Africa creates TFTA – Cape to Cairo free-trade zone

Created: 01 July 2015

African leaders have agreed to create the continent’s largest free-trade zone, the pact - known as The Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) covers 26 countries in an area from Cape Town to Cairo.

The deal that was signed in Egypt, is intended to ease the movement of goods across member countries which represent more than half the continent’s GDP.

Since the end of colonial rule, governments have been discussing ways to boost intra-African trade. The poor state of roads, railways and airlines have made it very difficult for any kind of trade.

Three existing trade blocs – the Southern African Development Community (Sadc); the East African Community (EAC) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) – are to be reunited into a single new zone.

On paper the agreement looks like a progressive step for a continent that has seen average growth rates of 5% in recent years.

However, the new zone still needs parliamentary endorsements from all member-nations and once governments start reading the fine print, the mood may change.

Many of the countries still involved have small economies that produce a few exportable goods. A free trade protocol would mean they would have to compete with large industries that could threaten their economies.

Africa’s many regional blocs have not really aided continental trade so far and the African Development Bank has often said that the focus should rather be on developing infrastructure.

Nevertheless, if it is implemented in a reasonable time-frame and there is sufficient political will to follow through, then it marks a new beginning for local trade.

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The 5 strangest items people tried to smuggle this year

Created: 26 June 2015

When laws forbid people from transporting something from one place to another, there are always those that will try to do it anyway. People try to smuggle everything; drugs, guns, cash, stolen goods, and immigrants are seize every day.

However, some things that people try to sneak through security make you scratch your head in wonder. Here are our 5 strangest items people tried to smuggle in 2015 so far:

Songbirds

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In April of last year, a man named Sony Dong was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport for bringing in live songbirds from Vietnam. Dong had been under investigation for a year after airport officials found an abandoned bag containing 18 birds, five of which had died.

This time, customs official were waiting from him to arrive on a flight from Vietnam. Observing that Dong had bird droppings on his shoes, they found 14 Vietnamese songbirds in cloth, attached to his lower legs under his trousers.  All the birds on this occasion survived the trip, but Dong pleaded guilty and was sentenced to four months in prison and ordered to pay $4000 for the care of the birds.

Fake Holy Water

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Warren Maynard was arrested in 2008 as he crossed the US-Canadian border in Lewiston, New York near Niagra Falls with one hundred bottles of a clear fluid found by drug-sniffing dogs. The 50 year old pleaded with customs officials claiming the bottles merely contained holy water, which he had bought in Canada along with other religious items in his luggage.

However, once the substance had been tested, it was found that over 42 bottles contained the animal tranquilizer Ketamine, a hallucinogenic drug often used in date rape, with other bottles testing positively for ‘general narcotics’.

Maynard who lived in Brooklyn at the time, was a citizen of Barbados with permanent residency status in the United States. He was turned over to immigration officials after his arrest.

Human Corpse

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Gitta Jarant and her daughter Anke Anusic were taken into custody in April of this year after they tried to take the deceased body of Jarant’s husband, 91 year old Willi Jarant on a plane to Berlin.

The pair bought the elderly man to John Lennon Airport, Liverpool in a wheelchair. The women denied that he was dead and said he was just sleeping, although a post-mortem found he had been dead for around twelve hours.

The women are suspected of trying to bypass law governing the shipping of human bodies, which can be quite costly, in order to take the man back to his home in Germany.

They both await trial for failure to report a death.

Monkeys

A man travelling from Lima, Peru to New York, USA was questioned about the Marmoset he had with him.

Passengers on his final flight from Florida to New York noticed a small monkey crawl out from under the man’s hat! Officials questioned the man on arrival and seized the monkey. It is not known how the marmoset had escaped detection at the airports in Peru and Florida.

In another case, a 28 year old lady was caught smuggling a monkey from Thailand into the United States in 2007, by hiding the sedated monkey in her dress and pretending she was pregnant!

Chihuahua

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A man travelling from Bulgaria arrived at Dublin airport after changing planes in Madrid. He looked nervous, so inspectors in Ireland selected him for a spot check. When they x-rayed his hand luggage, the image of a dog showed up. Inspectors initially thought it was a toy dog as it was standing up so perfectly. But when they opened the bag, they found a live Chihuahua inside!

The dog had been in a small cage inside the bag throughout the trip. The traveler had planned to give the Chihuahua to a friend in Ireland as a gift, but intended to bypass quarantine laws.

The dog was seized and placed in quarantine.

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