Kenya: UK Foreign Secretary to Visit Kenya
Rwanda: Defence Minister Urges Youth to Combat Genocide Ideology
Ghana: President Unveils Plan for 'Ghana Beyond Aid'
Zimbabwe: Zim Workers Mark Workers' Day
Tunisian-French military diving exercise in Bizerte
L’Economiste Maghrébin to hold Friday 21st Annual Forum in Tunis
Egypt's astute move towards China's Belt and Road Initiative
Al Ahram Weekly – Egypt
President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi concluded this week one of his most successful visits to China, reflecting his vision of the need to build diverse, strategic partnerships with key world powers in order to benefit the process of economic and social development in Egypt. Al-Sisi attended the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRFIC), China’s ambitious project in which Egypt is looking forward to playing a central role.
Considering the priority Cairo has given to developing ties with China, evident through six visits to the Chinese capital by Al-Sisi over the past five years, the Egyptian leader was one of the few participants who delivered a keynote speech at the Leaders’ Roundtable Summit. He also held several important summits with participating world leaders, topped with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, President of the Swiss Confederation Ueli Maurer, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and United Arab Emirates Vice President and ruler of Dubai Sheikh Rashed Al-Maktoum.
Heads of state and government from 37 countries and other representatives from around the world took part in the three-day BRFIC event. Al-Sisi’s participation in the summit, and the meetings he held in Beijing were clear evidence of the progress Egypt achieved over the past five years amid very difficult domestic and regional conditions. The Chinese President Xi Jinping and other world leaders Al-Sisi met confirmed their support for the development process in Egypt, lauded the economic reforms introduced by the government, as well as its success in achieving security and stability and implement several mega projects that provide promising investment opportunities.
Al-Sisi expressed keenness to be an active partner in China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which he said aims at strengthening comprehensive development for BRFIC countries and fulfilling the aspirations of their peoples for stability and prosperity.
Egypt’s current chairmanship of the African Union (AU) and its central role in the Cairo-based Arab League will further allow Egypt to boost cooperation with Beijing and to back proposed development projects under the Belt and Road Initiative at the African and Arab levels.
In his meeting with the Chinese leader, Al-Sisi confirmed Egypt’s interest in enhancing partnerships within the Belt and Road Initiative and to expand its contribution to promoting sustainable development and extending cultural, technical and intellectual bridges among nations and peoples. He also asserted Egypt’s desire to benefit from China’s development expertise, paving the way towards an overall economic renaissance.
However, relations with China, as well as other major world powers, should always be balanced and beneficial to both sides. While Egypt welcomes mega Chinese investments in national projects in Egypt, such as the New Administrative Capital or the Suez Canal Development Corridor, Cairo also hopes that the Chinese government will take further steps towards encouraging Egyptian exports and their entry into the Chinese market, which could in turn contribute to cutting the trade deficit between the two countries. Cairo also is eager to benefit from the growing advances China made in technology, by introducing new technologies in Egypt and providing training for Egyptian engineers and workers.
The talks held between Al-Sisi and Russian President Putin were also of great importance, considering Russia’s vital role in several regional issues, particularly in Syria, Libya and efforts to revive long-stalled peace talks between Palestinians and Israelis. Bilateral cooperation between Egypt and Russia has also reached unprecedented levels, especially after the signing of the strategic partnership agreement between the two countries in October 2018. Moscow is currently a key partner in several fields and future projects, notably the establishment of the Russian industrial zone in East Port Said area and Al-Dabaa nuclear power plant. What Egyptians expect from Russia, hopefully very soon, is a decision to resume flights between Moscow and Red Sea resorts of Sharm El-Sheikh and Hurghada after beefing up security in the airports of both cities to the highest international standards.
Al-Sisi’s participation in this important summit in China was testimony by the world on the positive changes that have been taking place in Egypt, as well as growing investment opportunities in the Egyptian market. All this will certainly benefit the people of Egypt who patiently bared the burdens of economic reform, and will soon harvest the fruits, through improvement in their living standards, job opportunities and social services, topped with better education and healthcare.
The Herald – Zimbabwe
Zimbabwean workers joined the rest of the world in commemorating the International Workers’ Day, commonly known as May Day, yesterday.
This day is commemorated globally on the 1st of May of every calendar year to deliberate on matters affecting the welfare of workers.
To motivate the workers, the Head of State and Government, President Mnangagwa, in his address to the nation, paid tribute to the employees in building the national economy and sustaining their families under very difficult circumstances.
It is indeed encouraging to note that as the country joins other nations in celebrating this day, it is Government that has shown consistence in making efforts to address the welfare of its employees through awarding them a significant salary adjustment.
It has also gone further to offer them non-monetary incentives such as housing stands and expansion of their academic frontiers — some developments rarely found in the private sector.
It is disillusioning to note that in some countries and Zimbabwe included, the workers’ agenda is usually hijacked by some opportunities who see them as fodder to nurture their political careers.
But for many workers in some parts of the world, and in Zimbabwe in particular, yesterday’s commemorations were more of observing than celebrating. This is so because in many low- and middle-income economies, wage inequality remains high and wages are frequently inadequate to cover the needs of workers and their families.
It’s a well-known thread across many countries, but the Zimbabwean worker’s situation has its fair share of peculiarities. Official figures indicate that the country’s Poverty Datum Line (PDL) has just gone above $800, but workers that earn above that new PDL are not in the majority.
According to the Zimbabwe National Statistical Agency (ZimStat), the total consumption poverty line (TCPL) for an average of five persons stood at $872,94 in March 2019, which basically means that an average household required that much to purchase both food and non-food items for them not to be deemed poor.
The March figure was a 5,53 percent increase compared to the February 2019 figure of $827,19.
So, clearly the PDL is going up, and justifiably so considering the spate of price increases that has hit the local economy over the past few months.
However, what has not followed in tandem are wages, both in the public and private sectors — and these are heart-rending experience workers find themselves in.
And when all this happens, the Government has shown its hand through a civil service wage increase that came into effective on April 1, 2019, a development that a number of companies in the private sector can take a leaf from.
But wage increases can only go so far in chasing unjustified price hikes. Some observers have gone to the extent of arguing that it is not really feasible for most employers in the country to implement PDL-related remuneration due to low productivity.
Instead, they have called for productivity-related remuneration because “the PDL is an external variable outside the labour equation and has no relationship with the wage rate.”
Basic economics say wages should be determined by the level of productivity, and paying wages beyond the productive wage can have the negative effect of driving many companies to bankruptcy.
To whatever extent this may be true or justifiable, the fact on the ground is that workers are not in a good place at the moment.
And a short-term solution to the present wages problem is that Government can consider offering market subsidies to reduce the burden on the consumer as the real problem of low productivity is being addressed. That is why the proposal to inject money in the production of cheap goods for the poor is a welcome development.
Nevertheless, there are things that companies can do, at shop floor, to improve remuneration and the working conditions of their workers.
But this also requires the workers themselves to establish effective workers’ committees, which are critical in the collective bargaining processes.
Collective bargaining is a negotiation mechanism used by employees to engage their employers, and typical issues that emerge as points of divergence or disagreement between workers and employees include: hours, wages, benefits, working conditions, and the rules of the workplace.
Workers’ committees provide means of presentation and discussion with management of employees’ requirements and grievances.
Al Ahram Weekly – Egypt
By: Ehab Azab
The study of history is the outcome of the uncountable questions raised by the past, making the many aspects of learning history itself questionable. Until today, historians rely on books, scientific or cultural journals, and newspapers, among other things, to provide a glimpse into what took place in the past or to offer an explanation of a historical event. With today’s technological breakthroughs, there are new ways of drawing attention to history.
In the past, one main purpose of documenting history was to praise a ruler or glorify a state. Therefore, historians did not always pay much attention to documenting the daily lives of human beings, and history became selective. Today, the study of history is more progressive, and it is defined as the science that studies the conditions of past communities, or the study of human evolution, and the achievements of civilisations and their impacts.
Books of history are stories narrated by historians who provide treasures of knowledge and take us back to the past. This is not all that matters to historians today, however, as the contemporary definition of history is formed out of the need to not only obtain documentation about the past, but also to present an interpretation of its events.
Why do we care about history? The study of history can be conducted for scientific purposes, or to know the events of the past, or to examine the positive and negative sides of the history of mankind, or simply because it is a vital cultural component of any population. All the above can provide us with answers to the questions we face today; in fact, a realistic answer would be that all the above explain our interest in history.
But no matter what the reason, history is a key ingredient in educating societies and guiding them to understanding the rules of peace and war, the management of state affairs, and planning for the future. Following on from this point, and because of its connection to state affairs, the concept of history is transformed from being a theoretical science to a practical one.
Thinking about history often comes in the form of questions like what is history and to whom does it belong. Such questions are necessary for the presence of history. If the past was problem- or gap-free, then the mission of historians would be complete, but in fact history is considered as some sort of debate between the past and the present and between what has already happened and what will happen in the future.
Historians tell stories to convince readers of ideas. They aim to provide the truth even if it offends some. They present works that aim at attracting attention, in supplying a captivating scenario that fits the context of the past. However, history is not just a story being narrated: it is confusing and disorganised, reaching the same degree of complexity as the life we live today. It offers a feeling of confusion through the endeavour to reach a model, context, meaning and story that is easy to understand.
The definition and content of history has changed dramatically since the times of the ancient Greek historian Herodotus until today, but the real change came in the transition between the Industrial Revolution and the contemporary state. This transformation defined history as one of the humanities and the sciences in its modern form, and it acts as one of the mechanisms of power that works on controlling society through education and rearranging the memory of that society and its perceptions.
If history has changed throughout the ages, why can’t it change again now? The past can be retrieved for the present, and a connection between them can be established, especially because the process of writing history is full of questions, and we are always drawn back to the past, looking to history for information about people who did not live the way we live today.
To grasp the idea of connecting the worlds of the past and present together, we need to understand the transformation resulting from various technological developments in the world of documenting history. Printing, for example, changed the life of mankind. So did the telegraph and television in increasing literacy and culture, changing the nature of communication between societies and transmitting events and facts to people no matter where they were located.
By applying such technologies, documents came to light that were an excellent means of recording and narrating history, especially in World Wars I and II.
DOCUMENTATION: In the past, folk tales played the role of today’s documentaries in entertaining audiences, but their narrators often added their own touches to the story, an act similar to what happens today in history on television.
As the development of the human skill of documentation emerges out of the will to make use of the accumulated stock of knowledge and human experience, history can be seen as the memory of a community. Therefore, the future of history will not rely only on texts available in books, but it will also take new forms such as illustrated materials that may include pictures and graphics or CDs or DVDs of events.
In the past, nations generally stored their historical documents in national archives. Today, each country seeks to provide such documents to everyone, often making them available on the Internet. Manuscripts are often available through digital libraries, and every nation in the future will likely have its own comprehensive history websites. The role of historians in this case will be confined to academic studies and specialised research, or in helping in the provision of historical material on the Internet, in addition to explaining history and its lacunae.
The US Library of Congress has become interested in this subject and has sought to establish a universal heritage library in cooperation with the Bibliotheca Alexandrina as a strategic partner and the UN cultural organisation UNESCO. This library, the “World Digital Library”, contains items from the heritage of each nation, and each participates by submitting its best historical and archival documents.
Establishing history websites, digital libraries, or a historical memory for each country on the Internet has many advantages. It responds to young people’s attempts to form their culture and knowledge through digital media and not the previously used forms of transmitting knowledge and science alone. The variety of historical sources and materials available also makes the Internet a perfect method to connect materials together and provide integrated results for only one search item from various entries.
Radio and television broadcasting, Internet archives, journalism, photographs, films, and documentaries are today’s historical sources, in addition to the traditional ones of books, periodicals, documents, coins and stamps. All these means can be searched to find targeted objects on history websites.
Main subjects can also be used as search categories on the homepages of history websites, and they may include political, economic, social, cultural and scientific affairs, in addition to major events and public figures. Searches can also be carried out according to selected materials, such as pictures, documents, films, audio recordings, speeches, newspapers, magazines, maps, stamps, books, medals, covers, posters and advertisements.
All the above should be enhanced by objective historical data that simply explain those things that are related to the country in question. In addition, a special icon can be added to include articles and studies conducted by historians to explain a certain issue or event.
Reading history from books might only reflect the views of their writers. A book does not interact with the reader, is limited in distribution, and is of interest only to the current generations. A history website, on the other hand, can offer readers the opportunity to compose their own views through the available material; its information can be corrected and modified; and it is interactive and enables readers to add their own material. It is not limited, and it has a variety of applications that serve one subject.
History website-users can interact with each other via e-mail, or by accessing the subject of any historical event or matter for discussion, especially controversial historical ones. Digital websites can also be used as national registers for keeping what is related to the history of a nation in a memory form that does not vanish or burn or disappear for any other reason.
In the same way that documents can be saved in national archives, televised materials can be archived at television stations, and money is kept in central banks, a digital library becomes the keeper of materials related to the memory of the nation. This digital historical memory is a sort of film that interacts with the memory of its spectators who will likely forget some of its scenes and remember others in certain situations.
Such historical memory will take nations back in years to retrieve the past that they were not part of. They did not witness their countries at the beginning of their modern renaissance, and they did not observe their ancestors’ fight for rights. It will be possible to display scenes from the daily lives of our great grandfathers in detail. We will be able to visit their cities and villages and see them as actual people who fight, suffer, and struggle.
This is how the future of history will be: images from that past brought to the future generations through computer screens. I believe that this should be the way we introduce history to society in the coming years.
THE MEMORY OF HUMANITY: One question that arises every now and then regards the question of how knowledge grows.
Today, a new concept has been proposed that challenges the prevailing notion that biology alone has led to the evolution of mental skills. It demonstrates that abilities such as creativity, linguistic skills and work abilities are the outcome of a continuous process of cultural interaction with the world we live in, be it with other people or other physical objects.
This notion maintains that the human brain is in a constant state of flux, interacting with every variable offered by life, whether cultural or in the form of objects or new technologies. This is similar to how humans once interacted with the innovation of papyrus to record their daily lives and elevated transactions between them to a higher status of civilisational achievement. It is also their daily interaction with mobile phones today, with their multiple technologies that have changed concepts of communication and information transfer.
Archaeologists assume that the first humans appeared on Earth around 200,000 years ago, of which 140,000 years passed without any great transformations or the emergence of steps predicting progress. What led to this transformation in the human ability to think and innovate, such as led to the development of stone tools and cave drawings?
This question created much controversy among the scholars at a debate held at Cambridge University in the UK in 2007 entitled “The Wise Human Brain”. Those maintaining that the human brain had developed biologically said that it had taken humans 140,000 years for their brains to grow. However, during this long period of time, human communities formed, groups became tribes, and humans gained experience in moving as groups in forests and wildernesses.
The experience of dealing with their surroundings required many years for the early humans’ memory to begin retaining memories of the past, learning about the present, and planning and conceptualising the future. And the difference between humans and animals, in terms of mental ability, is the ability to translate human communal life into a force for the good of all humans. This is far more effective than the motion of groups of animals, whose role is either limited to escaping other predatory animals or launching individual attacks on other animals. Humans early on learnt to cooperate in many tasks, such as using the united force of a number of individuals to move heavy objects or to hunt together.
Here the gap between humans and animals appeared, for the latter are only able to imitate, whereas the former managed to develop their skills over many years. The ability to learn is the most prominent human ability, and it helped the early humans to develop their memory and build cumulative experiences on its repertoire, whereas animals learn from random observations of what other animals do. It is very rare for animals to recognise the value of innovation.
Human beings early on developed the ability to predict the intentions of others. In the process of instruction, for instance, both teacher and student realise the intentions of the other. The student’s perception of the teacher is not a random observation, for the alert student adds to himself more than just observation and develops a form of reasoning about what is being presented. The process of learning thus becomes more effective.
Dwight Read, an anthropologist at UCLA in the US, has maintained that the decisive moment in the history of the development of human civilisation emerged 10,000 years ago, when the relationship between humans and the objects surrounding them changed drastically. It was during this time that groups of hunters and gatherers exchanged tools for the domestication of animals. They started building barns for these animals and cultivating and reaping crops, instead of simply picking fruit off trees.
With this, human actions turned into accomplishments. Read adds that “solving problems became an alternative to moving from place to place”. This led to the emergence of the ability to learn systematically, the ability to work, and the ability to solve problems. The ability of the mind to adjust with cultural changes emerged, and human genius was born.
Posing another question about the relationship between the human ability to innovate and language, researcher Dietrich Stout scanned the brains of three anthropologists making tools similar to those of the Stone Age. He concluded that the areas of the anthropologists’ brains that became active during this process were the self-same areas used in language. Stout maintained that “the formation of a complex sentence and the making of a tool are similar challenges, and hence the main process underlying both is similar as well, for it depends on overlapping areas of the brain.”
Scott Frey from the University of Oregon in the US studied patients with brain injuries and found after scanning healthy individuals that the areas of the left hemisphere of the brain are decisive in the human ability to use tools. These areas also function as a driving force for our ability to produce signs and symbols, and if these areas sustain damage, the human ability to move is impaired.
The speech areas in the human brain show that language is a principle component in humans, just like the other senses that have similar centres in the brain. Thus, it is possible to claim that language is a purely human innovation, a statement that may need further proof as to its validity. Language, at the beginning, was as limited as the human need of it. It was only slowly that humans developed language, adding new vocabulary items to it that reflected the development of daily life. Language is thus a living organism that evolves and daily acquires something new.
At the beginning of human civilisation language was nothing but a means of communication between individuals, then between one group and other groups, and then among nations. With the increase and advancement of humans, languages diversified and interacted with surrounding environments.
The ability of humans to think distinguishes them from other beings. The areas responsible for thinking are located in the outer cortex of the brain. Together with the centres of memory in the brain, they help us to connect the past and the present and visualise the future.
The question is why the individual did not develop his memory biologically as the earliest primitive humans or the caveman did. Some scientists believe that memory in these early humans developed biologically. Or were humans created with memory as an integral part of them?
THE FUTURE OF HISTORY: The past raises many questions, and it has a science that studies it, namely history, which in turn has also become an area of many interesting questions.
For these reasons, history books are buried treasures. They are detailed works narrated by historians. These books often overwhelm us, for they bring us happiness and make us nostalgic for the past. This is not all there is to do for contemporary historians, however, for we do not only need to present the past: we also need to explain and interpret it. To attain a broader context for a story is not simply limited to its sequential events, but relates also to the significance of these events, in particular since the aims of history today are much broader and more diversified.
Historians narrate stories, seeking to convince with their ideas. The methods they follow are based on truth; they present it fairly, even though it may offend. They also have to arrange their stories chronologically and geographically, presenting works that attract attention in an attempt to present an interesting and entertaining narrative that is in agreement with the past.
We may conclude that the past is not merely the story that is narrated, but that it is in its entirety muddled and disarranged to a certain extent and as complicated as the life we are living now. History creates a feeling of bewilderment, due to the endeavour to find a model, a context, a meaning and stories for the reader.
The New Times – Rwanda
By: RAO Hongwei
The Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation has just concluded in Beijing.
The three-day Forum that ran from 25th to 27th April attracted 40 top leaders and over 6,000 participants from more than 150 countries and 90 international organisations.
During the forum, a total of 283 items of practical outcomes were achieved and cooperation agreements worth more than 64 billion US dollars were signed.
What’s more, President Xi Jinping announced a raft of new measures for reform and opening up, including broadening market access, strengthening intellectual property rights protection, increasing imports and setting up new free trade pilot zones.
These are seen by all sides as significant opportunities for the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which aims to enhance connectivity and practical cooperation.
Since the BRI was firstly put forward in 2013, Belt and Road cooperation has opened up new space for trade and investment, produced lager platform for closer ties among countries, and become a widely welcomed international public good.
A general connectivity framework consisting of six corridors, six connectivity routes and multiple countries and ports has been put in place. 127 countries and 29 international organisations have signed cooperation documents with China on jointly building the Belt and Road.
The goods trade volume between China and countries and regions along the BRI surpassed 6 trillion US dollars from 2013 to 2018.
To developing areas like Africa, China strongly supports comprehensive and multi-modal infrastructure connectivity. For example, the Chinese-built and funded Nairobi-Mombasa railway has ferried more than 2.5 million passengers and nearly 3.9 million tons of cargo since its launch in May 2017.
Kenyan President Kenyatta praised this grand project and listed it among the top 13 most magnificent railway tours for 2019.
From the start, the BRI follows the sound principle of consultation and cooperation for shared benefits. Plenty of facts are proof that the BRI is not a “debt trap” that countries may fall into, but an “economic pie” that benefits the locals.
No one is in a better position to repudiate the so-called debt trap allegation than the BRI participants themselves. Facts and figures speak louder.
Take Africa for example; according to figures compiled by the World Bank and John Hopkins University, between 2000 and 2016, Africa owed China 115 billion US dollars, less than 2 percent of the total low and middle income countries’ debt stock.
Decisions made under the BRI framework, whether project selection or investment and financing cooperation, are all based on full consultation among the parties and on the basis of conducting due risk assessment and investment feasibility study.
Just as President Kagame has told media recently, “China’s engagement in Africa is good. In Rwanda, we know our capacity and which Chinese proposals we should accept, so as not to be overloaded with debt.”
China and participating countries have jointly adopted the Guiding Principles on Financing the Development of the Belt and Road, which highlights the need to ensure debt sustainability in project financing.
In case the cooperation partners face difficulties in servicing debts, China will properly address through friendly consultation, and never press them for debt payment.
During the just concluded Forum, the Chinese side has published the Debt Sustainability Framework for Participating Countries of the BRI.
As a matter of fact, no country has got trapped in a debt crisis since its participation in the BRI. Quite on the contrary, it is through participating in BRI cooperation that many countries have got out of the trap of “no development”.
China and Rwanda enjoyed very strong relations in recent years. During President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Rwanda last July, the Chinese and Rwandan governments signed an MoU on promoting BRI cooperation, giving new impetus to the bilateral relations.
China is willing to help land-locked Rwanda to transform into land-linked. In March this year, two China-funded projects kicked off --- the upgrading of the Bugesera International Airport Road and the Huye-Kibeho-Munini Road.
In upcoming June, RwandaAir will launch direct flight from Kigali to Guangzhou. As Chinese Ambassador to Rwanda, I believe that BRI initiative will help Rwanda to remove development bottlenecks and implement the 2020 and 2050 version for sustainable development.
The BRI will be an important platform to build a community with a shared future between China and Rwanda.