EU plan for African investment; Zika grants for Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau; Botswana protest

By AT editor - 14 September 2016 at 6:16 pm
EU plan for African investment; Zika grants for Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau; Botswana protest

Juncker announces new EU Investment Plan for Africa

The president of the European Commission announced plans Wednesday for a new Investment Plan for Africa with the potential to raise up to €88 billion.

The plan to support African economic growth will use public funding to attract additional public and private investment, President Jean-Claude Juncker said during his State of the Union speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France.

The Investment Plan for Africa, designed to align with development aid programs, sets a €44 billion target for funds to alleviate the economic push factors at the root of the dangerous migration journeys of Africans seeking a better life, Juncker said.

That funding doubles as individual EU member states commit funds to the plan, and is coupled with a proposal to coordinate EU military missions abroad and border controls at home, within a unified structure.

“Europe can no longer afford to piggy-back on the military might of others or let France alone defend its honour in Mali,” Juncker said. “We have to take responsibility for protecting our interests and the European way of life.”

Juncker’s speech comes as the EU seeks to affirm its unity and move beyond Britain’s Brexit decision, and ahead of Friday’s special summit in Bratislava, Slovakia.  EU President Donald Tusk said he hopes the Bratislava meeting will be a turning point in securing European borders.

Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau receive emergency Zika grants

Cape Verde and Guinea Bissau each will receive USD $1 million in grant funding to combat the Zika virus, The African Development Bank Group (AfDB) announced Wednesday. The emergency assistance is geared toward improved sanitation, vector control and related public health measures meant to control the outbreak.

The World Health Organization is carefully monitoring both countries where Zika-related microcephaly cases are reported. “Given its presence in Cape Verde and Guinea Bissau, the WHO warns it is likely the outbreak will spread to the rest of Africa,” the AfDB said in a statement. “Lessons learned from the Bank’s support to the Ebola outbreak, point to the need to respond in a timely and focused manner.”

Zika was first seen in Uganda in 1947, and reported across Africa and Asia in the decades before its resurgence – and the link to newborn microcephaly and Guillain-Barré Syndrome – emerged as a global health threat in 2015. Cape Verde officials report 11 cases of microcephaly to date, with at least five cases in Guinea Bissau. As of September 8, there were 6,500 confirmed Zika cases in 72 countries.

At WHO, infectious disease epidemiologist Christopher Dye said an Asian strain of Zika is at work in the Cape Verde cases, but an African strain may be present in Guinea-Bissau. The Americas strain has been ruled out in Guinea-Bissau, but WHO officials warn that African public health agencies need to remain vigilant.

Botswanan activists plan Gabarone rally to support Zimbabweans

Tuesday’s announcement of a new ban on protests in Zimbabwe, prompted by plans for a weekend demonstration in Harare, has led activists in neighboring Botswana to plan their own march Friday in Gabarone. The Botswana Civil Society Solidarity Coalition for Zimbabwe (BOCISCOZ) will hold the rally to call attention to human rights violations in Zimbabwe.

Botswanans have long supported their Zimbabwean counterparts, with calls from activists in both Africa and the U.K. for Botswanan President Ian Khama and the 15-member Southern African Development Community (SADC) headquartered in Gaborone to intervene. Khama, who followed President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe as last year’s SADC chairman, has long criticized Mugabe for causing social and economic upheaval across the region as migrants flee the policy and leadership failures of Zimbabwe.

Those failures continue to deepen opposition to Mugabe and the Zanu PF, even as Zimbabwe seeks to silence protest with a new ban on constitutionally protected demonstrations. The previous ban was declared unconstitutional by Zimbabwe’s High Court last week, but the new measure circumvents that ruling as the powerful Zanu PF protects its interests ahead of 2018 elections.

Analysts including former Zimbabwe education minister David Coltart, speaking to International Business Times, warn that the ruling party intends to stay in power at any cost.

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