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African countries are charged ‘extortionate’ rates on debt, UN chief says

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African countries are charged 'extortionate' rates on debt, UN chief says

Heavily indebted African countries are getting a raw deal from the international financial system which charges them “extortionate” interest rates, the U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Saturday.

The United Nations chief wants far-reaching reforms to the structure of international finance to serve the needs of developing countries more efficiently, he told the opening ceremony of the annual African Union summit in Ethiopia.

“We need a new debt architecture that provides debt relief and restructuring to vulnerable countries,” he said.

“The global financial system routinely denies (developing countries) debt relief and concessional financing while charging extortionate interest rates.”

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The coronavirus pandemic pushed many poor countries into debt distress as they were expected to continue servicing their obligations in spite of the massive shock to their finances.

Public debt ratios in sub-Saharan Africa are at their highest in more than two decades, the International Monetary Fund said last year.

Governments on the continent, including Ethiopia, sought debt restructuring deals under an IMF programme to help them navigate the crisis, but conclusion of the process has been delayed.

Others, which have not sought to restructure their debt, like Kenya, have seen their debt sustainability indicators worsen after the pandemic hit their finances.

All these factors have hindered their ability to invest in critical areas like health and education, Guterres said.

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“African countries cannot… climb the development ladder with one hand tied behind their backs,” he said.

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed echoed the call.

“Nearly all of us want to put our economies back on a growth trajectory but this will not happen without sufficient restructuring to make our external debt sustainable,” he said.

The summit, which brings together leaders from the 55 African nations, is also focusing on deepening food and security crises on the continent.

Armed conflict from the Sahel to the Horn of Africa and the impacts of droughts and floods have driven ever more Africans from their homes.

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Hunger, driven by the impact of the armed conflicts and also extreme weather that scientists have linked to climate change, has also worsened in several nations.

Somalia is on the verge of famine after five failed rainy seasons, with hundreds of thousands of people suffering catastrophic food shortages.

“We need to critically assess why one third of the hungry people in the world are in our continent,” Abiy said.

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Ukraine sharply boosts delivery of drones to armed forces

Ukraine sharply boosts delivery of drones to armed forces

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Ukraine sharply boosts delivery of drones to armed forces

Ukraine has delivered three times more drones to its armed forces so far this year than in the whole of 2023, a top commander said, as Ukrainian forces accelerate the use of unmanned craft in the war against Russia.

“This process continues and will only grow,” said Colonel Vadym Sukharevskyi, the commander of Ukraine’s drone forces.

Ukraine, which has been fighting off a full-scale Russian invasion for nearly 26 months, is seeking to ramp up its domestic arms manufacturing and use of innovative technologies to compete against its much larger and wealthier enemy.

He was speaking at an exhibition on Saturday showcasing Ukrainian-made unmanned vehicles for land, sea and air, electronic warfare systems and armoured vehicles.

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Ninety-nine percent of drones used by the Ukrainian military are produced domestically, Sukharevskyi said.

“It’s no secret that our resource limitations in artillery are compensated by drones, such as FPVs (first-person view) and (bomber) drop drones,” he told reporters, referencing an imbalance of artillery firepower between Ukraine and Russia which analysts put at six to one in Russia’s favour.

As the Ukrainian military is outgunned and outmanned on the battlefield, Moscow’s forces have been increasing pressure along the entire frontline and making gradual gains.

The increased use of drones by both sides has been shifting the conflict away from the battlefield to strikes on each other’s military, energy and transport infrastructure.

Ukrainian Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), used to hit targets inside Russia in recent months, can now hit targets more than 1,200 km (750 miles) away, Sukharevskyi said.

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Tesla will lay off more than 10% of its workforce.

Oleksandr Kamyshin, Ukraine’s Minister of Strategic Industries, said Ukrainian weapons manufacturers had fuelled both military and economic progress in the country.

Ukraine’s booming military-industrial complex grew GDP by 1.5% in 2023, a significant chunk of the total GDP growth last year of around 5%.
Kamyshin said he was confident that figure would double to 3% of GDP growth this year. But he warned Ukraine’s government could not afford to buy up all its domestic weapons production.

Ukraine was in discussions with international allies about the purchase of weapons for Ukraine from Ukrainian makers to cover the financial shortfall, he said.

“I am convinced that we will start purchases from Ukrainian manufacturers with foreign funds in the new future,” he said. 

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Aseefa Bhutto Zardari sworn in MNA

Aseefa Bhutto Zardari sworn in MNA

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Aseefa Bhutto Zardari sworn in MNA

Aseefa Bhutto Zardari was sworn in as a member of the National Assembly.

NA Speaker Ayaz Sadiq administered the oath.

During the session, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari provided headphones to Aseefa Bhutto Zardari to reduce the noise disturbances as PTI MNAs raised slogans calling for the release of the PTI founder.

Following Aseefa Zardari’s swearing-in, PPP members also chanted slogans in support of the Bhutto family like ‘jiye Bhutto’. 

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British jets shot down Iranian drones, PM Sunak says

British jets shot down Iranian drones, PM Sunak says

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British jets shot down Iranian drones, PM Sunak says

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on Sunday that British military jets shot down drones launched by Iran in its attack on Israel and called for “calm heads to prevail” to avoid an escalation of the conflict.

“I can confirm that our planes did shoot down a number of Iranian attack drones,” Sunak told broadcasters.

“If this attack had been successful, the fallout for regional stability would be hard to overstate. We stand by the security of Israel and the wider region, which is of course important for our security here at home, too. What we now need is for calm heads to prevail.”

Sunak was due to join discussions between Group of Seven leaders later on Sunday.

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“It’s important that we coordinate with allies and we’ll be discussing next steps at that moment,” he said

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