Thursday, 25 February 2016

DFID JOINS FORCES WITH MOBILE OPERATOR ON ANTI-POVERTY EFFORT

The UK’s Department for International Development has announced a partnership with a global mobile operators organisation, which will see mobile technology used to provide life-enhancing services to millions of people in poverty.
DFID will provide financial support to GSMA, which represents mobile operators worldwide, to develop and roll out new technologies that can improve response to natural disasters, help women obtain financial services, and boost access to safe water and clean energy in the developing world.
UK international development minister Nick Hurd said the partnership with GSMA was at the forefront of bringing the battle against extreme poverty into the digital era.
“We have a real opportunity to accelerate the development of mobile technologies that can help save lives, help women reach their potential and boost the growth of emerging economies for Britain to trade with,” he said.
DFID and the GSMA have already been working together over the past three years, including on projects to improve access to solar power in Uganda and Ghana and a project to enhance access to clean water in Rwanda.
DFID said the partnership will make significant contributions to nine of the global goals for sustainable development, agreed at the UN in September, including promoting decent work and economic growth, innovation and infrastructure, affordable clean energy and gender equality. 

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

COURT CONVICTS SUSPECT IN MURDER OF DRC JOURNALIST SOLEIL BALANGA

A court in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Monday convicted a suspect of murdering journalist Soleil Balanga in April 2015, in Ă‰quateur province, according to a press release issued today by Journaliste en Danger, a Congolese press freedom organization. The High Court of Boende foundMoussa Tendenle guilty of having slit the journalist's throat and sentenced him to death.

"This conviction for the murder of Soleil Balanga sends an important message that journalists cannot be killed with impunity," said Kerry Paterson, CPJ's Africa research associate. "Holding perpetrators accountable for attacks on journalists is the only way to break the cycle of violence-although CPJ, as a member of the international human rights community, does not advocate for or condone the use of the death penalty."    


Balanga was killed after reporting on the replacement of the supervisor of the Monkoto General Hospital. The convicted killer is the son of the former hospital supervisor,according to news reports . Four other defendants in the case were acquitted, the reports said. Before his murder, Balanga's radio station had been off the air because of broken equipment, so Balanga would walk through the town every morning and announce the local news using a megaphone, reports said.

Friday, 19 February 2016

UGANDA BLOCKS SOCIAL MEDIA AND MOBILE PHONE SERVICES DURING VOTING

The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns Ugandan authorities' restricting access to social media as voters went to the polls in today's presidential elections.
According to press reports, the Uganda Communications Commission cited an unspecified threat to national security to justify blocking access to Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp at around 8 a.m. local time, an hour after voting began. Access to the services remained blocked on mobile phones at 9:15 p.m. local time.
"These social media platforms are an important tool for gathering and publicizing news from around Uganda on polling day," CPJ Deputy Executive Director Robert Mahoney said from New York. "Closing them raises suspicions that any irregularities in voting may not be reported in a timely manner. Such censorship undermines the democratic process." 
The Mobile Telecommunications Network (MTN), a leading provider of mobile-phone service in the country, said on Twitter that the commission had ordered it to disable all social media and mobile money-transferring services "due to a threat to public order and safety." It was not immediately clear if all mobile phone companies had complied with the order.
President Yoweri Museveni, who is seeking to extend his 30-year tenure, speaking about social media, today told television viewers, "Some people misuse those pathways. You know how they use them --- telling lies. If you want a right, use it properly."
CPJ has documented a series of repressive measures against the media in the weeks ahead of the elections, including physical attacks on journalists, the closure of radio stations, and the arrest of a radio talk show host in the middle of his broadcast.


Thursday, 18 February 2016

UGANDAN RADIO HOST ARRESTED MID-BROADCAST

Ugandan authorities should immediately drop all charges against radio journalist Richard Mungu Jakican, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Police entered the studios of the privately owned station Radio North FM in the northern Ugandan city of Lira the night of February 13 and arrested Jakican in the middle of his talk radio show, according to press accounts and the Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda, an advocacy group. Police also detained seven politicians who were discussing a recent presidential debate on the show, the group said.


CPJ has documented a worsening pattern of harassment and intimidation of journalists in Uganda as presidential elections scheduled to take place February 18 approach. In recent days, the government has deployed military troops throughout urban centers, an act which some opposition candidates have criticized as intended to intimidate voters,according to reports. President Yoweri Museveni, one of Africa's longest-serving rulers, is seeking to extend his 30-year stay in power.


"Pulling a journalist and his guests away from the microphone in the middle of a radio show is shocking, crude censorship," said CPJ Deputy Executive Director Robert Mahoney in New York. "All charges against Richard Mungu Jakican should be dropped immediately, and President Museveni should ensure that all voices can be heard in this campaign."


Prosecutors initially charged Jakican, who is also the news editor of the station, with malicious damage to property after police claimed he and the politicians he hosted had defaced Museveni's re-election posters during a break in the show. The charges were later amended to aiding and abetting a crime, an apparent reference to the damaged posters, and he was released on February 17 on bail of 200,000 Ugandan shillings (US$60).


Haruna Kanaabi, executive director of the Independent Media Council, an associationof journalists that campaigns for self-regulation of the media in Uganda, told CPJ he had conducted multiple interviews with colleagues of the journalist and found that there was no indication that any posters were defaced either by him or the politicians he hosted on his show.



Authorities have previously singled out radio stations, a particularly influential medium in rural Uganda, for unwelcome attention in the presidential campaign. On January 20, another station, Endigyito FM, was closed down after it hosted one of the opposition candidates, Amama Mbabazi. It remains closed. 

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

INDIAN PHOTOJOURNALIST RECOUNTS ATTACK BY POLICE

As police cracked down on protesters in Delhi during recent protests over the treatment of Dalits, who occupy the lowest rungs of India's caste ladder, journalists were caught in the fray. The protests were sparked by the suicide of Rohith Vemula, a student who had been barred from halls of residence and parts of campus, according to news reports.

CPJ has previously documented cases of police and security forces using harsh measures and jailings to suppress media coverage across the country, from the restive regions of Kashmir and Chhattisgarh to the capital, Delhi.  This latest case raises the question again of how such misconduct-often unchecked-is able to continue in a country that claims the mantle of being the world's largest democracy.

Photojournalist Rahul M., who was covering one of the protests in Delhi on January 30, for the independent magazine The Caravan, says police beat him and broke his camera. In an interview with CPJ, Rahul, who goes by only one name, described the assault and shared pictures of the protest that he managed to take before his equipment was smashed.  

This interview has been edited for clarity.

CPJ: Please tell us about events leading up to your assault.

Rahul: Vemula belonged to the same region in south-eastern India I am from. As such, I had been following the media fallout of his death. Back home, local news channels probed leaders of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), a right-wing student organization, to see if they had played a role in Vemula's death. [Editor's note: The student group and government officials were accused of pressuring Vemula's university to take punitive measures against him. They have denied any wrongdoing, according to reports.]

In the wake of his suicide, an umbrella organization of various left-wing student groups announced a call to protest. I was covering a protest outside the Delhi headquarters of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the right-wing parent organization of the ABVP, for The Caravan.


I reached the protest late and startedtrailing other journalists, photographing and gathering information. I saw police charging at students. In fact, I remember pushing the shutter button, and capturing the police running at protesters when I heard the charge orders. The police started rounding up and beating the students toward the back of the protest. Many of the policemen I saw responding violently did not wear name-badges. A few minutes before the police aggression began, I asked some of the policemen why they were not wearing name-badges, to which they did not reply. I told them that I was a journalist, and that was why I was asking questions. 

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

WORLD BANK RAMPS UP DISCUSSIONS ON ZIKA RESPONSE

Zika-affected countries have requested assistance from the World Bank to respond to the outbreak and the global financial institution is in close communication with the World Health Organization, the Pan American Health Organization and affected countries to determine what its response will look like.
A worker for the health ministry fumigates a house in Guatemala to
combat the Aedes mosquitoes, which are the transmitters of the Zika
virus. What is the World Bank doing in response to the outbreak?
Photo by: Conred / CC BY-NC-ND


The mosquito-borne virus is spreading rapidly across Latin America and the Caribbean and is thought to be the causing microcephaly — a neurological condition associated with small heads in newborn babies.

“We have communicated with countries across the region that we are ready to help them mount an effective response to the epidemic itself, further strengthen their health systems and mitigate any potential economic impacts,” Anugraha Palan, a World Bank spokeswoman, wrote in an email to Devex.
The primary focus of a global response to the virus should be “to decimate the vector — mosquitoes,” wrote Palan, adding, “This will require a hand-to-hand combat approach, community by community, country by country.”
The WHO declared Zika virus a global health emergency earlier this month.
The Obama administration announced Monday that it will ask the U.S. Congress for over $1.8 billion in emergency funding for Zika response and preparation, which includes $335 million for the U.S. Agency for International Development to support training of health care workers, build education campaigns and develop a Global Health Security Grand Challenge among other priorities.
The World Bank has “a major role to play” in the Zika response according to Lawrence Gostin, director of the O’Neil Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University and director of the WHO Collaborating Center on Public Health Law and Human Rights.
“The bank’s main function would be to mobilize and disburse funding, while working with WHO and other public health agencies to clearly set out the priority areas for funding,” Gostin wrote to Devex in an email.
Priority areas for Zika funding “should include aggressive mosquito control; surveillance; and R&D for diagnostic tests, vaccines, [and] establishing the link between Zika and microcephaly,” Gostin wrote, adding that World Bank funds should be “conditioned on government’s agreeing to implement priority measures, with clear benchmarks for implementation and full transparency and accountability.”
While the specifics of the World Bank’s response to Zika is still being determined, the global financial institution is working with the WHO and other partners to develop a Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility that would provide quick funds to countries and health care responders in order to help tackle future pathogen outbreaks such as the Ebola crisis — which for months affected West Africa.

The PEF is not yet operational and it is unclear whether Zika will fit the category of pathogens that the PEF will be designed to address, but the World Bank does have “a range of financing tools available to support countries in the Zika response right now,” wrote Palan.

Saturday, 6 February 2016

THE ZIKA VIRUS WON'T BE 'EBOLA 2.0'

The recent outbreak of Zika virus and its spread to 23 countries — mainly in Latin America and the Caribbean — has prompted the World Health Organization (WHO) to declare Zika a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). On 1 February 2016 Director-General of the WHO, Margaret Chan, called for a coordinated international response to improve Zika surveillance and detection, the control of mosquitoes and to expedite development of diagnostic tools and vaccines to protect people at risk.
WHO estimates there are currently 500,000 to 1.5 million cases of Zika in the Americas. Cases have also been reported in the US, Australia and the Republic of Ireland, each the result of recent travel to Latin America or the Caribbean. However, only one in five patients experience symptoms, and even then, symptoms are relatively mild; characterised by a fever, rash and conjunctivitis lasting for two to seven days.
While it has not been confirmed, experts agree that a causal relationship between Zika infection during pregnancy and microcephaly — a condition in which a baby's head is abnormally small, causing incomplete brain development — is very likely. Also of concern is the probable link between Zika and Guillain-BarrĂ© syndrome (GBS), an autoimmune disorder which causes muscle weakness, paralysis and sometimes death. 
Zika is predominantly transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito in tropical regions, the same mosquito that transmits dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever. It can also be transmitted via blood transfusions and on 3 February, a case of sexually transmitted Zika was reported in Dallas, Texas. Only one other case of sexually transmitted Zika has ever been recorded.
In the worst affected area, about 1% of new-borns have suspected microcephaly. Brazil has reported 4000 cases of microcephaly since October 2015, 400 were confirmed and only 17 were linked to Zika. Despite the small number of confirmed cases, and the even smaller number directly linked to Zika, this still represents a sharp increase since 2014, when only 150 babies were born with microcephaly in the country.
GBS — the other, less publicised Zika-related concern — is also rare. However, Jimmy Whitworth from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine says that even if GBS occurs in only 1 per 10,000 or 1 per 100,000 cases of Zika, and if the WHO's prediction of 4 million cases by the end of 2016 is correct, a significant increase in GBS can be expected. 
The facts and figures of Zika, although concerning, show that it will not be 'Ebola 2.0', as it has been labelled. This is partly to do with the virus' mode of transmission. The Aedis mosquito circulates only in tropical and sub-tropical climates, and is therefore unlikely to spread to cooler climates and will likely reduce in incidence in cooler months.
But the reasons why Zika is not Ebola 2.0 are also contextual. During the Ebola outbreak, failures occurred which do not apply to the situation with Zika. These failures came at three levels: national, regional and international.
At a national level, governments failed (or at least, their surveillance mechanisms failed) to sound the alarm in a timely manner. The first Ebola case was a two-year old boy in a remote jungle region of southern Guinea in December 2013. However, due to inadequate health and surveillance systems in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, Ebola was not diagnosed until March 2014. Sierra Leone's Government claimed not to need assistance – they could control the spread of the virus with checkpoints and awareness campaigns. 
The second failure was unique to the region. Peter Piot, the co-discoverer of Ebola, and Jeremy Farrar, head of the Wellcome Trust, have noted that WHO's Regional Office in Africa (WHO-AFRO), which should be the WHO's strongest regional office, given the breadth and depth of health challenges in the region, suffers from longstanding problems around capacity, and because of its location (Brazzaville), it struggles to attract the quantity and quality of talent and leadership it needs.
The final (and possibly most palpable) failure occurred at the international level.
This failure did not emerge from a lack of will, rather it was the product of a resource-constrained organisation with its eyes firmly on the non-communicable disease epidemic. In a ten-day period between May-June 2014, Guinea and Sierra Leone recorded 150 new Ebola infections, bringing the cumulative total to 440 cases. This rightly alarmed officials at WHO-AFRO, who contacted the WHO Secretariat in Geneva recommending a PHEIC be declared. The true failure lies in the delayed response. The emergency committee did not meet until 7 August 2014,and on 8 August recommended to the Director General that a declaration of a PHEIC was justified.
Return now to 2016: the world is fixated on Zika, wondering if it will be 'Ebola 2.0'. But it won't be, partly because of its mode of transmission, partly because Zika is unfolding in a post-Ebola world, but mainly because Latin America is not West Africa. Health systems are largely stronger and governments better able to deal with public health emergencies (a particular priority with the 2016 Olympic Games around the corner). Also, PAHO  (WHO's Regional Office for the Americas) is not WHO-AFRO (and in any case, if Zika was unfolding in Africa, WHO-AFRO's response would benefit from the Ebola experience), and the WHO is much better prepared, cautious and eager to show the world that it can be what we need it to be: a true leader in global health. 

The international community's thorough and swift handling of Zika suggests that governments and the WHO learned from the devastation caused by Ebola.

ZIKA: THE KEY UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

This grainy image is one of the few pictures of the Zika virus.
The infection has prompted the World Health Organization to declare a global health emergency due to the link to thousands of suspected cases of babies born with small brains - or microcephaly - in Brazil.
But there are still many, crucial, unanswered questions.
How many people have been infected in the Americas?
The best estimate of Zika infections is between 500,000 and 1.5 million - which is quite a wide margin of error. What percentage of people in an affected area are getting infected? Is it everyone? We don't know.
Why the explosive outbreak?
One theory is that the virus has mutated to become more infectious. Alternatively, some experts argue it could simply be a case of the virus reaching areas where people are densely packed together and there are huge numbers of mosquitoes.
Who is infectious?
Around 80% of people have no symptoms when they get the virus - although this figure needs further investigation. It's not known if they can also spread the virus or even why they are asymptomatic.
Does it cause microcephaly?
It's the biggest health concern in the outbreak, yet the link with Zika and birth defects is still only "strongly suspected". Parts of Brazil that have seen cases of Zika have, several months later, also seen a surge in microcephaly. However, the trials to prove the link have not finished.
How risky is infection?
If the virus does cause microcephaly, how often does this happen? Does every infection lead to birth defects? Or is it one-in-100? One-in-10,000 perhaps? At the moment it's not clear how worried pregnant women should be.
Is there a risky period in pregnancy?
If the virus causes microcephaly, does it matter when you are infected? There have been some suggestions that the first trimester (the first 12 weeks) is key, but other doctors have hinted there might be risks as late as 29 weeks. And those risks could change over time.
How could it damage the brain?
Some infections, such as rubella, can damage the brains of developing babies during pregnancy. But it is not known how Zika could be crossing the placenta and damaging brain growth.
Does developing symptoms change the risk?
Around four-in-five people infected will not develop symptoms. Do silent infections carry the same risks of microcephaly as those which result in a fever or a rash? There is also the rare neurological disease Guillain-Barre syndrome that has been linked to Zika infection and we don't know which patients are most a risk.
What's going on in Africa and Asia?
The virus was first detected in Africa and then parts of Asia until it reached Brazil and then spread. So do these continents represent giant vulnerable populations susceptible to Zika outbreaks? Or has Zika been around and undetected there for years, so that most of the population are immune? It is hard to establish the global threat without knowing the answer.
How big is the surge in microcephaly really?
There are big questions about the quality of the data, both before the outbreak of Zika and now. The figures for previous years may be underestimates, and the number of suspected cases is an overestimate. Of the 4,783 reported cases of microcephaly - 404 have been confirmed, 709 have been disproved and 3,670 are still being investigated.
Can it be spread by other mosquitoes?
The Zika virus is spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, but it is confined to tropical and sub-tropical countries. There is concern that Zika could be spread by other mosquitoes too such as the Asian tiger mosquito. This species prefers more temperate climes such as parts of Europe.
How big a risk is sex?
It seems likely that the overwhelming majority of cases are spread by the Aedesmosquito where the insect bites a person with the virus and passes it onto the next person it bites. But sexual transmission has been implicated in a couple of infections. It's unknown how common this is.
What about immunity?
Are you infected once and then protected for life, like measles? Or does it take multiple infections to achieve immunity? How long does immunity last? These answers will tell us how long the outbreak could last and indicate whether a vaccine would be effective.


Thursday, 4 February 2016

IOM PLEDGES CONTINUED HIV PREVENTION

The International Organization for Migration (lOM) has pledged to continue partnering with government to ensure a free HIV Zambia by the year 2030.
IOM Health Officer, Nomagugu Ncube, said this during a three-day smart and targeted investment in HIV and AIDS response in border town initiative workshop held in Chirundu District.
Mrs Ncube said mobility is a driver of HIV creating conditions for multiple sexual networks.
She said the conditions surrounding the migration process increase vulnerability to HIV particularly for circular migrants like truck drivers and cross-border traders.
"People are always on the move from one point to another an d this makes it easier for the virus to cross borders, too," she said
"We need to identify the vulnerabilities and needs of the migrants," she added.
And National Aids Council (NAC) public private sector coordinator, Ellen Mubanga, observed that despite the national prevalence rate being 13.3 per cent border, areas are still recording high prevalence rates.
She noted that new HIV infections in border areas are also on the increase.
And Chirundu District Commissioner, Alfred Hamunjo, who officially opened the workshop, said government and its partners have prioritised implementation of high impact interventions to reduce new infections.
"HIV is a common enemy to everyone and it should be fought," he said.
"This enemy affects every human being as well as the economy," he noted.

The smart and targeted investment in HIV and AIDS response in Chirundu border town initiative workshop is being held from 3rd to 5th February, 2016.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

A NEW ROAD MAP FOR POWER AFRICA

An ambitious new road map released last week lays out how Power Africa, the United States government initiative to increase power generation capacity and access to electricity in Africa, will achieve its targets by 2030. The report outlines areas of new emphasis for the initiative, including a greater focus on energy access and on renewables.
A 500 watt solar system in a rural village in Uganda powers a home, drives a public broadcasting system, a barbershop and a video hall and generates new income for the business owner.
And the U.S. House of Representatives on Monday unanimously passed the Electrify Africa Act, which codifies the work of the initiative and should ensure its longevity. The U.S. Senate passed the bill, which differs a bit from Power Africa goals — it sets targets at 50 million connections and 20,000 megawatts of generation, on Dec. 18 and it now awaits approval from President Barack Obama, which should be forthcoming.
In 2013 when it announced Power Africa, the U.S. committed $7 billion to tackle the challenge that more than 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa lack access to electricity. That initial commitment has leveraged about $43 billion dollars in pledges from public and private sector partners, according to the Power Africa Roadmap.
The initial goals were for Power Africa to increase installed power capacity by 30,000 megawatts and create 60 million new connections by 2030. To date, the 13 Power Africa projects that have reached financial close are expected to generate more than 4,300 megawatts of power, according to the road map.
It’s important to note, and Power Africa does so in the road map, that some of those projects were underway before the initiative launched. While they didn't come about under the auspices of the program, they met other criteria, including U.S. government involvement and meeting environmental and social safeguards.
Power Africa spent its first year focused on grid-scale generation deals, but leaders of the initiative are now looking ahead to ambitious connections targets — Power Africa-supported projects have the potential to lead to more than a million direct connections — and making changes based on lessons already learned.
Generation and access goals, for example, are “actually two totally different things,” Andrew Herscowitz, Power Africa coordinator, told Devex. As a result, the road map lays out specific plans for each goal, and progress will be measured in actual connections.
“We’ve learned a ton,” Herscowitz said. “We don’t just trust everything people say at conferences. We focus on analysis and data.”
The road map
That knowledge has been poured into the road map, which has three main pillars: achieving the goal around generation; increasing the number of people with access; and driving regulatory and policy changes to improve investment opportunities and speed project timelines.
Power Africa is tracking projects in the Power Africa Tracking Tool, an app built for the initiative that would total about 45,000 megawatts if the projects all came online, though the road map estimates that only between 18,000-21,000 megawatts will reach financial close by 2030.
In order to meet its 30,000 megawatt goal, Power Africa is looking for new deals, which are likely to support natural gas and utility-scale solar expansion. It will also work to improve efficiency at existing power plants.
The majority of projects in the pipeline, and certainly those that aren’t yet being tracked, are at an early stage in their development, so it seems natural that one of Power Africa’s focuses will be on early stage transaction support. Many project developers say it’s also where donors and development finance institutions are needed most.
Reaching the goal of extending access to 60 million people will take a mix of relying on old technology — expanding existing grids, and new — developing innovative off-grid solutions.
One interesting prediction in the road map is that 8 million to 10 million of the new connections will come through the currently underdeveloped micro grid segment of the market, though this raises questions about how to build the appropriate structures and frameworks for those projects to succeed.
Work on the third pillar aimed at building capacity and driving regulatory reforms may be able to help some of those issues. A number of Power Africa programs or partner programs are working to help countries create solid, transparent regulatory and policy environments to help them attract investment and structure good projects.
That capacity building can also help citizens get a fair deal — a single negotiated deal between a company and a government not only takes a long time but is unlikely to provide the country good value for money, in part because African government officials often lack expertise, said Jamie Fergusson, the chief investment officer and global sector lead for renewables, infrastructure and natural resources at the International Finance Corp.  

South Africa sets an example

Examples of what’s working are quickly emerging. While in many ways South Africa may not be representative of the rest of the subcontinent, it has risen as an example of a success story, particularly in scaling up grid-connected solar projects.
Its Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Program developed a clear structure and transparent bid process that has led to more than 2,000 megawatts of solar between 2011 and 2014 and cheaper bids over time.
SolarReserve, global developer of utility-scale solar power projects, has won several bids and built grid-connected solar projects in South Africa. The latest, a 100 megawatt project with 12-hour storage, is set to start construction in the next two months.
The company continue to bid on projects in South Africa because the government built a program that commercially makes sense, has political support at the highest levels and a committed team that carries out the work, is transparent and keeps its word, said Kevin Smith, CEO of SolarReserve.
While South Africa has some advantages — it’s size, local expertise, a strong banking system lower currency risks —other countries can learn from their example, he said. Governments need to put together commercial documentation that makes sense, provide clarity around the off taker and how it works, needs to abide by international arbitration and devise a transparent and open bidding process that sticks to a set schedule, Smith added.

Working together

Since Power Africa was launched, a bevy of other organizations focused on electrifying the continent have emerged and the initiative has amassed some 120 partners, including the African Development Bank, the World Bank, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, the Norwegian government and many private developers, financiers and foundations. Managing that many groups is not always easy.
Coordination amongst the donor and development finance institution community takes long, patient conversations, and some head banging, Ferguson said.
“There's politics and good intent and different organizations with their own mandates,” he said. “It is not all perfectly coordinated. Lots of sensible people, but still those conversations have to be had.”
Herscowitz said he is proud of the initiative's efforts, especially in bringing the various actors together. The level of coordination among the donor organizations is “unprecedented,” he said, citing the example of household solar, where Power Africa, the AfDB and the U.K. Department for International Development got together to discuss their work on in the space and decided to have DfID take the lead. That cooperation helped shape what U.K.’s Energy Africa initiative does, Herscowitz said.  
There are organizations stepping up to lead on other issues as well, like the World Bank and AfDB on grid rollout, organizations like the U.S. Trade Development Agency on project preparation, and the IFC on grid-level solar.
With so many players, determining how each player slots in and where donor and DFI capital should be used is important.  
The IFC’s Scaling Solar initiative, for example, emerged to fill a gap in helping to structure and simplify the process of developing grid-connected solar projects. The program developed a template process and document set to help a government run through a process determining how much solar they want on their grid, where it should go, if appropriate sites can be developed and how it could run a competitive process to identify an independent power producer.
“Scaling Solar is designed with collaboration in that donor and DFI ecosystem in mind,” Ferguson said.
Governments will need help paying for advisory work and in financing the projects themselves, which is where donors can step in. For example, in Zambia, the first country to sign on to Scaling Solar, DfID and Power Africa are helping pay for advisory costs.
Donor financing helped many of the rapidly expanding home solar companies get off the ground — one of the most exciting development to Herscowitz personally. Super-efficient fans, irons and televisions are allowing off-grid customers to “live an on-grid life,” he said, which can change the market and impact the climate change discussion.
“Donors and public money is limited and precious and, I would argue, should be targeted where you can’t attract private capital — transmission lines, distribution companies, public utilities, all of those things that you can't attract private capital for,” Ferguson said.
But every market where Power Africa is tracking deals has some role for the public sector to play — its role is to “bridge market imperfections,” test new models and get first-of-a-kind deals done, Herscowitz said.

How well Power Africa picks the places or types of projects it invests in and how that translates to achieving its goals will certainly be measured against the roadmap, which may well serve as a blueprint as the U.S. and its big coalition of partners work to push things along.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

GROWING FEARS AS MORE AFGHAN JOURNALISTS AND MEDIA WORKERS COME UNDER THE GUN

The fatal shooting of senior Afghan broadcast journalist Mohammad Zubair Khaksar on Friday and the beating of freelance reporter Yahya Jawahari on Sunday further raise concerns for the safety of Afghan journalists, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. The attacks follow a suicide bombingattack on employees of the Kabul station Tolo TV that killed at least seven people.
"Afghan journalists have long been under the gun, but the pressure on them is mounting as the security situation in Afghanistan continues to deteriorate," said Bob Dietz, CPJ's Asia program coordinator. "The government has made promises to address the situation, but it must join with media owners and Afghan journalists' organizations to find an effective method of reversing the hostile environment in which journalists and media houses are forced to operate."
No one has claimed responsibility for fatally shooting Khaksar, a reporter for Afghanistan's national television and radio broadcaster who also worked as a cultural adviser to the provincial governor in Nangahar, as he returned from a friend's house on the evening of January 29, according to press reports. The "Voice of the Caliphate," an unregistered radio station operated by a group claiming fealty to the Islamic State group, had threatened attacks on journalists in Nangahar and neighboring regions, The Associated Press reported.
In a separate attack on Sunday night, unidentified armed men sacked the house of freelance reporter Yahya Jawahari in Mazr-i-Sharif, according to a local media report.Jawahari was severely beaten. No one claimed responsibility for the attack, and the motive remains unclear, according to Afghanistan's Khaama Press news agency.
While CPJ research shows that it is rare for those responsible for killing Afghan journalists to be punished, on January 22 Afghan forces said they had arrested eight members of a Taliban-related group on suspicion of out the January 20 suicide attackin Kabul that killed at least seven employees from the independent station Tolo TV. The victims were part of Tolo's entertainment division, not its news team. The Taliban had openly threatened to target the station after it reported allegations of summary executions, rape, and kidnappings by Taliban fighters during the battle for the northern city of Kunduz in October
cpj