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African Development Bank unveils new digital platform for Africa Investment Forum

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The African Investment Forum’s new digital platform will connect project sponsors with investment opportunities in Africa, vastly improving the quality of project information and documentation.

The Platform, as it is known, also provides an opportunity for Transaction Facilitators and Advisers to showcase their professional services to both Investors and Project Sponsors.  

Project Sponsors will be able to provide information on their deals to a wide variety of investors at zero cost, while investors can showcase their product and service offerings, as well as express interest in projects on the platform.

The Africa Investment Forum is expecting the digital platform to become Africa’s premier digital marketplace and first resort for accessing an eco-system of investment stakeholders, projects and investment services providers

Aside from promoting centralized deal origination and reducing intermediation costs, The Platform will provide a whole range of benefits including:

A live database of private/PPP projects and non-confidential investment opportunities in Africa;

A repository of information on investors and technical assistance providers on the continent.

Matchmaking capabilities between investors, co-financiers and projects across sectors, instruments and regions;

Interactive engagement within communities of interest by sector which you will be able to join and actively participate in;

Deal flow analytics and investment support services;

Access to the trainings and courses in the ConnectAmericas Academy;

Multiple user roles as both Investors, Project Sponsors and Transaction Facilitators;

Bilingual capabilities for users.

Africa’s growth prospects remain steady, with overall GDP projected to accelerate to 4% in 2019, according to the Bank economic outlook report. Increasingly, the continent is witnessing a surge in the number of deals requiring financing, as a greater number of large and attractive businesses require increased capital for expansion.

The Platform is expected to connect a vibrant community of users interested in investment opportunities on the continent, providing relevant information on available projects, sources of funding, and technical assistance.

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Human Rights

UN General Assembly celebrates 20 years of promoting a culture of peace

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Just as the greatest global challenges cannot be solved by a single country, peace cannot be pursued in isolation, outgoing UN General Assembly President María Fernanda Espinosa said on Friday.

Ms. Espinosa was speaking at a high-level forum to mark the 20th anniversary of the General Assembly’s adoption of a Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace.

“Because peace is more than the absence of war, it needs constant nurturing through the pursuit of dignity and equality, of human rights and justice, of respect and understanding, and of cooperation and multilateralism”, she said.

As UN Chef de Cabinet Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti pointed out, although peace is at the heart of the work of the United Nations, it is something that must be addressed daily.

“A culture of peace is inseparable from human rights, respect for diversity, and fairer societies,” she said.

“One main challenge as we strive to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals is to build more preventive and inclusive approaches that ensure the participation of women, young people and vulnerable, marginalized and non-represented groups.”

The Chef de Cabinet said working to achieve peace not only covers traditional notions of security but also challenges such as social injustice, the normalization of hate speech, terrorism, violence against women, and conflict.

Leymah Gbowee from Liberia knows many of these issues first-hand. She won the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize for her role in uniting Christian and Muslim women to help end her country’s 14-year civil war.

She said peace is seen as the absence of bad, rather than the presence of good. However, instead of being “a fairytale of bland happiness”, she views it as quite radical.

“If we dig a little deeper into what a culture of peace actually looks like, it pushes us beyond understanding peace as the absence of conflict and being a positive state itself”, Ms. Gbowee told the gathering.

“A culture of peace creates an environment where people thrive and have their needs met. It looks like a population of satisfied people: healthy children, educated children, a functional health system, responsive justice structure, an empowered, recognized, appreciated and fully compensated community of women; food on the table of every home, and a lot more. It is the full expression of human dignity.”

The high-level commemorative event marked Ms. Espinosa’s final session presiding over the General Assembly, where all 193 Member States have equal representation.

In her goal to bring the UN’s main deliberative and policy-making organ closer to everyday people, she chose the traditional ruler of the Ashanti people of Ghana to deliver the keynote address: a historic first.

Representing a kingdom that has existed since the 17th century, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II ascended the podium wearing kente cloth and accompanied by two praise-singers.

He highlighted some of the UN’s accomplishments in preserving global security: for example, staving off nuclear war and preventing conflict between nations. However, as he observed, the landscape today is different.

“Warfare is no longer the threat we face from states; it is now a danger we face on a daily basis from our citizens and from all quarters. This new threat comes on the heels of an unprecedented trust deficit in political leadership at the national level. The effect of this trust deficit is to erode the capacity of political leaders to rally their people to coalesce around national interests. The consequence for peace and security cannot be overstated”, he said.

The Ashanti leader called for a new partnership between elected authorities and traditional governance, in the spirit of authentic collaboration.

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EU Politics

European Solidarity Corps: Three years on

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Tomorrow is the third anniversary of President Juncker’s 2016 State of the Union announcement to set up a European Solidarity Corps, offering young people the opportunity to take part in a wide range of solidarity activities across the EU.

Since then, more than 161,000 young people between 18 and 30 have signed up to join the Corps, and the initiative has made a difference in many people’s lives. Most of the activities funded offer opportunities to volunteer – individually or in teams. But young people can also benefit from traineeships and jobs. Moreover, young people themselves can set up solidarity projects where they initiate, develop and run activities to contribute to positive change in their community, while living abroad and gaining valuable skills.  

Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, Tibor Navracsics, said: “We have achieved a lot in the last three years. In record time we put in place a new programme opening up opportunities for young people and organisations to support others, helping us build a more cohesive, caring society. I am proud to see so many young people eager to get involved and active in projects on the ground. Their enthusiasm is truly inspiring. This is why I have proposed to extend and strengthen the European Solidarity Corps after 2020.”

Inclusion is one of the most common topics tackled by European Solidarity Corps projects but not the only one. Other topics are youth work, climate change, community development, citizenship, education and culture. Tens of thousands more opportunities are expected to be created in the following months and years in these fields. Moreover, one in three of the activities funded by the European Solidarity Corps are reserved for participants with fewer opportunities who face obstacles such as disabilities, educational difficulties, or economic, social or geographical obstacles.

For instance, in Latvia, a project entitled “A special place for special people” promotes the integration of young people with disabilities into the labour market by employing them and involving them in all the activities of a social enterprise café in Riga. In Greece, volunteers help protect the forest of Xylokastro and Derveni by taking care of watering and planting trees, as well as cleaning the forest paths. And in Sweden, through the project “Climate Awareness”, volunteers learn about climate change and biodiversity by helping in the organic garden and ecovillage and participating in outreach activities. As an example of a project initiated by volunteers themselves, in Lithuania, five participants from a centre for disabled young people set up their own Solidarity Coffee project, enabling them to form new friendships and build personal connections with the wider community.

Background

In his State of the Union address of September 2016, President Juncker announced the creation of a European Solidarity Corps, providing opportunities for young Europeans to engage in solidarity activities and contribute to society as part of the Commission’s broader strategy to invest in young people. The Corps responds to a real interest among young people to engage in social projects. In a Eurobarometer survey published in spring 2019, more than half of the young respondents said they had participated in volunteering activities or local community projects. Three in four stated that they had been engaged in organised movements or volunteering.

A mere 3 months after President Juncker’s announcement, on 7 December 2016, the Solidarity Corps was launched, with the aim of having 100,000 young people taking part by the end of 2020. During an initial phase, eight different EU funding programmes were mobilised to offer volunteering, traineeship or job opportunities.

On 30 May 2017, the Commission put forward a proposal to equip the European Solidarity Corps with a single legal base, its own financing mechanism and a broader set of solidarity activities. The new Regulation came into force on 5 October 2018 and the Corps has its own budget of €375.6 million until 2020.

The first calls for proposals were launched in August and November 2018, creating some 20,000 new opportunities. Another call for proposals is currently open, with an application deadline of 1 October 2019, and is set to create another 7,000 opportunities. This call invites organisations with a quality label to apply for grants and set up projects for young people to volunteer, work or go on traineeships. Groups of young people can also apply to run a solidarity project themselves. Young people interested in taking part in a funded project can directly sign up on the European Solidarity Corps Portal.

On 11 June 2018, the Commission put forward its proposal for the European Solidarity Corps under the EU’s next long-term budget 2021-2027, allocating €1.26 billion to enable about 350,000 young people to go on a solidarity placement over seven years.

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A Recipe for Africa: Tolerance, Trade and Youth Opportunity

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Africa has a recipe for sustainable growth, following this year’s agreement on a ground-breaking trade deal that promises to soften borders across the continent, the Co-Chairs of the World Economic Forum on Africa told participants.

While big challenges remain to translate the promise of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) into jobs and economic growth on the ground, there is a palpable sense of hope that the components for success are now in place.

“I like to think of this CFTA as the most delicious African dish that can be produced,” said Arancha Gonzalez Laya, Executive Director of the International Trade Centre. “The ingredients have been assembled, the cooks are in the kitchen. The guests are impatiently waiting for this dish to be served.”

The “dish” is vital for the 200 million young Africans aged 15-24 who need to see the continent move up a gear to a higher level of economic growth if they are to secure jobs and contribute to their countries’ prosperity as the workers of the future.

Sipho Pityana, Chairman of AngloGold Ashanti, said the free trade deal is a “catalyst”. However, it is now up to political and business leaders to implement the removal of trade barriers and ensure sufficient investment in infrastructure and logistics to truly accelerate cross-border trade flows.

“We need to soften our borders to enable easy movement,” Pityana said. “We need leadership that is capable and has the determination to act collaboratively.”

For investors, this is a critical moment – and also a testing time for the claim made by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa at the meeting that this will be “Africa’s century”.

“From a business point of view, I view Africa as a large-scale start-up, just as East Asia was in the early 1990s,” said Alex Liu, Managing Partner and Chairman of A.T. Kearney. He argued that the continent could leapfrog ahead in certain areas, just as it has already done in mobile payments.

Including the whole of society will be crucial to delivering sustainable success, given the rapid pace of change in the workplace and the disruptive effects of new technologies with the arrival of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Africa’s left-behind youth and discriminated-against women have already made clear they are not prepared to tolerate the status quo.

“If we don’t bring society with us then we will end up with similar tensions that the first and the second and the third industrial revolutions had,” Farrar said.

That also requires long-term thinking and a multistakeholder approach from business. Ellen Agler, Chief Executive Officer of the END Fund, a philanthropic initiative tackling neglected tropical diseases, said it is clear that successful companies have to chase more than profit.

“It’s amazing how many times I engage with the pharma sector and they say: ‘We keep the best people because of our programmes on engaging in neglected diseases’ – but that’s one of the things that helps with retention, helps with talent acquisition.”

André Hoffmann, Vice-Chairman of Roche, said Africa’s extraordinary natural heritage also needs to be cherished and is an opportunity for development. “Nature is not something that stops you from developing but it is an opportunity. In fact it is a $1 trillion opportunity for investment,” he said.

Meeting outcomes

Reflecting on the challenges and opportunities of the region, the meeting produced numerous notable outcomes:

• An action plan was launched to tackle the crisis of gender-based violence. The plan is initiated by African Monitor working with multiple stakeholders and backed by the government of South Africa through the Minister of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities and UN WOMEN in South Africa. The plan has three core priorities:
o To work with the technology industry to deploy a free emergency response system for women under attack in nine provinces in South Africa
o Support for women entrepreneurs as a means of promoting economic empowerment
o Establishment of a fund to help support South Africa’s gender-based violence strategy and action plan

• The Africa Growth Platform was launched to help start-up businesses access finance, advice and better regulatory conditions. Founding partners are Alibaba Group, A.T. Kearney, Dalberg Group, Export Trading Group, US African Development Foundation and Zenith Bank.

• The African Risk Resilience Platform was initiated. It will combine private-sector resources with those of governments to help countries prepare for climate- and disease-related disasters.

• The World Economic Forum teamed with the International Trade Centre to kick off an E-Commerce Action Agenda. The initiative is aimed at promoting cross-border data services in Africa, an industry that could create 3 million jobs across the region by 2025.

• The African Union, in partnership with the World Economic Forum, launched a new foundation paving the way for the private sector to help build capacity and resources to strengthen health security across the continent.

• The World Bank and the Forum teamed up with African governments to launch an innovation challenge aimed at finding new ways of using drones across Africa. The competition, supported by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development, is a precursor to the Africa Drone Forum, which will be held for the first time in 2020 in Rwanda.

• The Forum’s Global Plastic Action Partnership signed a national partnership with the country of Ghana. The partnership aims to combine public- and private-sector resources to tackle plastic pollution and unmanaged waste. The partnership is the first signed with an African country, following an initial partnership signed with Indonesia earlier this year.

• Five private sector partners announced $23 million in new pledges for the Global Fund’s Sixth Replenishment. Donors include Goodbye Malaria, Project Last Mile, GBCHealth, Zenysis Technologies and Africa Health Business.

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