Cabinet divided over P600 scheme
Ministers fear initiative projects poor party policy image; Scheme was endorsed by Ministry before 2014 elections
The controversial Graduate Volunteer Scheme (GVS) has received mixed reactions from members of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), including cabinet members over its purpose and rationality. Ministry of Youth Sports and Culture principals Okayed the scheme in October 2014.
The WeekendPost has been informed that some cabinet members are displeased with the latest scheme as they perceive the initiative as more or less a replica of the existing National Internship Program. Government introduced the GVS a week ago and announced that it targeted unemployed graduate youth who are not in the internship programme.
The objective of the Internship Programme is to provide short-term work experience at minimal cost to the employer so that young people emerging from tertiary institutions gain practical experience of a working environment.
The programme, although criticized has managed to attract a large number of graduates and with levels of unemployment skyrocketing, others were not absorbed by the program in both the both in the public and private sectors. The programme targets government sponsored Bachelor Degree holders, while Diploma graduates are not eligible to participate in the programme.
The Ministry of Sports, Youth and Culture (MSYC) has stated that the new programme is intended to; facilitate skills development and transfer them to graduates, promote the spirit of volunteerism, contribute to community development, improve resilience of graduates as well as to reduce their idle time. After it was approved by Ministry principals in 2014, it was agreed that it had to wait for the next financial year.
With criticism piling up over duplication of government initiatives, discontent from influential cabinet ministers may finally pressure the MSYC to repeal the initiative before implementation.
The statement from the ministry had said that participants would be enrolled in areas where they had accommodation, and that emphasis would be in rural districts where there is need for service.
The bone of contention was not only the objectives of the initiative but the P600 allowance which participants would be paid on monthly basis. Scores of the political activist have suggested that the government’s new initiative will serve as exploitation conduit because of its off-putting monthly take home.
This publication has established that the initiative was never discussed at cabinet level by the current cabinet, although the idea was conceived before last year’s general elections. WeekendPost has also learnt that former Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Shaw Kgathi has indicated his discontent with the new initiative.
Member of Parliament for Tati West Guma Moyo and MP for Francistown West Ignatius Moswaane are also not happy with the programme. In the heat of debate before the closure of the just ended parliament session, Moswaane expressed his desire to see President Lt Gen Ian Khama appearing before parliament to answer questions from legislators and account for the government policies.
The initiative has also rubbed the party’s Youth Wing the wrong way, with the Chairperson Andy Boatile having requested to meet with the current Minister of Youth, Sport and Culture. The GVS issue has become a hot issue since government announcement and has raised more questions on the ruling party’s structures especially the BDP Youth Wing in contributing towards policy formulation.
The government had previously introduced Tirelo Sechaba, and Youth Empowerment Scheme (YES) which also proved unpopular with the unemployed youth population.
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Malawi appeals for help over Cyclone Freddy at PAP
As of yesterday evening, the death toll from the Cyclone in Malawi had risen from the initially reported 190 to 225 in a short period of time, over 20 000 people have been displaced, and the worst of fears are yet to come as the fatalities continue to mount. This was reported by a Malawi Member of Parliament attending the Pan African Parliament session in Midrand, South Africa, Hon Steven Mikiya.
Mikiya was giving a statement on behalf of Malawi as the ongoing Pan African Parliament in South Africa.
Mikiya said the Cyclone has wreaked the most havoc in our country’s Southern Region. “The Southern Region, has been hardest hit with widespread heavy rains and strong winds. This caused a rapid rise in water levels and subsequent flooding. Meanwhile, power supply has been disrupted, roads blocked off and rendered impassable and mudslides have also been widely reported,” he said.
He made a special appeal to the PAP: “Where I come from, there is a parable which I would like to share with you which says, “mzako weniweni umamudziwa panthawi ya mavuto.” Simply put, a friend in need is a friend indeed or put loosely, a person who helps at a difficult time is a friend you can rely on.”
Mikiya continued: “Yes! Misfortune has knocked on our door and left in its wake a trail of death and destruction that may take years to fully recover from. However, amidst these difficulties, I have every reason to believe that sometimes when you are in a dark place and think you have been buried, you have actually been planted. My belief, Mr. President, arises out of my faith in this gathering and out of the conviction that it is not coincidental that Cyclone Freddy hit Malawi and Mozambique while the delegations of both countries are here.”
According to Mikiya, the level of destruction, the loss of life, property and the decimation of the entire fabric of established communities has been unprecedented. He noted that all this, is coming at a time when Malawi was starting to show signs of recovery from the deadly COVID-19 pandemic that also came hard on the heels of Cyclone Ana and Cyclone Gombe that left a similar trail of devastation and destruction in Malawi and neighbouring countries.
As of Sunday, this week, from the 12th of March, Malawi and Mozambique have been facing the devastating effects of Cyclone Freddy that made a landfall over Mozambique on Saturday the 11th and reached Malawi by Sunday the 12th of March.
The Malawi legislator said he has absolute faith in the Pan African Parliament, which he described as “a league of nations brought together by a shared ancestry, history, identity as well as our beloved continent which we inhabit”.
Meanwhile, Malawi President, Lazarus Chakwera, has declared a State of Disaster in the affected areas effectively appealing for local and international support for the affected families.
Mikiya appealed to the Pan African Parliament drawing “positive” inspiration from Europe which rallied around Turkey after the destructive earthquakes to bring the much-needed relief and humanitarian aid to the people of Turkey.
He said Africa should demonstrate to the world that the African Union and its Organs are not mere talk shows, but effective institutions which stand up when it matters most.
“Alone, it may take us a lifetime to fully recover, but together, in the Pan-Africanist spirit of Ubuntu, our lives and livelihoods will return to a semblance of normality in record time. This is the time to live by our operative mantra, “One Africa, One Voice.” Mikiya concluded.
African Legislators key to AfCFTA full operation
The Secretary General of the AfCFTA Secretariat, His Excellency Wamkele Mene has submitted that it is important for African legislators, individually and collectively, to contribute meaningfully towards the vision of fostering mutually beneficial continental and regional integration, enhanced market access and good governance to spur intra-African trade.
Mene was presenting at the first Statutory Sittings of the Pan African Parliament Permanent Committees for 2023 in Midrand South Africa under the topic : “Unpacking the AU theme for 2023 and the role of the PAP in implementing AFCFTA.” On the other hand, the PAP Committees Sitting, convened under the African Union 2023 theme of the year “The Year of AfCFTA: Acceleration of the African Continental Free Trade Area Implementation”, of which Mene observed it portrays determination to stay tuned to the times and resolve and commitment to work towards the realisation of this momentous flagship project of the AU.
The AfCFTA Secretary General said the topic, “Unpacking the AU theme for 2023 and the Role of the PAP in implementing the AfCFTA,” is most opportune and relevant as the continent gears up to commemorate the Year of 3 the AfCFTA, as well as the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU).
Meanwhile his presentation was aimed at guiding Committees deliberations and plans to key into the continental agenda for the benefit of the African citizenry and achievement of the aspirations and goals of the AU’s Agenda 2063.
STATE OF PLAY OF THE AfCFTA
Speaking on the state of play of the AfCFTA, Mene told Honourable Members of the PAP that significant progress has been made in the implementation of the AfCFTA, since its establishment in March 2018. “To-date, 47 Member States have ratified the AfCFTA agreement, out of which 46 have deposited their instruments of ratification to the Chairperson of the AUC making them State Parties with rights and obligations under the agreement,” he announced.
According to Mene, implementation of the Agreement is also progressing in phases as envisioned; while legal instruments covering the Phase I protocols on trade in goods, trade in services and dispute settlement mechanism entered into force on 30 May, 2019, he said.
He said there are four outstanding negotiations on key instruments – rules of origin and schedules of tariff concessions, as well as specific commitments on services – for trade in goods and services under the AfCFTA.
He noted: “Currently, agreement has been reached on 88.03% of rules of origin covering nearly 5000 traded products., while 46 Member States have submitted their tariff offers, that cover these goods with rules of origin in place. Significant progress has also been made in the submission and verification of the specific commitments with respect to the protocol on trade in services. 52 Member States have so far submitted their offers. The AfCFTA Dispute Settlement Mechanism (DSM) was operationalized with the inaugural meeting of the Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) in April 2021. The selection process for the Members of the Appellate Body has almost been completed, with the selective of five out of seven persons to serve on the Body. So, for the first time on the continent, the free trade in goods and services would be backed by a robust dispute settlement framework under the AfCFTA”.
Futhermore, the AfCFTA Secretary General told Honourable Members that negotiations on the Phase II protocols have also progressed satisfactorily. He said the Protocols on Competition Policy, Investment, and Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), were concluded late last year, and tabled for adoption at the just ended 36th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of AU Heads of State and Government last February.
“Two protocols, however, remain outstanding, namely: Digital Trade (formerly e-Commerce) and Women and Youth in Trade. Meanwhile, the Secretariat has deplored the requisite trading documents to support the implementation of the Phase I protocol on trade in goods: i. AfCFTA E-Tariff Book and the Rules of Origin Manual. The eTariff Book is available online at e- tariff.au-afcfta.org, and ii. AfCFTA Trading Documents (Origin Declaration Form, Certificate of Origin, Suppliers Declaration).”
According to Mene, Heads of State and Government authorised the start of trading under the AfCFTA beginning 1st January 2021 under an ‘interim arrangement’. However, he said trading in AfCFTA-certified products only commenced following the launch of the Guided Trade Initiative (GTI), on 7th October, 2022. Currently, seven state parties namely Ghana, Egypt, Tanzania, Rwanda, Kenya, Mauritius, Cameroon, and Tunisia, are piloting the initiative involving more than 96 products, he said.
Mene said the most important aspect of the Guided Trade Initiative is in demonstrating that beyond enhanced trade flows we can deliver inclusive benefits and opportunities for all. “However, we need to scale it up. We need all the State Parties to come on board for a successful implementation of this laudable initiative,” he said.
THE ROLE OF PAP LINKED TO AfCFTA
The AfCFTA Secretary General took time to explain how the PAP comes into the picture as far as AfCFTA is concerned. He said one important function of the PAP is to facilitate and oversee the implementation of AU policies, objectives and programmes. According to Mene, the PAP, therefore, has important advisory and monitoring role to play for the successful implementation of the AU theme of the year 2023.
“It is important at this stage that African legislators, individually and collectively, contribute meaningfully toward the vision of fostering mutually beneficial continental and regional integration, enhanced market access and good governance to spur intra-African trade,” he stressed.
He said the AfCFTA provides an entry point for parliamentarians to shape the economic future of each of our countries but also that of the continent. “As the implementation of the AfCFTA progresses, parliamentarians and other key stakeholders need to be fully aware of, and find opportunities for productive engagement in the process,”he advised.
The Secretary-General said in his view parliaments are the principal democratic institution which can communicate trade issues to the people while scrutinizing the actions of governments and influencing the direction and outcomes of trade talks.
Mene stressed that the AfCFTA has moved into implementation mode albeit having completed the easiest part – that is for all the member states to negotiate a single set of rules. However, he said the most difficult part is implementation, and the designation of 2023 as the theme of the year to accelerate the implementation of the AfCFTA, is indeed, well-timed. “Accelerated implementation of the AfCFTA will without doubt promote economic dynamism among our Member States.”
A recent study by the World Bank, in partnership with AfCFTA Secretariat, indicates that the Agreement, if fully implemented, would raise incomes in Africa by 9 percent by 2035 and lift 50 million people out of extreme poverty. Therefore, Mene observed that the success of the AfCFTA will boil down to political will, discipline in execution, and the active management of conflicts that arise as implementation continues.
The achievements made so far since the establishment of the AfCFTA are truly remarkable, particularly given the number of countries, the diversities and interests involved. Interestingly, the AfCFTA is the fastest piece of Agreement with the largest number of signatories to effect its launch in the history of the AU. It is also important to recognise that implementation of the agreement may not have advanced as fast as expected. However, we cannot escape the fact the AfCFTA was virtually birthed in the midst of a global pandemic, with severe impact on the economies of the member states. As we speak, the continent faces significant challenges including political instability; armed groups; and threats to physical infrastructure which may impact the effective implementation of the AfCFTA. Many of our countries are also grappling with high levels of debt and debt-service cost, as well as the impact ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict.
“Parliamentarians must, therefore, continue with their efforts to find solutions to these and other pressing issues in the member states for the benefit of our continent. Finally, we must all work closely together to make 2023 a year of action, one that will be remembered as the dawn of a new era of intra-African trade, “he said.
Finally, Mene honoured the important work of the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) in providing a unique platform for African peoples and their grass-roots organisations to be more involved in discussions and decision-making on critical continental issues.