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Friday, March 27, 2015

Africa Check Launches Training And Research Services On Demand

Independent fact-checking organisation Africa Check on Wednesday launches a range of new training, research and fact-checking services aimed at improving accuracy, accountability and transparency in Africa’s media, commercial and non-profit sectors.
“Our editorial division is focused on promoting accuracy in public debate; raising the quality of information available to the public” said Africa Check’s director, Peter Cunliffe-Jones.
“But getting your facts straight is vital in all parts of society – not just for public figures. The same principles hold true whether you’re an individual, a newspaper, a non-profit organisation or a multi-national corporation. And that is why we are launching these new services,” he added.
Africa Check, a non-profit, non-partisan organisation which launched in 2012, is the leading fact-checking agency in the continent. Since it was set up it has exposed numerous misleading claims from hoaxes around Boko Haram in Nigeria to fake cures for Ebola and HIV in west and southern Africa. The organisation’s work has won awards and been profiled in The New York Times, the UK’s The Guardian and The Economist, among other publications.
The training, research and information division – Africa Check TRiFacts – will be headed by veteran South African journalist and author Nechama Brodie; herself a regular contributor to Africa Check.
Brodie says Africa Check TRiFacts is the perfect way for Africa Check to help companies, non-profit organisations and the media raise their game and – at the same time – to entrench the importance of facts in all aspects of public life.
“These days, everyone is part of the news cycle but much of what is circulated is based on false information or poor research. At the same time, the internet has given us incredible tools and techniques to use to check what we report, what we claim. And that is what we aim to train people in media and communication to be able to do.
“We also know that research presents challenges for businesses, the media and non-profit organisations. Good data is often hard to come by, but decisions based on poor research are generally poor decisions. By offering a research-on-demand service, we hope to help fill the knowledge and the skills gap.”
Contact information
To learn more about the services launched today, please visit the Africa Check website and go to: www.africacheck.org/services/and email Nechama Brodie at:nechama@africacheck.org
About Africa Check
Africa Check is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit organisation, set up in 2012 by the AFP Foundation, the non-profit media training arm of the AFP news agency, in a partnership with the School of Journalism at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa.

This Press statement was issued by the Nairobi-based African Media Initiative

Monday, March 23, 2015

PMRC Urges Government To Enhance Management Of Fisheries

Bernadette Deka
Fish, consumed as food and a source of protein, is a very important part of many Zambians’
livelihood. Zambia has 9 major fisheries in Kariba, Tanganyika, Itezhi-tezhi, Bangweulu, lake Mweru, Mweru-wantipa, Kafue River, Zambezi River and Lukanga. In 2007 the fisheries sub-sector accounted for 1% of Zambia’s GDP, which amounted to US$109 million.

This means that the Fishing sub-sector has the potential to contribute to Zambia’s economic development. The Fisheries Act of 1974 under the Laws of Zambia was enacted to enable Government to regulate the Fisheries Sector. This Act was amended, introducing the Fisheries (Amendment) Act of 2007. The amendment was intended to facilitate for improved community involvement in the management of fisheries and promote development of the aquaculture sector (Fish farming). 

The Ministry Agriculture and Livestock through the Act is mandated to impose a Fishing Ban and this is done on annual basis to allow for the fish to breed and also regulate fish population in the water bodies. The Annual Fishing Ban in Zambia spans from 1st December to 28th February the following year. The Fish Ban was introduced to specifically protect the breeding of the commercially preferred species (Tilapia species) whose breeding peaks during this period. 

During the 2014-2015 Fish Ban, PMRC Researchers Miselo Bwalya and Chileshe Chaunga carried out field research in Nchelenge, Mansa and Samfya districts of Zambia. The findings of the research revealed two major challenges and these are: 

1. That the sector faces various administrative challenges which include inadequate funding and inadequate staffing. 

2. The sector also lacks of constitutional capacity to enforce the Fish ban. The fisheries extension officers do not have the capacity to enforce the fish ban.

Recommendations/Way Forward 

PMRC urges the Government to: 

1. Increase human and financial resources to the Department of Fisheries. This will enable the
Department to effectively carry out the implementation of the Fish Ban as well as their other core activities.

2. Actively engage with Traditional leaders in the management of Fisheries located in rural areas and around chiefdoms. Traditional Leaders play an important role in community sensitization and behavioural change of people in rural areas. 

A fisherman casts his net
3. Set up a division within the Department of Fisheries that will be tasked with the enforcement of the law pertaining to Fisheries. This division will ensure effective enforcement.



BERNADETTE DEKA 
Executive Director
Policy Monitoring and Research Center

Monday 23rd March, 2015

Consumer Organisation Analyses Reasons For MultiChoice Price Hike

Introduction
Simon Ngona
There has been a pouring of complaints from consumers in retaliation to the looming subscription fees for Multi-Choice DSTV services effective this April. The increase has been received with mixed feelings with most consumers feeling that this is not the right timing for it.
We have observed that DSTV consumers on social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter have started online campaigns to boycott paying for their April DSTV subscriptions.

As Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS) International Lusaka, we have made an effort to try and understand the justification behind this increase so as to fulfil our watchdog duties. This process involved having a bilateral meeting with Management and other stakeholders – including individual consumers.

This array of engagement enabled us to collate and aggregate different concerns against the justifications presented by Multi-choice to arrive at conclusions below. It must be mention from the onset that Multi-choice, despite the Zambian government owning 49% shares, is a private entity – and therefore the company has every right to adjust its prices accordingly.  We are convinced that price adjustments could be timely, but the margin of adjustments is too steep and would affect consumer negatively. The pending price adjustments are tied to two things. Firstly, the normal annual price adjustments and secondly, underperforming economy.  These two factors are collectively addressed in the subsequent points.

1.    General Macro-economic performance
Prudent macroeconomic management is the panacea to private sector and economic growth. Medium-term prospects for Zambia’s growth remain good but are subject to evenly balanced risks emanating from global uncertainties and macroeconomic management at national level. Among the external risks are fast-declining copper prices. The economy can absorb moderate declines in copper prices, but steeper declines will hurt the country and the performance of the exchange rate further. We agree with Multi-choice and other private sector players that, if home grown solutions are not sought to eschew the external economic risks, the domestic economy will be affected gravely. Secondly, Zambia’s economy has seen far too many unexpected policy changes in recent years. Persistent and even escalating perceptions of an uncertain policy environment could weaken investment, thereby reducing GDP growth. Further, the risks of fiscal slips could undermine macroeconomic stability and undo some of the country’s recent hard-earned gains.  Government hostility measures are required to police this situation as it is suffocating private sector progression (including Pay TV) and ultimately consumers.

Among the arguments Multi-choice has given on the pending hike is the increasing cost of production in Zambia as a result of exchange rate volatility and inflation.

2.      Inflation:
High inflation is cited as one of the factors affecting the cost of production for Multi-choice.  We need to make mentioned that it does not necessarily mean that all commodities or services should have their prices increasing when inflation is on a rise. In actual fact some can even be dropping. 

Current Central Statistical Office (CSO) inflation figures show that February inflation dropped to 7.4 % from 7.7 % in January 2015. This downward surge should be considered in Multi-choice’s subsequent decision. We are, however, in agreement with Multi-choice that using the January and February figures might not be prudent as sustainability is not guaranteed.

The other issue that require further clarification from Multi-choice was how inflation was affecting the company – in specific terms. In our meeting, we didn’t explore this due to time limitation. Disaggregating the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and pointing out the commodities or services under the CPI which were affecting the operations of the company would assist rest this issue. A snap shot of the major drivers in the drop in inflation from 7.7% to 7.4% include alcoholic beverages, tobacco and housing. Generally, these are the products that have been driving inflation over the last months. From these products, its only housing, that has a relationship with Pay TV Pricing. We might have an asymmetric view from Multi-choice and the company would assist us by explaining the inflation argument further. 

In the same vain, it might be important for Multi-choice to consider looking at the net equalisation and trade off effects arising from fuel reduction on its operational costs.   

3.    Exchange rate volatility;
This was eruditely explained and it come to light that transactions associated with this industry involve huge costs - both in content procurement, rights and transmission holding.  Billions of dollars are spent annually meet consumer satisfaction. With this justification made and upon reflection, there remain some concerns which might still require clarity. Firstly, production/Programming of DSTV content that is consumed in Zambia is transmitted from South Africa. This entails that production is done in South Africa and all production related costs are subjected to the South African exchange rate regime. It is clear that South Africa is a low cost-producer of DSTV content hence the variance in prices. The signal that is transmitted to Zambia could be the only major service that could be subjected to the Zambia exchange rate system. The impact might be minimal compared to other players that produce the content in Zambia.    

4.      Dollar vs. Kwacha Pricing Methodology: It is comforting to learn from Multi-choice that the company has stopped using the dollar ratio to come up with a kwacha price list. But what is worrying is that dollar-kwacha performance still informs much of the company’s decisions on pricing. Nonetheless, this paradigm shift in the pricing methodology will require probing. Our initial assessment presents serious concerns which reveal that, despite Multi-choice, freezing the subscription fee in kwacha, the company was still gaining from an inflated exchange rate figure.

After engaging with Multi-choice, we were furnished with the figures that were being charged for the premium bouquet dating as far as April 2012. For purposes of this discussion, we will look at the premium bouquet and zero in on the period starting July 2014 to date. The table and graph below summarises our findings

July 2014 was the period when the Statutory Instrument (SI) 33 was affected. The SI prohibits the quoting, paying, demanding or receiving foreign currency as legal tender for goods, services or any other domestic transactions. By this development, Multi-choice, including other private sector players, were coerced to start charging in kwacha. In arriving at the July 2014 compulsory kwacha figure from the USD currency which was being used, Multi-choice converted the June 2014 average subscription fee which was USD 82. According to the pricing statistics received from Multi-choice,   USD 82 subscription fee amounted to ZMW 521.   This entails that Multi-choice was using ZMK 6.35 per dollar exchange rate. According to Stanbic Bank, the July exchange rate was ZMW 6.15.  

This therefore entails that the USD82, which was converted so us to have the present fixed kwacha rate, should have translated to ZMW 503.48. In short consumers should have been paying ZMW 503.48 and not ZMW 521 for the premiums package. Using this exchange rate, ZMW 521 converted to USD 84.71 and not the USD 82. This entails that, beyond the monthly profits which were made per subscription, a 3.3% extra was charged. In kwacha term, an extra ZMW 17.52 was being charged. There could have been a justification for this but we are not privy to that. And please note, we have used Stanbic Bank rates and have not used any other rates from other Banks and this analysis is purely in relation to the exchange rate system of Stanbic Bank.

By end of August, an extra ZMW 33.92 was charged due to the higher exchange rate that was used when converting to kwacha in July. According to Stanbic Bank, the Kwacha had gained in value and it was trading at ZMW 5.94 per dollar.   Since Multi-choice had frozen it subscription fee (ZMW 521) using ZMK 6.35 per dollar exchange rate and not ZMW 5.94 as reported by Stanbic Bank, there were gains the company recorded.  Converting ZMW 521 given by Multi-choice at 5.94 per dollar, this translated to USD 87.71 per subscription.  This also entails a further 6.96 percent extra was charged from the initial indicated $82 despite the monthly kwacha subscription fee being constant.  

In the third month, ZMK 11.74 extra per subscription was paid by consumers due to high exchange rate used. Stanbic Bank statistics show that the kwacha depreciated resulting in the K521 converting to USD83.89. In October, ZMW 6.03 November, ZMW 3.53 extra was being charged.  The final quarter showed a downward trend in the Kwacha.  However, severe as it was, Multi-choice was still earning ZMW 2.72 more in December. 
We can therefore conclude that in 2014, Multi-choice gained substantively due to the higher exchange rate used when transforming the pricing structure from dollar to kwacha. In aggregated terms, using Stanbic Bank rates, about ZMW 75.46 extra was charged for one subscriber between July and December. Assuming that there are a thousand subscribers in the Zambian market for the premium bouquet and they all constantly bought the premium package, this would amount to ZMW 75, 460. 
The exchange rate affected Multi-choice in January-onwards as the kwacha underperformed below the ZMW 6.35 exchange rate used by Multi-choice. This has however been only for two and half months and the gains acquired between July and December can be used to cushion the negative effects.
  
5.      Territorial Spread: we are informed that there are three categories of Multi Choice Services in Africa namely South Africa, Nigeria and the Rest of Africa. Zambia falls on the latter (the Rest of Africa). The content (films etc) bought by the South African Unit of Multi-choicethrough specific demands ensuing from consuming countries under the Rest of Africa ambit, is consumed by all these countries under this category. The ethical argument in this narrative is that Multi-choice accrues benefits from its territorial spread as content purchased (as a result of demand from one specific country) is also consumed by other countries in this category. In short, other consumers could be paying for a specific content enjoyed by one particular country and this brings positive spin-off in the income generation process of the company.

   We are cautious that addressing some of these questions would require divulging confidential information and it will not be in the best interest of Multi-choice to share such information. We are, therefore, hoping that points raised above are substantive enough for Multi-choice to reconsider and adjust downwards the pending hike. Multi-choice enjoys a good level of market dominance and therefore, any action has potential to coerce other industry players to follow suite.

Issued by:

Simon Ngona
Center Coordinator
Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS) International
Lusaka, Zambia

17th March, 2015

Friday, March 20, 2015

Zambia Probes Its US$48.3m 'Stake' in 69 Swiss Leaks Accounts

HSBC Bank in Switzerland
By Paul Shalala 

Zambia’s Financial Intelligence Center (FIC) has launched investigations to ascertain how US$48.3 million which is linked to Zambians found itself in HSBC Bank in Switzerland.

FIC Chief Executive Officer Mary Sikazwe says her institution has launched investigations into the 69 bank accounts whose owners are said to have links with Zambia.

“That issue is of concern to us as Ministry of Finance. We have launched investigations to find out how that money ended up in Switzerland,” said Ms Sikazwe.

She added that her agency is liaising with other agencies abroad to ensure they find out how the money with Zambian links was banked in Switzerland, a European country which is famous for its tax haven status.

“We want to find out if any illegal activities were done. If there was illegality, then the law will take its course,” said Sikazwe in response to a question from a journalist during a meeting in  Lusaka for the dissemination of findings on illicit financial flows in Africa.

The 69 account holders who banked the US$48.3 million (K314 million) are part of 100,000 clients of HSBC in Switzerland who were recently exposed by a former IT employee who hacked into the bank’s system and stole 60,000 files before fleeing to France.

The US-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) summerised the details and and published an interactive map on their website.

According to ICIJ, 13 of the account holders hold Zambian passports and are part of a wider expose which has been dubbed “Swiss Leaks” by the international media.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Africa Loses US$60 Million Per Year Through Illicit Financial Flows

Dr. Tigere Chagutah
By Paul Shalala

A recently released report by the African Union (AU) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) has revealed that Africa loses up to US$60 billion per year through illicit
financial flows.

The AU/UNECA Report on Illicit and Financial Flows from Africa was released in January this year.

It was prepared by the High Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa under the theme “Track it, Stop it, Get it” and it paints a glaring picture on the weak governance and regulatory frameworks on the continent.

Oxfam Pan Africa Campaigner Dr. Tigere Chagutah, who shared the findings in Lusaka at the ActionAid-organised meeting yesterday, said Africa suffered the largest illicit financial flows as a share of its economy which averaged 5.5% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per year for the decade 2003-2012.

“There is a shadow global financial system were illicit financial flows move from one area to the other. In Africa, factors that have made this situation worse include poor governance, weak regulatory structures and double taxation agreements,” said Dr Chagutah, who is based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

According to one of the charts Dr Chagutah unveiled from the report, Zambia is affected by illicit financial flows to levels of 16% of its Gross Domestic Product which is one of the highest in the world.

He called on the overhaul of legal frameworks to curb illicit financial flows if the continent is to gain from its own resources.
Pamela Chisanga

“Multi-national companies employ well learned lawyers to specialise in tax avoidance which is not a crime. These are the practices that are affecting Africa today,” he added.

And ActionAid Zambia Country Director Pamela Chisanga said there was need for political will to fight illicit financial flows from Africa.

“There is need for political will in this fight. Investors must come and invest and better our lives and communities. We do not need exploitation,” said Ms Chisanga, who is also an outspoken social media critic on the impact of what she terms “bad” foreign investment in Zambia.

“40,000 villagers were relocated in Solwezi to pave way for huge mines but only 4,000 jobs were created for the locals. We don’t need to defend such activities, its sad.”

Financial Intelligence Center Chief Executive Officer Mary Nakazwe said there is a tendency among some investors in Zambia to practice tax evasion and pretend its tax avoidance which is not a crime.

She said her agency, which is part of the Ministry of Finance, had handled such cases and handed them over to the law enforcement agencies for possible prosecution.

Meanwhile, Norwegian Ambassador to Zambia Arve Ofstad says there is need to curb all illegal businesses that deny people of the much needed development in their countries.

Mr Ofstad says his country funded the establishment of the Financial Intelligence Center in Zambia as a way of fighting the flow of illicit money out of the country.

Front cover of the report
”The headquarters of the EITI (Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative) is now in Norway, we have funded many researches and commissions on illicit financial flows and we funded the establishment of Zambia’s Financial intelligence Center. This is part of our efforts to fight illegal business practices,” he said.

Meanwhile, two lawmakers who attended the meeting expressed shock at the revelations from the AU/UNECA report but they called for action to stop illicit financial flows out of Zambia.

“This information you have shared is very vital. These are the things we need to know as MPs. I urge ActionAid to further take this report to the executive and technocrats so that action can be taken on these matters,” said PF Nchelenge MP Raymond Mpundu.

“In these matters, the executive is very scared to take action. They think investors will run away. They know where the problem is but they fear to act. Why fear investors?” said UPND Mbabala MP Ephraim Belemu.

The meeting was attended by representatives from the civil society, media and members of parliament.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

YALI Proposes Digitalising Census Ahead Of Referendum

By Paul Shalala
Isaac Mwanza

The Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) has proposed the use of digital equipment to conduct a snap census before the referendum to adopt the new constitution is conducted. 

YALI Governance Advisor Isaac Mwanza saying using the digital system as implemented in Kenya, will save money and time.

Mr Mwanza adds that it will also help law enforcement agencies and the Electoral Commission of Zambia to have access to population data that they can use in future.

Below is a full press statement:

The Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) is pleased with Government announcement that the Referendum will be held in 2016 and now wish to call on Government to consider using the Digital and IT solution to conduct an efficient, fast and result oriented population census that will determine the accurate number of persons entitled be registered as voters in Zambia. 

Because we have also been worried about the issue of conducting the Census and updating the voters register, we have decided to support calls to use Digital and modern information technology (IT) solutions to conduct the Census. 

YALI is aware that citizens have been discussing possibilities of using IT solutions to conduct the Census and we call on Government to explore this possibility and engage citizens to conduct a Census using the Digital system as opposed to the current situation where data on Zambians and non - Zambians is contained in manual systems maintained by different institutions such the the Department of National Registration, Electoral Commission of Zambia and Immigration Department with Central Statistical Office not having the actual personal details of persons linked to their data. 

As an organisation we implore President Edgar Lungu and his administration to emulate the Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta, who on Wednesday last week, launched the Integrated Population Registration System ( IPRS), which allows access to an individual's entire registration and identification records using a single personal identification number. 

If the Zambian Government agrees to use modern IT solutions to conduct the Census, Zambians can be assured of the census being concluded within the shortest possible time, if resources are available and teams assembled. In preparation for either a sample or full population census, we urgently call on Government to consider using the Digital means of capaturing information that will allow all State Agencies such as ECZ, NRC Department and CSO to have access to huge volumes of data such as birth of births and certificates, national identity cards, passports at the click of a button. 

YALI believes that Zambian has qualified young people who can transform the way we collect information on the population using IT solutions that will benefit the nation and all State agencies in the long run. 

We are aware the Ministry of Justice has proposal to use the IT solution to conduct the Census in readiness for the Referendum and we call upon the Ministry to show responsiveness to such a proposal by engaging its designers and other institutions under the Ministry of Home Affairs. 

YALI believes Government has taken enough time to study what citizens, stakeholders and interest groups had to say on both the Government draft roadmap and the holding of a a successful referendum and it is our collective resposibility as a nation to ensure measures are put in place for conducting a national census to determine the accurate minimum threshold of voters that must turn up and vote in the referendum. 

Looking at the remaining timeframe before 2016, YALI remains cautiously optimistic on the success of the referendum. We however believe tha all stakeholders must work together to ensure the 50 percent turnout is achieved.

Issac Mwanza
YALI Governance Advisor

Thursday, March 12, 2015

HIV Activist Princess Kasune Zulu To Contest As Keembe MP In 2016

Princess Kasune Zulu
By Paul Shalala

United States-based HIV/AIDS activist Princess Kasune Zulu has unveiled her ambitious plans to contest the Keembe parliamentary seat during the 2016 general elections.

The Chicago-based Zambian, who is married to David Schoefernacker, recently posted on her Facebook page that she will aspire to uplift the living standards of people in her motherland.

“Let the politics begin, looking forward to 2016, Keembe Constituency, Chibombo rural Zambia. Vote for Princess Kasune (pa ka N’gombe),” read her Facebook status.

The 39 year old who has lived with HIV for the past 20 years, says she wants to improve people’s lives in Keembe constituency which is currently held by MMD Member of Parliament Lt. Gen. Ronnie Shikapwasha.

Princess Kasune is from a royal Lenje lineage on her father’s side which has strong family ties to the royal families of Chief Liteta and Chieftainess Mungule.

In response to a press query, Princess Kasune says if elected MP in 2016, she will improve education, health and infrastructure in this rural constituency located in Chibombo District of Central Province,  

"Our children both girls and boys should be given equal access to education. And there is no reason why we cannot have some libraries and parks in Keembe constituency," she said.

"I will make sure there is a general hospital in Keembe constituency. Women will have access to revolving funds and loans. I promise to be a champion for better pay for teachers, all health workers and our defence personnel."

In the agriculture sector, Princess Kasune says she will help make inputs are made available to farmers on time.

"I will make sure our farmers are provided with inputs on time and advocate for on timely payments for their produce. All feeder roads must be tarred, that in my view is a no brainier."

Under her Fountain of Life non-governmental organization which is incorporated in the United States, Princess Kasune has been doing community work in sectors such as health and education in Chibombo area.

She has also been sponsoring community football tournaments involving several teams clad in replica jerseys branded in her name.

During one of her football tournaments in Chibombo
When asked whether she has already identified a political party she will contest on, Princess Kasune said she would reveal later.


On her website, more details of her worldwide work are given: 

“In her advocacy role, she has spoken for organizations such as the UN, World Vision, UNAIDS, UNCIEF, Oxfam, Peace Corp and ONE . Her message has also taken her to the White House where she was part of the delegation that met with President George W. Bush in the Oval Office, and resulted in the $15 billion PEPPFAR (Presidential Fund for Aids Relief).  She has also met UK Members of Parliament, political leaders in Canada, Ireland and the former President and First Lady of her own country, Zambia.”

According to InterVasity Press, Since learning of her own positive HIV status 17 years ago, Princess Kasune has been  a tireless ambassador for others affected and infected by the virus. 

"Across the developed world, she has raised millions of dollars for the fight and has brought critical media attention to the virus."

The website further reveals that, from 2000 to 2005, Princess Kasune hosted a live talk-radio show Positive Living which later helped her get profiled by major US media outlets.
Princess Kasune at one of her community activities
Due to her efforts in the fight against HIV/AIDS, April 24, 2004 was declared Princess Kasune Zulu Day in the US city of Chicago where she lives with her daughters Joy and Faith Zulu, plus five other adopted children and her husband David Schoefernacker. 


She is the author of the book Warrior Princess: Fighting for Life with Courage and Hope which talks about the fight against HIV/AIDS and the plight of those affected in Africa
If elected Keembe Member of Parliament in 2016, Princess Kasune Zulu will be the first ever Zambian lawmaker to publicly declare their HIV status.