New World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Agenda for Africa moves ahead in Berlin

New World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Agenda for Africa moves ahead in Berlin

BERLIN, Germany, March 13, 2018/ — An African ministerial working meeting conveyed by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) during this year’s Berlin International Tourism Fair ITB (8 March) agreed to move ahead with a new ten-point UNWTO Agenda for Africa. The final document will be adopted at the UNWTO Commission meeting for Africa, taking place in Nigeria in June this year.

Against the backdrop of international tourist arrivals expanding 8% in Africa in 2017, thus outgrowing the world average increase in arrivals, tourism is gaining weight as a development opportunity for the whole continent, with its vast diversity of nature, culture and wildlife its greatest vehicle for development.

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili stressed that “tourism has huge potential to generate lasting development opportunities in Africa if we manage it in the right way, which is economic, social and environmental sustainability”.

The participants from 17 countries, including 14 ministers, supported a coordinated approach to seizing the continent’s potential for tourism, a sector that last year attracted more than 62 million international visitors. Issues on the UNWTO Agenda for Africa include, among others, connectivity, the image and brand of Africa, poverty alleviation, climate change, education and skills development, and financing. Delegates underscored the importance of educating other economic sectors on the broad impact of tourism for the benefit of societies and its people, and promoting tourism as a priority in national agendas.

The detailed, four-year UNWTO Agenda for Africa will be approved at the upcoming 61st Regional Commission for Africa – UNWTO’s annual gathering of all its member countries of the continent – in the Nigerian capital of Abuja (4-6 June).

The following countries were represented at the meeting at ITB: Angola, Cape Verde, Cameroon, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Gambia, Kenya, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, Sudan, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Africa & Middle East: Slingshot, the spy that came in from the router

Africa & Middle East: Slingshot, the spy that came in from the router

LAGOS, Nigeria, March 12, 2018/ — Kaspersky Lab researchers have uncovered a sophisticated threat used for cyber-espionage in the Middle East and Africa from at least 2012 until February 2018. The malware, which researchers have called ‘Slingshot’, attacks and infects victims through compromised routers and can run in kernel mode, giving it complete control over victim devices. According to researchers, many of the techniques used by this threat actor are unique and it is extremely effective at stealthy information gathering, hiding its traffic in marked data packets that it can intercept without trace from everyday communications.

The Slingshot operation was discovered after researchers found a suspicious keylogger program and created a behavioural detection signature to see if that code appeared anywhere else. This triggered a detection that turned out to be an infected computer with a suspicious file inside the system folder named scesrv.dll. The researchers decided to investigate this further. Analysis of the file showed that despite appearing legitimate, the scesrv.dll module had malicious code embedded into it. Since this library is loaded by ‘services.exe’, a process that has system privileges, the poisoned library gained the same rights. The researchers realised that a highly advanced intruder had found its way into the very core of the computer.

The most remarkable thing about Slingshot is probably its unusual attack vector. As researchers uncovered more victims, they found that many seemed to have been initially infected through hacked routers. During these attacks, the group behind Slingshot appears to compromise the routers and place a malicious dynamic link library inside it that is in fact a downloader for other malicious components. When an administrator logs in to configure the router, the router’s management software downloads and runs the malicious module on the administrator’s computer. The method used to hack the routers in the first place remains unknown.

Following infection, Slingshot loads a number of modules onto the victim device, including two huge and powerful ones: Cahnadr, and GollumApp. The two modules are connected and able to support each other in information gathering, persistence and data exfiltration.

Slingshot’s main purpose seems to be cyberespionage. Analysis suggests it collects screenshots, keyboard data, network data, passwords, USB connections, other desktop activity, clipboard data and more, although its kernel access means it can steal whatever it wants.

The advanced, persistent threat also incorporates a number of techniques to help it evade detection: including encrypting all strings in its modules, calling system services directly in order to bypass security-product hooks, using a number of Anti-debugging techniques, and selecting which process to inject depending on the installed and running security solution processes, and more.

Slingshot works as a passive backdoor: it does not have a hardcoded command and control (C&C) address but obtains it from the operator by intercepting all network packages in kernel mode and checking to see if there are two hardcoded magic constants in the header. If this is the case, it means that that package contains the C&C address. After that, Slingshot establishes an encrypted communication channel to the C&C and starts to transmit data for exfiltration over it.

The malicious samples investigated by the researchers were marked as ‘version 6.x’, which suggests the threat has existed for a considerable length of time. The development time, skill and cost involved in creating Slingshot’s complex toolset is likely to have been extremely high. Taken together, these clues suggest that the group behind Slingshot is likely to be highly organised and professional and probably state-sponsored. Text clues in the code suggest it is English-speaking. However, accurate attribution is always hard, if not impossible to determine, and increasingly prone to manipulation and error.

So far, researchers have seen around 100 victims of Slingshot and its related modules, located in Kenya, Yemen, Afghanistan, Libya, Congo, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia and Tanzania. Most of the victims appear to be targeted individuals rather than organisations, but there are some government organisations and institutions. Kenya and the Yemen account for most of the victims observed so far.

“Slingshot is a sophisticated threat, employing a wide range of tools and techniques, including kernel mode modules that have to date only been seen in the most advanced predators. The functionality is very precious and profitable for the attackers, which could explain why it has been around for at least six years,” said Alexey Shulmin, Lead Malware Analyst, Kaspersky Lab.

All Kaspersky Lab products successfully detect and block this threat.

To avoid falling victim to such an attack, Kaspersky Lab researchers recommend implementing the following measures:

Users of Mikrotik routers should upgrade to the latest software version as soon as possible to ensure protection against known vulnerabilities. Further, Mikrotik Winbox no longer downloads anything from the router to the user’s computer.
Use a proven corporate grade security solution in combination with anti-targeted attack technologies and threat intelligence, like Kaspersky Threat Management and Defense solution (https://goo.gl/ea1ZqV). These are capable of spotting and catching advanced targeted attacks by analysing network anomalies and give cybersecurity teams full visibility over the network and response automation;
Provide security staff with access to the latest threat intelligence data, which will arm them with helpful tools for targeted attack research and prevention, such as indicators of compromise (IOC), YARA and customised advanced threat reporting;
If you spot early indicators of a targeted attack, consider managed protection services that will allow you to proactively detect advanced threats, reduce dwell time and arrange timely incident response.

Conflicts and weather patterns strain food security

Conflicts and weather patterns strain food security

ROME, Italy, March 5, 2018/ — High levels of food insecurity persist in the world, due largely to conflicts and to adverse climatic shocks that are taking a toll, particularly in East African and Near East countries, where large numbers of people continue to be in need of humanitarian assistance, a new FAO report notes.

Some 37 countries are in need of external assistance for food, unchanged from three months ago, according to the Crop Prospects and Food Situation report issued today.

Civil war and insecurity are direct reasons for high hunger rates in 16 of those countries, ranging from Burundi to Yemen. Conflict is displacing millions of people, hampering agricultural activities and, in many cases, also driving basic food prices up sharply, the report notes. Inflation in the Democratic Republic of Congo more than doubled in 2017 to a 42 percent annual rate. Violence has disrupted traditional trade routes around the Sahel, driving up prices, while food shortages are reported around southern and eastern Libya.

Meanwhile, inadequate and erratic rainfall poses a growing threat to food security in Southern Africa as well as in Eastern Africa, where many rural households have suffered from four consecutive drought-affected agricultural seasons.

Dry weather impacts East Africa

The overall cereal output rebounded in Africa in 2017, mostly due to strong gains in Southern Africa following the sharply reduced harvest in 2016.

Cereal production in East Africa, however, saw a 7.2 percent drop, leading to increased stress in various countries. Recently-concluded harvests of secondary season cereal crops are forecast to be below average in southeastern Kenya, northeastern Tanzania and southern Somalia, the report warns.

Aggregate cereal production from Somalia’s “deyr” rainy season is estimated to be 20 percent below average as seasonal rains had a late start and an early cessation. A similar pattern in rainfall and yields was observed in northeastern Tanzania. South Sudan’s cereal output from the 2017 planting seasons is estimated to be the smallest since the conflict started at the end of 2013.

Drought conditions in parts of Ethiopia and Somalia have eased, but not enough to fully offset accumulated deficits in soil moisture. Pasture availability is still below average and livestock body conditions are generally poor. In Kenya, seasonal rainfall was up to 80 percent below average levels, warranting close monitoring of rangeland conditions in eastern areas of the country.

Prices of staple cereals are also high in Ethiopia and the Sudan, where retail prices of sorghum, millet and wheat have doubled since last October in the majority of local markets. The price jump was triggered by the removal of government wheat subsidies, which increased demand for substitute cereals, and by weakening currencies.

Unfavourable seasonal rains in southern Madagascar are expected to result in a further drop in crop yields in 2018, which, coupled with historically high prices of rice, should put additional stress to food security conditions especially in southern areas.

Elsewhere, in Southern Africa, production is expected to fall from the record highs of 2017, heightening concerns about food security, which FAO flagged in a Special Alert issued last week.

The 37 countries currently in need of external food assistance are Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea, Haiti, Iraq, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Myanmar, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Syria, Uganda, Yemen and Zimbabwe.

A new dawn for a peaceful, stable and prosperous Great Lakes region of Africa

A new dawn for a peaceful, stable and prosperous Great Lakes region of Africa

By Said Djinnit:

NAIROBI, Kenya, February 21, 2018/ — On 24 February 2013, eleven African heads of State made history in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The Peace, Security, and Cooperation Framework (PSCF) for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Great Lakes region came into being. Eleven months later Sudan and Kenya joined the group. All together they committed 370 million people and an aggregate GDP of US$1.2 trillion to prevent conflict, build peace, and promote cooperation and economic integration in a large part of Sub-Saharan Africa. The PSCF generated new hope for peace and stability in the Great Lakes region and beyond.

Just one generation before, millions of lives have been lost in the same region as a result of conflicts and a genocide. Trillions of dollars’ worth of natural resources proved to be a curse, inciting foreign interference and fueling violence.

The PSCF was set to change this state of affairs, and to leapfrog the region into a new period of peace and stability.

Five years on, progress was indeed achieved. During this time, dialogue and cooperation between countries and across the region have increased and mistrust declined. Regional leaders have worked together to address insecurity and create stability. The good management of natural resources started to be considered a shared priority. Measures were taken to increase inter-regional trade and boost investments, including through the easing of visa and work permit requirements, the establishment of one-stop investment centers, and the facilitation of border exchanges. High commodity prices generated investments and close to double digit growth rates. Some countries in the region started jumping up global rankings of democracy, education, social equality, and gender empowerment.

The United Nations, the African Union, the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the four Guarantors of the PSCF, have worked together during these five years to advance the implementation of the PSCF. They have encouraged political dialogue and confidence building across the region, opened up space for women, youth, and civil society participation, generated consensus and commitment to urgently act to neutralize armed groups, put the protection of human rights upfront and promoted regional judicial cooperation, and fostered transparent and sustainable management of natural resources.

Most importantly, they continued to call upon the leaders of the region to be accountable to their own citizens and uphold the commitments they signed up to with the PSCF in 2013.

Yet, despite these advances, the sources of conflict in the region largely remain. Political instability, violence, and poverty continue to affect the lives of too many people, including of over 11 million forcibly displaced today. Constitutions and electoral processes are challenged leading to political crises and – at times – violence. Weak governance structures and corruption affect all aspects of the lives of citizens, in particular the most vulnerable. Previously weakened non-state armed groups are returning to terrify communities. Violence re-emerges on ethnic and political grounds. The average regional per capita income is turning negative while disparities among countries are widening, with some forging ahead of their development plans and others lagging behind. Mismanagement of natural resources and land, and uneven distribution of wealth continue to create fertile ground for instability. Women often struggle to find a voice and are particularly vulnerable to insecurity.

The fifth anniversary of the PSCF is the right opportunity to remind ourselves that the business is still unfinished. Broader and stronger commitments and partnerships are needed in the region, the African continent, and globally to achieve peace and stability in the Great Lakes region.

We must step up our collective efforts to deliver inclusive and peaceful political processes that respond to people’s expectations. We should spare no effort to ensure armed groups are neutralized and former combatants reintegrated into their communities. Those responsible for human rights abuses must be brought to justice. Displaced communities who have been on the run for too many years should be given options that respect their dignity and provide them with a secure future. Host countries and international partners must work together to provide humanitarian assistance to all those who need it, many of whom are children and women. And, more should be done to ensure that the natural resources riches are a driver of growth and shared prosperity, both essential foundations for peace. None of this can be achieved if women, at the leadership and at the community level, are not fully engaged in key decisions and share the responsibility to deliver peace and security, and to foster cooperation in the Great Lakes region. Still, it should be noted that the biggest asset among all riches of the Great Lakes region is youth. However, its creative energies still need to be better channeled through work opportunities, engagement, participation and empowerment. This is what the PSCF is about.

We have no option but to do more and more effectively. Peace and stability in the Great Lakes region is central to Africa’s prosperity. When the Great Lakes region returns to the upbeat moments, African and global citizens, environmentalists, investors, and tourists will celebrate. A stable, inclusive and prosperous Democratic Republic of the Congo is the key to unlock this potential. I invite you all, leaders, citizens, partners, to convert this troubled region into a pioneer of the emerging Africa and a strong partner of the rest of the world.

Said Djinnit
Special Envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General for the Great Lakes region
(2014-Present)

President Zuma Returns from Ethiopia

President Zuma Returns from Ethiopia

PRETORIA, South Africa, January 30, 2018/ — President Jacob Zuma has today, 30 January 2018, arrived back in South Africa from a successful visit to Addis Ababa, in the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, where he led the South African Government delegation to the 30th Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU), which met from 28-29 January 2017 under the theme: “Winning the Fight Against Corruption: A Sustainable Path to Africa’s Transformation”.

The Summit took a number of important decisions that demonstrated the readiness of AU member states to fully implement the commitments made in the continental organisation’s flagship programme, Agenda 2063, relating to, amongst other things, the sustenance of peace and security; free movement of people, goods and services; and improving political and democratic governance on the continent .

On 29 January 2017, the AU leaders launched the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM). The SAATM, of which South Africa is a signatory, provides for the full liberalization of market access between African states, free exercise of traffic rights, elimination of restrictions on ownership and full liberalization of frequencies, fares and capacities.

President Zuma said: “It is gratifying that the continent is moving ahead with the implementation of Agenda 2063, and it is vital that we are taking decisions that have a direct impact on the lives of the people of the continent. We are, in a very practical manner, removing barriers to trade, investment and tourism”.

The Summit elected President Paul Kagame of Rwanda as Chair of the AU for the year 2018, taking over from President Alpha Conde of the Republic of Guinea. President Zuma congratulated President Kagame and assured him of South Africa’s readiness to work with him as he steers the AU. South Africa was elected to serve as one of the Vice Chairs of the Bureau of the AU, representing the Southern African region. The other member states of the Bureau are Libya (North Africa), Republic of Congo (Central Africa) and the Republic of Guinea (West Africa).

On the state of peace and security on the continent, the Summit discussed the situations in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, South Sudan, Libya and Western Sahara. The Summit noted that the continent remains largely peaceful and that the situations in the countries under discussion required more concerted efforts from the AU and its member states geared towards sustainable peace and stability within the framework of Agenda 2063, in particular the goal to “silence the guns by the year 2020”.

The Summit emphasised the need for continuous engagement and cooperation between the AU and the United Nations (UN). In this regard, the Summit re-appointed President Zuma to continue his role of championing this initiative. President Zuma met the Secretary General of the UN, Mr Antonio Guterres, on the margins of the Summit. The two leaders re-committed themselves to fostering closer cooperation between the AU and the UN.

President Zuma said he was pleased to see the AU embracing the decision by South Africa to mark the centenary of South Africa’s first post-apartheid President, Tata Nelson Mandela. “We were pleased to see the warmth with which our fellow Africans received the message about commemorating Madiba’s centenary. This once again shows that Africa is ready to preserve Madiba’s legacy of pan-African solidarity as well as peace and reconciliation”.