Colors: Blue Color

In an effort to come up with solid strategies for the quick recovery of Caribbean economies, so devastated by the Covid-19 pandemic, a number of experts and boldface names from the Caribbean travel industry gathered virtually on Friday in a forum hosted by the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA), Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), and the Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management Centre (GTRCMC).

The one-day event entitled ‘Tourism: The Key to the Caribbean’s Economic Recovery’ brought together public and private sector leaders, the international tourism development community, members of civil society and the media in a bid to pinpoint lessons learned from the pandemic and address how the Caribbean can harness the economic power of tourism to mitigate the impact of the pandemic and rekindle the region’s economies.

Participants agreed that the main principles for tourism recovery in the Caribbean should contemplate the need to provide liquidity and protect jobs, the recovery of confidence through safety and security, as well as collaboration between the public and private sectors in order to guarantee the efficient reopening of the travel destinations.

The experts also believe that borders must be opened in a responsible way by harmonizing and coordinating protocols and procedures, couple with the application of new technologies and the added values of innovation and sustainability as part of the new normal. Michel Julian, senior program officer with the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), said that international tourist arrivals worldwide plummeted a staggering 70% between January and August 2020, meaning 700 million less travelers and $730 billion in losses in that same span of time. 

According to the UNWTO, the travel and tourism industry has lost eight times more money to the Covid 19 pandemic than in the 2009 global economic crisis. One of the most gripping presentations during the virtual forum was delievered by Virginia Messina, managing director of the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), who shed light on how hard the ongoing pandemic has hit the Caribbean region’s economy in the course of 2020.

The numbers she presented can’t be any bleaker. The Caribbean has lost 1.7 million tourism-related jobs so far and that figure could peak 1.9 million jobs if the current situation fails to improve. The region’s combined GDP has dropped 62% in 2020, with total losses in the neighbourhood of $36 billion. International tourist arrivals plunged by 60% this year and could skirt around 70% would the pandemic get worse. 

For his part, Edmund Bartlett, Jamaica’s Tourism Minister, also referred to seamlessness as one key factor to this process. He underscored the need for the Caribbean region to rationalize and simplify visas, air connections and travel. 

Lisa Cummins, Minister of Tourism of Barbados and CTO chairwoman, voiced her concern on the fact that ongoing plans for the unification of rules in the Caribbean is simply not working since CARICOM member states have not reached an agreement on entry and quarantine rules and requirements. She also said the CTO must work diligently, in the short run, in subsidizing wages of tourism workers, in boosting digitization, updating skills of the existing workforce and relying on green energy and resilience.

As an extra goal for the future, the need to integrate destinations and turning them into one big destination Caribbean travel experience remains in the offing.

London will move into England’s highest tier of Covid restrictions from tomorrow, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said. Parts of Essex and parts of Hertfordshire will also enter tier three at the same time.

new variant of coronavirus has been identified that "may be associated" with the faster spread in southern England, Mr Hancock added. Pubs and restaurants in tier three must close except for takeaway and delivery.

Also under the rules, sports fans cannot attend events in stadiums, and indoor entertainment venues - such as theatres, bowling alleys and cinemas - must remain shut.

The health secretary told a Downing Street briefing that action had to be taken immediately - before the next scheduled review of England's three-tier system tomorrow - to slow "sharp, exponential rises" in infection, adding that in some areas the virus was doubling around every seven days.

Speaking alongside Professor Chris Whitty, England's chief medical officer, and Prof Kevin Fenton, London regional director for Public Health England, Mr Hancock warned that hospitals across the capital, Essex and Kent were already "under pressure". He described the rise in transmission and the new variant as "a salutary warning for the whole country".

"This isn't over yet," he said.

With Kent, Medway and Slough already under tier three rules, it means large parts of south-east England will soon join much of the Midlands, north-west England and north-east England under the strictest curbs on social contacts.

More than 34 million people in England will be in tier three when the changes come into effect; 21.5 million in tier two; and about 700,000 in tier one.

The latest tier three areas include:

·         Greater London

·         The south and west of Essex (Basildon, Brentwood, Harlow, Epping Forest, Castle Point, Rochford, Maldon, Braintree and Chelmsford, along with Thurrock and Southend-On-Sea borough councils)

·         And the south of Hertfordshire (Broxbourne, Hertsmere, Watford and the Three Rivers local authority)

Prof Whitty warned cases in some areas could rise "very rapidly" by Christmas - without action to combat the current doubling rate. But he stressed it was "possible to turn this around with the tools we have", highlighting how areas such as Liverpool have successfully brought infection rates down.

Prof Fenton said it was a "pivotal moment" for London and parts of south-east England, which was why the government had had to take "quick and decisive action". Asked whether the government should rethink plans to ease some restrictions for Christmas, Mr Hancock said "it's important everyone is cautious" ahead of the festive period, especially when meeting vulnerable people.

"But we do understand why people do want to get together with their families," he said. Prof Whitty echoed his remarks, adding that people need to be conscious of the fact that the vaccine is "not going to give us a way out between now and Christmas or indeed for the two months following that".

On the new variant, which is being tested at Porton Down, Prof Whitty said it would be "pretty surprising" if it were to reduce the effectiveness of the vaccine. Earlier, Hancock told MPs there was "currently nothing to suggest" that the new variant was more likely to cause serious disease and advice was that it's "highly unlikely" the mutation would fail to respond to a vaccine.

Labour's shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said "none of us are surprised" at the action the health secretary is taking, but warned the country was "heading into the Christmas easing with diminishing headroom". Meanwhile, London Mayor Sadiq Khan described the announcement as "incredibly disappointing" for businesses, but said it was clear the virus was "accelerating in the wrong direction" and urged all Londoners to follow the rules.

Essex County Council leader David Finch said local leaders would lobby the government for support "during this very challenging time", and Hertfordshire County Council's leader, David Williams, called for residents to "stay disciplined and stick to the guidance". Sectors hit hard by the fresh restrictions expressed anger over the decision.

The director of the Theatres Trust said London's theatres would face "disaster" under the stricter rules, while business owners in the capital said it would "be a ghost town".

Kate Nicholls, of trade body UKHospitality, said the move places an "unfair, illogical and disproportionate burden on hospitality businesses without effectively tackling Covid". And Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said the move into tier three was "another nail in the coffin for London's pubs, as well as those affected in parts of Hertfordshire and Essex".

There was also disappointment that sporting events in London would no longer be able to welcome fans.

An MP in an earlier briefing from Mr Hancock said they were told that the next review of the tier system would be on December 23.

Thousands of people drove to the Indian Consulate in Birmingham to show support for farmers in India protesting about agricultural reforms. Despite the city being under tier three rules, people from across England have been taking part a week after a similar gathering in London.

The National Sikh Police Association UK advised people not to attend.

Arjan Singh, from Manchester, said people wanted to show the Indian government the reforms were unfair. Protests in India have seen more than 250 million workers go on strike.

"Everyone has come together as these reforms are very detrimental to farmers and only serve corporate interests which will leave the farmers with nothing," Mr Singh, 37, a company director from Bramall, said. "I feel very proud to be here... it's happened in London, Canada and America and it's a domino effect from India and we're trying to make the government see what's happening and that something's got to change."

The Kisaan Car Rally started at Guru Har Rai Gurdwara in West Bromwich, in the West Midlands, with participators driving to the consulate.

The National Sikh Police Association UK advised people not to attend because of the tier three restrictions and warned people if they did, to stay in their cars or potentially face enforcement action. Some smoke devices were let off in Sandwell as part of the rally, West Midlands Police said as they advised motorists to avoid the the whole of West Bromwich, Birmingham city centre and the Jewellery Quarter because of severe traffic disruption.

Jas Singh, a business consultant from Derby said he could see people in the slow-moving convoy en route to the city were adhering to social distancing if they got out of their vehicles.

"It's taken me one-and-half hours to get from Soho Road to the city centre because of the convoys," he said. "There's thousands of people here, from all ages and from around the country and they're wearing masks and very little mixing is going on - everyone is very conscious of that."

When the vehicles reached Birmingham, some people did leave their cars to gather outside the embassy in the Jewellery Quarter prompting police to say they would take "appropriate action".

"Deliberately not following the regulations and measures put in place to limit the spread of the virus is unacceptable and our officers will take the appropriate action where necessary," the force tweeted.

The UN secretary general has called on all countries to declare a climate emergency.

António Guterres was speaking at a virtual summit on the fifth anniversary of the Paris climate agreement. He criticised rich countries for spending 50% more of their pandemic recovery cash on fossil fuels compared to low-carbon energy. Over 70 world leaders are due to speak at the meeting organised by the UK, UN and France.

Mr Guterres said that 38 countries had already declared a climate emergency and he called on leaders worldwide to now do the same. He said the emergency would only end when carbon neutrality was reached. Carbon neutrality means that emissions have been reduced as much as possible and any remaining ones are balanced by removing an equivalent amount from the atmosphere.

On the Covid recovery spending, he said that this is money being borrowed from future generations.

"We cannot use these resources to lock in policies that burden future generations with a mountain of debt on a broken planet," he said. The secretary general praised those countries who have come to today's meeting with new targets and plans. A number of big emitters, including Australia, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Mexico, are not taking part, as their climate actions were not deemed ambitious enough.

The UK has announced an end to support for overseas fossil fuel projects, and has today deposited a new climate plan with the UN. It's the first time that Britain has had to do this, as it was previously covered by the European Union's climate commitments. The virtual gathering is taking place after the pandemic caused the postponement of the annual Conference of the Parties (COP) meeting, which had been due to take place in Glasgow this year.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the year was coming to an end with "a certain amount of scientific optimism" because "barely 12 months after the start of the pandemic, we're seeing the vaccine going into the arms of the elderly".

He added: "Together we can use scientific advances to protect our entire planet - our biosphere - against a challenge far worse, far more destructive even than the coronavirus.

“And by the promethean power of our invention, we can begin to defend the Earth against the disaster of global warming."

The UK says that today's short, action-oriented summit will put a premium on new commitments from countries. Around 70 leaders from all over the world will take part, including the Secretary General of the United Nations, and President Macron of France. Pope Francis will also address the meeting.

The UK pointed to its new commitment on overseas fossil fuel projects as well as a new carbon cutting target of 68% by 2030, announced last week by the prime minister. The EU also presented a new 2030 target of a 55% cut in emissions, agreed after all-night negotiations this week. "That is now Europe's calling card," said Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission. "It is the go-ahead for scaling up climate action across our economy and society."

China's President Xi Jinping reiterated a previous commitment to reach peak CO2 emissions before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. He announced that China would reduce its carbon emissions per unit of gross domestic product (GDP) by over 65% compared with 2005 levels. The country will also increase the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption by about 25%. And President Xi pledged to increase forest cover and boost wind and solar capacity.

Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India, said the country's renewable energy capacity was on target to reach 175 Gigawatts by 2022, and it would aim to boost this to 450 Gigawatts by 2030. He added that India was on track to exceed the targets in the Paris Agreement.

Although President Donald Trump pulled the US out of the Paris pact, the summit saw statements from the Republican governor of Massachusetts, Charlie Baker, and the Democrat governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer, who said the US was "all-in" on tackling climate change.

Pope Francis said the Vatican had committed to reaching net zero emissions, similar to carbon neutrality, before 2050. "The time has come to change course. Let us not rob future generations of the hope for a better future," he said.

Australia had held out the promise of not using old carbon credits to meet future cuts in emissions. But the UK felt that this didn't go far enough and the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison won't be taking part.

Russia, South Africa and Saudi Arabia won't be involved either. Some observers believe this hard line is justified.

The Commonwealth Observer Group (COG), which has been on location in Ghana observing the recent elections has today issued an interim statement calling for peace as they await full results.

The Group’s interim statement noted the voting exercise was held successfully, despite unprecedented circumstances posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Results are yet to be released by the Ghana Electoral Commission but speaking on the release of the COG’s interim statement its Chair, former President of East Africa Court of Justice, Dr Emmanuel Ugirashebuja, said: “The electoral process is yet to be concluded and the greatest test of leadership is called for now. All parties must exercise patience and restraint while Ghanaians await the announcement of full results. We urge the Ghana Electoral Commission to continue to expedite the collation of all election results, with the transparency and professionalism which they demonstrated on election day.”

The COG interim statement commended all stakeholders in the electoral process for their commitment to democracy and peace - and the maturity of President Nana Akufo-Addo of the NPP and John Mahama of the NDC for signing a pact in which they reaffirmed their commitment to peace ahead of the elections.

The Group, deployed by the Commonwealth Secretary-General is led by Dr Emmanuel Ugirashebuja, former President of East Africa Court of Justice, and included eminent persons from across the Commonwealth, supported by a six-person team from the Secretariat.

While issuing the statement in a press Conference in Accra, the Chair noted that the Group was impressed by the professionalism, confidence, and enthusiasm of polling officials, and that voting proceeded steadily with the assistance of biometric verification.

Some concerns and challenges were identified at some polling stations and they were promptly addressed by the officials.

The statement commended the transparent counting process at the polling stations and noted that officials adhered to prescribed procedures.

China's Supreme Court has hired Uganda's former Chief Justice, Bart Katureebe, as a member of its expert committee on adjudication of international commercial disputes.

Justice Katureebe will sit on the committee for the next four years. He retired from Uganda's Supreme Court in June after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70 years.

"I am profoundly excited about this appointment, for it is a high-level committee that will keep me professionally connected," he is quoted as saying in a statement tweeted by Uganda's judiciary. The expert committee, established in August 2018, is part of the China International Commercial Court (CICC) which is an organ of China's Supreme Court.

The committee is comprised of 31 leaders of international organisations, legal experts, scholars, judges and lawyers selected from different countries, the statement by Uganda's judiciary added. It mediates international commercial disputes assigned to it, provides legal opinion on foreign laws when asked and gives advice on the future of the CICC.

The Chinese embassy in Uganda has congratulated Justice Katureebe on his appointment.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has inaugurated a metro project aimed at curbing the impact of air pollution on the Taj Mahal.

The rail network, in the northern city of Agra, will connect the 17th Century monument and other historic sites with railway stations and bus stops.

It's estimated the project will cost Rs 8,379.62 crore ($1.1bn; $854.2m) and take five years to complete.

The Taj Mahal is one of the world's leading tourist attractions.

It draws as many as 70,000 people a day.

Taking part in a virtual ceremony, which was broadcast on Twitter, Mr Modi said that the scheme includes 10 million houses for low-income residents. He also highlighted his government's efforts to modernise rail networks nationwide.

In 2018, India's Supreme Court criticised the government for a "failure" to protect the historic site.

During May that year, the court had instructed the government to seek foreign help to fix the "worrying change in colour" of the structure, which was built under the rule of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan.

The court concluded that the Taj Mahal, constructed from white marble and other materials, was turning various shades of yellow, brown and green. Pollution, construction and insect dung are said to be among the causes.

Constant cleaning required to maintain the building's original colouring has since worn away at the delicate stonework.

The first consignment of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine has arrived in the UK.

It has been taken to a central hub at an undisclosed location, and will now be distributed to hospital vaccination centres around the UK. The UK has ordered 40 million doses - enough to vaccinate 20 million people.

England's deputy chief medical officer said the first wave of vaccinations could prevent up to 99% of Covid-19 hospital admissions and deaths.

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said that would be possible if everyone on the first priority list took the vaccine and it was highly effective. He said it was key to distribute the vaccine "as fast" and at the "highest volume" as possible, but he acknowledged there would need to be some flexibility in the list.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines are made in Belgium and have travelled to the UK via the Eurotunnel. The order in which people will get the jab is recommended by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) and decided by the government.

Elderly people in care homes and care home staff have been placed top of the priority list, followed by over-80s and health and care staff.

However, because hospitals already have the facilities to store the vaccine at the necessary -70C, the very first vaccinations are likely to take place there - for care home staff, NHS staff and patients - to lower the risk of wasting doses.

Prof Van-Tam said: "If we can get through phase one [of the priority list] and it is a highly effective vaccine and there is very, very high up take, then we could in theory take out 99% of hospitalisations and deaths related to Covid 19.

"That is why the phase one list is what it is, that is the primary ambition." The UK became the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer vaccine.

Dr Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the US, has since said that the UK was not as rigorous as the US in its Covid-19 vaccine approval process.

"The UK did not do it as carefully," he told Fox News. "If you go quickly and you do it superficially, people are not going to want to get vaccinated." But the UK has defended its process, and said the jab is safe and effective.

Dr June Raine, the head of the UK medicines regulator, said "no corners had been cut" in vetting the jab. The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) reviewed preliminary data on the vaccine trials dating back to June.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine offers up to 95% protection against Covid-19.

The UK's 40 million doses will be distributed as quickly as they can be made by Pfizer in Belgium, with the first load rolled out next week and then "several millions" throughout December, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said. But the bulk of the roll-out across the UK will be next year.

And it could take until April for all those deemed most at-risk to receive the new vaccine, according to NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens.

Suhaila Siddiq, Afghanistan's only female lieutenant general and one of a small number of women to hold a ministerial post in the country, died in hospital at the age of 72. She had Alzheimer's disease for about six years.

The country's top leaders, medical professionals and women were among those mourning her death.

Abdullah Abdullah, a former de facto prime minister and foreign minister, said her role in establishing a place for women in the fields of medicine, military and in wider society had been "commendable and undeniable".

"She was a pioneer for countless others in uniform and will continue to be an inspiration," one social media user wrote.

"Your memories and your entire life has been a true inspiration to all of us," another said.

Ms Siddiq was born in 1948 in Afghanistan's capital Kabul to a wealthy family.

She studied medicine in the city and completed her medical training in Moscow before returning to Afghanistan to work as a doctor.

Ms Siddiq first came to prominence during the Soviet era, when she was awarded the title of general by the pro-Moscow government. She soon became widely known in the country by the name "General Suhaila", and built a reputation as the country's most respected surgeon.

Her work saw her spend decades in Kabul's 400-bed military hospital, where her abdominal surgery was credited with saving hundreds of lives.

She also played a key role in keeping the hospital going in the 1990s, when rocket attacks killed and injured thousands.

Her former colleague and student Dr Yaqoob Noorzai said that she would regularly distribute her salary among the workers in need in the hospital.

"She was a serious defender of the rights of her colleagues," he said

When the Taliban took power in 1996, women's rights in Afghanistan were eroded.

During their rule, the Taliban barred women from education and employment and imposed their own austere version of Islamic laws. But months after leaving her job, Ms Siddiq said the Taliban took the extraordinary step of asking her to return, realising they needed her surgical skills.

"They needed me and they asked me to come back," she recalled.

She agreed, but only on the condition that she and her sister did not have to wear the all-covering burka.

"It was not exactly a victory for me, but they certainly needed me to be there. Even when I went to Kandahar (the birthplace of the Taliban) I never wore a burka," she told the Guardian.

She was also, however, dismissive of emphasis being placed on the burka.

"The first priority should be given to education, primary school facilities, the economy and reconstruction of the country but the West concentrates on the burka and whether the policies of the Taliban are better or worse than other regimes," she was quoted as telling reporters in late 2001.

After the fall of the Taliban, she made her move into government, when she was appointed minister of public health.

She was one of two women ministers appointed to the country's post-Taliban government.

As minister, she oversaw the vaccination of millions of children against polio, and spoke about the need to tackle HIV and Aids.

She asked the UN to help train female medical workers, and the UN Population Fund to help coordinate efforts to improve the reproductive health of Afghan women.

After finishing her role as minister in 2004, she returned to her medical work.

Dr Noorzai said that when colleagues used to ask her why she had not married, she said it was because she was "in love with her profession and her profession was her life".

She was 72

St. Thomas has been named the top cruise destination in the Caribbean for the second year in a row. The latest accolade for the island, which has been described as “bustling and cosmopolitan, yet quaint and historic”, comes from readers of Porthole Cruise Magazine, who voted for their favorite destination in the region in the publication’s 22nd Annual Readers’ Choice Awards.

The results, published in the November/December 2020 issue of the magazine, also feature dozens of other reader favorites under the categories of best ships, best onboard experiences and best destinations.

Upon hearing the outcome of the vote, U.S. Virgin Islands Commissioner of Tourism Joseph Boschulte said, “I’d like to thank the discerning readers of Porthole Cruise Magazine for choosing us once again. It’s really encouraging news for Virgin Islanders, especially in this tumultuous year. It tells us that we have a solid foundation with our current cruise product, and drives us to continue to work on improving it so we can hopefully earn this title again next year.”

“For St. Thomas to be chosen once again in the category of best Caribbean cruise destination, I think really illustrates that the U.S. Virgin Islands is doing something right,” said Bill Panoff, publisher and editor-in-chief of Porthole Cruise Magazine. “Our readers are avid travelers with high standards who really understand the nuance of cruise products, so they don’t make these choices lightly.”

Since reopening its doors to leisure visitors more than a month ago, the Territory has welcomed several thousand guests eager to experience all that the USVI has to offer, and to stimulate much-needed economic activity through their spending on accommodations, activities and attractions.

 

The Territory has also experienced a significant uptick in U.S. visitors, reporting more than a 200 percent year-over-year increase of all travel insurance policies purchased through Squaremouth.com between March 12 and October 19, 2020, for all future travel.

Cruise industry analysis indicates steadfast interest in cruise experiences despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) “No Sail” order, which had prevented cruise ships from sailing in U.S. waters during most of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Travelers are primarily concerned with being assured of each destination’s adherence to stringent health and safety protocols.

“Historically, the cruise sector has been an essential partner in the development of the USVI’s tourism product, and we are always looking for ways to strengthen those key relationships,” noted Commissioner Boschulte, adding that the Department looks forward to welcoming vessels back to the Territory’s ports when cruising resumes in the months ahead.

Porthole Cruise Magazine is a leading cruise-travel magazine, available on newsstands and online.

 

 

VIVA Cruises launches itineraries on the North and Baltic Seas on board new expedition ship, MS SEAVENTURE

 

River cruise specialist, VIVA Cruises, is launching four new itineraries on the North and Baltic Seas on board the company’s first ever expedition ship, MS SEAVENTURE. The new cruises will start in April 2021 and have a capacity for just 164 guests.

MS SEAVENTURE, formerly MS BREMEN, was acquired by VIVA Cruises’ parent company, Scylla AG, from Hapag-Lloyd.

MS SEAVENTURE’s maiden voyage, Springtime maritime experiences, will take place 18-25 April 2021, departing from and arriving to the German city of Bremerhaven. From here, the seven-night cruise will take guests to Wismar (Germany), famous for its historic old town; Stettin, Poland’s ‘green city’; Stralsund (Germany), with its unique location at a sound of the Baltic Sea; Copenhagen, capital of Denmark; Heligoland, Germany’s only offshore island; and Hamburg, Germany’s ‘Gateway to the World’. Prices start from €2,795 (approximately £2,470) per person in an outside cabin.

The ship will then sail on three further seven-night cruises whose first and last port will also be Bremerhaven. These itineraries will be visiting iconic destinations such as Malmö and Gothenburg (Sweden), Kristiansand (Norway) and Sylt (Germany). Prices also start from €2,795 (approximately £2,470) per person in an outside cabin.

To celebrate the launch, VIVA Cruises is offering a €350 voucher to be redeemed across VIVA Cruises’ European river itineraries in 2021 when booking a cruise on MS SEAVENTURE before 31 December 2020.

As a small ship, MS SEAVENTURE has just 82 cabins and suites for 164 guests. It has been specially designed for its unique itineraries; its size will allow it to enter remote harbours, not to mention its maneuverability, enabling it to change course at short notice to observe animals and nature. A fleet of fourteen sturdy Zodiacs will enable guests to explore smaller ports and uncharted territories.

Andrea Kruse, COO of VIVA Cruises, says: “We are delighted to launch this exciting new product and the first four itineraries to the UK market. MS SEAVENTURE will offer a truly unique small ship experience, taking guests to some of the most breath-taking scenery on the North and Baltic Seas.”

All itineraries of MS SEAVENTURE will feature VIVA’s Checklist - the health and safety measures introduced in light of Covid-19 – and VIVA Cruises’ signature VIVA All-Inclusive product, which includes snacks, full board, high-quality alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, minibar, beauty products from luxury cosmetic brand, Rituals, and all tips and gratuities.

 

Carib-Export (the Caribbean Export Development Agency) has launched its first virtual expo event named ‘Absolutely Caribbean, unlocking the profit potential of the Caribbean’.  The event is bringing together around 50 producers from across the region to showcase some of the best products that the Caribbean has to offer.   

Dr. Damie Sinanan, Manager of Competitiveness and Export Promotion, Carib-Export, said: “We’re really excited to be organising our first virtual expo. We have seen a growing trend for Caribbean food, beverages and natural products across Europe in the last few years which presents a real opportunity for us.  In the UK alone, Caribbean food is now estimated to be worth £97m1 with the number of Caribbean restaurants in the last year having grown by 144%”. 

Attendees will have the chance to book slots to meet with producers from a variety of categories including natural food products, sauces and condiments; rum & spirits, neutraceuticals and plant-based cosmetics. There will also be a presentation by consumer goods and retail experts to discuss the latest insights on these fast-moving consumer goods within the UK.

Carib-Export - the only regional trade and investment promotion agency in the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group: established in 1996 by an Inter-Governmental Agreement as the regional trade and investment promotion agency, it serves the 15 states of the Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM), namely: Antigua & Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad & Tobago - has partnered with Shaun and Craig McAnuff of Original Flava for the event who have found great success with their Caribbean food and lifestyle platform and recently released their first cookbook of authentic Jamaican recipes.  With an increase in demand for Caribbean sauces and condiments across Europe, the duo will host a live session to show how versatile these products are, including a cooking demonstration. 

The event is also supported by the West Indies Rum & Spirit Producer’s Association (WIRSPA), who represent distillers’ associations from across the ACP Caribbean3 and will be hosting a session on premium alcoholic drinks from the Caribbean in collaboration with the Rum and Spirits Academy of Europe.  

The online event is a joint venture between Carib-Export, the European Commission and the German International Development Agency (GIZ), and has been launched off the back of a successful three-day trade show and conference which took place in Germany last year. 

 

The agency carries out numerous programme based activities designed to enhance the competitiveness of regional small and medium sized enterprises, promote trade and development amongst CARIFORUM states, promote stronger trade and investment between the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Dominican Republic, CARIFORUM states and the French Caribbean Outermost Regions (FCORs) and the EU Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs) in the Caribbean. 

 

For further information, visit: https://www.carib-export.com

It has been announced that former Ghana President Jerry John Rawlings has died at the age of 73.

 

A charismatic figure, in African and worldwide politics, he led two coups, first in 1979, before twice being elected president in multiparty polls.

 

Railing against corruption when he first seized power, he was responsible for executing several former heads of state for their alleged graft and mismanagement and was also seen as a champion of the poor, but came to be criticised for alleged human rights abuses.

 

The son of a Scottish farmer and a Ghanaian mother, he entered the Ghana Air Force, graduating in 1969 before becoming a senior officer in the air force.

 

He overthrew a military government, handing over power to a civilian leader.

 

In 1981, Rawlings led a second coup and was the head of a military junta until introducing multi-party elections in 1992, when he was first elected president. He stepped down in 2001 after serving two terms but continued to wield a strong influence in the country.

 

He began his time in power as a committed socialist, but later introduced free-market reforms. He ushered in a long period of political stability after a tumultuous series of coups in the 1960s and 1970s.

 

In later years, Rawlings campaigned for African nations to have their international debts written off.

 

He died in hospital in the capital, Accra, after a short illness.

 

Former Nigeria senate president, Abubakar Bukola Saraki and wife Toyin Saraki don also react to di death of Jerry Rawlings.

 

Oga Saraki say; "Jerry Rawlings always lead from di front and match im words wit actions." while im wife, Toyin pray for God to grant Rawlings eternal and restful peace.

 

The country’s main opposition presidential candidate and former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar say; "Jerry Rawlings na African giant and im tenure as leader of Ghana remains strong."

 

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari added: "the entire African continent will sorely miss the sterling qualities of the great leader".

 

"The passion, discipline and moral strength that the former Ghanaian leader employed to reposition his country over many years continue to reverberate across the continent and beyond."

 

African Union Commission chair Moussa Faki Mahamat said: "Africa has lost a stalwart of Pan-Africanism and a charismatic continental statesman".

While Liberian President George Weah said "Ghana, Liberia and Africa will miss a great leader.”

 

The former World Footballer of the Year added: "Liberia remembers his immense contribution to the attainment and sustainment of peace during our dark days of our own history."

 

Ghana President, Nana Akufo-Addo, announced seven days of national mourning. "A great tree has fallen, and Ghana is poorer for this loss," he said in a statement.

South African Patrice Motsepe, one of Africa's richest men, has announced his intention to become the next president of the Confederation of African Football (Caf).

 

The chair of 2016 African club champions Mamelodi Sundowns becomes the third person to bid for the role, after incumbent Ahmad and Jacques Anouma of Ivory Coast.

 

Motsepe is Africa's tenth richest man, according to Forbes magazine which estimates his wealth at $2.4 billion. 

 

South Africa FA president Danny Jordaan said: "Caf must improve its global standing.

"He is the most appropriate person we could offer for the leadership of Caf. We do not want any compromise on governance or ethics in football."

 

Motsepe, who is in quarantine at home after contracting Covid-19 according to Jordaan, was not present at the press conference in Johannesburg to announce his bid, with Jordaan - flanked by South Africa's Sports Minister Nathi Mthethwa - doing so instead. In a related development, one expected challenger - Amaju Pinnick of Nigeria - has decided against standing for the Caf presidency and given his backing to Motsepe instead. The South African is the second candidate to announce in less than 48 hours, after Anouma - a former member of Fifa's Executive Committee (now Fifa Council) between 2007 and 2015 - was formally backed by the Ivorian federation.

 

It is understood that reigning president Ahmad submitted his candidacy in October but his ability to contest March's elections is in doubt given he is set to face a ban from football after being found to have breached various Fifa's ethic codes.

 

The 60-year-old from Madagascar, who was questioned by French anti-corruption authorities last year without being charged, has previously denied any wrongdoing.

 

Motsepe's bid, which comes ahead of the deadline for candidates to formally register their interest, breaks the traditional contestants for the Caf presidency, which has been restricted to high-ranking members of African football's ruling body in the past. He is able to contest the position since he fulfils the requirements of having been involved in football for the past five years, with the South African having led Pretoria-based Sundowns since 2004, and has received the backing of his own federation.

 

Having made his fortune in mining after starting out as a lawyer, Motsepe - whose elder sister is the wife of South African President Cyril Ramaphosa - is already receiving support from across Africa, with Botswana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone among those to have already publicly backed him.

 

Pinnick said: "He has more superior qualities than me.

"It's not about me, it's about African football. If you have someone with superior qualities, you have to learn from him and queue behind him and wait for your time."

"The key to successful governance starts from the point where the right person or persons are put in the right positions for the right reasons," said Sierra Leone FA president Isha Johansen. "African football and the African continent needs to be on the global platform for the right reasons."

 

Botswana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone were among the eight countries - with Anouma's Ivory Coast another - that refused to give their backing to Ahmad last month when 46 other African FA presidents called on the Malagasy to contest a second term.

 

With countries only able to nominate one candidate for Caf's Executive Committee, including the presidency, Motsepe's bid means South Africa FA president Danny Jordaan can no longer apply for the Fifa Council role that he has long coveted.

 

"It's a deferred ambition," Jordaan said.

 

Caf's elections are set to take place in Morocco next March.

 

She makes history by being the first female, first Jamaican and first Indian vice-president-elect of the United States of America.

 

Having seen her own presidential dreams sputtered to a halt a year ago, now Kamala Harris has made has made history on all of those fronts.

 

On the back of series of strong debates, the California Senator will be running the country alongside Joe Biden at a critical time in its history as they prepare to make efforts to unite a hugely divided country after a bitter few months – with the surge of coronavirus cases gripping parts of the US in unprecedented ways.

 

And whilst the main attention will be focussing on the incredible narrative the newly-elected President, the rise of Vice Precedent Harris proves to be even more compelling.

 

Born in Oakland, California, to a Jamaican-born father an Indian-born mother, she was raised, along with her sister Maya, primarily by her Hindu mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, a cancer researcher and civil rights activist - joining her (mother) on visits to India.

 

Ms Harris, though, has said that her mother adopted the Black culture fully, as she immersed her two daughters within it 24/7.

 

"She knew that her adopted homeland would see Maya and me as Black girls” Ms Harris says, “and she was determined to make sure that we would grow into confident, proud Black women.

 

In her autobiography The Truths We Hold, she says: "My mother understood very well that she was raising two Black daughters.

 

“I’ve always been comfortable with my identity,” he says “and, as such, I simply describe myself as ‘an American’".

 

A California Democrat with a law enforcement resume, she attended Howard University, one of the nation's preeminent historically Black colleges and universities, which she described as among the most formative experiences of her life.

 

She then went on to earn her law degree at the University of California before beginning her career in the Alameda County District Attorney's Office before became the district attorney for San Francisco in 2003.

 

Bringing the Commonwealth to the White House, Ms Harris, who often says that her identity makes her uniquely suited to represent those on the margins, was elected the first woman and the first Black person to serve as California's attorney general, the top lawyer and law enforcement official in America's most populous state.

 

This is not her first White House aspirations.

 

Married to lawyer Doug Emhoff,the 55-year-oldgained a reputation as one of the Democratic Party’s rising stars. And as such she launched a candidacy for president last year, but failed to articulate a clear rationale for her campaign.

.

But today, in 2020, she, along with Irish-dissent President-elect Joe Biden, leads a transition into a new generation of American leadership

 

A member of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, Congressional Black Caucus and Congressional Caucus for Women's Issues, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, the first Black person elected as District Attorney of San Francisco, the first Black and first South Asian to hold the office of Attorney General in California, and the most powerful and influential woman in in the US is already talked about as ‘the first’ to hold the ‘top office’ when President-elect Biden serves a full term.

 

 

 

 

Unprecedented flooding in Sudan this year led to the deaths of more than 100 people and affected 875,000 others. Entire residential neighbourhoods were destroyed while power and water supplies were disrupted when the River Nile recorded its highest level in living memory.

 

Some experts said that if the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, upstream on the Blue Nile tributary, had been fully operational, the effect on Sudan would have been less disastrous.

 

Ethiopia started building the dam in its northern highlands, from where 85% of the Nile's waters flow, in 2011 and this year the reservoir behind the dam started to fill.

 

When it is fully operation in several years' time it will become Africa's largest hydroelectric plant. But it has been fraught with controversy as Egypt, which is downstream, fears the $4bn (£3bn) dam will greatly reduce its access to water.

 

Negotiations, which have not reached a deal, are centred on how fast to fill the dam - and Sudan has been stuck in the middle.

 

Salman Mohamed, a Sudanese expert on international water law and policy, says Egypt's Aswan dam shows how flood waters can be regulated effectively on The Nile.

 

"We lost people, and properties of billions of pounds, but look at Egypt - they haven't lost a single seedling because they normally keep the flood water in their high dam and we don't have one like that, so the Ethiopian dam could have saved all that," he said.

 

Sudan does have eight dams on The Nile.

 

"But our dams are too small," says Dr Mohamed, who is a fellow at the International Water Resources Association. "Egypt has managed to use the flood water it collected for its agricultural projects in the desert."

 

During fraught talks over the filling of the dam and how much water it should release - which recently restarted under the auspices of the African Union - Sudan has tended to side with Egypt. This stance was adopted under the government of former President Omar al-Bashir - and the generals who remain part of the transitional government now ruling Sudan after the 2019 coup are strong allies of Egypt.

 

Sudan's negotiator under Bashir, Ahmed El-Mufti, had also raised concerns about safety and security of the dam. He said that if it was destroyed, it could damage the entire region, including Sudan's capital, Khartoum - where the White and Blue Nile meet. In fact Sudanese officials are walking a tight rope to avoid any conflict.

 

This was not helped last week when US President Donald Trump said - whilst on a joint phone call to the Sudanese and Israeli prime ministers about the restoration of their countries' relations - that Egypt might "blow up" the dam. Asmaa Abdallah, Sudan's transitional foreign minister until July, has always maintained dialogue is the only solution.

 

Sudan wants to have a peaceful resolution as it can see the benefits of the mega dam - not only in terms of regulating flood water, which is often a problem.

 

According to Dr Mohamed, it will also enable Sudan's own dams to generate more electricity as well as buying cheap and clean electricity from Ethiopia. He says it will also allow for three growing seasons - at the moment crops are harvested around October or November - but if the flow is regulated, farmers will be able to plant and irrigate more often. In years of drought, when usually there is very little water - the dam would ensure a supply.

 

As it is Sudan only uses about 12 billion cubic metres or 64% of the water it is entitled to annually under the 1959 treaty signed with Egypt over sharing the resources of the Nile, says Dr Mohamed. Given that the UN says about 10 million people in Sudan are facing food shortages this year - partly caused by coronavirus lockdown measures - he can only see the long-term benefits of the mega dam project.

 

Opinion on the streets in and around the capital tends to be more in sympathy with Ethiopia.