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Meet Samia Suluhu Hassan, Tanzania's first female president, Liberia gets help from the World Bank, Nigeria’s new USSD fee

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The Guinness Book of World Records refuses to validate attempts to break the record of "longest time spent awake" because it's too dangerous.

Current record: 11 days and 25 minutes in December 1963/January 1964.

What’s the longest time you’ve stayed awake?

Meet Samia Suluhu Hassan

Samia Suluhu Hassan was sworn in as Tanzania's president on Friday, making history as the first woman to hold that position in the East African country.

Was there an election?

No. She took over from John Magufuli, Tanzania's former president, whose death was announced earlier in the week. Prior to his death, Magufuli had not been seen in public for over two weeks, prompting speculation that he may have been suffering from COVID-19, which he had repeatedly denied was a problem in Tanzania. The government still maintains that Magufuli's death was due to heart problems.

About Suluhu and expectations

Before Magufuli’s death, Suluhu was the country's first female vice-president and is now its first female president.  A feat that has shown females in the country that it’s possible for a female to hold those positions.

While growing up, Suluhu attended school at a time when very few Tanzanian girls were offered the opportunity of education outside the traditional roles of wife and homemaker. 

Suluhu's leadership style is said to be quite different from Magufuli's. Unlike her predecessor, she’s said to be calmer and more diplomatic. The late president was called "The Bulldozer" for his brash and intolerant approach towards policymaking. He was criticised for banning pregnant girls from attending school and urging women to stop taking birth control pills. 

During her inauguration, she said, “I promise nothing will go wrong on the leadership styles. I guarantee everyone that we are steadfast and will defend the constitution and rule within the law.”

In all, people are sceptical saying she might be different but comes from the same party that produced John Magufuli. During the inauguration, just like her former boss, no one in her entourage wore a mask or observed social distance, a true reflection of her leadership style mirroring that of Magufuli.

Female Presidents in Africa

President Suluhu is Africa’s only current executive female political leader joining a shortlist of women on the continent to hold the position. Ethiopia’s current president is a female  Sahle-Work Zewde, but the Ethiopian presidency is a largely ceremonial role.

Sylvie Kiningi, a Burundi politician, became the first female president in Africa when she formed a caretaker government after a military coup killed President Melchior Ndadaye. She also served as Burundi’s prime minister between 1993 and 1994.

Other women that have held top positions on the continent include former Liberia president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Malawi’s former head of state Joyce Banda and Catherine Samba-Panza who served as interim president of the Central African Republic between 2014 to 2016.

Send help! Liberia gets help from the World Bank

Liberia was one of the countries that expected to be prepared for the coronavirus, probably because of its experience with the infamous Ebola Virus in 2013.

Thousands of lives were lost then,  which made its Government pay more attention to the structure of its entire health system.

While its health system is still weak compared to other foreign countries, it has been able to respond by deploying contact tracers, border controls and social distancing measures.

More Funds

The World Bank’s fund for helping countries get back economically called the International Development Association(IDA) has provided funding ($180m) to provide power to 200 healthcare facilities in its fight against covid 19 using off-grid solar energy.

The location of the project is Monrovia, the capital of the country

Wait! There’s more

There is a second project. This one would provide employment opportunities through grants and business training skills to start or revive small businesses, half of whom will be women. 

The IDA has offered finances worth $5 million in loans and $5 million for free aka grant

About the IDA: The International Development Association (IDA) is the World Bank’s fund for the poorest. It provides grants and low-interest loans for projects and programs that boost economic growth. The IDA has supported development work in 113 countries. Annual commitments have averaged $21 billion over the past three years, with about 61% going to Africa.

Nigeria’s new USSD fee

Nigerians will now pay ₦6.98 ($0.018) for each USSD session. USSD sessions used to be ‘free’.

Wait, how did we get here?

USSD services allow phone users to perform banking transactions with a communication protocol available on GSM cellular network -- without the internet. 

It started in November 2019 when the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) first threatened to disconnect banks from Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) services.

The reason: Nigerian telcos and banks began a dispute on who should pay for USSD sessions. The telcos, who provide the platform for the USSD service, had proposed to take a cut of N4.50k per 20 seconds from the charges paid by customers to the banks. However, the banks kicked against it, alleging that it would raise the cost by 450%. 

Fast forward to 2021

On Friday 12th March, ALTON again said telecom companies will disconnect Financial Service Providers from USSD services starting from Monday, March 15th, due to a ₦42bn ($110m) debt owed. But the government intervened, holding a meeting among key stakeholders on that Monday.

The result:  ₦6.98 fee for each USSD session. It’s not clear who’ll deduct this fee: banks or telcos.

Big picture: This fee will negatively affect financial inclusion in Nigeria. In a country where only 4 out of every 10 phones are smartphones and where 3G connectivity only overtook 2G in 2020, USSD services are crucial for many people.

Worth reading 📚

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