The Bureau of the Sixth Session of the Africa Regional Forum on Sustainable Development (ARFSD) has met and adopted an action plan establishing key priorities for implementing key messages from the forum that was held in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, in February.
Chaired by chaired Zimbabwe’s Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister, Mr. Paul Mavima, this was the Bureau’s first meeting since the adoption of the Victoria Falls Declaration on the Decade of Action for Sustainable Development in Africa.
The Decade of Action calls for accelerating sustainable solutions to all the world’s biggest challenges, ranging from poverty and gender to climate change, inequality and closing the finance gap.
With the coronavirus pandemic raging on the continent, members of the bureau recognized the unprecedented and serious challenges being caused by COVID-19 and noted with grave concern the growing loss of human lives and huge negative economic and social impacts of the crisis on the continent.
Africa, the agreed, was likely to be disproportionately affected by the pandemic given the region’s underlying vulnerabilities.
The Economic Commission for Africa’s (ECA) recent analysis on the impact of the pandemic estimates that economic growth on the continent is expected to drop from 3.2 percent to 1.8 percent. As of March 2020, a decline of 1.4 percentage points is expected from the effects of COVID-19. Africa’s Finance Ministers have called for an initial support package of US$ 100 billion in 2020 to cushion their nations from impacts of the pandemic.
The bureau agreed that COVID-19 reinforced the need for stronger global and regional partnerships if the sustainable development goals are to be fully achieved and to build resilience to social, economic and environmental shocks and calamities.
Member States and other actors were urged to take urgent and collective measures to curb the spread of COVID-19, provide the necessary support to affected communities and address the social and economic implications of the pandemic.
Bureau members, Zimbabwe (Chair), the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Liberia and Morocco, pledged their full commitment to expand outreach, and to take and promote concrete actions in following-up and implementing the outcomes of the sixth ARFSD.
The action plan, which will be implemented with the support of ECA, regional organizations and the rest of the UN Development system, recognizes the challenges and need for quality and timely data and statistics for evidence-based planning, implementation, monitoring and reporting on the 2030 Agenda and the African Union’s Agenda 2063.
The Bureau is expected to finalize by August, the strategic framework of the Solidarity Fund for Statistical Development in Africa, as agreed in the Marrakech Declaration of the Fifth session of the regional forum; and develop a regional strategy to operationalize the Victoria Falls Declaration on the Decade of Action and delivery for sustainable development and key messages of the sixth regional forum by November 2020.
Outcomes of the Victoria Falls forum will be conveyed to the 2020 meeting of the High-level political forum on sustainable development to be convened under the auspices of the United Nations Economic and Social Council in July.
The Bureau committed to contribute to strengthening the capacity of member States and catalyse concrete multi-level actions to follow-up and implement outcomes of the regional forum by carrying out advocacy campaigns at key conferences and other events at global, regional, sub-regional and national levels.
Members also agreed that they will take forward and expand initiatives to strengthen the capacity of subnational authorities in selected countries to conduct Voluntary Local Review to better domesticate and bolster local action to accelerate implementation of the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063.
They requested the ECA, which supported the virtual meeting as the Secretariat, and its partners to develop a monitoring and evaluation tool that will enable tracking and comparability of progress of implementation across countries in the region.
The ARFSD is an intergovernmental forum convened by the ECA in collaboration with the African Union Commission, the African Development Bank and agencies of the UN system.
African tourism leaders recommend MICE for sectoral recovery
These tourism leaders cutting across countries such as: South Africa, Rwanda, Uganda, Ghana and Kenya, gave the advice at the 16th AKWAABA Africa Travel and Tourism Market’s conference held online.
The roundtable was organised by Mr Ikechi Uko, with the theme: “Is MICE a Viable Pathway for Tourism Recovery in Africa?’’
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that meetings, incentives, conferencing and exhibitions is a type of tourism in which large groups usually plan well in advance and are brought together.
Rick Taylor, Chief Executive Officer, Business Tourism Company, said that MICE in Africa was pretty new but started in the United States since 1714.
Taylor said that enormous opportunities would be available if MICE was properly developed in Africa.
“We need to work on returning to embrace our meetings, incentives, conferencing and exhibitions because it was observed that an hour of physical meeting is only as effective as 5 zoom meetings, 10 phone calls and 20 emails.
“Some 14 new ideas were likely to be generated during physical meetings but only 7 ideas would be gotten from online meetings,’’ he said.
Also, Mr Alain St.Ange, former Seychelles Minister for Tourism and Culture, said that the MICE market was an important one in the tourism industry, adding that there was need to discover more Africans who would be dedicated to work in grooming tourism.
He advised Africans to work together to achieve common goals of revamping the tourism industry and create global competitiveness.
“Tourism is the pillar of the Seychelles economy and with a population of 100,000 people, we are able to sustain the country through the returns on tourism.
“MICE is an important market in tourism, it needs to be developed rightly,’’ he said.
Nelly Mukazayire, Chief Executive Officer, Rwanda Convention Bureau, also attested to the fact that MICE was one of the innovative ways for revenue creation which Africans must leverage upon.
According to her, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, numerous events were postponed and the country recorded losses to the tune of $8m.
“Rwanda is open to MICE, domestic tourism and travels now, the government has set up platforms to ensure tourists’ safety, who either come for leisure or business opportunities.
“The Rwandan government has established economic recovery funds, created home grown events that align with our investment priorities; Rwanda is a unique destination for events and MICE is guaranteed,’’ she said.
Jacinta Nzioka, National Coordinator, Kenya National Convention Bureau, said that the business of MICE had sustained the country as a tourist destination, adding that the Kenyan government was working with the private sector to further grow MICE.
Nzioka said that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 97 tourism events were cancelled and over 42,000 jobs were lost.
She said when International travels began, 16 per cent arrivals were recorded to be on purpose of business, which she described as encouraging.
“Currently, we have stimulus packages for the hospitality sector, and recovery funds to restart the industry all put together by the Kenyan government; we see a bright future for MICE in Kenya,’’ she said.
Nzioka advised Africans to work unanimously to complement one another’s efforts in the development of MICE and not for competitive purposes.
Mr Bradford Ochieng, Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Uganda Tourism Board, said that the board had prioritised the promotion and development of business tourism to diversify the country’s tourism offerings and encompass more than leisure.
Ochieng said this was expected to increase the number of tourist arrivals, receipt and earnings from business travellers.
He said currently, the board was trying to partner with the private sector to develop affordable travel packages to revamp the industry.
“The MICE industry is an emerging one in the Ugandan economy, the Ugandan tourism board will continue to prioritise both leisure and business travels.
“We want to tell everyone that we are ready for MICE and planning to invest more in hotels, convention centres and all,’’ he said.
Edited By: Idonije Obakhedo
Health Minister says 10% of COVID-19 cases are under-19
The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire says records show that 10 per cent of all positive COVID-19 cases treated are below the age of 19 years.
According to him, with regard to COVID-19 and growing complacency, it is important to stress that, even though adults, especially those 60 years and above are more vulnerable, complications do occur in all age groups.
“Records show that 10 percent of all positive cases we have treated are below the age of 19 years.
” They are also the same mobile group that can be without symptoms, but can easily spread the disease.
“Therefore, as schools begin to reopen in some areas, I urge caution and adherence to the protocols and advisories for reopening schools, to prevent COVID-19 surge,” he said.
Speaking on the need for testing, the minister noted that it was important for the country to generate national and international confidence in the nation’s data by conducting more targeted testing before conclusions were drawn.
“It means that all States and local government areas must cooperate with NCDC by raising sample collection rate, using criteria listed, to increase testing to a desired rate and to report promptly; as we are still far from the target of two million tests.
“In this regard, we can support States with community volunteers for contact tracing, case finding and investigation.
“While stepping up surveillance and case finding, states can also ensure that suspected symptomatic COVID cases are sent for treatment in time or supported before then with medical oxygen, to save lives and reduce fatalities.
“The recommended criteria for testing are: persons who have been in contact with a COVID positive patient or are associated with a cluster of persons of interest, those who have any of the four classical symptoms of fever, persistent cough, loss of sense of taste or smell and breathlessness; anyone facing surgery, as well as for any other compelling reason. Testing for travel is assigned to private laboratories.”
He also stated that the distribution of oxygen concentrators and ventilators to various health institutions commenced with training of about 176 intensive care specialists, and biomedical engineers, who would use or maintain them in the hospitals.
Ehanire disclosed that the ventilators and training were courtesy of the United States government and it shall complement what they have at the ICUs.
The minister also commended health workers in JOHESU, for putting an end to their industrial action, adding that it was his desire to work with them to resolve issues of concern.
Edited By: Felix Ajide
NCPC boss honours Bauchi, celebrates ‘Word Peace Day’ in the state
The Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Christian Pilgrims Commission (NCPC), Rev. Yakubu Pam, on Monday commended people of Bauchi state for living in peace regardless of their differences.
Speaking when he visited Gov. BalaMohammed, Pam said he was impressed by the peaceful atmosphere and had therefore decided to visit the state to celebrate the. ‘ World Peace Day’ there.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the United Nations has designated Sept. 21 of every year as ‘World Peace Day’ aimed at strengthening the ideals of peace.
He said that considering the peaceful nature of Bauchi, others needed to emulate the people and the state governor , whom he said never discriminated against followers of any faith.
He described Gov Mohammed as a ‘pilgrims-friendly, Chief Executive considering his inclusiveness and generosity, especially his administration resilience and fairness in appointing Christians into positions.
In his remarks, the governor commended the Christian community in the state for maintaining peace, unity and brotherhood, which further promoted and consolidated the fraternal relationship between Christian and Moslems.
He expressed delight that the state had remained peaceful and stable, just as he commended the state chapter of Christian Association of Nigeria, (CAN) for being proactive.
The governor pledged to increase the number of slots for indigent Christians performing pilgrimage, from the initial 100.
Mohammed, who declined to disclose the number of increment in the seats, urged Christians to always pray for peace and stability of the state and Nigeria at large .
He said that he was highly delighted to receive the Secretary, expressing confidence that the commission would benefit from the dynamic leadership of Pam..
Edited By: Remi Koleoso
COVID-19: PTF warns against neglect of protocols
He said that there were increasing disregard for basic non-pharmaceutical measures that have proven to be very successful.
He said face masks have now been turned into chin masks, social distancing and gatherings are returning to the pre-COVID era.
Mustapha, however, called for vigilance in order to forestall any danger of second wave of the pandemic as the countries in Europe were currently facing.
According to him, the call for greater vigilance is underscored by the fact that our economy has been seriously affected by the pandemic and we are pushing through our home-grown economic recovery strategies to cushion the economic impact of the pandemic.
” Also, our health systems, in spite of its fragility, have been able to withstand and contain cases resulting from COVID-19 infection, where those of more advanced countries have been overwhelmed.
“This call is made more pertinent in view of the noticeably increasing disregard for basic non-pharmaceutical measures that have proven very successful.
“Face masks have now been turned into chin masks, social distancing and gatherings are returning to the pre-COVID era,” he said.
Speaking on the second wave of the virus across the world, the PTF chairman said, “Israel has re-introduced a three-week lockdown, the United Kingdom was considering another lockdown phase, Spain was enforcing a partial lockdown in Madrid and France – amidst protests by its citizens.
“They have also introduced stricter measures to contain the virus. Similar stories are coming from South Korea, Iran and the number of fatalities is approaching 200,000 in the USA.
“The World Health Organisation(WHO), has advised that everybody should learn from lessons of the first wave, especially as ‘no one is safe until everyone is safe’.
“Let me share with you a global picture to buttress the foregoing. Over the last three days, the global cases passed the 31 million mark and it took only four days to get there from the 30th million.
“The USA crossed 7 million cases and continues to report a high daily caseload of over 30, 000 daily. We continue to see highest daily numbers from India.
“More specifically, the lesson for us in Nigeria, is that in spite of appreciable progress recorded, we should be vigilant more than ever before, because we have opened our air spaces to international travels, we have relaxed a number of restrictions in opening up more sectors of the economy and schools are beginning to open in varying degrees.”
On the reopening of airports for international travels, Mustapha noted that the PTF would continue to work with partners from the private sector to fine tune the protocols for international travellers, especially those arriving in Nigeria.
He, however, urged all travellers to ensure that they complete all pre-boarding and post-arrival processes, especially on the portal to facilitate seamless arrivals at the airports.
“We cannot afford the importation of the virus.
“We appeal strongly to all Nigerians to persuade their relations arriving Nigeria to self-isolate upon arrival, as required and test on day seven as prescribed,”
Edited By: Felix Ajide