Kingsley

Kingsley

South African tourism minister warned against the escalating violence between Uber and meter-taxi drivers, saying this affects the tourism industry.

"In addition to the needless destruction of property and threat on human life, the general mood of uncertainty implicit in the violence threatens the stability of the tourism industry on which thousands of jobs are reliant," Tokozile Xasa said in response to the recent attack on Uber operators.

Violence flared up again between Uber and meter-taxi drivers following the burning of two vehicles belonging to Uber drivers in Johannesburg.

Over the past several months, several people have been killed in violence related to the rivalry between meter-taxi and Uber drivers. Uber Sub-Saharan Africa has launched a petition calling on Transport Minister Joe Maswanganyi and Police Minister Fikile Mbalula to take action to curb the violence.

The violence between the meter taxicab and Uber operators is injurious to the two since even local passengers would eventually stop patronizing either if the violence continued, Xasa said.

"In this context, it is self-evident that the operators are cutting off their noses to spite the faces," she said. For any domestic or international tourist, the sense of security is as important as the ordinary citizen, said the minister.
"However, both the meter taxicab and Uber operators need to bear in mind the fact that whereas as citizens, our relationship with South Africa is not one of choice, tourists can elect to visit one place and not another and one country instead of another," Xasa said.

She urged the two transport operators urgently to engage in dialogue, the better to find lasting solutions to their disagreements. "No one's life must continue to be placed in danger because two operators are in disagreement with one another. This must stop!" she said.

 

Credit: Xinhua

Former soccer star George Weah won the first round of Liberia’s presidential election with 38.4 percent of the vote, 10 points ahead of Vice President Joseph Boakai who will face him in a run-off next month, the electoral commission said on Thursday.

Liberians are slowly waking up to the prospect of the only African ever to win FIFA World Player of the Year and the Ballon d‘Or replace Nobel Peace Prize winner Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as their leader.

Weah, 51, has served as a senator from the opposition Congress for Democratic Change since 2015, after returning home from an international soccer career to immerse himself in politics. As a political novice in 2005 he lost to Johnson Sirleaf in a presidential election.

The official final results showed Boakai, representing Johnson Sirleaf’s ruling Unity Party, had won 28.8 percent of the vote, putting the two frontrunners comfortably ahead of a large field of mostly minor candidates.

Lawyer Charles Brumskine, who says the vote was rigged despite observers calling it fair, came third with 9.6 percent.

“King George”, as Weah’s supporters call him, is wildly popular among the youth and the disenfranchised, especially in the shanties of the rundown seaside capital Monrovia. Many of them feel they have not benefited from Liberia’s post-war recovery, a sentiment that has counted against Boakai.

But Weah has so far been light on policy and will face a tough time meeting high expectations in a difficult economic climate of low prices for the commodities that are Liberia’s main exports.

Johnson Sirleaf, a former finance minister who worked for Citibank and the World Bank during years in exile after fleeing Liberia during a coup, was awarded the 2011 Nobel for shoring up peace after a 15-year civil war that ended in 2003. Many Liberians credit her with creating the conditions that allow this election to bring Liberia’s first democratic transfer of power for seven decades. But she has not managed to effectively tackle corruption or lift millions out of poverty.

An Ebola outbreak ravaged the economy and a drop in the price of iron ore only made things worse. Poor roads still leave most of rural Liberia stranded during the rainy season, and few Liberians have grid power outside the main cities.

 

(Reuters)

Before Kenya’s August 8 general election, opposition candidate Raila Odinga promised to be a transitional, one-term president. Uhuru Kenyatta, meanwhile, was gunning for a second and final term. Both candidates’ political legacies were at stake.

But the nullification of the presidential election has thrown Kenya into uncharted territory. It’s been made even more unpredictable by Odinga’s withdrawal from the repeat election slated for October 26.

Odinga withdrew because, he claimed, the election commission refused to meet nine demands he made as preconditions for a credible fresh election after the August 8 poll was invalidated by the Supreme Court.

The political uncertainty is having a negative impact on the country’s economy, as well as its political stability.

The hard-line positions adopted by both sides have created a deep rift between the supporters of Kenyatta’s Jubilee party and Odinga’s National Super Alliance. To make matters worse, the police have repeatedly used excessive force to contain National Super Alliance protesters who have clashed with Jubilee supporters during demonstrations.

These protests could very easily escalate into tribal violence given the ethnically divisive nature of Kenyan politics.

Election commission to blame

Kenya’s current political crisis can be attributed to the ineptness of the electoral commission. The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission mishandled the August 8 election. After the Supreme Court invalidated the poll, infighting among commissioners dented the commission’s image even further. The court found the commission committed grave irregularities and illegalities during the August election.

The commission has also aligned itself with the Jubilee Party. For its part, the party has often shielded the electoral body from criticism. For example it blamed the Supreme Court for invalidating the election. All this entrenches the notion that the commission is not exercising an independent mandate.

The commission has focused too much on short term political stability. It hasn’t considered the impact of another bungled election on Kenya’s long term democratic gains. It was given 60 days by the Supreme Court and the country’s Constitution to hold a second poll, and rushed into this process without any introspection.

And divisions between the commissioners are widening. One of them, Roselyn Akombe, has resigned and says the commission’s partisan nature makes it impossible for the body to hold a credible poll. Wafula Chebukati, the commission’s chairman, responded to Akombe’s resignation by saying he can’t guarantee that his team can hold a credible election.

All this suggests that the commission could make the same mistakes it did leading up to August 8 and that the second poll will also be a sham. This would drag Kenya further into political turmoil and lead to more economic strain on the country.

Immovable positions

Unlike its opposition, the ruling Jubilee party is keen to participate in the October 26 election. It even used its majority in both houses of Parliament to push through amendments to the election laws.

These amendments dilute the electoral commission chairman’s power and also give priority to manual voting over electronic processes. Confusion over manual processes played a large role in pushing Kenya into post-election violence during the contested 2007 polls.

Jubilee has not consulted widely on these amendments, and has been widely condemned for pushing through changes to election law so close to the second poll. The changes all appear to be knee-jerk reactions to the Supreme Court’s ruling, and a push to ensure Kenyatta bags a second term.

Meanwhile, Odinga and his party have maintained that elections will not be conducted on October 26. To add fuel to the political fire, the coalition he leads has escalated its weekly demonstrations to daily countrywide protests.

Political solution

The next stage of this battle is likely to play out in the Supreme Court. The National Super Alliance still has the option to return to court to either stop the October 26 poll or challenge its outcome.

But the solution to Kenya’s ongoing constitutional crisis is not legal. It is political. The country is deeply divided along ethnic and political lines. If the electoral commission goes ahead with an election that doesn’t include Odinga, the process is likely to be deemed illegitimate.

It’s obvious that the electoral commission has been captured by partisan politics. It is operating in a hostile political environment and there is enormous division in its ranks.

In the worst case scenario, Kenya could degenerate into the kind of ethnicised election violence last seen in 2007. The feeling of disenfranchisement among some ethnic communities, who have felt marginalised by successive regimes since independence, has once again emerged in public discourse.

Assessing statements made by the electoral commission in recent days it’s clear that it’s unable to hold a credible election. On the other hand another legal battle would only drag the country into further political uncertainty.

What’s clear therefore is that a political settlement is needed to reconstitute the electoral body before holding a fresh election. This might involve forming a caretaker government to give the electoral commission time to effect the necessary reforms.

 

Sekou Toure Otondi, PhD Candidate, Department of Political Science and Public Administration, University of Nairobi

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

There’s a great deal hanging on South Africa’s 2017 medium term budget policy statement. Three factors are at play: there is political turmoil around the governing African National Congress, the country’s economy is performing poorly and this is the first budgetary statement from the new Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba. The Conversation Africa’s Sibonelo Radebe asked Jannie Rossouw to layout his expectations.

What keeps you up at night in relation to this medium term budget?

The single most worrying factor is the lack of economic growth South Africa faces. Growth has slowed down significantly in recent years and the economy flirted with recession after shrinking during the last quarter of last year and the first quarter of this year. The economy did bounce back into positive growth during the second quarter but the outlook remains unimpressive. Only 0.5% growth is expected for 2017 and less than 2% over the medium term.

Owing to this lack of growth, unemployment is on the increase – it now stands at a staggering 27% – while government revenue is under pressure. It also implies that the government’s burden on the economy (for instance total government debt as percentage of gross domestic product, orDebt/GDP ratio) will increase.

Government’s debt to GDP ratio is currently budgeted to level out around 50%. This is to be welcomed because any increase in the ratio increases the interest burden.

But if slow growth and revenue shortfalls persist, government debt will increase. The debt to GDP ratio will be on its way to 65% of GDP in the medium term.

And should the combination of low growth and growing government expenditure continue after the period of this medium term statement (2017/18 - 2020/21), the debt/GDP ratio might be on its way to 100%. This projection really stresses one of the most worrying factors that has to be addressed in this statement: Limiting the level of government debt before it reaches this level.

In other countries where this level has been exceeded, severe adjustments had to be forced on their economies. Take the Irish Republic case. Remuneration levels and employment numbers in the civil service had to be cut dramatically to deal with the Irish government debt crisis.

There is a new finance minister in place and he comes with shifting political dynamics. How do you rate him and what do you expect from him?

It is difficult to rate the new minster, given that he’s only been in the job since April and the fact that he has not yet tabled his first budgetary statement. The only statement against which his performance can really be assessed is the 14-point plan he announced in July 2017.

We’ll be watching the medium term statement for his report back on progress in implementing it.

But Gigaba comes with worrying political dynamics, including accusations that he is party to corruption.

And its difficult to separate him from the history of bad policy options of the African National Congress which has delivered the prevailing lacklustre economic performance. The fiscal crisis facing South Africa is a direct result of these policies.

How significant is the medium term budget policy statement?

It’s very important as it provides an overview of government’s plans for expenditure and for raising revenue over the next three years. A three year view is significant because it provides insight into planned government expenditure and indicates expected tax increases that South African taxpayers have to face. It also informs decisions of the credit rating agencies about South Africa’s fiscal stability.

The statement forms the basis of the annual budget of government revenue and expenditure that is tabled in Parliament in February each year.

The statement is the first formal opportunity after the tabling of the annual budget where the government reports on the actual performance of revenue raised in comparison to budgeted revenue and of actual expenditure in comparison to budgeted expenditure.

This reporting by government gives an early indication of expectations for the main budget in February. For instance, if government revenue is underperforming, the expectation is that taxes will be increased the following February. Indeed a tax increase might materialise in this medium term statement.

What in you view will be key focus areas in this medium term statement?

As South Africa’s economic growth is currently lower than the forecast used for the 2017/18 fiscal year, tax collection has come under pressure. A revenue shortfall is expected for this fiscal year. The medium term statement is when the size of the shortfall will be formally disclosed.

Given expectations of a substantial shortfall, South Africans should brace themselves for substantial tax increases in the main budget in February 2018. The fiscal crisis might even be so serious that the government might decide to divert from previous practice and announce tax increases in this medium term statement.

Like any other government in the world, it raises revenue through taxes and use this revenue to fund its expenditure. If revenue exceeds expenditure, the difference must be borrowed, which adds to the level of government debt, or expenditure must be cut.

One of the biggest budgetary headaches is the ailing state owned enterprises. What should be done?

Government is really throwing good money after bad by using public money to bailout ailing state owned enterprises. I have said a long time ago that South African Airways should simply be given away. This is a much cheaper option for the taxpayer instead of never ending bailouts. The South African government should reassess its holding of state owned enterprises and close, sell or give away those that are no longer financially viable. Such action will remove a large financial burden on the South African taxpayer.

 

Jannie Rossouw, Head of School of Economic & Business Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand

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

Africa Finance Corporation (AFC) has this month become the 30th member of the Master Cooperation Agreement (MCA) at the World Bank's Annual Meetings in Washington DC.

Created by the International Finance Corporation's (IFC) in 2009, the MCA seeks to enhance cooperation among member development finance institutions (DFIs). Aside to AFC, other MCA signatories include the UK's CDC Group, the Netherland's FMO and Sweden's Swedfund.

In addition to increased collaboration with other MCA signatories, AFC stands to benefit in several ways through this accession. This includes an increased deal flow and access to a robust pipeline of project opportunities, increased administrative efficiencies and deal processing, as well as AFC's overall enhanced relationship with IFC itself.

Andrew Alli, President and Chief Executive Officer of AFC, commented "AFC has long believed in the efficacy of collaboration in accelerating infrastructure development. It is why we have done so on a number of occasions with sister organizations, including KFW, the German DFI, just last year to finance projects in our core sectors.

"In acceding to the MCA, we are demonstrating our commitment to establishing further collaboration with our peers that will ensure we close Africa's infrastructure gap at an expedited rate."

Jingdong Hua, Vice President and Treasurer of IFC, commented on the announcement: "The MCA was founded in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis to facilitate large-scale infrastructure projects, and it has demonstrated significant capacity to deliver results for Africa."

"We are therefore delighted to welcome AFC as a signatory to the MCA, and look forward to enhanced cooperation, both in terms of fundraising, as well as building a set of projects pipelines across AFC's five sectors."

The official signing ceremony took place on 13 October 2017, on the sidelines of the 2017 World Annual Meetings in Washington D.C., USA.

AFC is committed to proactively financing and managing the development of key infrastructure projects which will have a positive impact on the lives of Africans throughout the continent. To date the Corporation has invested approximately US$ 4 billion in projects across 28 countries and in a wide range of sectors including power, telecommunications, transport and logistics, natural resources and heavy industries.

Over 1000 companies expressed interest in 17 categories of projects for the 2017 capital projects of the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC). The Managing Director of the NRC, Engr. Fidet Okhiria disclosed this on Tuesday while declaring open the process for the opening of bids for the projects.

The formal opening of bids held at the corporate headquarters of the NRC in Lagos had representatives of firms who have bided for one contract or the other in attendance. The MD represented by the Director of Operations, Mr. Niyi Ali said the open bidding was aimed at getting the best firms to carry out the projects lined up for implementation in the 2017 fiscal year.

He assured the companies that the NRC would be fair, transparent and impartial in the bidding process which explains why they have made the process open in line with the Procurement Act of 2004.
The projects include the Procurement of Tools, Equipment and Materials for emergency repairs and maintenance of Tracks; Renovation/Upgrade of Railway Stations and other buildings together with associated facilities (nationwide).

Procurement of Locomotives, Coaches, Wagons, Railway Inspection Vehicles and Cranes (Narrow Gauge and/or Standard Gauge); Procurement/Rehabilitation and Installation of equipment for Mechanical/Electrical, Security, Printing, Operations, Civil and ICT facilities; Generation of Alternative Revenue for the Corporation, Insurance Services, among others.

 

Source: DAILY TRUST NG

More than 300 people were killed and at least 500 injured on October 14 when a truck bomb exploded in a crowded intersection in Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital. The attack is being called the worst in the history of the city, a particularly alarming statistic considering that the capital has regularly been the scene of violent conflict since the collapse of the Somali state in 1991.

No one has yet officially claimed responsibility for the attack, although the Guardian reported that a man, detained when he tried to drive a second vehicle loaded with explosives into the capital, told security officials that the rebel group Al-Shabaab was responsible.

Al-Shabaab is a terrorist group that has been fighting against the federal government of Somalia since late 2006. It is an extremist Islamist group with ties to Al-Qaeda, working to include Somalia in an international jihad. Its strength has waxed and waned in the intervening decade. Since 2011, when it staged what it called a “tactical withdrawal” from Mogadishu, its activities in the capital have mainly consisted of suicide bombings, detonations of improvised explosive devices and targeted assassinations of political figures.

Its capabilities in Mogadishu, as in nearly all Somali cities, are held in check by the combined forces of the African Union-backed AMISOM peacekeeping force and the Somali Federal Security Forces. But Somalia’s military is notoriously weak, hampered by the fact that it is made up of a collection of clan militias seconded to the national authorities by their leaders, with often weak allegiance to the national project.

Al-Shabaab continues to control large swathes of the Somali countryside, and retains the ability to carry out large-scale attacks. It is playing a long game. In the short term the group is working to thwart the Somali government’s efforts to consolidate its power, but it does not have enough power to defeat the government or to drive it from the capital. In the longer term, Al-Shabaab professes to be working to expel foreign – Western – influence in Somalia and to establish a state based on an extreme reading of sharia law.

The recent explosion was significant for the scale of its devastation and the size of the arsenal contained in the truck. Details of where the explosives for the attack were obtained are yet to emerge, but it’s clear that the operation must have been planned and carried out by a group with considerable organisational power.

Crisis mode

The attack couldn’t have come at a worse time for the federal government of Somalia. A week before, both Somalia’s minister of defence and military chief resigned for reasons that remain unclear. The suspicions are that the two were rivals, but were also frustrated at a lack of support coming from the months-old administration of President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo.

The government is trying to put in place a new Security Pact, agreed in May 2017 at an international conference held at London’s Lancaster House. That plan, which was to see the first of AMISOM’s troops withdrawing in 2018, is very likely to be stalled as a result of the attack.

The attack is also likely to put a damper on the rhetoric rising out of the city in recent years that Mogadishu was becoming safer. With so many innocent civilians affected, the notion that only high-profile politicians or security personnel are at risk is now seriously challenged. This is likely to deter many Somalis from the diaspora as well as those living in refugee camps in neighbouring countries, from returning.

If Al-Shabaab is responsible for the dreadful loss of life, its official silence in the aftermath may be due to the very high number of civilian casualties. One theory is that the truck had been intended to explode outside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but was detonated prematurely by the driver when it was stopped by security officials after getting stuck in traffic. The explosion then ignited a nearby fuel tanker, causing a fireball that destroyed buildings over several hundred metres in the centre of the city. Causing so many civilian casualties is likely to lead to serious and widespread backlash against Al-Shabaab – not the kind of PR they are looking for in their battle to bring down the government.

Resilience and solidarity

Yet amid the horror stories of suffering and loss, small glimmers of hope and resilience have emerged. One of the strongest and most immediate sources of support has been the Somali diaspora. Within hours it mobilised to raise money for Aamin Ambulance, the only free ambulance service in the city, to be able to take the wounded to hospital.

Daallo Airlines, a Somali-owned business, announced that it would transport all relief supplies into the country for free. Other crowdfunded efforts were started to provide support to the families of those affected. These efforts have raised thousands of dollars in just a few days.

International support is coming in many forms too. Djibouti responded by sending its minister of health and 30 doctors to help treat the wounded. Turkey evacuated 35 of the injured to be treated in Ankara, and sent ten tons of medical supplies to Mogadishu. Paris extinguished the lights on the Eiffel Tower on October 16 at midnight, and Toronto’s iconic name sign was illuminated in blue and white to pay respect to those affected.

Once the dust has settled, the fires are extinguished and the loved ones laid to rest, maybe – just maybe – this resilience will be able to grow to ensure that the peace that Somali so desperately needs will come at last.

 

Laura Hammond, Reader in Development Studies, SOAS, University of London

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

Exporters have been urged to improve the quality of their products to meet global appeal, as part of efforts to boost the export trade through initiatives such as the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

Ghana, unlike other sub-Saharan African countries that AGOA targets, has not derived many benefits as anticipated during the initial 15-year period of the United States government initiative - which among others was intended to encourage export-led growth.

Available statistics show that Ghana has struggled to contribute at least one percent to the total AGOA exports.

AGOA, enacted in 2000, also aimed to deepen bilateral relations between the United States of America and sub-Saharan African countries to enhance trade and economic development. It provides a non-reciprocal trade opportunity for eligible sub-Saharan African countries to export over 6,400 products on a quota-free and duty-free basis.

But local exporters, according to the Chamber of Commerce, lack understanding of the operations of AGOA - therefore failing to comply, in many instances, with the quality requirements to fully benefit from this trade policy. The Chief Executive of the Chamber, Mr. Mark Badu-Aboagye, noted that: “Meeting the quality, delivery and pricing of products are key requirements under AGOA, but are also the main challenge facing local exporters”.

He said given the competitiveness of the market, local exporters are expected to “produce goods at a very competitive price, at the quality that is acceptable and at the right delivery time to fully enjoy the benefits of AGOA”.

To address some of these issues, in the face of validity period of the initiative’s current extension from 2015 to 2025, he said the Chamber has entered into a partnership with the USAID to establish an AGOA Trade Resource Centre (ATRC) to build the capacity of existing and potential exporters.

This is expected to position exporters and local businesses to able to export under AGOA. He added that the ATRC has so far organised about 12 workshops to deepen capacity for members of the local export market.

However, he reckoned that there is still much to be done, and other collaborations and strategies being implemented by the Ministry of Trade and Industry will contribute to encourage production for local consumption as well as export. Mr. Badu-Aboagye, who was speaking in an interview during an AGOA sensitisation workshop in Kumasi, also said that with all these attempts to assist local export trade from both the Chamber and government, he anticipates that export revenue will go up in the next five years.

Presently, Ghana exports less than 100 of the 6,400 products allowed for export under AGOA, but the Chamber is optimistic that the exports will go up through awareness-creation and sensitisation programmes being organised for local businesses.

A trade officer of the Ministry of the Trade and Industry in the Ashanti region, Mr. Mamuda Osman, announced that the Trade Ministry has launched the National Export Strategy to ensure that each district in Ghana specialises in at least one exportable product in the country. He explained that the strategy will also ensure the establishment of District Export Committees to provide support services, information on AGOA, and market access to exporters.

“The ministry is also putting in place a clear implementation plan in relation to government’s Ten-Point Agenda for Industrial Transformation to increase Ghana’s export earnings by diversifying our exports on the international markets, of which the US market is no exception.”

He charged exporters to take responsibility to ensure that they export quality products, in their own interests and also to raise the country’s image.

The Ghana government, in this regard, is said to be collaborating with the Japanese government to build the capacities of Business Development Service Providers under the National Board for Small Scale Industries (NBSSI), to enable them to deliver effective business development services to micro, small and medium enterprises. The project is aimed at formulating a strategic model for quality and productivity improvement through the strengthening of BDS for MSMEs in Ghana.

Other facilitators from the USAID and West Africa Trade and Investment Hub took participants through the AGOA requirements and other eligibility processes.

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