Melania Trump in Malawi, Next Stop on Goodwill Africa Tour

U.S. first lady Melania Trump visited Malawi Thursday on the second leg of her four-nation tour of Africa.

Trump landed in the capital, Lilongwe, and went to a primary school where about 8,000 children are taught by just 75 teachers. She watched children taking part in an English lesson and later spoke with some of the teachers.

“Thank you for educating them to be best,” she said, echoing the name of her child welfare program unveiled earlier this year.

The White House is donating school supplies to the children, including tote bags, chalk and soccer balls, and says the U.S. Agency for International Development is making a large donation of textbooks.

Most Malawians unaware of visit

Trump was greeted at the airport by her Malawian counterpart, Gertrude Maseko, who will later host Trump for a private tea at the state house.

The White House said Malawi was chosen as a destination because of the country’s high poverty rate and the difficulties that children � especially girls � have in accessing education.

Most Malawians who spoke with VOA were unaware of the U.S. first lady’s visit, but those who were said they hope this visit will be a message of goodwill and friendship between Malawi and the United States.

Despite 50 years of peaceful independence, Malawi remains one of the poorest nations in the world, with more than half of its 17 million population living below the poverty line and roughly 40 percent unable to read.

US aid

American aid programs remain important for meeting crucial needs in countries like Malawi. During her stop, the first lady is expected to highlight the Trump administration’s support for vulnerable groups through the USAID program.

USAID funds for Africa were slated for significant cuts in the Trump administration’s proposed budget, although the cuts have not been approved by Congress.

Ghana visit

On Tuesday and Wednesday, Trump was in Ghana, where she visited a former slave holding facility, Cape Coast Castle.

Kenya and Egypt are the next stops on her African tour, which follows her husband’s reported disparaging comments about Africa and immigrants from the region.

Source: Voice of America

Melania Trump in Malawi, Next Stop on Goodwill Africa Tour

U.S. first lady Melania Trump visited Malawi Thursday on the second leg of her four-nation tour of Africa.

Trump landed in the capital, Lilongwe, and went to a primary school where about 8,000 children are taught by just 75 teachers. She watched children taking part in an English lesson and later spoke with some of the teachers.

“Thank you for educating them to be best,” she said, echoing the name of her child welfare program unveiled earlier this year.

The White House is donating school supplies to the children, including tote bags, chalk and soccer balls, and says the U.S. Agency for International Development is making a large donation of textbooks.

Most Malawians unaware of visit

Trump was greeted at the airport by her Malawian counterpart, Gertrude Maseko, who will later host Trump for a private tea at the state house.

The White House said Malawi was chosen as a destination because of the country’s high poverty rate and the difficulties that children � especially girls � have in accessing education.

Most Malawians who spoke with VOA were unaware of the U.S. first lady’s visit, but those who were said they hope this visit will be a message of goodwill and friendship between Malawi and the United States.

Despite 50 years of peaceful independence, Malawi remains one of the poorest nations in the world, with more than half of its 17 million population living below the poverty line and roughly 40 percent unable to read.

US aid

American aid programs remain important for meeting crucial needs in countries like Malawi. During her stop, the first lady is expected to highlight the Trump administration’s support for vulnerable groups through the USAID program.

USAID funds for Africa were slated for significant cuts in the Trump administration’s proposed budget, although the cuts have not been approved by Congress.

Ghana visit

On Tuesday and Wednesday, Trump was in Ghana, where she visited a former slave holding facility, Cape Coast Castle.

Kenya and Egypt are the next stops on her African tour, which follows her husband’s reported disparaging comments about Africa and immigrants from the region.

Source: Voice of America

VOA Fires or Proposes Removal of 15 Hausa Service Members Over ‘Improper Payments’

The Voice of America announced Thursday it has fired or proposed to terminate more than half the members of its Hausa language service following an investigation that found the individuals had accepted improper payments from a foreign official in West Africa.

Amanda Bennett, director of the federally funded news organization, notified VOA staff of the move in an agency-wide email. “It is therefore with a very heavy heart that I must tell you that we have terminated or (in accordance with all applicable Federal laws and regulations) proposed to terminate 15 members of the Hausa Service,” she wrote.

Bennett said the action was taken after simultaneous investigations by VOA staff and the Office of the Inspector General into “allegations of improper conduct by members of the service, which involved accepting improper payments from an official in the coverage area.”

The service reaches some 20 million people weekly, principally in Nigeria but also in Niger, Ghana, Chad and Cameroon.

Remaining members of the Hausa staff said the 15 individuals, including the service chief (who is not suspected on personally accepting a payment) , were met at the front door of VOA headquarters on Thursday morning. They were stripped of their building passes and handed letters notifying them of the action.

Individuals within VOA’s Africa Division said the investigation produced no evidence that any programming was affected by the alleged payments. However Bennett said in her email that “a separate investigation has been launched to determine if any coverage by VOA was improperly influenced. If any such influence is discovered, we will deal with it promptly and transparently.”

A senior VOA official said all the alleged payments uncovered by the months-long investigation were made in or near the main VOA offices in Washington, and on a single occasion earlier this year.

The official would not comment on the amounts that were paid. However it is not uncommon in Nigeria for senior officials to distribute “brown envelopes” stuffed with cash during press briefings, a practice that has been documented by the British Broadcasting Corp. and others.

Africa Division director Negussie Mengesha said VOA staffers “clearly understand that that is not allowed.”

An official at the Nigerian Embassy in Washington declined to comment on the firings and suspensions, saying it is an internal matter for VOA.

The action leaves the service with only 11 permanent government employees and contractors to produce 16 hours of radio and 30 minutes of television every week. Mengesha said the agency intends to maintain its current programming schedule with the help of an extensive network of part-time contributors in Africa. A former Hausa Service chief, Fred Cooper, will return to run the service until a permanent chief is selected.

Mengesha also said he will be moving quickly to replace the terminated employees and that the new hires will receive rigorous training in journalism ethics. Some of the employees cannot be replaced under federal regulations until a lengthy termination process is completed.

Bennett said in her email that she was acting to protect the integrity and reputation of VOA, a federal agency which delivers news content on radio, television, internet and social media in more than 40 languages to more than 230 million people weekly. “If any other instances of improper payments are discovered in any service anywhere in VOA, we are committed to investigating them thoroughly and dealing with them promptly as well,” she wrote.

Asked in an interview how she will ensure that nothing similar happens again, she said, “Every person in this building knows the federal laws and the standards of ethical journalism. People will see [from Tuesday’s firings] that we take these things very very seriously. Everyone will see what we expect of them.”

In her email to the staff, Bennett commended “the leadership of the Africa Division who immediately and wholeheartedly backed the investigations and cooperated fully with these painful decisions. They, like all of us, are committed to the highest standards of ethical behavior and will not tolerate any infractions.”

Source: Voice of America

VOA Fires or Proposes Removal of 15 Hausa Service Members Over ‘Improper Payments’

The Voice of America announced Thursday it has fired or proposed to terminate more than half the members of its Hausa language service following an investigation that found the individuals had accepted improper payments from a foreign official in West Africa.

Amanda Bennett, director of the federally funded news organization, notified VOA staff of the move in an agency-wide email. “It is therefore with a very heavy heart that I must tell you that we have terminated or (in accordance with all applicable Federal laws and regulations) proposed to terminate 15 members of the Hausa Service,” she wrote.

Bennett said the action was taken after simultaneous investigations by VOA staff and the Office of the Inspector General into “allegations of improper conduct by members of the service, which involved accepting improper payments from an official in the coverage area.”

The service reaches some 20 million people weekly, principally in Nigeria but also in Niger, Ghana, Chad and Cameroon.

Remaining members of the Hausa staff said the 15 individuals, including the service chief (who is not suspected on personally accepting a payment) , were met at the front door of VOA headquarters on Thursday morning. They were stripped of their building passes and handed letters notifying them of the action.

Individuals within VOA’s Africa Division said the investigation produced no evidence that any programming was affected by the alleged payments. However Bennett said in her email that “a separate investigation has been launched to determine if any coverage by VOA was improperly influenced. If any such influence is discovered, we will deal with it promptly and transparently.”

A senior VOA official said all the alleged payments uncovered by the months-long investigation were made in or near the main VOA offices in Washington, and on a single occasion earlier this year.

The official would not comment on the amounts that were paid. However it is not uncommon in Nigeria for senior officials to distribute “brown envelopes” stuffed with cash during press briefings, a practice that has been documented by the British Broadcasting Corp. and others.

Africa Division director Negussie Mengesha said VOA staffers “clearly understand that that is not allowed.”

An official at the Nigerian Embassy in Washington declined to comment on the firings and suspensions, saying it is an internal matter for VOA.

The action leaves the service with only 11 permanent government employees and contractors to produce 16 hours of radio and 30 minutes of television every week. Mengesha said the agency intends to maintain its current programming schedule with the help of an extensive network of part-time contributors in Africa. A former Hausa Service chief, Fred Cooper, will return to run the service until a permanent chief is selected.

Mengesha also said he will be moving quickly to replace the terminated employees and that the new hires will receive rigorous training in journalism ethics. Some of the employees cannot be replaced under federal regulations until a lengthy termination process is completed.

Bennett said in her email that she was acting to protect the integrity and reputation of VOA, a federal agency which delivers news content on radio, television, internet and social media in more than 40 languages to more than 230 million people weekly. “If any other instances of improper payments are discovered in any service anywhere in VOA, we are committed to investigating them thoroughly and dealing with them promptly as well,” she wrote.

Asked in an interview how she will ensure that nothing similar happens again, she said, “Every person in this building knows the federal laws and the standards of ethical journalism. People will see [from Tuesday’s firings] that we take these things very very seriously. Everyone will see what we expect of them.”

In her email to the staff, Bennett commended “the leadership of the Africa Division who immediately and wholeheartedly backed the investigations and cooperated fully with these painful decisions. They, like all of us, are committed to the highest standards of ethical behavior and will not tolerate any infractions.”

Source: Voice of America

WACCI calls for transformative changes of agriculture and food systems

Accra� Professor Eric Danquah, the Founding Director of West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI), University of Ghana, has called for transformative changes of agriculture and food systems in Africa.

He said current forecasts placed the sub-Saharan Africa as the only region in the world where hunger and malnutrition would worsen over the next two decades unless some drastic measures are taken to avert the situation.

There is an urgent need for a drastic change within the food and agriculture system in sub-Saharan Africa if the region is to attain Sustainable Development Goal 2: zero hunger by 2030, Prof Danquah said at the WACCI Conference on Food and Nutrition Security in Accra.

The two-day conference, which was formally opened by DrOwusuAfriyieAkoto, the Minister of Food and Agriculture, is organised by WACCI as part of activities marking the 70th Anniversary of the University of Ghana, on the theme The March Towards a Hunger-Free Africa.

The over 100 participants attending the meeting drawn from across the globe include academics, researchers, representatives of civil society organisations and policy makers.

Prof Danquah said WACCI was an institution with a glorious past and a future; declaring that the Centre was one of the top-tier higher education institutions globally in plant breeding and related subjects impacting food and nutrition security in Africa and beyond.

Giving the historical perspectives of WACCI, Prof Danquah said 11 years ago, the Centre received its first grant of five million dollars from the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).

Today, WACCI stands as the pre-eminent Centre for plant breeding education at the PhD level in all of Africa, by current enrolments, graduations, partnerships and investments, prepared to lift millions out of hunger and poverty, he said.

WACCI is more ambitious than ever. Our released maize hybrids, the highest yielding hybrids in Ghana now under commercialization, the international accreditation of our two programmes, Plant Breeding, and Seed Science and Technology, our state-of-the art labs in this edifice, all achieved in the last year are now history to us, he said.

We want to become an unstoppable Centre of Excellence. We are leading a consortium of partners, both public and private, including civil society groups to establish a global platform for agricultural innovation and entrepreneurship driven by good science and technology to make Africa’s dream of food and nutrition security realized in our lifetime, he added.

Prof Danquah expressed the hope that the conference would open doors for the collaborations needed for urgent action to address the challenges of African agriculture.

Prof Ebenezer OduroOwusu, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana, called on African governments to invest more in agriculture in order to ensure food security on the continent.

Today, conversations on food and nutrition security have taken centre stage globally, because of the urgency for the world to end hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture, he stated.

DrOwusuAfriyieAkoto, Minister of Food and Agriculture, said that following the successes chalked in the implementation of the Planting for Food and Jobs programme, the Government would from next year introduce a new programme dubbed: Rearing for Food and Jobs.

He noted that the Rearing for Food and Jobs would focus more on promoting the poultry industry in the country.

Prof Daniel Asiedu, the Provost, College of Basic and Applied Sciences, University of Ghana, said in 2014, the University adopted the Collegiate System of management, thus, restructuring the academic unit of the University into four Colleges�the College of Basic and Applied Sciences, the College of Education, the College of Health Sciences and the College of Humanities.

He noted that the College of Basic and Applied Sciences was made up of six schools, two institutes, 30 departments and seven centres of which WACCI was part.

Source: Ghana News Agency