Ministry of Health and Wellness (MoHW) Permanent Secretary Shenaaz El- Halabi was this week clearing her desk at government enclave after having served for 24 years. Her next stop is Geneva, Switzerland for a plum post with the World Health Organisation (WHO) headquarters.
Halabi joins another Motswana woman in the mould of Dr. Matshidiso Moeti who made history by becoming the first woman to serve as a WHO Regional Director for Africa. WeekendPost has it on good authority that Halabi, who talks health issues with zeal, had not applied for the top post but was instead head hunted and selected by a new team of leadership at WHO as the global organization is currently undergoing restructuring to bring in new brooms and expertise.
“Yes, I am actually leaving Botswana government (MoHW) to join United Nations (UN) specifically the World Health Organisation (WHO). I will be starting on the 4th of December in my new job as an Advisor in the office of the WHO Director General that will be at Geneva. The job entails; advising and looking at the global health issues affecting several countries.” Halabi insisted that WHO is where world health policies are being developed, of course, in connotation with member states.
While she will taking up a global post, she is not worried as she has always worked with other countries (in government and even Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries) and others, “but now I will be specifically focusing on global health issues at that level.”
According to Halabi, this is a great opportunity for not only her personal development but for Botswana as well. She highlighted that these are not positions that you take for granted as being in these positions also mean that you will be an ambassador of Botswana as a whole. “It will also put and market Botswana at a higher level,” she maintained to this publication.
“This position is also important to Botswana. It’s also putting the country in the forefront. It’s also to say when you are selected in these positions, probably they look at where you are coming from, and in our case as Botswana when you look at our health indicators, Botswana is doing very well,” she asserted. She added:”So, I think I was also selected not based on who I am only, but also because of my country which is not doing badly in terms of the health indicators and as it’s exemplary as we keep getting accolades.” She also pointed out that this will help Botswana because she can benchmark on the best practices from other countries.
A savingram from Hazel Reaitsanye who was acting for PS to MoHW staff members states that “this communiqué serves to officially inform you that the permanent Secretary for Ministry of Health and Wellness Ms Shenaaz El-Halabi is retiring from public service on the 30th November 2017.” “We therefore thank her for the valuable contribution she has made to this country during her stay in this ministry and wish her best of luck in her next endeavour,” it states.
When asked whether she may have been pushed she quickly dismissed the suggestions: “No, no not at all. I am simply retiring at my own volition. It is a voluntary “early” retirement for me as I look forward to join WHO.” In her own words, Halabi stated that she joined the then Ministry of Health (government) in 1993 starting as a Health Research(er) on C3 government salary scale and progressed with other posts.
Holding an MPH from Boston University School of Public Health, she held several senior positions in the ministry including Director of Public Health as well as contributing to delivering several health research, policy development, monitoring and evaluation projects focused strengthening the country’s health system and improving health outcomes. Halabi was appointed Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health on 5th April 2015. Prior to this appointment Ms. El-Halabi was the Deputy Permanent Secretary, Preventative Services.
“I think I have done my share. I have been involved in major initiatives that have been undertaken by this particular Ministry and it’s good to change and I think it’s also good to learn new things and most importantly it’s good to move on.”
Former Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Member of Parliament for Gaborone North, Haskins Nkaigwa has confirmed his departure from opposition fold to re-join the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).
Nkaigwa said opposition is extremely divided and the leadership not in talking terms. “They are planning evil against each other. Nothing much will be achieved,” Nkaigwa told WeekendPost.
“I believe my time in the opposition has come to an end. It’s time to be of value to rebuilding our nation and economy of the country. Remember the BDP is where I started my political journey. It is home,” he said.
“Despite all challenges currently facing the world, President Masisi will be far with his promises to Batswana. A leader always have the interest of the people at heart despite how some decisions may look to be unpopular with the people.
“I have faith and full confidence in President Dr Masisi leadership. We shall overcome as party and nation the current challenges bedevilling nations. BDP will emerge stronger. President Masisi will always have my backing.”
Nkaigwa served as opposition legislator between 2014-2019 representing Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) under UDC banner. He joined BMD in 2011 at the height public servant strike whilst Gaborone City Deputy Mayor. He eventually rose to become the mayor same year, after BDP lost majority in the GCC.
Nkaigwa had been a member of Botswana National Front (BNF), having joined from Alliance for Progressives (AP) in 2019.
Botswana has received assistance worth over P100 million from Japanese government since 2019, making the latter of the largest donors to Botswana in recent years.
The assistance include relatively large-scale grant aid programmes such as the COVID-19 programme (to provide medical equipment; P34 million), the digital terrestrial television programme (to distribute receivers to the underprivileged, P17 million), the agriculture promotion programme (to provide agricultural machinery and equipment, P53million).
“As 2020 was a particularly difficult year, where COVID-19 hit Botswana’s economy and society hard, Japan felt the need to assist Botswana as our friend,” said Japan’s new Ambassador to Botswana, Hoshiyama Takashi.
“It is for this reason that grants of over P100 million were awarded to Botswana for the above mentioned projects.”
Japan is now the world’s fourth highest ranking donor country in terms of Official Development Assistance (ODA).
From 1991 to 2000, Japan continued as the top donor country in the world and contributed to Asia’s miracle economic development.
From 1993 onwards, the TICAD process commenced through Japan’s initiative as stated earlier. Japan’s main contribution has been in the form of Yen Loans, which are at a concessional rate, to suit large scale infrastructure construction.
“In Botswana, only a few projects have been implemented using the Yen Loan such as the Morupule “A” Power Station Rehabilitation and Pollution Abatement in 1986, the Railway Rolling Stock Increase Project in 1987, the Trans-Kalahari Road Construction Project in 1991, the North-South Carrier Water Project in 1995 and the Kazungula Bridge Construction Project in 2012,” said Ambassador Hoshiyama.
“In terms of grant aid and technical assistance, Japan has various aid schemes including development survey and master planning, expert dispatch to recipient countries, expert training in Japan, scholarships, small scale grass-roots program, culture-related assistance, aid through international organizations and so on.”
In 1993, Japan launched Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) to promote Africa’s development, peace and security, through the strengthening of relations in multilateral cooperation and partnership.
TICAD discuss development issues across Africa and, at the same time, present “aid menus” to African countries provided by Japan and the main aid-related international organizations, United Nations (UN), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank.
“As TICAD provides vision and guidance, it is up to each African country to take ownership and to implement her own development following TICAD polices and make use of the programmes shown in the aid menus,” Ambassordor Hoshiyama noted.
“This would include using ODA loans for quality infrastructure, suited to the country’s own nation-building needs. It is my fervent hope that Botswana will take full advantage of the TICAD process.”
Since then, seven conferences where held, the latest, TICAD 7 being in 2019 at Yokohama. TICAD 7’s agenda on African development focused on three pillars, among them the first pillar being “Accelerating economic transformation and improving business environment through innovation and private sector engagement”.
“Yes, private investment is very important, while public investment through ODA (Official Development Assistance) still plays an indispensable role in development,” the Japanese Ambassador said.
“For further economic development in Africa, Japan recognizes that strengthening regional connectivity and integration through investment in quality infrastructure is key.”
Japan has emphasized the following; effective implementation of economic corridors such as the East Africa Northern Corridor, Nacala Corridor and West Africa Growth Ring; Quality infrastructure investment in line with the G20 Principles for Quality Infrastructure Investment should be promoted by co-financing or cooperation through the African Development Bank (AfDB) and Japan.
Japan also emphasized the establishment of mechanisms to encourage private investment and to improve the business environment.
According to the statistics issued by Japan’s Finance Ministry, Japan invested approximately 10 billion US dollars in Africa after TICAD 7 (2019) to year end 2020, but Japanese investment through third countries are not included in this figure.
“With the other points factored in, the figure isn’t established yet,” Ambassador Hoshiyama said.
The next conference, TICAD 8 will be held in Tunisia in 2022. This will be the second TICAD summit to be held on the African continent after TICAD 6 which was held in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2016.
According to Ambassador Hoshiyama, in preparation for TICAD 8, the TICAD ministerial meeting will be held in Tokyo this year. The agenda to be discussed during TICAD 8 has not yet been fully deliberated on amongst TICAD Co-organizers (Japan, UN, UNDP, the World Bank and AU).
“Though not officially concluded, given the world situation caused by COVID-19, I believe that TICAD 8 will highlight health and medical issues including the promotion of a Universal Health Coverage (UHC),” said Hoshiyama.
“As the African economy has seriously taken a knock by COVID-19, economic issues, including debt, could be an item for serious discussion.”
The promotion of business is expected to be one of the most important topics. Japan and its partners, together with the business sector, will work closely to help revitalize private investment in Africa.
“All in all, the follow-up of the various programs that were committed by the Co-Organizers during the Yokohama Plan of Actions 2019 will also be reviewed as an important item of the agenda,” Ambassador Hoshiyama said.
“I believe that this TICAD follow-up mechanism has secured transparency and accountability as well as effective implementation of agreed actions by all parties. The guiding principle of TICAD is African ownership and international partnership.”
Directorate on Intelligence Services (DIS) Director General, Brigadier Peter Magosi is said to be hell-bent and pushing President Mokgweetsi Masisi to reshuffle his cabinet as a matter of urgency since a number of his ministers are conflicted.
The request by Magosi comes at a time when time is ticking on his contract which is awaiting renewal from Masisi.
This publication learns that Magosi is unshaken by the development and continues to wield power despite uncertainty hovering around his contractual renewal.