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We Are Essential




 At the start of the pandemic, the word ‘essential’ took on a special meaning to describe those individuals who worked within hospitals and health care facilities who were desperately needed to combat the pandemic, as well as individuals who were critical to providing basic services and goods (e.g. food, electricity, water).  

Now that nearly seven months have elapsed since Rwanda entered an imposed lockdown due to the pandemic, it is time to review the meaning of this word again.

Mental and Physical Wellbeing is Essential

We, as owners of health/fitness centers in Rwanda, still remain closed, while many of our clients remain at home with compromising mental or physical conditions where regular, guided exercise was a critical part of ensuring they can get out of bed in the morning.  

Whether it is combatting stress, decreasing the side effects from being overweight or obesity, or improved productivity, exercise benefits everyone.  The fact that we are currently in a pandemic, those who are less physically active, are particularly susceptible.

Our Members Are Essential

Many think the number of fitness goers is small, and that it is an elite activity, but we have collectively served over 20,000 customers across our facilities. We were part of building a culture in Rwanda around exercise that is inclusive, healthy and preventative.  

We have also contributed to health and fitness communities outside our facilities, from the Kigali Peace Marathon to supporting local athletic associations with having access to international-standard training facilities so they can compete.

Fighting NCDs is Essential

We took note of the Ministry of Health’s new campaign to raise US$640 million to fight non-communicable diseases such as heart disease and diabetes, which according to the World Health Organization, will be the number one killer in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2030.

Our clients have outsourced and trusted our institutions in this fight to maintain their health.  Many will say that the streets are still open for running, Car Free Day has opened up and there are plenty of at-home training options available. 

But what many of us are actually fighting in our institutions is misinformation about what it means to have a healthy lifestyle, and we are providing critical guidance to many people who have exercised for the first time.  

As an anecdote, many of our clients have never used a treadmill, yet we expect them to operate in a particularly stressful and unhealthy environment that has been established with COVID restrictions, without any guidance from health professionals.

COVID Precautions are Essential

Additionally, the science and data around infections in fitness facilities has evolved since the start of the pandemic. 

According to EuropeActive, the leading voice and non-profit association for the European fitness and physical activity sector, preliminary data collected by King Juan Carlos University and AWRC-Sheffield Hallam University reveals extremely low levels of Covid-19 risk in fitness clubs and leisure facilities. With more than 62 million visits analyzed, the average infection rate sits at 0.78 per 100.000 visits. 

Since the study’s official launch on 25th September 2020, research and evaluation partners have collected data based on more than 62 million visits to fitness clubs and leisure facilities with only 487 positive cases (of both members and staff) reported. Nonetheless, fitness facilities are uniquely positioned, as compared with other industries that have opened up, such as restaurants or cafes, to respect and raise the bar for COVID precautions. 

Things like cleaning equipment after use, regular facility cleaning, booking classes in advance by staff were part of our standard operating procedures before COVID.  Further, we have come up with a set of new regulations that ensure that we can prevent the spread of COVID within our facilities.

Our Staff Are Essential

Finally, each of the facilities has supported a number of people and their families with learning skills and earning a livelihood.  With no foreseeable end to the continued lockdown, our companies cannot continue to support staff in a market environment where many are seeking work. 

Our staff are the soul of our communities, and this lockdown has been particularly difficult for them.

We are essential.  It is time for gyms to re-open in Rwanda. 

The author is a professional trainer.


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Ethiopia & IMF In Talks To Revamp Old Debt



Ethiopia asked the International Monetary Fund for a new deal, days after France and China co-chaired the first meeting of the nation’s major creditors panel to rework the nation’s previous debt.

Setting up a creditors’ panel and an agreement on how to deal with Ethiopia’s nearly U$30 billion of external debt paves the way for the IMF to determine how to engage with the country on economic recovery.

The lender’s executive board has yet to approve disbursements from the Extended Credit Facility and Extended Fund Facility, the former of which has expired — despite reaching staff-level agreements.

The government requested a new IMF credit arrangement, potentially with a similar amount, to replace the one that just lapsed, State Minister for Finance Eyob Tekalign told reporters on Wednesday in the capital, Addis Ababa.

A new ECF will grant Ethiopia access to concessional resources under a poverty reduction and growth program, he said.

The IMF board in December 2019 approved an equivalent of $2.9 billion for Ethiopia’s two credit arrangements.

On Thursday, the Washington-based lender said it was “too soon” to engage with Ethiopia over any possible new program.

The formation of an Ethiopian creditors panel marks a breakthrough in a global push to restructure the debt of poor countries hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic under the Group of 20’s common framework.

It could also set a roadmap for the role of private creditors on the same.

The panel may propose that commercial lenders push their payment-due dates by one or two years, Eyob said later in an interview.

“The creditors committee will reach an agreement on some parameters on how to deal with comparable debt treatment,” Eyob said. The “sense we got is that there was no strong opinion on this, so we’re hopeful in getting the required amount of debt being restructured without market disruption.”

Ethiopia’s announcement on Jan. 29 that it plans to restructure its debt triggered a selloff of its $1 billion of Eurobonds. The yield on the 2024 debt has since risen, and traded at a record high of 11.75% by 11:07 a.m. in London.

Ethiopia’s economic pain, following the hit from the pandemic, was exacerbated by a civil war in its northern Tigray region, which has depleted government finances.

Ethiopia, along with at least two other African nations, Chad and Zambia, have approached creditors for debt relief under the G-20 program that aims to rework the debt for countries at risk of defaulting amid the fallout from the virus.

China’s inclusion as the co-chair of the creditor committee is key, according to Mark Bohlund, a senior credit analyst at REDD Intelligence.

It “strengthens the likelihood that re-profiling of debt service to bilateral creditors will need to be reciprocated by commercial creditors, for instance through a consent solicitation with eurobond holders to delay coupon payments,” Bohlund said.


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Airtel Rwanda Partners With Canal+ To Ease Payment Of Subscription Fees Via Airtel Money



Airtel Rwanda and Canal+ Rwanda have launched a partnership, enabling customers to easily make subscription payments.

The partnership announced at a joint press conference today provides clients of both CANAL+ and Airtel a simpler, instant and secure payments method using Airtel Money.

CANAL+ Rwanda is the subsidiary of CANAL+INTERNATIONAL, TV operator by satellite in Africa and present in over  25 African countries.

CANAL+ Rwanda have a trilingual package with 200 channels in French, Kinyarwanda and English and it offers accessible bouquet starting from 5,000 Francs with a distribution network throughout the country.

Speaking at the launch event, Airtel Rwanda Managing Director, Mr. Emmanuel Hamez said “We are delighted to launch this new service on our Airtel Money platform we welcome all Canal+ customers to enjoy the convenience and simplicity offered by Airtel Money both on the USSD as well as in the My Airtel App”.

The new service that was launched today comes on the heels of an ongoing Airtel Money campaign called Free P2P which enables all Airtel Money customers to send and receive any amount of money for FREE.

“Free P2P or Ohereza Amafaranga Ku Buntu was launched in June 2021 saw Airtel scrap all charges to send and receive money between customers, a major differentiator that positions Airtel Money to become the provider of choice when it comes to payment of good and services such Canal+ that we have launched today” added Hamez.

Canal+ Rwanda’s Managing Director, Madam Sophie TCHATCHOUA said “It gives me great pleasure to allow Canal+ client to renew their subscription with Airtel Money. The successful integration of our mutual services makes life easier for our beloved customers who can now recharge and seamlessly have their images back and all this can be done from the comfort of their home”.

To renew your subscription via Airtel Money, customers can simply dial the direct short code string *500*4*3*2*4*1# on either their smartphone on feature phone, input their 14 Digit of their decoder  number, select their preferred bouquet and make the payment which is recognized by the Canal+ billing system instantly.

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Hundreds Of Passengers Miss Flight In Uganda Due To Delayed COVID-19 Tests



Hundreds of Ugandans have been left stranded at Entebbe International Airport by the Emirates Airways after the laboratory where they had taken their Covid-19 results delayed to return them on time.

In a Snapchat post by Ugandan socialite Sheila Gashumba, she ranted, ‘’When I tell Ugandans that Covid in Uganda is a business they say I have ‘kajanja’.

Now all Emirates passengers have missed their flights because Safari Lab sent Covid results at 2:45pm and Emirates closed its gate at 3pm.

The hospital said it couldn’t work on everyone in the short time.

Around 300 passengers missed their flight yet Safari Lab had made a total of UgSh75m since everyone had paid UGX 250,000 for the test.

In the video where all passengers were visibly angry and frustrated, they can be heard asking for what the solution is and who is going to pay for the tickets again now that those that they had paid for can no longer be used anymore.

Passengers expressed their frustration at the rot in the service.

“I experienced such thing in March as the officers in charge claimed that the gates were close at 1pm as the flight was at 3pm,” one twitter user said.

Some made jokes out of it and asked, if this was because of the US$10 tax that is in the process of being introduced and will be paid by anyone that leaves the country using the Entebbe International Airport.

Another twitter user @kasoxialex2000 asked, ‘’@UgandaCAA (Uganda Civil Aviation Authority), but seriously you guys when you move to some airports don’t you copy something? Why are we ever backwards??? Stop embarrassing us. Who will save Uganda’’
By press time there was no official communication from the Civil Aviation Authority, Safari Lab nor Emirates Airways.

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