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Wole Soyinka, Millennium Excellence Foundation Laureate

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I shall begin on a morbid note. One of the horror stories that emerged from the Daesh (Isis) controlled parts of Iraq was the gruesome tale of the mother who had a daughter affected by wanderlust, even in that endangered zone. One day, when she looked for her to attend to some home chores, she found that she had gone missing yet again. As she searched, she shouted in frustration: ”As Allah is my witness, I’ll kill that girl when I catch up with her”.

A neighbor overheard and reported her to the Hisbah. The mother was summoned by the mullahs who ordered her to put the child to death, since she had sworn by Allah. She refused, so they took the child by the legs and smashed her head against a wall. End of story. True or false? It certainly was published as true testimony.

That is all I have to say to the ”literalists” who obsess over a time scheme of their own assessment. Thus, failure to have torn my Green Card ”the moment” that I learnt that Mr. Donald Trump had won the presidential elections of the USA.

It did not matter what I was doing at the time – teaching, eating, swimming, praying, under the shower or whatever. Or a family member saying, ”Wait for me!” – speculatively please, no such disturbance ever took place. If it did however, I am supposed to contact the Nigerian media – to whom I have never spoken, and who never contacted me – except one – to beg permission to pursue a realistic definition of ”the moment”. Media fascism is however a subject for another day.

Desmond Tutu, Millennium Excellence Foundation Laureate

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Desmond Tutu has said he would like the option of ending his life through assisted dying as he called on politicians, lawmakers and religious leaders to take action on the issue.

In an article published on his 85th birthday on Friday, and following several spells in hospital this year for recurring infections, the emeritus archbishop of Cape Town and anti-apartheid activist reiterated his support for assisted dying, first disclosed in the Guardian in 2014.

“With my life closer to its end than its beginning, I wish to help give people dignity in dying,” he wrote in the Washington Post.

“Just as I have argued firmly for compassion and fairness in life, I believe that terminally ill people should be treated with the same compassion and fairness when it comes to their deaths,” he added.

Desmond Tutu: a dignified death is our right – I am in favour of assisted dying

“Dying people should have the right to choose how and when they leave Mother Earth. I believe that, alongside the wonderful palliative care that exists, their choices should include a dignified assisted death.”

Tutu had changed his mind over assisted suicide two years ago after a lifelong opposition but had remained ambiguous about whether he personally would choose such a death.

He said: “Today, I myself am even closer to the departures hall than arrivals, so to speak, and my thoughts turn to how I would like to be treated when the time comes. Now more than ever, I feel compelled to lend my voice to this cause.”

He believed in the sanctity of life but also that terminally ill people should not be forced to endure terrible pain and suffering, he wrote. Instead they should have control over the manner and timing of their death.

He added: “I have prepared for my death and have made it clear that I do not wish to be kept alive at all costs. I hope I am treated with compassion and allowed to pass on to the next phase of life’s journey in the manner of my choice.”

Tutu pointed to laws in California and Canada that permit assisted dying for terminally ill people. But “there are still many thousands of dying people across the world who are denied their right to die with dignity”.

Lord Paul Boateng, Millennium Excellence Foundation Laureate

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Brexit does not mean that the British government will turn its back on Africa, Lord Paul Boateng, a Member of the United Kingdom’s House of Lords said Monday.

Speaking at the first ever Africa Trade Week rum which is being hosted by the Economic Commission for Africa and the African Union, Mr. Boateng said Brexit presents Africa and the UK with an opportunity to “put development at the heart of our trading relationship with Africa in a way frankly that it has not always been in relation to the EPAs, let’s be frank about it”.

“The UK recognizes that and we will seek every opportunity to minimize the disruption in our trading relationship and take every opportunity to seize this chance to re-fashion the relationship between the UK and Africa in terms of trade so intra-African trade becomes an opportunity which we can seize together,” he said.

Contributing to debate on Africa-E.U. Economic and Trade Cooperation and Brexit implications for Africa, Mr. Boateng assured participants, including African Ministers of Trade, Finance and Transportation as well as senior government officials, heads of Regional Economic Communities (RECs), African CEOs and executives, representatives of international development agencies, civil society and others, that trade relations between the UK and Africa will not be affected following Brexit.

“There is clearly a need in the aftermath of Brexit for there to be a degree of reassurance given to Africa that Brexit doesn’t mean that the United Kingdom is going to turn its back on Africa and I’m able to assure you that right across the political divide in the UK, in both Houses, Africa and the UK’s historic link with Africa remains central to our thinking,” he said.

“Yes there’s uncertainty at this time, that is inevitable, when such a momentous decision is made,” SAID Mr. Boateng.

“Yes there is a hazard always when you think about the scale of the task that lies ahead in terms of mapping out the future of the trading relationship between the UK and Africa but I think I can give the absolute assurance that we see this in the UK as an opportunity to be seized.”

Nolo Letele, Millennium Excellence Foundation Laureate

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What I learnt and I then implemented and executed is you then begin to realise that you run a business – and our business is very much like that – and cut it up into projects, we are very much project based in anything we do, it could be just a customer service thing but we call it and scope it as a project then it has a finite delivery timeline, which people must adhere to.

In that way everyone has their eye on the delivery date and the quality aspects of the project. So that I think was a massive learning for me and for the organisation because my job was to actually cascade it down, ja.

Jay Naidoo, Millennium Excellence Foundation Laureate

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Cape Town – Ignore the “noise at the top” and rather get into action to ensure a better future for SA and especially its youth, said well-known anti-apartheid activist Jay Naidoo on Friday.

Naidoo is, amongst others, on the board of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, which promotes African development through a focus on good governance. He was the guest speaker at the monthly networking breakfast of the Ubuntu Foundation at the Atlantic Imbizo Conference & Function Studio in the V&A Waterfront.

“I get inspired by people who ‘do’. If I had to listen all the time to the noise at the top, I would have to go and sit in the Himalayas or take a pill,” joked Naidoo.

“We have so many crises in SA and in the world. It is very important not to make the same mistake more than once. We need to connect our past to the present and realise what the world is we want to leave behind for our children.”

He called SA a “laboratory of diversity”, yet, pointed out humans are 99.9% identical on a genome level.

“We should promote the idea that we as humans are all from one ancient historic route and we should think before we do things,” cautioned Naidoo.

“The future of Africa is about how we can together leverage assets – including business assets – for inclusive growth. This can be done through uniting the heart and the head and not just being materialistic, but getting the youth out of poverty instead of joining gangs or turning to crime.”

A big question for him is why protests in SA always lead to violence. He even called SA “the protest capital of the world”.

“The question now is which direction we want SA to go and what each individual has to do, as opposed to just becoming more and more negative,” said Naidoo.

“Millions of people are doing things. We must have inter-generational conversations in SA. Young people are becoming more angry with and dismissive of my generation and they have a right to be.”

Donald Kaberuka, Millennium Excellence Foundation Laureate

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Donald Kaberuka, president of the African Development Bank, said there were obvious advantages for the funds to focus on specific diseases. “It was like the sweet spot, easy to sell and the results are there,” Kaberuka said.

Experts are now debating whether the funding balance needs to be adjusted to concentrate more on building general health systems in poor countries so they can withstand health crises like Ebola, which has claimed more than 4,000 lives.

“This is going to have to be a deep, deep analysis of what went wrong and why, because a lot of things went wrong at the same time,” said World Bank President and physician Jim Yong Kim.

“We now have to go back and say given what we’ve seen with Ebola we really have to be much more committed to building integrated models that are flexible and able to deliver across different priorities,” he said.

Kim cited the case of Rwanda, which used donor money to create a universal healthcare system after its 1994 genocide.

“If (the Ebola outbreak) had happened in Rwanda my own sense is that because they built district hospitals and community hospitals and have community health workers connected to the whole system, that we would have gotten this thing under control very quickly,” said Kim.

Chris Elias, president of the global development program at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said countries should learn from practices that have worked, including where disease programs also strengthened systems.

A Gates Foundation-funded polio and HIV clinic in Lagos, for example, was quickly turned into an emergency center for Ebola when the virus hit Nigeria. The center already had trained dozens of doctors, who were reassigned to deal with Ebola.

Efforts to contain the Ebola outbreaks in Nigeria and Senegal appear to have succeeded, even as the virus continues to spread in the hardest-hit West African countries.

Navanethem Pillay, Millennium Excellence Foundation Laureate

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Seth Walsh was thirteen years old when he walked into the garden of the home he shared with his family in Tehachapi, California last month and hanged himself. Before taking the tragic decision to end his life, he had endured years of homophobic taunting and abuse from his peers at school and in the neighbourhood. He is one of six teenage boys in the United States known to have committed suicide in September alone after suffering at the hands of homophobic bullies.

In the past few weeks we have seen a spate of attacks directed against people perceived as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. In Belgrade on 10 October, a group of protesters shouting abuse hurled Molotov cocktails and stun grenades into a peaceful gay pride parade, injuring 150 people. In New York on 3 October, three young men, believed to be gay, were kidnapped, taken to a vacant apartment in the Bronx and subjected to appalling torture and physical abuse. In South Africa, a large-scale march in Soweto brought attention to the widespread rape of lesbians in the townships, which perpetrators often try to justify as an attempt to “correct” the victims’ sexuality.

Homophobia, like racism and xenophobia, exists to varying degrees in all societies. Everyday, in every country, individuals are persecuted, vilified or violently assaulted, and even killed, because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. Covert or overt, homophobic violence causes enormous suffering which is often shrouded in a veil of silence and endured in isolation.

It is time we all spoke up. For while responsibility for hate crimes rests with the perpetrators themselves, we all share a duty to counter intolerance and prejudice and demand that attackers be held to account.

The first priority is to press for decriminalization of homosexuality worldwide. In more than 70 countries, individuals still face criminal sanctions on the basis of their sexual orientation. The existence of such laws exposes those concerned to the constant risk of arrest, detention and, in some cases, torture or even execution. It also perpetuates stigma and contributes to a climate of intolerance and violence.

But as important as decriminalization is, it is only a first step. We know from experience in those countries that have already removed criminal sanctions that greater, concerted efforts are needed to counter discrimination and homophobia, including both legislative and educational initiatives. Here again, we all have a role to play, particularly those in positions of authority and influence — including politicians, community leaders, teachers and journalists.

Sadly, too often those who should be exercising restraint or using their influence to promote tolerance do just the opposite, reinforcing popular prejudice. In Uganda, for example, where violence against people based on their sexual orientation is commonplace and human rights activists defending the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people face harassment and the threat of arrest, a newspaper on 2 October published a front page story “outing” 100 Ugandans who the newspaper identified as gay or lesbian and whose photographs were carried alongside the headline “hang them.” It is time we recognized such journalism for what it is: incitement to hatred and violence.

Political leaders and those who aspire to public office have a particularly important duty to use their words wisely. The candidate for public office who, rather than appealing for tolerance, makes casual remarks denigrating people on the basis of their sexuality may do so in the belief that he or she is indulging in harmless populism, but the effect is to legitimize homophobia.

Last month in Geneva I spoke at a panel discussion on decriminalizing homosexuality, sponsored by a diverse group of fourteen countries from Europe, North America, South America and Asia. In a video message, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu lent his support and spoke with passion about the lessons of apartheid and the challenge of securing equal rights for all. “Whenever one group of human beings is treated as inferior to another, hatred and intolerance will triumph,” he said. It should not take hundreds more deaths and beatings to convince us of this truth. It is up to all of us to demand equality for all our fellow human beings, regardless of their sexual orientation or their gender identity.

Jim Ovia, Millennium Excellence Foundation Laureate

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Zenith Bank Plc and the French Development Agency (Agence Francaise de Development (AFD), operator of France’s bilateral development finance mechanism, over the weekend in Abuja signed a $100m power sector credit facility to boost new investments in the capital expenditures of Distribution Companies (Discos).

The signing of the facility, which took place in the inner chambers of the Aso Rock Villa, in the shadow of the security summit, was witnessed by President Muhammadu Buhari and the visiting French President Francois Hollande.

The facility will be a reprieve for the Discos that are currently weighed down by the burden of debt, with historic debtors made of mainly government establishments, including the military and security agencies alone accounting for over N93bn.

Leading the team of the bank’s top executives to the bilateral session where the pact was sealed was chairman of Zenith Bank Plc, Mr. Jim Ovia, while Mrs. Laurence Breton-Moyet, chief operating officer and member of the executive board from the AFD Headquarters in Paris led the agency’s team.

Calestous Juma, Millennium Excellence Foundation Laureate

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His household, Juma recalled, was always “very experimental,” where “ideas were always being discussed in the sense of their utility – how you solve problems.” His father, a carpenter, redesigned houses to keep out mosquitoes and capture rain water, and introduced new crops from Uganda.

“I had an early interest in going into the sciences, to understand how sciences contribute to society,” he said. “By the age of 12, I was already an accomplished repairman myself, fixing all things electrical.”

Those family roots still ground his work today. In December, Oxford University Press will publish his latest book, The New Harvest: Agricultural Innovation in Africa, which has the unusual personal endorsement of four sitting presidents as well as a Nobel laureate.

The book argues that “agriculture needs to be viewed as a knowledge-based entrepreneurial activity.” It suggests concrete ways to boost agricultural research across Africa, and says that effort must be part of “a larger agenda to promote innovation, invest in enabling infrastructure, build human capacity, stimulate entrepreneurship and improve the governance of innovation.”

On his way to a Harvard professorship, Juma skipped an undergraduate university education entirely. He attended teachers’ college in central Kenya, and taught elementary school kids in the morning so he could keep his afternoons open for studying and writing.

His early writings took the form of frequent letters to the editors of newspapers, so “I was one of Africa’s first bloggers.

That led him to a one-year stint writing for the Daily Nation in Nairobi on environmental issues, which brought him a job offer from the Environmental Liaison Center International, a non-profit chaired by Wangari Maathai, who later won the Nobel Peace Prize. He soon won a Canadian scholarship to Sussex University in England — where he earned his master’s and doctoral degrees in three and half years.

Juma went home to Kenya in 1988 and founded Africa’s first independent think-tank. He ran the African Center for Technology Studies for eight years, earning a reputation as one of Africa’s innovative voices in leveraging science and technology for economic growth in developing countries.

He also was the first permanent executive secretary of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, a role that helped him forge ties with influential officials across Africa.

He arrived at the Kennedy School as it grappled with how to confront issues of African underdevelopment. Professors John Holdren and Bill Clark were strengthening research on science, technology and sustainable development policy within the Belfer Center.

Juma’s work has always focused on what he describes as “evolutionary technological change.” His early research examined how technology changes over time as part of a wider system of innovation. For example, he did his doctoral research on the introduction of fuel ethanol technology in Brazil, Zimbabwe and Kenya. “I developed an evolutionary approach for understanding economic growth is shaped by the co-evolution of technology and institutions.”

That’s one reason he is working not only with nations in Africa but with regional economic blocs and other cross-border organizations.

“Africa hasn’t fully tapped the power of technology because economies are organized around nation-states with small markets,” he said.

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