Items filtered by date: Monday, 17 April 2017

Accra, April 13, GNA - Africa’s largest airline group, Ethiopian Airlines, has signed a codeshare agreement with Air Europa, taking effect, from April 11, 2017.

A statement issued in Accra by Mrs Hanna Atnafu, Manager, Corporate Communications, Ethiopian Airlines said the new partnership was a free sale codeshare agreement, thereby allowing the partner airlines access to each other’s neAfrica’s largest airline group, Ethiopian Airlines, has signed a codeshare agreement with Air Europa, taking effect, from April 11, 2017.

The statement futher stated that, the new partnership was a free sale codeshare agreement, thereby allowing the partner airlines access to each other’s network by creating smooth connection at their hubs.

The statement quoted Mr Busera Awel, Chief Commercial Officer Ethiopian Airlines, as saying: “We are pleased to optimise our collaboration with Air Europa through this instrumental code share agreement.”

She said as a customer focused airline, the company always strived to meet its customer’s ever growing demand, availing critical connectivity options.

“This strategic collaboration will enable our esteemed customer’s reach multiple destinations in Europe through one-point check-in at point of origin and Ethiopian vast African network was an added advantage to customers of Air Europa; connecting 53 major cities in Africa with minimum layover at our Addis hub,” she added.

The statement also quoted Mr Imanol Pérez, Commercial Deputy Director of Air Europa who expressed excitement and satisfaction for the agreement reached with Ethiopian Airlines.

“As it allows Air Europa to have presence in the African continent and offer its passengers a wider choice of travel destinations,” he said.

In addition, Air Europa also provides Ethiopian Airline´s passengers with excellent connectivity with other European, Spanish and American destinations where Air Europa flies through its Madrid hub.

Ethiopian Air currently serves more than 90 global destinations across five continents with more than 240 daily departures; operating the youngest and most modern fleet with an average fleet age of less than five years.

Air Europa operates to 51 destinations all round the world of which 21 are domestic, 11 are Europe and Tel Aviv, 18 long haul destinations in North and South America and Middle East. The Airline will fly to Honduras this month and in June to Boston.


Norvan Acqauh - Hayford/thebftonline.com/Ghana

Published in Travel & Tourism

East Africa's economy has continued to grow despite the adverse effects of drought being felt across the region according to ICAEW's (the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales) latest report.

In Economic Insight: Africa Q1 2017 launched today, the accountancy and finance body points out that authorities from various East African nations have attempted to mitigate the effects of the drought by stimulating economic activity through other channels such as substantial fiscal stimulus and loosened monetary policy.

The report, commissioned by ICAEW and produced by partner and forecaster Oxford Economics, provides a snapshot of the region's economic performance. The report focusses specifically on Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast, South Africa and Angola.

According to the report, Tanzania is set to hit a real GDP growth of 6.9 followed by Uganda at 6.8, Ethiopia at 6.7, and Rwanda and Kenya at 6.6 and 6.4 despite the drought. Both Rwanda and Uganda have loosened monetary policy during the first quarter of the year, while Ethiopia counterweighed the drought effects through substantial fiscal stimulus - the construction sector reportedly expanding by 25% during the 2015/16 fiscal year.

Michael Armstrong, Regional Director, ICAEW Middle East, Africa and South Asia said: "Overall, economic growth in East Africa remains strong despite the drought. Infrastructure development continues to Africa GDP Forcaststimulate industry across the region, while expanding services to the largely un-serviced markets remains the key driver behind growth."

The adverse effects of the drought have been most notable in Uganda, with agriculture decreasing during the first three quarters of 2016. Poor crop production has also had a marked impact on food price inflation across the region. While not particularly intense in historic terms, inflationary pressures in recent months can almost entirely be attributed to high food prices, with non-food price inflation remaining subdued. Most agriculture in East Africa is highly dependent on the weather, and adverse rainfall is directly reflected in both agricultural production and food prices.

On the southern African front, Botswana and South Africa are still struggling to gain traction due to the slump in commodity prices as well as the drought. Real GDP growth of 1.2% is forecast for both these countries in 2017. South Africa's growth will be supported by widespread rains, an improved outlook for consumer demand and a recovery in commodity prices, while Angola remains optimistic of improved oil production and the commencement of infrastructure projects. Botswana on the other hand, is forecast to record growth of 4.1% due to demand in the international diamond market.

In the west of the continent, Senegal's strong growth in its primary (fisheries) and secondary (chemical industry) sectors as well as the government's collaborative efforts to improve infrastructure (particularly in electricity supply) has tremendously stimulated the country's economic growth. Growth in Ivory Coast is pegged on the integration of the north into the economy after a decade of division as well as inflows of investment capital attracted by the governments business-friendly National Development Plan. Despite Ghana's poor performance last year (with growth estimated to have declined to 3.6%), the country's economy is expected to recover with a growth margin of 6.3% This is primarily thanks to higher oil production, improved government assistance and less severe Harmattan winds which bode well for agriculture.

Published in Agriculture

The U.S. stopped short of branding China a currency manipulator, but urged the world’s second-largest economy to let the yuan rise with market forces and embrace more trade.

No major trading partner is manipulating its currency for an unfair trade advantage, according to the first foreign-currency report released by the Treasury Department under President Donald Trump. It kept China, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Germany and Switzerland on its foreign-exchange monitoring list.

“China currently has an extremely large and persistent bilateral trade surplus with the United States, which underscores the need for further opening of the Chinese economy to American goods and services,” as well as quicker reforms to boost household consumption, according to the Treasury report.

Trump declared that he’ll back away from a campaign promise to name China a currency manipulator, a move that would have created friction between the world’s largest economies as they try to boost trade cooperation and address North Korea’s nuclear threat. Trump, in a Wall Street Journal interview, said China hasn’t manipulated the yuan for months, while accusing nations that he didn’t identify of devaluing their currencies and saying the dollar is getting too strong.

The report contains an implicit threat that unless China gives U.S. exporters greater market access and further rebalances the economy, the U.S. could act to rectify the trade imbalance, according to Eswar Prasad, former head of the IMF’s China division and author of “Gaining Currency: The Rise of the Renminbi.”

“While China now meets only one of the three criteria for currency manipulation listed in the report, the text makes clear that China’s large bilateral trade surplus with the U.S. is by itself enough to warrant careful scrutiny of China’s trade and currency practices,” said Prasad, a professor at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

The Treasury report said that for a decade China engaged in one-way, large-scale interventions to hold down the currency, and then only allowed it to strengthen gradually -- a practice that imposed “significant and long-lasting hardship on American workers and companies.” While China has been intervening to prevent a depreciation of the yuan, its selling of foreign currency reserves abated early this year, Treasury said.

Now, China needs to show that its lack of intervention in the currency markets “to resist appreciation” over the past three years is a “durable” policy by allowing the yuan to strengthen “once appreciation pressures resume,” the Treasury said.

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs didn’t immediately respond to an email Saturday seeking comment on the report.

Foreign Reserves

Treasury avoiding the manipulator label reflects that China’s current-account surplus as a share of output is much reduced, and currency intervention now supports yuan strength, according to Bloomberg Intelligence economists Tom Orlik and Justin Jimenez. China has burned through almost $1 trillion of its foreign reserves, or about a quarter of the total stockpile, since mid-2014 to help support the currency.

“After much hoopla, and with a few extra bells and whistles, the Treasury’s position is completely unchanged,” Orlik and Jimenez wrote in a report. “Treasury does have some choice words for China, accusing it of causing ‘long-lasting hardship’ to American workers. And there’s what looks like a change in the criteria, opening the possibility that China’s outsize trade surplus alone will be enough to keep it on the watch list.”

Like the last report by the Obama administration in October, China met only one of the three criteria -- for having a large trade deficit -- that’s used by the Treasury as a threshold for manipulation. China’s $347 billion goods trade surplus with the U.S. was the largest of major trading partners last year, according to the report.

Taiwan also met one condition, while the other four met two.

The Treasury said Germany has a “responsibility” to help balance global demand and trade flows. Europe’s biggest economy should use fiscal policy to encourage strong domestic demand, which would put “upward pressure” on the euro. Switzerland “could increase reliance on policy rates in order to limit the need for foreign-exchange interventions, which should be made more transparent.”

In Asia, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea were urged to keep interventions to a minimum, and aspire to have flexible and transparent exchange rate policies.

“The United States cannot and will not bear the burden of an international trading system that unfairly disadvantages our exports and unfairly advantages the exports of our trading partners through artificially distorted exchange rates,” the report stated. “Treasury is committed to aggressively and vigilantly monitoring and combating unfair currency practices.’’

The department is required by law to report to Congress twice a year on whether America’s major trading partners are gaming their currencies. The report is the government’s formal channel to impose the manipulator designation, leading to a year of negotiations for a solution and penalties if the practice continues.

The U.S. hasn’t branded any country a manipulator since 1994.

A senior Bank of Korea official said South Korean foreign-exchange authorities maintain their stance that the exchange rate is to be determined by the market as the report emphasized fair competition. The official asked not to be identified because the central bank hasn’t issued a statement the report.

A spokesman for Taiwan’s presidential office referred a request for comment to the central bank. An official at the monetary authority, who asked not to be identified, said Saturday that the central bank is in continued contact with the U.S. and has good communication channels with Washington.

The Treasury left the criteria for manipulation unchanged at having a trade surplus with the U.S. above $20 billion; having a current-account surplus amounting to more than 3 percent of gross domestic product; repeated currency depreciating by buying foreign assets equivalent to 2 percent of output over the year.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has said that the issue of “currency misalignment” -- which could also include unintentional devaluations -- will be addressed in a study of trade abuses by nations that run large surpluses with the U.S., which is due to be ready in June.

 

Credit: Bloomberg

Published in World

Rwanda recently celebrated the opening of its first peat-fired power plant at Gishoma in the far west of the country, a $39.2M project. It is the first of its kind in Africa.

Another larger peat plant, costing $350M is under development in Gisagara to the east. The plan is for Gishoma to start feeding 15MW of electricity into the national grid imminently, and Gisagara 80MW by 2019.

The Rwandan government is hoping to achieve its goal of connecting 70% of the country’s 11.7 million people to the national grid by 2018. This is a near three-fold increase on the number connected at present. The peat-to-power plant at Gishoma will contribute to this goal, and further increase the installed capacity of the nation. This will reduce Rwanda’s reliance on expensive imports of diesel oil for power generation.

At the moment, only 25% of households have access to the 190MW of power generated in country. But over the next two years the capacity is projected to reach 563MW in line with national development goals. This increase will be made possible in part through the harnessing of power from peat.

Peat power

Peat provides an effective energy source when dried, comprising a minimum of 30% organic matter. It develops under anaerobic conditions, where waterlogging significantly slows or prevents the decomposition of dead vegetation. As the vegetation grows in the surface layers, it absorbs atmospheric carbon through the process of photosynthesis. When it dies, this carbon is stored in the accumulating substrate which is peat.

Peatlands are found across the world. But they are concentrated within certain regions where high humidity or low temperatures reduce the rate of decomposition. These include the coastal lowlands of southeast Asia or northern Russia’s permafrost zones. Despite covering just 3% of the world’s ice-free land surface, peatlands store up to 30% of its total soil carbon stock. This makes them the most efficient carbon storage facility we have.

But arguably, not a renewable one. Though each peatland varies, one centimetre depth of peat may take an average of 10 years to accumulate, and less than 10 minutes to burn.

Rwanda energy mix

Rwanda’s energy comes from a diverse mix of renewable sources. Hydro-power is the main contributor at 59%, followed by thermal (40%) and methane (1%). There are also ambitious plans for off-grid power from solar.

Peat power is considered one of these more sustainable indigenous sources of energy. It has the potential to contribute nearly 20% to the national energy supply in five years’ time.

The Gishoma plant is nestled within the Nyungwe Forest National Park. Shutterstock

It’s estimated that there will be sufficient peat deposits to power Rwanda for 30 years, or some proportion of the country at least. The enhanced power that will come from the Gishoma and Gisagara peat-to-power plants is seen as an important part of the country’s development provision.

The plans are enabled through financial support from the African Finance Corporation, the Development Bank of Rwanda and Finnfund, the Finnish Development Finance Company, among other lenders. Finland has expertise in peat extraction and its use in the energy industry, with an average of 5% of its national supply coming from peat. This was encouraged by subsidies until recently.

But where is Rwanda’s peat?

The Gishoma plant is nestled within the Nyungwe Forest National Park. This is an

untouched natural rainforest that is filled with exciting biodiversity.

The park’s website boasts of the presence of hundreds of species of trees and orchids within the park, such as the swamp-dwelling Eulophia horsfellii. It’s also host to numerous plants species of medicinal value, like the East African satinwood, Zanthoxylum gilletii, and to one of the last stable populations of chimpanzees in East Africa. But there is no mention of peat. It’s evidently not a key feature for the average tourist.

There are vast areas of peatlands across the Tropics that we are only now starting to map and understand their full extent and carbon content. For example, it was only a few months ago that the first map of the world’s largest tropical peat complex was published. Around 145,500 square kms of peat swamp forest was found in the central Congo Basin.

There may well be vast resources of peat in Rwanda that local residents have known about for years, or that the Finns have sniffed out recently, of which science has yet to be told or be concerned about. But whatever the scenario defining the nation’s peaty asset and wherever it is exactly, it is unlikely to be there for much longer if peat-to-power generation continues to be Rwanda’s cost competitive energy solution.

Given that it takes thousands of years to accumulate just hundreds of centimetres of peat, is peat-power really the solution to the nation’s energy needs? Can the Elon Musk’s out there create an energy-storage solution quickly enough that renewables make a serious contribution?

For now though, Rwanda is set to power through its peat.

Lydia Cole, Researcher Associate of the Department of Zoology; Environmental Scientist, Rezatec Ltd., University of Oxford

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

Published in Engineering

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