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Friday, 19 April 2024

UN Assemblies: Khama vindicated?

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NEW YORK – World leaders have adopted the much-talked about ambitious, bold and universal Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which is a migration from the much publicized Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and as expected, President Lt Gen Ian Khama chose not to attend.

In an interview with South African financial publication, Business Day, in 2013 Khama dismissed the Union General Assembly (UNGA) meetings as nothing but wasteful and worthless ‘talk shops’.

The resolutions of the UN are not legally binding and implementation is left to individual countries. Although it has been hailed as the great hope for the future of mankind – the UN has also been dismissed as a shameful den of dictatorships owing to the undemocratic politics of the Security Council. This view is held particularly by the developing world.

Nonetheless, many had expected President Khama to attend this year’s historic and epic United Nations 70th anniversary General Assembly, which even attracted the Russian President, Vladimir Putin who has a decade of absenteeism with the UNGA. This year’s GA was special because of its uniqueness and extraordinarily rich agenda, but Khama remained unmoved.

The General Assembly is the main deliberative body of the UN. As opposed to the controversial Security Council, which is exclusive and grants unique veto rights to five nations, all 193 UN member nations have membership and equal voting rights in the General Assembly.

The General Assembly approves the admission of new UN members and elects members to other UN organs. Over the years, it has become the primary platform for the dialogue between developed and developing states. This week, Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe endeared himself to as he launched a scathing attack on the West in relation to several issues that many agree with him but shy away from discussing for fear of offending their economic masters.

Opposition parties in Botswana and other stakeholders continue to urge Khama to revisit his position and view on the UNGA but the President won’t relent. Khama, his detractors say, unlike Mugabe, prefers to snipe at a distance, an attitude associated with cowardly man – they say. His detractors further argue that the President needs to give the organization support by way of presence and contribution in debates if indeed he shares its objectives and believes in its significance.

The new UN agenda entitled ‘Transforming our world: 2030 agenda for sustainable development’, will serve as the launch  pad for action by the international community and by national governments to promote shared prosperity and well-being for all over the next 15 years.

The agenda  which has 17 SGDs and 169 targets is unique in that it calls for action by all countries- poor, rich and middle –income, unlike the now defunct MGDs which the developing world heard of towards the end of the 15-year period during which they were to be achieved. SDGs have seen much more effective consultation. The co-chair of the Open Working Group, Macharia Kamau said, “no one can say they were not consulted. There was wide consultation and therefore there is accountability.”

To show their support, countries have sent their representatives. The programme shows that out of 53 African states, 60 percent of the heads of states are in attendance, 25 percent sent Ministers while the remaining 15 percent sent Vice Presidents. Botswana is represented by both the Vice President and a Minister.

This publication sought opinions from various UN senior officials on the attendance and non-attendance of heads of states and if at all that has any significance.

Many were of the view that ‘agendas are not for Presidents but countries at the end of the day’. They further said while a head of state’s attendance is always encouraging, the monitoring and assessment of the goals looks largely on the country leadership’s commitment to the goals. Botswana’s anti-poverty strategy and commitment to UN agreed objectives is said to be one of the most robust and successful when compared to her regional counterparts.

The UN Resident Coordinator, Mr Anders Pederson is of the view that Botswana has done very well by dramatically reducing poverty levels and achieving universal access to HIV/AIDS treatment, and to social services such as education and health. Botswana has also shown true leadership in the sub-region during the MDGs era.

“Although inequality is still a challenge, Government’s commitment towards addressing this gives us hope and assurance that by 2030, this will be a thing of the past,” he points out.

Does Khama’s presence really matter that much?

UN senior officials say yes and no. “Yes because it is a head of states assembly but also an issue to do with the highest political representation. As for a Vice-President or a minister, many might argue that it is still a high political representation, and the president may as well tell them what to say, where and how,” they advised.

The presidents however, the officials said, need to show up regularly or occasionally “because a UN Assembly is the highest political event in the UN calendar and the opportunity provides presidents with a rare opportunity to talk to the world”.

They further observed that through the addresses, presidents are also provided with a rare opportunity to raise problems within their respective countries for the world to offer advice or assistance. These, they said, may be through formal dialogue or informal ‘chats’ with counterparts during adjournments.

According to the UN officials, presidents hardly find themselves in one place at the same time and the UN assembly provides that rare opportunity for them to connect, interact and iron out issues that may have been pending because of insufficient time or resources.

“Attendance at the highest level also shows respect to the organization you say you support and the organization that you sustain annually through your budget,” they further advised.

When addressing the ongoing GA the Botswana’s Vice President, Mokgweetsi Masisi who made it clear at the onset of his statement that he is standing in for President Khama said Botswana’s progress has been very encouraging.

“We have reached universal access to education and almost closed the disparity between girls and boys in schools; health services are practically free and have been brought within an 8km radius of each community across the country; HIV anti-retroviral drugs are provided freely for all Batswana and transmission of the virus from mother to child is almost at zero; focused interventions for youth employment and income-generating opportunities have resulted in the improved quality of life of our citizens,” he said.


He further said one notable area of success worthy of singular mention has been the national flagship programme for the complete eradication of poverty.

“Through the deliberate actions of this strategy, evidence is beginning to show that steady progress is being made. Interestingly, the evidence also shows that women are greater beneficiaries of the programme and achieve significantly better results that actually transform their livelihood and that of their families. This has been a patent reminder of the role women can play in national development, when given the opportunity,” he said to a half-empty assembly.


The style and culture at the Assembly is that when one is done with his address they leave and those that are not presenting on that day do not care to show up, and worse still, the world major media outlets are only interested in the United States of America President’s speeches as well as a few of the world’s major economies like China and Russia to feed on tensions between these governments, which often see the UN as bloated and inefficient.


Khama is a fierce and fearless critic of some regional and international leaders and is revered and disliked by many in the region for his unpopular views on emerging issues. His government’s foreign policy has however come under heavy criticism for lack of consistency.


In Botswana because of his non-attendance critics argue that his assistant, Masisi cannot express himself with the same confidence and authority because being a messenger usually comes with boundaries but Khama is of the view that it is not about who attends but the country position.
 

Achievability of SDGs and Botswana
With the world moving from the 8 MDGs to 17 SDGs questions have now shifted to achievability of the SDGs given their number. Botswana’s latest report of the MDGs depicted a country on the right path despite a few areas of concern like the quality of education, high and widening inequalities, the high HIV/AIDs prevalence rates and a few minor cases.


Globally there are concerns that the new SDGs lack clarity on evaluation, accountability and transparency. Leaders however say these will be looked into. Others worry that 17 being the number of SDGs seems too many, and 169 target indicators might be difficult to monitor even for countries with good data collection mechanisms, the biggest worry however remains resources.


“In Botswana, we’re looking forward to align our work on poverty eradication; environment and climate change; governance, human rights and gender equality and their outcomes even closer to the Botswana Vision Post 2016 and the National Development Plan 11. These new Global Goals will guide and help us achieve that. The Goals spell out how we work together to promote dignity, equality, justice, shared prosperity and well-being for all, while protecting the environment. We are the first generation that can end poverty and the last one that can avoid the worst effects of climate change,” Pederson said.

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Nigerians, Zimbabweans apply for Chema Chema Fund

16th April 2024

Fronting activities, where locals are used as a front for foreign-owned businesses, have been a long-standing issue in Botswana. These activities not only undermine the government’s efforts to promote local businesses but also deprive Batswana of opportunities for economic empowerment, officials say. The Ministry of Trade and Industry has warned of heavy penalties for those involved in fronting activities especially in relation to the latest popular government initiative dubbed Chema Chema.

According to the Ministry, the Industrial Development Act of 2019 clearly outlines the consequences of engaging in fronting activities. The fines of up to P50,000 for first-time offenders and P20,000 plus a two-year jail term for repeat offenders send a strong message that the government is serious about cracking down on this illegal practice. These penalties are meant to deter individuals from participating in fronting activities and to protect the integrity of local industries.

“It is disheartening to hear reports of collaboration between foreigners and locals to exploit government initiatives such as the Chema Chema Fund. This fund, administered by CEDA and LEA, is meant to support informal traders and low-income earners in Botswana. However, when fronting activities come into play, the intended beneficiaries are sidelined, and the funds are misused for personal gain.” It has been discovered that foreign nationals predominantly of Zimbabwean and Nigerian origin use unsuspecting Batswana to attempt to access the Chema Chema Fund. It is understood that they approach these Batswana under the guise of drafting business plans for them or simply coming up with ‘bankable business ideas that qualify for Chema Chema.’

Observers say the Chema Chema Fund has the potential to uplift the lives of many Batswana who are struggling to make ends meet. They argue that it is crucial that these funds are used for their intended purpose and not siphoned off through illegal activities such as fronting. The Ministry says the warning it issued serves as a reminder to all stakeholders involved in the administration of these funds to ensure transparency and accountability in their disbursement.

One local commentator said it is important to highlight the impact of fronting activities on the local economy and the livelihoods of Batswana. He said by using locals as a front for foreign-owned businesses, opportunities for local entrepreneurs are stifled, and the economic empowerment of Batswana is hindered. The Ministry’s warning of heavy penalties is a call to action for all stakeholders to work together to eliminate fronting activities and promote a level playing field for local businesses.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s warning of heavy penalties for fronting activities is a necessary step to protect the integrity of local industries and promote economic empowerment for Batswana. “It is imperative that all stakeholders comply with regulations and work towards a transparent and accountable business environment. By upholding the law and cracking down on illegal activities, we can ensure a fair and prosperous future for all Batswana.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Merck Foundation and African First Ladies mark World Health Day 2024

15th April 2024

Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany marks “World Health Day” 2024 together with Africa’s First Ladies who are also Ambassadors of MerckFoundation “More Than a Mother” Campaign through their Scholarship and Capacity Building Program. Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation emphasized, “At Merck Foundation, we mark World Health Day every single day of the year over the past 12 years, by building healthcare capacity and transforming patient care across Africa, Asia and beyond.

I am proud to share that Merck Foundation has provided over 1740 scholarships to aspiring young doctors from 52 countries, in 44 critical and underserved medical specialties such as Oncology, Diabetes, Preventative Cardiovascular Medicine, Endocrinology, Sexual and Reproductive Medicine, Acute Medicine, Respiratory Medicine, Embryology & Fertility specialty, Gastroenterology, Dermatology, Psychiatry, Emergency and Resuscitation Medicine, Critical Care, Pediatric Emergency Medicine, Neonatal Medicine, Advanced Surgical Practice, Pain Management, General Surgery, Clinical Microbiology and infectious diseases, Internal Medicine, Trauma & Orthopedics, Neurosurgery, Neurology, Cardiology, Stroke Medicine, Care of the Older Person, Family Medicine, Pediatrics and Child Health, Obesity & Weight Management, Women’s Health, Biotechnology in ART and many more”.

As per the available data, Africa has only 34.6% of the required doctors, nurses, and midwives. It is projected that by 2030, Africa would need additional 6.1 million doctors, nurses, and midwives*. “For Example, before the start of the Merck Foundation programs in 2012; there was not a single Oncologist, Fertility or Reproductive care specialists, Diabetologist, Respiratory or ICU specialist in many countries such as The Gambia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Central African Republic, Guinea, Burundi, Niger, Chad, Ethiopia, Namibia among others. We are certainly creating historic legacy in Africa, and also beyond. Together with our partners like Africa’s First Ladies, Ministries of Health, Gender, Education and Communication, we are impacting the lives of people in the most disadvantaged communities in Africa and beyond.”, added Senator Dr. Kelej. Merck Foundation works closely with their Ambassadors, the African First Ladies and local partners such as; Ministries of Health, Education, Information & Communication, Gender, Academia, Research Institutions, Media and Art in building healthcare capacity and addressing health, social & economic challenges in developing countries and under-served communities. “I strongly believe that training healthcare providers and building professional healthcare capacity is the right strategy to improve access to equitable and quality at health care in Africa.

Therefore, I am happy to announce the Call for Applications for 2024 Scholarships for young doctors with special focus on female doctors for our online one-year diploma and two year master degree in 44 critical and underserved medical specialties, which includes both Online Diploma programs and On-Site Fellowship and clinical training programs. The applications are invited through the Office of our Ambassadors and long-term partners, The First Ladies of Africa and Ministry of Health of each country.” shared Dr . Kelej. “Our aim is to improve the overall health and wellbeing of people by building healthcare capacity across Africa, Asia and other developing countries. We are strongly committed to transforming patientcare landscape through our scholarships program”, concluded Senator Kelej.

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Interpol fugitive escapes from Botswana

15th April 2024

John Isaak Ndovi, a Tanzanian national embroiled in controversy and pursued under a red notice by the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol), has mysteriously vanished, bypassing a scheduled bail hearing at the Extension 2 Magistrate Court in Gaborone. Previously apprehended by Botswana law enforcement at the Tlokweng border post several months earlier, his escape has ignited serious concerns.

Accused of pilfering assets worth in excess of P1 million, an amount translating to roughly 30,000 Omani Riyals, Ndovi has become a figure of paramount interest, especially to the authorities in the Sultanate of Oman, nestled in the far reaches of Asia.

The unsettling news of his disappearance surfaced following his failure to present himself at the Extension 2 Magistrate Court the preceding week. Speculation abounds that Ndovi may have sought refuge in South Africa in a bid to elude capture, prompting a widespread mobilization of law enforcement agencies to ascertain his current location.

In an official communiqué, Detective Senior Assistant Police Commissioner Selebatso Mokgosi of Interpol Gaborone disclosed Ndovi’s apprehension last September at the Tlokweng border, a capture made possible through the vigilant issuance of the Interpol red notice.

At 36, Ndovi is implicated in a case of alleged home invasion in Oman. Despite the non-existence of an extradition treaty between Botswana and Oman, Nomsa Moatswi, the Director of the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP), emphasized that the lack of formal extradition agreements does not hinder her office’s ability to entertain extradition requests. She highlighted the adoption of international cooperation norms, advocating for collaboration through the lenses of international comity and reciprocity.

Moatswi disclosed the intensified effort by law enforcement to locate Ndovi following his no-show in court, and pointed to Botswana’s track record of extraditing two international fugitives from France and Zimbabwe in the previous year as evidence of the country’s relentless pursuit of legal integrity.

When probed about the potential implications of Ndovi’s case on Botswana’s forthcoming evaluation by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), Moatswi reserved her speculations. She acknowledged the criticality of steering clear of blacklisting, suggesting that this singular case is unlikely to feature prominently in the FATF’s assessment criteria.

 

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