AngolaThe Angolan government and the World Bank (WB) have signed a US $16.6 million credit agreement for an Economic Management Technical Assistance (EMTA) project, which includes programmes to assist the government in managing public expenditure and improve the management of oil and tax revenues.
The project, running until 2007, will focus on the Ministries of Finance and Planning, and the Banco Nacional de Angola. It forms part of the World Bank's Transitional Support Strategy (TSS) for post-war Angola.
Spokeswoman Lisa Maier said on June 12 that the credit will assist the Central Bank in improving the efficiency of a modern payments system and strengthen government's ability to design, monitor and audit an adequate public investment programme. It will also be used for poverty analysis and the establishment of a transparent and efficient public finance framework. Implementation will start on 15 June. (Source: IRIN)
Botswana-Southern AfricaBotswana is deemed to be the least corrupt out of 21 African economies surveyed by the World Economic Forum (WEF). Botswana's neighbour South Africa ranked third on the list of the least corrupt countries.
Other southern African countries on the list were Mauritius as the fourth least corrupt, with Zambia placed half way at 11th. Next was Mozambique at 12, followed by Zimbabwe at 14, Angola at 15 and Madagascar at 17.
The index was calculated from responses to the WEF Executive Opinion Survey 2003, which captured the perceptions of national business leaders on the quality of the business environment of the country in which they operate.
Questions posed for the corruption section included how commonly the industry surveyed had to make undocumented extra payments, or bribes, for import and export permits, connection to public utilities like telephones and electricity, or with annual tax payments.
Botswana topped the list again in the "contracts and law" index, with Zimbabwe almost at the bottom of the log at 20.
The "contracts and law" index questions how independent the country's judiciary is from political influence, whether financial assets are clearly protected by law, whether there is favouritism when government contracts are awarded, and whether organised crime imposes significant costs on business. (Source: IRIN)
CameroonThe World Bank has approved a US $49.7 million soft loan to help Cameroon reduce its commercial debt so that trade and foreign investment will improve and the country's private sector will find it easier to borrow fresh money.
The cash would be used by Cameroon to buy back US 953.5 million of commercial debt and suppliers credit at 14.5 percent of its face value, the World Bank said in a statement.
Just over a third of the debt to be redeemed is principal. The rest represents arrears in interest payments.
The World Bank noted that Cameroon has been unable to make debt service payments to its commercial creditors for several years. But it said that providing creditors accept the buyback terms proposed, the West African country will be able to improve its international credit rating.
This would make it easier for Cameroon to attract new foreign investment and trade credit and would help the country's emerging private sector to borrow fresh funds.
"Creditors from commercial banks and suppliers of vital imports will be paid, allowing for the elimination of commercial debt arrears and the liberation of domestic resources for critical development concerns , Noel K. Tshiani, World Bank Team Leader for the operation said.
He added: "With debt arrears eliminated, the country can accelerate the rebuilding of its credibility with the international financial community and create conditions to attract more foreign investments." The credit is on standard International Development Association (IDA) terms. Repayment is over 40 years, with a 10-year period of grace. (Source: IRIN)
Central African RepublicThe UN World Food Programme (WFP) will provide enriched food rations to HIV/AIDS infected or affected people from July, to help them resist opportunistic diseases, the agency's representative in the Central African Republic (CAR), David Bulman, said on June 11.
Bulman said the agency met on June 11 with government officials, representatives of NGOs and other experts dealing with HIV/AIDS in the country to "ask them in what way food can be best used in support of HIV-affected people".
He said the WFP food project targeted 12,000 people across the country, who had already been identified by NGOs providing them with medical and social aid. The project is expected to last 15 months, and will benefit those who are infected, orphaned or widowed by HIV/AIDS.
"People who are infected by HIV/AIDS need some significant nutritional support in order to fight all the diseases that come along with AIDS," he said.
A WFP nutritionist, Willy Mpoy, said that the food rations would comprise maize meal, corn-soya blend flour enriched with vitamins, beans, oil, sugar and salt. "The ration will be much richer than what people normally eat," he said. Cassava is the country's staple food.
According to a HIV/AIDS mapping carried out by the Institut Pasteur in December 2002, 14.8 per cent of CAR nationals were HIV-positive. (Source: IRIN)
EthiopiaThe world s oldest human remains, unearthed in Africa, may finally solve the puzzle of the origins of man, scientists said on June 11. The 160,000-year-old fossils, the oldest ever Homo sapiens and excavated in a remote region of Ethiopia, appear to prove that the continent was the cradle of humanity, the scientists said.
"This is the definitive answer to whether humans evolved from Africa," archeologist Dr Berhane Asfaw told a news conference in Addis Ababa. "We are waiting to be proved wrong," he said. Scientists say the three near-complete skulls one being a child - are the best-preserved remains and between 30,000 and 60,000 years older than previous finds. They are almost five times older than those found in Europe, and the oldest ever direct predecessors of humans.
The earliest fossils of Homo sapiens found in Africa had been dated to about 100,000 years, although they were less complete and had missing bones. "Ethiopia is the Garden of Eden," Asfaw said, as he unveiled one of the skulls from the archaeological dig. "The whole history of human evolution is here."
The most famous remains found in Ethiopia was Lucy a three and a half million-year-old complete skeleton that was discovered in 1974. Archaeologists working in the country have also discovered a skeleton dating back 5.8 million years.
The latest finds - which scientists have named 'Idaltu', meaning 'elder' - were made in a desolate area 224 km miles northeast of Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa. Scattered across the same area were thousands of stone tools, including hand axes, along with the butchered bones of hippopotamus and antelope their staple food.
"These African fossils are now the world s oldest near modern humans," said Asfaw, who discovered the skull of the child in 200 pieces. It has taken the last three years, since the bones were excavated, for meticulous cleaning and research work to be complete. The region where the excavations took place is one of the most inhospitable on earth, where temperatures often reach more than 50 degrees centigrade.
Archaeologists, under a joint 20-strong United States and Ethiopian team, have been working in the area for the last six years. Skull fragments from a total of 10 individuals were unearthed but were lacking their jaws and any bones below the neck.
The scientists say that Idaltu has almost identical features to modern humans. The skulls have a prominent forehead, flattened face and reduced brow that contrast with older humans projecting, heavy-browed skulls. He has a slightly larger head and brain than modern humans, but the scientists do not believe he was brighter. (Source: IRIN)
KenyaAlthough many parts of Kenya have received exceptionally high rainfall this year, food shortages continue to bite, especially in traditionally arid areas in the north of the country, where maize prices have already risen dramatically, a new report has revealed.
A USAID Early Warning System Network report, released on June 9, said potential benefits of the April and May rains in terms of food production had been limited by the late onset of the season, and severe flooding around the Lake Victoria and Tana River basins.
As a result, crop development in the country was behind schedule, the report said. The late onset of the rains was likely to result in a fall in production of up to 50 per cent in eastern and central parts of the country.
In extreme cases such as in Coast Province, only 10 per cent of the 60,000 hectares normally put to maize had been planted, and it was unlikely for more to be completed before planting became impossible, it added.
"Once the rains started, they were exceptionally heavy in most areas of the country in April through May, with the exception of marginal agricultural districts," the report noted. "If imports are put off much longer, consumer maize prices will go up dramatically," it said.
The report said an emergency food security assessment which took place in the northwestern district of Turkana also indicated alarmingly high rates of child malnutrition there, despite recent improvements in key livestock production indicators in pastoral districts across the country. It said a disaster preparedness fund had been set up in Turkana and other drought-affected northern districts of Samburu, Mandera and Marsabit.
Meanwhile, the international relief organisation Action Churches Together (ACT) has appealed for US$ 1.04 million to help victims of the May floods, which affected 17 districts in Kenya. The floods resulted in at least 70 deaths and displaced an estimated 60,000 people. (Source: IRIN)