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EU and the Tony Elumelu Foundation join forces to improve economic empowerment of women

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The European Union and the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF), the leading champion of entrepreneurship in Africa, are joining forces to support more than 2,500 African women entrepreneurs, thanks to a partnership announced today. They will support the economic empowerment of women across Africa through increased access to finance and venture capital investment with a contribution of €20 million.

This partnership with the Tony Elumelu Foundation will help women participate in economic development, realise their full potential and accelerate economic inclusion. Empowering women entrepreneurs is a key driver for sustainable jobs and growth, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and in line with the objectives of our Africa Strategy. Women and girls represent half of the world’s population and they deserve equal opportunities”, said Jutta Urpilainen, Commissioner for International Partnerships. 

“At the Tony Elumelu Foundation, we are pleased to partner with the European Union, sharing our unique ability to identify, train, mentor and fund young entrepreneurs across Africa. This joint effort will prioritise and provide economic opportunities for African women, whom for too long have endured systemic obstacles to starting, growing and sustaining their businesses. Our partnership aims to alleviate the funding, knowledge and market constraints threatening the livelihoods of women entrepreneurs on the continent, to create more income, jobs, growth and scale for women-owned businesses,” said Tony Elumelu, Founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation. 

The COVID-19 pandemic is more than a global health crisis, impacting labour markets and creating a social and economic crisis. Women, who often hold the dual role of breadwinners and carers, are among the hardest hit. Women earn less, save less, hold less secure jobs, and are more likely to be employed in the informal economy, with less access to social protection. The EU and its partners are now increasing their effort to build back better and ensure women are at the centre of the recovery. This new programme builds on the experience of the EU External Investment Plan to support gender focused lending, as well as the EU initiatives to support women economic empowerment within the EU Gender Action Plan (GAP III).

The European Commission is proud to partner with the Tony Elumelu Foundation to unlock the women’s potential, directly boosting Africa’s economic growth. TEF is one of the key organisations committed to contributing meaningfully to Africa’s prosperity and social development. Through this partnership, the two organisations will support more than 2,500 women entrepreneurs, providing gender sensitive entrepreneurship training, as well as seed capital for African female businesses to navigate through the start-up and early growth phases.

The European Commission values the key experience of TEF and its 10 years of leadership having trained, mentored and funded nearly 10,000 young African entrepreneurs across 54 African countries, through its Entrepreneurship Programmes. It has also provided capacity-building support, advisory and market linkages to over 1 million Africans through its digital networking platform, TEFConnect.

Some of TEF’s women success stories include Joyce Awojoodu, from Nigeria, who launched a luxury botanically based product line and spa clinic in Lagos, in 2015. The brand, ORÍKÌ, caters to both men and women, and strictly uses raw materials and natural ingredients from Africa. Awojoodu’s favourite part of the TEF Entrepreneurship Programme was the mentorship, which she described as “phenomenal” and “invaluable in an area of need for ORÍKÌ”. In her own words, “each TEF Entrepreneur was assigned a mentor and I could not have asked for a better one. TEF connected us. Now the mentorship continues and I know I will always have an ear to share my thoughts about the business with a person who can also offer advice.”

Mavis Mduchwa, an agribusiness entrepreneur from Botswana, founded Chabana Farms, a poultry farm that provides training and work for unemployed young people. Even though agriculture accounts for 32% of Africa’s gross domestic product, landownership and access to land remains a significant challenge for many farmers, especially women. According to Mduchwa, “in Botswana, about 80% of people survive on agriculture, and many of them are women. But, if as a woman you want to turn it into a business, you have a challenge of finding land.” Mduchwa has used the seed capital and training from the TEF to find new ways to grow her operations.

Background

This programme is jointly co-funded by the European Union and the Organisation of African, Caribbean, and Pacific State (OACPS), together with the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). It is implemented by the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ).

The EU’s Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025 sets out key actions for the next five years and commits to ensure an equality perspective in all EU policy areas. The EU Gender Action Plan (GAP III) in external relations (2021-2025) identifies women’s economic empowerment as a central pillar of the EU’s strategy to close the gender gap and for the successful achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Since 2015, the Tony Elumelu Foundation has launched the most comprehensive entrepreneurial programme in Africa, with a financial commitment of US$100 million. Successful applicants selected as TEF Entrepreneurs on an annual basis complete a rigorous online business management training supported by designated mentors, participate in the global TEF Entrepreneurship forum, and receive US$ 5,000 in seed capital.

The programme directly addresses some of the most endemic challenges to African start-ups – skills and capacity gaps, financial constraints and lack of access to mentoring, networks and market linkages. Following completion of the programme, the entrepreneurs stay connected to the Foundation and to each other through their lifetime membership on TEFConnect. TEF has also set up Country Chapters in 54 African countries to support the entrepreneurs as they grow and expand their businesses.

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Substantial progress made in Vienna; sides focusing on Safeguards

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image source: Tehran Times

The third day of talks between experts from Iran and the EU centered around technical and legal matters regarding the Safeguards agreement between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Delegates from Iran, the EU and the U.S. resumed talks in Vienna on Thursday after nearly a five-month hiatus. This round of talks started on Thursday without the presence of nuclear negotiators from the European trio – Germany, France and Britain. Only experts from these three countries have attended the negotiations.  

Iran believes that any agreement on restoring the nuclear deal, officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), is dependent on putting an end to unsubstantiated allegations about Iran’s past nuclear program. Iran insists that these questions had already been resolved within the PMD, when the nuclear deal was signed in July 2015.

According to reports, substantial progress has been made in bringing the views of Iran and the U.S. closer together during the last three days. However, in Tehran’s view nothing is resolved until everything is settled.

Behrouz Kamalvandi, the spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), also confirmed on Saturday that talks are mainly focused on Safeguards issues.

“We are now negotiating,” Kamalvandi said of the talks between Iran’s nuclear experts with Mora.

On the atmosphere of the talks, he said, “It is not bad.”

Mohammad Marandi, a senior expert on nuclear issues, also told Al-Mayadeen TV that “progresses” have been made in Vienna, but one should be “cautious”. He argued the success of talks is 50 percent. Marandi said the differences remain only between Iran and the United States.

He added, “We have heard from certain European sources that the Americans have revived their views on certain issues.”

The Russian chief negotiator in the Vienna talks, Mikhail Ulyanov, also tweeted that there is “no unresolvable issue” on the table in the Vienna talks.

Source: Tehran Times

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Escalation of violence in Gaza

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Destruction in Gaza following an Israeli strike (file photo) UNOCHA/Mohammad Libed

The ongoing and serious escalation of violence in and around Gaza between Palestinian militants and Israel has claimed the lives of 13 Palestinians by Israeli airstrikes, including a 5-year-old child and one woman, informed Lynn Hastings, UN Humanitarian Coordinator in the territory.

In a statement published on Saturday, Ms. Hastings expressed her grave concern for the situation that has left more than 100 Palestinians injured, as well as 7 Israelis.

Residential areas in both Gaza and Israel have also been hit and 31 families in Gaza are now homeless.

“The humanitarian situation in Gaza is already dire and can only worsen with this most recent escalation.   The hostilities must stop to avoid more deaths and injuries of civilians in Gaza and Israel. The principles of international humanitarian law including those of distinction, precaution and proportionality must be respected by all parties”, she urged.

Basic services in danger

Ms. Hastings warned that fuel for the Gaza Power Plant is due to run out this Saturday and electricity has already been cut.

“The continued operation of basic service facilities such as hospitals, schools, warehouses, and designated shelters for internally displaced persons is essential and now at risk”, she cautioned.

The Humanitarian Coordinator added that movement and access of humanitarian personnel, for critical medical cases, and for essential goods, including food and fuel into Gaza, must not be impeded so that humanitarian needs can be met. 

She also underscored that Israeli authorities and Palestinian armed groups must immediately allow the United Nations and its humanitarian partners to bring in fuel, food, and medical supplies and to deploy humanitarian personnel in accordance with international principles.

“I reiterate the United Nations Special Coordinator’s appeal on all sides for an immediate de-escalation and halt to the violence, to avoid destructive ramifications, particularly for civilians”, Ms. Hastings concluded.

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Nuclear-free world is possible, test-ban treaty chief says

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Nuclear weapons will continue to pose a risk to humanity unless countries fully adhere to the treaty that prohibits their testing, a senior UN official said at a press conference in New York on Friday. 

Journalists were briefed by Robert Floyd, Executive Secretary of the body that oversees the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), which opened for signature 25 years ago but has yet to enter into force because it requires ratification by a handful of key countries, which have nuclear capabilities. 

“Once in force, the CTBT will serve as an essential element of a nuclear weapons-free world. In order to achieve this world, we all aspire to, a universal and effectively verifiable prohibition on nuclear testing is a fundamental necessity,” he said. 

World at risk 

Mr. Floyd was speaking against the backdrop of the latest nuclear non-proliferation conference, which began this week at UN Headquarters after two years of pandemic-related delays. 

Countries are reviewing progress towards implementing the 50-year-old Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons

At the opening on Monday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned that the world was “just one misunderstanding, one miscalculation, away from nuclear annihilation”

“Until we have full adherence to the CTBT, nuclear testing and the proliferation of nuclear weapons will continue to pose unacceptable risk to humanity,” said Mr. Floyd. 

Drop in testing 

The CTBT complements the non-proliferation treaty, said Mr. Floyd, and it has already made a difference in the world. 

“We’ve gone from over 2,000 nuclear tests conducted between 1945 and 1996, to fewer than 12 tests since the treaty opened for signature,” he said. “Only one country has tested this millennium.” 

The treaty has also received near-universal support. So far, 186 countries have signed the CTBT, and 174 have ratified it, four in the last six months alone.  

However, entry into force requires that the treaty must be signed and ratified by 44 specific nuclear technology holder countries, eight of which have yet to ratify it: China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Pakistan and the United States. 

Asked about these countries, Mr. Floyd replied “they have their own calculus and strategic objectives and geopolitical considerations as to whether they feel free to move forward”, adding that they all support the CTBT and its objectives. 

Helping nations 

Mr. Floyd also reported on the activities of the organization that promotes the treaty, which he heads. 

The CTBTO, as it has known, has built a state-of-the-art verification system to detect nuclear explosions, capable of 24/7 monitoring.  

Staff also train inspectors from Member States so that they are ready to conduct on-site verifications once the treaty enters into force. Furthermore, countries use CTBTO data for civilian and scientific applications, such as tsunami warning systems and other university research. 

“Even without having entered into force, the CTBT is already helping to save lives in countries around the world,” said Mr. Floyd.  “Even those that have not yet ratified the treaty are benefiting from this global collaboration and technological expertise.” 

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