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Presidential runoff characterized with security crisis in Mali

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Malians were called to the ballot box on Sunday for a presidential runoff likely to see Ibrahim Boubacar Keita return to office despite criticism of his handling of the country’s security crisis.

The second round is a rerun of a 2013 faceoff that Keita won by a landslide over former finance minister Soumaila Cisse.

This year’s campaign saw fierce attacks on his failure to dampen a wave of jihadist bloodshed and ethnic violence.

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But public enthusiasm has been low and the opposition is fractured.

Keita, 73, was credited with 41.7% of the July 29 first-round vote while Cisse, 68, picked up 17.78%.

Cisse insisted on Friday he could turn things around on polling day – warning the status quo would only bring “chaos” in a “torn nation.”

But he failed to unite the opposition behind him, and first-round challengers have either backed the president or refused to give voting instructions.

Few Malians attended a string of planned marches and protests called for by opposition leaders in the capital Bamako ahead of the run-off.

As a result, Keita, commonly named “IBK” after his initials, is the clear favourite.

A few hundred Keita supporters gathered late on Friday in the capital of Bamako for the last meeting of the campaign.

“He needs to finish what he started,” Silandou Soumare, a civil servant said. “With all Malians on board, we can have peace in Mali!”

In 2013, Keita won more than three-quarters of the vote.

Voting will be open from 0800 to 1800 GMT. Turnout was low in the first round of voting at around 40%.

The first round was peppered by violent attacks and threats from armed groups that led to several hundred polling stations being closed, mainly in the lawless central region.

Security services said on Saturday they had disrupted a plot to carry out “targeted attacks” in the capital Bamako on the eve of the runoff.

Three members of a “commando” cell who were planning attacks had been arrested, the security services said in a statement, adding that the trio were also suspected of involvement in a robbery which left three people dead in 2016.

Security will be tightened for the second round, an aide in the prime minister’s office said, with 20% more soldiers on duty.

This means 36 000 Malian military will be deployed, 6 000 more than two weeks earlier, with a particular focus on the Mopti region in the centre of the country where voting stations had been closed, Cheick Oumar said.

The three main opposition candidates mounted a last-ditch legal challenge to the first-round result, alleging ballot-box stuffing and other irregularities. But their petition was rejected by the Constitutional Court.

Cisse’s party said in the early hours of Sunday that ballot papers were already circulating, several hours before polls opened.

Outside Mali, the hope is that the winner will strengthen a 2015 accord that the fragile Sahel state sees as its foundation for peace.

The deal brought together the government, government-allied groups and former Tuareg rebels.

But a state of emergency heads into its fourth year in November.

Jihadist violence has spread from the north to the centre and south of the vast country and spilled into neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger, often inflaming communal conflicts.

France still has 4 500 troops deployed alongside the UN’s 15 000 peacekeepers and a regional G5 Sahel force, aimed at rooting out jihadists and restoring the authority of the state.

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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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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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