SRSG Ibn Chambas meets political actors in Guinea

DAKAR, Sénégal, April 28, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary- General (SRSG) and Head of the United Nations Office for West Africa (UNOWA), Mr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas, had recently series of discussions with political leaders in Guinea.

These contacts have been conducted following the renewal of demonstrations by the Guinean opposition, hostile to the elections calendar that has been submitted by the Independent National Electoral Commission.

In this critical period marked by the necessity to organize the elections in accordance with the Constitution, and the urgency to strengthening efforts to eradicate the Ebola disease, Ibn Chambas reminds Guineans that it is in everyone’s responsibility to work together to find a consensus and durable solutions to national challenges.

The SRSG calls on key stakeholders in the electoral process to use dialogue in the best interest of Guinea.

Source:: SRSG Ibn Chambas meets political actors in Guinea

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Statement attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General on pre-election violence in Burundi

NEW YORK, April 28, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The Secretary-General condemns the outbreak of violence in Burundi following the nomination of President Pierre Nkurunziza as the presidential candidate of the ruling National Council for the Defense of Democracy–Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD) party. He calls on the Burundian authorities to conduct a prompt investigation into the deaths that occurred during the recent demonstrations so that those responsible are held accountable.

The Secretary-General has dispatched his Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region, Said Djinnit to Burundi for consultations with President Nkurunziza and other Government authorities, political party leaders and members of the diplomatic community. He calls on the Burundian authorities to uphold the human rights of all Burundians, including the freedom of assembly, association and expression. He calls on the security services to remain impartial and exercise restraint in responding to public demonstrations. He urges all parties to reject violence and avoid using inflammatory language or hate speech that could further increase tensions.

The Secretary-General appeals to Burundians to safeguard the hard won gains made in consolidating peace and democracy and urges them to resolve their differences through dialogue. He reiterates the commitment of the United Nations to support peaceful, credible and inclusive elections.

Source:: Statement attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General on pre-election violence in Burundi

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Zambia’s Forest Ecosystems Contribute $1.3 Billion to the National Economy, Higher than Previously Thought / Economic Study Boosts Zambia’s Efforts under its National REDD+ Process

NAIROBI, Kenya, April 28, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Zambia’s forest ecosystems contribute $1.3 billion, roughly 6.3 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), to the national economy, further highlighting the crucial role forests can play in the global transition to a green economy, according to a new UNEP study.

Commissioned by the Government of Zambia, produced in partnership with the UN-REDD Programme, and released ahead of the High-Level Dialogue on Zambia’s Draft National REDD+ Strategy, Benefits of Forest Ecosystems in Zambia and the Role of REDD+ in a Green Economy Transformation takes a wider look at the value of forest ecosystems.

The report goes beyond elements already counted as value added in Zambia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP)—for example, wood products—to consider regulating, supporting and cultural services services such as eco-tourism, erosion control and sediment retention, pollination and carbon storage.

Looking exclusively at these additional services, the study found they are worth $515 million per annum, or around 2.5 per cent of GDP. This means that forest services have been undervalued by between 40 and 68 per cent. The inclusion of these additional services elevates the contribution of forests from 3.8 per cent to around 6.3 per cent of the 2010 GDP.

In addition, Zambia’s forests provide about 1.4 million jobs, supporting 60 per cent of rural Zambian households who are heavily dependent upon the use of natural resources to supplement or sustain their livelihoods.

“From providing jobs to regulating water supplies and capturing carbon dioxide, using forests in a more sustainable way is vital to transit to a green economy,” said UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.

“At the upcoming climate change summit, the world has an opportunity to limit global temperature rise to 2 degree Celsius and limit the impacts of climate change. We need our forests to achieve this target,” he added. “If we work together under the UN-REDD Programme to reduce deforestation and forest degradation, we can cut greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere and boost the sustainable development agenda by safeguarding and expanding the economic benefits of forests.”

According to 2009 figures, Zambia has the second highest per-capita deforestation rate in Africa and the fifth highest in the world. The main direct drivers of deforestation are charcoal production, agricultural and human settlement expansion, and illegal exploitation of timber. The report aims to help change this situation by informing policy decisions on forest management and the implementation of activities under its national REDD+ process.

“This report provides an economic rationale for prioritizing REDD+ implementation by showing the significant economic benefits of doing so,” said Her Excellency Mrs. Christabel Ngimbu, Minister of Lands, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection of Zambia. “Thus, the potential is great for the forestry sector to play a very important role in the country achieving its Vision 2030 goals.”

“It is envisioned that these findings will further strengthen the resolve of the Government of Zambia to address the drivers of deforestation and forest degradation, and to implement the National REDD+ Strategy as part of the country’s broader goals to achieve an Inclusive Green Economy,” she added.

The report finds that cost-effective ways of conserving and sustainably managing forests should be implemented to support growth consistent with the green economy, defined by UNEP as ‘an economy that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks’.

Ways to reduce deforestation and forest degradation include strengthening and enhancing the management and governance of forests at local levels, introducing measures to reduce urban demand for charcoal, enhancing livelihoods and income generating activities that support or rely upon forest conservation and maintenance, and increasing the sustainability and efficiency of agricultural practices.

REDD+ actions that tackle the drivers of deforestation and forest degradation, and which are verified as part of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process, could lead to results-based payments. One option that could balance the need for economic growth and development with REDD+ results-based actions= is greater efforts to improve the agricultural productivity of, and value derived from, existing cultivated and degraded areas, rather than expansion into virgin forest areas, as is currently the case in Zambia.

At the global level, the value of forests is well established. A report by UNEP’s International Resource Panel Working Group on REDD+ and a Green Economy showed that non-timber forest products can generate four million person-years of employment annually, along with $14 billion in international trade and far more in local subsistence benefits. Additionally, stimulating sustainable management of forests could provide up to 16 million additional jobs globally.

The Zambia forest valuation report is one in a range of country-specific valuation studies that UNEP is carrying out under the UN-REDD Programme to increase momentum for REDD+ implementation at the national level. By highlighting the value added of forest ecosystem services to the national economy and by providing the basis for the country to account for its natural capital in national accounts, including to many private sector actors that form the backbone of the economy, governments are provided with a stronger rationale to use forest resources in a more sustainable way.

Studies have been completed for Kenya and Panama, and UNEP is currently working with the Governments of Tanzania, Nepal, Ethiopia and Indonesia. A synthesis combining the findings of this work will be released later this year.

Source:: Zambia’s Forest Ecosystems Contribute $1.3 Billion to the National Economy, Higher than Previously Thought / Economic Study Boosts Zambia’s Efforts under its National REDD+ Process

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Expected sharp fall in Southern African maize production raises food security concernsHarvest could dip 26 percent below 2014 bumper level, pushing up prices and increasing import needs

ROME, Italy, April 28, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Southern Africa’s maize harvest is expected to shrink this year by some 26 percent compared with 2014’s bumper crop, a situation that could trigger food price increases and adversely affect recent food security gains, FAO warned today.

For 2015, the early production forecast for maize – a staple food throughout the subregion – stands at about 21.1 million tonnes, some 15 percent lower than the average for the last five years, FAO noted.

The fall is mostly due to the impact of erratic weather conditions, including the late start of seasonal rains in November/December, followed by heavy rains that caused flooding in parts of some countries, and then a long dry spell in the southern areas of the subregion during February and early March.

“Last year, the subregion saw a bumper harvest, which has made this year’s harvest prospects look even weaker so we have to be cautious until governments, often with the support of FAO, have completed all the assessments in the coming days. FAO is closely monitoring the situation on the ground,” said David Phiri, FAO’s Subregional Coordinator for Southern Africa.

An expected significant drop (some 33 percent less than in 2014) in the harvest of South Africa – the subregion’s main producer and exporter accounts for most of the overall decline in maize production.

Malawi and Zambia, the second and third biggest maize producers in the subregion, are also expected to register smaller harvests compared with the 2014 bumper crop. Lower maize harvests are also anticipated in Botswana, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.

Prices on the rise

The poor outlook is already having some impact on cereal markets. South Africa recorded significant price increases in February – although the rise eased in March following improved rains.

These price increases are expected to mostly affect those countries that rely more on maize imports such as Namibia where relatively high price increases were already recorded in February.

2014 bumper harvest resulted in ample stocks

In most countries, maize prices have remained below the same period last year due to the current ample supplies, which could, however, rapidly dwindle.

“The carry-over stocks from 2014’s bumper maize crop is expected to partly offset the impact of lower domestic production and somewhat contribute to stabilising national supplies in some countries,” said Phiri.

Imports set to increase

The poor outlook for 2015 is expected to result in increased imports in Southern Africa with forecasts for aggregate maize imports in the 2015/16 marketing year (May/April) indicating an increase to about 1.8 million tonnes, approximately double the low level of 2014/15 and one third above the average.

The bulk of the growth in imports is expected from South Africa, mainly consisting of yellow maize used in the feed industry.

In Zimbabwe, large volumes of maize imports are forecast, and larger import volumes than 2014 are also forecast in the deficit-producing countries of Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland. Given the contraction in South African export availabilities, alternative export supplies may be needed.

2014 food security gains at risk

The expected decline in 2015 maize production follows a favourable year in 2014 when ample supplies and low prices contributed to improved food security conditions that resulted in a significant decline of people in need of food assistance in the subregion, with Zimbabwe, for instance, recording a 75 percent decrease.

“With the expected fall in maize production in the subregion, and the resulting price hikes, the improved food security situation may be reversed in 2015/2016, especially if no timely interventions are made. Close monitoring is critical to trigger early action to reduce any negative effects on people’s food security and livelihoods. This is at the core of FAO’s efforts to build more resilient livelihoods,” said Dominique Burgeon, FAO’s Resilience Coordinator.

Source:: Expected sharp fall in Southern African maize production raises food security concernsHarvest could dip 26 percent below 2014 bumper level, pushing up prices and increasing import needs

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European investors support Vantage, Africa’s leading mezzanine debt provider, with $75m of commitments

JOHANNESBURG, South-Africa, April 28, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Vantage Capital (http://www.vantagecapital.co.za), Africa’s leading mezzanine debt provider, today announced that the DEG – Deutsche Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft mbH (“DEG”) and four other European investors are contributing a total of approximately $60m to Vantage’s third fund. DEG’s commitment to Fund III is $20m. In addition the DEG is providing $15m to a co-investment with Vantage in Surfline Communications, the leading 4G LTE network operator in Ghana. Vantage invested $15m in Surfline from its second fund late last year.

Logo Vantage Capital Group: http://www.photos.apo-opa.com/plog-content/images/apo/logos/vantage-logo.png

Photo: http://www.photos.apo-opa.com/index.php?level=picture&id=1914

Gunnar Stork, Director Equity & Mezzanine for Africa and Latin America, said “DEG is excited to partner with Vantage in the investment in Ghana. We believe that the investment in Surfline will contribute to improve internet connectivity in Ghana and as such be an important factor to bridge the digital divide. In addition we are pleased to continue our partnership with Vantage in general by investing in Fund III, after having already been an investor in Vantage’s first Mezzanine Fund. We believe in this existing asset class on the African continent and see it as an important instrument to facilitate economic growth in Africa.”

The funds committed by DEG to Surfline will be used for the on-going expansion of the company’s 4G LTE network in Ghana as well as to enhance its product distribution and marketing capabilities. By deploying the first 4G LTE mobile network in Ghana, Surfline is able to offer high-speed internet connectivity (up to 10 times faster than the average speeds offered by the existing mobile network operators) at pricing that is competitive with existing internet service providers. The network achieved an extremely successful commercial launch in August 2014 and is experiencing tremendous growth in its customer base. Surfline was recently nominated for “Breakthrough LTE Entrant” at AfricaCom in South Africa and won “Top Emerging Brand” at the Top Brands Awards in Ghana. The investment in Surfline by Vantage and DEG was nominated by Dealmakers Magazine for “Private Equity Catalyst Deal of the Year.”

Colin Rezek, Managing Partner at Vantage, said “We are extremely pleased to receive the strong endorsement of DEG for our third mezzanine fund, which will employ a pan-African investment approach to focus on high-growth markets such as Ghana, Nigeria, the East African Community members and some of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries. We also welcome DEG as a co-investor in Surfline, one of the most exciting deals out of the over 600 investment opportunities we have reviewed in the past five years.”

DEG joins other investors that have already committed funds to Vantage, including a major South African pension fund and foreign investors such as the Swiss Investment Fund for Emerging Markets (“SIFEM”) which is advised by Obviam. Obviam’s Chief Investment Officer, Andrea Heinzer stated: “Based on Vantage’s robust and positive track record in South Africa, we see Vantage Capital as the ideal partner for SIFEM to develop the mezzanine asset class in Sub-Saharan Africa.”

Vantage has made 12 investments in its second mezzanine fund, of which about 90% of available funds have been invested. More than half of the capital deployed has gone into growth projects such as Surfline. Vantage is targeting a final close of its third mezzanine fund at approximately $250 million later this year.

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of Vantage Capital Group.

Notes to Editors

About Vantage Capital

Vantage Capital Group (http://www.vantagecapital.co.za) was established in 2001 with funds under management of $12 million (R150 million) and now currently manages over $400 million (R5 billion). In addition to managing venture capital, mezzanine debt and renewable energy debt funds, Vantage also provides advisory and origination services through its debt capital markets division and makes proprietary investments using its balance sheet capital.

Mezzanine is an intermediate form of risk capital, which is situated between senior debt, the least risky tranche of the capital structure, and equity, the most risky. It combines elements of both debt and equity thereby providing companies with long-term funding on terms which are less dilutive to shareholders than pure equity. Website: www.vantagecapital.co.za

About DEG

DEG, a subsidiary of KfW, finances investments of private companies in developing and transition countries. As one of Europe’s largest development finance institutions, it promotes private business structures to contribute to sustainable economic growth and improved living conditions. Website: https://www.deginvest.de/International-financing/DEG/

About Surfline

Surfline Communications is the first mobile telecommunications operator to deploy an LTE network in Ghana. As a wholly Ghanaian owned company Surfline was established to provide wireless broadband and related services to the Ghanaian market, including meeting the emergent and largely unfulfilled data needs of Ghana’s businesses, government agencies, professional and academic communities and residential users. Surfline’s vision is to see a Ghana where people and businesses experience true mobile broadband, and the possibilities it brings. Website: www.surflinegh.com

Source:: European investors support Vantage, Africa’s leading mezzanine debt provider, with $75m of commitments

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World Immunization Week Aims to “Close the Immunization Gap” and Provide, in Africa, “a Gift for Life”

KAMPALA, Uganda, April 28, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The World Health Organization’s World Immunization Week (WIW) from 24th to 30th April this year aims to raise awareness about the importance of vaccination to people of all ages and increase rates of immunization against vaccine-preventable diseases around the world. This year WIW focuses on ‘closing the immunization gap.’ African Vaccination Week is being celebrated under the theme “Vaccination, a gift for life”.

Logo: http://www.photos.apo-opa.com/plog-content/images/apo/logos/msd.jpg

Despite recent progress within African countries, there is still significant opportunities provided by immunization.

Did you know that:

• Immunization can protect against 30 different infectious diseases, from infancy to old age;

• Vaccines are one of the most successful and cost-effective public health stories;

• Immunization saves the lives of 2 to 3 million people worldwide each year.

In addition, the overall health benefits are significant. Immunised children have higher cognitive abilities and are more likely to attend school and go on to be productive members of their community.

By reducing illness and long-term disability, vaccines also generate savings for health systems and families. Health workers are freed up and parents spend less time looking after sick children1.

Immunisation programs average about 80% coverage globally. South of the Sahara, the average was 80.6% for the DPT3 vaccine in 2013, with wide disparities across countries.

Africa has made several gains beyond increasing reach of immunisation; some diseases have been eliminated through wide-scale immunisation programmes. Vaccines are available in public vaccination programmes in the vast majority of African countries, thanks to sustained political will, international support and innovative public/private partnerships2.

Ensuring equity and coverage across the continent and within countries requires sustained effort and resources. As African countries grow economically and actively finance vaccines and immunisation programmes,2.children and entire economies benefit. Fully-immunized African children have a better chance of living up to their full potential, both intellectually and physically3. And, by investing in immunization, African countries can make a lasting contribution to the millennium development goals (MDGs). These efforts will also advance the health and development commitments of African leaders and governments and allow children and adults to lead productive, prosperous, and healthy lives3.

Africa and Human Papillomavirus

• An estimated 266,000 women die every year from cervical cancer. Over 85% of those deaths occur among women in developing countries. Without changes in prevention and control, cervical cancer deaths are forecast to rise to 416,000 by 2035; and virtually all of those deaths will be in developing countries4.

• Cervical cancer is the most common of all cancers in Africa and thus continues to be a significant threat that demands urgent attention in the African Region. In 2012, over half a million new cases of cervical cancer were diagnosed worldwide with 1 in 5 being in sub-Saharan Africa5.

• The primary cause of cervical pre-cancerous lesions and cancer is persistent or chronic infection with one or more types of the high risk human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is the most common sexually acquired infection and is most often acquired in adolescence and young adults upon sexual debut5.

• The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates HPV infections cause approximately 68 000 cases of cervical cancer each year in Africa. However, these figures most likely represent a conservative estimate due to the health challenges in health information systems and cancer registries in the region6.

• Cervical cancer is a preventable disease. Immunisation, together with screening and treatment, is the best strategy to rapidly reduce the burden of cervical cancer7.

Uganda and HPV

• Cervical cancer in Uganda is the most frequently diagnosed cancer among women and the most common cancer found in women between 15 and 44 years of age. About 3,915 new cervical cancer cases are diagnosed annually in Uganda (estimation for 2012) and 2275 women die annually from the disease8.

• The primary cause of cervical pre-cancer lesions and cancer is persistent or chronic infection with one or more types of the high risk human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is the most common sexually acquired infection and is most often acquired in adolescence and young adults upon sexual debut9.

• Immunisation to protect against HPV, together with screening and treatment, is the best strategy to rapidly reduce the burden of cervical cancer10.

• National rollout of the HPV vaccine programme in Uganda is expected this year. This vaccination programme will help Uganda achieve its goal to prevent unnecessary deaths from cervical cancer in Uganda and support an entire generation of women to live healthy, and productive lives.

• MSD commends the great progress Uganda has made in its HPV immunization efforts and supports its continued partnership with Uganda’s Ministry of Health to expand HPV vaccine coverage across the country.

“For more than 100 years, scientists at MSD has been discovering and developing vaccines to help prevent certain diseases in children, adolescents and adults,” said Farouk Shamas Jiwa, Director, Public Policy and Corporate Responsibility in Africa, MSD. “We have an important responsibility to improve access to vaccines and quality healthcare worldwide. We do this by working in partnership with others — governments, donors, patient organizations, healthcare professionals, NGOs, multilateral organizations and others in the private sector — to lend our expertise and knowledge. Our commitment is steadfast as we work to increase access to vaccines now and in the future.”

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of MSD (Merck Sharp & Dohme).

Contacts for Media:

Charlie McCurdy,

Global Communications | Eastern Europe/Middle East/Africa

T: +1 267-305-7545

E: charles.mccurdy@merck.com

Farouk Shamas Jiwa,

Director, Public Policy and Corporate Responsibility in Africa

T: +41 799623934

E: farouk.jiwa@merck.com

About MSD

Today’s MSD (http://www.merck.com) is a global healthcare leader working to help the world be well. MSD is a trade name of Merck & Co., Inc., with headquarters in Kenilworth, N.J., U.S.A. Through our prescription medicines, vaccines, biologic therapies, and consumer care and animal health products, we work with customers and operate in more than 140 countries to deliver innovative health solutions. We also demonstrate our commitment to increasing access to healthcare through far-reaching policies, programs and partnerships. For more information, visit www.msd.com and connect with us on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

References:

1. http://www.gavi.org/about/value/

2. http://sa.au.int/en/sites/default/files/2014_Status_Report_on%20MNCH%20-%20English_1.pdf

3. www.carmma.org/download/file/fid/821

4. http://www.gavi.org/support/nvs/human-papillomavirus-vaccine-support/?utm_source=The+Alliance+at+work&utm_campaign=c7db6ec405-The_Alliance_at_Work_Issue_7&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_b075913875-c7db6ec405-407303021

5. http://www.afro.who.int/en/media-centre/pressreleases/item/7550-implementing-cervical-cancer-interventions-key-to-save-african-women.html

6. http://www.afro.who.int/en/media-centre/afro-feature/item/7557-cervical-cancer-common-amongst-african-women.html

7. http://www.gavi.org/support/nvs/human-papillomavirus-vaccine-support/

8. http://www.hpvcentre.net/statistics/reports/UGA.pdf

9. http://www.afro.who.int/en/media-centre/pressreleases/item/7550-implementing-cervical-cancer-interventions-key-to-save-african-women.html

Source:: World Immunization Week Aims to “Close the Immunization Gap” and Provide, in Africa, “a Gift for Life”

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