• Ghana chief Imam donates to cathedral project

    Ghana’s chief Imam Sheikh Osman Sharubutu has donated more than $8,000 (£5,800) to support the construction of a controversial national cathedral.

    The African country has a history of inter-religious harmony, although the donation is regarded as unusual. The 102-year-old cleric said the gesture was to strengthen peaceful co-existence between Christians and Muslims.

  • Ghana ex-president Jerry Rawlings dies aged 73

    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.

  • Ghana government supplying free water in Covid-19 crisis

    As the country emerged as the first Sub-Saharan African country to make such cuts in its battle to combat coronavirus, the president of Ghana has announced that his government will pay people’s water bills for the next three months as the country continues it ceaseless fight against the deadly global crisis that is showing no immediate signs of coming to any full stop.

    As the pandemic continues to take its hold on lives on people throughout the world, in the West African country, President Nana Akufo-Addo made a televised address to the nation where he said that his government has urged the country’s utility companies to ensure a reconnect any disconnected supplies.

    Water-supply tankers have now been made available to provide water to the most vulnerable communities. It (Ghana) was also the first country in the region to cut interest rates to reduce its benchmark of 16% to an eight-year low of 14.5% - the first cut since January..

    Meanwhile, Ghana’s health workers who are treating patients with coronavirus will receive a boost to their basic pay and all health workers will also be granted with a three month tax holiday.

    In a resent account, the national figure there showed a total of 214 cases of people contracting the Covid-19 virus – with five deaths.

  • Ghana president, Akufo-Addo, plants one of five million trees

    Ghana's President Nana Akufo-Addo has planted a tree in the capital, Accra, as part of a plan to put five million trees in the ground across the country in a single day.

    The Green Ghana Project is supposed to become an annual event and aims to reverse the process of deforestation.

    It has been going on across the country's 16 regions and everyone from school children to judges have been taking part, it was reports.

    The focus has been on people planting trees in places where they can easily maintain them, Hugh Brown from the Ghana Forestry Commission said.

    In other words, people have been encouraged to put the saplings in the earth in their homes or in places like school, college and church compounds.

  • Ghana set for hung parliament

    Ghana is set to have a hung parliament next year after the opposition won the outstanding Sene West constituency in the central part of the country. The vote count was delayed because of a dispute. Both the ruling party and the opposition now have 137 seats each -plus there is one independent MP - making up a total of 275 MPs in Ghana's parliament. This could pose a serious challenge to President Akufo-Addo's second term.

    He was declared winner of the elections, in December, but lost the 60% parliamentary majority he had in his first term. Even though the sole independent MP has pledged his support to the ruling party, the laws of the country require that a greater proportion of ministers be appointed from parliament.

    This means a number of the ruling party MPs doubling as ministers may not be in parliament at all time to push through, bills, proposals and contracts submitted for approval. Experts have said that a hung parliament will ensure an effective oversight role of the legislature but could also stall government programmes and policies especially if the opposition decides to frustrate the government.

    A hung parliament will complicate Akufo-Addo’s efforts to act decisively to restore an economy hurt by the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic. The global health crisis has driven Ghana’s ratio of debt to gross domestic product to 71% in September, the highest in four years. Before the crisis, Africa’s biggest gold producer was already under fiscal pressure due to the costs of cleaning up the banking sector and energy-sector liabilities.

    Kobi Annan, an analyst at the U.K./Ghana-based Songhai Advisory, said: “The NDC will have power that no opposition party has had under the fourth republic: an opposition that can veto what they want.”

    The NDC is building up a case to challenge the outcome of both the presidential and parliamentary elections, where it said it got a working majority of 140 seats, instead of the 137 it’s been awarded.

  • Ghana spelling champion reveals winning strategy

    Eleven-year-old Naa Koshie Manyo-Plange who has won the latest Ghana Spelling Bee says she read a lot of books to broaden her vocabulary. Ms Koshie said that her parents encouraged her and she watched the movie Akeelah and the Bee to learn from the starring.

    She said: "We had training and we were given a certain group of words to study, so we had to study them and come with about 100 words from that group."

    The national finals were held last weekend with 60 competitors all hoping to win the coveted trophy and cash prize of around $1,700 (£1,200).

    "I think its important to take part in something like the spelling bee - because if you lose it helps you to be a good loser and when you win it helps you not gloat, and builds resilience because it makes you want to come back for more," she says.

  • Ghana to pay last respects to former leader Jerry Rawlings

    Ghanaians paid their last respect to former president Jerry Rawlings, during the second of a four-day event organised in his honour by the government and his family.

    Rawlings' coffin was displayed at Accra International Conference Centre, where the body remains until today. The former president will be buried tomorrow (Wednesday).

    Born in 1947 to a Scottish father, James Ramsay John, a pharmacist from Castle Double, and Ghanaian mother Madam Victoria Agbotui from Dzelukope of the Volta Region, the former leader who staged two coups and later led the West African country's transition to a stable democracy, he trained as an air force officer and came to power in 1979 after leading his first coup, and then transferring power to civilian rule soon after.

    His burial was delayed, in part, because of disagreements between Ghana's current political leaders.

    Credited with embedding democracy in Ghana and establishing social and political stability during two decades in public life, Rawlings, a former air force officer, twice led military take-overs, before later returning the country to multi-party politics and winning elections.

    Jerry Rawlings’ daughter Zanetor said of him: “My father was very loving and was passionate about a lot of things.”

    Late former President Jerry John Rawlings will be accorded a Commander-in-Chief status at his burial service with the Ghana Armed Forces set to fire a 21-gun salute as well as offering other military courtesies to him.

    He died in November, age 73, and was survived by his wife, Nana Konandu Agyeman, three daughters- the afore-mentioned Zenator, Yaa Asantewa, Amina and a son, Kimathi Rawlings.

  • Ghana to ‘bounce back’ after pandemic is cleared

    The Majority Leader in Ghana’s Parliament and the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Hon. Osei Kyei Mensa, has given the assurance that the country will bounce back strong once the coronavirus pandemic passes.

    He has also explained the government’s decision to absorb water bills in the wake o the virus.

    “Don’t forget that the country will have to bounce back after all these things”, he said, “so you will want to see which recourse will not will not inflict a mortal wound on the economy”, as he hinted that the government is also considering absorbing electricity bills for all Ghanaians as part of the way of fighting the Covid-19 virus.

    Earlier the Suame lawmaker hinted that the government had intended to absorb electricity bills or reduce the tariff in the country which was announced by President Nana Addo Dankwa-Addo previously.

    “This has been on the table and the cabinet was considering it over the past two weeks”,
    Osei Kyei Mensa said. “But a determination will be made and, of course, you would have to look at the circumstances and standing of the country, the national purse now before you make any decision”.

    The president earlier announced that the government will absorb water bills of Ghanaians for the next three months to help fight the coronavirus pandemic.


  • Ghana welcomes two survivors of the 1921 Tulsa massacre

    Two survivors of a racially-driven massacre that killed up to 300 people in the United States were both in Ghana, as they visited the west African country to “connect with the motherland.”

    107-year-old Viola Fletcher and her brother Hughes Van Ellis, who is 100, are from the district of Greenwood in Tulsa, in Oklahoma, which was devastated by a mob of armed white people in 1921. In the area otherwise known as “Black Wall Street” at least 300 African Americans were killed in the attack, with some 10,000 left homeless when the district was set ablaze, leaving a vibrant economy in ruins.

  • Gilbert F. Houngbo reappointed IFAD President with an ambitious agenda

    In a strong show of support and recognition for the leader who has successfully showcased the importance of long-term rural development as a key solution to the global challenges the world is currently facing, Member States have reappointed Gilbert F. Houngbo as President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) for a second term at its annual Governing Council meeting. With an even more ambitious agenda at the heart of his second mandate, and a particular focus on technologicial solutions, innovative financing models and new private sector partnerships, IFAD will continue tackling hunger and poverty and address the devastating impacts of climate change, youth unemployment and most recently COVID-19, leading on the ground to ensure no one is left behind.

    “With the pandemic still devastating rural areas and the projections for increased poverty and hunger, the need for IFAD to scale up is more urgent than ever,” said Houngbo, who has been IFAD’s President since 2017. “Today it is COVID, yesterday it was a tsunami, and we don’t know what will happen tomorrow. The threat from climate change and extreme weather will not diminish, and we should prepare. No rural woman or man should ever be in a position of having to sell his or her meagre assets – or be forced to migrate – in order to survive” Under Houngbo’s continued leadership, IFAD aims to double its impact by 2030 and offer a life out of poverty and hunger to millions more people. The goal is to ensure 40 million people per year increase their incomes by at least 20 per cent by 2030, which is double what IFAD currently achieves.

    To this end, Houngbo has called on donors to contribute significantly more to IFAD, to deliver an overall programme of work of at least US$11 billion from 2022 to 2024, including through a new private sector financing programme and an expansion of its pioneering climate change adaptation programme. This will help rebuild stronger rural economies as countries recover from the impacts of COVID-19, and help these marginalised rural populations become far more resilient to climate change and other shocks.

    In his acceptance speech, Houngbo said that addressing the devastating impacts of climate change and reversing the decline of biodiversity are amongst his highest priorities. Last month IFAD launched the Enhanced Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP+), which aims to be the largest fund dedicated to channeling climate finance to small-scale producers. Houngbo envisages the programme to mobilise $500 million and help more than 10 million people adapt to an unpredictable climate. Despite their disproportionate vulnerability to climate change, small-scale farmers currently receive only 1.7 percent of global climate finance.

    Another of Houngbo’s goals is to address the major challenges rural young people face in finding decent employment, which has an enormous impact on instability and migration. In Africa, 60 per cent of young people live in rural areas and between 10 and 12 million young people enter the job market every year. With increased investments in agri-preneurs and rural small and medium-sized enterprises, IFAD aims to create greater employment opportunities for rural youth. This builds on Houngbo’s focus over the past four years, to engage more with the private sector to bring expertise, innovation and much needed investments to rural areas.

    Under Houngbo’s leadership, IFAD expanded its programme of work to reach 36 per cent more poor and vulnerable people. At the end of 2019, 132 million people in more than 90 countries benefited from IFAD’s investments. However in his speech Houngbo recognised the huge financing gap threatening the world’s ability to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goal of zero hunger by 2030. To this end, he has led IFAD to start diversifying its funding sources to maximise the support it can give to the world’s poorest people. In 2020, IFAD was the first UN fund to receive a credit rating, with both Fitch and Standard and Poor’s announcing AA+ ratings. These strong ratings will help IFAD mobilize more funds from various potential investors at a favourable cost.

    Houngbo also spoke about the importance of food to rural people. As the majority of them work in agriculture, food is not just critical for sustenance, but also for their livelihoods. He stressed the need for investing in sustainable food systems that enable rural populations to earn decent incomes, have nutritious diets and to lead dignified lives, and the key role IFAD will play in putting this on the global agenda during the upcoming UN Food Systems Summit.

    Small-scale farming systems produce half of the world’s food calories, but these farmers are often the ones that go hungry. IFAD is the only multilateral organisation focused solely on addressing hunger and poverty in rural areas where three quarters of the world’s poorest and most food insecure people live. Decades of progress on extreme poverty are now in reverse due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As many as 150 million people could fall into extreme poverty by 2021 and an additional 136 million people are expected to go hungry.

  • Gladstone Couple Forego Housework to Snag World-First scUber Ride on the Great Barrier Reef

    Gladstone couple, Terry and Kym Purcell, today vetoed the daily housework to “hail” the world's first rideshare submarine experience on the Great Barrier Reef.

    Three days after watching the launch of scUber on the Australian news, avid diver Terry Purcell surprised his wife of 32 years with the once-in-a-lifetime experience. His mission was to show her the underwater world that he passionately loves.

    “I've been diving on the Great Barrier Reef since I was seven years old and the reef around Heron Island is the most wonderful spot in the world,” said the 54-year-old owner of Purcell's Engineering in Gladstone.

    “Today is really about my wife. She does not have a diver's certificate. She snorkels but it's not the same. With this (scUber), she can experience the reef first-hand and see it close up.”

    “Besides, who else do you know who can say, 'I hailed a submarine'?”

    Terry set his alarm clock early and was on the Uber app by 7:30 am to request the On Demand ride when it opened to the public for the first time.

    Within minutes of entering “Great Barrier Reef” into the Uber app, a submarine icon popped up on his screen followed by the arrival of a colourful Great Barrier Reef-branded Tesla. The Tesla transferred the couple to Marine Helicopters at Gladstone Airport for a scenic flight to Heron Island and the one-hour underwater scUber experience.

    Commenting on the experience and the $3000 price tag, Terry said “It's an absolute bargain. You can't put a cost on this. For my wife to be able to see the reef at 18 metres below sea level and to see the bottom of a true coral atoll like I do when I dive was just magic.”

    When asked what else he would have been doing if he wasn't on scUber, the retired company owner said, “probably the housework.”

    Tourism and Events Queensland, in partnership with Uber, announced the launch of scUber, the world's first rideshare submarine experience on May 23.

    For a limited time only, scUber riders will have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the exquisite beauty of the Great Barrier Reef – all without the need for a snorkeling mask or a diving license!

    The scUber experience will be available starting on Heron Island, off the coast of Gladstone in the Southern Great Barrier Reef region from May 27, before moving to Agincourt Reef off the coast of Port Douglas in Cairns & the Great Barrier Reef region from June 9. Availability is strictly limited.

  • Global climate leader appointed Associate Vice President at UN rural development agency IFAD

    More investments in innovations and knowledge are urgently needed to increase the ability of rural people to adapt to climate change and shocks, said Jyotsna Puri, a long-time advocate for climate change adaptation and evidence-based policy and big data, who today takes up the position of Associate Vice President of the Strategy and Knowledge Department at the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

  • Global Economy Could Lose over $4 Trillion to Covid Impact on Tourism

    The crash in international tourism due to the coronavirus pandemic could cause a loss of more than $4 trillion to the global GDP for the years 2020 and 2021, according to an UNCTAD report published on 30 June. The estimated loss has been caused by the pandemic’s direct impact on tourism and its ripple effect on other sectors closely linked to it.

    The report, jointly presented with the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), says international tourism and its closely linked sectors suffered an estimated loss of $2.4 trillion in 2020 due to direct and indirect impacts of a steep drop in international tourist arrivals. A similar loss may occur this year, the report warns, noting that the tourism sector’s recovery will largely depend on the uptake of COVID-19 vaccines globally.

    “The world needs a global vaccination effort that will protect workers, mitigate adverse social effects and make strategic decisions regarding tourism, taking potential structural changes into account,” UNCTAD Acting Secretary-General Isabelle Durant said. UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said: “Tourism is a lifeline for millions, and advancing vaccination to protect communities and support tourism’s safe restart is critical to the recovery of jobs and generation of much-needed resources, especially in developing countries, many of which are highly dependent on international tourism.”

    With COVID-19 vaccinations being more pronounced in some countries than others, the report says, tourism losses are reduced in most developed countries but worsened in developing countries. COVID-19 vaccination rates are uneven across countries, ranging from below 1% of the population in some countries to above 60% in others.

    According to the report, the asymmetric roll-out of vaccines magnifies the economic blow tourism has suffered in developing countries, as they could account for up to 60% of the global GDP losses. The tourism sector is expected to recover faster in countries with high vaccination rates, such as France, Germany, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States, the report says.

    But experts don’t expect a return to pre-COVID-19 international tourist arrival levels until 2023 or later, according to UNWTO. The main barriers are travel restrictions, slow containment of the virus, low traveller confidence and a poor economic environment.

    A rebound in international tourism is expected in the second half of this year, but the UNCTAD report still shows a loss of between $1.7 trillion and $2.4 trillion in 2021, compared with 2019 levels. The results are based on simulations that capture the effects of international tourism reduction only, not policies such as economic stimulus programmes that may soften the pandemic’s impact on the sector.

    The report assesses the economic effects of three possible scenarios – all reflecting reductions in international arrivals – in the tourism sector in 2021. The first one, projected by UNWTO, reflects a reduction of 75% in international tourist arrivals – the most pessimistic forecast – based on the tourist reductions observed in 2020.

    In this scenario, a drop in global tourist receipts of $948 billion causes a loss in real GDP of $2.4 trillion, a two-and-a-half-fold increase. This ratio varies greatly across countries, from onefold to threefold or fourfold.

    This is a multiplier and depends on the backward linkages in the tourism sector, including the unemployment of unskilled labour, according to the report. For example, international tourism contributes about 5% of the GDP in Turkey and the country suffered a 69% fall in international tourists in 2020. The country’s fall in tourism demand is estimated at $33 billion and this leads to losses in closely linked sectors such as food, beverages, retail trade, communications and transport.

    Turkey’s total fall in output is $93 billion, about three times the initial shock. The decline in tourism alone contributes to a real GDP loss of about 9%. This decline in reality was partly offset by fiscal measures to stimulate the economy.

    The second scenario reflects a 63% reduction in international tourist arrivals, a less pessimistic forecast by UNWTO. And the third scenario, formulated by UNCTAD, considers varying rates of domestic and regional tourism in 2021.

    It assumes a 75% reduction of tourism in countries with low vaccination rates, and a 37% reduction in countries with relatively high vaccination rates, mostly developed countries and some smaller economies. According to the report, the reduction in tourism causes a 5.5% rise in unemployment of unskilled labour on average, with a high variance of 0% to 15%, depending on the importance of tourism for the economy.

    Labour accounts for around 30% of tourist services’ expenditure in both developed and developing economies. Entry barriers in the sector, which employs many women and young employees, are relatively low.

    In July last year, UNCTAD estimated that a four- to 12-month standstill in international tourism would cost the global economy between $1.2 trillion and $3.3 trillion, including indirect costs. But the losses are worse than previously expected, as even the worst-case scenario UNCTAD projected last year has turned out to be optimistic, with international travel still low more than 15 months after the pandemic started.

    According to UNWTO, international tourist arrivals declined by about 1 billion or 73% between January and December 2020. In the first quarter of 2021, the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer points to a decline of 84%.

    Developing countries have borne the biggest brunt of the pandemic’s impact on tourism. They suffered the largest reductions in tourist arrivals in 2020, estimated at between 60% and 80%.

    The most-affected regions are North-East Asia, South-East Asia, Oceania, North Africa and South Asia, while the least-affected ones are North America, Western Europe and the Caribbean.

  • Global investors cheer as India scraps Retrospective tax policy

    India has introduced a bill in its lower house to scrap a controversial 2012 law that retrospectively levied capital gains tax on companies for the indirect transfer of their Indian assets. The law, which will now apply only prospectively, has been a major sore point with foreign investors for the better part of the last decade, damaging India's reputation as a stable tax jurisdiction and leading to protracted litigation.

    "It is perhaps the boldest move taken in the history of Indian tax laws," said Bijal Ajinkya, Partner at the law firm Khaitan & Co. The far-reaching, but long delayed decision now paves the way for the government to settle billions of dollars in international disputes.

  • Grocery store honours 101-year old employee with a grant program in her name

    Romay Davis, a 101-year old grandmother who had been working at a Winn-Dixie grocery store in Montgomery, Alabama for over two decades, is being recognised for her outstanding service with a grant program named after her.

    Davis, who turned 101 on October 29 last year, is still driving herself to the grocery store to work even in the middle of the pandemic.

    Now, the Romay Davis Belonging, Inclusion, and Diversity Grant Program has been launched to support non-profit organizations in the fight against racial inequality and social injustice. It also hopes to address racial disparities in education, food, and health care.

    Davis is very much worthy of honour as she had achieved so much in her life. According to news outlets in the U.S. she was a World War II veteran before she pursued a career in fashion designing for 30 years. She also earned a master’s degree at NYU and became a taekwondo black belter.

    Romay already retired in 1982 but decided to go back to work after her husband died in 2001. Winn-Dixie then hired her at the age of 80.

  • Gun salutes across UK in tribute to Prince Philip

    The Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced that there will be a gun salutes marking the death of the Duke of Edinburgh. This will take place across the UK and at sea today with saluting batteries firing 41 rounds at one round every minute from 12 noon in cities including London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast.

    With the public being encouraged to observe the gun salutes online or on television, rather than gather in crowds to watch outside, it falls in line with the plans for a pared-back funeral due to Covid restrictions. In London, the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery will ride out from their base at Napier Lines, Woolwich Barracks, onto the Parade Ground.

    On the 12.00 GMT gun salute, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said:Bottom of Form “His Royal Highness Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh was a constant supporter and ambassador of the armed forces.

    “We celebrate his life of service and offer our condolences to Her Majesty the Queen and the royal family.” The gun salute will act as the military’s tribute to the duke.

    Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir Nick Carter said the duke had been devoted to the armed forces after his own years in the Royal Navy. He said: “His Royal Highness has been a great friend, inspiration and role model for the armed forces and he will be sorely missed.

    “A life well lived, His Royal Highness leaves us with a legacy of indomitable spirit, steadfastness and an unshakeable sense of duty. From all of us who serve today and who have served, thank you.”

    The Honourable Artillery Company will fire a salute at the Tower of London, the 104th Regiment Royal Artillery will fire from Cardiff Castle, and the 105th Regiment Royal Artillery will fire at Hillsborough Castle, Belfast and Edinburgh Castle.

    Ships taking part include the HMS Diamond, HMS Montrose and HMNB Portsmouth, while the Royal Gibraltar Regiment will join the salute from the British overseas territory.

  • Helping female business owners grow their company

    International Women’s Day, which takes place on Monday 8 March, offers a chance for people around the world to celebrate the efforts of women in a number of industries. It’s also a chance to reflect on how things have changed and developed in the world of business.

    For example, in the US, there are now 114 percent more female business owners than there were twenty years ago. These businesses also generate $1.8 trillion a year. However, just seven percent of these businesswomen receive funds for their companies, while only 25 percent of them seek business funding.

    At Birmingham City University Advantage, they have been striving to ensure businesses of all shapes and sizes, as well as business owners of any gender, are given the support that they need to grow. They also encourage female entrepreneurs and businesses to seek funding, ensuring they boost their brands and expand their profiles.

    Veronika J turned to Higher Level Skills Match (HLSM) to help her pursue her goals of creating her own photography business. “I found starting out to be a challenge. I had no mentor and wasn’t sure where to access information,” she says. “That’s why I started looking for business startup advice opportunities. I was amazed that there are programmes offering various support that could help me make my dreams come true.”

    HLSM has enabled Veronika to focus on her business growth, and she is looking forward to making a real difference. “I’m so grateful to have this fantastic opportunity for training and development to boost the skills which I lack,” she says.

    Their business analysis tools help small businesses to identify areas for growth and understand any prevalent issues. Led by experienced business support expert Mark Gilman, the service includes the business diagnostic – an extensive questionnaire which results in a personalised report. It also boasts tailored support and one-on-one workshops.

    One businesswoman to benefit from the business diagnostic is Jane Miller, a consultant and trainer in childcare and education with over 18 years of experience. She has worked with Gilman extensively over the years, and used our services once again during the Covid-19 restrictions to assess how her business could progress digitally.

    “After lockdown, I realised my business wasn’t sustainable. I didn’t have a Plan B,” she says. “Since being in lockdown, I’ve had to start elements of my business from scratch by creating fresh online programmes.”

    Jane believes that the business analysis tools helped provide a clearer idea of what she wanted. “The sessions helped me create new ideas,” she reveals. “I now have a clear purpose and vision. Plus, it’s all written down so I can review it at all times and build on it.”

    Many other businesswomen have turned to our business services for advice, including

    Birmingham City University alumni.

    Nasra Hagri Mohammed graduated from BCU in 2012 with a degree in midwifery. After seeing the mental and physical struggles women face during pregnancy, Nasra founded Recognize, which provides wellness training and one-to-one support for perinatal women.

    She credits the business analysis tools for providing clarity and forward thinking. “I’ve learnt it’s important to go back to basics and reflect on purpose, mission and values,” Nasra says. “I am now more visionary and can see where the company is heading.” Other female business owners have also benefited from working with STEAMhouse, which provides workshop facilities, small business funding, and invaluable advice and guidance.

    Sonia Reynolds owns Zephlinear, a manufacturing company that provides educational design kits. These kits have proven popular with both hobbyists and those working in education, often being used to teach STEAM subjects. After seeking an interest in the growing electronic textiles market, Sonia decided this would be a great area to focus on. However, she lacked the knowledge and the funding to make it happen.

    “STEAMhouse provided business support and financial funding, which included purchasing prototyping materials,” Sonia explains. “We attended scoping meetings organised by STEAMhouse, where we able to gain the right support and get a better understanding of the materials.”

    Zephlinear are now finalising the presentation of three new e-textile kits. Sonia credits STEAMhouse for assisting in their progress. “Access to technicians, experts and development funding has allowed the business to advance quite considerably,” Sonia explains. “The support has brought strength to the business structure, as well as to future outputs.”

  • History made as first private craft sent into space

    SpaceX, made history as it became the private manned rock to enter into space as it send two NASA astronauts into orbit

    Owned by California-based South African-born tech billionaire Elon Musk – the man behind the all-electric Tesla cars - it is the first time since the shuttle was retired, nine years ago, that an American crew has been able to make the journey from United States territory.

    Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley (Crew Dragon) boarded the space craft before being sent on their mission to trail a new capsule system and to also initiate a new business model for NASA.

    This was their second demonstration (Demo-2) mission from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at NASA’s Space Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.

    The agency will now no longer own the vehicle it uses, but will merely purchase the “tai” service which is offered by SpaceX.


  • History made in US state with record number of Black women judges


    Five women in Colorado, in the USA are currently serving as judges, making it a record-breaking number in the state. They were appointed by Gov. Jared Polis during a period of less than two years.


    Twelve months ago, Frances Johnson was appointed for the 4th Judicial District Court in Colorado Springs, making her the first Black woman to hold the position in general jurisdiction.


    A month later, Nikea Bland became the first Black woman appointed to a Denver district court of general jurisdiction.


    “It’s 2020, and there shouldn’t be any Black firsts left, but here we are,” Bland said.


    “I’m just glad to see we are finally moving forward. It’s progress.”


    This year, Pax Moultrie was selected to the Denver Juvenile Court in February, Samorreyan


    “Sam” Burney was assigned in the 4th Judicial District County Court in Colorado Springs in April, and Jill Dorancy was appointed a district court judge in July.


    Polis, who took office in January 2019, appointed more Black women to the statewide bench than all the 42 previous governors combined. The efforts were done in accordance with his commitment to have representation for everyone.


    “I am honoured to appoint several highly qualified and dedicated Black women to serve in Colorado’s judicial branch — it’s about time! I am committed to building a Colorado for all, which is why we need more people of colour in positions of leadership and represented in our government, in order to truly reflect our community,” Polis said.


    Moreover, the appointments are somehow surprising to many, especially that the state consists of 84% white and 4% Black population.


    “It’s not the first place that people from outside the state would think of as diverse,” Moultrie said. “This is an example of what happens when people in leadership positions embrace and value diverse talent. If it can happen here in Colorado, it can happen anywhere!”


  • History-maker Kamala ‘the first’ bringing a Commonwealth flavour to the White Houe

    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 Asianto 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.