of their rights as human beings.”
He added: “The images of waters of the prophet Amos are both the overwhelming power and the ever-flowing stream. It is irresistible, it will come, either way. This is the character of the justice and righteousness of God: for some a threat, for some a liberation.”
While water has a strong spiritual significance in the Christian tradition as a gift of God, this scarce resource is threatened and denied to millions around the world. About half of the world’s population without access to safe drinking water and about one third of world’s population without access to adequate sanitation facilities come from sub-Saharan Africa.
“This year the WCC’s pilgrimage of justice and peace has its regional focus on Africa, and accordingly, the Seven Weeks for Water in 2017 will take us on a pilgrimage of water justice in this continent”, explains Rt Rev. Arnold C. Temple, co-chair of the EWN. “The Biblico-theological reflections and resources for the seven weeks will be based on the water crisis in the Africa region and explore the issues of justice and peace.”
Dinesh Suna, coordinator of the EWN, said this is the 10th year the EWN has been providing weekly theological reflections and other resources on water for the seven weeks of Lent. Reflections, liturgies and other resources will be uploaded to the EWN website every week, starting 1March.
This year the reflections on water and sanitation will focus on inequality, stigma and discrimination related to water, and feminisation of water poverty in the context of Africa, among others.
In the first reflection Rev. Dr Benebo Fubara Fubara-Manuel, president of the Christian Council of Nigeria writes: “Human efforts to make water available for all must be seen as God’s work through humans, and taken on in this understanding of its sacredness. Even though water is already recognized by the United Nations as a human right, let us pray that God will open our eyes to see many parts of the world, where water is not yet understood as a basic human need”.
The Lenten campaign was started on the sidelines of the 54th Meeting of the WCC’s Commission of the Churches on International Affairs, taking place in the capital of Ethiopia from 27 February to 1 March.
UK’s Royal Mint Releases King Charles III Coins
By Adedapo Adesanya
On Friday, Britain’s Royal Mint unveiled King Charles III’s official effigy that will appear on coins following his accession to the throne.
The effigy is the work of British sculptor, Mr Martin Jennings, and was personally approved by the new king.
The first coins bearing the king’s portrait will be a special £5 coin and a 50 pence coin commemorating the life of Queen Elizabeth II.
Mr Jennings said his portrait was sculpted from a photograph of King Charles, in which he is facing left on the coin, in keeping with a tradition that sees each successive monarch switch profile.
In line with royal tradition, King Charles’ portrait faces to the left, the opposite direction to his late mother.
He is not wearing a crown, which previous kings also did not, though Queen Elizabeth II did in the five coins produced during her reign.
“It is the smallest work I have created, but it is humbling to know it will be seen and held by people around the world for centuries to come,” he said.
The text on the new coin says “CHARLES III • D • G • REX • F • D • 5 POUNDS • 2022,” a shortening of the Latin “King Charles III, by the Grace of God, Defender of the Faith.”
The existing 29 billion coins featuring the queen in circulation in the UK, as well as in Commonwealth countries, including Australia, New Zealand and Canada, will remain legal tender and be phased out naturally and over time with use.
The image of King Charles will begin to appear on coins in circulation and on commemorative pieces in the coming months, the Royal Mint said in a statement.
Two new portraits of Elizabeth will feature on the reverse of the commemorative five pound coin.
The Royal Mint has been responsible for depicting monarchs on coins for over 1,100 years since Alfred the Great.
Queen Elizabeth II died on September 8 following a record-breaking 70 years on the throne.
Mr Kevin Clancy, director of the Royal Mint Museum, said the late queen had appeared on more coins than any other British monarch.
“Over the coming years, it will become common for people to find coins bearing His Majesty and Queen Elizabeth II’s effigy in their change,” he said.
The Royal Mint said historically, it had been commonplace for coins featuring the effigies of different monarchs to co-circulate.
“This ensures a smooth transition, with minimal environmental impact and cost.”
There are currently around 27 billion coins circulating in the UK bearing the effigy of Queen Elizabeth II.
“These will be replaced over time as they become damaged or worn and to meet demand for additional coins,” the Royal Mint added.
The Royal Mint, which has made coins featuring the monarch for over 1,100 years and is Britain’s oldest company, said it would be available to collectors next week and in general use before the end of the year.
King Charles ascended to the throne following the death of Queen Elizabeth II, his mother and earlier this week, the palace said the cause of death recorded on her birth certificate was “old age.”
Russia Struggling to Explore Africa’s Market
By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh
Building on post-Soviet relations with Africa, Russia has been struggling with strategies on how to establish economic footprints, promote investment and deepen cooperation in Africa. Despite the road map adopted at the end of the first Russia-Africa summit held in October 2019, little has been achieved since then.
In late September, the Regional Chamber of Commerce and Industry welcomed the participants to another round of conferences under the theme “Russia-Africa: Prospects for Cooperation” held in St. Petersburg. That gathering featuring a few interesting Russian enterprises was part of a series of steps to brainstorm and discuss opportunities, developments and challenges in preparing for the forthcoming Russia-Africa summit planned for July 2023.
Additionally, the goal of this St Petersburg conference event was in line with the priorities on how to engage with credible investors who can partner with the government and private sector to exploit the market. It discussed the possibilities of strengthening the partnership between Russia and Africa, as well as issues related to export/import, logistics and peculiarities of working with African partners.
Vice President of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Russian Federation Vladimir Padalko welcomed the participants via video link from Moscow. In the video, Padalko emphatically stated that “preparations for the second Russia-Africa summit, scheduled for July 2023 in St. Petersburg, are in full swing, and we should come to it with concrete results in the form of agreements ready for signing.”
According to him, the Coordinating Committee for Economic Cooperation with African Countries should focus on conducting business missions that would identify specific areas for conducting business cooperation with African countries. It is necessary to help Russians learn what the African market is so they are not afraid of taking investment risks in Africa.
Padalko said that the prejudices that Russians have regarding Africa should be overcome. He referred to his own experience, emphasizing that the first trip to the African continent made him change his mind significantly about the opportunities offered by cooperation with Africa. Russia is trying hard to improve its commercial relations with its African partners. In 2009, it established the Coordinating Committee for Economic Cooperation with sub-Saharan Africa to assist in promoting Russian business interests.
Senator Igor Morozov, Chairman of the Coordinating Committee for Economic Cooperation with African Countries, called for increasing the pace and level of cooperation with African countries by “bringing small and medium-sized businesses to Africa.”
According to him, Russia is far behind in its activity on the African continent from countries such as the United States, Britain, China, France, India, and Turkey. These countries are developing a network of technology parks, working in the continental free trade zone, participating in the development of the infrastructure of African countries, and the construction of roads, bridges and railways.
Senator Morozov further noted that “Russian business does not have the tools to enter Africa and, above all, in the field of the banking system. No other banks give guarantees to Russian businesses. According to him, African countries are interested in the supply of agricultural machinery; in this sense, the Kirov Plant in St. Petersburg may have good opportunities. And in this sense, we should take an example from our Belarusian friends.”
That was not the first time analyzing the development of business and trade relations with Africa. The African market is competitive and complex, therefore, Russian business needs to work thoroughly and systematically in it in order to achieve success. It is necessary to help interested businesses willing to navigate African realities, find a niche for their work, and learn about the conditions for entering certain markets.
According to Morozov, there is a need for a specialized investment fund to support entrepreneurs. In general, with the prospect of working with African partners for many years, more serious state support is needed and finally suggested that it is necessary to return to barter trade and concessions, which will make it possible to obtain minerals from Africa.
“We need to develop our international payment instruments – sanctions are already being imposed against the Mir system,” he said. A great deal of hope is being placed on the working group for developing new mechanisms in currency regulation and international settlements led by Kremlin aide Maxim Oreshkin, “which is supposed to work out these mechanisms soon,” Morozov said.
“We need to see how we will work within the framework of national currencies” and use them for settlements with African countries, he said. “We need to work in this direction, understanding that SWIFT will never again be [the main system for interbank payments] for us,” Morozov, who also serves on the Federation Council’s Economic Policy Committee, said.
Talks on options for settlements between Russia and African countries in the current economic circumstances are already being held, but “we shouldn’t get ahead of events. African central banks are already beginning to come [to Russia]. Everyone understands that we are leaders in grain exports, leaders in sunflower oil, mineral fertilizers, and it is necessary to settle up,” Morozov.
Other options for settlements could be barter and concessions. The outlook for cooperation and possible Russian projects in Africa, Morozov said Russia could offer its competencies in hydropower, electric passenger transport, automobile manufacturing, farm machinery and pharmaceuticals. Afrocom operates with the support of the Federation Council and government institutions, according to the committee’s website.
Associate Professor Ksenia Tabarintseva-Romanova, Ural Federal University, Department of International Relations, acknowledges huge existing challenges and perhaps difficult conditions in the current economic cooperation between Africa and Russia. Creating African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is the most important modern tool for Africa’s economic development. This is unique for exploring and getting acquainted with the opportunities it offers for business cooperation.
She, however, maintains that successful implementation requires a sufficiently high level of economic development in the participating countries, logistical accessibility, and developed industry with the prospect of introducing new technologies. This means that in order for African Continental Free Trade Area to effectively fulfil its tasks, it is necessary to enlist the provision of sustainable investment flows from outside. These investments should be directed toward constructing industrial plants and transport corridors.
Speaking earlier in an interview discussion, Tabarintseva-Romanova pointed out that Russia already has vast experience with the African continent, which now makes it possible to make investments as efficiently as possible, both for the Russian Federation and African countries. In addition, potential African investors and exporters could also explore business collaboration and partnerships in Russia.
Local Russian media, Rossiyskaya Gazeta, also published an interview with Professor Irina Abramova, Director of the Institute of African Studies under the Russian Academy of Sciences, focusing on economic cooperation with Africa. In this interview, Abramova reiterated explicitly that Russians have to do away with negative perceptions and attitudes toward Africa. The change in attitudes has to reflect in all aspects of the relationship between Africa and Africans.
“In Russians’ minds, Africa is synonymous with backwardness, poverty and hunger, which is not true. It is currently one of the most promising regions for foreign investment. It is a tiger ready to pounce. Africa today is in the same situation that China was in the 1990s. Today, China is the world’s number-one economy in purchasing capacity, a strong power which largely determines global development,” she explained.
“Africa is the zone where all big players overlap since its geographic location between the east and the west puts it at the peak of controversy and the big game between all players, meaning between Europe and America, on the one hand, and China, India and other countries, on the other. And if Russia poses as a superpower it will also lose its global influence without indicating its position in Africa,” she said.
According to her, seven African countries, specifically Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, South Africa, Tunisia, Nigeria and Sudan, account for nearly 90% of Russia’s trade. “At the same time, China is present in almost all African countries. Millions of Chinese work in Africa today. It is a good moment for Russia now because Western partners are trying to impose their values on the Africans, while China is dealing with its challenges at the expense of Africa,” the expert stressed.
The middle class is expanding very fast there, already amounting to 250-300 million people, and this constitutes a huge consumer market for products and services, according to her estimation.
Professor Abramova noted that it is a very good market for Russian products. The Chinese understood that long ago and are tapping the African market, having flooded it with their products, though Russia also has opportunities as it is fairly competitive in the energy, infrastructure and agriculture sectors and exporting products such as fertilizers, trucks and aircraft supplies.
The fact that many prominent politicians and businessmen of the African continent graduated from Russian universities and speak Russian well contributes to the strengthening of the Russian-African relationship, the expert said, adding though that a new generation is about to take over in Africa, which is also the reason why Moscow should maintain the existing solid social and cultural ties.
Senator Igor Morozov and Professor Irina Abramova are members of the Kremlin’s Committee assigned to coordinate and prepare for the next Russia-Africa summit in July 2023. Both Russia and Africa had problems finding a suitable African venue for the summit. The joint declaration adopted in Sochi says the summit be held every three years and the venue alternated between Russia and Africa.
Sampson Uwem-Edimo, President of the Nigerian Business Council and General Director of Trailtrans Logistic LLC, delivered a report “Nigeria as a Window to Africa” and further stressed that Russia does not have a common strategy on how to enter African markets, which exists, say, in China or France.
By removing barriers to trade in the region will create new entrepreneurial activities and spur innovations in technology. The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) seeks to create better conditions for investment. On the other hand, Russian corporate directors most often have problems with their business in Africa. The key obstacles ranging from their inconsistencies in own approach and poor knowledge of the local political and business environment. Russians must also invest more in R&D collaborations with their African partners.
According to him, while Russians hope for brisk business, many African business leaders today are still Western mind-oriented and have various support from the United States and Europe. But the practical reality, Russia could still steadily transfer technologies for local processing of raw materials as a catalyst for Africa’s development.
Uwem-Edimo noted that former colonial powers like France and Great Britain, although they left their colonies, kept control panels in their capitals. The Nigerian businessman, who spoke in Russian, introduced the conference participants to the opportunities and vast potential of the African continent, focusing on Nigeria, which makes up 18 per cent of the continent’s population – 240 million people.
President of the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Vladimir Katenev, also addressed the conference participants with a greeting. The moderator was Ekaterina Lebedeva, Vice-President of the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry Union, who called on business community representatives to consistently work towards prioritising Africa despite the emerging challenges.
UST, Luna Founder Dodges Arrest as Interpol Issues Red Notice
By Adedapo Adesanya
In what is the latest scandal in the cryptocurrency industry, Mr Do Kwon, the founder of Terraform Labs, has said that he is not on the run from South Korean authorities after the country’s prosecutors’ office said it had received an international arrest warrant on him.
Mr Kwon’s company was behind the algorithmic stablecoin TerraUSD or UST and its sister token Luna which, combined, were worth around $60 billion and in May collapsed to near-to-nothing.
The collapse of Terra cryptocurrency (Luna) and the so-called stablecoin TerraUSD (UST) wiped out investors’ money, prompting an uproar that caused the prosecutors to launch investigations into Kwon and his colleagues.
South Korea has been seeking Mr Kwon’s arrest since earlier this month. But prosecutors in the country have alleged that he is on the run.
On Tuesday, a spokesperson for the Seoul Southern District Prosecutors’ Office in South Korea’s capital city said that global law enforcement agency Interpol has issued a “Red Notice” for Mr Kwon.
Red Notices are issued for fugitives wanted either for prosecution or to serve a sentence, according to Interpol. The notice is a request to law enforcement worldwide to locate and arrest the person in question. This could then lead to extradition.
Mr Kwon, however, said he was not on the run, using his Twitter account to hit back at authorities.
“I’m writing code in my living room hbu,” Mr Kwon tweeted in reply to someone asking about his whereabouts.
Mr Kwon insisted he is making “zero effort to hide,” saying he goes on walks and to malls.
He also said he does not see his name on Interpol’s “Red Notice” list, a statement that can be contested since the international agency does not always make these notices public.
While Mr Kwon’s Twitter location says he is in Singapore, the Singapore Police Force said that Mr Kwon was not in the country earlier this month.
The South Korean prosecutors said the purpose of the Red Notice is to locate Kwon, bring him back to South Korea and then officials will decide within 48 hours whether to issue an arrest warrant for him.
South Korea issued an arrest warrant for the founder earlier this month, a move that saw many investors sell their positions in the revived Luna token.
“We are in the process of defending ourselves in multiple jurisdictions — we have held ourselves to an extremely high bar of integrity and look forward to clarifying the truth over the next few months,” Mr Kwon said in a tweet this month.
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