Items filtered by date: Thursday, 07 June 2018
Thursday, 07 June 2018 15:56

Dangote bags UN Tourism Award

Business mogul, Aliko Dangote, owner of Dangote Group on Monday in Abuja bagged ‘Special Award for Responsible Tourism’.
It was at the 61st United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), Regional Commission for Africa Conference.
 
Dangote who was represented by Mr Ahmed Mansur, Executive Director for Strategic Management and Corporate Communication of the conglomerate said it was a great honour to be recognised by a global body like UNWTO.
 
He said “As I travelled round the world in pursuit of my business activities, I enjoyed the wonderful sights and sounds that tourism provides.
 
“I had opportunities to sample all that tourism could provide in the continent. I consider myself not only a committed traveller but a tourist.
 
“I want to thank the honourable minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed and his team and other tourism bodies for the impact and opportunities made available to visit tourist sites,” he said.
 
He called on the private sector to partner more with the African governments to continue to expand and deepen the tourism potentials on the continent
 
The Conference with the theme “Tourism Statistics: A catalyst for Development” brought together participants from many countries in Africa and beyond to chart a way forward for tourism in Africa.
 
Source: NAN
Published in Travel & Tourism
The recent blip in the foreign exchange market that saw a slight depreciation of the cedi against the dollar is short-term and a reflection of a spill over from external developments, an official of the Bank of Ghana has said.
Mr Steve Opata, the Director, Financial Markets Department, told a section of the media that changes in global financing conditions, due to rising oil prices and hikes in US interest rates, were impacting frontier market economies in Sub-Saharan Africa. 
 
However, he said, Ghana is in a strong position to overcome the exchange rate volatility due to excellent economic fundamentals and a good external payments position.  
 
“We want to assure the market that we have adequate reserves and the fundamentals do not support the slippages we have seen and we expect it to correct itself,” he said. 
 
From the week beginning May 21, the local currency had been under pressure, particularly the cedi against the dollar.
 
The cedi opened on the interbank market on Tuesday at 4.43 cedis to the dollar while the Forex Bureaux are quoting it at 4.65 cedis to the dollar.
 
“In the case of Ghana, we strongly believe that staying on track with government’s fiscal consolidation plan, the strong trade surplus, narrowing current account balances, significant build-up in international reserves (now standing at US$8.1 billion and 4.4 months of imports cover), and declining inflation rates, should moderate this impact,” he said.
 
On fears of some market participants that MTN’s payments to external shareholders from the initial public offering could impact negatively on the exchange rate, Mr Opata said the BoG had received assurances from management of MTN that there were no immediate plans to externalise the payments. 
 
“The BoG is engaging the management of MTN Ghana to ensure that any Foreign exchange outflows arising from this transaction is done in a phased and orderly manner,” he said, adding that even if there are some externalisations we will work with them so that it is done in a gradual manner so as not to shock the system.
 
“I don’t think market participants should be too concerned that this will dislocate the market because it would be done in an orderly fashion,” Mr Opata added.
 
He said the BoG would continue to assess the market and support with liquidity when necessary, adding that, the global and domestic developments do not yet pose a threat to inflation in Ghana in the near term, and that, the BoG is monitoring the situation to take appropriate policy actions as required.
 
Source: Graphic.co.gh
Published in Bank & Finance
Norwegian-based oil exploration and production firm, Aker Energy AS, believes its successful entry into Ghana’s upstream petroleum business is a timeous opportunity to transfer Norway’s decades of technical expertise and vast experience in the oil and gas industry to the country and the sub-region as a whole.
The transfer will be achieved through conscious mentoring and subcontracting to local staff and firms, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Aker Energy, Mr Jan Arve Haugan, told journalists in Accra.
 
In his first interaction with journalists in Accra after Aker Energy successfully replaced Hess Ghana Limited as the operator and 50 per cent owner of the Deep-Water Tano Cape Three Points (DWTCTP) block, Mr Haugan said the company’s contribution to the country and its domestic stakeholders “will be beyond the local content” requirements captured under the Local Content and Local Participation Policy.
 
“We want to contribute to the local economy beyond the requirements of the local content. We know that the oil and gas sector has some sort of minimum requirements on local content and that is a good picture of good governance.
 
“But sometimes, that is also a system that does not really build the industry in the country. So we have communicated very clearly that the Aker family, which I am the representative here today, has an obligation from the owners of the company to contribute to competence beyond local content,” he stated.
 
Aker Energy, the energy wing of Norwegian billionaire, Mr Kjell Inge Rokke, entered Ghana’s nascent upstream petroleum subsector in February this year through a US$100 million share purchase agreement with Hess Ghana for its stake in the DWTCTP block.
 
A financial closure of the transaction was reached last month, paving the way for Aker Energy to pay US$25 million to Hess Ghana. The remaining US$75 million is to be paid after the plan of development (PoD) has been approved by the government, according to the requirements of the transaction.
 
Following the sale, Aker Energy will now lead Lukoil (38 per cent), the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (10 per cent) and Fuel Trade (two per cent) to develop and produce oil in the block, which has proven reserves of about 550 million barrels of oil equivalent with additional potential of 400 million barrels.
 
Mr Haugan said Aker Energy was working hard to ensure that the PoD was submitted to the government in July to pave the way for its approval by December this year.
 
“We have clearly communicated that the critical activities need to be triggered by the end of the year. So currently, we are preparing the application for the development and that has to be submitted for approval to be given before the end of the year,” he noted.
 
He added that the approval would be followed by an ‘order to proceed’ in 2019, enabling the various actors to start development works.
 
“In 2020, it will be the year of assembling, where we will start to manufacture in various locations, then we put the pieces together and divide our pieces into three major blocks – the subsea production system (SPS), the subsea umbilicals, risers and flowlines (SURF) and then the floating, production, storage and offloading (FPSO) vessel,” the CEO mentioned.
 
He explained that although the company had “framed agreements to be copied from Aker BP,” our sister company in Norway, for the SPS and the SURF, that of the FPSO was different, given that it would be a purpose-built vessel.
 
“For the FPSO, we took the work that was done by Hess and we started. All the technical considerations have been completed and closed, and then we started the commercial process,” he said.
 
He explained that the bid for the FPSO was opened in early April, with the evaluation currently ongoing; with the hope that it would be completed by the end of the year.
 
Credit: AfricanNews.Com
Published in News Economy

In sub-Saharan Africa, over 55% of the urban population are estimated to live in areas categorised as slums and informal settlements.

These slums and informal settlements are largely the physical manifestations of urban inequality, socially and economically. They embody the exclusion of poor urban households from cities’ formal economy and its environmental amenities like green spaces.

People living in these areas are also more vulnerable to the impacts of extreme weather events associated with climate change.

Waste collection is poor, so pollution levels are high. This means that slums have a negative effect on natural ecosystems. Their presence can cause environmental degradation and deplete natural resources such as timber.

In other words, slums represent an intertwining of the socio-economic and environmental problems of urbanisation. But many government attempts to upgrade slums in Africa focus largely on the environmental issues and ignore the social and economic dynamics. Studies in Addis Ababa and Nairobi have shown that people moved from slums into new housing experience a loss of community connection and in some cases cannot afford life outside the slum.

This was echoed in research I conducted in an area called Cosmo City outside Johannesburg, South Africa. People who had been moved there from an informal settlement felt less safe and were battling financially.

My findings, and those from Kenya and Ethiopia, suggest that a community oriented approach is necessary. Merely moving people without taking their social and economic concerns into consideration is not the way to deal with the issue of urban slums.

Case studies

The Ethiopian government’s current approach is to clear slums and develop new housing in their stead. Households are relocated from shacks in slums to newly developed high-rise apartments. A recent study examined the environmental and social aspects of this clear-and-redevelop approach in Arat Kilo slum and the Ginfle high-rise apartments in Addis Ababa.

The study found that the move had some environmental benefits. It marginally reduced the amount of resources consumed by households, particularly water and energy (apart from gasoline). There was also a small reduction in the quantity of solid, liquid and gaseous waste generated.

But the high-rise apartments were strikingly less liveable. The study found that while 80% of those interviewed felt happy living in the slum, only 50% were happy in the high-rise flats. And 95% felt secure in the slum – but only 7% felt the same way in the new apartments. Trust also declined: 97% said they’d trusted their neighbours in Arat Kilo but only 34% trusted their neighbours in the new apartments.

Kenya’s government takes a similar approach to Ethiopia’s through its Slum Upgrading Programme. It constructs high-rise blocks of flats to replace slums.

Over the years, since 2010, portions of Kibera – which is Nairobi’s largest slum have been cleared and households relocated. Most recently, Kibera residents have been moved into 822 housing units within 21 blocks of 4-storey buildings in Soweto East, a zone of the slum. There are plans to develop another 2072 housing units on cleared parts of Kibera in the next few years.

But about half of those who officially received houses in the new apartments in Soweto East no longer reside there. These units have either been given away, sold or rented out.

One beneficiary told the study’s author that she still buys her groceries in the slum because it’s cheaper. She also spends her weekends in slum, visiting her friends and neighbours there. She has lived in the apartment for about three years and doesn’t know any of her neighbours.

This all suggests that Kenya and Ethiopia’s governments are ignoring social and economic factors when relocating people from slums.

In South Africa, where I recently conducted a study, qualifying households within informal settlements are relocated to new fully subsidised houses on a serviced plot in newly established areas.

Beginning from 2005, almost 3000 households were relocated from Zevenfontein informal settlement to a new housing development called Cosmo City. The two areas are about 11 kilometres apart. I found that the residents loathed some aspects of the new neighbourhood. One woman told me:

Zevenfontein was better than Cosmo City because here money speaks… There, I can fetch wood from the bush and come to cook. Here, being unemployed is a challenge because you use electricity… Some people will say that Cosmo City is better because there is electricity here but the crime is too high. One is not free.

Her concerns were echoed by other people I interviewed.

Community engagement

Only the Addis Ababa case study showed some environmental benefits. All three examples came with social and economic downsides for residents. It is important for any upgrading of slums and informal settlements to not only improve environmental quality, but also to boost people’s overall quality of life.

One way to achieve this is for every slum upgrading project to be fair, inclusive, empowering and to include those it will affect. Productive community involvement is crucial. Empowering poverty alleviation programs are necessary as well as those which harness social capital in existing and new communities.

 

Olumuyiwa Adegun, Lecturer, Department of Architecture, Federal University of Technology, Akure

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

Published in Opinion & Analysis

Government officials, arms merchants and corporations have spirited away millions of dollars from destitute West African nations through offshore tax havens, an investigation by journalists from the region and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has found.

Offshore companies were set up for a global engineering firm that avoided paying millions in taxes to Senegal, one of the world’s poorest countries; for a little-known entrepreneur who won a contract to build West Africa’s largest slaughterhouse and for a well-connected arms trafficker from Chad. In several cases, the companies, as well as the companies’ transactions and offshore bank accounts, were not declared or are only now being revealed in more detail.

The findings were drawn from a collection of almost 30 million documents, representing several leaked financial records obtained by and shared with ICIJ since 2012.

For poor regions of the world like West Africa, the use of shell companies, tax evasion, aggressive tax planning, tax havens and offshore bank accounts can be dramatic.
Brigitte Alepin

From Cape Verde’s islands of white-sand beaches and rocky volcanoes to Niger’s vast deserts, West African countries are plundered by companies and individuals, while governments do little to stem the flow.

West Africa accounts for more than one-third of an estimated $50 billion that leaves the continent untraced or untaxed each year, according to the United Nations. Overall, a combination of corruption, drug, human and weapons trafficking and other furtive import and export activities strip Africa of three to 10 times as much as it receives in foreign aid.

“For poor regions of the world like West Africa, the use of shell companies, tax evasion, aggressive tax planning, tax havens and offshore bank accounts can be dramatic” in the deprivation and suffering it creates, said Brigitte Alepin, professor of taxation at the Université du Québec. “These countries are in need of public finances, and these losses of tax revenues affect the basic services they can offer to their citizens.”

The money reappears in safe deposit boxes in European banks, as equity in high-rise New York condos and smooth limestone Parisian apartment buildings, far from the collapsing hospitals and other buildings of West Africa. It also fills wealthy investors’ pockets.

ICIJ partnered with 13 journalists on West Africa Leaks to investigate high-profile individuals and powerful corporations in the region. The investigation included journalists from six countries where reporters hadn’t before examined files pertaining to the individuals and businesses.

The source material is millions of files that make up ICIJ’s four offshore databases: Offshore LeaksSwiss LeaksPanama Papers and Paradise Papers.

From the Mali presidential election

The leaked records include the secretive Persian Gulf real estate plans of a candidate in this year’s Mali presidential election; the Swiss bank account of an intimate friend of Togo’s hereditary dictatorship who manages the country’s overseas real estate; and a Seychelles foundation directed by the childhood friend of Liberia’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning former president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

Often the offshore documents paint only a partial picture of the secretive financial affairs of prominent and wealthy West African individuals and businesses. In several cases, emails, spreadsheets and contracts don’t explain why a shell company was created or how much money was held in a far-flung offshore bank account.

Yet the files provide rare insights about untouchable potentates who have long benefited from weak tax enforcement and supine courts in countries that struggle to hold them to account.

While several European nations have recovered small fortunes hidden offshoreby citizens and companies exposed by previous ICIJ leaks, no African country has confirmed recovering a cent after previous revelations from these offshore troves.

Ousmane Sonko, a former Senegalese tax inspector who is now a member of parliament, said many West African tax authorities are doubly plagued: They don’t have the means to investigate complex foreign transactions, and, when investigators do make headway, politicians find ways to torpedo their small successes.

Sonko said the situation is made worse by general ignorance of the importance of corporate tax – or any tax – to society.

“When people don’t even understand what taxes are, acting on something like the Paradise Papers is challenging,” Sonko said.

“If you talk about ‘tax havens’ in some countries in Africa, people will look at you and think you’re insane.”

In the Central African country of Chad, David Abtour, who married the sister of an ex-wife of President Idriss Déby, set up two companies after becoming involved in a helicopter deal with Chad’s armed forces.

Abtour teamed up with the air force chief of staff to help Chad buy Russian helicopters in 2006, French journalist Jacques-Marie Bougret reported. It was the beginning of a lucrative association between Chad’s leaders and Abtour.

Chad, which has been identified as one of the world’s 10 least developed countries, was at the time fighting Sudanese-backed rebel groups. In April 2006, rebels and government forces clashed close to Chad’s National Assembly palace in fighting that killed hundreds.

Chad’s army crushed the rebels, who had launched the attack from Sudan’s Darfur region, with tanks and attack helicopters – weaponry that proved critical in the scrappy, small-scale conflict.

At the time, Chad was declared the most “highly corrupt” country in Transparency International’s global corruption rankings. Deby’s government starved schools, roads and hospitals while lavishing millions of dollars on the military.

Politicians and rebels quarreled over a billion-dollar tax windfall from Chad’s oil boom, exacerbating instability. “Chadians are watching to see who will try to take the money, and how,” a New York Times guest columnist wrote in 2007.

From operating bases in Chad, Dubai and Paris, Abtour and his contacts provided Chad with ammunition in 2007, according to Bougret. Abtour fell out of favor in 2008, Bougret reported, after Chad’s prime minister replaced the head of defense.

The next year, Abtour set up two shell companies in Panama, according to the Panama Papers. One company, Bickwall Holdings Inc., had a bank account in Switzerland with HSBC Private Bank. The other, Tarita Management Corp., used UBS. In both cases, the companies were set up to issue shares to Abtour in a way that kept his identity concealed. Panamanian lawyers at Mossack Fonseca held no information on the activities of the two companies, which were closed in 2013.

Abtour did not reply to requests for comment.

 

In Niger, emails and contracts from ICIJ’s Offshore Leaks investigation show, a little-known New Zealand operator signed a $31.8 million contract with officials to build West Africa’s most modern refrigerated slaughterhouse. Livestock is central to Niger’s culture and accounts for 14 percent of all goods and services produced.

The slaughterhouse was started but not completed. Nine years, three court cases and one coup d’etat later, it is unclear how much Niger paid for the nonexistent slaughterhouse, why an obscure offshore company won the region’s most lucrative livestock-related deal and whether any of the earnings were ever taxed.

According to Niger’s prime minister at the time, Seyni Oumarou, the company, Agriculture Africa, and the operator, Bryan Rowe, were chosen for their “expertise and know-how” and “global reputation.”

“Never heard of them,” said professor David Love, a slaughterhouse management and construction expert who works with international organizations and national governments, including in Africa.

Rowe set up seven companies in the British Virgin Islands, including Agriculture Africa Ltd., according to the documents, leaked from the British Virgin Islands. Agriculture Africa Ltd. was created in February 2009, and he signed the contract two months later.

Rowe, whose background is primarily in emerging market telecommunications, told ICIJ that only Agriculture Africa and Global Development Holdings International Ltd. became operational.

Rowe said that progress on the slaughterhouse was on schedule until a military junta overthrew the government in February 2010. Construction stopped. The new leaders refused to pay Agriculture Africa’s bills for work completed since 2009, Rowe said. He declined to say how much the company had been paid, citing confidentiality. Nor did he explain why he chose to create the companies offshore.

Rowe said that he had won three court cases in Niger seeking payment for work completed to date but that the judgments had not been enforced.

The Niger government did not respond to questions about the slaughterhouse.

Lack of responsiveness was one of myriad challenges faced by reporters during the five-month West Africa Leaks project.

Recurrent, lengthy and erratic power and internet outages hobble reporting in many countries in West Africa. Nigeria averages nearly 33 blackouts a month, many lasting eight hours or more. Another problem is the limited access to even the most benign documents or communications, and government agencies and politicians – even presidential candidates – regularly refuse to comment.

Several ICIJ partners felt pressure to halt publication of their findings from business leaders who threatened to withdraw newspaper advertising. Reporters also struggled with unreliable, essential equipment to do their jobs. Two reporters worked on computers whose malfunctions blacked out at least one-third of their screens.

ICIJ partnered with the Norbert Zongo Cell for Investigative Journalism in West Africa (CENOZO), a West African nonprofit that supports regional collaborations and receives funding from philanthropist billionaire George Soros’ Open Society Initiative for West Africa.

To Liberia’s former president

Despite the difficulties, reporters connected many West African power players to offshore accounts and companies. For instance, Liberia’s first female pharmacist, Clavenda Bright-Parker, was the sole shareholder and director of a Seychelles company, Greater Putu Foundation Ltd., according to Panama Papers documents.

Liberia’s first female pharmacist Clavenda Bright-Parker (front row, far right), and former Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, seated in the middle.
 
Ellen Johnson Sirelaf and Clavenda Bright-Parker

Bright-Parker went to elementary school with former Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. As teenagers, at the cinema one evening, Bright-Parker introduced the future president to her future husband and later took part in Johnson Sirleaf’s wedding as maid of honor. Bright-Parker was also a personal envoy of the president and was appointed chairwoman of Liberia’s medical regulatory agency.

The Panama Papers do not describe the specific purpose of Greater Putu Foundation Ltd. or disclose whether the company had a bank account.

Bright-Parker’s offshore role in Greater Putu Foundation coincided with disagreements between a Canada-based company in charge of the Putu iron ore mine and Liberia’s government.

Canada’s Mano River Resources signed a deal to develop the mine in 2005 and later sold its interest to the Russian global steel and mining company Severstal. Residents and members of parliament have long complained that the owners of the mine did not deliver on promises for development.

Mano River Resources’ co-founder, Guy Pas, did not describe Bright-Parker’s work in detail but told ICIJ in an email that Bright-Parker “came recommended to take up this role” with the Putu mine to “defend its interest at the highest level” against ministerial pressure to have a larger mining company take over the project.

“Dealing with the Ministry was sometimes ‘complicated’,” Pas wrote, adding that government officials never asked for money.

Reached by telephone, Bright-Parker said she had no knowledge of the Seychelles company and asked reporters to call back for more details. She did not respond to further calls or to emailed questions. Johnson Sirleaf said she was not aware of Greater Putu Foundation Ltd. and never discussed the Putu mine with her friend.

Other West African findings from the offshore files examined by reporters highlight techniques that profitable foreign companies use to reduce tax payments that could otherwise be owed.

Canada’s SNC-Lavalin, one of the world’s largest construction firms, benefited from a controversial treaty to avoid paying up to $8.9 million in taxes to Senegal.

SNC-Lavalin used a Mauritius company with no employees and no office as a conduit for $44.7 million in payments from a Senegal company throughout 2012. The payments were for SNC-Lavalin work to build a mineral sands processing plant.

Usually, Senegal would have collected 20 percent in withholding taxes on the payments, according to tax experts. But a treaty between Senegal and Mauritius allows multinationals such as SNC-Lavalin to avoid taxation on payments made through a company registered in Mauritius.

The company said it “structures its business in a tax efficient manner while remaining compliant with all applicable tax laws.” It denied making use of Mauritius to benefit from the tax treaty and said that it balances the obligation to pay taxes against its responsibilities to shareholders.

Not a beneficiary of this tax efficiency? Senegal.

‘Our wealth is sold off to rich multinationals’

“We’re one of the 25 poorest countries in the world,” said Ousmane Sonko, the Senegalese parliamentarian. “Our hospitals and schools have dirt floors,” Sonko said, “and our young men take rickety boats across the ocean to reach Europe.”

“We have the potential,” Sonko said. “But our wealth is sold off to multinationals that are already extremely rich and whose home countries are also rich.”

African countries are 20 years behind their European and North American peers in stemming tax abuse, experts say. But there a movement to stop, or at least slow, the flood of cash from leaving the continent.

In March, an organization called the West African Tax Administrations Forumlaunched a regional campaign to improve cooperation between governments and to crack down on tax abuse. In a crowded Nigerian hotel conference room with tiger-stripe carpets, officials sat beside their national flags and discussed how to achieve their goals.

Officials had a lot to chew on, one panelist said, and there was much work to do. Before the attendees dispersed for evening celebrations, the organization’s executive secretary, Nigeria’s Babatunde Oladapo, sounded optimistic.

“Like I always say, we are all partners in progress. We are here because together we believe we can do it.”

Contributors to this story: Moussa Aksar and Alloycious David

This article was originally published on: International Consortium of Investigative Journalists

Published in Economy

  1. Opinions and Analysis

Calender

« June 2018 »
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