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Sudan And Egypt’s Foreign Ministers Meet Over Ethiopian Dam

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At a joint news conference in Cairo on Tuesday, the foreign ministers of Sudan and Egypt met to discuss bilateral cooperation — as well as the urgency of reaching a legal agreement on the filling and operating of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Nile River, which has been causing controversy in the region.

“There can be no endless negotiations or negotiations to come, with one side continuing to take unilateral measures. Otherwise, the matter becomes a mess and leads to nothing but imposing the will on two parties and exposing their people to existential risks.”

The ministers expressed concern about the stalled negotiations — stressing the importance of water security and preserving the water rights of all three countries as they called on Ethiopia to show goodwill.

Mariam al-Sadiq al-Mahdi, the Sudanese Foreign Minister, reiterated the necessity to conclude ongoing talks.

“We affirm the need for the African Union organisation to lead a four-way initiative in order to be able to resume negotiations, but this return cannot be expected to last indefinitely.”

The officials agreed on the formation of an international quartet negotiating mechanism — made of up the European Union, the United Nations, the United States and the African Union.

The AU is to function as the sponsor and as the organisation’s current Chair — the Democratic Republic of Congo, is to manage all negotiation activities.

SOURCE: www.africanews.com/2021/03/03/sudan-and-egypt-s-foreign-ministers-meet-over-ethiopian-dam/

Angelina Jolie Sells Churchill’s Morrocco Painting For Record $9.7 Million

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A painting of Morocco by the British wartime prime minister Sir Winston Churchill, which was owned by Angelina Jolie, has sold at auction for 8.1 million euros ($9,7 million).

 

Churchill painted the “Tower of the Koutoubia Mosque” while in Morocco during World War II in 1943 and later gave it to the former US president Franklin Roosevelt.

 

The two leaders were in Morocco for the Casablanca Conference, where they planned to defeat Nazi Germany and liberate Western Europe.

 

Christie’s auction house said in a Tweet it was the only painting by Churchill during the Second World War.

 

The auction house also said it was a world auction record as the sale price was almost four times the top pre-sale estimate.

The sale also beat the previous record for a Churchill painting, which was just over 2 million euros.

 

“Tower of the Koutoubia Mosque is commonly regarded as the most important painting by Sir Winston Churchill, with its story interwoven into the history of the twentieth century,” said the art historian Barry Phipps in the Christies catalog.

 

A career army officer before entering politics, Churchill started to paint relatively late, at the age of 40.

 

His passion for the translucent light of Marrakesh, far from the political storms and drab skies of London, dates back to the 1930s when most of Morocco was a French protectorate, and he went on to make six visits to the North African country over 23 years.

 

“You cannot come all this way to North Africa without seeing Marrakech,” Churchill is believed to have told Roosevelt

“I must be with you when you see the sunset on the Atlas Mountains.”

 

After the US delegation had left Morocco, Churchill stayed an extra day and painted the view of the Koutoubia Mosque framed by the mountains.

 

He sent it to Roosevelt for his birthday.

 

Sold by the Roosevelt family in the 1950s, it changed hands several times before passing onto the now separated Hollywood couple Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt in 2011.

SOURCE: https://www.africanews.com/2021/03/02/angelina-jolie-sells-churchill-s-morrocco-painting-for-record-9-7-mil/

South Africa: ‘We Survived The Crisis,’ Says Sasol

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“I think it’s a strong, bold message to say we survived the crisis,” Sasol chief financial office Paul Victor tells The Africa Report, adding: “We are back on our legs. We are starting to run again, from walking.”

Sasol, an integrated chemicals and energy producer, has taken a $760m bet on Mozambique while the company continues its retreat from West African assets as part of its speeded-up divestment programme.

The company’s leadership has taken a potentially contentious rights issue off the table and reduced debt. Sasol’s Victor describes the move as a bold statement to the market.

Sasol opened the last week of February with the announcement of its interim results for the six months ended 31 December 2020. The first three months of 2020 were characterised by unprecedented volatility precipitated by the Covid-19 crisis. The three months thereafter saw the re-emergence of coronavirus infections during a second-wave outbreak.

Moreover, the downward spiral of the oil price, the wild swings in the rand/US dollar exchange rate combined with a highly leveraged balance sheet placed pressure on the company to institute a range of self-help measures.

The debt spiral was mostly sparked by the cost overruns incurred at the Lake Charles Chemicals Project in the US.

Deleveraging Amid Market Volatility

In March 2020, Sasol management put forward balance-sheet deleveraging and a rights issue, among others, as part of proposed mitigation measures.

“I think we lost credibility in the market as a result of the Lake Charles Project – and rightly so. But the rest of the Sasol business has performed well. We knew the Lakes Charles thing did not go well at all … when we announced those plans,” concedes Victor.

Six months later, Sasol has shaved off R63.4bn ($4,2bn) in debt and paused the rights issue.

“When the share price went to R20, I think it was devastating for shareholders. If we did a rights issue at that point in time, it would have broken the camel’s back,” adds Victor.

The latest development means “we executed what we promised. We solved the issue. If you were a shareholder at R10-R20, you are now sitting back at R210. You must be happy your investment is back to where it was – and that you didn’t take significant losses,” he says.

At the height of the Covid-19 headwinds and the company’s balance sheet deleveraging, Sasol faced intense market scepticism, which filtered through to a faltering share price.

www.theafricareport.com/68975/south-africa-we-survived-the-crisis-says-sasol/

 

Why Ethiopia’s Debt Talks Should Be Of Great Concerns To Other African Countries

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Countries seeking to renegotiate their debt are in a bind: the G20 insists that governments must apply the same treatment to the private sector, and ratings agencies say that they could declare governments to be in default if private-sector debts are involved. Being in default would raise governments’ borrowing costs and deter investors.

 

Down and downgraded

There are fears of political tensions arising related to the June 2021 legislative elections. These include border disputes with Sudan, notably over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, and the risk of a resurgence of conflict in Tigray.

 

However, it was Addis Ababa’s decision – announced on 29 January – to use the Common Framework drawn up by the G20 to negotiate its debt that prompted ratings agency S&P Global to downgrade Ethiopia’s rating from B to B- on 12 February.

The US agency even made adjustments to its pre-established schedule – according to which it had not planned to look into Ethiopia’s case until 26 March. However, sovereign rating activity is highly regulated and agencies can deviate from their programme only in “limited circumstances”.

 

Are countries being forced to seek agreements with the private sector?

S&P Global may not stop there. The agency has placed the country’s new rating under review and warns that it will be changed to SD (selective default) if the country’s commercial debt is renegotiated or if the country appears unwilling or unable to meet its next private maturities. In other words, the 11 June meeting centred around the single Ethiopian Eurobond (due to mature in 2024) will be closely scrutinised by analysts.

 

Despite the tough negotiations conducted in November 2020 by the G20 to ensure that the common renegotiation framework includes an offer “at least as favourable” from private creditors as what would be proposed by public creditors, the rating agencies still doubt the private sector’s real involvement in the process.

In question are the terms used in the text, which state that stakeholders are “required to seek” such an agreement with their private lenders. “It is unclear whether they will be obliged to do so,” says S&P.

“The rule of the game is: we have a debt, we must repay it within the terms and deadlines agreed, whatever the circumstances,” said the Abidjan-based executive, who says that “even without an agreement with the private sector, the public sector will always end up signing because, for him, the explanation put forward will justify the default.”

 

“If the eurobond component of Ethiopia’s external debt is small, and including it in the negotiations will make little difference in practice, I have a feeling that some G20 members are likely to push Ethiopia to extend their debt-relief agreements to the private sector,” says Charles Robertson, Renaissance Capital’s chief economist.

Robertson has said that if Ethiopia – which pledged to protect its private creditors during the negotiations – stands firm and avoids penalising holders of its eurobond, “investors in all African assets will be reassured, and borrowing costs for the continent are likely to be lower.” The economist cites the case of Peru, which can borrow at an interest rate of 3% (in dollars) over 100 years. African countries, on the other hand, are struggling to reach 5% for long-term bonds.

SOURCE: THE AFRICAN REPORT

WTO’s First Woman And First African Chief Starts Work Today

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The World Trade Organization’s (WTO) first female and first African director-general, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, started work on Monday, ending a six-month leadership void as she aims to revive the global trade watchdog in advance of an important yearend meeting.

 

After a long campaign that was derailed in the latter stages by a Trump administration veto, the 66-year-old Nigerian was confirmed as boss last month, pledging to “forget business as usual” at the body which is struggling to strike new deals and whose arbitration functions are paralysed.

“It feels great. I am coming into one of the most important institutions in the world and we have a lot of work to do. I feel ready to go,” Okonjo-Iweala told a reporter on arrival at the WTO’s lakeside Geneva headquarters where she donned a mask and elbow-bumped officials.

 

The first day with the former finance and foreign minister at the helm of the WTO coincides with a closed meeting of its top decision-making body, the General Council.

 

Delegates from its 164 member states joined virtually and agreed to hold the next important ministerial conference in Geneva, Switzerland, beginning on November 29. The WTO later confirmed the date.

 

The meeting was originally due to be held in Kazakhstan in 2020 but was delayed due to the pandemic. Okonjo-Iweala has said she hopes it will be the venue for clinching deals on ending fisheries subsidies and reforms for the WTO’s top appeals body which was paralysed by the Trump administration.

“Things are not easy when members are negotiating and there are still a lot of critical issues that need to be sorted out. But we are hopeful,” she said, speaking next to an ice statue of fish erected by environmental groups outside the WTO.

 

Okonjo-Iweala has previously said that agreeing on trade rules to facilitate COVID-19 vaccine distribution is also a priority.

 

Her predecessor, Brazilian Roberto Azevedo, stepped down on August 31, a year early.

 

Since the director-general role holds few executive powers, some analysts question Okonjo-Iweala’s ability to revive the body in the face of so many challenges including persistent US-China trade tensions and growing protectionism heightened by the pandemic.

SOURCE: ALJAZEERA

Kidnappers Abduct 317 Schoolgirls in Nigeria In Armed Night-time Raid

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Police have said 317 schoolgirls have been abducted in north-west Nigeria, the third mass kidnapping of students in three months in an escalating wave of rural attacks blamed on groups of armed bandits.

The schoolgirls were abducted at about 1am from the town of Jangebe, Zamfara state, from the Jangebe government girls’ secondary school, police said on Friday.

Police and army officers have “commenced a joint search-and-rescue operation with a view to rescuing the 317 students kidnapped by the armed bandits”, Mohammed Shehu, a police spokesperson said.

A local government official in Zamfara said the gunmen shot sporadically and took the girls away. “Information available to me said they came with vehicles and moved the students, they also moved some on foot,” Sulaiman Tanau Anka, an information commissioner, told Reuters.

Unicef condemned the attack. “We are angered and saddened by yet another brutal attack on schoolchildren in Nigeria,” said Peter Hawkins, the UN body’s Nigeria representative.

A surge in armed militancy by several armed bandit groups in Africa’s most populous country has caused mounting dismay, amid a breakdown of security, particularly in rural areas. The groups operate from forest hideouts spanning north-western Nigeria into Niger, where they have launched attacks, kidnappings, theft and sexual violence on rural towns and villages.

In recent months, mass kidnappings for ransom, targeting schools, have become endemic, heightening fear for the welfare of students, and that already low levels of school enrolment in the region may suffer further. A lack of security has left many rural residents and schools exposed.

The rise in attacks is fuelled in part by sizeable government payoffs in exchange for the children, officials told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity. The Nigerian government regularly denies such payouts.

Last week, unidentified gunmen killed a student in an overnight attack on a boarding school in the north-central Nigerian state of Niger and kidnapped 42 people, including 27 students. The hostages are yet to be released.

Despite several air raids and army operations, the bandit groups have continued to attack relentlessly and with ease. The groups have killed several hundreds of people over the last year. In some areas, the militants rove freely and are known to local residents and officials. The president, Muhammadu Buhari, who has been increasingly vilified for rising insecurity, last month replaced all the armed forces chiefs.

Many of the groups are made up of ethnic Fulanis, evolving from a land conflict between largely Fulani pastoralists and farmers of varying ethnicities across Nigeria.

In December, bandits abducted 344 schoolboys from the town of Kankara in north-west Katsina state. They were freed after six days but the government denied a ransom had been paid.

The gunmen were linked to Boko Haram, heightening fears of associations between the armed groups and jihadists still waging an 11-year insurgency in north-east Nigeria.

As agreements between the government and bandit groups to release kidnapped victims have become more frequent, attackers have increasingly courted public profile, without fear of arrest.

“Bandit leaders”, leading large groups of militants have spoken openly to local media in Nigeria, describing past attacks, while state governors have controversially advocated that the groups should be given amnesty and benefits. Obscure “peace deals” between bandit groups and local government officials, where weapons are reportedly surrendered, have failed to dent a rise in criminal activity overwhelming a largely poor and rural region.

The kidnapping is the latest in several attacks on schools in Nigeria by armed groups in recent years. In 2018 Islamic State’s west Africa branch kidnapped more than 100 schoolgirls from the town of Dapchiin north-east Nigeria, all but one of whom, a Christian, were released. A ransom was paid, according to the United Nations.

Boko Haram militants abducted 276 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok in Borno state in April 2014. The incident drew widespread global attention, with several prominent personalities calling for their release.

Most have been found or rescued by the army, or freed in negotiations between the government and Boko Haram. About 100 are still missing, either remaining with Boko Haram or dead, security officials say.

Source: www.theguardian.com

Do We Really Need An iPhone 13?

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By Okoeguale Samson

A Mass Communication Student (LASPOTECH), Lagos, Nigeria

 

Seriously, what is the world turning into?

We get carried away by every bit of new technology in vogue maybe for my country we’re too excited by distractions, making it look like getting a phone is our biggest problem. If you ask me, our problem is bigger than a phone. Everyday we wake up to see, hear, perceive news that shouldn’t have been called news in the first instance because we’re easily distracted, well, perhaps it’s because we woke up soundly to see another day for only the living can be distracted in actual fact, we forget we have an underlying problem to fix.
Now let’s get to if you really need a new phone which is worth more than some persons salary, rent, school fees. For goodness sake, why carry a phone that’s exorbitant and super-expensive. I know it’s your money but have you ever imagined how your life will be if you didn’t have the money to purchase an iPhone 13, have you thought about people who only have heard about an iPhone but have never used it? For once, I ask to remind you, do you really need to buy IPhone 13? Why not help someone in need, why not be instrumental to someone’s success.
Well, not to spoil the business of the iPhone market users but the truth is all of us won’t use an iPhone and even if we do many would do the unthinkable just to flow in the trend, Sometimes you get to witness someone who struggles to feed his family, someone who after getting an iPhone finds him /her (self) in a begging state of which could have been irreversible.
Before you get an iPhone13, think, think before you buy, don’t buy before you start thinking and of course if it is your type of business that demands you purchasing such exotic phone then you’re good to go, nobody will penalise you.
On this note, I draw my strength in telling you to have a perception about the other side of life. I drop my keyboard!
Well, what do you think?

Meet The 4 Men Vying For CAF Presidency

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Four men are contending to lead the Confederation of African Football (CAF) as the election is slated for March 12 in Rabat, Morocco. Augustin Senghor of Senegal, Ahmed Yahya from Mauritania, the Ivorian Jacques Anouma and South Africa’s Patrice Motsepe are in a fierce battle for the top job at CAF, the body in charge of African football.

 

The candidates have mounted an intense campaign for the chance to lead the organization.

 

CAF President Ahmad Ahmad has been slapped with a five year suspension by the world governing football body, Fifa and he may likely not stand for re-election, even if allowed to do so by the Court of Arbitration of Sports (CAF), where he is appealing the suspension.

 

Candidates for CAF’s top job

 

-Augustin Senghor-

First, let’s get to know Senegalese Augustin Senghor. He is known as the one with a wealth of experience. The 55-year old lawyer has been President of the Senegalese Football Federation since August 2009.

 

Seen as Ahmad Ahmad’s unofficial heir, “Senghor is the best of the four, according to an expert in African football. Mayor of Gorée and President of the US Gorée, he knows how to manage a club and a federation, and above all he has no pot to piss in”, he said.

 

The English-speaking Senegalese, presents himself as “a pan-Africanist candidate.”

 

He said his goal is to “tend towards the professionalization of African soccer,” continue to enhance the value of club soccer, including through a more attractive African Champions League. Senghor also wants to avoid the ‘’untimely departure of many of our young people to Europe”. Gabon, Gambia are his main supporters.

-Ahmad Yahya-

Yahya, 44, is a businessman and President of the Mauritanian Football Federation. The youngest of the four, may not have the experience of the other three, but he has a strong argument: “I brought Mauritanian soccer out of lethargy,” he told AFP.

 

“When I arrived, no infrastructure existed, Mauritania was 206th out of 209 in the Fifa ranking,” he said. But we worked as a team, with an executive office, the State and economic partners have accompanied this project, we have gained more than 100 places in the Fifa ranking, participated in our first CAN (2019) and organized our first major competition, the CAN U-20.”

 

“I have the youth, but also the experience of more than 20 years in the soccer world,” he added. His supporters are Uganda, Djibouti and Morocco.

-Jaques Anouma-

Next is Jacques Anouma from Ivory Coast. The 69- year old financier is a former President of the Ivorian Football Federation, between 2002 and 2011. Anouma is also the former member of the Comex of Fifa.

 

He has proven to be an effective manager of the “Elephants” of the Didier Drogba era, which qualified for their first World Cups in 2010 and 2014.

 

Already a candidate in 2013 to lead CAF, he was dismissed by a change of rule “timely” because he did not sit on the Comex of CAF as a member but as a representative of Fifa.

 

At 69, ‘’he is one year away from the age limit and can only run for this mandate,” said Bacary Cissé, editor-in-chief of the Senegal newspaper ‘’Record’’.

 

After recovering from covid-19, Anouma has only recently been able to start his campaign, but he knows the workings of the CAF. His supporters are Benin and Kenya.

 

– Motsepe, the surprise –

And last but not least is South Africa’s Patrice Tlhopan Motsepe. The 58-year old businessman is President of the Mamelodi Sundowns club since 2003.

 

This captain of the mining industry and brother-in-law of President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa, Motsepe is the least known of the four candidates. Many observers see him as the favorite Fifa candidate.

 

“I want to make my modest contribution in all circumstances to use sport to unite Africans,” Motsepe said at a press conference Thursday.

 

He assured: “We will succeed and we will make African soccer competitive at the international levelel”.

The President of the South African federation, Danny Jordaan, praised “his business acumen, knowledge of governance and global business”.

 

His supporters include Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Botswana.

Source: www.africanews.com/2021/02/25/meet-the-4-men-vying-for-caf-presidency/

Mali: Prime Minister Moctar Ouane Promises A Revision Of The Constitution

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Almost six months to the day after the 18 August coup that overthrew President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, the government’s roadmap has been eagerly awaited. In front of the red velvet armchairs of the International Conference Centre of Bamako (CICB), the head of the transitional government outlined his policy agenda to the members of the CNT.

Strengthening Institutions

A six-pronged action plan that will run until March 2022 – the date on which the next elections are due to be held – and which is based on the need for “political and institutional reforms necessary to consolidate democracy, i.e. to strengthen the stability of democratic and republican institutions.”

While much has been said about the need to strengthen security throughout the national territory and reinforce national cohesion at a time when Mali is facing an unprecedented security crisis and inter-community violence, the prime minister has made good governance one of the key issues of his agenda.

The fight against corruption

“The fight against impunity and corruption is in line with the concerns raised by the Malian people, it raises fundamental questions about improving governance and the establishment of strong and credible institutions,” he said in response to accusations of corruption and mismanagement raised by the opposition and civil society.

Constitutional Reforms

Promising a “Rationalisation of state spending” and more diligent management of public funds, Ouane above all stressed the need for an overhaul of Mali’s Constitution and proposed that the country adopt a new one “by referendum.”

 

Source: theafricanreport

South Africa’s Budget To Boost Spending On Vaccines And Job Creation

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South Africa announced plans on Wednesday to allocate $688 million for vaccines and over $750 million to boost youth employment in a bid to tackle the economic devastation caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

 

“This campaign allows us to emerge from the restrictions that we have experienced to economic activity,” said Finance Minister Tito Mboweni in an annual national budget speech to parliament.

 

Money is particularly short for the South African government as last year, GDP growth contracted 7.2% and the country was already in the grips of a recession before the pandemic hit.

But the finance minister said the economy would rebound 3.4% this year.

 

“This year we face an exceptionally difficult balancing act,” the Treasury said.

 

“On one side is a raging pandemic … on the other side is a weak economy, with massive unemployment, that is burdened by ailing state-owned companies, the highest budget deficit in our history and rapidly growing public debt.”

 

Record unemployment

Significant tax hikes were announced to bridge “the largest tax shortfall on record” and fund a 1.35 trillion rand ($93 billion) budget for 2021-22.

 

“We are allocating more than 10 billion rand ($688 million) for the purchase and delivery of vaccines over the next two years,” Mboweni announced.

 

South African unemployment soared to 32.5 percent in the fourth quarter of last year, the highest level since the data was first recorded in 2008.

 

While youth unemployment is at more than 60 percent after two months of national lockdown and border closures.

 

South Africa has been the country worst hit by the pandemic on the continent with more than 1.5 million cases and almost 50,000 deaths since the outbreak started.

 

Last week, South Africa launched the first phase of its vaccination campaign in which it is inoculating an estimated 500,000 front-line health care workers with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

 

Mboweni normally delivers his national budget speech alongside a potted aloe vera plant, highly resistant to drought, as a symbol of South Africa’s economic resilience. However the plant was not there this year.

 

Source: africannews