African Energy Chamber and the Oil Industry Congratulates Equatorial Guinea’s Government on Setting Up One-Stop Shop

15.January.2019 · Posted in APO-OPA

African Energy Chamber
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The African Energy Chamber (www.EnergyChamber.org) welcomes the improvement of Equatorial Guinea’s business environment via the establishment of a one-stop shop for setting up businesses in the country. 

“The implementation of Equatorial Guinea’s one-stop shop allows companies to set up a business in Equatorial Guinea in only one week, putting the country at par with global standards, said NJ Ayuk, the Chamber’s Executive Chairman.  For the African Energy Chamber and the oil industry, it is important to encourage men and women who find opportunities, have ideas of innovative services and unavailable products, those who have the courage to deploy capital, accept risk, and make it happen.”

While Equatorial Guinea benefits from a reasonably good infrastructure, investors have traditionally been timid to set up shop in the country given its excessive bureaucracy and regulations sometimes seen as unfavorable to business. 

The government does recognize it has an enormous task of fostering an environment where investors and small and medium enterprises can succeed. The government continuous move to implement sound and efficient business regulations will be critical for entrepreneurship and a thriving private sector.

President Obiang Nguema Mbasogo had been personally advocating for stronger reforms to the country’s business environment over the past few years, especially under the National Economic Development Plan: Horizon 2020. 

The Chamber sends its heartfelt congratulations to Equatorial Guinea’s Ministry of Finance, Economy and Planning, on taking positive steps towards reforming its business environment as it enters into its Year of Energy, which will see a series of global roadshows and international summits being hosted by Malabo, and excepted to attract billions of investments into the country. In addition, the 3rdNational Economic Conference is also set to be held this year in Equatorial Guinea. 

Under the Year of Energy programme, Equatorial Guinea will be hosting the APPO Cape VII Congress & Exhibition between April 1-5, organised by Africa Oil & Power, and the Gas Exporting Countries Forum 5thGas Summit in November, the first to be held on the African continent. 

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of African Energy Chamber.
Source: Apo-Opa

Equatorial Guinea moves to support prospective entrepreneurs by cutting bureaucratic obstacles with a One-Stop Shop for business incorporation

15.January.2019 · Posted in APO-OPA

Centurion Law Group
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Equatorial Guinea’s one-stop shop became a reality this week, allowing investors and corporations alike to set up a business in sub-Saharan Africa’s fourth largest oil producer in only seven days.

The step is a very positive move, and a sign that Equatorial Guinea’s government is listening to international investors’ concerns over the country’s bureaucracy and regulations, which have prevented it from exploiting its full investment potential over the past few years. The one-stop shop will provide suitable information support for future entrepreneurs and enable them to start with business operations in the shortest time possible.

One-stop shop solutions allow businesses to deal with all permits and processes required to set up a business at a single counter, hence reducing bureaucracy and eliminating red tape. These have been gradually implemented across the world and Africa, resulting in increased local and foreign investments, and promoting small and medium enterprises (SMEs) growth. 

Equatorial Guinea’s step is expected to be very positive for business and puts the country at par with its regional and global competitors. It further signals the country’s political will to reform, and echoes President Obiang Nguema Mbasogo’s commitment to see the National Economic Development Plan: Horizon 2020 being fully implemented. 

“Our clients are excited about this. As a firm, we work to encourage investment into the country, ensure investors can have a seamless transition and operate well. The one-stop shop is a welcomed and timely development as Equatorial Guinea expects billions of investments during its Year of Energy 2019 and is a crucial step towards achieving the country’s economic diversification and poverty reduction goals under its National Economic Development Plan: Horizon 2020,” declared Santiago Olo Lima, Director for Equatorial Guinea at Centurion. 

Equatorial Guinea has doubled efforts to reach out to the international community and boost its attractiveness to investors in recent years. The country joined the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in 2017, and is now spearheading the LNG 2 Africa initiative, which seeks to create new markets for Africa’s natural gas. “This is an exciting time to be looking at Equatorial Guinea and Centurion is well-positioned to assist investors navigating the country’s energy sector,” added NJ Ayuk, CEO of Centurion. 

Under its Year of Energy 2019, Equatorial Guinea is also hosting the APPO Cape VII Congress & Exhibition between April 1-5, and the 5thSummit of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum in November. In addition, the 3rdNational Economic Conference is also set to be held this year in Equatorial Guinea. These events are expected to attract billions of investments into the country’s energy and infrastructure sectors. 

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Centurion Law Group.
Source: Apo-Opa

GROHE Is the Driving Force of the Digital Transformation in the Sanitary Sector and Sets New Standards at the 2019 ISH

15.January.2019 · Posted in APO-OPA

GROHE

For GROHE (www.GROHE.com), 2018 was all about strategic partnerships and the digitization of water. At the 2019 ISH, for the first time GROHE will present itself as one of the leading global brands for complete bathroom solutions, kitchen systems and intelligent water management.

GROHE, a leading global brand for complete bathroom solutions and kitchen faucets, continues on its road to success in 2019. In the past year, GROHE has evolved from a mere hardware manufacturer into a driving force of the digital transformation within the sanitary industry, offering its own Internet of Things (IoT) products. The intelligent water control system GROHE Sense Guard has now arrived in the world of smart homes.

“All GROHE products, innovations and activities are based on our claim to be actively involved in handling water with a view to the future,” says Michael Rauterkus, CEO of GROHE AG. “It's about finding answers to the most pressing issues of our time. At this year's ISH, our big topic will be about which solutions we as GROHE can contribute in all areas of water management.”

GROHE Forms Partnerships Against Water Damage

Strategic alliances with insurance companies such as Provinzial Rheinland or Gothaer Allgemeine in Europe and Munich Re's subsidiary, the HSB Group, in the US have opened up new sales channels for GROHE in 2018. In addition, the GROHE Sense water sensor can now be connected to Magenta SmartHome from Deutsche Telekom and GROHE Sense Guard to Nest home appliances. Thanks to the partnership with IoT expert relayr, it will be even more flexible and faster to connect the intelligent water security system to other IT ecosystems and platforms. Further strategic alliances will follow in 2019.

GROHE Invests in Innovations

Another milestone was the inauguration of the laboratory extension in Hemer, Germany, in September. With a total investment of 1.1 million euros, GROHE now combines all previously decentralized activities of the research laboratory in one place, enabling even closer interaction within the main departments of research and development and ensuring even more efficient development processes for more innovations. 

GROHE Acclaims International Success as a Global Brand

Customers in 33 countries worldwide were excited about GROHE's Truck Tour which celebrated its 100,000thvisitor in March. Further international highlights: The new Atrio faucet collection was creatively presented in an art installation during its launch in the renovated GROHE showroom at the Milan Design Week and inspired customers, partners and the media alike. In Asia, GROHE fascinated visitors of the flagship store in Singapore with a new virtual showroom, featuring the motto 'Showering Without Getting Wet'. Even the World Cup in Russia took place with GROHE’s participation: All FIFA-certified arenas were equipped with GROHE products.

Multiple Awards Honour Commitment to Sustainability and Innovative Strength

GROHE's commitment to smart, water-saving technologies has been acknowledged and appreciated. For example, at this year's German Sustainability Award, the brand was voted among the top 3 “most sustainable big companies in Germany” for the third time. In addition, with 63 design awards, 2018 is the most award-winning year in GROHE's history. 

2019 ISH: GROHE Sets Another Milestone

Currently, GROHE is working hard to prepare for the 2019 ISH, the world's leading trade fair for the responsible use of water and energy in buildings, which will take place in March in the German city of Frankfurt am Main. With a new booth concept, new event formats and many innovations, GROHE will set new standards, just like at the 2017 fair. For the first time, GROHE will present itself comprehensively as the leading global brand for complete bathroom solutions, kitchen systems and intelligent water management. At the same time, GROHE will remain true to the ISH motto of its successful and award-winning 2017 trade fair presentation, applying “Water. Intelligence. Enjoyment” as its ambition to develop high-quality, intelligent and sustainable solutions with a design that goes beyond form and function. 

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of GROHE.

For more information, please visit:

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Media contact:
Thorsten Sperlich
Chief Communications Officer

Press Office
Edelman GmbH
Agrippinawerft 28, 50678 Cologne, Germany
Phone: +49 (0)221 912887-24 | Fax: +49 (0)221 912887-77

About GROHE:
GROHE (GROHE.com) is a leading global brand for complete bathroom solutions and kitchen fittings and has a total of over 6,000 employees, 2,400 of which are based in Germany. GROHE has been part of the LIXIL Group Corporation since 2014. As an international brand, GROHE pursues the brand values of technology, quality, design and sustainability, seeking to offer the “Pure joy of water”. GROHE has been developing new product categories since its inception. This includes the GROHE Blue and Red water systems and the recently-introduced GROHE Sense water security system, which is an innovative component in the growth market of smart home technology. Innovation, design and development are closely aligned with one another and are enshrined in the German site as an integrated process. As a result, GROHE products carry the seal of quality “Made in Germany”. In the past ten years alone, more than 300 design and innovation awards as well as several top rankings at the German Sustainability Award have confirmed GROHE's success. GROHE was the first in its industry to win the German government’s CSR prize and was also featured in the renowned Fortune® magazine’s ranking of Top 50 that are “Changing the World”.

About LIXIL:
LIXIL (LIXIL.com) makes pioneering water and housing products that solve every day, real-life challenges, making better homes a reality for everyone, everywhere. Drawing on our Japanese heritage, we create world-leading technology and innovate to make high quality products that transform homes. But the LIXIL difference is how we do this; through meaningful design, an entrepreneurial spirit, a dedication to improving accessibility for all and responsible business growth. Our approach comes to life through industry leading brands, including INAX, GROHE, American Standard and TOSTEM. Over 70,000 colleagues operating in more than 150 countries are proud to make products that touch the lives of more than a billion people every day. Learn more at LIXIL.com

GROHE:
Feldmühleplatz 15
40545 Düsseldorf, Germany
Phone: +49(0)211/9130-3030
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Source: Apo-Opa

Angola: The grace period is over for João Lourenço; It is now time for effective action (Author Miguel Sanz)

15.January.2019 · Posted in APO-OPA

Verdade
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Author Miguel Sanz

João Lourenço has been president of Angola since 26 September 2017. About one year later, he cemented his hold on power by taking over the chairmanship of the ruling Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola (MPLA). Although he reshuffled the government, for instance by replacing the transport minister, and the vice-president, Manuel Vicente, most other ministerial posts had not changed from the previous administration.

Despite promises to diversify the economy and fight corruption, which he has described as a scourge on society, his actions so far appear contradictory to his publicly-voiced intentions and declarations past and present.

Lourenço inherited a dire economic situation, characterised by serious shortages of foreign currency, particularly of the U.S. dollar, and the continual devaluation of the kwanza. The currency depreciated 40 per cent against the greenback in 2018. In addition, inflation has hovered around 30 per cent and is set to rise.

Angola’s economic troubles began in 2014 when global crude oil prices dipped and severely hampered the government’s ability to generate revenue. Angola depends on oil for 75 per cent of its government revenue and 90 per cent of its exports. This over-dependency on the hydrocarbon sector left the country vulnerable to economic shocks, potentially placing the country into an irrecoverable position.

Diversification has long been the answer, but execution of a strategy and plan never materialised in the previous administration. Lourenço’s chief election campaign plank centered on reducing the dependency on Angola’s hydrocarbons sector and creating new revenue streams from existing resources or developing new ones. Diversification was also a key condition for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to agree to a three-year extended fund facility for Angola worth USD3.7 billion which the creditor announced on 7 December 2018; USD990 million would be immediately disbursed. Ending corruption, including bribery and money-laundering was another condition.

Diversification: an urgent priority

Angola is in ‘desperate’ need of cash, and therefore Lourenço is pursuing an ambitious investment programme to develop the country’s agricultural, tourism, and mining assets. For instance, the government is planning to invest USD230 million across the country over the next six years to support its Proyecto de Desarrollo de Agricultura Comercial, a development initiative launched last December which aims to commercialise the agricultural sector. Over USD77 million had already been invested in such projects countrywide at the end of 2018.

Oil majors, such as the U.K.’s BP France’s Total and U.S. oil giant ExxonMobil have also signed memoranda of understanding with the state-owned oil company, Sonangol, to develop new ultra-deep offshore oil operations. However, the amount of the investments has not yet been made public.

A lot of the money for the new investments appears guaranteed by the government. Against the backdrop of a poor economic outlook, coupled with crude oil prices below the levels the government had counted on – although Brent crude prices rebounded early this year off the back of a production cut agreed by OPEC member states – Angola will have to resort to more borrowing. Thanks to reprofiling of its debt through the issuing of USD5 billion-worth of euro- and dollar-denominated bonds, likely explains the reduced fiscal deficit, as maturities have been extended in the medium-term. However, debt-to-GDP remained at a risky 90 per cent at the end of 2018, meaning that more commercial loans will be needed to finance the ambitious investment programme and will continue to damage economic growth prospects, not least because China is Angola’s largest purchaser of oil.

Meanwhile, Angola already owes Beijing a lot of money. Official figures put this at USD23 billion last year, but due to the lack of reliable data this number could be much higher. Furthermore, as a lot of that debt with China has been guaranteed through oil-swap deals, increased volatility in crude oil prices is likely to again create more financial headaches for the government. Foreign investors are also likely to be concerned, as a growing debt burden will hinder the government’s ability to honour its debt repayments and ability to unlock financial resources, for instance to pay for projects or salaries to its civil servants.

Anti-corruption

Lourenço also pledged to stamp out corruption, which he has described as a ‘scourge on society’. International observers were positively surprised when he sacked the children of ex-president dos Santos from key positions within the state-owned oil company, Sonangol, and Angola’s sovereign-wealth fund, FSDEA. José Filomeno, a son of the former president and former head of FSDEA, and his business ally, dual Swiss-Angolan national Jean-Claude Bastos de Morais, were arrested in Angola in September 2018 on charges they had conspired to defraud the state in multiple jurisdictions, including in Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Both have denied wrongdoing. Authorities in Mauritius, Switzerland and the U.K. froze their assets, while investigations were ongoing. However, London’s Commercial Court, which is part of its High Court, lifted the freezing order due to what it said were serious procedural failings in the original complaint.

Notwithstanding, and based on a recognition that corruption was conducted with impunity under the previous administration, Lourenço’s government in May last year adopted an amnesty bill for the voluntary repatriation of stolen state funds that had been moved offshore. The true extent of Angola’s corruption problem is unclear, but authorities both in Angola and the U.S. have indicated that close to USD30 billion in illicitly obtained money from the state is being held in offshore accounts. But the amnesty bill, which expired in December, appears to have attracted little interest according to legal practitioners on the ground, and few actually repatriated any money. The government has promised to now coercively go after those who have stolen public funds and hidden it abroad.

Angola’s ability to do this remains in doubt. Repatriation of financial assets will also depend on the willingness of banks abroad to transfer back the money. Tightening anti-money-laundering legislation across the world, will make commercial banks – especially those in OECD countries – more averse to high-risk jurisdictions like Angola, diminishing the effectiveness of the law. Since ‘de-risking’ of Angola’s banking sector took place after the collapse of Portugal’s Banco Espirito Santo – in part due to toxic credit at its Angolan subsidiary – hardly any Western banks have resumed correspondent banking relationships for transacting in U.S. dollars, which explains a lot of Angola’s current problems. But because oil-dependent Angola’s financial sector is highly dollarised, such correspondent banking is also key to repatriate the stolen funds, placing doubt about the likely success of Lourenço’s policies. His advisors should be aware of that.

Restoring trust depends on the government's ability to reform the financial sector, which remains concentrated around a few politically exposed persons among Angolan banks' shareholders; of the 27 commercial banks registered with Banco Nacional de Angola – the central bank and sector regulator – five control over 80 per cent of total banking assets, deposits and loans. In addition, the banking sector is highly centralised with the vast majority of Angolans and small- and medium-sized enterprises unable to access formal credit. Instead, the bulk of credit given by Angolan banks goes to a few hundred chosen investors. Given that diversification is a priority of the Lourenço presidency, his ability to also restructure the financial sector will be critical.

From reformist to a return to old habits

The government’s new policies have indeed caught many media headlines, but Lourenço’s own behavior during his first year in office also contradict his narrative. It started with lavish spending during a state visit to Europe, where the Angolan delegation signed several agricultural development projects with French financiers, among others. According to reports on the Maka Angola news website, the Angolan delegation went on a spending spree, chartering at least three aircraft, including a Boeing 787 VIP private airliner, a Boeing 737 and a Gulfstream business jet. According to the leasing company, the Boeing 787 cost USD74,000 an hour to charter. It goes without saying, that this sort of spending does not marry well with Lourenço’s promises, and his narrative of being a modest person.

Others have pointed to the Lourenço family’s real-estate property in the town of Bethesda, Maryland, United States. A report by U.S. newspaper The Washington Post citing public records said the property was purchased in 2013 for USD1.7 million by the Lourenço family. While it is not illegal for Angolans to own property abroad as a primary residence, such revelations will probably fuel suspicions about the president’s true intentions.

More questions emerge over Lourenço’s positioning vis-à-vis the former vice-president, Manuel Vicente, who Portuguese prosecutors in 2017 charged with bribing that country’s attorney-general in 2011. Lourenço refused to recognise the Portuguese authorities’ competency to try Vicente and lambasted the charges as ‘interference’ by the former colonial power. It was agreed that Vicente would be tried in Angola instead. This never occurred. Although Vicente has been sidelined from the MPLA leadership, he remains an influential businessman in both Angola and abroad. 

Another worrying trend is potential nepotism and conflicts of interest, including within the military. In April 2018, the president promoted his brother – General Sequeira João Lourenço – as deputy head of the President's Intelligence Bureau, which oversees the military, the police and the intelligence services. Two months prior he allegedly sold a state-owned aircraft to his brother’s aviation company – SJL Aeronáutica – without a public tender and at an undisclosed price.

It does not end there. His plans to expand the military budget should sound some alarm bells. While already having among the largest military budgets on the continent, Lourenço is intent on expanding it further. One reason raised has been to fight piracy, as Angola is looking to expand its offshore oil production operations and modernizing its naval capabilities would ensure security of such operations against such threats; this is despite Angola suffering hardly any such attacks in its waters over the past few years. Although official figures indicate that Angola’s military budget halved between 2014 and 2017, well-respected Sweden-based think tank Sipri has noted that estimates of real military spending are hard to come by across Sub-Saharan Africa. Despite the decline, in September 2016 Middle East-based Privinvest Group announced on its website that it would provide naval vessels to the Angolan navy, and construct a ship-building facility together with a London-based partner.

Around that same time it was revealed that Privinvest had signed contracts to supply ships to Mozambique which were never delivered. The deal, along with two others left Mozambique with a massive bill of USD2.1 billion – more than its total national debt at the time. On 29 December, South African police arrested Manuel Chang, Mozambique’s finance minister when the deals with Privinvest were signed, on suspicion of fraud relating to the deal. This followed an indictment by the U.S. district court of New York City, which led to the arrest of Jean Boustani, an executive of Privinvest. Three former bankers of Swiss bank Credit Suisse, and a dozen more have also been indicted for their role in the scheme.

While Privinvest was not the only company involved with inflating Mozambique’s debt to astronomical levels, the company has faced resistance in other jurisdictions, such as Nigeria; Paris-based The Africa Report revealed in June 2018 that the Nigerian finance minister in 2014 had refused to accept a USD2 billion investment proposal from Privinvest after it appeared clear that Nigeria would have to provide most of the guarantees  for the loans that would finance the joint venture; Privinvest had reportedly proposed to take control over a derelict shipyard from the Nigerian navy and refurbish it. That Angola has signed a deal with Privinest under Lourenço’s watch – granted he was defence minister at the time – may therefore also concern investors, especially since the government never confirmed the investment. Furthermore, in May 2018, Credit Suisse announced a USD700 million loan to Angola

Conclusion: Napoleon walks

If Lourenço is serious about eradicating corruption, he should be careful with who he deals with and how this may look to the outside. So far, his defence scorecard, his lavish spending, support for Vicente and family appointments can only undermine his credibility. That the highest ranks of the MPLA and the broader governing elite in Angola remain intact, bar a few cosmetic changes to the Political Bureau – the apex governing body of the MPLA – is also worrying.

Adopting policies that, indeed, are likely conditions imposed by international financiers such as the IMF but that in reality are unlikely to produce any change in behaviours not only puts his own track-record at risk but also the reputation of the entire country. Furthermore, the lack of criminal convictions of former senior officials – not only of the former president’s family, but also other high-ranking MPLA cadres – suggests that their behaviour will not change. Either the authorities are deliberately delaying the processes to get some initial goodwill from foreign investors, or the system is so slow that no conviction will serve to deter future corrupt behaviour. The end result is that foreign investors and financiers engaging in Angola are setting themselves up to considerable compliance- and legal risks. Giving the ‘new’ president the benefit of the doubt may have been valid in his first year, but the lack of progress should prompt them to adopt a more cautious approach. Just as Napoleon in George Orwell’s Animal Farm promised a whole new way of governing, once in power he quickly adopted the same habits as his former steward.

Read more on: https://bit.ly/2Dc1Ad7

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Verdade.
Source: Apo-Opa

Sultan of Sokoto (Nigeria) and Kabaka of Bugunda (Uganda) call on traditional leaders to come together to help keep girls in school

15.January.2019 · Posted in APO-OPA

Keeping Girls in School (KGS)
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The Sultan of Sokoto (Nigeria), His Eminence Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar  III, together with The Kabaka of Bugundu (Uganda), His Highness Ronald Edward Frederick Kimera Muwenda Mutebi II,  today, chaired the Keeping Girls in School Summit’; a convening of African leaders, traditional rulers, religious heads, youth groups, advocates and thought leaders, in Abuja, Nigeria.

The two-day event brings together influential traditional and religious leaders from across the continent to discuss the critical issue of keeping girls in school to complete primary and secondary education (i.e. 12 years of education) and find solutions from within the rich, diverse cultures and values of Africa’s thought leaders. With poverty being one of the key drivers of keeping girls out of school, the Summit also seeks to promote incorporating in-school skills that generate income.

For decades, African governments and international development partners have been trying to improve and reduce suffering as a result of pregnancy and child birth. Very few improvements have been recorded in the health of women and children, despite studies showing that the health of children substantially improves when the mother is educated. Completion of secondary education by girls has been found to significantly improve not only maternal and child health, but women’s decision-making, as well as their ability to earn a living; thus improving the health and nutrition of families and communities.  This undeniable link between the education of the mother and health and development outcomes of families, shows that the future of African families is dependent on the education of the girl.

The Summit provides a platform for community leaders to share ideas and best practices and develop strategies and networks to keep girls in school. It also serves as a means to sensitize and equip these leaders with the right skills to motivate parents and care givers to be deeply committed to ensuring all girls in their constituencies complete at least 12 years of education.

Speaking at the event, The Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence Muhammadu Sa'ad Abubakar III called on all traditional and religious leaders on the continent to focus on the development of their communities; stating, “A key factor in the development of our communities is the education of our girls.” 

He further stated, “I believe traditional and religious leaders will lead in shaping the future of Africa by ensuring all girls complete secondary school education and learn life and livelihood skills in the process.”

In attendance were His Excellency, Muhammadu Buhari, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, The Emir of Kano (Nigeria) His Highness Muhammadu Sanusi II who presented a lead paper titled “Perspective on Development in Africa – population, education and investment”; The Emir of Argungu (Kebbi state, Nigeria) His Highness Alhaji Samaila Mera; The  Nnabagereka of Buganda Queen Sylvia Nagginda; The Asantehene of Asante Ghana,; Archbishop of Abuja, Cardinal John Onaiyekan; Sheikh Sheriff Ibrahim Saleh  ; Queen Mother of the Asante, Her Majesty, Nana Ama Konadu; Sultan of Zinder (Niger Republic) His Highness, Alh. Aboubacar Sanda as well as representatives from international organisations such as the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Nigeria, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the Department for International Development (DFID) and others. Also in attendance were representatives of various ministries, departments and agencies in Nigeria including the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Muhammad Musa Bello and the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu who in his remarks reiterated the importance of girls’ education.

The conference gives the attending traditional and religious leaders the opportunity to reflect and come up with ideas on how they would contribute to the movement of keeping girls in school in their communities by increasing enrolment, retention and completion of school as well as ensuring girls acquire life and livelihood skills. This initiative would be amplified through the support of gender and youth focused groups and organizations.

African Youth Groups will support the traditional and religious leaders by amplifying the initiative through encouraging the youth to mentor and actively participating in promoting Keeping Girls in School in their communities. The Initiative also brings together African female leaders who will use their influence to promote keeping girls in school; serving as mentors and role models in their communities

Following the conference, it is envisioned that traditional and religious leaders will continue to have a platform for regular engagement and knowledge-sharing on keeping girls in School in Africa.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Keeping Girls in School (KGS).

Media Contact:
Laide Akinyanmi
oakinyanmi@africapractice.com 

About Keeping Girls in School:
Keeping Girls in School is an initiative aimed at starting a social movement in Africa that will rapidly set the stage to leap frog improvement in maternal and child health and the status of women and girls in Africa. This initiative will engage and support traditional and religious leaders who shape social norms, culture and behaviour of a mass majority of people in Africa, regardless of class, religion or gender, to develop strategies and solutions from within and use their positions to ensure African girls finish at least twelve of year of school.

For more information: Follow us on Twitter @KGISAfrica and join the conversation on #GirlsInSchoolAfrica

Source: Apo-Opa

Ten threats to global health in 2019

14.January.2019 · Posted in APO-OPA

World Health Organization (WHO)
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The world is facing multiple health challenges. These range from outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases like measles and diphtheria, increasing reports of drug-resistant pathogens, growing rates of obesity and physical inactivity to the  health impacts of environmental pollution and climate change and multiple humanitarian crises.   

To address these and other threats, 2019 sees the start of the World Health Organization’s new 5-year strategic plan – the 13th General Programme of Work. This plan focuses on a triple billion target:  ensuring 1 billion more people benefit from access to universal health coverage, 1 billion more people are protected from health emergencies and 1 billion more people enjoy better health and well-being. Reaching this goal will require addressing the threats to health from a variety of angles. 

Here are 10 of the issues that will demand attention from WHO and health partners in 2019.

Air pollution and climate change

Nine out of ten people breathe polluted air every day. In 2019, air pollution is considered by WHO as the greatest environmental risk to health. Microscopic pollutants in the air can penetrate respiratory and circulatory systems, damaging the lungs, heart and brain, killing 7 million people prematurely every year from diseases such as cancer, stroke, heart and lung disease. Around 90% of these deaths are in low- and middle-income countries, with high volumes of emissions from industry, transport and agriculture, as well as dirty cookstoves and fuels in homes.

The primary cause of air pollution (burning fossil fuels) is also a major contributor to climate change, which impacts people’s health in different ways. Between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause 250 000 additional deaths per year, from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress.

In October 2018, WHO held its first ever Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health in Geneva. Countries and organizations made more than 70 commitments to improve air quality. This year, the United Nations Climate Summit in September will aim to strengthen climate action and ambition worldwide. Even if all the commitments made by countries for the Paris Agreement are achieved, the world is still on a course to warm by more than 3°C this century.

Noncommunicable diseases

Noncommunicable diseases, such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease, are collectively responsible for over 70% of all deaths worldwide, or 41 million people. This includes 15 million people dying prematurely, aged between 30 and 69.

Over 85% of these premature deaths are in low- and middle-income countries. The rise of these diseases has been driven by five major risk factors: tobacco use, physical inactivity, the harmful use of alcohol, unhealthy diets and air pollution. These risk factors also exacerbate mental health issues, that may originate from an early age: half of all mental illness begins by the age of 14, but most cases go undetected and untreated – suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-19 year-olds.

Among many things, this year WHO will work with governments to help them meet the global target of reducing physical inactivity by 15% by 2030 – through such actions as implementing the ACTIVE policy toolkit to help get more people being active every day.

Global influenza pandemic

The world will face another influenza pandemic – the only thing we don’t know is when it will hit and how severe it will be. Global defences are only as effective as the weakest link in any country’s health emergency preparedness and response system.

WHO is constantly monitoring the circulation of influenza viruses to detect potential pandemic strains: 153 institutions in 114 countries are involved in global surveillance and response.

Every year, WHO recommends which strains should be included in the flu vaccine to protect people from seasonal flu. In the event that a new flu strain develops pandemic potential, WHO has set up a unique partnership with all the major players to ensure effective and equitable access to diagnostics, vaccines and antivirals (treatments), especially in developing countries.

Fragile and vulnerable settings

More than 1.6 billion people (22% of the global population) live in places where protracted crises (through a combination of challenges such as drought, famine, conflict, and population displacement) and weak health services leave them without access to basic care.

Fragile settings exist in almost all regions of the world, and these are where half of the key targets in the sustainable development goals, including on child and maternal health, remains unmet.

WHO will continue to work in these countries to strengthen health systems so that they are better prepared to detect and respond to outbreaks, as well as able to deliver high quality health services, including immunization.

Antimicrobial resistance

The development of antibiotics, antivirals and antimalarials are some of modern medicine’s greatest successes. Now, time with these drugs is running out. Antimicrobial resistance – the ability of bacteria, parasites, viruses and fungi to resist these medicines – threatens to send us back to a time when we were unable to easily treat infections such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, gonorrhoea, and salmonellosis. The inability to prevent infections could seriously compromise surgery and procedures such as chemotherapy. 

Resistance to tuberculosis drugs is a formidable obstacle to fighting a disease that causes around 10 million people to fall ill, and 1.6 million to die, every year. In 2017, around 600 000 cases of tuberculosis were resistant to rifampicin – the most effective first-line drug – and 82% of these people had multidrug-resistant tuberculosis.

Drug resistance is driven by the overuse of antimicrobials in people, but also in animals, especially those used for food production, as well as in the environment. WHO is working with these sectors to implement a global action plan to tackle antimicrobial resistance by increasing awareness and knowledge, reducing infection, and encouraging prudent use of antimicrobials.

Ebola and other high-threat pathogens

In 2018, the Democratic Republic of the Congo saw two separate Ebola outbreaks, both of which spread to cities of more than 1 million people. One of the affected provinces is also in an active conflict zone.

This shows that the context in which an epidemic of a high-threat pathogen like Ebola erupts is critical – what happened in rural outbreaks in the past doesn’t always apply to densely populated urban areas or conflict-affected areas.

At a conference on Preparedness for Public Health Emergencies held last December, participants from the public health, animal health, transport and tourism sectors focussed on the growing challenges of tackling outbreaks and health emergencies in urban areas. They called for WHO and partners to designate 2019 as a “Year of action on preparedness for health emergencies”.

WHO’s R&D Blueprint identifies diseases and pathogens that have potential to cause a public health emergency but lack effective treatments and vaccines. This watchlist for priority research and development includes Ebola, several other haemorrhagic fevers, Zika, Nipah, Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and disease X, which represents the need to prepare for an unknown pathogen that could cause a serious epidemic.

Weak primary health care

Primary health care is usually the first point of contact people have with their health care system, and ideally should provide comprehensive, affordable, community-based care throughout life. 

Primary health care can meet the majority of a person’s health needs of the course of their life. Health systems with strong primary health care are needed to achieve universal health coverage. 

Yet many countries do not have adequate primary health care facilities. This neglect may be a lack of resources in low- or middle-income countries, but possibly also a focus in the past few decades on single disease programmes. In October 2018, WHO co-hosted a major global conference in Astana, Kazakhstan at which all countries committed to renew the commitment to primary health care made in the Alma-Ata declaration in 1978. 

In 2019, WHO will work with partners to revitalize and strengthen primary health care in countries, and follow up on specific commitments made by in the Astana Declaration.

Vaccine hesitancy

Vaccine hesitancy – the reluctance or refusal to vaccinate despite the availability of vaccines – threatens to reverse progress made in tackling vaccine-preventable diseases. Vaccination is one of the most cost-effective ways of avoiding disease – it currently prevents 2-3 million deaths a year, and a further 1.5 million could be avoided if global coverage of vaccinations improved. 

Measles, for example, has seen a 30% increase in cases globally. The reasons for this rise are complex, and not all of these cases are due to vaccine hesitancy. However, some countries that were close to eliminating the disease have seen a resurgence. 

The reasons why people choose not to vaccinate are complex; a vaccines advisory group to WHO identified complacency, inconvenience in accessing vaccines, and lack of confidence are key reasons underlying hesitancy. Health workers, especially those in communities, remain the most trusted advisor and influencer of vaccination decisions, and they must be supported to provide trusted, credible information on vaccines. 

In 2019, WHO will ramp up work to eliminate cervical cancer worldwide by increasing coverage of the HPV vaccine, among other interventions. 2019 may also be the year when transmission of wild poliovirus is stopped in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Last year, less than 30 cases were reported in both countries. WHO and partners are committed to supporting these countries to vaccinate every last child to eradicate this crippling disease for good.

Dengue

Dengue, a mosquito-borne disease that causes flu-like symptoms and can be lethal and kill up to 20% of those with severe dengue, has been a growing threat for decades. 

A high number of cases occur in the rainy seasons of countries such as Bangladesh and India. Now, its season in these countries is lengthening significantly (in 2018, Bangladesh saw the highest number of deaths in almost two decades), and the disease is spreading to less tropical and more temperate countries such as Nepal, that have not traditionally seen the disease. 

An estimated 40% of the world is at risk of dengue fever, and there are around 390 million infections a year. WHO’s Dengue control strategy aims to reduce deaths by 50% by 2020.

HIV

The progress made against HIV has been enormous in terms of getting people tested, providing them with antiretrovirals (22 million are on treatment), and providing access to preventive measures such as a pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP, which is when people at risk of HIV take antiretrovirals to prevent infection). 

However, the epidemic continues to rage with nearly a million people every year dying of HIV/AIDS. Since the beginning of the epidemic, more than 70 million people have acquired the infection, and about 35 million people have died. Today, around 37 million worldwide live with HIV. Reaching people like sex workers, people in prison, men who have sex with men, or transgender people is hugely challenging. Often these groups are excluded from health services. A group increasingly affected by HIV are young girls and women (aged 15–24), who are particularly at high risk and account for 1 in 4 HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa despite being only 10% of the population. 

This year, WHO will work with countries to support the introduction of self-testing so that more people living with HIV know their status and can receive treatment (or preventive measures in the case of a negative test result). One activity will be to act on new guidance announced In December 2018, by WHO and the International Labour Organization to support companies and organizations to offer HIV self-tests in the workplace.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of World Health Organization (WHO).
Source: Apo-Opa

Minister of Transport statement following the blockage of the N3 Van Reenen and Tugela Plaza by truck drivers

14.January.2019 · Posted in APO-OPA

Republic of South Africa: Department of Government Communication and Information
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The Minister of Transport, Dr Blade Nzimande, strongly condemns the blockage of the N3 Van Reenen and Tugela Plaza by truck drivers.

Yesterday evening, the 13th of January 2019, truck drivers used their trucks to block the North and South bound of the N3 from 20h00.

Law enforcement agencies responded swiftly and impounded four (4) trucks, arrested four (4) truck drivers and cleared the road for traffic this morning at 3h00.

“This unfortunate action by truck drivers is not in keeping with the letter and spirit of our meeting held this past Friday, 11 January 2019, where I met with the leadership of the All Truck Drivers Foundation and the National Truck Drivers Association to address challenges facing South African truck drivers. This is nothing but negotiating in bad faith on the part of some of the leaders of the truck drivers,” said Minister Nzimande”.

Minister Nzimande further said that the meeting agreed to constitute a team led by the Department of Transport, with all affected departments, which includes the Department of Home Affairs, the Department of Labour, the Bargaining Council and the representatives of truck drivers.

“Guided by the law and applicable legislation, as government we remain steadfast to resolve this issue that is beginning to bedevil the South African trucking industry,” said Minister Nzimande.

Minister Nzimande further said that government will not tolerate lawlessness, anarchy and sabotage demonstrated by some truck drivers who are determined to act with apparent impunity.

“I commend the law enforcement agencies for their swift response in arresting those responsible for this malicious act which seeks to undermine the efforts by government and truck drivers’ associations who are committed to resolve this matter within the ambit of the law,” said Minister Nzimande.

Going forward, Minister Nzimande calls upon truck drivers associations and truck owners to observe the rule of the law in pursuit of their trucking engagements and business.

As resolved on the Friday, 11 January meeting in Durban between the Minister and the trucking associations, the Department of Transport will convene a meeting with all involved government departments and truck drivers to resolve this impasse.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Republic of South Africa: Department of Government Communication and Information.
Source: Apo-Opa

President Ramaphosa to address the Pre-World Economic Forum Breakfast

14.January.2019 · Posted in APO-OPA

Republic of South Africa: Department of Government Communication and Information
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President Cyril Ramaphosa will address a Team South Africa pre-World Economic Forum (WEF) breakfast meeting in Johannesburg on Wednesday, 16 January 2019.

Team South Africa comprises a diversity of stakeholders in the South African society and economy and will participate in the WEF Davos Annual Meetings in Switzerland from 22 to 26 January 2019. The 2019 theme for this international gathering is “Globalization 4.0: Shaping a Global Architecture in the Age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

The pre-WEF breakfast is an opportunity for Team South Africa to develop an integrated approach to South Africa’s input into the WEF deliberations and to identify areas of emphasis in presenting South Africa as a desired investment destination and trade partner.

The Davos delegation led by President Ramaphosa will be coordinated by Finance Minister Tito Mboweni and will include leadership of government, business and labour.

Government will be represented by the Ministers of International Relations and Cooperation; Economic Development; Trade & Industry; Public Enterprises; Health; Energy, and Communications.

Members of the media are invited as follows:

Date: Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Time: Media to arrive at 06:00 for set up and registration. Programme starts at 07:00

Venue: Crowne Plaza Hotel, Rosebank, Johannesburg

President Ramaphosa’s keynote address will be open to media.

To indicate attendance, kindly email: Jabulane.Mulambo@treasury.gov.za. Please note that RSVP is essential.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Republic of South Africa: Department of Government Communication and Information.
Source: Apo-Opa

Transport Minister Dr Blade Nzimande to release Festive Season Road Safety Report

14.January.2019 · Posted in APO-OPA

Republic of South Africa: Department of Government Communication and Information
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The Minister of Transport, Dr. Blade Nzimande, will officially release the preliminary Festive Season Road Safety Report on Wednesday, 16 January 2019 at the GCIS Tshedimosetso House in Hatfield, Pretoria.

The preliminary Festive Season Road Safety report will cover the period from the 1st December 2018 to the 8th January 2019.

Minister Nzimande will be joined by the Deputy Minister of Transport, MECs for Transport and Community Safety in the provinces, Board Chairpersons and CEOs of Transport entities, key transport stakeholders and senior government officials.

Members of the media are invited to the briefing and the details are as follows:

Date: Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Time: 12h30 for 13h00

Venue: GCIS Tshedimosetso House, 1035 Francis Baard Street, Hatfield Pretoria

NB: There will be a video link up to Imbizo Media Centre, 120 Plein Street in Cape Town

Members of the media attending the briefing are requested to confirm their attendance with Sam Monareng on monarens@dot.gov.za or Tshegofatso Maake on maaket@dot.gov.za.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Republic of South Africa: Department of Government Communication and Information.
Source: Apo-Opa

Ireland’s Taoiseach Leo Varadkar visits Ethiopia

14.January.2019 · Posted in APO-OPA

Embassy of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, London, UK
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Leo Varadkar, Taoiseach (Prime Minister) of Ireland arrived in Ethiopia for a working visit on Tuesday (January 8). During his visit, Mr Leo Varadkar held talks with Prime Minister Dr Abiy Ahmed on bilateral, regional and international matters. The Prime Minister also paid a courtesy call on President Sahle-Work Zewde and met with the Acting Chairperson of the AU Commission as well as visiting the Lalibela Rock-Hewn churches and Irish Aid supported projects in Tigray Regional State. 2019 marks 25 years of diplomatic relations between Ireland and Ethiopia and 25 years of Irish Aid’s work in Ethiopia, and the visit of the Taoiseach underlined the depth and strength of the relationship between our two countries and the achievements of the partnership to date.

During his talks with Prime Minister Dr Abiy on Wednesday (January 9) both sides underlined the importance of further strengthening the longstanding and excellent relations between the two countries. Prime Minister Dr Abiy Ahmed noted that the visit by the Prime Minister of Ireland was a testimony of the strengthened ties between Europe and Ethiopia. The Irish Prime Minister praised the reforms being made in Ethiopia over the last few months and reiterated his government’s continued support to Ethiopia, particularly in agro-processing investments. They also discussed Ireland’s support for the political and economic reforms underway in Ethiopia, the growth of Ireland’s development cooperation program with Ethiopia and regional issues in the Horn of Africa, including the historic rapprochement between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Prime Minister Varadkar paid a courtesy call on President Sahle-Work who welcomed the Prime Minister and underlined the excellent relations between Ireland and Ethiopia which is moving forward. She stressed the importance of strengthening cooperation on bilateral and multilateral fora and thanked the Irish Government for the support provided in agriculture, health, education and social protection sectors. She underlined the role of the Irish investors in agro-processing and encouraged Irish investors to take part in agro-processing in the industrial parks. The Prime Minister, who mentioned that he was the first Irish Prime Minister to visit Ethiopia for a decade, highlighted Irish/Ethiopian collaboration on a myriad of bilateral and regional issues of common interest. He said: “Ethiopia has been our single key international partner for 25 years and we would like to further deepen our relations” adding, “We support the recent political and economic reforms undertaken by Ethiopia.” “Ireland”, he said, “is committed to boosting business, trade and investment cooperation with Ethiopia.”

During his visit, the Irish Prime Minister met with Irish NGOs working in Ethiopia and attended a reception with the Irish community in Ethiopia where he launched the Ethio-Irish Alumni Association. On Thursday (January 10) he flew to the Lalibela Rock-Hewn Churches, a UNESCO World Heritage site where he announced a new partnership between Ireland and Ethiopia on cultural heritage and rural tourism. Mr Varadkar said this partnership would allow for exchanges and experience sharing between Irish and Ethiopian institutions, focused on cultural heritage tourism and rural job creation through tourism. He said Ethiopia’s Minister for Culture and Tourism, Dr Hirut Kassaw would visit Ireland to meet with relevant bodies, and finalize a program of experience sharing between Ireland and Ethiopia. There is already an existing partnership covering cultural heritage tourism but the new program will deepen the partnership over the next two years. He said Lalibela would join the 2019 ‘Global Greening’ event and, along with hundreds of other sites across the world, will go green on St Patrick’s Day 2019, to mark the deep friendship between the Ethiopian and Irish people.

He then travelled on to Axum where he visited a number of agriculture, health, education and social protection programs jointly supported by Irish Aid and the Ethiopian government. On Friday, he visited Eritrean refugee camps near Shire and met with refugees and local authorities to discuss Ireland’s support for Ethiopia in hosting the second largest refugee population in Africa and their joint commitment to the Global Compact for Migration.

Ireland is one of the key development partners of Ethiopia. In 2018, the Government of Ireland, through Irish Aid, invested €30 million in social protection, health, rural development and women’s empowerment in Ethiopia. This will increase this year by nearly 7% to €32 million (1 billion Ethiopian Birr). Ireland’s Development Cooperation Program with Ethiopia is the largest Irish government bilateral program in the world. Many Irish investors and companies are engaged in various investment sectors in Ethiopia.

Ethiopia and Ireland have a very strong and excellent relationship cemented on longstanding diplomatic and people-to-people ties. Ireland opened its embassy in Addis Ababa in 1994, and Ethiopia resumed its mission in Dublin in 2003, but the relationship is based on wide ranging issues of mutual interest and precedes formal relations. The most visible example of this was during the height of the 1984 famine in which so many Ethiopians died. Ireland's response to that catastrophe remains a vivid and warming memory for Ethiopians. Most notable among the humanitarian efforts of the Irish people was the work of the Irish rock star, Sir Bob Geldof, whose initiative in organizing the Band Aid program mobilized the international community to provide the support that enabled the survival of millions of Ethiopians. The passionate and full-hearted response of the Irish people and their government to that crisis has remained a linchpin underlying current bilateral cooperation as well as people-to-people relations.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Embassy of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, London, UK.
Source: Apo-Opa