At today’s (24 June) Bruegel event on 'China’s Investments in Africa: Consequences for Europe' held in Brussels, Abraham Liu (pictured), chief representative of Huawei to the EU institutions, has pointed out to the significant contribution of Huawei towards the ICT transformation in Africa.
“Many places in Africa are still waiting to be connected. However, we are pleased to see that many more regions in Africa are leapfrogging 20th century ICT infrastructures to land immediately the 21st century technologies without the burden of the legacy network. For example through the Huawei Mobile Money solution that we jointly launched with Safaricom, a leading mobile network operator partly owned by Vodafone, shortcomings of the local banking system are compensated, enabling 12.8 million Kenyan people to make cashless transactions through mobile phone banking. The broadband network speed in some capital cities in Africa is even ahead of its counterparts in Europe,” said Liu.
According to Liu: “With technologies like Huawei RuralStar, an innovative and simplified solution for rural area, we are providing more cost-effective connectivity to every corner in Africa. For example, Tobolo is a remote village in Nigeria and is 23 km from the nearest base station. In order to make a call, villagers have to drive their motorcycles several kilometers to find signals. On the day when the RuralStar site was installed, villagers formed a long queue to buy mobile phones. With the prevail of connectivity, mobile tariffs in Africa dropped from €5 per min in the early 2000 to several cents right now. Huawei helped millions of African people to be connected to each other and to the outside world.”
Investment, connectivity and co-operation: Why we need more EU-African co-operation in agriculture
In recent months, the European Union has demonstrated its willingness to promote and support agricultural businesses in Africa, under European Commission’s Africa-EU Partnership. The Partnership, which stresses EU-African co-operation, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, aims to promote sustainability and biodiversity and have championed promoting public-private relationships across the continent, writes African Green Resources Chairman Zuneid Yousuf.
Though these commitments apply to the entire continent, I would like to focus on how increased African-EU co-operation has helped Zambia, my country. Last month, European Union Ambassador to Zambia Jacek Jankowski announced ENTERPRISE Zambia Challenge Fund (EZCF), an EU-backed initiative that will award grants to agribusiness operators in Zambia. The plan is worth an overall total of €25.9 million and has already launched its first call for proposals. In a time where Zambia, my country, is battling serious economic challenges this is a much-needed opportunity for the African agribusiness industry. More recently, just last week, the EU and Zambia agreed to two financing agreements that hope to boost investments in the country under the Economic Government Support Programme and the Zambia Energy Efficiency Sustainable Transformation Programme.
Europe’s collaboration and commitment to promoting African agriculture is not new. Our European partners have long been invested in promoting and helping African agribusiness realise their full potential and empower the sector. In June of this year, the African and European Unions launched a joint agri-food platform, which aims to link African and European private sectors to promote sustainable and meaningful investment.
The platform was launched off the back of the ‘Africa-Europe alliance for sustainable investment and jobs’ which was part of European Commission President’s Jean Claude Junker’s 2018 state of the Union address, where he called for a new “Africa-Europe alliance” and demonstrated that Africa is at the heart of the Union’s external relations.
The Zambian, and arguably the African agricultural environment, is dominated largely by small-to-medium sized farms that need both financial and institutional support to navigate these challenges. In addition, there is a lack of connectivity and interconnectedness within the sector, preventing farmers to connect with each other and realise their full potential through cooperation.
What makes EZCF unique among European agribusiness initiatives in Africa, however, is its specific focus on Zambia and empowering Zambian farmers. Over the past few years, the Zambian farming industry has grappled with droughts, lack of reliable infrastructure and unemployment. In fact, throughout 2019, it is estimated that a severe drought in Zambia led to 2.3 million people requiring emergency food assistance.
Therefore, a solely Zambia-focused initiative, backed by the European Union and aligned with promoting increased connectedness and investment in agriculture, not only reinforces Europe’s strong connection with Zambia, but will also bring some much-needed support and opportunity for the sector. This will undoubtedly allow our local farmers to unlock and leverage a wide range of financial resources.
More importantly, the EZCF is not operating alone. Alongside international initiatives, Zambia is already home to several impressive and important agribusiness companies that are working to empower and provide farmers with access to funding and capital markets.
One of these is African Green Resources (AGR) a world-class agribusiness company of which I am proud to be the chairman. At AGR, the focus is to promote value addition at every level of the farming value chain, as well as look for sustainable strategies for farmers to maximise their yields. For example, in March this year, AGR teamed up with several commercial farmers and multilateral agencies to develop a private sector financed irrigation scheme and dam and off grid solar supply which will support over 2,400 horticultural farmers, and expand grain production and new fruit plantations in the Mkushi farming block in Central Zambia. Over the next few years, our focus will be to continue promoting sustainability and the implementation of similar initiatives, and we are ready to invest alongside other agribusiness companies that seek to expand, modernise or diversify their operations.
Though it appears that the agricultural sector in Zambia may be facing challenges in the years to come, there are some very important milestones and reasons for optimism and opportunity. Increased cooperation with the European Union and European partners is an important way of capitalizing on opportunity and ensuring that we are all doing as much as we can to help small and medium sized farmers across the country.
Promoting increased interconnectedness within the private sector will help ensure that small farmers, the backbone of our national agricultural industry, are supported and empowered to collaborate, and share their resources with larger markets. I believe that both European and local agribusiness companies are heading in the right direction by looking into ways of promoting agribusiness, and I hope that together, we can all sustainably promote these goals on the regional and international stage.
Politicizing the telecom sector risks increasing costs for consumers
Speaking this afternoon (21 October) at an African Union (AU)-European Union (EU) webinar on the importance of EU-AU co-operation in research, Huawei’s chief EU representative Abraham Liukang warned that politicizing the future development of the telecom sector will only have the effect of pushing up consumer costs. “Basically, 4G and 5G were built around common technology standards. This brought benefits to consumers in terms of both the quality of new technology products that became available and in cost reductions for the end user. This process of advanced digitization has taken place due to global collaboration in research and science.
"The last thing that the world needs now is for de-coupling to arise as new tech solutions are built. The world should be about uniting together to fight issues like COVID-19 and climate change.
"Huawei has a strong history in taking part in EU research projects and we have also rolled out broadband in many rural parts of Africa, including through our innovative Rural Star project.”
Carlos Zorrinho MEP and who is also the joint chairperson of the EU-ACP Joint Parliamentary Assembly said: “The partnership of equals between the EU and Africa is just exactly that.
"There has to be an equal playing pitch in AU-EU relations when it comes to both the free movement of researchers and the free movement of ideas. Civil society in Africa needs to be engaged more by African governments on research issues. Science needs to be about finding solutions to key problems and it cannot be about controlling lives.
"The EU should support a new Wifi for All initiative in Africa.”
Annelisa Primi from the OECD said that “good science anywhere is good science everywhere. Make science, don’t buy it.
"Africa is helping the world to tackle Covid-19. Due to the experience of Ebola, Africa knows the priorities that need to be set in handling this pandemic.”
Moctar Yedaly, head of ICT at the African Union today said: “African governments need to invest in [email protected] or they will lose out from the benefits of digitization.
"There must be a paradigm shift in thinking by African governments on this investment matter.
"Investing in clean and green technologies is key – if the UN Sustainable Development Goals are to be reached.
"Cybersecurity and data projects are very important as people around the world want to transact business without any danger.”
Declan Kirrane, managing director of ISC Intelligence said: “There is already ground-breaking research going on in Africa.
"The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) astronomy project is a global scientific initiative. African researchers are very strong too in the areas of data and computational sciences.
"Capacity building in Africa must improve if African researchers are to fully benefit from Horizon Europe and there should also be an alignment between Africa and the EU on GDPR and related policy subjects such as the health sector. The European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership is also making strong advances in tackling HIV, AIDS and malaria.”
Senior MEP calls on Parliament to 'restore calm' in Guinea after elections
A senior MEP has called on the EU to press Guinea to “restore calm” after the weekend presidential elections left the trouble-torn African country in further turmoil.
Official results will not be known for several days and the local media have been banned from publishing exit poll results. But it is widely rumoured that the main opposition candidate, Cello Dalein Diallo, beat the sitting president Alpha Conde by over 50%.
There are now fears of unrest with Diallo suggesting the incumbent may “cheat” and dispute the outcome of Sunday’s (18 October) election in a bid to stay in power.
Diallo is apparently in hiding following rumours that he might be arrested.
Belgian Socialist Maria Arena, chairwoman of the European Parliament’s sub committee on human rights, told this website: “It seems important to me that the European Union, namely the external action service but also the member states, use political and diplomatic dialogue to try to restore calm in Guinea.”
On Monday (19 October), speaking exclusively to this website, Diallo said: “I am convinced from the results obtained that I won this election despite fraud and intimidation. I appeal to officials, territorial administrators and members of the branches of the CENI (Commission Electorale Nationale Indépendante) to ensure that all compatriots observe and respect the electoral code and other laws and good practices so that our country does not sink into violence.”
He added: “We don't need it. But, the risk is that if Alpha Condé wants at all costs, and whatever the results of the ballot box, to proclaim itself the winner. Let him understand that we will not accept.”
Diallo went on, “I now ask the international community to take its responsibilities to save Guinea from drift.”
In the vote, which followed months of political unrest where dozens of people were killed during security crackdowns on mass protests, 82-year-old Conde sought a controversial third term.
Diallo told reporters, “Alpha Conde cannot abandon his desire to grant himself a presidency for life.” He warned his rival not take power using “cunning and violence”.
Diallo said that in the election observers had encountered obstructions at polling stations while Guinea’s Prime Minister Ibrahima Kassory Fofana admitted there had been “incidents.”
Ten other candidates besides Conde and Diallo contested the poll and, if necessary, a second-round runoff vote is scheduled for November 24.
Much of the tension in Guinea relates to a new constitution Conde pushed through in March, in defiance of mass protests, arguing that it would modernise the country.
The move controversially allowed him to bypass a two-term limit for presidential terms. Conde became Guinea’s first democratically elected president in 2010 and won again in 2015 but rights groups now accuse him of veering towards authoritarianism.
Maria Arena, also a member of the Parliament’s influential conference of committee chairs and foreign affairs committee, noted that an emergency resolution had been voted by the assembly in February condemning Condé's desire to change the constitution by referendum to allow him to exercise a third term.
She said: “In this resolution, the European Parliament had already pointed out human rights violations and urged the government to organize transparent, pluralist and inclusive elections.
"But Condé, who called himself the president of democracy (“the Mandela of West Africa”) changed his ways and took the path of repression by locking up opponents.”
Turning to the current post-election period, she said: “We must avoid repeating the scenes of violence of 2009.”
She added: “Unfortunately the covid pandemic did not allow the EU to deploy an election observation mission. This is damaging for Guinea.
“Guinea, like the other African countries, has signed the Cotonou Agreement, which is still applicable and this agreement provides for sanctions mechanisms in the event of non-respect for good governance and democracy. The European Council will also be able to use this tool if the elections lead to a failure to respect these principles and if the Guinean population is a victim.”
Further comment comes from foreign affairs committee chairman German MEP David McAllister who told this website he did not want a repeat of the violence seen during the legislative elections and a constitutional referendum in March which he said “was deeply shocking”.
“The EU has rightly called on the authorities to carry out independent and thorough investigations so that those responsible can be prosecuted.
“The presidential election on Sunday was included amongst the 2020 priorities for an EU-Election Expert Mission but the political situation in the country made it impossible to deploy a mission, as the minimal conditions were clearly lacking. Furthermore, the Guinean authorities did not actively send any invitation to the EU for an election observation,” said the EPP deputy.
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