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EU urged to do more to tackle illegal trade in #ivory



EU environment ministers are holding talks in the hope of agreeing a proposal for further ivory trade restrictions in the next two weeks to be presented at the CoP in Sri Lanka in May.

Ahead of that meeting, the EU is being urged to "be brave" and close its markets now like other nations including China.

It is alleged that European and Japanese markets fuel the illegal trade in poaching and the killing of elephants. There is also increased evidence of a link between the EU legal market in ivory and the illegal trade.

Many member states and international players are closing their markets but the EU is said to be still "behind the curve".

Speaking in Brussels, Kenya's minister for tourism and wildlife Najib Balala, also co chair of the African Elephant Coalition, said: “All legal ivory markets – whether in Asia or Europe - fuel illegal trade, poaching and killing of elephants.”

The comments are backed by the 32-member state African Elephant Coalition (AEC) which has called on the European Union, as one of the world’s largest traders in ivory, to take immediate action to close its domestic markets.

Member states are formulating the EU position on ivory trade in advance of the 18th Conference of the Parties of CITES, the Convention on the Trade in Endangered Species (CoP18), to take place in Sri Lanka, 23rd May – 3rd June.

Minister Balala met Jyrki Katainen,Vice-President of the European Commission, to make the case for the EU to end its ivory trade and close its domestic market. The Minister also met the Japanese Ambassador to the EU to communicate the concerns of the Coalition and to discuss how legal ivory markets in the EU and Japan fuel illegal trade, poaching and killing of elephants in Africa.

Elephants are declining significantly throughout Africa and Asia. Every year, at least 20,000 African elephants are killed illegally for their ivory and only bold action now can save this iconic animal from becoming extinct in many parts of its range within the decade.

Campaigners want the EUI  to close its domestic ivory markets and follow the lead of Chinathe USTaiwanSingapore and Hong Kong SAR who have taken, or are taking, steps to close their domestic ivory markets. During the last decade approximately 144,000 elephants were killed across Africa due to poaching.

Minister Balala said, “To assume - as many EU member states do - that there is no link between domestic ivory markets in Europe and Asia and illegal trade and killing of elephants in Africa is a flawed basis on which to develop EU conservation policy. Most other countries with significant legal markets have realised that there is a clear link between their domestic ivory markets and illegal trade and poaching and have closed them down. We call on the EU and Japan to follow suit”, he said.

Campaigners say that legal markets can serve as a cover for laundering ivory from poached elephants into trade, including within the EU. Allowing the sale of ivory reinforces its social acceptability and makes it a desirable product to own or even invest in, further fuelling the illegal market and stimulating transnational wildlife crime. Ivory trafficking exacerbates conflict, corruption, and poverty, and weakens local and national security and governance.

In addition, following the agreement at CoP14 at The Hague in June 2007 to have a one-off sale of ivory stocks originating from Namibia, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Botswana to Japan and China in 2008, poaching levels in east Africa spiked.

At the latest meeting of the CITES Standing Committee, in October 2018, Parties from Africa, including AEC members and Asia, strongly supported the closure of all remaining ivory markets.

A number of EU member states have banned/are banning ivory trade including France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and the UK, which in December 2018 adopted one of the toughest set of ivory trade restrictions in the world. “While we appreciate the measures taken by the EU and its member states so far, we consider it essential to take further action to close the internal market and external trade in worked ivory. Otherwise it will present a continuing threat to our elephants,” added Minister Balala.

“We have always seen the EU as the global standard-bearer for promoting and protecting international biodiversity, whose high standards should be emulated and to which all others should aspire. Europe leads the way on many conservation issues and cannot afford to be behind the curve on the ivory trade."

He added, "I therefore appeal to the European Commission and to EU Environment Ministers to demonstrate leadership by closing your domestic markets forthwith. As we cooperate more closely with the EU, particularly within the context of the Africa/EU partnership, we need Europe to join us and become a leader with those countries that are taking action to close domestic ivory markets around the world,” said Balala.


EU and Germany join efforts to support the African Union's response to #Coronavirus



The EU continues to work with member states to tackle the coronavirus pandemic on all fronts. Today, 500.000 additional coronavirus testing kits have been provided to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The test kits were delivered by an EU Humanitarian Air Bridge flight and are part of a €10 million immediate support package to the African Union (AU) by the German Government in response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. In total, almost 1.4 million tests for the extraction and the detection of the virus will be made available to African Union countries. 

“Through the EU Humanitarian Air Bridge, the European Commission continues to work hand in hand with Member States to support vulnerable countries amidst the coronavirus pandemic. It is in our common interest to tackle the pandemic worldwide. We are committed to ensuring effective delivery of essential medical equipment to the countries that need it the most. This specific consignment will be able to reach a large number of countries as it will support the African Union continental response,” said Crisis Management Commissioner Janez Lenarčič.

The kits delivery is part of the larger Team Europe support to the African continental response to the coronavirus. Federal Republic of Germany Development Co-operation Minister Gerd Müller said on the occasion: “We will either beat the coronavirus together worldwide – or not at all. This is why we support the African Union through the German Epidemic Preparedness Team in co-operation with the EU. The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention co-ordinate the procurement of life-saving testing equipment for AU member states. They also play an important role in educating African health workers. With our support to the partnership to accelerate coronavirus testing, we make sure that testing is made widely available. We stand by our friends in Africa in the fight against the coronavirus.”

The full press release is available online.

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Founder of leading pan-African communications consultancy APO Group to help select Jack Ma Foundation’s Top 10 finalists of Africa’s Business Heroes prize competition



The Jack Ma Foundation’s Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative (ANPI) has chosen APO Group Founder and Chairman Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard as a semi-final judge for this year’s prestigious competition “Africa’s Business Heroes”.

The ANPI organizes Africa’s Business Heroes - now in its second year – a grassroots competition looking to spotlight and give a platform to entrepreneurs all over Africa, to showcase their business ideas and inspire others to do so.

The Jack Ma Foundation is committed to fostering African entrepreneurship, and has brought in some of the continent’s most esteemed business people and investors to help the search for Africa’s Business Heroes. Nicolas will be part of a select seven-judge panel who will interview candidates from a semi-final shortlist of 20 entrepreneurs based all over Africa.

In earlier qualification rounds, more than 150 prominent African business leaders acted as initial judges to whittle down more than 20,000 applicants to the final 50.

In the online semi-final, held on 28 and 29 August 2020, Nicolas will help to identify the ten finalists who will go forward to compete in a ‘pitch finale’ in front of Jack Ma himself, among others.

Nicolas has spent more than a decade at the forefront of African business. In 2007, he founded APO Group from his own living room using his own savings, and he has seen it grow into the leading pan-African communications and business consultancy, providing strategic advice to multinational organizations in diverse industries.

Now, in his role as Chairman of APO Group, Nicolas has committed to supporting the next generation of African entrepreneurs. In 2019, he embarked upon a series of conferences in some of Africa’s most prominent universities. He spoke about entrepreneurship, business and journalism to students in Uganda, Zambia, Senegal, Ethiopia, and South Africa.

Nicolas is also a member of several Advisory Boards, including: the African Energy Chamber, an organization that drives collaboration between African governments and the private sector in all areas of the energy industry; the Africa Hotel Investment Forum, the premier hotel investment conference in Africa; and the EurAfrican Forum, an action-oriented platform that aims to foster stronger collaboration between Europe and Africa.

The ANPI prize launched last year, and the competition in 2020 is even bigger and better. The prize fund has increased from $1 million to $1.5m, with each of the ten finalists receiving a share of it. The value of the Prize goes far beyond mere financial gain, and represents an extraordinary platform where all participants, and not just the winners, have benefited from expertise and insights garnered within the ANPI community of business leaders.

More than 22,000 applicants representing all 54 African countries applied for the chance to be the next African Business Hero - more than double the number of entries in 2019.

In another change from last year, applicants were also able to submit their applications and hold selection interviews in French, a further proof of the inclusive and pan-African spirit of the initiative. As a self-made Franco-Gabonese entrepreneur, Nicolas is well placed to help identify the very best of Francophone African start-ups and innovators.

“Jack Ma is at the very pinnacle of global entrepreneurship, so it is an honour to have been asked to judge this year’s semi-final of the ANPI competition,” said Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard, Founder and Chairman of APO Group. “It is fantastic to see the Jack Ma Foundation investing so much energy into African entrepreneurship, and I am delighted to see such a high level of talent from this year’s applicants as we get ready to crown the next African Business Heroes.”

Find out more about the ANPI competition and view the full list of semi-finalists here.

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New details released about the change of head of the Russian 'Wagner' group




A recent journalistic investigation by Bellingcat reports about the change of the head of the Wagner Private Military Group. This joint investigation by The Insider, Bellingcat and Der Spiegel notes that the new head of the group may be Konstantin Pikalov, better known as 'Mazay', writes Louis Auge.

According to media reports, Mazay participated in the campaign of the group in the Central African Republic (CAR) in early July 2018. From the context of correspondence extracted by journalists of the publication, which concerns his activities in Africa, it becomes clear how influential Mazay is - it is reported that the military adviser to the Central African President personally followed his recommendations.

The media suggest that he was the one who co-ordinated the information and ideological work with the team in the Central African Republic.

Documents obtained by Bellingcat in electronic correspondence show that if Valery Zakharov was formally a military advisor to the CAR President, then Mazay was responsible for important military issues.

For example, one email contains a scanned letter from the local provisional authorities in the town of Bambari to the Commander of the Russian Armed Forces in the Republic of South Africa.

The letter (dated 13 May 2019) requested an urgent and private meeting to "discuss a particularly delicate situation in the town of Bambari". The letters mention that the Russian military command has sent instructions to Mazay for further action.

The change of the Wagner leadership, according to some experts, may be associated with a change in the format of group.

Dmitry Utkin, who previously headed the company and was responsible for the Ukrainian and Syrian fronts, may have left the group due to changes in the methodology and vector of work.

The private military company has moved from direct participation in military operations to the strategy of military and political training and interaction. According to sources, instead of participating in hostilities, the Wagner group is currently providing consulting and training support in a number of geopolitical hot spots in African countries, including Libya.

The change of the head of the company may be explained by a change in the regional orientation of the company as well. It means increased attention by the group to the African region, in this configuration the change of manager seems reasonable.

Based on an analysis of the information revealed this investigation, one can also draw a possible conclusion that Dmitry Utkin, who led the private military company for a long time, may now have been be killed. At present, his phone number is not functioning, and his regular trips from Krasnodar to St. Petersburg have stopped.

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