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COVID-19: African Finance Ministers Demand Debt Relief From Partners

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Ministers of Finance in Africa have called for debt relief from bilateral, multilateral and commercial partners to ensure that African countries get the fiscal space required to deal with the COVID-19 crisis.
They made the call during a virtual meeting hosted by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), against the backdrop of rising COVID-19 cases in Africa.
A statement issued by the Communications Section of the ECA in Addis Ababa, yesterday, said the meeting was hosted by Vera Songwe, the Executive Secretary.
According to the statement, the ministers also appealed to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank Group (WBG) and the European Union (EU) to support the continent to get debt relief.
“The call for debt relief should be for all of Africa and should be undertaken in a coordinated and collaborative way.’’
They also called for a special purpose vehicle to be created to deal with all sovereign debt obligations.
The statement added: “Substantial drop in revenue from commodity price drops coupled with increasing costs of imports is putting pressure on both inflation and the exchange rate.
“Given that the global economy has entered a period of a synchronised slow down, with recovery only expected after about 24 to 36 months, development partners should consider debt relief and forbearance of interest payments over a two to three-year period for all African countries.’’
The ministers also acknowledged the importance of the private sector for job creation and for the recovery effort.  They called on Development Finance Institutions (DFIs) to support the private sector in this difficult time, saying since Africa was a net importer of pharmaceutical products, enabling local continental production could serve to protect some jobs and guarantee supply of essential medicines during the crisis.
The statement added that the ministers called for joint protocols on border closures to allow for trade and humanitarian corridors.
According to it, the ministers discussed the enormous losses being incurred in the airline and hospitality industry.
They, however, called for the protection and preservation of African airlines, logistics and tourism industry by advocating for a stay on interest, lease and debt payments.
“This is an important job creating sector for millions of Africans and must be protected,’’ they said.
They also agreed to set up a meeting for countries affected by transport and tourism losses due to the pandemic, to better plan on policies to combat the losses.
The ministers said that immediate focus must remain on the health and humanitarian front, adding that awareness raising, testing and social distancing should be continued.
They welcomed the use of technology such as mobile phones to support awareness raising, identify communities in need and create accountability and governance mechanisms around the use of the stimulus.
“The ministers asked the ECA to work with the telecommunications company to design a system to support these objectives,’’ the ministers said.

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ICT Skills’ll Deliver Economic Independence To Nigerian Girls – NITDA

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The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has said that if Nigerian girls are taught relevant Information and Communication Technology (ICT) skills at a young age, they will be set up for economic independence in future.
The Agency who made this remark through a press release signed by its Head, Corporate Affairs and External Relations, Mrs Hadiza Umar, joined the global community to mark the “Girls in ICT Day.” The day which is marked annually on the fourth Thursday in April falls on the 23rd April this year.
In the statement, Mrs Umar said that the Agency is highlighting the need to promote technology career opportunities for girls and women in ICT, the world’s fastest growing sector.
She said, “During this year’s celebration, NITDA is drawing attention to the critical need for more girls and women to participate actively in the ICT sector of our economy. The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) had estimated skills shortfall of over two million jobs in the ICT sector within the next few years. This opens a huge opportunity for girls and young women who have the ability to learn Coding, Apps Development, Computer Science and other ICT related courses.
“This will not only make them ready for a successful career in the ICT sector, but ICT skills are rapidly becoming a strong advantage for students in just about any other field they might choose to pursue. With technology playing vital role in all manner of careers, from Arts to Social Sciences, and from Law to History, to Graphic Design, learning ICT skills at a young age will set girls up for economic independence. Furthermore, the ICT sector needs more girls and women and celebrating a day like this reminds us that ICT helps to improve the lives of people everywhere.
“It contributes significantly towards better healthcare, better environmental management, better communication, and better educational systems that transform the way children and adults learn. NITDA, in its proactive manner and in line with the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy as well as in furtherance of bridging the gender imbalance in ICT in Nigeria, has embarked on series of Capacity Building programmes for women and girls across the country. Girls with ICT skills can expect to earn good wages and enjoy huge career opportunities.

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Keystone Bank Disowns Ex-staff, Fake Investment Company

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Keystone Bank Limited has alerted customers of the activities of one Mr. Obinna Onuselogu, who parades a company, Triple C Investment Limited, as an affiliate of the bank with the aim of defrauding unsuspecting members of the public.
The bank, in a statement yesterday, said Onuselogu, who used to be a staff, was no longer in its employ.
It added that anyone who transacts any business with him purportedly in the name of the bank does so at his/her own risk.
“Please note further that Keystone Bank is neither related nor affiliated to any company known as Triple C Investment Limited, which Mr. Onuselogu claims to be its chief executive officer.
“Anyone who transacts any business with him purportedly in the name of Keystone Bank does so at his/her own risk,” the statement said.
It was learnt that the ex-staff has been using the name of the bank and its executives claiming to be in partnership with the bank with the intent of defrauding unsuspecting members of the public.
The bank said it was working on a legal process and security agents to put an end to the unscrupulous activities of the so-called Tripple C Investment and its agents.

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Fishermen Union Warn Against Dead Floating Fish Consumption

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The Bonny Indigenous Fishermen’s Cooperative Union has set up a 20-man task force to work with the police and arrest any person or group of persons found with the polluted floating fish along Bonny sea and creeks.
President of the union, comrade Promise Bristol, made this known in a chat with newsmen in Bonny.
Bristol observed that a large quantity of different species of fish were found dead, floating on the sea, from the Atlantic Ocean to the communities and fishing ports in Andoni and Bonny Local Government Areas.
According to him, the species of fish included croaker, popularly known as “broke marriage”, “shine nose”, mackerel, among others.
Bristol lamented that the incident had brought untold hardship to the fishermen in the areas, saying that fishing is their only source of livelihood and appealed to government at all levels to come to their aid.
Bristol said the cause of the death of the fishes was unknown and warned members of the public against their consumption, pointing out that consumption of such fishes could be detrimental to human health.

 

Tonye Nria-Dappa

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