Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Ethiopia open to dialogue over Somaliland deal – official

Ethiopian national security adviser Redwan Hussien has said that Addis Ababa was “willing to listen to friends” in a bid to de-escalate tensions with Somalia over a controversial port deal with the self-declared republic of Somaliland.

“As part of our commitment, we shall redouble our effort to ensure a better understanding. Will listen to friends for a possible coordination of efforts lowering rhetoric,” Mr Redwan posted on X (formerly Twitter).

“Will continue striving to steadily reach at a conclusion with amicable considerations which benefit all,” he added.

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On Monday, Mr Redwan criticised meddling by “opportunistic external actors” in the row between Somalia and Ethiopia.

The remarks were perceived as aimed at Egypt, which has warned against threats to Somalia’s sovereignty.

The row was triggered by Ethiopia signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Somaliland early this month.

The deal gives landlocked Ethiopia access to a seaport for military and commercial purposes.

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(BBC Monitoring)

Half year coffee exports bring in over $570 mln

The Ethiopian government announced that coffee exports had brought the country USD 571 million in revenue over the past six months.

Ethiopia exported 117,955 tons of coffee to the international market during the first half of the current Ethiopian 2023/24 fiscal year that started on July 8, the Ethiopian Coffee and Tea Authority (ECTA) said.

Saudi Arabia, South Korea, the United States, Germany, Japan and China were the major destinations of Ethiopia’s coffee exports during the reported period, according to Shafi Oumer, ECTA deputy director general.

Despite efforts to augment the coffee export volume and earnings, the authority said uncertainties in the global coffee market coupled with ongoing conflicts in coffee-importing countries have posed challenges.

During the previous Ethiopian 2022/23 fiscal year, the East African country earned USD 1.3 billion in revenue from the export of around 240,000 tons of coffee.

The export revenue, however, marked a notable decrease as compared with the fiscal year before it, when the country posted a record USD 1.4 billion in revenue from the export of about 300,000 tons of coffee.

Ethiopia, regarded as the origin of Arabica coffee, is one of Africa’s largest producers and exporters of the commodity.

Experts often attribute the lack of value addition to Ethiopia’s coffee sector as a major bottleneck that hinders the country from fully benefiting from its rich coffee resources, as it mainly exports raw coffee beans to the international market.

(Capital Business)

Nation distributes 3,790 tablets to digitalize education

Some 3,790 tablet computers have been distributed to 18,000 schools to digitalize the teaching-learning process, Ministry of Education (MoE) disclosed.

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MoE Teacher Education Leadership Development and Management Desk Head Aseged Meresa said in a presser that the ministry in collaboration with World Bank (WB) has distributed 3,790 tablet computers to primary schools in all states so as to digitalized the teaching-learning process and equip academicians with digital skills.

Some 1,000 tablet computers have been distributed to high schools for similar purposes last year which makes the total number of distributed tablets 4,790.

The distribution of the tablet computers helps to improve digital technology skills, ensure digitized teaching and learning process and provide short term on-the-job training for teachers in primary schools, she stated.

The number of tablet computers are low in number compared to the number of number of schools and academicians in the country, she said, adding those tablet computers will certainly digitalize the education system.

Aseged further stated that the tablet computer should be operated only for its target and function.

It was to be recalled that the MoE has been working to realize digital literacy whilst the World Bank has been supporting Ethiopia’s various development activities.

(Ethiopian Herald)

Omo Kuraz No. 3 commences sugar production

The Ethiopian Sugar Industry Group has announced the commencement of sugar production for the 2024 season at the Omo Kuraz No. 3 Sugar Factory, as sugarcane grinding operations are now underway.

The production plan for this year aims to yield 245,927 quintals of sugar, utilizing 4,600 hectares of land dedicated to sugarcane cultivation.

It is to be recalled that the Ministry of Finance issued an international tender last year to privatize eight state-owned sugar enterprises. The factories that were up for auction were Omo Kuraz 1, Omo Kuraz 2, Omo Kuraz 3, Omo Kuraz 5, Arjo Dedessa, Kessem, Tana Beles, and Tendaho.

Ethiopia produces three to four million quintals of sugar annually while the annual sugar consumption is between five and six million quintals. The country has implemented a five-year strategic plan to tackle challenges in the sugar industry and increase productivity. Eliminating sugar imports starting by implementing this plan is one of the Ethiopian Sugar Industry Group’s objectives.

Accordingly, there are efforts to expand irrigation infrastructure for recently built sugar factories to meet domestic demand fully and replace imported sugar in 2025.

The Group aims to completely replace the country’s sugar demand with domestic production within the next five years by scaling up sugar production from the current 3.6 million quintals to 13 million.

(2Merkato)

Sudan: Council adds six entities to EU sanctions list

The Council today adopted restrictive measures against six entities, in view of the gravity of the situation in Sudan, where fighting is ongoing between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and their respective affiliated militias.

The new listings – the first within the Sudan regime – include six entities responsible for supporting activities undermining the stability and political transition of Sudan.

Among the entities listed are two companies involved in the manufacture of weapons and vehicles for the SAF (Defense Industries System and SMT Engineering); the SAF-controlled Zadna International Company for Investment Limited and three companies involved in procuring military equipment for the RSF (Al Junaid Multi Activities Co Ltd, Tradive General Trading and GSK Advance Company Ltd).

The entities listed are subject to asset freezes. The provision of funds or economic resources, directly or indirectly, to them or for their benefit is prohibited.

On 27 November 2023, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy issued a statement on behalf of the EU, reiterating its strong condemnation of the continuous fighting between the SAF and the RSF and their respective affiliated militias. In this statement, he also deplored the dramatic escalation of violence and the irreparable cost to human life in Darfur and throughout the country, as well as violations of International Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law.

The EU remains deeply concerned about the humanitarian situation in Sudan and reaffirms its steadfast support for, and solidarity with, the Sudanese people.

(Council of the EU)

UAE denies sending weapons to paramilitary group in Sudan war

The United Arab Emirates has denied arming the paramilitary group fighting a war with Sudan’s armed forces, after a leaked UN document found “credible” evidence that it was sending weapons to the Rapid Support Forces.

The report, compiled by experts for the UN Security Council and seen by the Financial Times but not yet made public, said several shipments of weapons and ammunition shipments were unloaded each week from cargo planes at an airport in Chad, and handed to the RSF at the Sudanese border. But the UAE strongly denied arming any group in Sudan, telling the UN panel that these flights carried humanitarian aid, including for a hospital it had set up.

The Gulf state “does not take sides in the current conflict”, a UAE official told the FT, adding that the country had “consistently called for de-escalation, a sustainable ceasefire and the initiation of diplomatic dialogue” in Sudan.

Despite the UAE denial, some analysts believe its alleged backing has been crucial in strengthening the RSF.

“If the UAE withdraws its support and cuts ties with the RSF today there’s an 80 per cent chance the war might end tomorrow,” said Hamid Khalafallah, a Sudan expert and PhD researcher at the UK’s University of Manchester.

The RSF, led by General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, better known as Hemeti, have been fighting the Sudanese armed forces for control of the country since April. Government forces are led by the country’s de facto president and army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.

The fighting has killed more than 13,000 people, forced about 7.6mn to flee and left almost 25mn — more than half of the country’s population — needing humanitarian aid, according to the UN’s humanitarian affairs agency. 

The UN report alleged that the RSF — which grew out of the Arab militia Janjaweed — and its allies had, since the conflict broke out, committed atrocities in Darfur that amounted to war crimes and could amount to crimes against humanity. The Sudanese armed forces also committed war crimes, it added, for instance by using aerial bombing and heavy shelling in urban areas.

Hemeti’s militia exploited the country’s natural resources to fund the war, according to the UN report. It said the paramilitary group invested proceeds from Sudan’s gold trade — most of which it controlled prior to the war — into several industries, which enabled it to “acquire weapons, pay salaries, fund media campaigns, lobbying, and buy support of other political and armed groups”.

Six of the entities that the RSF and SAF have allegedly used to maintain their war efforts had sanctions imposed this week by the EU. Two of the companies linked to the RSF had UAE addresses, and the EU alleged that one — Al Junaid Multi Activities Co Ltd — acted as a conduit for arms from the UAE.

“The RSF is also using Al Junaid’s gold production and exports to secure military support from the UAE, to which most of Sudan’s gold production is smuggled,” the EU regulation stated. The FT could not reach Al Junaid for comment.

(FT)

Countries worldwide to experience slow economic growth despite declining inflation rate: warns a UN report

The global GDP growth is projected to slow from 2.7 percent in 2023 to 2.4 percent in 2024,  according to the World Economic Situation and Prospects (WESP) 2024 launched by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Growth is forecast to improve moderately to 2.7 percent in 2025 but will remain below the pre-pandemic trend growth rate of 3.0 percent.

Adam Elhiraika, Director, Macroeconomics and Governance Division of ECA said, tight financial conditions, coupled with a growing risk of geopolitical fragmentation, pose increasing risks to global trade and industrial production.

He said while the world economy avoided the worst-case scenario of a recession in 2023, a protracted period of low growth looms large. Growth prospects for many developing countries, especially vulnerable and low-income countries, have remained weak, making a full recovery of pandemic losses ever more elusive.

“The unfolding climate crisis and extreme weather events will undermine agricultural output and tourism, while geopolitical instability will continue to adversely impact several subregions in Africa, especially the Sahel and North Africa,” said Elhiraika.

The report indicates that developing countries face divergent near-term growth prospects. The economic growth in Africa he said is projected to remain weak, increasing from an average of 3.3 percent in 2023 to 3.5 percent in 2024.

On inflation, the report says that after surging for two years, global inflation eased in 2023 but remained above the 2010-2019 average. Global headline inflation fell from 8.1 percent in 2022, the highest value in almost three decades, to an estimated 5.7 percent in 2023.

Hopestone Chavula, ECA Economic Affairs Officer who presented the report highlighted that although the global inflation is ebbing, food price inflation can exacerbate food insecurity and poverty. After surging for two years, global inflation eased in 2023 but remained above the 2010-2019 average.

Monetary tightening by major developed country central banks will have significant spillover effects on developing countries.

Chavula says raising interest rates and quantitative tightening to reduce excess liquidity by developed country central banks means higher borrowing costs, which will exacerbate debt sustainability risks for developing countries.

The report says the global investment trends will remain weak.

Global investment growth is likely to remain subdued. Real gross fixed capital formation grew by an estimated 1.9 percent in 2023, down from 3.3 percent in 2022 and far below the average growth rate of 4.0 percent during the period 2011- 2019.

International trade is losing steam as a driver of growth. In 2023, global trade growth weakened significantly to an estimated 0.6 percent, a sharp decline from 5.7 percent in 2022. It is expected to recover to 2.4 percent in 2024, remaining below the pre-pandemic trend of 3.2 percent.

This slowdown, notes the report, is attributed to a slump in merchandise trade. By contrast, trade in services, particularly tourism and transport, continued to recover.

According to Chavuka, Central banks worldwide are expected to continue facing a delicate balancing act and difficult trade-offs in 2024 as they strive to manage inflation, revive growth, and ensure financial stability. Central banks in developing economies will face the additional challenges of growing balance-of payments concerns and debt sustainability risks. Central banks must navigate a delicate balance between inflation, growth and financial stability.

The report says that industrial policy, which is increasingly seen as crucial for fostering structural changes and supporting a green transition is being revived and transformed. This shift is aimed at fixing market failures and aligning innovation with broader development goals. Innovation policies are also changing, with more ambitious, systemic and strategic approaches being employed.

On meeting the SDGs by 2030, the report indicates that strengthening multilateralism will accelerate SDGs progress.

(UNECA)

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