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Zimbabwean Manufacturers Urge gov’t to Ease Cumbersome Export Procedures

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Zimbabwean manufacturers have urged the government to simplify export procedures to allow the industry to refocus following the recent launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

The continental free trade area opens a 1.3-billion-people-market.

United Refineries chief executive Busisa Moyo, who is also the Zimbabwe Investment Development Authority (ZIDA) chairperson and Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) past president, said there were several areas that needed to be looked at for local industries to penetrate the market.

Entrenching macroeconomic stability, the political will, efficient infrastructure, retooling finance, competitiveness, and retraining would be among key requirements for tapping into AfCFTA, he said.

According to the Herald newspaper on Tuesday, Moyo told a recent virtual seminar on AfCFTA that the new market would create more demand for economies across Africa but said Zimbabwe needed to rethink its export strategy.

AfCFTA – which came into force in January – is the African continent’s most ambitious integration initiative, embedded in the Agenda 2063 of the African Union (AU), whose main objective is to create a single continental market for goods and services with free movement of people and investments.

It is expected to increase intra-Africa trade from an existing level of about 13 per cent to 25 per cent or more through better harmonization and coordination of trade liberalization.

The signing of the deal at continental level creates a market of about 1.3 billion people with estimated combined Gross Domestic Product of more than 3.4 trillion U.S. dollars.

Moyo said the AfCFTA market would drive demand for goods, which would help increase the currently diminished capacity utilisation of Zimbabwean companies.

He pointed out that the significant growth in plant utilisation in 2020 was largely in part a result of strong demand, locally though, when imports were restricted.

This saw industrial plant usage grow from 36 per cent to an average of 47 per cent.

The industry is targeting 61 per cent capacity but has requested a number of impediments to be addressed for that to happen.

Moyo said AfCFTA would have a similar effect of growing industrial output if authorities addressed the myriad of constraints tripping firms, among them the litany of complex export procedures.

Manufactured exports currently constitute at least 16 per cent of total exports and industry believes there is significant room to expand the export basket, which is hugely dominated by raw exports, especially minerals and tobacco.

Moyo said Zimbabwe was already doing export business and had basic infrastructure in place, but needed certain structural and policy flaws straightened to optimise returns.

CZI’s trade committee chairperson Henry Nemaire said the government needed to work on impediments to exporting, stressing that most exporters were currently taxed at more than 100 per cent.

He said the many constraints to export business had removed the incentive to export.

He, therefore, urged authorities to restore and introduce incentives to encourage and promote exports. (Xinhua/NAN)

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U.S. not Expecting to be Drawn into War but Predicts Attack by Iran Against Israel

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The United States expects an attack by Iran against Israel but one that would not be big enough to draw Washington into war, a U.S. official said late on Thursday.

The White House said earlier that Washington did not want conflict to spread in the Middle East and the U.S. had told Iran it was not involved in an air strike against a top Iranian military commander in Damascus.

The White House added it warned Iran to not use that attack as a pretext to escalate further in the region.

Suspected Israeli warplanes bombed Iran’s embassy in Damascus on Monday in a strike for which Iran has vowed revenge and in which a top Iranian general and six other Iranian military officers were killed, ratcheting up tension in a region already strained by the Gaza war.

Iranian sources told Reuters that Tehran has signalled to Washington that it will respond to Israel’s attack on its Syrian embassy in a way that aims to avoid major escalation and it will not act hastily, as Tehran presses demands including a Gaza truce.

The United States has been on high alert about possible retaliatory strikes from Iran and U.S. envoys have been working to lower tensions.

Palestinian Islamist group Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200, according to Israeli tallies.

Israel’s military assault on Hamas-governed Gaza has since killed more than 33,000 people according to the local health ministry, displaced nearly all of Gaza’s 2.3 million population, caused a humanitarian crisis, and led to genocide allegations that Israel denies.

Iran-backed groups have declared support for Palestinians, waging attacks from Lebanon, Yemen, and Iraq.

Tehran has avoided direct confrontation with Israel or the United States, while declaring support for its allies. (Reuters/NAN)

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Russia Sends Air Defence System, Soldiers to Niger

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 Russia has sent an air defence system and 100 military trainers to Niger Republic in West Africa.

Military personnel from the Russian Ministry of Defence are to install the system and train Niger’s soldiers in its use, the Nigerien state broadcaster RTN reported late on Thursday.

This was preceded by a telephone conversation between the head of the military junta, Abdourahamane Tchiani, and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the end of March.

Until the military coup last July, Niger was the last democratic ally of the U.

S., France and other European countries in the fight against Islamist militias in the Sahel region, where jihadists are continuing to gain influence.

In March, the junta ended its military cooperation with the U.S. in the fight against terrorism.

The German Armed Forces operate an air base in Niamey, the future of which is still unclear.

State television showed images of a Russian Ilyushin-76 aircraft that had landed at Niamey airport on Wednesday.

“We are here to train the Niger army using the military equipment that has arrived here,” a masked, fair-skinned man in military uniform said in heavily accented French in the broadcast.

Since the military seized power on July 26, Niger has embarked on a new path leading to the diversification of its partners in order to assert its sovereignty vis-à-vis the world, the report continued.

Putin and Tchiani had discussed “strengthening cross-sectoral and comprehensive strategic cooperation between Niger and Russia to deal with current threats, especially in the security field.”

Like its neighbours Mali and Burkina Faso before it, Niger is turning away from its Western partners, in particular ex-colonial power France, and towards Russia.

All three countries have been ruled by the military following coups.  (dpa/NAN)

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Make 2024 ‘Turning Point’ for Education, UN Deputy Chief Urges Leaders

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The UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, on Thursday called for a transformation in learning, stressing that receiving a good education represents hope for all future generations.

Addressing a high-level meeting on education, convened by the European Union (EU) in Brussels, Mohammed paid tribute in particular to the children of Gaza, who have had no education for over six months, and where there have been direct hits on 212 schools.

“Today, the light for Gaza and the children of Gaza, is out.

We need a commitment to try to light that candle again for the children and the people of Gaza. Education is hope. Education is the future,” she said in  a statement.

This year will see a series of meetings that will build on Transforming Education Summit, convened by the UN in September 2022 in response to a global crisis in education, after more than 90 per cent of the world’s children lost access to the classroom during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In September this year, world leaders will gather to forge a new international consensus as part of the Summit of the Future.

Mohammed called for two specific outcomes on education at the Summit.

“First, we need a clear recognition from world leaders on the urgent need to transform and invest in education as a global imperative,” she said.

“Second, we need major breakthroughs on issues that are critical for education, including reform of the international financial architecture, strengthened digital cooperation and a new agenda for peace.”

Without additional measures, an estimated 84 million children and young people will still be denied access to the classroom by 2030, and approximately 300 million students will lack the basic – and vital – numeracy and literacy skills.

“Education is a fundamental human right. Investing in education is the greatest investment we can make in our common future, in peace, and sustainable development, and particularly in gender equality,” Mohammed said.

Contemporary education systems across the world are beset by challenges, including access, equity, relevance and digital inequality – which could leave billions of people behind, she added.

“I know that we can make 2024 a turning point for education. Let’s get to it.”

During her visit to Brussels, the Deputy Secretary-General also chaired the Governing Body meeting of the Spotlight Initiative, the world’s largest targeted effort to eliminate violence against women and girls.

The UN initiative is in partnership with the EU and other stakeholders and responds to all forms of violence against women and girls.

Its programmes across 30 countries and regions, focus on domestic and family violence, sexual and gender-based violence and rising rates of femicide, together with human trafficking.

Since 2019, the initiative has resulted in more than 2.5 million women and girls accessing gender-based violence services, and two million men and boys have been educated on positive masculinity. (NAN)

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