Colors: Blue Color

British Entrepreneur, Lazar Vukovic has released a statement in regards to his work with the Serbian royal family, and what the royals mean to us all - no matter where we are from.

Lazar comments: "Working with the royal family of Serbian really opened my eyes to how much the royals actually help their nation first hand. Seeing the people of the nation being the heart and drive of Their Royal Highnesses work is very emotional to witness. From healthcare to education, the work of the royals for a better nation is something so selfless that in today's world is very rare to see.

"We need to appreciate our royal family more than ever, and their duties for not only the economy but the people of the nation."

Lazar has just released his debut book 'Make It Happen!' in which he talks about his childhood as a Serbian immigrant, how he began working with the Serbian royal family and of course, how to make it happen in today's crazy world. 

Celebrated by Hindus and Sikhs to mark the beginning of the Hindu solar New Year, people around the world marked Vaisakhi - sometimes called Baisakhi, Vaishakhi, or Vasakhi - and takes place each year in April and is celebrated across the world.

This year, as before, the festival which celebrates the founding of the Sikh community, the Khalsa, marked the holiest day in the Sikh calendar.

An ancient festival of Punjabis, it marks the Solar New Year and is also a harvest festival marking the creation of the community of initiated Sikhs. This year, however, religious worships moved online and the practice of offering food was taken out to the community, as people self-isolated and stayed at home.

With two different elements to Vaisakhi - firstly it refers to the harvest festival in the Punjab region of India, and secondly, it marks the day that Sikhism was born as a collective faith in 1699 – the day is also observed by the farming community of Punjab as a day of giving thanks and paying tribute to God for their abundant harvest and praying for future prosperity.

Vaisakhi is all about community, progression and celebration and is marked around the world with processions known as a nagar kirtan.

People often visit temples or gurdwaras on Vaisakhi, were special services take place. The Sikh holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib, is usually raised on a platform leading parade, to signify its importance.

In the UK, large-scale events usually take place across the country including performances and gatherings, but due to Covid-19, for a second year running. Events would also usually include performances by Sikh artists, dances, food stalls and more, with smaller community fairs often taking place around the country.

Some of the commonly prepared dishes during Vaisakhi include:

·         Traditional kadhi with besan pakodas dunked in a thick gravy of yogurt

·         Meethe Peeley Chawal – basmati rice, cashew nuts, saffron and cinnamon

·         Kesar Phirni – a sweet rice pudding with saffron, cardamom, sugar, milk and almonds,

·         Mango Lassi – mango, honey, ice and plain yoghurt

·         Kada Prasad (Atta Halwa) – wholewheat flour, ghee, sugar and water

With festivals cancelled amid pandemic, half a million British-Sikhs prepared to mark the Vaisakhi festival under coronavirus lockdown restrictions for the second year running.

Every year, Muslims across the globe observe a month of daily fasting during Ramadan.

The ninth month of the Islamic calendar involves abstaining from food, drink, smoking and sex between early morning and sunset.

Fasting - during Ramadan or for other reasons - is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, the others being faith, prayer, charity and the pilgrimage to Mecca.

Ramadan 2019 was a test of faith because it fell in the longer days of summer, meaning extended hours of going without food and drink in hot weather.

Ramadan 2020 was during a full lockdown in the UK and across the world so that presented another set of challenges, with Muslims told to remain in their own homes, despite the usual tradition for communal meals and prayers.

For 2021, there are still restrictions in place but mosques are open for limited, pre-booked communal worship and special guidance has been issued on night prayers, meals before and after fasting, and spiritual retreats.

This is the month in which the Qur'an was revealed to the prophet Muhammad and so it's regarded as a time filled with blessings when worshippers focus their minds and bodies on spirituality rather than on earthly needs and indulgences.

It's traditional to convey greetings and blessings to those who are about to begin an entire month of fasting.

So what are the typical blessings to be said to Muslim family and friends at the start of the month? How do you wish people a Happy Ramadan?

And once the month of fasting is over, it's time to celebrate Eid al-Fitr and wish each other Eid Mubarak.

With strict rules around Ramadan, there have been concerns from some people about whether they can have their Covid-19 vaccine injection when they are fasting.

The British Islamic Medical Association (BIMA) has consulted a wide range of scholars and the opinion of the vast majority is that receiving a vaccine by injection does not invalidate the fast.

It said: “Taking the Covid-19 vaccines currently licensed in the UK does not invalidate the fast.” People are also advised to get tested regularly, have their vaccine as soon as they can, and continue to follow Hands, Face, Space and Fresh Air guidance.

The BIMA also considered whether Muslims should take Covid-19 tests during Ramadan and said: “Taking the Covid-19 PCR or lateral flow tests does not invalidate the fast during Ramadan, as per the opinion of the majority of Islamic scholars.”

The Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC, paid tribute to Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh as follows:

“It is with deep sorrow that I have learnt of the death of His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

“Through over seventy years of marriage, His Royal Highness supported Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in fulfilling her duties as Head of the Commonwealth.

“The Duke shared with Her Majesty a high view of what humanity can achieve through cooperation and working together. His questioning mind and sense of adventure, combined with an engaging informality and forthrightness, enabled him to communicate huge positivity and faith as to what could be achieved through individual and international connection.

“His Royal Highness had experienced camaraderie and comradeship during World War II and service in the Royal Navy. Following his marriage in 1947, he sought out ways of bringing this spirit to the institutions and organisations of the Commonwealth, so that they would reap the dividends of collaboration in peacetime too – including for remote and marginalised communities.

“It was the Duke who in 1952, during their stay in Kenya en route to Australia and New Zealand, gave Princess Elizabeth the sad news that her father King George VI had died, and that she was Queen.

“Their Coronation tour of the Commonwealth in 1953, during which they covered 40,000 miles, took place in a world far less connected than it is today by swift travel and instant communications technology.

“At the time of her coronation, the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh were tremendously glamorous and remarkably young. They symbolised hope for the future, and the spirit of goodwill and optimism rooted in a sense of belonging together as members of a worldwide family – not just of nations, but of people.

“Their tours were important expressions of Commonwealth inclusiveness, bringing together countries and communities which – although far apart on the map – were made to feel close because of shared inheritances and their continuing Commonwealth identity, made real in a special way through the physical presence of The Queen and the Duke.

“His Royal Highness had a farsighted understanding of the potential of Commonwealth connection, and his approaches to bringing people together from a wide range of backgrounds to develop leadership skills were regarded as innovative and brave.

“With vigour and vision, the Duke of Edinburgh carved out an immensely valuable role for himself within Commonwealth networks, with a focus on projects and programmes through which he could build on his distinctive philosophy of cultivating understanding and self-reliance, and thereby complement Her Majesty’s official responsibilities and duties as Head of the Commonwealth.

“His Royal Highness described the Commonwealth Studies Conferences, which he founded in 1956, as “an extraordinary experiment". They were a pioneering forum for bringing together emerging leaders and talented men and women from the management of industrial corporations, trade unions, the professions and civil society. His vision and prescience in creating this movement at this time was a striking demonstration of a depth of understanding of what would be needed to meet the challenges of the next millennium.

“Similarly, his determination through the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme to offer opportunities for young people to stretch themselves, to gain confidence and develop resourcefulness, was important in nurturing social progress and innovation throughout the Commonwealth.

“These were ground-breaking initiatives when first established, and continue – more than sixty years later - to offer valuable opportunities for people throughout the Commonwealth.

“His Royal Highness was associated as patron or president with a range of Commonwealth charitable bodies and civil society organisations, taking a keen interest in their activities. He also made notable contributions as an early and prominent advocate for international action on the conservation of wildlife and natural habitats.

“During a period of unprecedented change and technological progress, the Duke of Edinburgh supported The Queen with energy and imagination. They will each of them forever remain inextricably connected to the period when the Commonwealth developed and grew in stature.

“Past, present and future generations of Commonwealth citizens owe a debt of gratitude to Prince Philip for remaining constant and steadfast in his commitment to the Commonwealth, and his assuredness and vision of its global importance.

“When meeting His Royal Highness, I always found him charming and witty, and he showed real kindness making every effort to put me at ease.

“In mourning his passing, we each share in some measure the far greater sense of loss and bereavement Her Majesty The Queen and members of the Royal Family will be feeling at this time of such sadness.

“It falls to me, on behalf of the Commonwealth family which he served so long and so faithfully, to offer Her Majesty and all those close to His Royal Highness Prince Philip our heartfelt condolences and sympathy.”

The Caribbean island of St Vincent has been covered in a layer of ash after a volcano began erupting there on Friday. There is major disruption for islanders who are without power or water supply.

The eruption of the La Soufrière volcano has forced around 16,000 people to evacuate their homes. The Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves has called for calm.

People living on the nearby island of Barbados have also been told to stay indoors as the ash spreads through the air. The volcano was dormant for decades but started to become active in December. Scientists warn that eruptions could continue for days - or even weeks.

The explosive volcanic eruption blanketed the island in ash and smoke and forced thousands of people out of their homes. La Soufrière, which has been dormant for decades, first started showing volcanic activity in December, but that increased.

The Prime Minister urged the residents in "red zones" to evacuate as the volcano has been spewing dark ash plumes 6 km (3.7 miles) into the air. Ash fall has been recorded as far from the volcano as Argyle International Airport some 20 km away, St Vincent's National Emergency Management Organisation (Nemo) said.

The volcano had been dormant since 1979, but in December it started spewing steam and smoke, and making rumbling noises. The first sign that an eruption was imminent came on Thursday evening, when a lava dome became visible on La Soufrière.

That same night, Mr Gonsalves ordered an urgent evacuation of the surrounding area.

Then on Friday, seismologists from the University of the West Indies confirmed that an explosive eruption was under way. Evacuees were taken to cruise ships and safer parts of the island.

One resident, Zen Punnett, said that he saw "a huge ball of smoke", and that there was panic when people were first ordered to evacuate. "I can feel and hear rumbling here in the green safe zone... keeping calm as much as possible and praying," he added.

Lavern King, a volunteer at shelters on the island, said: "People are still being evacuated from the red zone, it started yesterday evening and into last night. The place in general is in a frenzy." Inhabitants of the red zone constitute more than 10% of the country's population. Later on another explosion was recorded, the UWI Seismic Research Centre tweeted.

Some evacuation procedures were hindered by the heavy ash fall, which had made visibility "extremely poor", Nemo said.

"Now that the La Soufrière volcano has begun erupting explosively, ash falls will soon overwhelm us," the organisation wrote on Facebook, adding: "Be sure to get rid of or clean up the ash, soon after it falls. If rain falls, the ash could harden and pose a danger to you."

Most of the Lesser Antilles islands are part of a long volcanic arc in the Eastern Caribbean. The last eruption, in 1979, caused more than $100m (£73m) of damage on the island.

The worst eruption on record, in 1902, killed more than 1,000 people. Local media have also reported increased activity from Mount Pelee on the island of Martinique, north of St Vincent.

The recent two-part ITV documentary Britain's Tiger Kings - On The Trail With Ross Kemp highlighted the growing problems associated with the keeping of wild animals as pets.

In response to the documentary, Born Free’s co-founder and Executive President Will Travers OBE said: “I think most people will have found it unbelievable that, in this day and age, so many dangerous animals, including big cats, bears, crocodiles and venomous snakes, are being kept as pets by private individuals across the UK. Increasing demand for all kinds of wild animals as exotic pets puts owners and the wider public at risk of injury or disease. It can also cause serious animal suffering, and the demand may increase the pressure on many wild populations which are often already under threat.”

Born Free believes the documentary provided further evidence of the need for far greater restrictions on the trade in and keeping of wild animals as pets in the UK. For many years Born Free has been highlighting the fact that obtaining a Dangerous Wild Animals (DWA) licence is far too easy, and calling for reform. As well as failing to keep the public safe, the Dangerous Wild Animals Act does not adequately address animal welfare and takes no account of wildlife conservation or owner suitability.

Earlier this year, Born Free revealed almost 4,000 wild animals were being kept privately under DWA licenses across Great Britain. This number is believed to be the tip of the iceberg, given many species don’t currently require a licence, and long-standing concerns that there is widespread non-compliance with the Act. 

Some of these animals are kept for commercial purposes, however the majority are believed to be kept by individuals as pets, a practice that is on the increase; Born Free’s data suggests an increase of at least 59% in dangerous wild animals kept as pets since 2000.

At the time of its inception, the Dangerous Wild Animals Act was intended to make the private keeping of dangerous wild animals an exceptional circumstance. However the ongoing increase in wild animals kept as pets flies in the face of the intention of the Act.

While modest changes have been made to the Schedule (species covered by the Act) over the years, the Act itself has not been substantially updated for more than 40 years. There are still species absent from the Schedule which, under other legislation, including the Zoo Licensing Act, are regarded as a risk to the public, such as large varanid lizards like Komodo dragons, large python & boa species, and a number of birds of prey.

Will Travers continued: “It’s high time for a comprehensive review of the Dangerous Wild Animals Act and its Schedule, and far greater restrictions on the trade in and keeping of wild animals as pets in the UK.

“As a minimum, we are calling for full consideration of whether the welfare needs of individual animals can be met, and owners have necessary qualifications and experience; a guarantee that the trade does not compromise conservation of species in the wild; due consideration of potential environmental concerns (such as the establishment of invasive species through escapes, the deliberate releases of unwanted pets, and the possible spread of zoonotic diseases); and confirmation there is no risk to wider health and safety of animals or people.”

As part of its campaign on this issue Born Free, in collaboration with the RSPCA, has launched a petition calling on the Government to review and reform laws on the private keeping of Dangerous Wild Animals. Born Free has also created an interactive map detailing the dangerous wild animals licensed to be kept privately by local authority.

Following the death of Prince Philip The Duke of Edinburgh, the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC, paid her own tribute saying: “It is with deep sorrow that I have learnt of the death of His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Through over seventy years of marriage, His Royal Highness supported Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in fulfilling her duties as Head of the Commonwealth.

“The Duke shared with Her Majesty a high view of what humanity can achieve through cooperation and working together. His questioning mind and sense of adventure, combined with an engaging informality and forthrightness, enabled him to communicate huge positivity and faith as to what could be achieved through individual and international connection.

“His Royal Highness had experienced camaraderie and comradeship during World War II and service in the Royal Navy. Following his marriage in 1947, he sought out ways of bringing this spirit to the institutions and organisations of the Commonwealth, so that they would reap the dividends of collaboration in peacetime too – including for remote and marginalised communities.

“It was the Duke who in 1952, during their stay in Kenya en route to Australia and New Zealand, gave Princess Elizabeth the sad news that her father King George VI had died, and that she was Queen. Their Coronation tour of the Commonwealth in 1953, during which they covered 40,000 miles, took place in a world far less connected than it is today by swift travel and instant communications technology.

“At the time of her coronation, the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh were tremendously glamorous and remarkably young. They symbolised hope for the future, and the spirit of goodwill and optimism rooted in a sense of belonging together as members of a worldwide family – not just of nations, but of people.

“Their tours were important expressions of Commonwealth inclusiveness, bringing together countries and communities which – although far apart on the map – were made to feel close because of shared inheritances and their continuing Commonwealth identity, made real in a special way through the physical presence of The Queen and the Duke. His Royal Highness had a farsighted understanding of the potential of Commonwealth connection, and his approaches to bringing people together from a wide range of backgrounds to develop leadership skills were regarded as innovative and brave.

“With vigour and vision, the Duke of Edinburgh carved out an immensely valuable role for himself within Commonwealth networks, with a focus on projects and programmes through which he could build on his distinctive philosophy of cultivating understanding and self-reliance, and thereby complement Her Majesty’s official responsibilities and duties as Head of the Commonwealth. His Royal Highness described the Commonwealth Studies Conferences, which he founded in 1956, as “an extraordinary experiment".

They were a pioneering forum for bringing together emerging leaders and talented men and women from the management of industrial corporations, trade unions, the professions and civil society. His vision and prescience in creating this movement at this time was a striking demonstration of a depth of understanding of what would be needed to meet the challenges of the next millennium.

“Similarly, his determination through the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme to offer opportunities for young people to stretch themselves, to gain confidence and develop resourcefulness, was important in nurturing social progress and innovation throughout the Commonwealth. These were ground-breaking initiatives when first established, and continue – more than sixty years later - to offer valuable opportunities for people throughout the Commonwealth.

“His Royal Highness was associated as patron or president with a range of Commonwealth charitable bodies and civil society organisations, taking a keen interest in their activities. He also made notable contributions as an early and prominent advocate for international action on the conservation of wildlife and natural habitats.

“During a period of unprecedented change and technological progress, the Duke of Edinburgh supported The Queen with energy and imagination. They will each of them forever remain inextricably connected to the period when the Commonwealth developed and grew in stature.

“Past, present and future generations of Commonwealth citizens owe a debt of gratitude to Prince Philip for remaining constant and steadfast in his commitment to the Commonwealth, and his assuredness and vision of its global importance. When meeting His Royal Highness, I always found him charming and witty, and he showed real kindness making every effort to put me at ease.

“In mourning his passing, we each share in some measure the far greater sense of loss and bereavement Her Majesty The Queen and members of the Royal Family will be feeling at this time of such sadness. It falls to me, on behalf of the Commonwealth family which he served so long and so faithfully, to offer Her Majesty and all those close to His Royal Highness Prince Philip our heartfelt condolences and sympathy.”

Secretary-General Patricia Scotland

Qatar Airways are celebrating the opening of a new state-of-the-art Engine Facility as part of the vision to streamline the cost of its Technical Maintenance operations by more than $2.2m per year, further supporting the airline’s growth despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Located in the Qatar Airways Technical Maintenance complex, the new 9,000 sq. ft. Engine Facility was officially opened by the Minister of Transport and Communications His Excellency Mr Jassim Saif Ahmed Al-Sulaiti, in the presence of the President of the Qatar Civil Aviation Authority, His Excellency Mr. Abdulla Nasser Turki Al Subaey, and Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, His Excellency Mr. Akbar Al Baker, along with other senior officials and VIPs.

It is estimated the new facility will enable the airline to improve workflow by over 1,800 man hours per month, or 23,400 man hours per year, by centralising its engine production and engine parts storage processes, increasing the number of its engine production lines from four to eight covering a variety of aircraft engine types. In addition to this, the ultramodern facility is able to house a total of 80 engines of varying sizes in a temperature and humidity controlled environment, with two specialist ‘Dust Control’ rooms to limit the presence of dust and harmful particles, as well as a dedicated Supply Chain area to minimise waiting times for the ordering and transportation of spare parts.

Minister of Transport and Communications His Excellency Mr. Jassim Saif Ahmed Al-Sulaiti, said: “This achievement will boost the ongoing growth of the aviation industry in Qatar and contribute to localising that major industry. This event also keeps pace with the remarkable development in transportation sector in the country in light of the upsurge in development under the country’s wise leadership.

“Lately, the nation’s milestones in the field of aviation industry have increased despite the exceptional circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hamad International Airport, has continued winning awards as the best airport in the world in terms of efficiency, service and amenities for travellers and Qatar Airways has ranked first and won several global awards.

“The State of Qatar, will continue the course of giving and work, as well as carrying out several projects in the future to keep pace with all developments in aviation industry, which is one of the most advanced industries in the world, toward a promising future and an advanced country that takes its position among world countries, until reaching the horizons of Qatar National Vision 2030.”

Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, His Excellency Mr Akbar Al Baker, said: “The continuous improvement and expansion of our Technical Maintenance facilities is a key element in supporting the airline’s ongoing efforts to rebuild our global network to more than 140 destinations by the summer peak season.

“With the new Engine Facility, we have not only created one of the most technologically-advanced engine assembly and disassembly facilities available within the commercial aviation industry to date, but also doubled our engine production capabilities. The facility’s extensive dedicated Supply Chain area also means that we have instant access to a ready supply of engine parts and equipment, reducing our reliance on external suppliers and further supporting the reliability and technical capability of Qatar Airways’ fleet of next-generation aircraft.”

Qatar Airways has become the first global airline in the world to achieve the prestigious 5-Star COVID-19 Airline Safety Rating by international air transport rating organisation, Skytrax. This follows HIA’s recent success as the first and only airport in the Middle East and Asia to be awarded a Skytrax 5-Star COVID-19 Airport Safety Rating. These recognitions provide assurance to passengers across the world that airline health and safety standards are subject to the highest possible standards of professional, independent scrutiny and assessment. 

A multiple award-winning airline, Qatar Airways was named ‘World’s Best Airline’ by the 2019 World Airline Awards, managed by the international air transport rating organisation Skytrax. It was also named ‘Best Airline in the Middle East’, ‘World’s Best Business Class’, and ‘Best Business Class Seat’, in recognition of its ground-breaking Business Class experience, Qsuite. Qsuite is available on flights to more than 45 destinations including Johannesburg, Frankfurt, New York and Singapore.

Qatar Airways is the only airline to have been awarded the coveted ‘Skytrax Airline of the Year’ title, which is recognised as the pinnacle of excellence in the airline industry, five times. In addition to this, Qatar Airways home and hub, Hamad International Airport (HIA) was ranked the ‘Best Airport in the Middle East’ and ‘Third Best Airport in the World’ by the SKYTRAX World Airport Awards 2020.

With low expectations of elected politicians in Nigeria, Barbara Etim James is convinced that the solution to many of the country's problems lies with its many chiefs, kings and queens. Two years ago, the 54 year old was crowned a queen in the Efik kingdom in southern Nigeria.

Despite 20 years of living in the UK and founding a private equity firm, she says she is not a moderniser who wants to transform long-established African leadership structures to fit a Western model. "Modernising suggests that you're making something traditional more Western," she says. Ms James wants to turn that on its head. "I'm bringing my global experience into a culture, not taking the culture into modernity."

Ms James combines her role as the head of a private equity firm with that of queen, often travelling from her hometown of Calabar to cities like Lagos and Abuja for work. "Calabar is my base but I spend a lot of time outside. But I have sort of field workers on the ground," she says.

Members of the traditional council in her community are required to be physically present in Calabar for monthly meetings and she has to fly back home for these from wherever she is - a situation that she hopes technology can change. "I am now having conversations with them about online meetings," she says. The suggestion may at first appear outrageous to people who consider it an insult to invite a respected person to an event by text message or phone - you have to send them a card, Ms James says.

"But they are very happy when people send them money online or by phone to their account," she says, an argument she uses to support her point during discussions about enhancing culture with technology. The role of traditional rulers in Nigeria is not defined by the constitution and some see them as archaic institutions that have outlived their usefulness. Cases where traditional rulers were ejected from their positions over accusations of not showing politicians support or respect have also highlighted that their roles are largely symbolic and raised questions about how much real power they hold.

They also lack an independent source of finance. But Ms James believes that people like her can be more effective than politicians in bringing about change. She argues that traditional rulers are closer to the people than their elected representatives as through their network of informants they have more of a sense of what is really going on.

This means they can have more impact than the political class when addressing issues like security and poverty, especially as their involvement is more long term, she says. "State governors usually spend the first year settling down, the second year getting to work, the third year preparing for re-election, and the fourth year on elections," she says. "They come and go so they have shorter interest but traditional rulers tend to be there for life." Nevertheless, apart from having some money allocated by local government, few traditional rulers have a thought-through economic plan for improving the lives of their people.

This is where the queen believes her experience outside the traditional role can come in handy. "We have strong social groups but they don't think economically," she says. "It's all social and consuming but not economic. Celebrations, ceremonies, events... But what can you do together? Can you own a farm? Can you own an enterprise?" She has set up an enterprise fund, giving out small loans for people who want to start or expand their businesses, and organises entrepreneurship and finance training for different cultural groups. She says she wants people to "think economically" - how to make money as well as spend it. The Efik kingdom is headed by a king, known as an Obong.

Based in the coastal town of Calabar, capital of Cross River state, he presides over a layered network of 12 Efik family groups, and subgroups, including one called Henshaw Town In 2019, in recognition of the active role she had played in the Efik kingdom over the previous decade, Ms James was crowned the Obong-Anwan (queen) of Henshaw Town. Her mother, who had been Obong-Anwan, died in 2016, but the position is not hereditary. "Every House can have a queen but mostly they don't.

"First of all it's a responsibility so you really need someone with the capacity to help people. It's expensive. "There's a lot of patronage involved," says Ms James, pointing out that she funds most of her community projects with personal, or privately raised, funds. The queen's love of her people and culture began when she was a child, watching her late father, Emmanuel Etim James - an assistant police commissioner who later worked for an international oil company - actively participate in his local community.

"He was very involved. He sort of brought all the things that he was involved in globally back home. "He built a big house and got the whole community to build houses, bought cement for them, and I witnessed all that," she says. After she completed her studies in computer science at the University of Lagos, she moved to London for a master's degree in business systems analysis and then settled in the UK. But she never lost the connection with home. "Having travelled around the world, and being exposed to all sorts of things, it helps you value what you have. "It is unique, it is special, and it needs nurturing," she says.

"Many people grow up, get exposed, move to Lagos or Abuja, and they have little interest in or value in their life for their hometown or their village. I am very different." In 2009, she got divorced from an Irish man after 12 years of marriage and moved back to settle in Calabar. Marriage is not a requirement for an Obong-Anwan. "In Efik culture, the woman's status is not derived from her husband," the queen explains. "The women, we are strong in our own way." Her - and her people's - attachment to the past also means that they have not turned their backs on the connections with the British colonialists.

The Efik acted as middlemen in the Transatlantic slave trade and the longstanding interactions between the people of Calabar and British merchants led to a high level of assimilation. Many in the region bear English surnames, such as Duke, Henshaw and James. The traditional clothing of the men and women appears to be related to the fashions of the Victorian era. People in some parts of Nigeria have tried to erase similar signs of the colonial presence and association by changing their surnames and street and town names, but Ms James does not see that as necessary.

"The Efik don't feel the need for that replacement therapy. "It is not because we are not enlightened or do not read about our colonial past. It is just that we think it is a reality and we are not ashamed," she says. "It happened. That is not to say we don't recognise the negative aspects of colonialism and slavery… It's just that we don't hold it against the British."

Instead, she believes that the focus for Nigerian ethnic groups should be on innovation that can sustain the culture rather than obliterate it. "How can we revive our traditional dance groups? How can we save our languages from extinction? How can we make sure our cultures do not die but flourish into the next generation?" she asks. These are the discussions she has been having with her people and the issues for which she wants her tenure as the Obong-Anwan of Henshaw Town to be remembered.

The University of Wolverhampton is one of the top institutions in the country for local regeneration and engaging with the public and community, according to new data just released.  

Research England’s Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF) looks at the diverse contributions of universities to help level up their local areas. The data shows the rich contributions English higher education providers (HEPs) make, both economically and socially, on both local and national levels.  

It looks at the performance of universities from different perspectives including public and community engagement, working with partners ranging from big businesses to small local firms, and how they commercialise their research. The University of Wolverhampton was identified in the top 10% nationally for public and community engagement and also in the top 10% for local growth and regeneration.  

Professor Nazira Karodia, Pro Vice-Chancellor Regional Engagement, said: “We are delighted to have received national recognition for our role as an anchor institution in our region. The University’s mission and priorities are shaped and informed by local knowledge and partnership engagement. 

“Through working with our partners and collaborating, we transform individual life chances for the benefit of our students and our place. As well as our main campuses in Wolverhampton, Walsall and Telford we have a number of regional centres in key locations such as Stafford, Burton and Hereford. This enables us to make a significant contribution to improving the educational, social and economic outcomes for our students and communities in our wider region.” 

The University’s KEF submission included examples of key regeneration projects, such as the £100m Wolverhampton Springfield Campus, £9m Midlands Centre for Cyber Security in Hereford and £5m Marches Centre for Excellence in Allied Health and Social Care in Telford which have involved strong partnership working between the University, Local Enterprise Partnerships, local councils and wider partner stakeholder groups from both public and private sector. 

A number of examples of the University’s engagement with the community were featured in the submission, including its work with partners on the Wolverhampton City Learning Region, the launch of regional learning centres such as University Centre Telford and the work of the Centre for Sikh and Panjabi Studies. Other key findings showed the University is in the top 30% for intellectual property (IP) and commercialisation. It also highlighted that Wolverhampton is in the top 40% for working with businesses and top 40% for working with the public and third sector. 

Over 100 of the institutions involved (117 out of 135), including the University of Wolverhampton, provided detailed narrative accounts of the work they do to build public and community engagement, and to promote economic growth in their local area. These narratives are published in full on the KEF website

This is the first time that detailed, qualitative information about how HEPs build community engagement and promote growth in their local areas has been collected together in a structured and systematic way allowing for easy comparison. The narratives paint a detailed, never seen before picture of how HEPs engage with their communities to build deeper relationships and to stimulate local growth. 

Examples of the kinds of projects detailed in the narratives include working with local partners to:

·         redevelop and reinvigorate previously disused brownfield sites 

·         identify skill gaps and develop curricula and courses to address them 

·         boost research and development to attract investment in the local area 

The KEF compares institutions on a like-for-like basis, with similar institutions being grouped together with their peers in ‘KEF clusters’ based on factors like their size, specialisation and the intensity of their research activities. This is a more fair and balanced approach that avoids making unhelpful comparisons between incomparable institutions. 

The data that underpins the KEF informs a series of metrics covering a wide range of a university’s activities. These then go into seven perspectives, for which each receives a decile score displayed in relation to the average for its cluster. 

The website displays all this information in easily interpreted, visually interesting charts and graphs that allow easy comparison of institutions’ strengths. Presenting this information in an easy to use way will help them analyse their own performance in a new level of detail. 

Jamaica is well on its way to operating the first and only dedicated bamboo market pulp mill in the Western Hemisphere.

Bamboo Bioproducts Ltd (BBP) is advancing its investment in local bamboo with plans to build on lands in Frome, Westmoreland, and will focus on pulp for paper production. The company projects to spend approximately US$300 million to establish the project with an estimated return on investment of 22 per cent with conservative projections of US$1.5 billion in revenue during the first 10 years.

In addition, BBP anticipates that 500 jobs will be created directly within the facility and up to 5,000 jobs indirectly. Currently, Asian manufacturers are the primary producers in the US$24-billion global bamboo market which fuels a variety of industries including paper manufacturing, agriculture, health and wellness, construction, textiles, and furniture, among others.

Jamaica’s proximity to western markets, as well as its deep history in sugar cane production (which has strong similarities to growing bamboo) means that BBP’s Frome facility offers game-changing national economic development opportunities. In emphasising the importance of this project to Jamaica’s economy, Prime Minister Andrew Holness said investments like these, anchored on a sustainable environmental and economic model could lead to a rethink of how we might achieve our development.

“This is an example of what is needed to help drive growth in our economy. The use of bamboo and its by-products has the capacity to be a catalyst in building a new sustainable industry by utilising the value that Jamaica can provide with arable lands, availability of skilled and semi-skilled labour as well as our ideal geographic location for logistics,” said Holness recently.

“I applaud and welcome this group for responding, through this initiative, to the Government’s continued call for the take-up of former sugar lands for the planting of alternative and more economically viable crops,” added Holness. The pulp will be sold to multi-national corporations partnering with BBP to fulfil the growing market demand for sustainable ‘non-wood pulp fibre’ of globally recognised brands of consumer tissue and personal hygiene products.

In order to meet its obligations, the Frome mill will have the capacity to process in excess of 250,000 metric tonnes of bamboo pulp annually. The manufacturing process will feature state-of-the-art machinery from one of the world’s leading technology suppliers. It will produce a sustainable product efficiently, whilst simultaneously meeting world-class environmental standards.

The project’s execution team includes international pulp and paper experts, as well as lead fund-raiser/equity partner Delta Capital Partners Ltd, headed by Co-founder and Executive Chairman Zachary Harding. According to Harding, Delta Capital Partners and Stocks and

Securities Ltd are actively progressing with the capital raise.

“This is, by far, one of the most significant projects to be undertaken in Jamaica in recent decades. Bamboo pulp as an outright export product will generate significant returns in hard currency.

“It checks all the boxes including several sustainable development goals and the mill will be eco-friendly using a mix of clean and renewable energy sources. Additionally, market demand is considerably higher than what we will be supplying when fully operational, so we have an excellent opportunity for long term expansion. Most importantly, we will create thousands of jobs, both directly and indirectly,” said Harding.

British High Commissioner to Jamaica Asif Ahmad, who has been an avid supporter of this venture from its earliest inception, stated it is great to see the progress made so far. “This is a clear example of what can be achieved here when committed partners from Britain, Europe and Jamaica put in a combined effort to invest in an export-focused project,” said Ahmad.

The bamboo will be farmed on a large scale in Westmoreland as well as smaller farms across the island of Jamaica to satisfy the mill’s annual demand for more than one million tonnes of green Vulgaris bamboo. This is expected to help transition of idle sugar cane lands to bamboo cultivation. BBP is working closely with Sugar Company of Jamaica (SCJ) Holdings Limited to finalise the necessary lands and is also in talks with private landowners to supplement its land demand.

“This project has the full support of the Government of Jamaica and the provision of land, for the siting of the mill and the cultivation of bamboo, is a priority project for SCJ Holdings Limited, as it will enhance the country’s foreign exchange earnings and provide a lifeline for the thousands of persons who have suffered from the decline of the sugar industry,” said Joseph Shoucair, managing director at SCJ Holdings Limited.

JAMPRO, who is the lead facilitator for the project has been working closely with the relevant Government agencies to ensure a smooth investment and execution process and president of the agency, Diane Edwards, said the bamboo project embodies all the characteristics of a well-planned, public-private sector project.

“It will go a long way in helping to move the economy forward, getting us closer to hitting our projected foreign direct investment targets. It has our full support,” she said.

As the most solemn week of the Christian year, Holy Week - the week leading up to Easter, marks the week during which Christians particularly remember the last week of Jesus's life.

Having begun on Palm Sunday, commemorating Christ's triumphant arrival in Jerusalem to the cheering crowds who gathered for the Feast, they heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting; “Hosanna,” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” and “Blessed is the King of Israel!”

As crosses are burned at the start of Lent today, to provide the ash for Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday saw Christians remember it as the day of the Last Supper, when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples and established the ceremony known as the Eucharist, today’s Good Friday commemorates the Passion: the execution of Jesus by crucifixion before Holy Saturday is marked Sunday following the Paschal Full Moon, or Resurrection Sunday,which is a festival and holiday commemorating the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

 

Easter Monday, also known as Bright Monday, Renewal Monday, Wet Monday, and Dyngus Day, is similar to the services on Pascha (Easter Sunday) and often include an outdoor procession. As the second day of Eastertide, the day after Easter Sunday is also a public holiday in some countries.

It’s also a Bank Holiday - a national public holiday in the United Kingdom and the Crown dependencies as people mark the occasion with Easter Eggs to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Police in Nigeria have launched a radio station in the hopes of improving their relationship with ordinary citizens.

The Nigerian Police Force have said that they launched the station to bring the police closer to the people. At the launch Police boss Mohammed Adamu said community policing information would be broadcast, and the new service would help reach the public better.

It comes months after young Nigerians led widespread protests against police brutality and extrajudicial killings. Those demonstrations, dubbed #EndSARS in reference to a particularly hated police unit, later morphed into a call for major police reforms.

An inquiry into the cases was set up aimed at bringing to justice those responsible for the brutality and killings, but some campaigners fear it will be toothless.

IGP M.A Adamu, NPM, mni, Inspector General of Police, said that the radio station will bring the police force closer to the people.

Getting support on social media, one person wrote; ‘It's a good development but I hope it pulls through and sustained.’ Another wrote; ‘Hope complaints will be addressed appropriately’.

However, in contrast, Anonymous queried: ‘So when robbers attack at night, I should tune on the police radio?’

It has been announced that the step-grandmother, of former US president, Barack Obama, Sarah Obama, has died at a hospital in Kenya.

Affectionately called Granny Sarah by the former president, Mrs Obama defended her grandson during his 2008 presidential campaign, when he was said to be Muslim and not born in the US. Her home became a tourist attraction when he was elected as the first Black US president.

Sarah Obama was the third and youngest wife of Barack's grandfather. She died at a hospital in the western town of Kisumu, her daughter Marsat Onyango said. A family spokesperson said Mrs Obama had been unwell for a week, but did not have Covid-19.

"We will miss her dearly," Mr Obama said, "but we'll celebrate with gratitude her long and remarkable life." Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta said on Twitter that Mrs Obama was a strong, virtuous woman and an icon of family values.

Before her grandson became a household name, Sarah was well known for the hot porridge and doughnuts she served at a local school. She became more widely known when Barak visited Kenya in 2006. At the time he was a senator from the state of Illinois, but a national celebrity in Kenya, and his grandmother spoke to the media about his rise in politics.

He returned in 2015, becoming the first sitting US president to visit Kenya, meeting Mrs Obama and other family members in Nairobi. He visited his step-grandmother's home in the village of Kogelo in 2018, after leaving office, joking he had been unable to visit earlier because the presidential plane was too big to land at the local airport.

Sarah Obama was born in 1922 in a village on Lake Victoria, according to AFP. She was a Muslim and part of Kenya's Luo ethnic group. For decades, she ran a foundation in Kenya to help educate orphans and girls, something she felt strongly about as she couldn't read herself.

She was the third wife of Hussein Onyango Obama, President Obama's paternal grandfather. Her husband, who died in 1975, fought for the British in Burma, now called Myanmar, and is reported to be the first man in his village to swap goatskin clothing for trousers.

Buried later on Monday, she was 99.

The stranded Ever Given mega-container ship in the Suez Canal is holding up an estimated $9.6bn (£7bn) of goods each day, according to shipping data. This works out at $400m an hour in trade along the waterway which is a vital passageway between east and west.

Data from shipping expert Lloyd's List values the canal's westbound traffic at roughly $5.1bn a day, and eastbound daily traffic at around $4.5bn. Despite efforts to free the ship, it could take weeks to remove experts say.

The Ever Given, operated by the Taiwanese company Evergreen Marine, is the length of four football pitches and one of the world's biggest container vessels. The 200,000-tonne ship is capable of carrying 20,000 containers. Its blockage is causing huge tailbacks of other ships trying to pass through the Suez Canal.

The canal, which separates Africa from the Middle East and Asia, is one of the busiest trade routes in the world, with about 12% of total global trade moving through it. According to Lloyd's List tracking data there are more than 160 vessels waiting at either end of the canal. These include 41 bulk carriers and 24 crude tankers.

Along with oil, the sea traffic is largely consumer products such as clothing, furniture, manufacturing components and car parts.

Guy Platten, the secretary general of the International Chamber of Shipping, said: "We're hearing reports now that shipping companies are starting to divert their ships around the southern tip of Africa, the Cape of Good Hope, which adds about 3,500 miles to the journey and up to 12 days." He said the ship appeared to be hard fast aground, adding that freeing the vessel from the bank was taking much longer and was more complicated than had been initially expected.

The Ever Given had been scheduled to arrive in the port of Felixstowe in early April.

Container ships have nearly doubled in size in the past decade as global trade expands, making the job of moving them much harder when they get stuck. Egypt's Suez Canal Authority (SCA) said it was doing all it could to re-float the ship with tug boats, dredgers canal, and I ask for patience from stakeholders across the supply chain as everyone and heavy earth-moving equipment.

Kitack Lim, secretary general of the International Maritime Organisation, said: "I am aware of the implications of the temporary closure of the works to ensure that the ship, its crew, its cargo and the environment remain protected."

With summer holiday travel set to return to full force post-pandemic, British billionaire Richard Branson is set to open one of his private islands in the Caribbean to the public this summer.

The 70-year-old Virgin Group founder owns three islands, two in the Caribbean and one in Australia. The island he’s going to open to the public is Moskito Island, a 125-acre property just two miles away from Necker Island, a 30-hectare property which Branson famously bought in 1978 at the age of 29.

Both islands are part of the British Virgin Islands. Branson bought Moskito in 2007 and ordered a renovation project starting 2010. The island is made up of a collection of luxury private villas which can be rented by guests looking for the ultimate island hideaway with exceptional service, just like you’d expect from a five-star hotel, according to the private island’s website. His own three-villa, 11-bedroom estate on the island is already accepting reservations.

With COVID-19 vaccines rolling out globally, the travel industry is expecting a busysummer. In fact, demand for luxury vacation experience is higher than ever as the “screw you 2020” mentality sets in, said Roman Chiporukha, cofounder of Roman & Erica, a New York-based luxury lifestyle and travel management firm.

Chiporukha said: “People are looking for different and unforgettable experiences. The bystander vacation is no longer an option or a want for our members, and they are racing to book private islands, villas, and yachts without hesitation to avoid losing the property to another.” Roman & Erica serves an exclusive clientele who pay an annual membership fee ranging from $62,500 to $180,000 for arranging vacation, travel, kids’ birthday parties and other lifestyle events.

“Our member base are seeking a disconnect from the conventional vacation that exclusive private islands can provide. These exclusive properties bring forth the opportunity for a robust getaway while avoiding flooded tourist traps,” Chiporukha continued.

According to Bloomberg’s Billionaire Index, Branson’s net worth reached an all-time high of $7.3 billion in 2020 just before the global coronavirus outbreak. He lost a third of his fortune, on paper, last summer as Virgin Group grappled with pandemic-related losses. However, thanks to a booming stock market in the second half of 2020, Branson’s net worth quickly recovered to over $7 billion by February 2021. He is said to be worth $6.5 billion.

Moskito is a favourite vacation spot of A-lister celebrities, including former U.S. President Barack Obama and the late Princess Diana amongst others.