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Soccer World Cup qualifier: Nigeria trounces Central African Republic

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Nigeria centre-backs Leon Balogun and William Troost-Ekong redeemed themselves by playing key roles in a 2-0 World Cup qualifying away victory over the Central African Republic on Sunday.

They had been criticised for allowing Karl Namnganda to score in the final minute three days ago as the Central African Republic snatched a stunning 1-0 Group C triumph in Lagos.

Balogun from Scottish Premiership giants Rangers was first to make amends, scoring in the 29th minute of the second meeting to put the Super Eagles ahead.

Troost-Ekong, who plays for Premier League outfit Watford, atoned in first-half added time by setting up Napoli sharpshooter Victor Osimhen for the second Nigerian goal.

top the table after four rounds with nine points, two more than Cape Verde, who snatched a 1-0 home win over Liberia thanks to a 90th-minute goal from captain Ryan Mendes.

No one was more relieved after Nigeria turned the tables on the Wild Beasts than coach Gernot Rohr as many Super Eagles supporters had demanded his immediate sacking following the Lagos loss.

“I received a very good reaction from my team. Everybody wanted to avenge what happened on Thursday,” said the 68-year-old German who has been in charge of Nigeria since 2016.

“We altered the system, playing three defenders, and it worked. The leadership of Ahmed Musa was also vital and congratulations to him for winning his 100th cap.

“Central African Republic were difficult opponents. They committed many fouls, which made it hard for us to create rhythm.”

– Musa milestone –

Forward Musa is only the third Nigerian to reach the 100-cap milestone after former Everton defender Joseph Yobo and goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama.

Nigeria visit Liberia and host Cape Verde next month, and the table toppers will join nine other group winners in play-offs during March to decide the five African qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Tanzania, the fifth lowest ranked team among the 40 who qualified for the group stage, won 1-0 in Benin through an early Simon Msuva goal to regain the Group J lead.

They are ahead of Benin on goals scored with top seeds the Democratic Republic of Congo two points adrift after losing 1-0 in Madagascar, whose second-minute winner came from Njiva Rakotoharimalala.

Mali retained a two-point advantage over Uganda in Group E after both countries achieved 1-0 victories to eliminate Kenya and Rwanda from the race to finish first.

Ibrahima Kone, whose hat-trick triggered a Malian goal blitz against the Kenyans last week, netted early in the second half to earn the Eagles maximum points in Nairobi.

Fahad Bayo was another forward to score in successive qualifiers, following up his winner for Uganda in Rwanda three days ago by netting the only goal of the return match in Entebbe.

After scoring 10 goals against the Seychelles in a two-leg preliminary tie, Rwanda have struggled at the higher level of the group stage, notching just one in four outings.

Group B leaders Tunisia failed to defeat Mauritania for the first time in a World Cup qualifier, drawing 0-0 in Nouakchott after winning five previous meetings spanning 21 years.

Former African champions Zambia continue to disappoint in the same section, surrendering a second-half lead given to them by Rangers’ Fashion Sakala in a 1-1 home draw against second-place Equatorial Guinea.

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UN cutting refugee rations in Africa’s Sahel amid ‘alarming’ food insecurity

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The conflict between major grains producers Russia and Ukraine is one factor that has driven up food prices in Africa

Food rations for refugees and displaced people are being cut by up to half in parts of the Sahel due to a massive funding shortfall with millions set to go hungry as prices rise and climate shocks hit yields, U.N. agencies said on Friday.

The U.N. humanitarian office (OCHA) estimates that some 18 million people face severe food insecurity in the next three months across the arid belt that stretching across Africa beneath the Sahara. Its $3.8 billion appeal for the region is less than 12% funded, OCHA spokesperson Jens Laerke said.

“The situation has reached alarming levels in Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Niger, where people will experience emergency levels of food insecurity during the lean season between June and August,” he told a media briefing, saying that the levels of food insecurity were the worst since 2014.

In Burkina Faso, rations are currently at 75% in areas that are hard-to-reach and the most food insecure, and 50% at other sites, the World Food Programme said.

Rations have already been cut by half for displaced people and refugees in Chad, it said. The WFP will be forced to reduce them further from July if more funding is not received.

In Mauritania, the food component of the food-cash ration is being cut by 50% at Mbera camp, it said.

The conflict between major grains producers Russia and Ukraine is one factor that has driven up food prices in Africa. That crisis has also diverted aid from other areas.

“Why is it as bad now? We have conflict in the West African region, you have COVID still raging, you climate-induced shocks, you have rising costs which are all colliding to put basic needs out of reach for millions of people,” Tomson Phiri from the WFP told the briefing.

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United Nations says time is running out to save horn of Africa lives

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The United Nations appealed Thursday for immediate funds to help the Horn of Africa, warning the intense suffering in the drought-stricken region would likely get worse.

“We’re out of time. We need money urgently to save lives,” UN aid chief Martin Griffiths told a press conference in Geneva, following a two-day visit to Kenya.

The Horn of Africa is experiencing one of the harshest droughts in living memory, with more than 15 million people facing high levels of acute food insecurity and severe water shortages across Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, the UN said.

The number could reach 20 million if the current below-average rains fail.

“It’s likely to get a lot worse for more people in the weeks ahead,” Griffiths said, with prospects for the next rainy season from October to December “as dire as the last four” seasons.

Griffiths said the crisis threatened not only lives but people’s way of life.

Across Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia, about 5.7 million children are acutely malnourished, while over three million livestock — which pastoralist families rely on for sustenance and livelihoods — have died, says the UN.

Griffiths said displacement was the main issue emerging from his talks in Kenya.

He added the displacement from drought had been fairly localised, with the displacement from conflict less so.

Ethiopia was facing both drought and conflict and if the fighting in the north gets worse and spreads, “we do need to fear” for a wave of people fleeing the country’s borders, he said.

Griffiths said the Horn of Africa was “particularly underfunded” and funds invested there would be “money well spent… because the suffering is so intense”.

In the Sahel region, the situation was “similarly dire”.

Up to 18 million people in Africa’s semi-arid sub-Saharan belt will face severe food insecurity over the next three months, he said.

The UN humanitarian agency launched its 2022 appeal in December, seeking $41 billion to help 274 million in need of humanitarian aid and protection.

But it now needs $46 billion to help 303 million people, of which it aims to reach 202 million.

Griffiths said donors had so far contributed almost $6 billion so far — a record high at this point in the year.

But since humanitarian funding has levelled out at about $19 billion a year and the 2022 bill has risen, “we’re not even going to make it halfway”, he said.

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Google Announces $4m Black Founders Fund for 60 Start-ups Across Africa

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Google on Tuesday said that 60 eligible  black-founded  start-ups  would receive  a total of four million dollars  in the second  cohort  of Google  for Start-up  Black Founders Fund  (BFF)

Mr. Folarin Aiyegbusi, Google’s Head of Start-up Ecosystem, Africa,  made this known in a statement announcing the opening of applications for Google for Start-up Black Founders Fund for Africa.

Aiyegbusi said that following the success of the first cohort in 2021, Google increased its commitment in 2022 with additional one million dollars in funding, and support for 10 more founders.

He said that it would result in a commitment of four million dollars to 60 eligible Black-founded start-ups across Africa.

According to him, BFF Africa is open to start-ups in Nigeria, Botswana, Cameroun, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe.

He said that while the 13 countries were the prime focus due to their active tech and start-up ecosystems, strong applications from other African countries would be considered.

‘’The Black Founders Fund Africa demonstrates our commitment to supporting innovations in underserved areas.

‘’Black-led tech start-ups face an unfair venture capital funding environment; that is why we are committed to helping them thrive to be better and ensure the success of communities and economies in our region.

‘’The fund will provide cash awards and hands-on support to 60 Black-led start-ups in Africa, which we hope will aid in developing affordable solutions to fundamental challenges affecting those at the base of the socio-economic pyramid in Africa.

‘’We are hopeful that the support received by the Black founders will enable them to grow their businesses and, in turn, drive economic growth in Africa as they create solutions and give back to their communities,” he said.

According to him, selected start-ups will receive between $50,000 and $100,000 in non-dilutive cash awards and up to $200,000 per start-up in Google Cloud credits.

Aiyegbusi said that support in the form of training and access to a network of mentors to assist in tackling challenges unique to each start-up, would be provided.

He said that early-stage start-ups with black founders or diverse founding teams were eligible for selection for BFF.

According to him,   start-ups which are benefitting the Black community and those operating and headquartered in Africa as well as those with diverse founding team, with at least one Black founding member, were also eligible.

He said that those having a legal presence on the continent and building technology solutions for Africa and the global market and those with the potential to raise more funding and create jobs were equally eligible.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that Google for Start-ups Black Founders Fund was launched in the wake of the 2020 Black Lives Matter movement as part of Google’s racial equality commitment.

The initiative is aimed at driving economic opportunities for Black business owners.

Interested applicants can find more information at  http://goo.gle/BFFAfrica.

Application closes on May 31, while winners will be announced on July 29.

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