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JUBA, (Xinhua) -- South Sudan’s military band performs music during peace celebrations in Juba, capital of South Sudan, on Oct. 31, 2018. South Sudanese on Wednesday celebrated the signing of a power-sharing deal aimed at ending a brutal five-year civil war amid calls for lasting peace in the world’s youngest nation. Regional dignitaries and South Sudan’s rebel leader Riek Machar who signed a revitalized peace deal in September with President Salva Kiir in Ethiopia, joined thousands of South Sudanese in the capital Juba to celebrate the peace deal amid tight security. XINHUA PHOTO: WANG TENG
South Sudanese celebrate peace deal amid calls for lasting peace

JUBA, (Xinhua) -- South Sudanese on Wednesday celebrated the signing of a power-sharing deal aimed at ending a brutal five-year civil war amid calls for lasting peace in the world’s youngest nation.

Regional dignitaries and South Sudan’s rebel leader Riek Machar who signed a revitalized peace deal in September with President Salva Kiir in Ethiopia, joined thousands of South Sudanese in the capital Juba to celebrate the peace deal amid tight security.

Speaking during the celebrations, President Kiir said the five-year-old civil war in his country has come to an end with the celebrations.

President Kiir also declared he has forgiven his opponents and is ready to move forward as part of efforts to end conflict in the country.

“I want to reiterate that the war in South Sudan has come to an end and we have forgiven each other and we have decided to move forward,” Kiir told thousands of people who gathered in Juba to celebrate the peace deal.

The president said he has taken personal responsibility for the suffering of South Sudanese as a result of the conflict.

“You have endured immense suffering and the weight of responsibility heavily falls on my shoulders as your president and I deeply regret the physical, psychological, and emotional wounds you have undeservedly endured. As your president, I want to apologize on behalf of all the parties to the conflict,” said Kiir.

During the celebrations, Kiir ordered the release of James Gatdet Dak, a former spokesman of Machar, saying although Gatdet has been sentenced to death, his release is for the sake of peace.

Kiir also said he would release William John Endley, a South African national who was Machar’s adviser on Thursday after which he will be deported to his home country.

The South African, who is a retired army colonel, was also sentenced to death early this year on charges of espionage, conspiracy to overthrow the government and supplying weapons.

“The war is over and this celebration is testimony that we are committed to the agreement and we must commit ourselves to it,” Kiir added.

Machar, who returned to Juba for the first time in two years since fleeing the country in 2016, took part in the peace celebration, saying that he came to Juba to show his commitment to the latest peace deal and end the conflict in South Sudan.

“I came only to confirm to people that I am for peace. The past is gone. We have opened a new chapter for peace and unity,” said Machar who had been exiled to South Africa over the years.

Yoweri Museveni, Ugandan President, told South Sudan leaders to embrace non-violent means of solving political conflicts and differences through transparent elections and dialogue.

“It is therefore ideologically incorrect to use war to solve political arguments, elections are the discussions or the right way or referendum but then the elections must be fair. If the elections are not fair they are the one which create conditions for people thinking other ways of solving problems,” said Museveni.

He congratulated Kiir and Machar for allowing logic to prevail after they signed in September a final revitalized peace agreement in the Ethiopian capital to end more than four years of conflict.

The Ugandan leader urged both leaders to avoid sectarianism, tribal politics and instead create systems and institutions with national character in the army and civil service.

Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, Somali president, called on South Sudan leaders to make concessions to put the country and its people first.

“Let’s all remember that no deal is always perfect, no arrangement is without flaws, no negotiation is perfectly balanced. The real test of a leader is to have the ability to make concessions and put this country and its people first,” said Mohamed.

Mohamed said attainment of peace in South Sudan is significant for stability of the east African region, adding his country will support South Sudan.

“You have shown the way for peace, I urge you to steer your country into the right path of peace and development,” said the Somali leader.

“You have shown a great statesmanship in coming together to end the protracted conflict. I urge you to join hands to stir your country into the right path towards peace and development,” he said.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who helped broker the peace deal, called on South Sudan’s leaders to commit to the peace agreement and move their country forward.

Sahle-Work Zewde, newly appointed Ethiopian President, called for ceasefire and urged the leaders to fully implement the peace deal which was inked in Ethiopia by Kiir and Machar.

Under the new peace deal, Machar will serve as the first of five vice presidents under a transitional government of national unity.


S. Africa’s ANC rejects allegations over donation from troubled bank

CAPE TOWN,  (Xinhua) -- The ruling African National Congress (ANC) on Wednesday rejected allegations that it had received donation money from the troubled VBS Mutual Bank in exchange for doing favor for the bank.

“If any financial contribution was made to the ANC by VBS or any other company, this would have been without any influence or commitment from the ANC to do favors,” Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Zweli Mkhize said on behalf of the party.

Mkhize was responding to a demand raised by the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) on Sunday that the ANC pay back the donation money from the VBS Mutual Bank which has been put under administration due to severe liquidity crisis since April this year.

The DA urged the ANC to lay criminal charges against ANC officials, including Mkhize, who “engineered this corrupt kickback,” and pay back every cent of this money within the next seven days.

The ANC allegedly profited to the tune of two million rand (about 138,000 U.S. dollars) via a “donation” from VBS Mutual Bank towards their election campaign, the Sunday Times newspaper reported last week.

Referring to the Sunday Times report, Mkhize said he, in his capacity as former Treasurer-General (TG) of the ANC, has never assisted VBS in securing any funding from municipalities or any other state institution

“As far as the article refers to my name, it is defamatory and a fabrication devoid of any truth and as such should not be believed,” he said.

He said that as Minister of the Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, he will continue to support the various ongoing investigations and further take the necessary steps within his powers to ensure that those who stole money from municipalities that was meant for service delivery, face the might of the law.

The VBS Mutual Bank has been embroiled in a scandal, in which up to 900 million rand (about 62 million U.S. dollars) in deposits at the bank could not be traced due to alleged irregularities. Much of the money was deposited by ANC-run municipalities, a preliminary investigation shows.

In a report released in early October, the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) identified 50 people associated with the ANC and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) who allegedly used their political influence to ransack and defraud the bank.

As one of South Africa’s smallest lenders, VBS has operated as a licensed mutual bank, funded by its members, for 25 years.

The lender, which isn’t listed, gained attention in 2016 when it gave then president Jacob Zuma a mortgage to settle a Constitutional Court order to repay taxpayers some of the money spent on upgrading his private residence.

The bank operates six branches across the country and calls itself a black-owned specialist corporate-finance and retail bank. Its total assets were 2.4 billion rand (about 166 million dollars) at the end of December last year, according to the most recent central bank data. 


Rwanda looks to tap into Chinese market through import expo

KIGALI, (Xinhua) -- Rwanda eyes China as a “very important” export market and expects to introduce Rwandan products to Chinese consumers  through the first China International Import Expo (CIIE), CEO of Rwanda Development Board Clare Akamanzi said Wednesday.

“China is a very important export market we are looking at right now and the fact that we signed a partnership with Alibaba now confirms that China is a very important priority market for us today,” Akamanzi said at a media briefing after the launching ceremony of Alibaba’s Electronic World Trade Platform (eWTP), which makes Rwanda the first African country that launches this platform.

The eWTP initiative was proposed by Jack Ma, executive chairman of Alibaba Group, in 2016. It aims to promote public-private dialogue to foster a more effective and efficient policy and business environment to enable small and medium-sized enterprises to participate in cross-border electronic trade.

The first thing that Rwanda has to achieve is to make sure that Chinese consumers know the central African country, she said, noting that Rwanda sees the CIIE as a platform where it can present Chinese consumers with Rwandan products.

“We are going to use all platforms possible including trade expos in China and other local platforms to promote Rwanda products to the Chinese market,” she added.

The CIIE, China’s first-ever fair of this kind scheduled for Nov. 5-10 in Shanghai, is China’s latest move to promote trade liberalization and further open up its market. 


Rwanda’s financial sector to remain sound, stable in 2018: central bank

KIGALI, (Xinhua) -- Rwanda’s financial sector is expected to remain sound and stable throughout 2018, the central bank said on Wednesday.

Banks and microfinance institutions of Rwanda hold sufficient capital and liquidity buffers above prudential requirement and the solvency and profits of private insurers continue to improve, said National Bank of Rwanda in a statement, citing an assessment by the bank’s Financial Stability Committee.

By the end of September 2018, the total capital adequacy ratio for the banking and microfinance sectors stood at 22.6 percent and 34.8 percent respectively, compared to 15 percent prudential requirement, said the bank.

The liquidity coverage ratio, the main indicator of liquidity position of banks, stood at 306 percent against 100 percent prudential requirement, it said.

On the other hand, the liquidity ratio in the microfinance sector stood at 96.4 percent against the 30 percent prudential requirement, it added.

The insurance sector held sufficient capital relative to risks underwritten, it said.

The aggregate solvency levels of private insurers stood at 155 percent in September 2018 compared to 159 percent level of September 2017, the bank said.


Zambian leader calls for more cooperation with Austria

LUSAKA, (Xinhua) -- Zambian President Edgar Lungu on Wednesday called for efforts to boost cooperation between Zambia and Austria.

In a congratulatory message sent to Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen on Austrian National Day, the Zambian leader said he is prepared to nurture the relationship between the two countries for mutual benefit, according to a statement released by the Zambian Embassy in Austria.

The Zambian leader pledged to work with Austria, which took over the presidency of the Council of the European Union on July 1, in promoting global peace and security.

The potential for economic cooperation between Zambia and Austria is immense, Lungu said. 


Libyan parliament, state council agree to restructure presidential council

TRIPOLI, (Xinhua) -- Libya’s eastern-based House of Representatives, or parliament, and the Tripoli-based Higher Council of State on Wednesday reached an agreement on restructuring the current Presidential Council.

According to a joint statement by the parliament and the state council, both parties have agreed to reconstruct the Presidential Council to make it composed of a president and two deputies, as well as a prime minister, to form a national unity government.

The statement also said the draft restructuring agreement aims to end the political division in the country, and that the new executive authority’s task is to prepare for presidential and parliamentary elections.

The current Presidential Council was appointed in line with a UN-sponsored political agreement signed by the Libyan rivals in 2015. It consists of a president, five deputies, and three ministers of state.

The parliament rejects the current formation of the Presidential Council, arguing that it has too many members which makes it hard to reach consensus.


139 illegal immigrants voluntarily deported from Libya

TRIPOLI, (Xinhua) -- The International Organization for Migration (IOM) announced late Wednesday that 139 illegal immigrants were voluntarily deported from Libya to Nigeria.

“Another group of migrants returned home to Nigeria from Libya yesterday. Among the 139 migrants, there were five pregnant women and seven unaccompanied children, as well as four people with medical conditions,” IOM said in a statement later on Wednesday.

The return was done with the support of the European Union Trust Fund, the statement said.

The IOM is running a voluntary return program with an aim to arrange the return of illegal immigrants stranded in Libya to their countries of origin.

Migrant shelters in Libya are crowded with thousands of migrants who have been rescued at sea or arrested by Libyan security services.

Libya has become a preferred point of departure for illegal immigrants hoping to cross the Mediterranean Sea into Europe due to insecurity and chaos in the North African country following the 2011 uprising that toppled former leader Muammar Gaddafi.


Ethiopia police intercept 919 illegal hand guns being smuggled to the capital city

ADDIS ABABA, (Xinhua) -- Ethiopian police on Wednesday intercepted 919 illegal hand guns in the capital city Addis Ababa.

In a press statement, Yeka district communications office in Addis Ababa, said the hand guns were intercepted by Addis Ababa police officers as they were about to be smuggled into the city hidden inside a freight truck.

The statement further said the driver of the freight truck has been apprehended pending investigation into the origins of the illegal hand guns and their intended final destinations.

Ethiopia strictly controls licensing and movement of arms across the country and private arms ownership is relatively rare in the East African country.

Violent crimes are relatively rare in Ethiopia, but recent incidences of armed robberies in major cities and sporadic ethnic and religious unrest have led to a spike in demand of illicit arms ownership.

Ownership of arms is also seen as a sign of prestige and security in parts of Ethiopia, which has seen a history of rebellion and conflict.


Uganda confirms Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever case in western district 

KAMPALA, (Xinhua) -- Uganda’s ministry of health on Wednesday confirmed a case of Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever (CCHF) in the western district of Kabarole.

Emmanuel Ainebyoona, senior public relation officer for the ministry of health, told Xinhua by telephone that laboratory results from samples taken from a female patient under isolation at Fort Portal regional referral hospital tested positive of the fever.

“There is a confirmed case of CCHF in Kabarole, but there are measures put in place to ensure that the disease doesn’t spread,” Ainebyoona said.

He said a national rapid response team from the ministry of health and that of agriculture, animal industry and fisheries has been dispatched to Kabarole to handle and contain the outbreak.

The CCHF is a tick-borne illness transmitted to humans through tick bites. It can also be transmitted through direct contact with the blood, secretions and the organs of infected people.

According to the World Health Organization, a CCHF outbreak constitutes a threat to public health.

The global health body says the fever, endemic in Africa, the Balkans and the Middle East, is associated with a high case fatality ratio of 10-40 percent.


World’s tallest statue inaugurated in India

NEW DELHI, (Xinhua) -- Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday inaugurated the world’s tallest statue in the country’s western state of Gujarat.

The 182-meter-tall statue of the country’s first Home Minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, more popularly known as Sardar Patel or “Iron Man of India,” is situated in Kevadiya village in the Narmada district of Gujarat, also the home state of Modi.

The statue was built at a cost of over 400 million U.S. dollars.

Sardar Patel played a key role in India’s freedom struggle, and was a popular leader committed to the farmers’ welfare.

Wednesday also marks the 143rd birth anniversary of Sardar Patel. The “Statue of Unity” will be open to the public from Nov. 3.

Located on the Sadhu Bet island near Rajpipla on the Narmada river, the statue is located between the Satpura and the Vindhya mountain ranges. A 3.5-km highway will connect the statue to Gujarat’s Kevadia town, media reports said.

The statue is said to be strong enough to withstand wind velocity up to 60 meters per second, besides vibration and earthquakes. It has been built within three-and-a-half years by over 3,000 workers, including 300 engineers.

According to media reports, around 129 tonnes of iron implements were collected from nearly 100 million farmers in 169,000 villages across all states to construct the base of the statue in the “Loha” (means iron) campaign. 


Rwanda launches Alibaba’s Electronic World Trade Platform

KIGALI, (Xinhua) -- China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba and the government of Rwanda Wednesday launched Alibaba’s Electronic World Trade Platform (eWTP), which makes Rwanda the first African country that launches this platform.

The eWTP initiative was proposed by Jack Ma, Executive Chairman of Alibaba Group, in 2016. It aims to promote public-private dialogue to foster a more effective and efficient policy and business environment to enable small and medium-sized enterprises to participate in cross-border electronic trade.

Ma and Rwandan president Paul Kagame jointly unveiled the plaque of the eWTP at its launching ceremony, which also witnessed the signing of MOUs between the two sides in the areas of e-commerce, tourism, e-payment and capacity building, under the framework of eWTP.

Alibaba will work with Rwanda Development Board to help Rwandan small and medium-sized enterprises sell their products, including coffee and handicrafts, to Chinese consumers through Alibaba’s online marketplaces.

Alibaba’s travel service platform and Rwanda Development Board will also work together to promote Rwanda as a tourist destination through a Rwanda Tourism Store for booking flights, hotels and travel experiences and a Destination Pavilion, where Chinese consumers can learn about Rwanda.

Alibaba’s affiliate Ant Financial will share expertise in inclusive financial tools, such as mobile payments, to support the Rwandan digital economy.

Alibaba is also committed to providing capacity building to academics, policy makers and entrepreneurs on how to grow a digital economy. For policy makers, Alibaba will host a three-day workshop at its Hangzhou headquarters to showcase the nature, capabilities and promise of a new digital economy through first-hand experience with digital finance, logistics, e-commerce and big data industries.

A delegation of ministers and government officials responsible for the development of Rwanda’s digital economy will attend a workshop in Hangzhou in January 2019.

Alibaba will also continue to support Rwandan entrepreneurs through programs such as the eFounders Fellowship.

“I hope from today, the eWTP Rwanda can be able to support small businesses, young people and women here in Africa and sell their things to enable them to global buy, global sell, global deliver, global pay and global travel,” Ma said at the ceremony.

“If we can make 60 million small businesses in the world, they can do business and change the world. We want to ensure eWTP makes 80 percent of small businesses in Africa to be successful,” he said.

“Let’s support young people and small businesses to globalize,” he added. 

The eWTP opens up new frontiers in e-commerce and tourism for Rwanda and will also boost the capacity and competitiveness of Rwandan entrepreneurs and business people, said Kagame.

Rwanda greatly values its growing relationship with the Chinese private sector and Alibaba Group in particular, he said, adding that the launch is a tangible example of that and one that Rwanda intends to build on for mutual benefits.

Wednesday’s launch is a “starting point” for eWTP in Rwanda and Africa, Angel Zhao, President of Alibaba Global Business Group, told a media briefing after the ceremony.

She expressed confidence on eWTP’s success in Africa. “We are going to build a long-term strategy (for eWTP in Africa),” she added.

Using eWTP is really key and comes at the right time as Rwanda launches its Made-in-Rwanda policy, designed to help boost local industrial contribution to the economic growth while promoting the brand of the Rwandan locally made products at the global stage, Rwandan Minister of Trade and Industry Soraya Hakuziyaremye said at the briefing.

It will help Rwanda’s young entrepreneurs and also local enterprise willing to export outside, she said.

“It (eWTP) is perfectly fit in our development agenda,” said Clare Akamanzi, CEO of Rwanda Development Board.

Rwanda’s development priorities, first of all, is to improve the income level of its people and eWTP provides very good opportunities for Rwandan people and entrepreneurs to be able to maximize their incomes from trading and export, said Akamanzi.

The future of Rwanda’s economic development is digital and data driven, CEO of the ICT Chamber of Private Sector Federation of Rwanda Alex Ntare told Xinhua in an interview.

Next drivers of digital transformation of Rwanda is the digital transformation of trade, particularly enabling small and medium-sized enterprises both in formal and informal sectors to boost their customer reach through e-commerce platforms and marketplaces, said Ntare.

E-commerce will help in economic growth of Rwanda in many ways including cross-border trading, time saving, costs reducing, and enhancing convenience, he said.


Kenya implements business reforms to spur growth: World Bank

NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- Kenya has accelerated business reform agenda, implementing five key reforms in the past year to improve the business climate for small and medium-sized businesses, the World Bank said in a report launched on Wednesday.

The lender’s Doing Business 2019: Training for Reform report says the reforms earned Kenya a spot among the global top improvers, a merit it has earned four times in the past 11 years.

“While this is a great accomplishment which we must celebrate, I also encourage the government to persist in its efforts to address the remaining hurdles that affect the establishment and growth of SMEs in the country, a segment that is critical to the creation of more jobs and opportunities for Kenyan youth,” Felipe Jaramillo, World Bank Country Director in Kenya said during the launch of the report in Nairobi.

The World Bank report said Kenya has advanced this year to 61 in the global ease of doing business ranking, from a rank of 80 last year.

The report is issued annually, benchmarking 190 countries globally against ten indicators on how easy it is to do business.

A high ranking on the Ease of Doing Business Index means the regulatory environment is more conducive to start and operate a local business.

The report indicates that some of the reforms conducted by Kenya in the past year included making registering property easier by introducing an online system to pay fees and obtain digital certificates.

“As a result, the time for a business to register a property transfer has now been reduced to 49 days, from 61 days,” says the survey.

The findings show that Kenya strengthened access to credit by introducing a new law on secured transactions that created a unified secured transactions legal framework.

The assessment also indicates that the country established a new unified and notice-based collateral registry.


Tanzania launches aerial wildlife census in Selous-Mikumi ecosystem

DAR ES SALAAM, (Xinhua) -- Tanzania on Wednesday launched an aerial wildlife census in the Selous-Mikumi ecosystem, targeting large mammals like elephants and buffalo.

The census is conducted by state-owned Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI), the Tanzania Wildlife Management Authority (TAWA), and the Tanzania National Park (TANAPA), in collaboration with Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS).

“The census targets large mammals, such as elephants and buffalo, and will estimate wildlife populations, their distribution as well as signs of illegal human activities in the Selous Game Reserve, Mikumi National Park and the Selous-Niassa corridor,” said an FZS statement.

Aerial wildlife censuses in the Selous-Mikumi Ecosystem have been conducted every three to four years since 1976.

The overall coverage of the Selous-Mikumi Aerial Wildlife Census is approximately 110,000 square km.

The latest census was initially planned to be conducted in 2017, but had to be postponed due to excessive tree canopy cover that hampers aerial survey visibility, the statement said. 

TAWIRI, the leading organization in the census, said the current conditions allowed the assessment to be successfully completed and provide reliable data for the estimate of wildlife populations and trends in the Selous-Mikumi Ecosystem.

Selous Game Reserve has faced many conservation challenges in recent decades, the statement said, adding that subsequent to the massive decline of elephants in the late 1970s and 1980s, elephant population estimates dropped from approximately 109,000 to 31,889.

Elephant numbers showed recovery later, reaching an estimated 65,000 individuals in 2006, it added.

The most recent surge in poaching occurred in the late 2000s and early 2010s, driven by soaring demand for ivory, cut elephant population estimates to 14,867 in 2014, according to the statement.

“Selous Game Reserve was placed on the list of World Heritage in Danger in 2014 mainly due to the poaching threat,” said the statement.

Tanzania has since made great strides in curbing poaching and strengthening the Selous Game Reserve management and protection, including the establishment of Tanzania Wildlife Management Authority, improved law enforcement, and intensive anti-poaching initiatives that include regular aerial surveillance, the statement added.


Mozambique, Botswana sign agreement for
direct flights between the two countries

MAPUTO, (Xinhua) -- Mozambique and Botswana will be connected through direct flights between Maputo and Gaborone from 2019, the Mozambican Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Jose Pacheco announced here on Wednesday.

“The agreement we signed today (Wednesday) will materialize that Mozambicans willing to travel to Botswana and Botswanians willing to travel to Maputo will no longer use connecting flights to do so, they will do it straight from Gaborone to Maputo and vice versa,” said the minister.

“This is a reality that happens because there is political will and commercial will in the business sector. New airplanes in Botswana are being purchased to reinforce the fleet to among other things connect Gaborone with Maputo,” Pacheco added.

The agreement is a result of talks held between the delegations of Mozambique and Botswana during the three-day visit of Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi in the country.

According to Pacheco, the need to reinforce commercial and political relations between the two countries was highlighted. Cooperation in the sectors of security and defense, culture and arts, and wildlife conservation were also discussed during the talks.

UNITED NATIONS, (Xinhua) -- Ahunna Eziakonwa (R, front), United Nations Development Program (UNDP) assistant administrator and regional director for Africa, addresses the case study at the UN headquarters in New York, Oct. 29, 2018. China’s agricultural foreign assistance projects have resulted in increased food production and income for smallholder farmers in Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique, according to a case study revealed on Monday. XINHUA PHOTO: LI MUZI


Namibia should focus on rurual investment to improve food security: VP

WINDHOEK, (Xinhua) -- To improve food security, Namibia should focus on investing in agriculture to create employment and market opportunities for small producers, Namibia’s vice president Nangolo Mbumba has said.

“We should focus on rural investment to reduce the long-term effects of short-term climate variability on food security, through crop insurance and incentives that encourage farmers to adopt better agricultural and land use practices,” he told an event commemorating the World Food Day in the Kavango West region, about 700 km north of Namibia on Tuesday.

He said that although malnutrition rates have been falling, too many children are still trapped in the clutches of this devastating condition.

One in four young children suffer from stunting and are too short for their age, he noted.

According to the Ministry of Health and Social Services, Mbumba said, 24 percent of children under five are stunted, while 6 percent are wasted, and 13 percent are underweight.

World Food Day is celebrated every year around the world on 16 October in honor of the date of the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in 1945.

This year’s theme is “Our Actions are our Future A #Zero Hunger World by 2030 is Possible”.

“This year’s World Food Day commemoration provides another valuable opportunity to all Namibians to recommit their collective efforts towards achieving a Namibia without hunger and malnutrition in all its forms,” Mbumba said.


Kenyan digital loan apps intensify search for borrowers on social media 

NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- While chatting with friends on social media on Wednesday, Ann Nyaboke saw a message pop up on the screen of her phone.

She stopped the chat and read the message, which was from a new digital credit app asking her to enroll by downloading the software.

Not someone to fear experimenting, she followed the steps offered and downloaded the app and borrowed 1,000 Kenyan shillings (about 10 U.S. dollars), the maximum she could get.

“I had not enrolled in any digital loan app before, but I could not leave this chance to pass out of curiosity because it popped into my space,” she said. “It is the easiest money I have ever borrowed.”

Her experience is shared by hundreds of other social media users in Kenya as developers of the apps intensify their hunt for customers through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

The digital loan apps are mainly advertising on social media as they target the youth in the east African nation, who form the bulk of those who use the sites and borrow cash via the app.

“Apply for the first loan of 500 shillings now! Get loan, make the back payment in time and get another loan of up to 5,000 shillings,” one app offers on social media.

“Instant loans to your Mpesa account. Download our app today and borrow as low as 100 shillings to 50,000 shillings without any guarantors, security or office visits!” another app says in an advertising message.

“Gone are the days when customers applied for loans, which would months to process, in the banking halls. Get the right mobile lender today. It’s a digital world,” offers another digital loaner.

Kenya has more than 50 digital credit apps that offer borrowers instant loans depending on their mobile money usage. A majority of the apps are standalone products but commercial banks have lately joined the foray to cash in on the boom.

The apps offer loans at an interest rate of up to 15 percent per month, which is outside the controlled Central Bank of Kenya lending rate of 13 percent per annum that formal banks offer.

So popular are the digital credit apps that in the last months, banks and non-banking actors have scrambled to launch new services, with social media offering the easiest platform to advertise themselves.

Mathew Muthuri, a social media marketer in Nairobi, notes that most of the apps are exclusively using the sites to advertise their services because of the huge reach and they enable them to target individuals.

“Unlike TV, newspapers or radio, which reaches to generally the mass market, social media reaches millions at once but each person receives the message individually on their phone at any time. It may even be in the dead of the night. They are, therefore, likely to take up the service without seeking opinion from anyone,” he said.

The 2017 FinAccess Digital Credit Survey showed that 35 percent of Kenyan phone owners are digital borrowers, an indication that some 6.1 million people use the apps in the East African nation.

These are mainly the youth, who also are active users of social media sites.

Muthuri noted that social media advertising has worked for the loan apps, the reason why millions have enrolled for the service, some taking loans from up to 10 service providers.

However, as the popularity of the apps soar, Kenya’s financial sector regulators have warned that increased usage of digital credit exposes the economy to various challenges that include money laundering.

“Digital credit predisposes the economy to risks that include money laundering, terrorist financing and technology risks,” said the Central Bank, Capital Markets Authority, Insurance Regulatory Authority, Sacco Regulatory Authority and Retirement Benefits Authority, in a report released last month. 


Zimbabwean seed producers cut prices after public outcry

HARARE, (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwean seed producers have cut the prices of their products following an outcry from farmers and representations by the government.

The producers more than doubled their prices last week, citing unfavorable operating conditions.

A snap survey by Xinhua on Wednesday showed that prices have been down drastically, although they remained high for many farmers.

One leading seed producer cut the price of medium-season variety of maize seed from 250.82 Zimbabwean bond dollars per 25 kg bag to 138 dollars, while prices for a 10 kg bag of the same variety went down from 100 dollars to 55 dollars.

Despite the reduction, farmers on Wednesday said the prices are still too high and production would be adversely affected.

A bag of maize seed, now costing 55 dollars, was selling for 25 U.S. dollars last season.

Zimbabwean monetary authorities peg the bond dollars at 1:1 to the U.S. dollar, but the greenback is sold at more than twice the bond dollar on the black market.

President of the Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union Abdul Nyathi told Xinhua on Wednesday that the price cuts are not enough and small-holder farmers still cannot afford to plant in the coming season.

“Take for instance the 10 kg bag of maize, which was selling at around 25 dollars last season. The same now costs 55 dollars, and this is double last season’s price,” he said. “A lot of people are saying this is not sustainable and they will not go back on the land to farm.”

He also said the producers had only reduced prices of short- and medium-season variety seeds and left the high yielding longer-term varieties untouched.

“Farmers prefer the long-term varieties because they have higher yields, but the producers left the prices very high. Wait and see if anyone will buy those seeds,” he said.

Prices of fertilizers also went down, with a 50 kg bag of top dressing going down from 80 bond dollars to 60 dollars, while basal fertilizer went down from 75 dollars to 55 dollars. Both fertilizers cost less than 40 dollars last season.

ALGIERS, (Xinhua) -- Visitors consult about books at the Chinese pavilion at the 23rd International Book Fair of Algiers, in Algiers, Algeria, Oct. 30, 2018. The book fair kicked off on Monday. As the guest of honor at the book fair, China presented over 2,500 books both in Arabic and English. XINHUA PHOTO


EU wants more trade and tenable relations with Botswana

GABORONE, (Xinhua) -- The new ambassador of European Union (EU) to Botswana Jan Sadek says his organization is committed to strengthening partnership with Botswana and the rest of the African continent.

Speaking during media interaction at a breakfast meeting held in Gaborone, the capital of Botswana on Wednesday, Sadek, who is also accredited to SADC, said upon his arrival in the country he met with President Mokgweetsi Masisi and discussed a number of key issues such as trade and investment.

He noted that EU was committed to assisting the country in many areas to boost investment, further attract private investor, support education and skills development for employability, as well as boost trade and improve the business climate.

Sadek said Botswana stands a better position to handsomely benefit from EU programs, particularly that the country is stable, adding that there is still room to increase trade between the two.

In the meantime, Sadek said the new EU leadership is also committed to deepening the EU’s economic and trade relationship with Africa through investment and job creation.

One of the initiatives of achieving this is through “A new Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs”.

The aim of the Alliance is to take the EU’s partnership with Africa to the next level by boosting investment trade and business, among others.

The plan will be supported by the Commission’s current and future budget, for which Africa is highlighted as a priority region.

Meanwhile, investing in people, EU recognizes that Africa has the youngest population of any region of the world and continues to experience demographic growth. It therefore recognizes that providing people with access to education is of paramount importance. 


Feature: Kenyan champion Gor Mahia in limelight for trip to Everton

NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- Excitement, anticipation, anxiety and a bit of skepticism has been building as Kenyan league champions, Gor Mahia FC prepare to leave on Friday to Britain to play Everton FC.

On Nov. 6, Gor Mahia will become the first club side from East Africa to play an English Premier League club at the iconic Goodison Park.

Gor Mahia, who wrapped a record-extending 17th domestic crown in the just-concluded season won the chance to play the Toffees when they defeated Tanzanian giants, Simba SC 2-0 in the final of an eight-team regional invitational tournament dubbed the SportPesa Cup on June 10.

Last year, the two clubs met at the National Stadium in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania where the EPL side prevailed 2-1 in a game remembered as the first outing for former England captain Wayne Rooney since his return to Everton after 12 trophy-laden years at Manchester United.

Rooney, who has since left for DC United in the Major League Soccer of America, opened the scoring with a scorcher from range before Gor Mahia’s record signing Jacques Tuyisenge, levelled for 1-1 at half time. A late Kieran McDowell strike, also from range sealed victory for Everton.

“Their performance against such a big side inspired us to come back home and win the league. I told my players they had the qualities to play against the best and from there it was easy for them to find the motivation,” remarked Dylan Kerr who took charge of Gor for the first time in that match remarked.

Former Brazilian international, Jose Marcelo ‘Ze Maria’ Ferreira took over Gor Mahia at the start of July 2017 and subsequently led the side to reclaim the domestic title they had lost to local rivals, Tusker FC in 2016.

In the past season, Gor Mahia defended their crown with six games to spare, finishing third in the regional Cecafa Club Championships in Tanzania and above all, qualifying them for the first time in the group stages of the second tier continental competition, the CAF Confederations Cup.

Amid a chocking fixture list that saw the team tail off towards the end of the campaign, Gor Mahia also retained their Super Cup crown before a crippling player’s strike over delayed salaries and allowance saw their season end in a whimper, losing six of their last eight games.

“The playing unit, both young and experienced, played a significant role in delivering the 17th trophy home despite the tight season that also saw us engage in CECAFA, Super Cup and CAF competitions,” Ferreira said.

Ahead of the showdown, opinion has varied between those who see the fixture as a positive step towards exposing East African football to the world as others label the match as a public relations gimmick.

Gor Mahia and Everton share a shirt and title sponsor in SportPesa, the African gaming giants with roots in Kenya who have since expanded to open their business in the UK, Italy, South Africa and Tanzania.

The company has thrown its weight behind a huge promotional campaign that has managed to capture the attention of the Kenyan audiences on local television, radio, newsprint, on-line and social media.

Besides the Gor players and staff, a group of local journalists, a number of Gor fans led by the most famous of all, Jared Otieno, also known as ‘Jaro Soja’ the self-styled Commander-in-Chief of the Green Army supporters and other guests will make the Everton trip.

Last year, the two sides played to a jam-packed National Stadium in Dar and in May this year, Gor Mahia took on visiting English second division side Hull City FC in Nairobi where the 60,000-seater Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani filled to its brim.

Organizers are hoping the story of a Kenyan side playing a team from the most-followed league in the world will be a big international draw to serve the dual purpose of exposing talent from East Africa as well as leveraging their product in this age where football is one of the biggest commercial drivers.

“Everton is one of the most established clubs in the UK being the only one to play over 100 seasons in the Premier League. The friendly will be good exposure for the Gor who have given their best to put Kenya on the global and regional map in matters football,” company CEO, Captain Ronald Karauri said when the game was confirmed in August.

Regardless of the purpose of the fixture, Gor players are relishing the prospect of what the opportunity offers to their careers.

“I’m very grateful to our partners and coach for making this trip possible. Most of us have never been to the UK and this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for us to showcase our talent,” the 20-year-old Edward Lokuwam said ahead of the trip.

Raphael Asudi, who grew up in Donholm, a settlement east of the Kenyan capital Nairobi, is another youngster keen on making an impression at Goodison Park as his promising career continues to take shape.

“It will be great to meet the entire Everton team and especially (Theo) Walcott. I have always admired him and it will be amazing to show them that we can handle the challenge they pose,” Asudi, who is a devout Arsenal fan where Walcott spent a decade before signing for the Toffees, added.


Kenya’s Teimet hopes for victory on return to Hangzhou marathon

NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- Former Seoul marathon champion Sylvester Teimet of Kenya on Wednesday vowed to beat defending champion Azmeraw Molalign Bekele of Ethiopia in this Sunday’s Hangzhou Marathon in China.

Teimet, 34, who settled for fourth spot in last year’s race, clocking 2:10:59, holds one of the fastest personal best times among the elites who will be racing in Hangzhou, an IAAF bronze level road race.

The Kenyan holds a personal best time of 2:06:49, which he set when winning the Seoul Marathon in 2010.

During his 11-year-long career over the classic distance, the experienced Kenyan has also collected titles in Shanghai and Gyeongju.

He set the course record in Shanghai International Marathon of 2:09:01 in 2012 before compatriot Paul Lonyangata improved it to 2:07:14 in 2015.

Sunday’s race in Hangzhou will be his third in China this year, after he placed seventh at the Yellow River Estuary International Marathon in Dongying in May and second at the Taiyuan Marathon in early Sept.

“I love running in China. I have rested enough and believe I have the strength to go for the win in my third marathon this year. There are several top names to expect, but I always focus on my own strength and strategy to win the race,” Teimet said in Nairobi.

Kenya’s Emily Chemutai Ngetich, who holds a fast time of 2:25:14 from her fourth place finish at the Frankfurt Marathon in 2014, will lead a Kenyan challenge in the women’s race eyeing to improve on her ninth place finish last year. Not to rule out Anne Cheptanui and Loice Kiptoo.

“There Ethiopians were very strong,” she said. “But it will be different this year.” 


FIFA President says still “looking at” possible expansion for 2022 World Cup

KUALA LUMPUR, (Xinhua) -- FIFA President Gianni Infantino said Wednesday that the world football government body is still “looking at” the possibility expand the number of teams taking part in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Speaking at the annual congress of Asian Football Confederation (AFC), Infantino mentioned that the plan has been adopted to increase the number of teams that participate in the finals during the 2026 World Cup from 32 to 48.

“Will it happen in 2022? We are looking at it. If it’s possible, why not?” he said, adding that it would have the positive effects on Asian football as the quota for AFC members will rise from 4.5 to 8.5.

FIFA is discussing the proposal with the host Qatar and other partners in the region, Infantino said. “We need to see if it’s possible, if it’s feasible,” he said. “We hope this could happen, and if not, we will have tried.”

Meanwhile, Infantino said FIFA is eyeing on revamping the Club World Cup, the next edition of which will be played in the United Arab Emirates in December, “to make it a real competition.”

Infantino also suggested the possibilities of introducing UEFA’s Nations League system in other confederation to make matches between national teams to be “more meaningful.”

For his part, AFC President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa said the Asian football government body will be working closely with FIFA on new competitions, including the introduction of an Asian league at the worldwide level.


Botswana Wrestling team gears up for Namibia

GABORONE, (Xinhua) -- The Botswana Wrestling Federation (BWF) has selected a 10-member junior national team to represent the country in an international tournament next month in Namibia, Botswana’s neighbor to the west.

The tournament will be played in the Namibian capital city of Windhoek from Nov. 23 to 25. Speaking on Tuesday in a telephone interview, BWF founding president Moagi Sharp explained that the international tournament is a continuation of their agreement with the Namibia Wrestling Federation to work together to develop wrestling in their respective countries.

He said since reaching the agreement 3 years ago, the 2 wrestling federations played each other every year.

Sharp said next month’s competition will be in two styles: the Freestyle Wrestling and the Greco-Roman Style.

“The team, which we have announced was selected after the Francistown Open Wrestling Tournament, which we held two weeks ago, and was attended by 5 wrestling clubs. It will play against the Namibia national team and the local clubs in Namibia. The competition will give our wrestlers much needed match practice,” he said.

Sharp, who is the only qualified wrestling coach in the country, added he will be coaching the team, assisted by Gaolatlhe Madibela.

He said the team will go into training camp next week to intensify preparations.

“We expect to be in camp for 2 weeks in Selebi Phikwe because most of the players are from the town. During that time, we expect to play a tournament with local clubs,” he said.

He said they have done well in their previous matches against Namibia and they target 4 medals from this year’s competition, which will be held in the Windhoek township of Katurura.

Sharp said with more funding and support, wrestling has the potential to win major international medals for the country.

The 10-member team comprises 7 male and 3 females.

They will compete in 6 weight categories: 30kg, 34kg, 36kg, 38kg, 40kg and 46kg.  Enditem


Former Ghana FA president Kwesi Nyantakyi receives life ban from FIFA

ACCRA, (Xinhua) -- FIFA announced on Tuesday a life ban for the former President of the Ghana Football Association (GFA) Kwesi Nyantakyi.

The ban precludes Kwesi Nyantakyi from all football-related activities after he was caught on video making self-incriminating statements to renowned investigative journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas, who had disguised himself as an Arab businessman seeking to invest in Ghana football.

A statement issued by the world football governing body said its adjudicatory chamber had found Nyantakyi “guilty of a number of FIFA rule violations.”

The adjudicatory chamber found Nyantakyi guilty of having violated article 19 (Conflicts of interest), article 21 (Bribery and corruption) and article 22 (Commission) of the FIFA Code of Ethics, 2012 edition.

“As a consequence, Nyantakyi is banned for life from all football-related activities (administrative, sports or any other) at both national and international levels. Additionally, a fine in the amount of 500,000 Swiss Franc (more than 400,000 U.S. Dollars) has been imposed on Nyantakyi,” the statement announced.

The statement added that the former FIFA Governing Council member had already been informed about the decision of its adjudicating chamber.

The Number 12 investigative video produced by the Ghanaian investigative journalist has already claimed a number of casualties in the African football fraternity including referees caught on tape receiving gifts in order to compromise matches.


Kenya’s Wanjiru ready for New York Marathon after knee injury

NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- Former London Marathon champion Daniel Wanjiru has dared his opponents to pick up the gauntlet and take him on in Sunday’s New York Marathon.

Wanjiru, together with defending champion Geoffrey Kamworor and Festus Talam, left for New York on Tuesday night looking to take on Ethiopia’s former Boston Marathon champion Lelisa Desisa and fellow countryman Shura Kitata, as well as Bernard Lagat of the USA.

In March, Wanjiru performed poorly at the Houston Half Marathon, finishing 25th, and was unable to finish the Great North Run in Newcastle because of a stomach infection.

“After I had a stomach infection during the Great North Run, I have since recovered and have had good training. Now I’m back and fully focused on the New York Marathon,” Wanjiru said on Tuesday evening before his departure.

Wanjiru, a former Rotterdam Marathon champion, finished eighth in this year’s London Marathon in April, clocking 2:10:35 in a race won by Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge.

He blamed his loss to a knee injury, which he now says is fully healed.

“As you can see, I am in my best form. My training has gone smoothly and I want to challenge Kamworor and the other athletes to try to catch me. Though this is my first marathon in the USA, I want to say I’m ready,” said Wanjiru.

Injury concerns have inspired the 27-year-old and he believes New York will provide him with a new start as he aims to improve his personal best time of 2:05:21.

“The New York course is tough and we all know it. But that does not mean I will not try to improve my time. However, the important thing for me is to start afresh with a win as I close my season,” said Wanjiru.

Defending champion Geoffrey Kamworor will be among this year’s participants as he seeks to win back-to-back titles after winning his first major marathon on the same soil last year.

Kamworor won his third consecutive IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in Valencia in March, and hopes for similar luck in New York.

“Kamworor hopes to defend his title successfully on Sunday and mount a successful defense of his title in the “Big Apple” and we will support him,” said Kamworor’s coach Patrick Sang.  



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