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Cameroon’s main opposition leader rules out presidential run

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Cameroon’s veteran opposition leader and perennial presidential hopeful John Fru Ndi said on Thursday he will not challenge the long-ruling President Paul Biya in this year’s elections.

Fru Ndi, 76, hailing from the troubled anglophone west of the country, has lost to Biya three times – in 1992, 2004 and 2011 – and boycotted the vote in 1997.

Speaking in the western town of Bamenda at the party congress of the Social Democratic Front (SDF) he founded in 1990, Fru Ndi said he would “pass the torch to the person you choose”.

During his failed 2011 bid, Fru Ndi said it was the last election he would contest but some analysts had speculated that his staying on as SDF leader reflected a wish to run this year.

His longevity as the head of the party had caused some internal grumbling.

The party will nominate an alternative candidate on Friday or Saturday. On the short list are Fru Ndi’s deputy Joshua Osih and SDF lawmakers Joseph Mbah Ndam and Simon Fobi Nchinda.

The SDF draws much of its backing from two predominantly English-speaking enclaves in the west of Cameroon, formerly ruled by both England and France.

Tensions are high in the anglophone regions, where protesters who claim discrimination by the French-speaking majority have led to violence and a crackdown.

The SDF candidate will have a rival in prominent lawyer Akere Muna, an anglophone who last month won the endorsement of several small opposition parties and grassroots groups.

The 85-year-old Biya has not yet said whether he will stand for re-election when Cameroonians go to the polls most likely in October.

Critics say Biya’s rule has been characterised by ruthless exploitation, corruption and repression.

Anglophones account for about a fifth of the west African country’s 23 million population.

Anglophone demonstrators have demanded a federal state, while some secessionists have even called for an independent state they have dubbed “Ambazonia”.

Biya has firmly rejected any change to the status quo and imposed night-time curfews, restrictions on movement, raids and body searches in the anglophone regions.

Business

Ghanaian government boost Agric sector lending with GHC400m provision.

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The Ghanaian Government has set aside GH¢400 million, with an additional funding of $14.0 million from the Africa Development Bank, towards the establishment and operationalisation of the Ghana Incentive Base Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (GIRSAL) next year.

This system would to help manage the risks and stimulate private sector lending to the agricultural sector by providing guarantees to promote commercial bank lending.



Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, Minister of Finance, announced this when he presented the 2019 Budget Statement and Economic Policy of the Government to Parliament, The Budget is on the theme: ‘A Stronger Economy for Jobs and Prosperity’.

He said the Government would launch the livestock model of Planting for Food and Jobs dubbed: “Rearing for Food and Jobs” (RFJ) with the objective of increasing the production of selected livestock, especially poultry.

The Government, he said, believed that the country could leverage the PFJ and RFJ programmes and other efforts in agriculture to reduce the large food imports.

He said following a year of implementation of the PFJs Programme, the agricultural sector witnessed a growth rate of 8.4 per cent in 2017 and this was after almost a decade of erratic sector performance with an average growth rate of 3.4 per cent.

Mr Ofori-Atta said on account of this massive success, the Government implemented an expanded version of the PFJ in 2018, with more ambitious targets.

He said compared with a target of 500,000 farmers, a total of 577,000 farmers were supplied with subsidised fertilisers and seeds for the 2018 cropping season. ‘We expect another highly successful year and in 2019, we plan to expand the programme to cover a million farmers.’

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The Minister said as a country, ‘we spend over $2 billion every year importing food, for example, we import over a billion dollars of rice, $ 320 million of sugar, and $374 million of poultry.’

He said most of these the country could produce here in Ghana; creating jobs and saving foreign exchange.

It was, therefore, a key goal of the Government, he said, to replace a significant fraction of these imports with domestic production in the medium-term.

He said in the case of rice, the strategy was to increase volumes through increased yields of rice by expanding production areas in irrigated schemes, valleys and low lands around the country.

Mr Ofori-Atta said this strategy would be underpinned by making available to farmers, improved and certified seeds, subsidised fertilizers, enhanced access to mechanised harvesters to reduce post-harvest losses due to traditional labour-intensive threshing, and encourage private sector investment in milling facilities.

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‘This will ensure that the quality of locally processed rice will be at par with imported rice,’ he added.

In the case of poultry, the Minister said about 70 per cent of the cost of production was from feed, which in turn was primarily determined by the cost and availability of maize and soya bean.

He said in order to bring down the cost of feed and make poultry production competitive, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture was working on a programme to sustainably boost soybean production through the provision of improved and certified seeds, subsidised fertilisers and harvest equipment to reduce field losses.

The Minister said adequate good storage for agricultural produce was a challenge that the country must address to avoid a situation, where the increased agricultural production arising from the support to farmers would end up going to waste.

‘In 2019, Government expects to increase its warehouse storage capacity by around 80,000 metric tonnes,’ he said.

On World Cocoa prices, he said the prices remained low after declining by about a third in the 2017/2018 season.

However, despite the significant decline, the Government maintained the producer price at GH¢7,600.00 per tonne to ensure that farmers did not suffer loss of income and purchased 904,000 metric tonnes of cocoa in the 2017/18 season.

He said Ghana needed to add value to its Cocoa output and Ghana, adding that, together with Cote d’Ivoire, they produced about 60 per cent of the world’s Cocoa.

‘But we earn only $6 billion of the world Cocoa value chain earnings of $125 billion—just about five per cent,’ he pointed out.

Through the Ghana-Cote d’Ivoire Cocoa Initiative, the Government, he said, was working on several fronts to increase the value they gained from Cocoa.

They include: Vigorously promoting both domestic and international cocoa consumption; and initiatives for market expansion for exports of cocoa products to Asia; and provision of incentives to the private sector to set up cocoa processing factories.



The Minister said the Government, had also as part of its strategy, to revamp the agricultural sector by placing focus on the tree crop subsector.

‘Cabinet has approved the formation of a Tree Crop Development Authority (GTCDA) to regulate and create a favourable environment for the growth and development of that sector,’ he said.

The Authority will initially regulate the cashew, sheanut butter, oil palm and the rubber crop sub-sectors, with other tree crops being added as and when necessary.

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Motherland News

Madagascar presidential election credibility in doubt as electoral body face charges.

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Madagascar’s presidential election result is likely to face stiff legal challenges, following accusations of electoral fraud and corruption against the electoral body.

Report says appeals have already been lodged with the country’s High Constitutional Court.



Madagascar’s electoral commission announced results on Saturday, confirming an expected presidential election run-off after neither of the candidate obtained the 50% of votes needed to win outrightly.

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According to the Independent electoral commission, former presidents Andry Rajoelina and Marc Ravalomanana, will contest the second round having secured 39.19% and 35.29% respectively.

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The outgoing president Hery Rajaonarimampianina, placed third in the polls with only 8.84% of the vote.

The commission said turnout was 54. 3%.

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