Mr. Eazi looking for new African Changemakers with emPawa

Nigerian musician Oluwatosin Ajibade alias Mr. Eazi recently launched the emPawa initiative, a talent incubator for rising African artistes in collaboration with YouTube and BetPawa.

emPawa Africa aims to discover Africa’s emerging talented musical artistes and equip them with the skills to make it to the global music scene.

The goal of this initiative is to find the continent’s next global superstars by discovering independent, emerging talented artists and provide them with resources and exposure to accelerate their success.

By partnering up with iconic figures in the music scene, the artists will be equipped with the tools, in-depth industry knowledge, network and investment.

The music industry in Africa can be a daunting place for new artists, with very little information available online about how to turn music into a business, or how to navigate deals with the different industry players.

Once selected, these change makers are mentored to shape the narrative about Africa through music.

The first emPawa Master class took place in Stellenbosch, South Africa in February 2019. Ten artistes were selected from over 20,000 submissions from Africa. Mentors like Diplo, Raye, Kwesta, and DSK, spent time listening to the artists, providing feedback on their tracks, style, and giving them access to original beats to work from.

During the project, other industry experts provide insights – like approaching radio hosts, dealing with labels, music contracts and common practices, strategies for streaming services, how to segment the market using audience insights, distribution, publishing, branding, social media, PR and marketing.

Further in collaboration with emPawa, YouTube will focus on bringing more African artists to the global stage.

It will support ten emerging Nigerian music artists chosen by emPawa to build their craft, increase their fan base and connect with the world through the video platform.

Mr. Eazi’s music has generated more than 900 million streams worldwide, including over 226 million plays on YouTube.

The afropop star has collaborated with global music icons such as Beyoncé, Kranium, J Balvin and Major Lazer. He has also had successful performances at Coachella and the London 02 Arena among others.

Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei sets world record at Diamond League

The ‘Golden Boy’ Joshua Cheptegei has done it again for Uganda. He becomes the first Ugandan athlete to clinch the record title for 5000m at the Diamond League.

Cheptegei had a spectacular finish at the IAAF Diamond League, setting a new world class personal best of 12.57.41 in Zurich and leaving behind jaw dropping moments of his victory lap. Ethiopia’s Hagos Gebrhiwet came in second at 12.58.15.

This new title also comes with a hefty prize tag of $50,000 (sh185m). More is yet to come for the young and vibrant athlete who has had to endure worse terrain most times training in high altitude ranges in Kapchorwa, Eastern Uganda to perfect his signature enduring pace.

In the Zurich race, the 22 year old was in the company of a formidable Ethiopian contingent comprising last season’s winner and record holder Selemon Barega, 2016 champion Hagos Gebrhiwet Berhe and 2015 winner Yomif Kejelcha Atomsa.

Watched by a 25,000-strong audience inside the Letzigrund, the Ugandan sensation put up a scintillating display of sprinting finesse against a seasoned cast of world-class racers.

As the reigning World Cross Country champion, Cheptegei now has his sights set on next month’s World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar.

DRC finally announces new cabinet

After assuming the reins of power in a hotly contested general election, President Felix Tshisekedi is faced with an uphill task of maintaining the legitimacy of his government.

In January 2019, Tshisekedi took office, despite critics claiming the election he won was rigged. Now opposition voices are accusing the new president of being Joseph Kabila’s puppet. Critics add that he is unproven, inexperienced and lacks the charisma of his father.

Both in the region and beyond, many argue that, whatever its flaws, the presidential election at least produced a transition from the long presidency of Joseph Kabila, and offers the best bet to preserving stability in DRC and the wider Great Lakes region. They may well be wrong on both counts.

Tshisekedi inherits a weakened government battered and consumed by decades of political turmoil and economic paralysis.

The state is weak while unemployment is rife and modest health care and education are inaccessible for most people.

Social security is at an all-time low which is escalating discontent among the masses that are agitating for robust reforms such as improved service delivery, managing insecurity and health emergencies such as Ebola.

Is Tshisekedi the right man for this  job?

Many political analysts believe that calming the storm in Kinshasha and the entire DRC will require consolidating the interests of the coalition led by former President Joseph Kabila and the opposition led by Martin Fayulu’s political front among other warring parties.

Fayulu who was runner up in the presidential election continues to drum up resistance from his political allies Jean-Pierre Bemba and Moise Katumbi and the electorate, a key constituency whose support Tshisekedi needs to drive his development agenda.

However, despite the ongoing troubles in the east, the DRC is more stable today than it was five years ago. Several militants groups have laid down their arms or integrated into the national army.

Tshisekedi must also reform the judiciary and give it the means to prosecute crimes at all levels – from those committed in war, to violence against women as well as those related to corruption.

With assistance from the European Union and China, access to health care and infrastructure are improving. It remains to be seen if Tshisekedi can seize this existing goodwill and embark on nation building.


Storm in the tea cup: Will the Uganda-Rwanda peace deal last?

A new dawn awakens for the citizens of Uganda and Rwanda who anxiously await to reap the fruits of the recent peace deal that was brokered in Luanda on August 21.

Many hope that the “Friendship Agreement” signed by President Yoweri Museveni and his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame will help defuse the tensions that have paralyzed many aspects of their citizen’s lives for two years.

The tensions, which surfaced in 2017, have caused a political and diplomatic crisis, developments that have affected the movement of goods and people between the two countries especially after February this year, when the busiest mainland border post between Uganda and Rwanda, Gatuna, was closed by Rwanda.

The standoff escalated when both governments traded counter-accusations of meddling in the internal affairs of one another, espionage, assassinations and economic sabotage.

If not resolved, the row between the two leaders risks dragging in East African neighbors, threatening economic integration and regional stability in an already conflict-prone swathe of the continent.

The restoration of diplomatic channels is being seen as a positive development in the effort to resolve this crisis. However, political observers remain skeptical – cautioning that it may take time before relations between the two countries are restored.

Analysts say a strong political will is needed on both sides to enforce the agreement as it will require a lot of compromises and restraint.

For example, despite the signing of the agreement, there was no immediate indication of smoothing relations as the propaganda war and misinformation remained throughout the week after the pact.

On Thursday August 22, a day after the peace pact, Uganda blocked pro-Rwandan government media websites for allegedly publishing content that is “harmful and detrimental to national security.”

Rwanda responded on Friday by blocking media sites such as New Vision, the Daily Monitor and The Observer in a move that seemed to scuttle whatever progress had been achieved in Luanda days earlier.

To many observers, the solution to the tensions resides in the political will of President Museveni and Kagame to exercise full commitment and respect to the pact they signed.


Uganda’s Winnie Byanyima appointed new UNAIDS Head

The United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has appointed Winnie  Byanyima as the new Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

Byanyima fills the post left by Michel Sidibe (UNAIDS ED, 2009-19) who is now minister of health in his native Mali.

In her new role, the 60-year-old Ugandan career diplomat will lead a robust team in an expanded response to the HIV and AIDS pandemic around the world.

Ms Byanyima has more than 30 years of experience in political leadership, diplomacy and humanitarian engagement.

In her acceptance message, Byanyima, who describes herself as being passionate about justice and human dignity, said she looks forward to joining the UNAIDS team and to “working closely with co-sponsors and partners to remove barriers to prevention, treatment and care”.

“I am honoured to be joining UNAIDS as the Executive Director at such a critical time in the response to HIV,” said Byanyima. “The end of AIDS as a public health threat by 2030 is a goal that is within the world’s reach, but I do not underestimate the scale of the challenge ahead. Working with all its partners, UNAIDS must continue to speak up for the people left behind and champion human rights as the only way to end the epidemic.”

“Byanyima brings a wealth of experience and commitment in harnessing the power of government, multilateral agencies, the private sector and civil society to end the HIV and AIDS crisis for communities around the world” the UNAIDS said in a statement.

Ms Byanyima has been the Executive Director of Oxfam International since 2013. Prior to that, she served for seven years as the Director of Gender and Development at the United Nations Development Programme.

Jubilation as Uganda Airlines takes to the skies: What next?

It was a historic milestone when Uganda Airlines successfully completed its maiden flight from Entebbe to Nairobi on Tuesday, raising optimism over the future of the East African country’s aviation industry.

The inaugural flight highlighted the start of a new chapter in Uganda’s commercial aviation, with President Yoweri Museveni describing the commissioning as a “historic moment” for all Ugandans.

“Uganda plays a critical role in the geo-political and economic stability of East Africa as a region, and as a nation, we are strategically placed to serve our neighbours,” said Museveni.

After 18 years of being out of action, Uganda Airlines is back in the skies albeit with a new code name, UR. Many hope the airline has learned from the mistakes that brought down its predecessor Uganda Airlines in 2001.

Uganda Airlines, like some of its rivals, aims to attract more domestic travelers to help it buck the gloomy continental trend. Around 2 million passengers per year travel through Entebbe, Uganda’s main airport.

Ephraim Bagenda, CEO Uganda Airlines noted 70% of the passengers consist of Ugandans who currently travel on foreign airlines. “We want part of that cake,” he exclaimed.

The revived airline also has plans for two daily flights to Nairobi and Juba, and one daily flight to Dar es Salaam, which will be plied by four Bombardier CRJ 900s aircraft, two of which arrived in the country on April 24.

The four jet fleet of CRJ900s is projected to address the regional market thirst and enhance connectivity, while stimulating traffic growth at the airline’s interconnecting hub of Entebbe airport.

The carrier also plans to tap into main regional destinations for traffic which are: Nairobi – the largest market – followed by Kilimanjaro, Kigali, Johannesburg and Juba.

The airline recently released promotional rates that will run for two months: Return tickets cost $278 for Nairobi, $225 for Juba, $590 for Mogadishu, $286 for Dar es Salaam, $292 for Bujumbura, $325 for Mombasa and $311 for Kilimanjaro.

Uganda is also targeting previously unserved destinations such as Khartoum, Mogadishu, Kinshasa, Lubumbashi, Goma, Mombasa, Lagos and Accra, where connectivity to Uganda requires at least one intermediate stop in both directions.

Uganda Airlines is currently the only airline flying direct from Entebbe to Mogadishu. Kenya Airways and Ethiopian Airways make stopovers at their hubs before connecting.