By Dipo Olowookere
The huge contributions made in the agriculture sector by women in agribusiness have been commended by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Few days ago, the agency and MEL Consulting Limited hosted a ‘Women in Agribusiness’ Summit to highlight these contributions in Ghana’s agricultural sector.
The event brought together women-led agribusinesses, farmers, processors, business service providers, financial institutions, the Government of Ghana and development partners.
In attendance were the Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Otiko Afisa Djaba; USAID/Ghana Mission Director Sharon L. Cromer; and Nestlé West and Central Africa’s Head of Agricultural Services, Fatih Ermis.
The summit promoted investment opportunities and linked women-led agribusinesses to business advisory service providers and financial institutions.
The agenda featured panel discussions on finance and business support for women-led agribusinesses, as well as business-to-business sessions. The event culminated with an awards ceremony honouring women-led agribusinesses and smallholder actors for their contribution to Ghana’s agriculture sector.
“At USAID, we believe agriculture is paramount in driving Ghana’s sustainable economic growth,” remarked Sharon Cromer, USAID/Ghana’s Mission Director. “Our Feed the Future Initiative works to equip individuals and communities by investing in gender-smart solutions. We are linking business service providers to women-led agribusinesses to increase their productivity and access to markets. Fostering broad-based inclusive economic growth means unlocking everyone’s potential, including women, to fully utilize their talents.”
This event was organized through Feed the Future and its partners, with support from USAID. Feed the Future works to increase access to finance for agribusinesses and smallholder farmers and improve agricultural productivity.
To date, Feed the Future has unlocked $140 million in private capital for more than 2,400 agribusinesses in the maize, rice and soy value chains. These efforts have benefitted more than 150,000 smallholder farmers in Northern Ghana, 42 percent of whom are women.
World Bank to Finance COVID-19 Vaccines for 40 Developing Countries
By Adedapo Adesanya
The World Bank will commit $2 billion in financing for COVID-19 vaccines in about 40 developing countries by the end of April in order to close the disparity in vaccination rates across the world.
This was disclosed by the World Bank Managing Director of Operations, Mr Axel van Trotsenburg, at a forum on Friday.
According to the multilateral lender, the $2 billion is part of a larger pool of $12 billion that the financial organisation has made available overall for vaccine development, distribution and production in low-and middle-income countries.
World Bank President, Mr David Malpass, in separate remarks, noted that that the bank expects this to expand to $4 billion worth of commitments in 50 countries by mid-year.
This followed complaints raised by public health officials at the forum, which warned that a race between the coronavirus and the vaccines meant to stop it could be lost if the pace of vaccinations in the developing world did not pick up.
This was echoed by the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who said that existing vaccines could be rendered ineffective if the virus continues to spread and mutate.
“Even those countries who have high coverage of vaccines will not be secure because the new variants that may not be stopped by the vaccines we have, will invade the countries that may have even 100% coverage in a few months,” he said.
The WHO Head called for more political will to boost production of COVID-19 vaccines and share supplies, including through stalled intellectual property waiver on vaccines through the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
Dr Ghebreyesus explained that the WTO’s Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property or TRIPS waiver was the “elephant in the room” holding back vaccine production.
He added that it was meant for emergencies such as the coronavirus pandemic.
Countries had requested a waiver from certain provisions of the multilateral agreement so that more countries get equitable access to vaccines.
Amid rising COVID-19 cases, a waiver on certain provisions of the agreement is expected to help more countries, especially middle- and low-income nations to access vaccines.
However, countries have been divided on the issue, with some developed nations opposing it.
Queen Elizabeth II’s Husband Prince Philip Dies at 99
By Adedapo Adesanya
The husband of Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain, Prince Phillip, has died at the age of 99, a statement from Buckingham Palace has revealed.
Prince Philip was the longest-serving royal consort in British history after getting married to Princess Elizabeth in 1947, five years before she became the Queen.
The Palace announced the death of the late monarch via its official Twitter handle today. He was said to have passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle.
“The Royal Family join with people around the world in mourning his loss. Further announcements will be made in due course.
“It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen announces the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh,” the statement said.
Fears over the health of the Duke of Edinburgh, as he was formally known, had been heightened after he recently spent a month in hospital for treatment.
He left the hospital on March 16 following what was described as a successful procedure for a pre-existing condition and treatment for an unspecified infection.
He was first admitted on February 16 on the advice of his doctor after he complained of feeling unwell.
Philip had returned to Windsor Castle, west of London, where he had been isolating with the queen, Britain’s longest-serving monarch, since the start of the coronavirus pandemic last year.
He was due to turn 100 in June.
The news of his death saw television channels interrupt regular programmes and start special coverage marking his life.
The BBC announced his death and played the national anthem, God Save the Queen.
Prince Philip had increasingly struggled with his health in recent years and had retired from public life.
The Greek-born former naval officer was then treated for a blocked coronary artery and had a stent fitted.
The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Mr Boris Johnson, said he inspired the lives of countless young people.
Speaking at Downing Street, Mr Johnson said, “He helped to steer the Royal Family and the monarchy so that it remains an institution indisputably vital to the balance and happiness of our national life.”
The British PM noted that he received the news of the duke’s death “with great sadness”.
“Prince Philip earned the affection of generations here in the United Kingdom, across the Commonwealth, and around the world,” he further said.
Scotland’s First Minister, Mrs Nicola Sturgeon, said she was saddened by the death of the Duke.
She tweeted: “I send my personal and deepest condolences – and those of @scotgov and the people of Scotland – to Her Majesty The Queen and her family.”
Prince Philip and the Queen had four children, eight grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
Their first son, the Prince of Wales, Prince Charles, was born in 1948, followed by his sister, Princess Royal, Princess Anne, in 1950, the Duke of York, Prince Andrew, in 1960 and the Earl of Wessex, Prince Edward, in 1964.
Towards the Second Russia-Africa Summit
By Kester Kenn Klomegah
Following the instruction of the Russian President on the preparation of the second Russia-Africa Summit in 2022, a working meeting between an Adviser to the President of the Russian Federation and the Association of Economic Cooperation with the African States (AECAS), the Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum and the Roscongress Foundation was held in Moscow.
Among the participants of the meeting were Adviser to the President of the Russian Federation Anton Kobyakov, Ambassador-at-Large of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Head of the Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum Oleg Ozerov, Chairman of the Board, Chief Executive Officer of the Roscongress Foundation, Head of the Coordination Council for Russia-Africa Partnership Forum Alexander Stuglev and Head of AECAS Alexander Saltanov.
They discussed the prospects for further development of relationships with African countries in accordance with the decisions of the first Russia-Africa Summit that was held in Sochi in October 2019, as well as the key aspects of preparation for the next top-level Russian-African meeting in 2022, including the need to establish efficient information cooperation with African countries.
Adviser to the President was presented with the interim results of the work done by the Secretariat that was created in 2020 for coordination and preparation of events within the Russia-Africa format, as well as advances made by AECAS, the establishment of which is an important achievement on the way to efficient and fruitful preparation for subsequent events of the Russian-African track.
The day before Russian President Vladimir Putin informed the participants of the International Inter-Party Conference Russia-Africa: Reviving Traditions about the preparation for the second Russia-Africa Summit in a telegram and noted that the first Summit «gave a strong momentum to the development of friendly relationships between our country and countries of the African continent.»
Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov, who took part in the Inter-Party Conference, said that the Summit is already being prepared and filled with meaningful content, and roadmaps of Russian-African economic, scientific and humanitarian cooperation are to be drafted in the near future.
The Minister also noted that African issues are supposed to be included in the programme of the upcoming St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. These topics will be further discussed at the next meeting of foreign ministers of Russia and the African Union trio that is scheduled for 2021.
Economic Outlook: IMF Projects 6.0% Growth in 2021
By Adedapo Adesanya
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has reviewed its World Economic Outlook (WEO) to 6.0 per cent this year after the contraction of 3.3 per cent in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the Bretton Wood Institution on Tuesday, accelerated vaccinations and a flood of government spending, especially in the United States, have boosted the outlook for the global economy, but more must be done to prevent permanent scars.
The IMF said governments had spent $16 trillion in their attempts to mitigate the economic damage caused by the virus and that without the unprecedented policy response the global economy would have contracted by 10 per cent last year.
The WEO warned that the recovery would be uneven, with faster progress in rich countries further advanced with their vaccine programmes and with the financial firepower to pay for stimulus packages. Inequality would increase both between and within countries, it stated.
The IMF warned against withdrawing government support too soon and urged policymakers to safeguard the recovery through policies to support firms, including ensuring the adequate supply of credit and workers with wage support and retraining.
Of the advanced countries, the United States has recorded the biggest improvement in its prospects, with the IMF raising its growth forecasts by 1.3 points to 6.4 per cent in 2021 and 1.0 points to 3.5 per cent in 2022.
The United Kingdom is expected to grow by 5.3 per cent in 2021 and by 5.1 per cent in 2022 – an upward revision of 0.8 and 0.1 percentage points respectively since January.
Meanwhile, China’s economy, one of few that grew last year, will expand 8.4 per cent in 2021, the IMF said.
The Euro Area too will see GDP expand 4.4 per cent, slightly better than the prior forecast.
Speaking on the report, Ms Gita Gopinath, the IMF’s economic counsellor, said in a blog: “It is one year into the COVID-19 pandemic and the global community still confronts extreme social and economic strain as the human toll rises and millions remain unemployed.
“Yet, even with high uncertainty about the path of the pandemic, a way out of this health and economic crisis is increasingly visible. Thanks to the ingenuity of the scientific community hundreds of millions of people are being vaccinated and this is expected to power recoveries in many countries later this year.”
Ms Gopinath said swift action had prevented a repeat of the financial meltdown of 2008 and as a result, medium-term losses – output that will never be recovered – would be smaller at about 3 per cent of global GDP.
Unlike after the 2008 crisis, it would be emerging markets and low-income countries that could be expected to suffer greater scarring given their limited ability to stimulate their economies.
Despite becoming more optimistic about growth prospects, she said the future presented daunting challenges.
“The pandemic is yet to be defeated and virus cases are accelerating in many countries. Recoveries are also diverging dangerously across and within countries, as economies with slower vaccine rollout, more limited policy support, and more reliant on tourism do less well.”
The IMF calculates that an additional 95 million people expected to have entered the ranks of the extreme poor in 2020, and there are 80 million more undernourished than before.
The lender noted that cooperation to ensure widespread vaccinations across the world to address the “deeply iniquitous” vaccine access where rich countries are scooping up the bulk of the supply.
IMF also called for resources to help children who have fallen behind in their education during the pandemic.
AfDB Approves €145m Loan for Egypt’s Railway
By Adedapo Adesanya
The African Development Bank (AfDB) has approved the loan of €145 million to finance reliability and performance upgrades to the country’s rail system under the Egypt National Railways Modernization Project (ENRMP).
The funding will be used to enhance operational safety and to increase network capacity on national rail lines.
Speaking on this, the country’s Minister of International Cooperation, Dr Rania Al-Mashat said, “Safe, accessible, convenient and green transport systems will be crucial to achieving sustainable development.
“The improvement and expansion of Egypt’s rail system through the ENRMP allows for active mobility and enables the urban and rural development through an inter-modal linked system.
“Technology and innovation, and a robust commitment to public transport will all be vital components of building back better.”
Rail transport is central to Egypt’s economy and competitiveness and rail passenger and freight traffic are expected to increase to 15 per cent and 10 per cent respectively by 2029 as a result of the bank’s loan and other investments in the project. Currently, 8 per cent of passenger traffic and 6 per cent of freight traffic respectively move by rail.
The planned upgrades are expected to benefit low-income Egyptians which are about 40 per cent of the population and rely on trains as an affordable mode of transport. However, increasing train freight is projected to have a positive impact on greenhouse gas emissions.
The Government of Egypt has committed significant investment to upgrade the country’s railway infrastructure through rail renewals, modernization of signalling and the purchase of new rolling stock.
Under the ENRMP a state-of-the-art, cost-effective train protection system will be installed on 950 km of train line along the busy routes connecting Alexandria in the north to Negh Hammadi in the south, and Port Said in the east.
On the part of the AfDB, Mrs Malinne Blomberg, the Bank’s Deputy Director-General for the North Africa region said, “The newly approved project will enhance the multimodal transportation environment in Egypt, and the efficient movement of people, services and goods.
“This operation is fully aligned with the Bank’s strategy for interventions in Egypt, contributing to sustained and inclusive economic growth, and more specifically, developing infrastructure that supports the expansion of the private sector and job creation,” she added.
Russia, Africa Seek Diversified Economic Cooperation
By Kester Kenn Klomegah
Over the past few years, Russia’s sphere of influence in Africa has been strengthening and broadening with much focus on helping to maintain peace and security and making an investment in exploiting natural resources in Africa.
The first historic Russia-Africa summit held in October 2019 has further and concretely laid out a comprehensive roadmap with which to forge a future relationship with the continent.
Within that framework, the United Russia Party organized and hosted on March 24 – 25 the Russia-Africa inter-party conference. Held under the theme Russia – Africa: Reviving Traditions the primary aim was to generate discussions and share views on multifaceted developments with Africa. It was also part of the activities preceding and preparations for the second Russia-Africa Summit planned for 2022.
Senator Andrei Klimov, Deputy Secretary of the General Council of the United Russia Party of the Russian Federation, moderated the conference that included the participation of African Heads of States such as Angolan President, Lourenço João, Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and President of the Prosperity Party, Abiy Ahmed Ali, just to mention a few. Leading African parliamentary parties, academics and experts as well as the media participated.
Senator Klimov said the conference is crucial to exchange ideas between parties, strengthen relationships and mutual understanding in multifaceted spheres. The conference focuses on peace and security, counter-interference, inter-party support for economic cooperation, aspects of humanitarian cooperation and other related issues.
President Vladimir Putin sent official greetings to the participants, the transcript posted on the website of Kremlin administration.
It reads in part: “On the agenda are such important issues as ensuring peace and regional security as well as countering interference in the sovereign states’ domestic affairs, reinforcing economic and humanitarian ties and, of course, joining efforts in combating the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The statement offers assurance that “Russia will continue to share the experience, accumulated in this sphere, and supply effective vaccines, which have been widely recognized, as well as to provide comprehensive medical care.”
Putin noted that the first Russian-African summit held in October 2019 gave an impetus to cultivating friendly ties between the countries. Furthermore, the inter-party dialogue, which is successfully developing, could play a vital role in facilitating cooperation.
“I hope that the international conference initiated by the United Russia party will not only make a significant contribution to enhancing inter-party cooperation but will also become one of the stages of preparation for the second Russia-Africa summit, scheduled for 2022,” the Russian president said in his message.
Dmitry Medvedev, the Chairman of the United Russia party and Deputy Chairman of the Security Council of the Russian Federation, noted that “the development of close ties, at all levels, meets our common interests and contributes to the sustainable growth of our states, raises the living standards of people.”
The Chairman of the party, however, expected that the inter-party conference to offer the platform for significant contributions to solving the tasks outlined at the end of the first Russia-Africa summit and will further become an important stage in the preparation of the next summit, scheduled for 2022.
“I would like to wish all the participants of the inter-party conference a successful and fruitful work, strengthening partnership and friendship, and mutual understanding between our states,” Medvedev added, declaring the conference open.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, reiterated that Russia-African relations primarily rests on an understanding of the importance of collective action based on the principles of equality and mutual respect and aimed at resolving common tasks.
In the past few years, Russia-Africa cooperation has been noticeably strengthening. “We are deepening our political dialogue, developing inter-parliamentary ties, promoting cooperation between ministries and departments and expanding scientific and humanitarian exchanges. We are also continuing the structural diversification of our trade,” he said.
After the first Russia-Africa summit held October 2019 that gave a powerful impetus to the development of versatile Russia-Africa cooperation, that his ministry has created the Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum. The coordination, public and scientific councils have also been established under its aegis.
The Association for Economic Cooperation with African Countries has separately been created, this unites large Russian companies operating in African markets. Experts plan to draft roadmaps of Russia-Africa economic, scientific and humanitarian cooperation.
Lavrov further explained that it is becoming a tradition that Russia-Africa summits are preceded by events in different fields of cooperation. The Russia-Africa public forums held at the end of the past year helped strengthen academic, cultural and youth links. African issues are supposed to be included in the St Petersburg International Economic Forum scheduled for early June. A regular meeting of the foreign ministers of Russia and the African Union trio is planned for next year as well.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, during the turn, urged both Russia and Africa to solidify their time-tested solidarity in a bid to stand firmly against interference. Abiy pointed to the role of political parties, both ruling and opposition parties, for domestic political stability and international cooperation. That the Russian Federation and African countries have a rich tradition of push back counterproductive interference.
“We must revisit our traditions and solidify our friendship and renew our time-tested solidarity in order to respond to basic demands of our people to defeat the enemies within by standing against interference,” the premier stressed. Russia was a key ally in continental independent movements and against oppression, colonialism and slavery, both domestic and foreign, that have produced leaders and intellectuals, he stated.
In a message sent to the Russia-Africa inter-party conference, João Lourenço, leader of the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) party called for broader investment and diversified cooperation with Africa. He stressed the sectors of industry, agro-livestock, fisheries, energy, tourism, telecommunications, science and technology. That scientific research and the training of excellent cadres should also be given special attention.
João Lourenço further considered important the development of the relations between the African countries and the Russian Federation, as well as between the political parties, which have the responsibility of defining the policies that guide the action of the respective governments, to face the enormous challenges that are faced today.
Nearly all the African participants referred to mutually beneficial cooperation between Russian and Africa, and acknowledged it was an important factor to building an equitable international order, and a strong basis for building the future. They also noted party support for economic cooperation. That Russia plays a fundamental role in transforming the system of relations towards greater opportunities in significant viable spheres in Africa.
Rwanda made a strong case for the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). The AfCFTA liberalizes five priority services, listing these services as tourism and travel, business, transport, finance and communication services.
To sum up his remarks at the conference, Boris Gryzlov, Chairman of the Supreme Council of the United Russia party, stressed that inter-party conference will contribute to the expansion of multifaceted ties between Russia and Africa.
According to him, United Russia and African parties have to get committed to further interaction, particularly on the development of joint projects, party support for economic cooperation. In addition, the parties decided to pay significant attention to joint efforts to implement projects in the field of economics and technology development. United Russia intends to provide assistance, including through legislative support, to Russian business circles ready to work in the African direction.
United Russia reached agreements on interaction and cooperation with the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) and the Gabonese Democratic Party. ZANU-PF Foreign Relations Secretary, Simbarashe Mumbengegvi stressed the importance of developing inter-party dialogue within the framework of cooperation between Russia and Zimbabwe. He expressed hope that the relationship between United Russia and the Zimbabwe African National Union will develop dynamically.
In turn, Secretary of the Gabonese Democratic Party, Eric Dodo Bungenza, thanked United Russia for organizing and holding the international conference “Russia-Africa: Reviving Traditions” and the opportunity to take part in it. The agreements were also signed with the Congolese Labor Party, the Ethiopian Prosperity Party, and the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola.
Andrei Klimov, Deputy Secretary of the General Council of United Russia, Chairman of the Presidium Commission on International Activities, said that “the preparations for the conference stimulated the process of concluding cooperation agreements between United Russia and a number of ruling parties in Africa. This contributes not only to the effective holding of the March conference but also to the long-term cooperation of our party with all parliamentary parties of the African continent.”
Delegates from about 50 leading African parliamentary parties, heads of state and ministers took part in the work, and more than 12.5 thousand people from 56 countries around the world watched the discussions.
Kester Kenn Klomegah is a versatile researcher and a passionate contributor. Most of his well-resourced articles are reprinted elsewhere in a number of reputable foreign media.
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