Minister for Planning, Professor George Gyan Baffour, has said government is ready to offer its support to business that consistently meet local and international standards.
“To sustain economic growth, government is determined to exploit its strategic resources to propel the aggressive industrial transformational agenda – with strong emphasis on ensuring that various companies in Ghana meet high standards.
“This is vital in transforming the economy’s structure into a value-added one. It is for this reason that government is embarking on an aggressive transformation agenda in the various sectors to promote socio-economic development,” he stated.
He explained that when companies meet global standards, they are able to compete locally and internationally; and this not only brings development and growth to the economy, but also positions Ghana as the most business-friendly and standard-compliant country.
Speaking at the Ghana Business Standards Awards, Professor Gyan Baffour assured the companies of government’s commitment to transforming various business sectors of this nation; and as such this cannot be achieved without making sure the private sector is central to growth of the economy.
“Government is partnering with the private sector, which is seen as the real engine of growth for development. We are of the belief that creating the regulatory, innovative and competitive environment will motivate indigenous Ghanaian companies and entrepreneurs to add more value to what they are already manufacturing, so as to make their products and services competitive to go beyond the boundaries and excel,” he said
Nigeria’s government stands accused of letting down its 201 million residents by failing to complete a gas supply and production agreement that would have transformed their lives. Instead, the country will now have to pay $9bn (£7.4bn) in penalties or risk having its assets seized.
The accusation is being levied at the federal republic by lawyers representing Process and Industrial Developments Ltd (P&ID), a gas supply and engineering company, following a UK court ruling that paves the way for the seizure of assets belonging to Africa’s richest country. The extraordinary figure represents one-fifth of the country’s declared foreign reserves of $45bn.
“Completely wrong and obviously unjustifiable”, were the words used by Nigerian government officials to describe the ruling by a judge in London last week.
But yesterday, lawyers for P&ID vigorously defended their client’s position. A spokesman said: “Nigeria failed to live up to its contractual commitments … The project would have generated 2,000 MW of power for the national grid and could have been transformative for millions of Nigerians. At present, the World Bank estimates that in 2017, only 59% of the country had access to a reliable supply of electricity.”
The decision, at the commercial court, converted a 2017 arbitration tribunal award into a high court judgment, and gives British Virgin Islands-registered P&ID the right to seize $9bn in assets, following the failed gas supply and processing agreement.
The Nigerian government continues to dispute the UK’s jurisdiction to hear the matter, Godwin Emefiele, governor of the country’s Central Bank (CBN), said in an interview with Africa’s Premium Times: “We know that the implication of that judgment has some impact on monetary policy and that is why the CBN is going to step forward and strongly defend the country and the reserves of the federal republic of Nigeria.”
But unless the Nigerian government can reach a last-minute agreement, its assets are at risk. P&ID’s barrister Andrew Stafford QC said: “P&ID is committed to vigorously enforcing its rights, and we intend to begin the process of seizing Nigerian assets in order to satisfy this award as soon as possible.”
The dispute arose in 2010. Brendan Cahill, founder of P&ID, and his late business partner, Michael Quinn, signed a contract with Nigerian ministry officials in which it was agreed that the government would install pipelines and supply the gas that would connect to P&ID’s “state-of-the-art gas processing plant” in Calabar, south-east Nigeria, to be built free of charge to the state.
The intention was to convert wet natural gas to dry gas to power the country’s national electric grid, improving supply. P&ID would sell 15% of the propane, ethane and butane by-products on the international market, with an expectation of generating “$5bn to $6bn in profit over a 20-year period”. In return, Nigeria would receive 85% of the gas at no cost for generating electricity.
In 2012, however, the deal fell through after the Nigerian government allegedly failed to install pipelines or supply the gas. At the heart of the matter, said the government, was the fact that the company did not build the promised processing plants. P&ID claimed it was the government’s conduct that prevented them from fulfilling their side of the agreement.
In a statement to the tribunal, Cahill explained that he had conceived the idea of processing gas from the Calabar region in 2006, after which P&ID “set about the necessary preparatory engineering work”. He alleges that over two years the company invested more than $40m on feasibility studies, licences, drawings and project management costs, before approaching the Nigerians.
Following several years of negotiations, the parties signed the contract in 2010, during the presidency of Umaru Yar’adua. Cahill alleges that the government failed to provide the necessary technical specifications for him to meet his contract and the parties fell into dispute after he discovered the government was engaging with a third party to process the gas.
During the 2015 tribunal, the Nigerian government argued that P&ID’s failure to build the gas processing plant was a fundamental breach of contract, as no gas could be delivered until this was done. The tribunal dismissed their arguments, finding them in breach of contract.
In January 2017, P&ID were awarded $6.6bn and claimed interest at the rate of $1.2m a day, which increased their claim to more than $9bn.
At the commercial court last week, P&ID sought to convert the tribunal’s award to a high court judgment. The Nigerian government contested the hearing, arguing that as the original contract had been signed in Nigeria, an English court had no jurisdiction, describing the tribunal’s award as “manifestly excessive”. Justice Christopher Butcher found in favour of P&ID, enforcing the $9bn award.
The Nigerian government is considering its next move. Emefiele said: “There are sufficient and strong grounds on the basis of which we could file a stay of execution and also an appeal against that judgment. There are certain anomalies in the process leading to the award of that contract which are currently being looked into by the economic and financial crimes commission.”
Responding to comments by Emefiele, lawyers for P&ID told the Guardian the high court judgment was “clear, decisive and consistent with prior legal findings”.
“It determined that compensation must be paid as it failed to uphold its contractual commitments. The tribunal, which included a former attorney-general of Nigeria, unanimously determined that the FRN was at fault for the project’s failure. Their arguments have been comprehensively rejected.”
The matter is still to be settled in the US, where P&ID are seeking permission to enforce the arbitration award. Nigeria’s defence in the US is the same as those just rejected by the English court.
Credit: The Guardian
Since the November 2017 coup that toppled Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe and the elections in 2018, the regime of President Emmerson Mnangagwa has forged two forms of rule. These have been based on coercion on the one hand, and on the other dialogue.
Following the 2018 general elections and the violence that marked its aftermath, the Mnangagwa regime once again resorted to coercion in the face of the protests in January 2019. The protests were in response to the deepening economic crisis in the country, and part of the opposition strategy to contest the legitimacy of the government.
The response of the state to the protests was swift and brutal. Seventeen people were killed and 954 jailed nationwide. In May the state turned its attention to civic leaders, arresting seven for “subverting” a constitutional government. The repressive state response was felt once again on 16 and 19 August, when the main opposition Movement for Democratic Chance (MDC) and civic activists were once again prevented from marching against the rapid deterioration of Zimbabwe’s economy.
These coercive acts represent a continuation of the violence and brutality of the Mugabe era.
At the same time Mnangagwa has pursued his objective of global re-engagement and selective national dialogue. This is in line with the narrative that has characterised the post-coup regime.
In tracking the dialogue strategy of the Mnangagwa government, it is apparent that it was no accident that key elements of it were set in motion in the same period as the agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on a new staff monitored programme.
The purported objective is to move the Zimbabwe Government towards an economic stabilisation programme. This would result in a more balanced budget, in a context in which excessive printing of money, rampant issuing of treasury bills and high inflation, were the hallmarks of Mugabe’s economic policies.
The dialogue initiatives also took place in the context of renewed discussions on re-engagement with the European Union (EU) in June this year.
But, Mnangagwa’s strategy of coercion and dialogue has hit a series of hurdles. These include the continued opposition by the MDC. Another is the on-going scepticism of the international players about the regime’s so-called reformist narrative.
Mnangagwa has launched four dialogue initiatives.
Political Actors: This involves about 17 political parties that participated in the 2018 elections. They all have negligible electoral support and are not represented in parliament. The purported intent is to build a national political consensus. The main opposition party, the MDC, boycotted the dialogue, dismissing it as a public relations exercise controlled by the ruling Zanu-PF.
The Presidential Advisory Council: This was established in January to provide ideas and suggestions on key reforms and measures needed to improve the investment and business climate for economic recovery. This body is largely composed of Mnangagwa allies.
The Matabeleland collective: This is aimed at building consensus and an effective social movement in Matabeleland to influence national and regional policy in support of healing, peace and reconciliation in this region. But it has come in for some criticisms. One is that it has been drawn into Mnangagwa’s attempt to control the narrative around the Gukurahundi massacres. These claimed an estimated 20 000 victims in the Matabeleland and Midlands regions in the early 1980’s. Another criticism is that it has exacerbated the divisions within an already weakened civic movement by regionalising what should be viewed as the national issue of the Gukurahundi state violence.
The Tripartite National Forum. This was launched in June, 20 years after it was first suggested by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions. The functions of this body set out in an Act of Parliament, include the requirement to consult and negotiate over social and economic issues and submit recommendations to Cabinet; negotiate a social contract; and generate and promote a shared national socio-economic vision.
The establishment of the forum could provide a good platform for debate and consensus. But there are dangers. The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions warned of the long history of the lack of “broad based consultation on past development programmes”. It insists that
reforms must never be deemed as tantamount to erosion of workers’ rights.
In assessing the central objectives of the various strands of Mnangagwa’s dialogue strategy, three factors stand out.
The first is that the Political Actors Dialogue, the Presidential Advisory Council and the Matabeleland Collective were developed to control the pace and narrative around the process of partnership with those players considered “reliable”. Major opposition and civic forces that continued to question the legitimacy of the Mnangagwa boycotted these processes.
Secondly, the formal establishment of the long awaited Tripartite National Forum may serve the purpose of locking the MDC’s major political ally, the Zimbabwe Council of Trade Unions, into a legally constructed economic consensus. The major parameters of this will likely be determined by the macro-economic stabalisation framework of the IMF programme.
When brought together, all these processes place increased pressure on the political opposition to move towards an acceptance of the legitimacy of the Mnangagwa regime, and into a new political consensus dominated by the ruling Zanu-PF’s political and military forces, thus earning them the seal of approval by major international forces.
The MDC has responded with a combined strategy of denying Mnangagwa legitimacy, protests as well as calls for continued global and regional pressure. The MDC believes that the continued decline of the economy will eventually end the dominance of the Mnangagwa regime.
As part of its 2018 election campaign, the MDC made it clear it would accept no other result than a victory for itself and Chamisa. That message has persisted and is a central part of the de-legitimation discourse of the opposition and many civic organisations. The MDC has regularly threatened protests since 2018.
The MDCs strategies have not resulted in any significant progress. The hope that the economic crisis and attempts at mass protests to force Zanu-PF into a dialogue are, for the moment, likely to be met with growing repression. Moreover, the deepening economic crisis is likely to further thwart attempts to mobilise on a mass basis.
The EU, for its part, is still keen on finding a more substantive basis for increased re-engagement with Mnangagwa and will keep the door open. Regarding the US, given the toxic politics of the Trump administration at a global level, and the ongoing strictures of the US on the Zimbabwe government, there has been a closing of ranks around a fellow liberation movement in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.
Mnangagwa’s recent appointment as Chair of the SADC Troika on Politics, Peace and Security in Tanzania will only further cement this solidarity.
There is clearly a strong need for a national dialogue between the major political players in Zimbabwean politics. But there is little sign that this will proceed. Moreover, the current position of regional players means that there is unlikely to be any sustained regional pressure for such talks in the near future.
An Angolan ex-transport minister was last week jailed for 14 years for corruption, making him the first high profile official to be convicted since President Joao Lourenco took office two years ago.
The Supreme Court found Augusto da Silva Tomas, who was minister under former leader Jose Eduardo dos Santos, guilty of six counts including corruption, embezzlement, money laundering and abuse of power.
Tomas, who was arrested in September last year, is the first most senior former government official to be convicted and jailed for corruption under president Lourenco who has pledged to curb graft.
Judge Joel Leonardo, handed down what he described as a “fair” sentence after the court found that Tomas and his accomplices “unscrupulously appropriated public money for personal economic and financial gains, emptying the state coffers”.
He was found guilty, along with other officials, of diverting millions of dollars of state funds from the state-owned shipping regulatory organization to their private companies when he was minister during the reign of Dos Santos who ruled Angola for 38 years until 2017.
Dos Santos’s successor, President Lourenco who came to power in 2017 has vowed to fight corruption and rebuild the economy of the second-largest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa.
He has removed many figures associated with the previous regime, including deposing Dos Santos’ daughter, Isabel from the helm of state oil giant Sonangol.