Daily Archives: March 24, 2018


ADDIS ABABA — The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the European Union (EU) and the Austrian Development Agency (ADA) on Friday signed a 42-million-euro (close to US$51.8 million) agreement to fund the East African block’s peace and security programs in the Horn of Africa region.

IGAD Executive Secretary, Mahboub Maalim, said while signing the agreement in Addis Ababa that the “support will be critical in building the capacity of IGAD’s core peace and security programs in preventive diplomacy, trans-national security, counter-terrorism and mediation.”

Maalim noted that the support would enable the East African block to better handle the complex peace and security challenges faced in the Horn of Africa region.

Head of the EU delegation to the African Union (AU), Ranieri Sabatucci, also said that “IGAD and its members will be better equipped to engage in mediation and deploy mediators at short notice, allowing peacebuilding processes to kick off at the earliest possible opportunity.”

The action, which covers a four-year implementation period from 2018 to 2022, is also expected to help IGAD and its partner countries in the region to improve the collection and distribution of early warning data in a bid to prevent conflicts.



CAPE TOWN– South Africa Friday has voiced concern over the United States’ refusal to exclude it from the application of tariff duties on steel and aluminium.

The imposition of the duties will have a negative impact on productive capacity and jobs in a sector already suffering from global steel overcapacity, South Africa’s Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said.

In addition, South Africa notes with concern the different treatment of trading partners that will affect the competitiveness of South African steel and aluminium products in the United States, the DTI said.

U.S. President Donald Trump earlier this month announced the signing of a proclamation to impose a 10-percent tariff on aluminium imports and a 25-percent tariff on steel.

The proclamation makes provision for country-based exclusions should the U.S. and that country arrive at a satisfactory alternative means to address the threat to so-called U.S. national security.

The European Union (EU) and six other countries namely Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Mexico and South Korea have been temporarily exempted from the tariffs.

The South African government said it had made a formal submission to the United States requesting the exclusion from the duties.

The U.S. Census Bureau data indicates that in 2017 the United States imported a total of 33.4 million tonnes of steel, including about 330,000 tonnes from South Africa, or less than 1 percent of total U.S. imports.

DTI spokesperson Sidwell Medupe has argued that imports from South Africa does not pose a threat to the U.S. national security or industries and that the DTI will pursue further discussions with the United States.


Blacks in Silicon Valley Share Lessons on Pursuing Unicorns or Gazelles

What does it take to build a thriving technology company � and an environment in which black techies, their financial backers and their markets can flourish?

That question underpins the new VOA documentary “Beyond the Unicorn.” Subtitled “Africans Making IT in Silicon Valley,” it explores how some Africans and African-Americans are finding their way in the tech sector’s global capital in California.

The 26-minute documentary profiles several entrepreneurs and venture capitalists and how they overcome hurdles. Its screening Wednesday evening, at a VOA event at the San Francisco campus of the French university INSEEC U., served as a springboard for a panel discussion spanning market potential, funding gaps and hiring disparities.

First, a definition for the uninitiated. A unicorn is a private startup technology firm valued at $1 billion or more. Once rare, such companies have proliferated in the last few years, with almost 200 globally as of last May, according to Forbes.

Silicon Valley has spawned herds of unicorns, such as Uber and Airbnb.

Africa hasn’t. With less readily available investment funding, “a unicorn might be quite unrealistic for an entrepreneur in Africa to build very quickly,” said venture capitalist Mbwana Alliy, who appears in the documentary. He suggested its counterpart might be a “zebracorn.”

“Does that mean it’s a $100 million startup? Maybe that’s more achievable for an entrepreneur,” said Alliy, founder of the Africa-focused Savannah Fund. “And it’s still a major outcome.”

Panelist Stephen Ozoigbo proposed another term: gazelle, “something real and indigenous.”

“If it’s a gazelle, then you’re sure it would outrun, it would outhustle” the competition, said Ozoigbo, CEO of the African Technology Foundation.

Market potential

The continent has some fast-growing economies � think Ethiopia and Nigeria � and the world’s fastest-growing population. More than half of its countries are expected to double their head counts by 2050, the United Nations reports.

No wonder investment in African tech ventures is surging.

Figures vary: The Disrupt Africa news portal says African tech startups raised more than $195 million last year, up from almost $130 million in 2016.

Partech Ventures reports even stronger growth. The global venture capital firm, which has offices in San Francisco and Dakar, Senegal, reports that 124 tech startups drew $560 million in equity in 2017, up from almost $367 million for 74 startups the previous year.

Still, Africa gets only a very tiny share of global private equity capital, said Andile Ngcaba, a panelist and founder of the African tech investment management fund Convergence Partners.

That’s just one of the challenges for Africans and African-Americans in tech.

Lack of diversity

Blacks account for just 3 percent of the workforce among Silicon Valley’s top 75 tech companies, an underrepresentation so striking that it has drawn public condemnation and scrutiny by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in a 2016 report.

The male-dominated tech sector can be even less welcoming to black females.

“Being an African woman in Silicon Valley … has been very difficult. I actually had an easier time in Nigeria,” said Bukola Akinfaderin, a senior developer � and the only black female mobile engineer � for the genealogy website Ancestry.com. She said her homeland’s tech sector has less of a gender imbalance.

Akinfaderin, featured in the documentary, finds support in groups such as dev/color, a nonprofit for black software engineers.

She gets encouragement to revive Jandus Radio, her app enabling the African diaspora to hear live radio from the continent. It had as many as 500,000 users by 2016, when the hosting company’s server malfunctioned and deleted the app’s database. She plans to reboot the app as KinFolk.

Akinfaderin touts the value of being an African woman engineer working in Silicon Valley. “When you’re building a product � especially if it’s a consumer-facing product, one that’s international � you are going to need perspective from everyone.”

Need for helping hands

Mentoring and networking can make all the difference in finding opportunities, said Nate Yohannes, a Microsoft business development director for artificial intelligence � and the evening’s keynote speaker.

Coming to the United States as a child of [Eritrean] refugees, he said, he couldn’t always rely on his parents’ guidance because of their unfamiliarity with the new setting. So, he sought out mentors, who helped shape his trajectory from law school to a Wall Street job to the U.S. Small Business Association to Microsoft.

It’s on us to help each other and connect the continents, Yohannes told the scores of people, including other Africans, in the screening room.

Other concerns

Africa’s rapid population growth heightens the need to educate African youths so they can compete for work globally, said Convergence Partners’ Ngcaba. He added that those aspiring to the tech sector will need training in, say, data science, machine learning and artificial intelligence.

“That’s the only way we can position ourselves in the global landscape,” Ngcaba said.

Skills, opportunity and capital are vital for entrepreneurs, agreed Yonas Beshawred, founder and CEO of StackShare, an online marketplace for comparing engineering tools and software.

But, he added, “I think the most important thing is that you have something that you’re passionate about and you start working on it instead of just talking.”

A VOA showcase

The “Unicorn” screening event also served as a showcase for VOA’s commitment to “telling America’s story” along with providing accurate news and information to countries without independent media, VOA director Amanda Bennett said.

“And what is more American than the American diaspora, the people who come here from places around the world looking for something and looking to give something, looking to be someone? And what is more American than technology?” she asked rhetorically in her introductory remarks, pointing out that VOA opened a Silicon Valley office last spring.

Source: Voice of America

President Ramaphosa to lead South Africa’s light-up Table Mountain for World TB day tonight

President Cyril Ramaphosa will this evening, 24 March 2018, together with Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi and CEO of TB-HIV Care Mr Gareth Lowndes, lead the “Light up of Table Mountain for TB” as part of the Stop TB Partnership and World Health Organization’s global initiative to light-up several landmarks across the world during the World TB Day.

The Stop TB Partnership and the World Health Organization have called for all well-known landmarks globally to be lit up in red on the World TB Day which is commemorated on 24 March every year to raise public awareness about the devastating health, social and economic impact of TB and urge acceleration of efforts to end the global TB epidemic.

In South Africa, Table Mountain became the obvious choice for Light-Up Campaign due to its strategic location and visibility. This will coincide with the lighting-up of other international landmarks in countries such as Geneva, Nigeria and London.

TB-HIV Care is a non-profit organization dedicated to preventing, finding and treating TB and HIV patients.

Source: The Presidency Republic of South Africa

DRC Military Kills 13 Rebels in Ituri Clashes, Army Spokesman Says

Congo’s military said on Saturday it had killed 13 militiamen during clashes with an unidentified group after coming under attack in the country’s volatile northeastern Ituri province.

Ituri is the latest part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to descend into bloodshed since President Joseph Kabila’s refusal to step aside at the end of his mandate in 2016 undermined the legitimacy of the state.

Army spokesman Jules Ngongo said clashes happened around the villages of Jemi and Penyi, in the Djugu territory. A Congolese soldier had also been killed and two others wounded, he said.

“Search operations are still under way and the death toll could change,” Ngongo said.

Of all Congo’s complex ethnic tinderboxes, Ituri has historically been the most combustible. It was one of the places where Congo’s civil war began in 1998, drawing troops from Uganda and Rwanda into a five-year conflict in which about 5 million people died, mostly from hunger and disease.

Many fear Congo is headed for a repeat of that conflict.

After more than a decade of relative peace, an eruption of tit-for-tat killing between the predominantly farming Lendu and the mostly cattle-keeping Hema ethnic groups this year has been fanned by a breakdown of government authority and the failure to resolve a long-standing dispute over land rights.

The International Criminal Court has convicted warlords from both sides of the previous Ituri fighting, but that has not prevented further violence.

Source: Voice of America