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IGAD Council of Ministers Meeting Concluded
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Telecom Egypt, Nokia to build cloud infrastructure for IoT rollout in Egypt
Al Ahram Weekly - Egypt
The first Arab-European summit that concluded in Sharm El-Sheikh on Monday was a rare, unprecedented opportunity for an open and frank discussion on the many urgent challenges facing both sides. Whether combatting terrorism, the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, the ongoing wars in Libya, Syria and Yemen, or illegal immigration, climate change and economic development, all are vital issues that require close cooperation between Arab countries and European neighbours, considering either historic ties or geographic proximity.
Indeed, such a lengthy and complicated agenda requires many summits and meetings, but the beginning was in Sharm El-Sheikh with the participation of 50 Arab and European leaders. The summit’s slogan, “Investing in Stability,” rightly summed up the strategy that both sides need to work on in the coming months and years.
After the disintegration of several key Arab nations in recent years, the region needs stability, and that requires sincere efforts to achieve. As several key leaders made clear in their remarks during the summit, neither Arab countries nor Europe can stand still while human suffering continues on a wide scale in Syria or Yemen. Protecting the lives of the Syrian and Yemeni people should top the agenda of political settlements in those countries, and outside parties should refrain from using the two countries as fronts in proxy wars.
Meanwhile, the lack of a strong central government in Libya that unites the country does not only threaten the country’s neighbours who suffer the infiltration of suspected terrorists now using Libya as a safe haven, but also affects Europe through the flow of immigrants who represent another human tragedy. The same applies to Iraq whose stability influences the entire region, helping to reduce the dangers of growing sectarian tensions that followed the US invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003.
And while Israel can try to distract attention from its illegal occupation of Palestinian territories by highlighting the threats posed by Iran, both Europe and Arab countries are fully aware that without finding a just settlement to the long-standing plight of the Palestinian people, this region and Europe will not reach stability. This situation is also fuelled by the absence of political will towards a comprehensive and just settlement that would allow the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, despite the fact that the terms of reference of this settlement are well known and documented in international resolutions that are as old as the United Nations, confirmed and enhanced annually, no matter how long we wait for their implementation.
The threat of abhorrent terrorism is also spreading throughout the world as a dreadful epidemic, but Arab and European countries have been paying the heaviest price. Thus, both sides need to work together to assure that terrorist elements cannot move freely across their borders, exploiting some countries as safe havens until they resume their abominable terrorism, or receiving support and funding and hiding behind the veil of some suspicious entities. Terrorist organisations should not also be allowed to employ the media and popular social media networks on the internet to recruit new elements and incite violence and hatred.
Terrorism is very different from peaceful political opposition, which most Arab countries have gradually come to accept as a healthy phenomenon and a fundamental pillar of any sound political life. Egypt has put forward a comprehensive vision to eliminate the threat of terrorism and its negative effects on human rights. In this respect, Egypt’s top priority has been to maintain the nation’s unity and to protect human lives. Considering realities on the ground, and the threats we face, Egypt does not need to be lectured by any outside parties on its human rights record, as the key violation to human rights is to live under the threat of terrorism and the possible total disintegration of the state as an entity.
Arab countries acknowledge that there are no magic solutions to overcome these challenges, but the region’s modern history has proven that the continuity and maintenance of the nation state entity, and its reform if necessary, is the key to stability and the first step towards regaining security for peoples fearful over their future, opening the door to development efforts.
Therefore, cooperation between Arab and European nations should be strengthened in order to reinforce the institutions of the state to face the difficult challenges ahead, while respecting the principle of citizenship as the only means to confront sectarianism and extremism. The state is primarily responsible for controlling its borders, ensuring respect for the rule of law and safeguarding the lives and rights of its citizens. Thus, it is important to disregard any call, whatever its source or motive, that could lead to the destruction of states and associated institutions.
There is no question that these messages were delivered loud and clear by Arab nations at the Sharm El-Sheikh summit to their European partners. Action is what should come next.
The New Time – Rwanda
The original East African Community (Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania) began on a very successful note; it had one single currency inherited from the former colonial master, one airline, train service as well as free movement.
The education sector was also linked with faculties spread across all the three national universities. In fact, it was a dream coalition that served the people in the region equitably. EAC’s strength was in its unity.
When the divorce was consummated in 1977, everything went downhill, the first casualty being East African Airways that had been in existence since 1946. Each country created their own airlines which soon folded, save for Kenya Airways which, by the way, has KLM to thank for surviving.
Currently, the EAC aviation flag is being flown by Kenya Airways and RwandAir. Tanzania and Uganda are trying to get back on their feet while Burundi and South Sudan do not even have a scrapyard to talk about.
At the ongoing Africa Aviation Summit taking place in Kigali, experts said that the continued fragmentation of African airlines was the undoing of the aviation sector as was shown in the case of East African Airways.
Africa’s only hope is opening the skies, but some countries will need some convincing. Most of those still holding out are driven by deep suspicion that they will end up losing as they are not ready to take on more experienced players.
With just half of the African countries having appended their signatures on the Single African Air Transport Market, therein lies the elephant in the room. We still have a long way to go.
Al Ahram Weekly - Egypt
By: Awatef Abdel-Rahman
President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi’s recent meeting with a delegation of trainee African journalists brought to mind the leading role Egypt used to play on the African continent, in the main based on components set out below.
The first component of this role was Egypt’s broadcasting network addressing the African continent. This began in 1953 with a programme specially made for transmission to Africa and continued after July 1954 on a regular basis. Over the last 50 years, this network should have further developed further and extended beyond a single station even if this now transmits for 19 hours a day to East and West African in languages including Hausa, Swahili, Zulu, Afar, Somali, Fulani, Tigrinya and Amharic. The service needs to be brought up to date with current developments in the field brought about by the technological revolution.
The second component takes the form of the media offices in Egyptian embassies on the African continent. These have managed to interact effectively with the African media, including the press, radio and TV. Yet, although it has long been necessary to activate the role of Egypt’s cultural centres and media offices in the African countries and increase their number, especially in the Nile Basin and Horn of Africa, no steps have been taken in this regard.
There are now only seven Egyptian media offices remaining in Africa in Khartoum, Addis Ababa, Abuja, Kampala, Pretoria, Algeria and Rabat. Unfortunately, even these now risk being shut down, and such short-sighted policies may also lead to the shutting down of the Egyptian State Information Service (SIS) offices abroad.
The third component by which Egypt has been able to deepen its relations with Africa in the media field has been through broadcasting Egyptian television through Nilesat and Arabsat. This has been in addition to plans to launch an African satellite TV channel from Cairo, an initiative proposed by former president Hosni Mubarak during the Fifth African Summit held in the Libyan city of Sirte in July 2005. The channel’s headquarters were planned to be based in Egypt, and Egypt would have offered all the required technical facilities, including the use of its satellites. The channel was due to transmit programmes in the most widely-spoken African languages.
In November 2015, Egypt hosted a meeting to discuss the details of this proposed African satellite TV channel. The meeting was attended by chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC) Alpha Oumar Konare, media experts from AU countries, and representatives of African civil-society organisations. It was intended that the meeting should define the organisational and legal steps necessary for the establishment of the new channel, as well as the engineering and technical aspects.
It was also agreed that a report including the expert committee’s recommendations should be presented to the next African Summit due to be held in Khartoum in January 2006. The then Egyptian foreign minister, Ahmed Abul-Gheit, said that the initiative, which had the approval of the African countries, would aim to showcase the African continent as a whole with all its peoples and cultures. Konare was notably enthusiastic about it.
Abul-Gheit stressed the necessity of launching a satellite TV channel that would speak on behalf of Africa and reflect the social and cultural mix of the African countries. The channel would act as a kind of melting pot, he said, in which all African TV programmes would melt together. It would also play a major role in increasing the African peoples’ awareness of pressing African issues, for example in healthcare, and would help to convey a positive image of Africa to the outside world.
The channel was not the only Egyptian media initiative of this sort, as there was also the idea of transmitting the Nile TV International channel to the African countries. The project, however, did not see the light of day, owing to a lack of production in terms of news programmes, talk shows, dramas, and music or variety programmes that would suit the entire African audience.
It all ended when the question of financing was broached. This Egyptian ambition to reach all parts of the African continent thus turned into a disappointment, having been emptied of its content at the hands of the enemies of success that have negatively acted throughout the ages.
NEW OPPORTUNITIES: Egypt wasted a golden opportunity to launch an African satellite TV channel in 2006, when the ministries of information and foreign affairs disagreed on which ministry would finance a conference of African information ministers.
In the end, the conference was held in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, where the idea was pushed aside. However, during his recent meeting with African media figures, President Al-Sisi made clear that Egypt was more committed than ever to a policy of openness when dealing with the African countries.
This is based on principles such as the non-interference in the African countries’ affairs, the respect of their sovereignty, the exertion of efforts to promote cooperation and development, and the presentation of African issues in different international organisations. Egypt’s current membership of the UN Security Council, the AU Peace and Security Council, and the UN Human Rights Council make it ideally suited to play this role.
Al-Sisi noted that Egypt had been keen in the past to support the liberation of the African countries and their peoples’ right to self-determination. Egypt was still keen on backing comprehensive and sustainable development in Africa, he said, and on promoting social and economic progress for all the continent’s peoples. Al-Sisi also stressed his willingness to participate in all AU summits in order to activate cooperation on a continental level and to pay bilateral visits to brotherly African states.
There are various issues that await decisive steps by Egypt, including the country’s political and economic relations with the Nile Basin countries. This necessitates taking certain positive steps regarding such countries through increasing the number of scholarships offered to African students by Al-Azhar or other Egyptian universities. The SIS should also conduct training courses for African journalists and media workers at Egyptian institutions and organise visits to Egypt. Such steps will support efforts to create a deeper Egyptian-African rapprochement in future.
The programmes offered by the Egyptian African Media Training Institute should also be developed. Since 1977, the institute has offered training courses in English and French to nearly 4,000 African trainees. The same should be done at the African Journalists Union that Egypt has been hosting since November 1974 with the membership of 12 African journalist unions.
Egypt should develop greater links with the African countries in the field of media, including by providing greater space for African issues on Egyptian TV, including the issue of the Nile’s water and the proper management of the Nile Basin. A weekly radio programme has been transmitted to Africa for years, but this is not enough today. Apart from the Nile News channel that broadcasts a weekly programme on Africa, Egyptian television does little or nothing else.
The role of the Egyptian Radio and Television Union should not be limited to organising training courses for African journalists. There should also be a special channel addressing the African continent. The 23 media agreements between Egypt and the African countries should also be activated to help deepen the strategic relations between Egypt and the African continent.
Al Ahram Weekly - Egypt
By: Ahmed Eleiba
The Egyptian satellite, Egyptsat-A, launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, has settled into its designated orbit, Egypt and Russia announced soon after the launch.
“The satellite has reached its designated orbit, everything works well, telemetry is being transmitted, the solar panels have opened,” reported Vladimir Ustimenko, head of the Press Bureau of Russia’s State Space Corporation Roscosmos.
In a press conference in Cairo, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Khaled Abdel-Ghaffar confirmed the successful launch and placement in orbit.
The process was closely watched by aerospace and other authorities in Cairo and Moscow, especially in light of two previous incidents. In 2010, the first in this series of satellites, Egyptsat-1, slipped out of its orbit and contact with it was lost. In 2016, a joint Egyptian-Russian committee revealed that Egyptsat-2 had been unresponsive to commands since mid-April 2015, a year after being launched from the Baikonur space station in April 2014. The compensation from a Russian insurance agency largely paid for the production of Egyptsat-A, which cost approximately $100 million.
The new satellite will serve scientific research and development in Egypt in many ways. In an interview with Sputnik news agency, Higher Education Minister Abdel-Ghaffar said that Egyptsat-A, a significantly upgraded model of its predecessor, is equipped with more sophisticated and precise imaging and tracking technologies. The data it transmits will improve meteorological forecasting and assist in the development of early warning systems for natural disasters such as floods and landslides.
The new satellite will simultaneously support Egypt’s role in Africa in the fields of scientific research and development. According to reports of its technical specifications, Egyptsat-A belongs to a more advanced generation than its counterparts in the Arab region and the continent.
Earlier this month the Executive Council of the African Union (AU) approved Egypt’s bid to host the headquarters of the African Space Agency. As officials in Cairo have noted, this represents an additional vote of confidence in Egypt’s continental leadership at a time when Cairo holds the AU chair. According to Minister of Higher Education Abdel-Ghaffar, there are a number of steps that Egypt needs to take in order to host the African Space Agency. One is to pass legislation governing a national Egyptian space agency to follow through on the Egyptian parliament’s decision, in December 2017, to create a body to be tasked with planning and creating the infrastructure for a domestic aerospace technology industry.
Practical measures towards these ends are already in progress and considerable progress has been made in the development of the required infrastructure and technical facilities. Egypt presented these achievements to the AU’s Scientific, Technical and Research Commission (STRC) in October as part of the review of Egypt’s scientific, logistical, technological and financial capacities for hosting the African Space Agency.
In addition to meeting or exceeding the technical criteria specified by the AU commission, a number of other factors allowed the Egyptian bid to prevail over others. These included the allocation of a suitable plot of land on which to build the agency’s headquarters, $10 million to establish it, and an offer to cover its running costs for at least five years.
The development and launch of Egyptsat-A also boosts Egyptian-Russian relations which have been growing closer in many fields. Hussein Al-Shafie, advisor to the Russian Space Agency in the Middle East, says Egypt’s National Authority for Remote Sensing and Space Sciences has already acquired a collection of new-generation satellites as part of its drive to possess the latest aerospace technology.
Meanwhile, Cairo and Paris have agreed to launch a satellite for security-related purposes. Egypt also explored the possibilities for cooperation with China during President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi’s visit to Beijing to take part in the China-African Summit in September. According to Alaa Al-Nahri, deputy director of the UN Regional Centre for Space Science and Technology, China could offer a manufacturing partnership that will give Egypt the opportunity to contribute up to 50 per cent of the satellite and offer the opportunity for technological transfers. He said that China will assemble some parts and send them to Egypt while Egypt will assemble a portion of the components domestically at the assembly plant that Egypt began to construct east of Cairo in 2015. It is the first such plant in the Arab region.
Egypt is progressing in leaps and bounds towards the acquisition of the technologies it needs to advance in the various realms of scientific research and, simultaneously, the technologies it needs to serve its security requirements. It has also begun to explore manufacturing these technologies through partnerships with the countries that originally created and produced them. In addition to placing these technologies at the service of national interests, Egypt will also use them to help realise the collective aims and aspirations of the AU.