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The African Union Has A New Chair And Here Is Where His Primary Focus Will Be

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The new African Union Chair receives the baton from his predecessor

President Kagame of Rwanda hands over the baton to President el-Sisi of Egypt

The African Union held its 32nd Summit on February 10, 2019. At the Summit, Member States elected President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt as the new AU chair.

El-sisi takes over from President Paul Kagame of Rwanda. The new AU Chair addressed the Summit after the elections, setting his agenda for the African continent.

El-Sisi’s Profile

El-Sisi is the current president of Egypt–serving his second term after his re-election in 2018. El-Sisi is a graduate of the Egyptian Military Academy. After years in service, el-Sisi rose to the position of the director of military intelligence in 2010. Ultimately, he became Defense Minister and Commander in Chief when Mohamed Morsi was ousted.

In 2018, Forbes ranked el-Sisi at number 45 in the list of most powerful people in the world. The new African Union Chair has managed to restore Egypt to stability. As a result, this achievement saw his approval rating rise. Consequently, in the 2018 election, el-Sisi was re-elected with 97 percent of the vote.

El-Sisi’s Tasks as New AU Chair

Key on President el-Sisi’s agenda is the fight against terrorism on the continent. In his address at the Summit, the new African Union Chair stated that terrorism is one of the critical problems facing Africa. In addition, el-Sisi stated that the bloc will prioritize ‘preventive diplomacy’ and mediation in promoting peace in the continent.

El-Sisi’s new tasks differ from that of his predecessor. Whereas President Kagame focused on creating a free-trade zone that spans across the continent, eL-Sisi is putting his focus on fighting terrorism. However, there is a common agenda. Like his predecessor, el-Sisi will be required to align his approaches with the AU Agenda 2063.

The African Union Chair Position

The African Union Chair position is a ceremonial position that rotates within the five regions of the continent. As such, a succeeding Chair cannot come from the same region with current Chair.

In order for a candidate to win, he/she must garner the support of at least two-thirds of member states—or through consensus. President Thabo Mbeki was the inaugural Chair of the AU in 2002.

Term Limit

The African Union chair serves for one year. After that, member states elect a different Chair from a different region. The five regions of the AU include–Central, West, East, Southern, and North.

President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa has been announced as AU Chair for the year 2020. This means the AU leadership will be shifting from the North to the Southern region.

South Africa will have national elections on 8 May, 2019. As such, Ramaphosa will become Chair of AU in 2020 if he wins the South Africa elections and remains president—The AU chair position is held by a sitting president.

AU Commission

The AU commission is the Secretariat of the African Union. A Chairman leads the Commission, assisted by a deputy Chair. Additional members are the commissioners.

The Chair of the Commission chairs all meetings of the Commission. The position of AU Chair, therefore, is different from that of AU Commission chair.

 

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Business and Development

Tanzanian Government Wants Visitors To Accept This Minor Inconvenience

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Plastic accumulation is becoming a menace around the globe. Marine life often consumes these plastics which eventually get into humans. Many countries around the world are exploring alternatives to plastic use. However, Tanzania is the latest country to officially place a ban on the use of plastic bags. The ban will take effect from the 1st of June 2019. On Thursday 16th of May 2019, the government released a statement titled “Notice To Travelers Planning To Visit Tanzania” which read in part,

“The Government of Tanzania wishes to make an official note to travelers planning to travel to Tanzania that from 1st June 2019 all plastic bags, regardless of their thickness will be prohibited from being imported, exported, manufactured, sold, stored, supplied and used in mainland Tanzania.”

Consequently, the government is planning to set up a special desk at entry points to ensure total compliance. With the announcement, Tanzania joins about thirteen other African countries that have either introduced levy or banned plastic bags. However, the Prime Minister, Kassim Majaliwa is calling on plastic bag manufacturers to find alternative technologies for bags.

The problem with plastic bags and exceptions to the ban

Tanzania bans plastic waste

The major problem with plastic bags is the length of time it takes to decay. Some researchers are speculating it can take up to 1,000 years. Consequently, their accumulation can lead to flooding when they block drainages. Also, they can prevent rainwater from penetrating the soil leading to low crop yield.

However, the government understands the importance of plastic in packaging and makes exceptions for a few. According to the statement, plastics or plastic packaging for sanitary and waste management, foodstuff, agricultural sector, construction industry, industrial products, and medical services are exceptions to the ban. “Ziplo Bags” used for carrying toiletries are also permitted for travelers since they are unlikely to be disposed of in the country. Another part of the statement reads,

“The government does not intend for visitors to Tanzania to find their stay unpleasant as we enforce the ban. However, the government expects that, in appreciation of the imperative to protect the environment and keep our country clean and beautiful, our visitors will accept minor inconveniences resulting from this plastic bags ban.”

Commendations for the new law

The international community is sending their message of congratulations to the Tanzanian government for the historic move. One of such messages came from Dr. Amani Ngusaru, the WWF Country Director. Ngusaru lauded the move as a boost to environmental and natural resources protection.

“Plastic is a number one polluter of environment and a silent killer of our natural environment and resources than most people understand. This is because it takes more than a hundred years for a single plastic bag to decay. We are happy that Tanzania is among the very few African countries to ban the use of plastic bags and we will work hard toward supporting the government in the fight against plastic pollution”.

Other African countries with a plastic control

In 2007, Uganda placed a ban on lightweight plastic bag. However, the ban was never implemented. In August 2018, Kenya introduced a total ban on the use of plastics. Consequently, those using plastics illegally in Kenya risk 4 years in prison or a fine of $40,000. Also, it is illegal to import, produce, use, or sell plastic bags in Rwanda. Currently, there are over 40 countries around the globe that banned, restrict or tax the use of plastics including Italy, France, and China.

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Reaching Out

Nigeria Makes This Touching Gesture To Help Alleviate Malawi’s Devastation From Cyclone Idai

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Nigeria is popular as the giant of Africa for the ‘big brother’ role the country play. The federal government of Nigeria on Monday 13th of May 2019 extended a brotherly hand to the government of Malawi by donating 30,000 tonnes of drugs, medical equipment, insecticide-treated nets as well as $500,000 cash. This was Nigeria’s way of sympathizing with the country which was recently hit by Cyclone Idai.

Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, the Minister of Foreign Affairs led the Nigerian Government delegation that delivered the relief materials to Mr. Nicholas Dausi, the Malawi Minister of Homeland Security and Disaster Management Affairs. Speaking during the presentation, Onyeama said a misfortune to any African nation affects Nigeria.

“We share this burden and the loss with you in this country. When the hurricane happened, Nigeria was conducting the election. [However], President Buhari instructed us that as quickly as possible we had to mobilize resources to bring to this country. We mobilized over 8,000 medical items, equipment to assist and also cash donation of 500,000 U.S dollars.

Delivery of Nigeria’s donations will take a while

Onyeama further extended President Muhammadu Buhari’s condolence to the people of Malawi. Cyclone Idai led to the death of many with an estimated 86,000 displaced from their homes. Apparently, 30,000 tonnes of items is a lot. However, according to Onyeama, it will take Nigeria a maximum of two weeks to deliver all the items.

“The amount is huge, 30,000 tonnes of items, which will be transported to Malawi in the next one or two weeks maximum. Some of our big transporters C130 will deliver the equipment may be in two trips but we sent some of the equipment with a small plane, for this occasion. Please, accept our deepest sympathy and the statistics are very disturbing…with some deaths and injuries.”

Malawi’s benefits beyond the material donation

Mr. Dausi thanked the government of Nigeria for assistance. According to him, the materials will go a long way to help the victims. Consequently, Mr. Dausi also said there were 67 camps housing the victims of the disaster.

“On behalf of the Government of the Republic of Malawi and the people… across 67 camps in the disaster and over 886,000 people affected, I want to sincerely express our deep thanks for your thoughtfulness.”

However, this is not the first time Nigeria will be assisting Malawi. According to the minister, Malawi has benefited from Nigeria in education as well as human support during the struggle to end apartheid. Consequently, the Malawian Minister congratulated President Buhari for his reelection. This is a gesture worth emulating by other African nations.

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Business and Development

Tanzania Electric Train Commence Trial In July

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Tanzania electric train

Tanzania is reaching for another economic milestone. The government announced that it was it will be testing its maiden self-funded electric train. The train which will run at 160 km/h will be one of Africa’s fastest high-speed trains. The train will also provide a cheaper means of transport to the citizens.

Further details show that the phase running from Dar es Salaam to Morogoro which has 6 in between stations and stretches 300 kilometers will commence operation in December. The trial trains in phase one will be three passenger trains. However, these trains will conduct daily round trips covering the two cities. Each passenger train will be making a minimum of 9 trips per day.

Difference between Tanzania electric train and regular train

The speed train will make use of concrete sleepers. This allows the railway network to carry as much as 35 tonnes of load per axle and increase its durability. Consequently, the rails should be able to last up to 40 years before any major repairs. However, the train bridge can last up to 100 years.

Speaking at the historic launch of the flash butt welding of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) at Soga, outside Dar es Salaam in Coastal region, Eng. Issac Kamwele, the Minister for Works, Transport and Communications said the trial of the speedy electric train will happen in July. However, the trial will only cover a section of the SGR. In comparison to other country’s SGR, Tanzania’s will be fasters. Kenya and South Africa’s SGR can only reach a speed of 120 km/h

The impact this project will have on the economy

Tanzania government is making great strides to boost the economy of the nation. Recently, the government proposed plans to build cable cars for Mount Kilimanjaro. This is projected to double the current 50,000 annual tourists. However, not many think it is a good idea. A few groups think it will lead to the loss of thousands of jobs.

ALSO READ: Tanzanian Government Considering Cable Car For Mount Kilimanjaro And Here Is How People Reacted

The $1.9 billion (Tshs 4.3 trillion) project has already created over 26,000 job opportunities. However, the government is optimistic that the second and subsequent phases will create more opportunities once fully functional.  The first railway lines in Tanganyika (previously German East Africa) were built after Zanzibar’s first tramway. The Ethio-Djibouti SGR project is currently the longest and first trans-boundary electric railway in Africa.

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