Sunday, 24 August 2014

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Africa-wide seed institution revives efforts to transform African seed systems
Abidjan, 18 August 2014 - The African Seed Network (ASN), created in 1998 by 40 African countries with the support of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, has held its first Scientific and Technical Committee, and Governing Board meetings from 11 to 14 August 2014 in Abidjan, to discuss and define a continental strategy for developing effective and efficient seed systems in Africa.
Based in Abidjan, ASN is a unique pan-African seed-specialised institution created to serve as focal point for the coordination of all activities related to the Africa seed sector. Since then, challenges faced by the sector have grown in number and complexity, and the need for amore solid institution that guides the process of seed development and advocate for it is felt more than ever before.
Mandated by the African Union
During its first ten years of operation, ASN received demands from its member countries exceeding by far its capacities. Additional attention was put on the Network when in 2007 the African Union Commission (AUC) choseitfor hosting the newly defined African Seed and Biotechnology Programme (ASBP). Supported by the African Union (AU) 54 member states,ASBP provides a comprehensive framework for the seed sector development in the continent.Since then, and in spite of the crucial importance of seedsfor the overall wealth of the agricultural sector, ASN hasstruggled with inadequate resource base, loose membership and outdated mandate and structure.
“There is the need for an independent and strong structure that can tackle the current challenges of the seed sector development in Africa” said Janet Edeme, Head of the Rural Economy Division at AUC. “ASN has great comparative advantagesto take up those challenges, and the current restructuring that the institution is undergoing is the first step towards achieving significant transformations in the African seed sector”.
High level discussions between AU, FAO and the Government of Côte d’Ivoire resulted in appointing Dr KouameMiezan as the new Executive Director of ASN in December 2013. Taking this challenge at face value, Miezan started by gathering a task force of internationally renowned experts to help him with the renewal of the institution. As a result, on 11 and 12 August at Abidjaninternational seed professionalsand representatives of development partnerscame together for the first ASN Scientific andTechnical Committee meetingto debate on the best way to restructure, strengthen and run ASN for full and effective functioning including its lead role in the implementation of ASBP.

“Due to the highly technical nature of activities in the seed sector, it is necessary that ASN relies on a body of multidisciplinary experts encompassing the whole gamut of the seed sector components,” Miezan said. “But strategic oversight and far-reaching vision will be the key elementsin determining the success of this continent-wide enterprise.”
At a higher level of oversight, ASN has put in place a Governing Board made up of experts who have excelled in both technical and administrative domains of the seed sector. The ASN GoverningBoard, will meet once a year and, assisted with the outputs of the ASN Scientific and Technical Committee, will decide on all policy issues, agreements, budgets and staffing and major programmes and projects that are to be undertaken by ASN.
The first meeting of the GoverningBoard was held on 13 and 14 August, and allowed firm decisions on the various aspects, among which:
·         the revision of ASN’s mission, vision, structure and strategy;
·         the current state of ASN membership and ways towards its consolidation and expansion;
·         thecurrent state of ASN finances and possible ways of resource mobilization.

The meetings paid tribute to the Ivorian government which has sustained ASN during its difficult formative years and still continues support.
The meetings have led to the validation of acomprehensive strategyon seed sector development aiming at increasing quantity and quality of seeds available to farmers.
Other decisions relating to the strengthening and restructuring of ASN were also adopted.
The need to rename the Africa Seed Network was also felt due to the major structural and functional changes that had been decided, and therefore the Governing Board discussed the issue and agreed that the new name should from now on be “AfricaSeeds”.
A major achievement of the four-day meetings has been the adoption by ASN of the resolution to actively and effectively contribute to AU’s goal to achieve sustainable food and nutrition security by 2025 through the strengthening of national seed systems.


Cotonou, Benin  - 21 Aout 2014 – Dr. Nassirou Bako-Arifari, Ministre des Affaires Etrangères, de l’Intégration Africaine, de la Francophonie et des Béninois de l’Extérieur, a reçu cet après-midi à son bureau au siège du ministère, les membres de la délégation de l’Union Africaine en visite de travail à Cotonou, Benin, dans le cadre de la campagne de sensibilisation de la société civile aux élections de la deuxième Assemblée du Conseil Economique Social et Culturel (ECOSOCC) de l’Union africaine (AU).
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Au cours de l’audience, à laquelle ont pris part les haut cadres du ministère en charge des dossiers de l’intégration africaine, de la promotion de la société civile et des questions africaines, Dr. Bako-Arifari a souligné l’importance du rôle de premier ordre qui revient à l’ECOSOCC dans l’encadrement des populations africaines, mettant l’accent sur la nécessité d’accorder tout l’intérêt a la jeunesse et aux femmes dans le processus d’intégration de l’Afrique des peuples.

Le ministre a, par ailleurs, invité les structures spécialisées de son ministère à tout mettre en œuvre pour réussir la campagne de sensibilisation de toutes les composante de la société civile béninoise, y compris les medias. « L’ECOSOCC est notre machine à idées », a, en l’occurrence, dit le ministre soulignant que « notre stabilité dépend de notre capacité à répondre aux attentes de nos jeunes». Dr.  Nassirou Bako-Arifari, s’est en conclusion, réjouis de la reprise des activités de l’ECOSOCC et de la volonté de sensibiliser la société civile Africaine en vue d’une plus grande participation aux élections de la 2eme  Assemblée Générale. « Je ferais tout pour être à vos côtés » a encore, dit le ministre.

Exposant les objectifs de la campagne de sensibilisation, M. Jalel Chelba,  Chef de la Division de la Société Civile du Département de la Société Civile et de la Diaspora de la Commission de l’Union Africaine (CIDO) a, en sa qualité de chef de la délégation, composée de Mme Habiba Mejri Cheikh, Directrice de l’Information et de la Communication de la Commission de l’Union Africaine et Mme Salimata Porquet, membre de l’Assemblée de l’ECOSOCC, exprimé la gratitude de l’Union Africaine pour les efforts soutenus consentis par le Benin en vue de conforter les efforts de l’organisation continentale  en matière d’intégration et de développement du continent. M. Chelba a par ailleurs félicité le ministre pour sa reconduction à la tête de la diplomatie béninoise, suite au remaniement ministériel intervenu aujourd’hui.

La réunion à laquelle ont été conviées toutes les organisations de la société civile Béninoise, se tiendra demain, vendredi 22 aout 2014, à partir de 10:00 à la salle de réunions du Ministère des Affaires Etrangères, de l’Intégration Africaine, de la Francophonie et des Béninois de l’Extérieur.

Demain, vendredi 24 aout se tiendra dans la capitale Béninoise, Cotonou, la troisième réunion de sensibilisation concernant les pays de la région ouest de l’Afrique. 

Notons que le coup d’envoi de cette campagne de sensibilisation, initiée par la Direction de la Citoyenneté et de la Diaspora de la Commission de l'UA (CIDO), conformément à la décision de Conseil Exécutif (EX.CL/Dec.849(XXV), adoptée lors de la 23eme  Session ordinaire de l'Assemblée de l'UA, Malabo, Guinée équatoriale, a été donné le 12 courant, à Lusaka, Zambie. La campagne se poursuivra jusqu’au mois de septembre et couvrira, à terme, les cinq régions d’Afrique. 

Telecom operators on the spot over unsolicited SMS

Some of the unsolicited messages that telecom companies keep sending on the mobile phones of their clients.
Regular unsolicited text messages from telecom operators and bulk short messaging service (SMS) providers have not gone down well with a huge section of subscribers of their services, with some of them terming them a nuisance. 
The text messages mostly used to market products and services not only of the telecommunication firms but also of popular products in the market rarely come with an unsubscribe option leaving  mobile users with no option but receive and delete them.  
Edwin Tushabe, a businessman in Kigali, terms the text messages as a nuisance that refuses to go away.
 “I have never subscribed  to these messages. Most of the time, I even have no interest in what is being advertised and this makes it even more annoying,” he said.
According to Rwanda Utilities and Regulatory Authority (Rura), sending unsolicited text messages without an unsubscribe option contraves the law relating to electronic messages, electronic signatures and electronic transactions.
Speaking to The New Times, Engineer Jean Baptiste Mutabazi, the head of communication and media regulation at Rura said as the law provides, Telecom operators and bulk service providers have been reminded to offer unsubscribe options.
“The law is clear that each telecommunication service provider sending text messages to clients to advertise or promote products and services should give them the right to unsubscribe and detail the process involved.  We have communicated with the operators to that effect,” Mutabazi said.
He also urged the public to furnish his office with information regarding such breaches so that necessary measures are taken.
Giving insights on the issue, Equity Juris Chambers,   a renowned law firm in Kigali said telecom operators are also not allowed to use personal data of their clients without written permission.
“The Rwandan Telecoms Law No 44/2001 of November 30, 2001, Article 25 states that a public telecommunications operator cannot use any personal, call traffic or billing data of a user when marketing its services without the explicit written permission of the user in question,” the firm explained.
In the event of contravention of paragraph (1) of this Article, users in the first instance request the public telecommunications operator to cease using their personal details for marketing purposes. 
In cases of continued contravention, the user may notify the regulatory board, which issues a notice prohibiting the public telecommunications operator from using the user’s personal details and may order the operator to pay compensation to the user as the board may determine.
Moussa Habineza, the managing director of Khenz Limited, an IT firm involved in electronic payments and previously involved in Bulk SMS services, said it is possible that some of the bulk SMS service providers could be colluding with the telecom operators to obtain phone numbers of users.
 “For the bulk SMS providers to send the texts, it means that there has to be a sort of coalition between the senders of the bulk SMSs and the Telecom operators.  The providers of the bulk SMSes cannot have access to the database if not allowed by the mobile operators,” Habineza explained.
Whether it is legal or not, Habineza said there has to be a sort of consent given by the client as unsolicited texts should not be forced on clients who do not want them.
Yasmin Amri Sued, the Tigo brand and communication manager, defended the firm, saying they held the client details in confidentiality, adding that they only communicate to their client base information on the product and services that might be relevant to them.
By press time,   the other telecom operators were yet to comment on the issue.
Rather than send unsolicited text messages, local firms have been urged to look into other avenues to reach their targeted clients such as social media feeds where they can engage on a professional level.
Phillip Odour, a marketing and sales consultant for a number of household products, said through the use of social media clients will not feel unnecessarily infringed upon. 
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