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Boko Haram attacks, human trafficking threaten progress in West Africa and Sahel

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The security situation in West Africa and the Sahel remains of grave concern, the United Nations envoy for the region said Thursday, warning that while there had been progress on the political front over the past year, there had also been a worrying upsurge in Boko Haram attacks.

“Following a notable decline in Boko Haram attacks in the first half of the year, there has been an uptick in the number of incidents since September last year, with a peak of 143 civilian casualties alone in November 2017,” said Mohamed Ibn Chambas, Special Representative and Head of the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS).

In his repotrted a fivefold increase in the use of children as suicide bombers by Boko Haram, reaching some 135 cases in 2017.

Updating the Council on Mali, he said that terrorists launched a complex attack on the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission’s (MINUSMA) positions in Kidal, which resulted in one peacekeeper’s death, while three Malian soldiers were killed by a landmine and another by terrorists in Niono. Additionally, two separate attacks on security posts were registered in Burkina Faso near the Malian border.

“The attacks in Mali as well as within the Mali-Niger-Burkina Faso tri-border area are mainly attributed to A1-Qaida affiliated groups and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara,” he stated.

Turning to Niger, he noted that because of an increasing number of security incidents, the government has dedicated 17 per cent of 2018 public expenditure to the security sector – compared to 15 per cent last year.

“This has, however, triggered demonstrations in Niger’s capital given the expected detrimental effects on the delivery of social services,” he asserted.

The UN envoy pointed out that while 700 Boko Haram abductees have recently escaped, the group continues to kidnap people and that, overall, more than two million displaced persons “desperately” await an end to the Lake Chad Basin crisis.

Commending the efforts of the Multinational Joint Task Force operating in the region, he stressed that the comprehensive response of the region to address the Boko Haram threat “must be supported by the international community.”

He explained that in the Sahel, the Group of Five (G5) – Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger – had made significant progress in operationalizing its Joint Force, including by establishing its military command structure and Force headquarters in Sevarÿ and conducting its first military operation with French troops in late October.

Additionally, in line with Security Council resolution 2391 (2017), consultations among the UN, European Union (EU) and G5 are ongoing regarding the conclusion of a technical agreement on supporting the Joint Force through MINUSMA.

“The past six months have seen substantive progress in the efforts to reinvigorate UNISS,” he said, noting that a support plan would be shared with national, regional and international partners to harmonize approaches and canvass for effective support to the Sahel “in line with national and regional priorities, the UN Agenda 2030 and the AU Agenda 2063.”

Meanwhile, he noted that migration has become one of the most lucrative activities for criminal networks across West Africa and the Sahel.

“Stemming human trafficking must continue to be a top priority in 2018 as recently underscored by Secretary-General Guterres,” he affirmed.

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Africa

Google Drives Deeper into Africa

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As the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), the new initiative that places emphasis on intra-African trade – including free movement of goods, capital  and people – foreign players have accordingly raising eyes on using the new opportunity to expand their operations in Africa.

Foreign enterprises are gearing up to localize production in industrial hubs and distribute their products across the borderless territory considered as a single market in Africa. Thus, by its description, Africa’s estimated population of 1.3 billion presents itself a huge market – from baby products through automobiles and to anything consumable.

Google LLC, the U.S. Global Technology Gaint, has primarily set its eyes on business, with a comprehensive plan to expand its operations into Africa. Google made known its plans to commit US$1 billion over the next five years in tech-led initiatives in Africa. It is investing this US$ 1 billion in Nigeria and African countries to support and transform the digital market over the next five years.

In its media release, it said the investment would include landing a subsea cable into the continent to enable faster internet speeds, low-interest loans for small businesses, equity investments into African startups, skills training and many more directions determined in future.

This is in a bid to enable fast, affordable internet access for more Africans, building helpful products, supporting entrepreneurship and small business, and helping nonprofits to improve lives across Africa.

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Google and Alphabet, Sundar Pichai, noted that the company was building global infrastructure to help bring faster internet to more people and lower connectivity costs. Through the Black Founders Fund, Google will invest in Black-led startups in Africa by providing cash awards and hands-on support.

The developing world represents the best chance of growth for large internet companies, and today, one of the very biggest set out its strategy for how it plans to tackle that.

“We’ve made huge strides together over the past decade – but there’s more work to do to make the internet accessible, affordable and useful for every African. Today, I’m excited to reaffirm our commitment to the continent through an investment of US$1 billion over five years to support Africa’s digital transformation, to cover a range of initiatives from improved connectivity to investment in startups,” said Pichai.

According to him, this is in addition to Google’s existing support through the Google for Startups Accelerator Africa, which has helped more than 80 African startups with equity-free finance, working space and access to expert advisors over the last three years. The subsea cable is set to cut across South Africa, Namibia, Nigeria and St Helena, connecting Africa and Europe.

According to Managing Director for Google in Africa, Nitin Gajria, it will provide approximately 20 times more network capacity than the last cable built to serve Africa. It is projected to create about 1.7 million jobs in Nigeria and South Africa by 2025 as the digital economy grows.

Google further announced the launch of the Africa Investment Fund, where it will invest US$50 million in start-ups across the continent providing them with access to Google’s employees, network, and technologies to help them build meaningful products for their communities.

It will additionally disburse US$10 million in low-interest loans to small businesses in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and South Africa in order to alleviate hardships brought about by the Covid pandemic.

Google is bringing venture capital into the continent. The fund might work in a similar fashion as the Google for Startups Accelerator programme.

Although Africa has a Big Four (Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa and Egypt) in terms of startup and venture capital activity on the continent, the accelerator has made sure to accept applications from startups in less-funded and overlooked regions. These countries include Algeria, Botswana, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Ghana, Morocco, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

Founded in September 1998 by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google is considered as one of the Big Five information technology companies alongside Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft. Google specializes in internet cloud services, software and hardware as well as online advertising technologies.

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Because Now We Can

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ASARPI, registered in  South Africa as The Institute for Advanced Study of African Renaissance Policies Ideas and in Mauritius as Advanced Study of African Renaissance Policies Ideas, is not only a primarily virtual  Pan African bridging Asia think tank but  is also a  global multicultural restorative justice and peacemaking making movement.We of ASARPI believe and strive daily to  live lives embracing ,living , and advocating restorative justice embedded policy ideas and practices which eradicate serious quality of life problems such as colonialism, racism sexism, ageism,poverty, environmental injustices,  anti-religious bigotry,poor government and civil society leadership; and  lack of access to decent  water,healthcare, law, and education.Core in this ASARPI mission is our rock solid belief that we are all made in the image of God and thus are all brothers and sisters in need of recovering our humanity in the authentic embracing of others especially those we have been  wrongly taught we are inferior or superior to  since as human beings we are all endowed with gifts and talents deserving to be recognized, cultivated, mentored, and used positively for our self  benefit and that of our loved but  most importantly ,for the  benefit of the rest of humanity.

Giving honor to The Right Honorable Lady Sarojini Jugnauth , welcome  Giving honor to  my great friend and more than that great brother Mr.Maxime N.C  King , to my present and absent brothers and sisters of the  Diplomatic Corps  lead by my gracious sister Her Excellency Rezina Ahmed,   High Commissioner for Bangladesh as well as  my brothers and sisters of The Chinese Chamber Silk Route Business community, including FALCON ; educational political,  religious , and other civil society leaders  and  my other brothers and sisters here today including the  marvelous leadership of  Jienfie Smart City on this  October 1 National Day of the People’s Republic of China, and UN International  Day Greetings and Welcome. Thanks for coming. All other protocols are respected  , appreciated,and observed.

I wish to thank my brother Maxime King for inviting me as Director of ASARPI, to be the Honorary Chair of this historical The SILK ROAD FOUNDATION & The CHINESE BUSINESS CHAMBER__Africa event in germinating right here in Jinfei Smart City the seeds of something well bigger than life in a new needed perspective in linking the economic and business relations among Chinese and other Asians with their continental African brothers and sisters with full effort as well in involving Africans and Asians not only on the two massive continents of the world but also Africans and Asians in their global Diasporas with points of conversions and synergies. As we move forward we need to be forward thinking about mutual respect and collaboration rather than imitating our western brothers and sisters who for centuries indulged in creating and sustaining  oppressive and exploitative  hierarchies of colonialism, slavery, racism, seismic,ageism,indentured labor, genocide, massive poverty , and the devastation of environments including the disability of biodiversity creating such horrible ecological imbalances generating the terrible pandemics which are characterizing our lives in this 21st century world in which we are trying to survive let alone prosper.

 We can do much better than this since  as human beings we all are made in the image of God in need of embracing each other and thus finding our own sustaining humanity. We must do better than this what the West has done to us and what we have and do to each other in grotesquely bigoted  attitudes and ill exploitative treatments as Africans and Asians take the center field of global affairs with a West not declining but in serious need of reorientation in understanding that White Supremacy and its demands for hegemony and imperialism does not work any more.

 We need new ways of coming to justice and peace tables in how we do economics and business together in a world with declining resources  though  with incredible digital age technologies thus in need to learn how to collaborate rather than taking and keeping rather than going to war to take the oil, the other precious minerals and to take the land of the helpless and hopeless if not by war through deceptive humanitarian overtures with evil undercurrent agendas. We need to do much better. We must and can in bold design and implementation with effective monitoring and evaluation authentic,  build a   sustainable new world glowing from an African and Asian center which produces quality technologies and commodities from fashions to food to automobiles made to last rather than made cheaply to roll over profits.   Where human  responsibilities and rights  are lived each day not merely talked about. We need to use surplus capital from means of digital  knowledge and traditional industrial production to be philanthropically socially responsible and responsive rather than copying the Western way of being greedy and stingy or promoting philanthropic initiatives which are superficial and short term rather than sustainable, Liberating, and empowering. We can do all of this because now we can . 

We Africans and Asians wherever we are , no longer have to stoop to those in the North and in the West or in other ways ask for permission and have our sovereignty and other human rights imposed on. Not with nearly half of the global economy being anchored in China and in other Asian countries and with African national leaders increasingly understanding that they too hold extraordinary promise in being serious economic players especially when in coalition with China and other nations as genuine partners in global economic and business futures. 

We have a long way to go. What matters is what we are going to do  in the described partnership we mark and celebrate today. We are going here in Mauritius on this train of a new era of African and Chinese and otherwise Asian economic and business collaborative partnerships not only for the betterment of our national and continental selves but for the entire world in desperate need to make new mojitos in new glass mugs to bring together all of us be it with chopsticks, utensils, or eating with our hands. So it is the reason why ASARPI as a virtual and face to face think tank  is joining brotherly and sisterly arms with the SILK_ROAD Foundation, the African_ China Business Forum, the Chinese Business Chamber , and other Asian business  partners in locked brotherly and sisterly arms with African partners   to be THE venue for freedom of exchange of ideas and strategies to do the necessary to bring what we dream as being a more equitable world driven by justice and peace and human responsibilities and human rights into a stunning reality for the entire world to see but more importantly benefit from in the liberation and empowerment of all humanity no matter who we are demographically, nationalities,our systems of governance, and our religious beliefs .Let’s go.Let’s get going Now Now.

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What Do Russia and Nigeria Share in Common?

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Under the aegis of the newly established Nigeria-Russia Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Russians are now gearing up to revamp the Ajaokuta Steel Industry that was abandoned after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and further take up energy, oil and gas projects in Nigeria, as well as facilitate trade between Nigeria and Russia.

After Soviet’s collapse, Russia has been struggling to find ways of regaining part of its Soviet-era economic influence throughout Africa, and Nigeria has been high on Russia’s agenda for reviving multifaceted business ties, at least to share the market and take up opportunities similar to the United States and China.

There had been a number of deals and business proposals previously, featured in Russia-Nigerian relations. As far back in June 2009, Dmitry Medvedev as president visited Nigeria for the first time, held topmost state level talks on possible nuclear energy, oil exploration and military cooperation. There were talks also focusing on the establishment of petrochemical plant in Nigeria.

Nowhere, among the four nation-tour, was it more obvious than in oil-rich Nigeria when Medvedev expressed regret saying Russia was “almost too late in engaging with Africa. In fact, work with our African partners should have been started earlier.” How serious is Russia’s engagement with Africa, even after the president’s four-nation tour – Egypt, Nigeria, Angola and Namibia? Medvedev’s statement still has some relevance, and a lot more implications and interpretations.

Russia has been prospecting for its nuclear-power ambitions down the years. According to Russia’s Rosatom, the protocol signed at that time on nuclear offered the possibility of bilateral cooperation for the development of nuclear infrastructure and the joint exploration and exploitation of uranium deposits. The aim, two nuclear plants estimated cost at $20 billion – the bulk of it by Russia, is to boost Nigeria’s electricity supply.

Russia’s second-largest oil company, and privately controlled Lukoil, has gone forth and back these several years with plans to expand its operations in Nigeria, and in a number of West African countries.

Nigeria is an economic powerhouse in West African region. As it is known, Nigeria is one of the Africa’s fastest growing economies and it boosts the largest population. Russia and Nigeria have some sort of economic relations, but these are not consistent with the long-standing cordial relations between both countries.

In addition, Nigeria is a vast market with huge potentials for prospective foreign investors and so is Russia. Regrettably, investors from both sides appear to know little or nothing about these opportunities. This is, usually attributed to the apparent inadequate knowledge of the many investment opportunities in both countries.

Statistics are extremely hard to obtain. By the end of 2018, Russia’s trade with Nigeria was almost US$600 million, still seen as far below the full potential of trade and economic cooperation between the two countries. Stunningly, talking about bilateral economic footprints, both Russians and Nigerians are unprepared to give needed useful information about Russia’s investment in Nigeria. Seen as a two-way street, Nigeria’s presence in Russia is only the diplomatic representative office.

New windows, in practice, are still opening especially with the start of African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), the most ambitious integration initiative embedded in the Agenda 2063 of the African Union.

It stresses working in industrial hubs, localizing manufacturing and marketing goods throughout Africa. It simply increases the attractiveness of the African market and makes it more significant for external players. This, however, points vividly to the fact that Africa is on a transformative journey of industrialization and diversification, and utilizing its vast reserves of natural resources.

While, it explicitly seems, Russian companies do not have enough resources to engage in such investment expansion, it is necessary to show consistency and commitment with whatever economic areas and countries that are identified, especially at the start of the AfCFTA. The market is potentially the largest, Africa – is the continent of the future.

Nigeria-Russia Chamber of Commerce and Industry, established and inaugurated late September 2021, now has as its primary task to raise bilateral economic relations between the two countries. It will help implement some of the significant issues that were discussed during the historic first Russia-Africa summit held October 2019 in Sochi, Russia.

President, Nigeria-Russia Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dr Obiora Okonkwo told the visiting Russian delegation headed by Ambassador Oleg Ozerov, from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation and Head of the Secretariat of Russia-Africa Partnership Forum (RAPF), that establishment of the NRCCI was the first step towards resuscitating and strengthening existing relations between Nigeria and Russia.

He said the inauguration of the chamber shows the beginning of a new journey that will enable “Nigeria explore business relations with the Russian Federation, and will promote economic growth, technology transfer, development and foster better understanding between both countries.”

Reports indicated that Nigeria-Russia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NRCCI) was created and incorporated under the Companies and Allied Matters Act 1990, and has established beneficial relationships and contacts with numerous economic development organizations in the Russian Federation.

The principal objectives of NRCCI is to promote commerce, industry, trade and ancillary services; foster, advance and protect commercial, industrial, trade and professional enterprises. “We are therefore seeking to establish an industrial development mechanism built on the principle of mutual beneficial relationships with their own business groups. The strategy is to establish and sustain business contacts with the existing numerous economic development organizations in Russia and Nigeria,” explained Okonkwo.

The Russian business delegation included Andrei Albeshchenko from the Association of Economic Cooperation with African States; Andrei Vladimirov, State Atomic Energy Corporation Overseas; Stepan Belanovich, Uralchem United Chemical Company JSC; Maksim Poltoradnev, Uralchem United Chemical Company JSC and other Russian business executives.

The business visit to Abuja was organized by the Association of Economic Cooperation with African States (AECAS) with support from the Russian Foreign Ministry, assistance from the Russian Embassy in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Ozerov and his delegation  paid a courtesy call on Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the Presidential Villa.

According to reports, Vice President Osinbajo has expressed keen interest in developing bilateral cooperation and the need to increase the presence of Russian companies in Nigeria. Vice President Osinbajo stressed the fact that the formal inauguration of a Nigeria-Russia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NRCCI) will consolidate efforts to deepen the long-lasting relationship and invigorate business opportunities between Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Russian Federation.

“We are interested in developing relations with Nigeria. It is one of the largest and most promising economies where we see lot of opportunities. We were happy to hear that the Vice President supports the development of bilateral economic relations. Russia has a lot to offer, from new technologies to fertilizers, agriculture, energy and infrastructure projects. We must intensify cooperation to achieve tangible results prior to the second Russia-Africa summit,” Ambassador Oleg Ozerov, Head of the Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum, told journalists during the press conference following the meeting.

Within the framework of the joint declaration adopted at the first Russia-Africa Summit, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation established the Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum. The Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum also moved to create an Association of Economic Cooperation with African States (AECAS).

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