Items filtered by date: Monday, 13 March 2017

A US$350 million deal to finance an 80 megawatt (MW) peat to power project in Rwanda, which will improve access to electricity for the three quarters of the country's population that is currently off the grid, has reached financial close.

The power plant, which is expected to increase installed capacity in Rwanda by 40%, will utilise the Country's significant peat reserves to improve the national installed generation capacity. Despite its status as one of Africa's fastest-growing economies, only 25% of Rwanda's population currently has access to reliable electricity.

The plant is being constructed in the Mamba Sector of Gisagara District, one of the most remote areas in Rwanda, and is expected to be completed within three years.

The Africa Finance Corporation is the Mandated Lead Arranger for the project debt, and has successfully arranged total senior debt facilities of US$245 million, contributing US$75 million in loans and providing an underwriting commitment of US$35 million.

Finnfund, a Finnish Development Finance Company, served as the lead arranger for total mezzanine debt facilities of US$35 million for the project. The other lenders are Eastern and Southern African Trade and Development Bank(TDB), African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), Export-Import Bank of India, and Rwanda Development Bank (BRD).

The project is sponsored by Hakan Madencilik A.S - an energy company from Turkey, and Quantum Power - a power and energy infrastructure investment platform. Themis Infra, an infrastructure development firm, is the Project Development Manager.

Andrew Alli, CEO of AFC, commented on the announcement: "The move from costly external imports of fuel to more sustainable indigenous sources of energy such as peat will reap great rewards for Rwanda, not just in terms of the significant savings in foreign exchange hitherto used in importing expensive diesel oil for power generation, but also the positive economic and social benefits of providing more cost effective power for businesses and industries, as well as more affordable power for the people".

"AFC prioritises investing in projects that will have significant advantages for the local community, which this plant will. It will also make a huge contribution to powering Rwanda's economic growth in the future, in line with the government's objectives."

Rwanda aims to provide 70% of its 12 million people with power from the grid or off-grid by 2018, and the country intends to become a lower middle-income country by 2020

Published in Engineering
Monday, 13 March 2017 14:53

Dangote opens coal mine in Tanzania

Aliko Dangote is now a coal miner as Tanzania has offered his Dangote Cement Company in the southeastern town of Mtwara, land to mine coal for its operations.

Tanzania’s Ministry of Energy and Minerals at the weekend handed a 10-square-kilometre plot of land to the $500 million cement factory set up in 2015 by Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man. The factory has an annual capacity of 3 million tonnes.

According to NAN and local media The Citizen, the coal concession was sanctioned by President John Magufuli to allow the company get a reliable supply of coal to fuel its activities.

Tanzania has banned the importation of coal from South Africa and Tancoal, the only one coal producing company in the country, cannot meet the entire market demand. Dangote runs on expensive diesel generators and requested Tanzanian government support last year to supply natural gas at a reduced price.

President Magufuli later intervened after a meeting with Nigerian billionaire and the company’s owner Aliko Dangote over stalled negotiations on prices.

He blamed middlemen for the delay in supply plans and said Dangote “will now buy natural gas directly from the state-run TPDC (Tanzania Petroleum Development Corporation)”. Dangote, Africa’s biggest cement producer, is seeking to double Tanzania’s annual output of cement to 6 million tonnes. It plans to roll out plants across Africa.



Published in Business

Scattered rain in most of Ivory Coast's main cocoa growing regions will help the April-to-September cocoa mid-crop though hot weather in other areas threatened to hurt the harvest, farmers said on Monday.

The dry season in the world's top cocoa producer runs from mid-November to March, during which downpours are scarce with February and March normally the hottest months. Exporters and pod counters have predicted record cocoa production of nearly 2 million tonnes this season due to good weather. But farmers said they would need at least one downpour per week for good pod growth while the heat continues. In the western region of Soubre, at the heart of the cocoa belt, farmers reported light rain and sunshine last week. 

"We need heavier rain because it is very hot and the water evaporates quickly from the soil," said Lazare Ake, who farms on the outskirts of Soubre. "We have enough flowers and small pods to produce a good mid-crop. But the soil can't be too dry." 

In the centre-western region of Daloa, which accounts for about a quarter of national output, farmers reported one heavy downpour and abundant sunshine. "The leaves are starting to turn green on some plantations. If the rain continues to be good we will have enough flowers and pods on the trees in April," said Raphael Kouadio, who farms on the outskirts of Daloa.

He said, though, that he was worried some beans might be small because the rain came late. Farmers reported light rain and hot temperatures in the western region of Gagnoa while in the western region of Bouafle farmers said some leaves were drying out.

"It is too hot. This is not good for the cocoa ... it could reduce the harvest by killing flowers and small pods," said Parfait Ayo, who farms on the outskirts of Gagnoa.

Farmers reported good growing conditions in the southern regions of Aboisso and Agboville and in the western region of Duekoue, and one heavy downpour in Abengourou in the east.


- Reuters

Published in Agriculture

Oil hovered around three-month lows on Monday, as rising U.S. inventories and drilling activity offset optimism over OPEC's efforts to restrict crude output. Brent crude was down 7 cents on the day, at $51.30 a barrel by 1202 GMT, having hit a session trough of $50.85, its lowest level since Nov. 30.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude fell 15 cents to $48.34 a barrel.

The price has fallen by more than 8 percent since last Monday, its biggest week-on-week drop in four months, and analysts said the slide may not have much further to run. "The market is bearish because sentiment has turned. The risk is still towards the downside, but we are nowhere near the precipice," PVM Oil Associates Tamas Varga said.

Goldman Sachs said in a note it remained "very confident" about commodity prices and maintained its price forecast of $57.50 a barrel for WTI in the second quarter.

U.S. drillers added oil rigs for an eighth consecutive week, Baker Hughes said on Friday, lifting spending to benefit from an earlier recovery in crude prices since the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) agreed to cut output. [RIG/U]

OPEC and other major oil producers including Russia reached an agreement late last year to rein in production by almost 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) in the first half of 2017. Although OPEC states have been complying with supply curbs, led by Saudi Arabia, it has not been enough to overshadow a rise in U.S. inventories to a new high. [EIA/S]

"It will be interesting to see how OPEC rhetoric will evolve with this price correction. Is price the only consideration when it comes to the decision of extending cuts?" BNP Paribas global head of commodity strategy Harry Tchilinguirian told the Reuters Global Oil Forum. He added that OPEC's task was more difficult as it aimed to cut inventory levels rather than simply target a specific price.

Money managers cut their net long positions in U.S. crude futures and options in the week to March 7.

For the broader financial markets, the focus will be on the Federal Reserve's policy meeting later this week at which it could likely raise U.S. interest rates. "The week ahead is packed with potentially market defining releases," Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at Sydney's CMC Markets, said. "However, the key to market performance this week is the response to the U.S. lift in rates."


- Reuters

Published in World

The Middle East and Africa (MEA) tablet market declined 24.2% year on year (Y-o-Y) in the final quarter of 2016 to total 3.07 million units, according to the latest figures announced today by International Data Corporation (IDC).

The global IT research and consulting services firm's Middle East and Africa Quarterly Tablet Tracker shows that for 2016 as a whole, tablet shipments in MEA declined 14.7% Y-o-Y to total 13.8 million units, which is in line with global tablet market's 15.6% decline over the same period.

"Tasks that were previously performed on tablets are increasingly moving to bigger-screen smartphones, so tablets are becoming redundant in the consumer ecosystem of gadgets," says Nakul Dogra, senior research analyst for client devices at IDC MEA."Indeed, consumers are now investing more time and money into smartphones than tablets, which has led to a slowdown of tablet markets around the world, not just here in MEA. That said, there are still countries in Africa that harbor scope for further tablet penetration."

In terms of vendor rankings, Samsung continued to lead the MEA tablet market in Q4 2016 with unit share of 17.6%, despite experiencing a significant decline in shipments of -28.0% on the previous quarter and -43.6% on the corresponding period of 2015. Lenovo remained in second place, increasing its share to 10.8% from 9.9% in Q4 2015.

Apple climbed into third spot, capturing 8.7% share despite suffering a -41.2% Y-on-Y decline in shipments. UAE-based vendor i-Life rose to fourth in the rankings with a market share of 7.4%, spurred by the popularity of its low-cost offerings. Huawei's shipments fell -39.6% Y-on-Y in Q4 2016 to account for market share of just 5.1%, a considerable drop from its 13.5% share in the previous quarter.

"With the lack of any noteworthy innovation taking place in much of the tablet space, there is little reason for the majority of consumers to upgrade to newer-generation tablets," says Fouad Rafiq Charakla, senior research manager for client devices at IDC MEA."This is prolonging the refreshment cycle for tablets in the region and causing an inevitable slowdown in the market."

Taking the above factors into account, IDC's tablet market forecast has been revised downwards. IDC now expects the market to decline -8.1% Y-on-Y in 2017 to total 12.76 million units. The longer-term forecast has also been revised downwards, with IDC now expecting the market to decline at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of -0.2% over the 2016–2021 period to total 13.64 million units in 2021.
"e-Tailers are expected to grow strongly in the coming years," says Dogra.

"Increasingly, local retailers are investing more in the online channel. Also, newer players are expected to enter the market in the coming year, which is going to further intensify competition in the online retail segment. The above factors, coupled with aggressive pricing, will further drive the growth of the e-tailer segment, with IDC expecting that by the year 2021, 12% of tablets will be sold through e-tailers in the MEA region."

Published in Telecoms
Image 20170308 24182 1whteph
Tanzania’s President John Magufuli is praised by some for his “no nonsense” attitude. Reuters/Thomas Mukoya

Rob Ahearne, University of East London

The Arusha Declaration of 1967 is a defining document in Tanzania’s and Africa’s post colonial history. It began a process of nationalisation and rural collectivisation which was then replicated in other parts of the continent.

As one of the few countries in East Africa not beset by internecine conflicts, Tanzania is often seen as a beacon of hope. But the country’s history hasn’t been entirely peaceful.

For example, the creation of the United Republic in 1964 was the outcome of a bloody revolution in Zanzibar. And the forced resettlement of the rural population in the 1970s was often brutal. The supposedly backward south of the country was most affected by this social engineering. 

Julius Nyerere, Tanzania’s first post-independence leader, might be rightly revered across Africa for the role his government played in various liberation struggles. But his domestic agenda isn’t recalled with the same fondness, especially in the south. Multiparty democracy came to Tanzania in 1995. Yet the autocratic and paternalistic tendencies remain, as reflected in the extremely heavy-handed nature of the response to unrest in Mtwara in 2013.

This is also echoed by the actions and rhetoric of current President John “the bulldozer” Magufuli. While some celebrate his “no nonsense” attitude when it comes to tackling corruption and excessive government spending, others express major concerns over his ban on opposition political rallies until the 2020 general election. He’s also drawn ire for the failure of his government to implement court rulings on human rights.

And the country has witnessed major protests at the management of newly discovered reserves of natural gas in the south. As a result there’s a widespread view across southern Tanzania that for half a century the central government has pursued a deliberate process of mistreatment and marginalisation.

Rural collectivisation is a significant milestone in such claims, a process that was kick-started by the Arusha Declaration. The document’s 50th anniversary is a prescient moment to reflect on its impact and the legacy of autocratic rule in Tanzania.

Tumultuous times

My fieldwork over many years in southern Tanzania has revealed widespread scepticism about the value of independence to the inhabitants. Uhuru – or independence – from Britain in 1961 is seen to be a less significant moment in the lives of many rural Tanzanians than the Arusha Declaration.

As a 90-year old farmer told me:

Tanganyika became Tanzania and our flag changed, (Queen) Elizabeth left and (President) Nyerere arrived. The leaders knew about these changes but nothing changed for me… Change came after Nyerere’s speech in Arusha, he told us about ujamaa and we were forced to move from our villages.

Many Tanzanians living in the southern parts of the country feel the same way. This isn’t surprising given that the declaration triggered rural collectivisation (villagisation) which brought about tangible changes to people’s lives. It also cemented the language of ujamaa or “African Socialism”. Villagisation was guided by the belief that communal farming could improve agricultural productivity and guarantee long-term food security and self-sufficiency.

At the outset Nyerere declared that migration to ujamaa villages would happen voluntarily. Forcing people to move wouldn’t be countenanced by the state.

But when only 15% of the total population chose to resettle between 1969 and 1973 the governing Tanganyika Africa National Union decreed that:

to live in villages is an order.

Nyerere’s increasing sense of urgency is reflected both in his famous phrase “we must run while others walk” and in the decision to rapidly transform voluntary migration into mass resettlement. Many people that I interviewed recalled this as a brutal process.

People were moved by force, the soldiers came, they came to worry the people, and they were taken, all of their things were destroyed or put in a truck.

Not all recollections of this process were universally negative. But first hand experiences of villagisation had a profound and lasting impact on many people.

These were tumultuous times in the country, also reflected in increased authoritarianism in Tanzania from the late 1960s onward. Renowned Ugandan academic Mahmood Mamdani describes the events as “decentralized despotism” – a paternalistic urban elite making decisions for the “backward” rural poor. This, he argued, bore many of the hallmarks of colonial modes of rule within post colonial power structures.

There have been other critiques of the ujamaa villages project. It not only affected people on the ground but also precipitated a national food crisis.

One of my interviewees blamed Nyerere directly for

destroy[ing] our farms and houses to build something that he called the nation.

Why caution is required

Magufuli’s sky high national approval ratings show no signs of abating. This adds further fuel to the comparison that is made with Julius “father of the nation” Nyerere. The autocratic nature of Nyerere’s rule, informed by a clear sense of paternalism towards the rural majority, mirrors the colonial model and is reflected in contemporary political leadership in Tanzania.

I believe that there’s merit in the argument that the forcible resettlement of the rural majority under Nyerere partially mirrored colonial modes of rule. The worrying thing is that further continuities are evident in the enactment of the Arusha Declaration and the authoritarianism of today. This should be food for thought for those heaping praise on the new regime in Tanzania.

Rob Ahearne, Senior Lecturer in International Development, University of East London

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Published in Opinion & Analysis
  1. Opinions and Analysis


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