Sep 23, 2020

The first Tobacco Transformation Index, released this week and made possible with funding from the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, finds that most of the 15 largest tobacco companies are not making substantive progress in phasing out cigarettes and other high-risk tobacco products and transitioning smokers to reduced-risk alternatives.

A small group of companies have made public commitments to harm reduction and backed them with significant investments. A majority of companies have made no such commitment to tobacco harm reduction. With 1.3 billion tobacco users in the world, of which 8 million die annually from tobacco-related diseases, the stakes for global health are high. Adult cessation and tobacco harm reduction could reduce deaths within the next two decades.

The Tobacco Transformation Index is the first index to rank the world’s largest 15 tobacco companies (accounting for nearly 90% of global cigarette volume) on their relative performance, commitment, and transparency to deliver material progress in supporting tobacco harm reduction. The 2020 Index assesses tobacco companies’ activities from 2017-2019 related to: strategy and management, product sales, capital allocation, product offer, marketing, and lobbying and advocacy.

The 2020 Tobacco Transformation Index ranks Swedish Match, which divested its cigarette business in 1999, in first position. Phillip Morris International, British American Tobacco, Altria, Imperial Brands, Japan Tobacco, KT&G, ITC Ltd., Swisher International, Tobacco Authority of Thailand, Vietnam National Tobacco, Gudang Garam, Djarum, Eastern Co., and China National Tobacco Corp. follow Swedish Match in the overall rankings.

“Inspired by the success that indexes focusing on other sectors have demonstrated, the goal of the Tobacco Transformation Index is to stimulate external pressure and the industry competition needed to take combustion out of the cigarette market, accelerate change, and lower the unnecessary disease, death, and misery it causes so many people,” said Dr. Derek Yach, President of The Foundation for a Smoke-Free World. “Society and large institutional investors such as banks and pension funds, which represent 85% of investment in publicly traded tobacco companies, have the leverage to push tobacco company management to drive measures that greatly improve health.”

Industry Progress in Tobacco Harm Reduction is Not Sufficient

In 2019, 13 of the 15 tobacco companies in the Index generated at least 95% of net sales value through high-risk tobacco products including cigarettes. In 2019, Swedish Match’s sales of reduced-risk products accounted for 44% of its net sales, followed by Philip Morris International at 19%, and British American Tobacco and KT&G at 5% each. Over the period of 2017-2019, eight of the 15 companies allocated 10% or less of research & development and capital investment expenditures to reduced-risk versus high-risk products.

During the Index’s review period of 2017-2019, several companies, including British American Tobacco, Japan Tobacco, Philip Morris International, and KT&G Corp, made acquisitions of primarily cigarette businesses. These acquisitions were frequently focused on low-medium income countries (LMICs), where smoking rates are highest.

Among the six companies who made public commitments to harm reduction, between 30% and 55% of their marketing budgets were still devoted to high-risk products including cigarettes. “The tobacco companies are still spending a significant amount of their marketing budgets on high-risk products and, while a handful have increased their focus on youth access prevention, the impact of these policies is still unclear,” said Dr. Yach.

Overall progress in reducing smoking and the use of toxic smokeless tobacco products globally remains frustratingly slow. To accelerate progress, new strategies and tools are needed to complement ongoing tobacco control efforts. A concerted effort to transform the global tobacco industry via a strategy of tobacco harm reduction could reduce users’ current health risks and eventually help them to quit entirely.

State-Owned Tobacco Focused on Cigarette Sales

Nine of the world’s 15 largest tobacco companies were found to have no active commitment to tobacco harm reduction and/or announced targets to increase the production and sales of high-risk tobacco products. Among this group, China National Tobacco Corp. (CNTC), Vietnam National Tobacco Corp., and the Tobacco Authority of Thailand are 100% government-owned enterprises. Other companies such as Eastern Tobacco Co. (51%), Japan Tobacco (33%), and ITC Ltd. (24%) have partial government stakes.  CNTC, the world’s largest cigarette manufacturer and marketer, controls about 44% of global cigarette market share.

A new research report, Contradictions and Conflicts,” (https://bit.ly/3kE7Pcr) by international business and corporate governance scholar Daniel Malan, finds that nearly 50% of the global combustible cigarette market is controlled by World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) signatory governments that also own tobacco companies. FCTC is designed to reduce supply and demand for tobacco and improve public health. Of the six companies with some degree of state ownership in the Index, five are in the lower half of the rankings. If state-owned tobacco companies were to embrace tobacco harm reduction, they could have significant impacts on the health of their citizens, while addressing long term fiduciary needs healthily.

Tobacco Companies Focusing Reduced-Risk Product Efforts on Higher-Income Countries

Companies that offer reduced-risk products are mostly targeting their efforts on selected high-medium income countries, where overall smoking rates are lower and cigarette sales are already declining. Three large multinationals – British American Tobacco, Japan Tobacco, and Philip Morris International – collectively offer reduced-risk products in 15 of the high-medium income countries in the 2020 Index scope of 36 countries. However, their reduced-risk alternatives reach just three low-medium income countries (LMICs).

“This first Tobacco Transformation Index reinforces that this industry is at the beginning of a long journey. True progress will come when we see all tobacco companies phase out their combustible cigarette businesses. For this to be possible, governments need to implement smarter regulations that support the transition, and WHO should actively support tobacco harm reduction. Bans, such as The Union’s call to prohibit the sale of e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products in LMICs, are not the answer and only impede progress,” said Dr. Yach.

The Tobacco Transformation Index was developed from 2019-2020 through a quantitative and qualitative research review conducted with grants received from the Foundation by consultants Euromonitor International, with guidance from an independent advisory panel and global stakeholder engagement program organized by advisory firm SustainAbility. The 2020 index is based on an assessment of 35 key indicators over the period 2017-2019. The analysis will be updated every two years.

Black Lives Matter activism has jolted the skin lightener industry. In June, manufacturers of skin lighteners joined other corporations in voicing support for the racial justice movement.

Critics quickly pointed out the hypocrisy of voicing such support in the US while continuing to sell skin whitening products globally. Such products, they say, play off of and promote racism and colourism (which is prejudice based on preference for people with lighter skin tones) in Asia and Africa.

Manufacturers’ responses have varied. Johnson & Johnson agreed to stop selling Neutrogena Fine Fairness and Clean & Clear Fairness. Bigger players agreed to lesser changes. L’Oreal, the world’s largest cosmetics company, will remove references to “white”, “fair” and “light” from marketing its Garnier skin products.

This move acknowledges that such language promotes a narrow and anti-Black vision of beauty by presenting pale complexions as the ideal. Unilever, whose Ponds and Vaseline lines dominate sales in South Asia, will also alter the name of its top-selling brand: Fair & Lovely will soon become Glow & Lovely.

Are these meaningful changes? Will they put a dent in the global trade in skin lighteners, now estimated to reach US$24 billion by 2027?

Never before have activists and consumers in so many different countries simultaneously challenged major cosmetics manufacturers with such persistent criticism. Yet, my research on the layered history of skin lightening in the US, South Africa, and East Africa suggests that the companies’ actions are neither new nor sufficient. Ending the most dangerous dimensions of the trade – the promotion of racist beauty ideals and the use of products containing mercury and other toxic ingredients – will require ongoing consciousness-raising and effective government regulation.

Many names, many uses

Manufacturers have long used a variety of names and messages to sell skin lighteners. This variety stems partly from the competitive nature of capitalist marketing and partly from the diverse reasons why people buy these products.

An advert with an illustration of a woman with an expensive hair-do reclining and smiling slightly.
A 1916 US newspaper ad. Supplied

In the early 1900s, skin lighteners were usually marketed as “freckle waxes” or “skin bleaches”. They ranked among the world’s most popular cosmetics and often contained mercury. Consumers included white, black and brown women.

An advertorial with a photo of a glamorous woman gazing at he face in a compact mirror.
By the early 1930s, South Africa manufacturers were marketing skin lighteners to black consumers. Supplied

Some women used waxes and bleaches to fade blemishes and dark spots, including freckles. Others used them to achieve an overall lighter complexion. Racialised beauty ideals – rooted in the history of slavery, colonialism, and segregation – shaped these desires.

In the 1920s and 1930s, many white consumers swapped waxes and bleaches for tanning lotions as seasonal tanning came to embody new forms of white privilege. With this shift, skin lighteners became cosmetics primarily associated with people of colour. For black and brown consumers living in places like the US, South Africa or Kenya where racism and colourism flourished, even slight differences in skin colour could carry significant political and social consequences. (Recently, some white women have returned to skin lighteners, now marketed as “anti-aging creams” and “skin brighteners”.)

During the 1950s and 1960s, manufacturers softened their marketing language. Surveys in the US found that many African American consumers took offence at the term “bleaching” – with its connotations of “whitening” – and preferred the language of lightening and toning. Hence, “skin lighteners” and “skin toners” replaced “skin bleaches”. Brands like Bleach ‘N Glow became Ultra Glow.

Unilever’s plan to swap “glow” for “fair” might be new for some Asian markets but the language of glow and brightness has been around in the US and South Africa for some time.

Criticism forced manufacturers to adjust in other ways. In 1971 Kenya’s postcolonial government banned Ambi skincare ads for abusing “the dignity of Africans” by claiming that “new Africans” were “light skinned Africans who used Ambi”. Black Consciousness organisers in South Africa denounced the same ads. Ambi responded by adopting a new slogan – “the clear, natural look” – and creating ads with an earthy sensibility.

An advert showing a doctor and nurse consulting with a darker-skinned male patient, the doctor holding a clipboard.
An Ambi ad that equated light-toned skin with success in a 1970 newspaper in South Africa. Supplied

Lessons from an anti-apartheid victory

In 1991 South African activists achieved more than marketing concessions from manufacturers. What happened provides important lessons for today.

A coalition of progressive medical professionals and Black Consciousness organisers convinced the apartheid government, in its waning months, to ban all cosmetics containing depigmenting agents including harmful mercury and hydroquinone, by then the most common active ingredient. They convinced the government to become the first in the world to prohibit cosmetic advertisements from making any claims to “bleach”, “lighten” or “whiten” skin. Like today’s concessions to Black Lives Matter, South Africa’s regulations were the result of broad-based antiracist activism, the anti-apartheid movement.

An advert in which a couple hold hands in the sunset.
Following protests in 1971, Ambi changed its message and aesthetic to this. Supplied

The South African efforts achieved mixed results. On the one hand, activists effectively raised awareness about the physical and psychological harm of skin lightening. This led to decreased sales during the 1980s. After the 1991 regulations were implemented, in-country manufacture shuttered and supply dried up.

But these gains did not persist. The supply of banned skin lighteners crept back as traders smuggled them in from elsewhere. Soon, domestic manufacture reemerged, this time in secret. On occasion, government officials have raided stashes of skin lighteners. Much more illegal inventory has slipped their notice. Some officials complain that they have insufficient resources to monitor all cosmetics products. Other observers blame government corruption and apathy.

Demand returned as well. During the 2000s, a new generation of users emerged, often unaware of earlier struggles against skin lighteners and the dangers they posed. In post-apartheid South Africa, as elsewhere, deeply embedded forms of racism and colourism mean that paler skin tones are often still associated with beauty and success.

Over the past decade, some African women have targeted that association. Kenyan artist Ng’endo Mukii offered a powerful critical reflection on skin lightening in her 2012 short film Yellow Fever. South Africa dermatologist Ncoza Dlova holds educational events and campaigns to teach about the dangers of skin lighteners and the beauty of natural skin colour.

Somali-American activist Amira Adawe and her organisation Beautywell does similar outreach. They pressured online retailer Amazon to stop selling products that contain mercury. Most recently, they lobbied the US Congress for $2 million in new funding for research and public education on the dangers of skin lighteners.

Book cover with words 'Beneath the Surface' and an illustration of a woman with an Afro hairstyle, a shadow across her face dividing it into dark brown skin tone and light brown.
Wits University Press

L’Oreal’s and Unilever’s rebranding campaigns are inadequate. Combating the harm of skin lightening in the twenty-first century requires raising consumer awareness and challenging racist beauty ideals. It also requires that governments enforce and strengthen cosmetic regulations.

 

Lynn M. Thomas’s latest book Beneath the Surface: A Transnational History of Skin Lighteners is available from Wits University Press and from Duke University Press.The Conversation

Lynn M. Thomas, History Professor, University of Washington

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The coronavirus pandemic has led to perhaps one of the biggest shifts ever in how any company or corporate entity approaches the question of cleaning and sanitizing.

In the past, this function was something almost ‘hidden in the back office’ which no one really paid any attention to. This can certainly not be the approach anymore, and one industrial cleaning products company believes cleaning regimes simply have to become intimately ingrained in your organization and be made more visible.

“Moving your cleaning routine to the ‘front office’ is only one strategy to help businesses meet the cleaning demands of the future. Cleaning in the past happened after hours and only when spaces were less busy or had less movement or traffic.

"By it being done in a more visible manner, a company can promote trust and assure everyone that environmental and workplace safety is taken seriously,” says Emma Corder, Managing Director of industrial cleaning products manufacturer Industroclean.

Businesses must understand the inter-connectedness between the functional and psychological perceptions that people have about hygiene and a sanitized environment, says Corder. If they can integrate this into day to day routine, they have an opportunity to gain the competitive edge.

“If this pandemic has taught us one thing it is that we can’t predict exactly which changes will remain permanent and which will pass. One thing I do believe is that all businesses that want to survive will have to make a significant change to the prominence of cleaning and hygiene as a business imperative and how it’s implemented within their corporation.”

She explains the key elements that all companies will need to implement if they are wanting to build trust and retain their clientele:

Cleaning becoming part of your brand:

Businesses will need to adopt a psychological approach as well as the normal functional cleaning. This is because human health and safety has made cleanliness business-critical in a way that it has not been before. Big companies are now being transparent about their cleaning and safety measures, including it in all their messaging to clients.

Stricter cleaning procedures:

Businesses need to understand that the new regulations that have been put in place are meant to supplement—not replace the old cleaning produces. Many of these regulatory pressures will come directly from consumers as they rate cleanliness as a factor in deciding where to shop.

This won’t stop just at consumers but is also relevant in the B2B sector where pressure will come from other business throughout the supply chain. For example, warehouse service will also need to ensure the safety and integrity of their client’s products.

These new stricter regulations may not look just at upgrading of cleaning products, but the changing of products used, so it will be key for additional training. This will ensure that new procedures and precautions are taken to keep all safe.

Greater focus on critical areas:

Door handles, light switches, and touch points on equipment are just some high-frequency touch areas that will need to be cleaned frequently. This will however bring with it challenges as all other cleaning tasks still need to be performed according to all new regulatory requirements.

Many companies will need to invest in new technology within the sector to help free up time.  “We have seen first-hand how investing in the right products and equipment not only saves time but will enable you to achieve high-frequency cleaning of critical areas without sacrificing the tasks your team already does on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis, ” explains Corder.

Documentation and disclosure of cleaning procedures and frequency:

After the SARS outbreak in Hong Kong in the early 2000’s, they implemented regulations whereby public areas, such as shopping malls and public transport areas needed to post their cleaning protocols at the entrances of all venues. This communication needs to be done with care though as not to scare the public into feeling they are at risk but that they are safe and can be comfortable to enjoy their activity at hand.

Physical changes in buildings:

Markings on the floor in retail or business have become the norm, in helping to support social distancing and limit critical contact point risks. Plexiglass dividers installed between employees in open plan offices are some of the changes implemented for the safety of all. 

Many office buildings are taking it further with a focus on room design, redesigning public spaces to include fewer irregular shapes and surfaces.

Contactless technology is also being used with digital technologies, offering assistance to restaurants and bars were some have implemented contactless ordering and pickup using QR codes. When creating these changes there needs to be a balance between communicating and interacting with customers safely and not disengaging with them.

“No-one in the cleaning industry has a crystal ball which can predict how things will change but for the time being  what is clear is that the current public health crisis has significantly changed both the role of cleaning and how it’s done, and that all businesses will be held to higher cleaning standards than they were in the past,” says Corder.

Health crises are not new in Africa. The continent has grappled with infectious diseases on all levels, from local (such as malaria) to regional (Ebola) to global (COVID-19). The region has often carried a disproportionately high burden of global infectious outbreaks.

How cities are planned is critical for managing infectious diseases. Historically, many urban planning innovations emerged in response to health crises. The global cholera epidemic in the 1800s led to improved urban sanitation systems. Respiratory infections in overcrowded slums in Europe inspired modern housing regulations during the industrial era.

Urban planning in Africa during colonisation followed a similar pattern. In Anglophone Africa, cholera and bubonic plague outbreaks in Nairobi (Kenya) and Lagos (Nigeria) led to new urban planning strategies. These included slum clearance and urban infrastructure upgrades. Urban planning in French colonial Africa similarly focused on health and hygiene issues, but also safety and security.

Unfortunately regional experiences with cholera, malaria and even Ebola in African cities provide little evidence that they have triggered a new urban planning ethic that prioritises infectious outbreaks.

References are often made to historical successes of urban planning in Africa. But colonial use of planning for cultural and structural isolation, as well as for socio-economic and spatial segregation, limited its capacity to respond to health emergencies. With the widespread nature of COVID-19, is it reasonable to argue that it could possibly be the pandemic that inspires a new way of “doing” urban planning in Africa?

Our recent research paper discusses three areas that can transform urban planning in the continent to prepare for future infectious outbreaks, using lessons from COVID-19.

An aerial view shows a mass of shacks on one side and a green, spread out suburb on the other, divided by a wall.
Spatial inequality in Johannesburg, South Africa. Per-Anders Pettersson/Getty Images

Integrating the informal

The first relates to the integration of the city’s informal sector into the formal planning process. This is reflected in two ways. The first is the non-inclusion of informal settlements (mostly slums) in urban planning practice. The second is the lack of planning focus on the informal economy that results in exclusion. Yet this is a sector that constitutes more than 80% of Africa’s urban economy.

In a time of COVID-19, slums and informality are critical due to the sector’s vulnerability to transmission. It is challenging to deploy testing and contact tracing , as well as adhering to social distancing rules. Many slum residents in African cities lack access to basic essential services such as water, sanitation, housing and healthcare.

And, given that the informal sector is characterised by unregulated economic activities including uncontrolled hawking and unplanned open markets, overcrowding is impeding social and physical distancing rules in African cities.

Change is needed. Perhaps COVID-19 will be the wake-up call to spur the consolidation of existing and formal structures to becoming more responsive to managing health crises in slums and the informal sector.

Geographic and economic imbalances

Second, there are geographical and economic imbalances in urban planning in Africa. Investment patterns and development mostly focus on the major cities with limited focus on its adjoining districts and regions. Yet what happens in cities does not stay in cities.

Infectious diseases often have cascading effects on adjoining districts and regions with functional relationships to major cities. COVID-19 has affected both cities and their adjoining regions. However, adjoining districts continue to receive limited investment in critical infrastructures such as health, housing and other essential social services.

Given the disruptions to the supply chain between major cities and the adjoining districts due to the pandemic, it’s about time that planning practitioners and educators learn to prioritise urban planning to reflect these imbalances. A poorly managed relationship between cities and adjoining regions can create inequality that may lead to unhealthy city-regional inter-dependencies, environmental damage and unmanaged waves of health crises. These can have ripple effects across the urban-rural spectrum.

Planning in Africa should ensure city-regions are more resilient by addressing imbalances to produce a more integrated city-regional planning around health, economies, transport networks and food production.

A rusty signboard for Nairobi city in the foreground with a vast green park with trees behind it and the cityscape in the distance with high-rise buildings.
View over the city park towards the Nairobi skyline in Kenya. Green spaces are crucial to healthier urban planning. Ian Forsyth/Getty Images

Open spaces

Third, public health matters should be considered in urban planning. Health outcomes traditionally do not drive urban planning practice in Africa. In our study, urban green spaces are used as an example because the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted their importance in managing emergencies. Literature evidence suggests that African cities are rapidly losing their green spaces. This is due to, among other things, poor urban planning.

A new approach should bring open spaces into the heart of how African cities are planned, and management systems for local green space must improve. Integrating larger open spaces within the urban fabric allows cities to implement emergency services and evacuation protocols during health crises.

What frequently seems to be effective in advancing responses to health crises is an urban planning approach that integrates a range of infrastructure. This includes grey (such as treatment facilities and sewers), green (trees, lawns and parks) and blue (wetlands, rivers and flood plains) systems.

Although COVID-19 has profoundly transformed urban life globally, this article provides cautious optimism of its potential in managing future health crises in Africa. Going forward, urban planning in Africa needs to reflect the aspirations of urban residents and address multiple spatial inequalities, including access to better spaces in times of a pandemic.The Conversation

 

Patrick Brandful Cobbinah, Lecturer, University of Melbourne; Ellis Adjei Adams, Assistant professor, University of Notre Dame, and Michael Odei Erdiaw-Kwasie, Research fellow, University of Southern Queensland

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Sep 21, 2020

Angola's debt to China is estimated at USD 20.1 billion, and is the country's largest creditor, said Finance Minister Vera Daves on Friday.

Of this amount, USD10 billion was used to capitalize the Angolan oil company Sonangol and the remaining USD 10.1 billion to finance various investment projects.

Speaking at a press conference, Vera Daves said that the issue of China's financing to Angola has generated a lot of controversy when analyzing the quality of the works carried out by Chinese contractors.

However, the minister explained that the quality of the works does not depend on the creditor - Chinese banks - but on the Angolan State that must inspect them, and on the contractors.

Vera Daves said that upon payment, the paying bank is based only on the invoices presented on the execution of the works. The bill is paid in China and the money does not circulate in the Angolan economy.

"There is always a very strong debate about deliverables, the quality of the works. This does not depend on the financier but on the relationship between the Angolan State and the contractors", she said, explaining that the financing entity, which is a bank, focuses on the invoices and not on the walls.

As for the debt service with China for 2020, standing at USD 2. 678 million, the minister said that the amortizations represent 78.8%, that is 2,103, while interest represents 21.2% (567 million).

She explained that the debt with that Asian giant is commercial and is paid in deadlines of up to eight years, unlike that with the IMF, which allows negotiation of interest rates and repayment terms.

On the discharge of the public debt, estimated at about 90% of GDP and 60% of the General State Budget 2020 (AKz 13.5 billion), ie, USD 5 billion, according to analysts from the Fitch Rating Agency, the director of Public Debt, Valter Pacheco, Angola needs at least 29 years.

However, the official explained that this is just a hypothetical example should the country no longer incur any debt. But this is not the case because the country needs to finance itself to meet needs.

"We will continue to go into debt, but in a more productive and responsible way. Angola will have to continue to finance itself, but with lower interest rates and longer terms ", said the official.

 

Source: ANGOP

When Anadarko Petroleum Corp. confirmed last year it would be constructing a $20 billion liquified natural gas (LNG) plant in Mozambique, this was major news. Mozambique’s first onshore LNG plant would be creating tens of thousands of jobs - and contributing to sustainable, long-term economic growth that would impact millions of people.

Two additional LNG projects have been announced since then: the $4.7 billion Coral FLNG Project by ENI and ExxonMobil, and the $30 billion Rovuma LNG Project by ExxonMobil, ENI, and the China National Petroleum Corporation. While these two have been postponed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the original LNG Mozambique project has been moving forward.

French oil major Total acquired the project and finalized project funding in July, even in the face of recent terror attacks in northern Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province, where Total’s LNG plant will be constructed.

That’s why it’s so disheartening to learn that a UK-based environmental group is pursuing actions that could jeopardize the project’s timely progression, all in the name of preventing climate change. Friends of the Earth has said it will initiate a legal challenge against the UK’s decision to provide $1 billion in funding for the Mozambique LNG project.

Never mind the project’s importance to everyday Africans. Never mind its potential to grow and diversify the economy. Never mind that projects like this are just what Mozambique needs to address its energy poverty, or that the Mozambique government has invested considerable time and resources into making this LNG project possible.

This is not the first time that not so well informed radical activist have attempted to interfere with Africa’s energy industry in ways that do not help poor Africans but serve their own interest. International organizations, including the World Bank, and private investors, under pressure by environmental groups, have been dropping support for African fossil fuel production. A lot of poor people are suffering from this and hundreds of millions more will if we to change direction.

I find it stunning that, during a time when much of the world is talking about the need to respect black perspectives, environmental groups seem to have no qualms about dismissing African voices.

As I’ve said in the past, I agree that climate change should be taken seriously. And I understand the risks it poses to Africa. The thing is, why are non-African organizations trying to dictate how African countries address those risks? The message in this case seems to be that “they know best.” That idea is insulting, and interfering with an African country’s efforts to build up its economy – simply because fossil fuels are involved – is completely unacceptable.

A ‘Missed Opportunity?’ Really?

UK Export Finance (UKEF) is one of eight export credit agencies to provide funding for Total’s Mozambique LNG project, which includes the construction of a two-train liquefaction plant with a capacity of 12.9 million tonnes per year.

UKEF’s $1 billion commitment includes awarding $300 million in loans to British companies working on the gas project and guaranteeing loans from commercial banks worth up to $850 million. The UK’s parliamentary under-secretary for the Department for International Trade, Graham Stuart, has pointed out that Total’s LNG project could be transformational for Mozambique and create 2,000 jobs in the UK as well.

But Friends of the Earth has said they will seek a judicial review into the UK government’s decision to help finance a project that, as they put it, will “worsen the climate emergency.” The group’s director, Jamie Peters, also expressed his disappointment in a letter to the UK government. The UKEF’s funding decision, Peters said, represents a “lost opportunity” for the UK to be a world climate leader.

My question to Mr. Peters is, what about Mozambique’s opportunities? To help everyday people improve their lives? To earn a decent living? To have a reliable source of energy? I’m talking about an opportunity to nudge the average life expectancy in Mozambique above 59 years, where it stands now.

The Mozambique LNG project is poised to make those things possible. As far as I’m concerned, losing that opportunity would be devastating.

What Mozambique Stands to Gain

I can’t overstate the far-reaching implications and potential that Total’s Mozambique LNG project represents for local businesses, communities, and individuals.

Total estimates that its plant will generate about $50 billion in revenue for Mozambique’s government during its first 25 years in operation. That revenue can be directed toward much-needed infrastructure, educational programs, and economic diversification programs.

Consider direct foreign investment in Mozambique: Total’s US$25 billion investment in the LNG plant is more than twice Mozambique’s current GDP.

How about the plant construction project? Not only will it generate tens of thousands of local jobs, but it also will provide training opportunities for local people. Indigenous companies will be contracted to provide goods and services.

This pattern will continue once the plant is operational. Locals can train for and take a wide range of positions, including professional and leadership roles. Over time, subject matter experts who can share their knowledge in Mozambique, and with other African companies, will be cultivated. And, once again, the plant will be looking to local companies to provide products and services.

LNG Can ‘Em-power’ Mozambique

In addition to these far-reaching economic opportunities, the LNG produced at the plant will provide affordable energy for Mozambique.

The need is urgent. Only about 29% of the population has access to electricity today. Medical care is hindered. Education is impacted. And sustainable economic growth is an uphill climb.

Earlier this year, I praised the government of Mozambique for negotiating for part of the LNG production to be diverted to the domestic market, meaning it can be used for power generation. Since then, the government secured financing for a 400MW gas-fired power plant and transmission line to Maputo, the country’s capital, which will dramatically improve power reliability there.

By the way, when the Mozambique government ensured that some of the plant’s LNG production would be available for domestic use, it also laid the foundation for monetization and economic diversification. In Mozambique, LNG will be available to serve as feedstock for fertilizer and petrochemical plants. It can be exported by pipeline to neighboring companies. And that, in turn, can help Mozambique build even more infrastructure and contribute to even greater widespread prosperity.

Mozambique Has Been Working for This

I’d also like to point out the thought and preparation that the Mozambique government has put into making its natural gas operations beneficial for the country as a whole since approximately 180 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves were discovered there in 2010.

Mozambique’s national oil company, ENH, hired global energy research and consulting firm Wood Mackenzie to help it prepare for the responsibility of managing and selling its corresponding portion of the resources. Since then, ENH formed a consortium with international oil and gas trader, Vitol.

The government also has sought the support of more experienced energy producers and international partners. Earlier this year, President Filipe Nyusi met with Norway's Crown Prince Haakon and signed an agreement for support on natural gas resource management.

But even before that, Mozambique laid the foundation for a successful oil and gas industry with the new Petroleum Law of 2014. And with that legislation in place, the country completed a successful bidding round for exploration blocks. These efforts, along with careful negotiations with international oil companies, is what brought Mozambique to where it is today: on the cusp of becoming a major LNG producer. And these efforts are what will make Mozambique’s LNG industry a success, not just in terms of government revenue, but also in improving the lives of everyday people.

We Must Put People First

Mozambique is not asking for aid to lift its people out of poverty. It’s attempting to capitalize on its own natural resources. The government isn’t trying to make a quick buck. It’s working to lay a foundation for long-term growth. And efforts like the Exxon and Total Mozambique Projects are more than an opportunity for international oil companies, or even Mozambique’s government. They have the potential to improve the lives of millions of everyday people.

I recognize the need to protect our planet and prevent climate change. But interfering with financing for Africa’s fossil fuel projects is not the right path. We must not dismiss the value of projects like these or their ability to make meaningful changes for the better in Mozambique. And we must not put environmental ideals ahead of the pressing needs that are facing people right now.

Sep 20, 2020

Facebook announced it will be opening an office in Lagos, Nigeria - its second office on the African continent.

Aimed at supporting the entire Sub-Saharan Africa region, the office is expected to become operational in H2 2021 and will be the first on the continent to house a team of expert engineers building for the future of Africa and beyond.

Facebook’s office will be home to various teams servicing the continent from across the business, including Sales, Partnerships, Policy, Communications as well as Engineers.

Commenting, Ime Archibong, Facebook's Head of New Product Experimentation said: “The opening of our new office in Lagos, Nigeria presents new and exciting opportunities in digital innovations to be developed from the continent and taken to the rest of the world. All across Africa we’re seeing immense talent in the tech ecosystem, and I’m proud that with the upcoming opening of our new office, we’ll be building products for the future of Africa, and the rest of the world, with Africans at the helm. We look forward to contributing further to the African tech ecosystem.”

The investment of the new Facebook office follows the 2018 opening of NG_Hub, its first flagship community hub space in Africa in partnership with CcHub, and the 2019 opening of a Small Business Group (SBG) Operations Centre in Lagos, in partnership with Teleperformance. Providing outsourced support to all English-speaking advertisers across Sub-Saharan Africa, the SBG office supports Small Medium Businesses (SMBs) through its Advocacy, Community & Education (ACE) programme, as well as its Marketing Expert sales programmes – all aimed at enabling SMBs to accelerate the growth and development of their businesses.

“Our new office in Nigeria presents an important milestone which further reinforces our ongoing commitment to the region”, commented Kojo Boakye, Facebook’s Director of Public Policy, Africa. “Our mission in Africa is no different to elsewhere in the world - to build community and bring the world closer together, and I’m excited about the possibilities that this will create, not just in Nigeria, but across Africa.”

Since the opening of its first office in 2015, Facebook has made a number of investments across the continent, aimed at supporting and growing the tech ecosystem, expanding and providing reliable connectivity infrastructures and helping businesses to grow locally, regionally and globally. This includes the recent rollout of its SMB Grants programme in Nigeria and South Africa, aimed at supporting over 900 businesses by providing a combination of cash and ad credits to help small businesses as they rebuild from COVID. The development of 2Africa, the world’s largest subsea cable project that will deliver much needed internet capacity and reliability across large parts of Africa, as well as its ongoing training programmes across the continent which support various communities including students, SMBs, digital creatives, female entrepreneurs, start-up’s and developers. 

Nunu Ntshingila, Regional Director, Facebook Africa,said: “We’re delighted to be announcing our new office in Nigeria. Five years on from opening our first office on the continent in Johannesburg, South Africa, we’re continuing to invest in and support local talent, as well as the various communities that use our platforms. The office in Lagos will also be key in helping to expand how we service our clients across the continent.”

Recent media reports claim that a covert Kenyan paramilitary team is responsible for the unconstitutional killing of terror suspects in nighttime raids. The reports are based on interviews with US and Kenyan diplomatic and intelligence officials.

The team was trained, armed and supported by US and British intelligence officers.

It has been reported that since 2004, a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) programme has been operational in Kenya without public scrutiny. For its part, the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) has played a key role in identifying, tracking and fixing the location of targets.

This has drawn renewed attention to the reality of widespread foreign security operations in Africa.

Several African governments are hosting foreign military bases. This is despite the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council’s ongoing concerns about the proliferation of foreign military bases on the continent. The AU is also concerned about its inability to monitor the movement of weapons to and from these military bases. Regardless, a host of bilateral agreements between AU member states and foreign powers underlie the spread of foreign military forces across the continent.

At least 13 foreign powers have a substantial military presence on the continent. The US and France are at the forefront of conducting operations on African soil.

Moreover, private military groups are active in several conflict zones on African soil. Northern Mozambique is the most recent case.

These dynamics coincide with claims that Russian MiG-29 and Su-24 warplanes have now conducted missions in Libya in support of Kremlin-backed private military forces to extend Moscow’s influence in Africa.

Military base mapping

Currently, the US has 7,000 military personnel on rotational deployment in Africa. These troops carry out joint operations with African forces against extremists or jihadists. They are hosted in military outposts across the continent, including Uganda, South Sudan, Senegal, Niger, Gabon, Cameroon, Burkina Faso and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In addition, 2,000 American soldiers are involved in training missions in 40 African countries. American special forces operate across east Africa in so-called forward operation locations in Kenya and Somalia.

Like the US, France has either deployed military forces or established bases in a number of African countries. The country has more than 7,500 military personnel currently serving on the continent. Its largest presence is in the Sahel, especially in the border zone linking Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.

The presence of foreign military forces in Africa is not limited to Western powers. China has been particularly active with its military presence in the Horn of Africa. It has become more engaged since 2008 when it participated in the multinational anti-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden.

Since then China has maintained an anti-piracy naval presence in the Horn of Africa and Gulf of Aden. Between 2008 and 2018, the Chinese Navy deployed 26,000 military personnel in a variety of maritime security operations.

In 2017, China inaugurated its first overseas military base in Djibouti. This came after the US established Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti in 2003.

Lemonnier was established alongside French, Italian, Spanish, German and Japanese bases. China has developed a 36-hectare military facility to host several thousand Chinese troops and provide facilities for ships, helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft.

China’s military base in Djibouti was set up to support five mission areas. These are counter-piracy in the Gulf of Aden; intelligence collection on other countries; noncombat evacuation of Chinese citizens in East Africa; international peacekeeping operations where Chinese soldiers are deployed; and counter-terrorism operations.

India is another Asian nation that has increased its naval presence in Africa. The country has established a network of military facilities across the Indian Ocean to counter China’s rising military footprint in the region.

It also wants to protect its commercial sea lanes from piracy.

India has ongoing deployments that monitor developments in the Horn of Africa and Madagascar. The country also plans to establish 32 coastal radar surveillance stations with sites in the Seychelles, Mauritius, and other locations outside Africa.

When it comes to the Middle East, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are the two countries with a notable military presence in Africa.

Turkey joined the international counter-piracy task force off the Somali coast in 2009. In 2017, it opened a military base in Mogadishu, Somalia. The purpose is to train recruits for the Somali National Army. Turkey will also support the Somali navy and coastguard.

The UAE has had a military base in Eritrea since 2015. It comprises a military airfield with aircraft shelters and a deepwater naval port. The base has been used in operations against opposition forces in Yemen.

Foreign military motivations

It is clear that the Horn is the epicentre of foreign military activity in Africa. Foreign troops have been deployed there to counter threats to international peace, subdue terror groups and pirates, and support foreign security initiatives.

But there are other motivations to establish military bases in Africa. These include protection of commercial interests, aligning with friendly regimes, and expressing dominance on a continent that is the focus of rising global competition.

Of course, Africa is not the exception. The US, for example, also maintains a substantial military and security presence in the Gulf region. It has bases in countries such as Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and UAE.

For some observers it might seem like foreign governments are imposing their militaries on Africa, but, in fact, many African governments are keen to host them.

Bilateral agreements with major powers generate income for African states. The opening of China’s military base in Djibouti is a case in point. Most of Djibouti’s economy relies on Chinese credit.

The presence of foreign military forces has also played a significant role in fighting terror groups. These include groups like al-Shabaab in East Africa and jihadists in Mali. This explains why several African countries are willing to turn to foreign governments for advice, intelligence and support.

But there is a downside to the presence of foreign forces on the continent. For instance, the African security landscape has become overcrowded by a multiplicity of foreign security and military activities. These activities often function at cross purposes.

The competition among some of the world’s powers has been heightened by the increasing presence of Asian powers. China’s expanding presence in Djibouti has caused concern.

Its influence in Africa and the Indian Ocean has ruffled feathers within Japanese and Indian political and security circles. A Chinese monopoly could impede their engagement with the continent.

Finally, African countries are not agreed on how to regulate foreign security and military activities. The approach so far has been disjointed.

Though Africa’s peacekeeping capacity has increased significantly, the AU is still highly dependent on external funding and resources for its peacekeeping operations. It does not have the freedom to take independent strategic, operational and even tactical decisions in its operations.

As long as these shortcomings exist in Africa’s response to armed conflict, foreign militaries and intelligence services will continue to operate on the continent.

These are matters that have to be addressed before African states can heed the AU Peace and Security Council’s concerns about extensive foreign military involvement on the continent.The Conversation

 

Theo Neethling, Professor of Political Science, Department of Political Studies and Governance, University of the Free State

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Sep 18, 2020

The Mozambican civil aviation authorities say only airlines from six countries have agreed to resume operations since the reopening of the country’s airspace this month.

The National Civil Aviation Institute said the airlines were from Portugal, Turkey, Qatar, Ethiopia, Kenya and South Africa.

The institute said countries planning to restart their flights should express interest in the Mozambican diplomatic missions of their respective countries.

The resumption of regular passenger and cargo flights is authorised based on the principal of reciprocity and only two weekly flights are allowed.

International passengers must have proof that they tested negative for Covid-19 in the last 72 hours, according to guidance by the institute issued this week.

The airlines are required to ensure preventive measures are observed including the wearing of masks, social distancing of at least 1.5 metres, and the planes must carry universal precautionary kits.

The airline crew should also undergo state-supervised mandatory quarantine for up to 24 hours.

The planes, passengers and cargo must be disinfected before disembarking, the guidelines say.

Source: BBC

Sep 18, 2020

Zimbabwean authorities are in discussions with several international investment banks to support a new stock exchange that will trade exclusively in foreign currency, Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube said.

“The interest has been huge,” Ncube told an analyst briefing. He declined to give further details.

Yvonne Mhango, sub-Saharan Africa economist at Renaissance Capital, told the briefing that uppermost on foreign investors’ minds was the ability to repatriate their capital. “What they want is a functioning stock exchange,” Mhango said.

The global lenders would handle clearing and settlement of trades, thereby guaranteeing investors’ funds, Zimbabwe Stock Exchange Chief Executive Officer Justin Bgoni said at the event. The companies involved in talks are based in Africa, Asia and Europe, he said.

The exchange, to be known as VFEX and based in the resort town of Victoria Falls, will open in “a couple of weeks,” said Bgoni, who will also head the bourse.

 

Source: Bloomberg

 

  1. Opinions and Analysis

Calender

« September 2020 »
Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30