The Malagy administrator promised sweeping changes for the good of Africa when he replaced the much-maligned Issa Hayatou as CAF president, but Ahmad’s rule has had its own controversies.
There has always been a theatrical air to Confederation of African Football (CAF) elections, even in the days when strongman Issa Hayatou battered opponents into docile submission and swept to convincing victories in the presidential polls.
Those theatrics went up another level in Addis Ababa two years ago, when Hayatou was swept from power in a plebiscite he was absolutely convinced he would win – he didn’t even bother addressing the voters just minutes before they cast their ballots.
His opponent was Ahmad Ahmad, the junior executive committee member from Madagascar whose only distinction was the fact that he had been outed as one of the many football officials who received money from Qatar during the 2022 Fifa World Cup bidding process.
Some had already been banned for asking Mohamed Bin Hammam for personal loans or expense payments – such as Ahmad’s fellow executive committee member, Kalusha Bwalya of Zambia – and it seemed just a matter of time before Ahmad would feel the heat of Fifa’s ethics investigators.
In the 2017 elections, Ahmad was seen as no more than a patsy, a barometer of how strong Hayatou’s iron grip remained over African football or whether, as he looked tired and increasingly frail having just turned 70, his absolute authority was beginning to wane.
The Malagasy was the only one willing to put his head above the trenches and take on Hayatou, cajoled by more charismatic and seemingly able candidates who wanted change but were too scared to go head-to-head with the Cameroonian.
Dead man walking
Two months before the election, Ahmad cut a forlorn figure in the official hotel in Libreville during the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals in Gabon. Often he sat alone in the corner of the bar, few people wanting to be associated with him as he looked to be a “dead man walking”.
Little did he know, nor indeed did the incumbent, of the swelling tide of resentment against Hayatou’s 29-year reign over the administrative and controlling body for African association football. Hayatou was seeking an eighth term at the time to take his leadership into a fourth decade.
But many of the electorate were relatively new to their posts as football association presidents and wanting change. Reverence to the “chief” was fast evaporating and no longer a factor.
When it came time to vote, the two candidates were asked to leave the room, the hall where the African Union conducts its business. Hayatou and his attachés moved into an anteroom alongside the stage, while Ahmad crept out the back of the hall like a man looking to avoid the gallows.
The vote was a lengthy process as each country sent a representative up to the ballot box in alphabetical order. Then the clear plastic container was turned upside down, the ballot papers spilled on to a table in front of the assembled hall. The counting began.
Once the votes had been tallied, a small piece of paper with the result written on it was handed to CAF senior vice-president Suketu Patel, who betrayed no emotion, and the two protagonists were called back into the room.
A shell-shocked Hayatou
As the two candidates returned, a CAF staff member inadvertently switched on the giant screen above the podium to reveal the result from his computer. Ahmad had won. Hayatou, still making his way back to his chair, looked shell-shocked for a second and then his face thundered with anger.
Ahmad was somewhere at the back. A few seconds elapsed as the audience took in the enormity of it all, before shrieks of triumph and anguish rent the air. It was against this backdrop that the then 57-year-old former Malagasy minister of fisheries began his tenure.
The vote dislodged decades of stilted growth in Africa’s favourite pastime and with a new broom, the stale dust of the past could be swept away.
It all started positively, with Ahmad admitting he did not have the answers and quickly setting up a think-tank that did have the answers. Within months of becoming CAF president, he oversaw significant changes, notably the thorny issue of the timing of Afcon, which was slap-bang in the middle of the European club season.
Positive start to Ahmad’s era
This had always been a sticking point for Hayatou, who refused to be seen to be kowtowing to the Europeans. The more they moaned about losing their players to national team duty in mid-season, the more he dug in his heels.
But with about 19 players opting out of the most recent Nations Cup finals in Gabon for fear of jeopardising their future club contracts, it was obvious something had to be done. Maintaining the status quo would likely increase this number dramatically amid the strain of club versus country, thereby threatening the integrity of Afcon.
Players might have copped flack for a perceived lack of patriotism, but more important to them is earning money and it is the clubs that provide this bread and butter. Ahmad did not flinch in making a prudent move, seeing the practical reality. The decision came quickly, too.
He changed the club competitions calendar as well, to the benefit of the majority of the major football-playing nations on the continent – South Africa included – and promised changes across the board in areas such as administration, refereeing and youth competition.
He brought in former footballers to tap into their experience and allowed all takers a chance to make suggestions for the betterment of the African game. They were heady days indeed, as if African football had a fresh, lemon-scented wind blowing gently across her craggy face.
Hayatou had been forgotten in the blink of an eye, his three decades as boss of the African game seeming byzantine. Ahmad spent much of his first year in charge criss-crossing the continent, meeting heads of state in the cause of the game, hardly stopping for breath and barely making it home to Madagascar.
A bachelor, he lived out of a suitcase and CAF’s grace-and-favour apartment in Cairo, but was also in Morocco for much of his time, including during a reported heart scare that had him hospitalised for a short time.
The rot sets in
It was at one of the Moroccan-sponsored CAF functions that Ahmad named Fouzi Lekjaa, president of the Royal Moroccan Football Federation, and appointed him – a newly elected member of the CAF executive committee – as the organisation’s third vice-president, a role for which there is no provision in the statutes.
Neither that legal technicality nor the fact that Lekjaa is a junior in comparison with the majority of his colleagues on the 21-man committee seemed to make a difference. In hindsight, it was an early indication of the new CAF president’s disregard for confederation rules.
Since that appointment, he has been accused of corruption, sexual harassment, nepotism and flagrant disregard of the statutes in an appalling change of tide in past months. At last year’s Fifa World Cup in Russia, his fresh-faced general secretary, Amr Fahmy, was overzealously complimentary about his new boss, plus all the new colleagues that Ahmad had brought into senior positions at CAF, as well as the direction in which the African game was heading.
But that Moscow conversation hid the fact that Fahmy had already begun to keep a dossier of Ahmad’s descent into the murky world of corruption. Fahmy was jolted into action by an innocuous contract over refereeing equipment for the 2018 African Championship of Nations (Chan) in Morocco, in which the CAF president cancelled a routine order of kit from Puma and instructed a bemused CAF secretariat to buy the equipment instead from Adidas, but through a friend of his in France.
Usually, CAF would receive equipment at cost price from Adidas, with whom it has a long-standing relationship. But now it paid over the odds. The conclusion drawn was that Ahmad was helping his friend to get a dodgy buck or, even worse, getting some sort of kickback himself.
Fahmy pays the ultimate price
The dossier soon swelled. Ahmad stands accused of ordering that a portion of the payments to individual football associations be paid into the private accounts of the organisation’s presidents, to “cover their expenses”. He also allegedly authorised CAF to foot the bill for a private junket to Mecca for Muslim association presidents.
Fahmy reported Ahmad for overspending on new cars for use at the confederation’s Cairo headquarters and at a satellite office in Madagascar. That was all in a document that Fahmy sent to Fifa’s independent Ethics Committee in a whistle-blowing exercise that cost him his job.
Since then, there have been more allegations. Complaints of sexual harassment and charges have been laid against him in Morocco and London. Ahmad has also been accused of claiming almost $18 000 (just over R260 000) in expenses from CAF for air travel and per diem daily expense costs for last year’s World Cup, despite it being a Fifa tournament and having nothing to do with CAF. Fifa would have paid for Ahmad’s travel and given him a generous daily allowance, but he is alleged to have double claimed, from both football bodies.
By virtue of being CAF president, Ahmad is automatically a Fifa vice-president and the allegations represent a serious dilemma for the world governing body boss, Gianni Infantino.
Will Fifa act?
He is not expected to act before the Fifa Congress that starts in Paris, France, on 5 June. But all eyes will be on him afterwards to see if he stands by his claim of wanting to clean up the game and is prepared to risk any potential backlash from Africa, where Ahmad’s indulgence of football association bosses has ensured a decent base of popularity.
Significantly, Infantino cancelled his participation in the Cup of Nations draw in Cairo in April after Fahmy was sacked, in a sign that Ahmad’s actions did not go down well at Fifa headquarters in Zurich. But he will also tread cautiously to avoid a major scandal, which Fifa can ill afford after years of bad press, particularly as the sponsor pie begins to get smaller and the economic boom of the 1980s is a distant memory.
Ahmad has denied all allegations but hasn’t, in several recent interviews, explained his actions clearly.
He seems rattled and must know that there is the danger Fifa could summarily ban him, effectively ending his career.
African football hopes a successful Nations Cup tournament will provide a strong distraction, as well as an affirmation of the continent’s potential. But the nagging feeling remains that the expectation of just two years ago has evaporated quicker than you can shout “offside”, and Ahmad might have dropped the ball not long after picking it up.
Read more at: New Frame
Google, Apple, Microsoft, WhatsApp and numerous other companies and organizations have publicly opposed a proposal by the UK's intelligence agency GCHQ to open up encrypted communication to the government.
In an open letter to GCHQ, dated May 22, the group addresses a proposal published by GCHQ in November 2018. While the letter says that the "principles set forth by GCHQ officials are an important step in the right direction," it criticizes the proposal for “silently adding a law enforcement participant to a group chat or call,” also referred to as the "ghost proposal."
Essentially, the GCHQ wants messaging services such as Facebook's Messenger, WhatsApp and Signal to put in a switch that would enable the UK government to snoop on any encrypted chat. And while the GCHQ's proposal insists this is "not about weakening encryption or defeating the end-to-end nature of the service," Google, Apple and other signees of the letter claim that such a proposal would "pose serious threats to cybersecurity and thereby also threaten fundamental human rights, including privacy and free expression."
The letter lists several reasons why the ghost proposal is a horrible idea. It undermines the authentication process and it could introduce new (unintentional) security flaws into encrypted communication systems. It would also undermine users' trust into such systems, and opens up new avenues for abuse — would you trust your encrypted chat to be really private if you knew there could be a government official reading every word you wrote?
In conclusion, the signees of the letter urge GCHQ to abandon the ghost proposal, as well as "avoid any alternate approaches that would similarly threaten digital security and human rights."
Besides the tech giants listed above, the signees of the open letter include civil society organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Human Rights Watch, as well as several security experts.
In response, Ian Levy, one of the authors of the proposal, told The Guardian that "we welcome this response to our request for thoughts on exceptional access to data — for example to stop terrorists. The hypothetical proposal was always intended as a starting point for discussion. We will continue to engage with interested parties and look forward to having an open discussion to reach the best solutions possible.”
The Plastics Carrier Bags Regulations 2019 that prevent import, export, manufacturing, sale, storage, supply, and use of plastic carrier bags regardless of their thickness takes effect in Tanzania Mainland today, June 1, 2019.
The regulations published under the Government Notice No. 394 of 2019 on May 17, 2019, prohibit persons from selling or offering commodities wrapped in plastics for sale unless the nature of such commodities require plastic wrapping.
Also, the regulations require persons intending to import, export, manufacture or sell plastic carrier bags after June 1, 2019 to register for a license or permit.
The regulation imposes stern penalties to individuals and institutions that will be found guilty of contravening the regulations.
For instance, manufacturing or importation of prohibited plastic bags and plastic wrappings can lead to fines of up to Sh1 billion ( USD 434,770), or imprisonment of up to two years, or both.
Likewise, possession and usage can lead someone to fines of up to Sh200,000 (USD 87), or imprisonment of up to Seven days, or both.
However, the regulations have exempted plastic or plastic packaging for medical services, industrial products, construction industry, agricultural sector, food processing, or sanitary and waste management.
To facilitate smooth implementation of regulations, the Police Force, the Immigration Department, and the Tanzania Revenue Authority will have to take part in the process.
Through Guidelines released by the Permanent Secretary in the Vice President's Office (Union Affairs and Environment), Mr Joseph Malongo directs inspectors, execution officers and citizens that inspection is allowed in retail shops, market places, wholesalers, warehouses, factories, country borders and any other places where commodities are sold.
He said inspectors and implementing officials are required to introduce themselves each time they arrive at places subject to inspections and it is prohibited to stop vehicles for inspections.
"It is not allowed to enter people's homes or stop vehicles or any other means of transport to search for plastic bags," said the PS in a statement, adding.
"In case vehicles or other means of transport are stopped for any other traffic reasons just to find plastic bags carried by the said vehicle, appropriate punishment will be issued in accordance with the law and that they should be directed to take the consigned to reserved areas."
Furthermore, Mr Malongo said any person who will be found in possession or still using the prohibited material, then he/she will be liable to a fine and sued if the fine is not be paid on time.
"The fined persons will be given government receipts. Wisdom should prevail during the exercise and that use of excessive force, including beating or arresting and remanding citizens was not allowed," he said.
Egypt has been ranked top of 10 leading countries in Africa where hotel development has seen an upsurge, with Nigeria, Morocco and Ethiopia trailing. This is according to the 11th annual survey by W Hospitality Group, which over the years has earned global acclaim for its expertise in hospitality business.
The four countries lead the pack by numbers of rooms in the internationally-branded hotel development pipeline, with Egypt showing 15,158 rooms in 51 new hotels. A total of 75,155 branded rooms in 401 hotels are in development across the continent, a net increase (ignoring recent openings and taking in to account deals that have not come to fruition) of almost 11,000 rooms in the pipeline, 17% up on 2018.
W Hospitality Group’s Hotel Chain Development Pipelines in Africa survey had a record 43 international and regional hotel contributors this year, covering 54 countries in north and sub-Saharan Africa, and the Indian Ocean islands.
The top-line figures show that in North Africa the rooms’ pipeline is up 2.3% on 2018, and down 3.8% in sub-Saharan Africa, largely due to several of the chains ‘cleaning’ their pipelines, deleting deals that they believe are not going to happen. These cleaning adjustments amount to more than 12,000 rooms in 74 hotels.
Nevertheless, despite this significant adjustment, there has been growth of 51% in the total pipeline rooms since 2015 – North Africa up by 58%, and sub-Saharan Africa up by 47%.
According to survey, the top 10 countries account for 69% of the total hotels in the survey, and 74% of the rooms. Details of the survey report is expected to be presented for discussion at the forthcoming Africa Hotel Investment Forum (AHIF) in Addis Ababa, billed for September 23 and 25. The annual forum is organised by Bench Events.
The Managing Director of W Hospitality Group, Trevor Ward, said: “Egypt has by far the largest number of rooms in the pipeline this year, almost double the number in Nigeria, which is in second place. There has been huge activity by the chains in Egypt, with over 2,000 new rooms signed there in 2017, and a further 4,500 in 2018, of which 1,850 were signed by Radisson. Accor has no fewer than 16 deals with 6,363 hotels in Egypt, boosted by new brands from its acquisitions, including Mövenpick and Fairmont.”
Ward described this as an interesting development: “It’s interesting that there has also been a lot of activity in some of Africa’s countries, such as Niger and Zambia. In Niamey (Niger), where there is currently no branded hotel supply, there are no fewer than five hotels in the pipeline, and in Lusaka (Zambia), the chains signed 11 deals in 2018 and early 2019, taking the total pipeline there to 15 hotels with almost 1,900 rooms.’’
Looking at the top 10 cities, Cairo, with over 8,000 rooms in development and Addis Ababa, with over 5,000, have a clear lead. They are followed by Lagos (the leader for several previous years) and then Nairobi, Algiers, Abuja, Dakar, Abijan, Lusaka and Marrakech, the last two in the top 10 for the first time.
Egypt is not only the country with the most internationally-branded hotels in development, it also has the most internationally-branded properties already operated by the contributors, 108 hotels with 35,711 rooms between them. The countries which rank next, in terms of branded hotel rooms already operating are South Africa with 24,048, Morocco with 12,498 and then Tunisia, Nigeria and Algeria, all with just over 5,000. Kenya has over 4,000 branded rooms and it is followed by Ghana, Tanzania and Cape Verde, each with just over 2,000. At the other end of the list, there are four countries with no internationally-branded hotels and none in the development pipeline; they are Central African Republic, Eritrea, The Gambia and Somalia.
In the battle of the brands, Accor is the strongest pipeline player in Africa with more than 27,000 rooms spread across 162 hotels. It is followed by Marriott with over 23,000 rooms in 135 hotels. However, if both complete their current development pipelines with no further additions, they will stand neck and neck with just over 40,000 rooms each operating in Africa. Hilton is in third place, Radisson fourth and IHG fifth, after which, there is a substantial gap between the big five and other international chains.
Source: New Telegraph Nigeria
Zimbabwe will not borrow externally and will cut reliance on the central bank to finance deficits during an IMF staff-monitored programme in a bid to set a track record of fiscal discipline that could earn it future funding, the IMF said.
The southern African nation owes $8.8 billion to foreign lenders, $2.6 billion of that in arrears to the World Bank, the African Development Bank and the European Investment Bank. It has not accessed financing from international institutions since defaulting on its debt in 1999.
It is also suffering from a dollar crunch, rising inflation and public anger over shortages - all issues that have piled pressure on President Emmerson Mnangagwa who has promised to revive the economy after the fall of Robert Mugabe.
His government agreed to have its economic and political reforms monitored by the IMF from May 15 to March 15 next year to try to convince foreign donors to restructure and forgive its debt.
In a report released on Friday, the IMF said Harare authorities pledged to only borrow RTGS$400 million from the central bank in 2019, down from RTGS$3 billion last year.
The treasury will also cut the government’s salary bill to 67 percent of the budget, down from 79 percent last year and slash the budget deficit to 4% of GDP, in line with earlier projections, the IMF added.
The government will remove grain subsidies next year after the central bank scrapped a subsidy on fuel and ordered oil firms to buy dollars on the open market. Economic growth in the southern African nation is, however, expected to suffer from a severe drought and a cyclone that tore through the eastern regions early this year.
The IMF said this would see the economy contracting by 2.1 % this year before rebounding to 3.3% growth in 2020. The annual inflation rate will average 80.86 percent this year but the figure would fall to 14.1% next year, it added.
“Higher than projected inflation or a continued exchange rate depreciation could increase spending pressures, while failure to enforce (performance finance management) could lead to unbudgeted expenditure,” the IMF report said.
The central bank announced at the weekend that businesses and individuals would start accessing a $500 million loan borrowed from the African Export and Import Bank - a loan that had been negotiated before the IMF programme, the body’s representative in Harare, Patrick Imam, told Reuters.