Ebenezer Sasu

Ebenezer Sasu

South African business confidence dipped in December on lower exports, fewer new vehicle sales and a decline in planned construction, a survey showed on Thursday.

The South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s (SACCI) monthly business confidence index (BCI) fell to 95.2 in December from 96.1 in November.

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Seven of the survey’s 13 sub-indices had a negative impact in December, the business body said in a statement.

“The task of restoring the business and investor climate remains a major challenge,” SACCI said, describing the current business climate as “hesitant”.

After a strong start to 2018, business confidence wavered for much of the past year as planned land and mining reforms unnerved investors.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, who faces a critical election this year, is trying to revive the economy after a decade of stagnation, but he has been frustrated by fiscal constraints and infighting in the ruling African National Congress.

“The general assessment is that the present-day administration acknowledges the huge challenges ahead and the role a sound economy could play in addressing it,” SACCI said.

 Source (Reuters)

MTN Group, Africa’s biggest mobile operator, reported a 1.1 percent rise in quarterly user base on Monday, helped partly by strong performances in Nigeria, its largest but increasingly problematic market.

The company said its user base increased by 2.5 million subscribers to 225.4 million users in the quarter ended September, and mobile money customers grew by 1.7 million to 25.8 million users.

Mobile money customers charge their phones with cash, and send it to friends or family via the short message service. These counterparties can then make similar transfers or cash in their credits with pre-approved agents, such as merchants or banks.

MTN is embroiled in a $10.1 billion dispute with the west African country of Nigeria, which has accused the company of illegally sending money abroad.

The telecom firm, which makes about a third of its annual core profit in Nigeria, said the allegations are without merit.

Nigeria’s central bank on Aug. 29 ordered the South African firm and its lenders to bring $8.1 billion back into Nigeria that it alleges the company sent abroad in breach of foreign exchange regulations. MTN also faces a $2 billion tax demand from the country’s attorney general.

“We continue to engage with relevant authorities on these matters. We remain resolute that MTN Nigeria has not committed any offences and will continue to defend this position vigorously,” MTN said while posting the quarterly results.

Reporting by Tiisetso Motsoeneng, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips (Reuters)

Dubai-based Emaar Hospitality Group has signed a deal with the Kalyan Group to manage its landmark property in Sub-Saharan Africa, Address Hotel 2 Février Lomé Togo.

Formerly known as Hôtel 2 Février, Address Hotel 2 Février Lomé Togo is set in a 30-storey tower that is 102 metres high, offering spectacular views of the city and beyond. It is in walking distance of ministerial offices, embassies, banks, corporate offices and 4 miles from the Lomé-Tokoin International Airport.

The company said the Address Hotel 2 Février Lomé Togo will open doors to welcome guests shortly following the rebranding of the property, which was first established in 1980.

The hotel will have 256 rooms and suites and 64 serviced apartments as well as an array of themed restaurants, meeting venues and other attractions.

With free high-speed WiFi, spectacular meeting and event facilities including a ballroom, congress hall and auditorium, luxury spa, open air swimming pool, concierge services and retail shops,

Address Hotel 2 Février Lomé Togo will serve as a refreshing getaway for business and leisure guests. Its presidential suites and apartments are ideal for high profile guests, with features including expansive living rooms and 10-seater dining areas as well as a range of in-room amenities.

Address Hotel 2 Février Lomé Togo is a hotel project under Address Hotels + Resorts, which has six operational hotels in Dubai that are popular among African guests to the city.

Togo marks the sixth international destination for the hotel brand that has upcoming hotel projects in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, Bahrain and The Maldives, in addition to several new openings in the UAE.

The management agreement was signed by Olivier Harnisch, CEO of Emaar Hospitality Group, and Ashok Gupta, CEO of Kalyan Hospitality Development Togo SAU, and Founder and CEO of Kalyan Group, which owns the hotel.

Olivier Harnisch said: “Our management agreement to operate Address Hotel 2 Février Lomé Togo is a significant landmark in our expansion to Sub-Saharan Africa.

“Togo is also strengthening its tourism sector with the goal of increasing the share of the industry from 2 to 7 per cent by 2020 and investing infrastructure upgrades and boosting the industrial sector.”

Ashok Gupta said: “Address Hotel 2 Février Lomé Togo is a prestigious asset in our real estate and hospitality investment portfolio; being entrusted by the Republic of Togo with what is widely regarded as the ‘Jewel of West Africa’.

“A truly historic hotel that also serves as Togo’s landmark, Address Hotel 2 Février Lomé Togo is envisaged to bring a new dimension to hospitality services through our management agreement with Emaar Hospitality Group. Address Hotels + Resorts has demonstrated clear industry leadership through its committed approach to enriching the guest experience. Address Hotel 2 Février Lomé Togo will add to the pride of Togo and serve as a referral point for the hotel industry.”

Emaar Hospitality Group now has 13 operational hotels and three serviced residences in Dubai under Address Hotels + Resorts; Vida Hotels and Resorts, the upscale lifestyle hotel and residences brand; and Rove Hotels, a contemporary midscale hotel and residences brand.

 

The Digital Transformation Congress will take place on 26 July 2018 at the Gallagher Convention Centre, with “Redefining the future organisation through digital” as the running theme of the day. The congress will assemble a variety of industries all in one room, as business leaders and technology innovators come together to shape the future of business and IT through digital transformation.

Included in the event’s selection of world-class speakers is ‘Obama White House digital leader’, Tom Cochran. With nearly 20 years of digital experience, Tom Cochran is a digital transformation consultant and executive keynote speaker (www.thomascochran.com), who’s spent over four years in the Obama administration as a presidential appointee and digital leader helping advance the President’s open government directive.

While serving in government, he ran digital technology for the White House and global diplomacy platforms for the State Department. In the private sector, he’s served as the Chief Digital Strategist and VP, Public Sector for Acquia, helping organizations adopt cloud-based, open-source digital engagement platforms, and he was also the Chief Technology Officer for Atlantic Media (i.e. The Atlantic, Quartz brands). Early in his career, he was a senior software engineer for Blue State Digital, building the platforms which would grow into President Obama’s digital campaign, raising $1.2 billion over two election cycles.

At the Digital Transformation Congress, Cochran will share his exceptional insight and expertise under the keynote topic, “Yes we can. Yes we did. Digital transformation in the Obama White House”.

Other key topics to be discussed include: Digital Transformation: A marriage between public and private sector, Developing a digital transformation roadmap, Business Transformation: Re-thinking business - IT alignment, Digital transformation: From customer-aware to customer-led,  Re-aligning your business model to more effectively engage digital customers, National Transformation: Initiating high-impact digital initiatives, Turning Innovation into Growth: Creating future digital service models, The future of digital experiences.

Key speakers for DigitalTransformationCongress:

• Andrew Atta Darfoor, Group CEO: Alexander Forbes
• Vera Nagtegaal, Executive Head: Hippo.co.za
• Lisa Macleod, Head of Digital: Tiso Blackstar
• Kenny Moodley, Strategic Head: Digital & Social Media at Eskom Holdings SOC
• Sindisiwe Nhlapho Dlamini-Moloi, CIO at Transnet
• Birgitta Cederstrom, Global Commercial Director: Frost & Sullivan
• Lazaros Karapanagiotidis, Head of Digital Innovation: Makro
• Nneka Keshi, Director of Digital Marketing Africa, L’oréal
• Lizelle Vaughan, Director of Digital Strategy: Liberty Group
• Sam Nkosi, CIO: Sasria SOC

For more information about this conference, visit: www.digitaltransformationcongress.com
 
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The World Bank said on Thursday it had given Kenya a $1 billion concessional loan for energy, transport and water infrastructure projects in poorer regions in its north and northeast.
These regions have benefited little from Kenya’s strong economic performance, the World Bank said. The East African economy is seen growing 5.8 percent this year, after electoral turmoil and drought cut last year’s expansion to the lowest level in more than five years.

Most of the money will be spent in the counties of Garissa, Isiolo, Lamu, Mandera, Marsabit, Samburu, Tana River, Turkana, Wajir, and West Pokot which fall below national averages on development indicators, the World Bank said in a statement.

“These infrastructure investments are laying the ground for additional operations that will enable sustainable livelihoods with targeted support to farmers and pastoralists in the region and expanded support to the most vulnerable households through regular cash transfers,” the Bank said.

The funding will go to six projects including an off-grid energy access initiative worth $150 million that the World Bank says will provide electricity to 1.2 million people and contribute 96 megawatts to the national grid.

A further $500 million will go towards a 740 km stretch of the Isiolo-Wajir-Mandera road corridor in the northeast and enhance internet access there.

The average poverty rate in the regions named stands at 68 percent compared with a national average of 36 percent, the World Bank said, while electrification rates there is only 14 percent compared with an estimated 44 to 70 percent nationally.

The new loan is in addition to $1.4 billion the World Bank has already invested in the region in the areas of health, transport, agriculture and social protection.

“Given the significant needs, more needed to be done in a targeted and coordinated manner if the Bank was to support the Government of Kenya in its efforts in the north and northeastern region,” the World Bank said.

Typically, World Bank concessional loans have zero or very low interest rates and have repayments periods of 25 to 40 years, with a five- or 10-year grace period.

Reporting by Omar Mohammed; Editing by George Obulutsa and Hugh Lawson (Reuters)

Tanzania has approached the African Development Bank (AfDB) to finance a 2,100-megawatt (MW) hydroelectric plant in a World Heritage site renowned for its animal population, despite concerns from conservationists.

The East African nation considers the project at Stiegler’s Gorge in the UNESCO-designated Selous Game Reserve to be vital in its bid to diversify its energy mix and end chronic electricity shortages.
The project would more than double the country’s power generation capacity.

 But critics say securing financing for it could prove difficult because construction of a dam on a major river that runs through the Selous Game Reserve could affect wildlife and their habitats downstream.

Tanzania’s finance ministry said in a statement on Saturday that President John Magufuli, who is personally pushing the long-delayed project, made the financing request to AfDB President Akinwumi Adesina during talks in Tanzania’s administrative capital Dodoma over the weekend

The AfDB confirmed that it was reviewing Magufuli’s request but did not say how much the project would cost.

   “President Magufuli is very committed to ensure that the country industrialises, but you cannot industrialise unless you have access to electricity,” Adesina told journalists on Saturday after his talks with the president.

    “The president is very keen to talk to us about the Stiegler’s Gorge project ... he mentioned that to us and we are going to be looking at that with him and the government, but we are also very keen to look at other alternative sources of energy.”

 Adesina said the AfDB plans to work with the Tanzanian government to develop integrated power projects with the private sector.
 Tanzania’s Finance and Planning Minister Philip Mpango said on Saturday that East Africa’s third-biggest economy was also seeking a $200 million loan from the AfDB to build a new airport in Dodoma, and additional financing for the construction of roads.

 The government invited bids in August for the Stiegler’s Gorge project and hopes construction work will begin as early as July.
 Covering 50,000 sq km, the Selous Game Reserve is one of the largest protected areas in Africa, according to UNESCO. It is known for its elephants, black rhinos and giraffes, among many other species.

Reporting by Fumbuka Ng'wanakilala; Editing by George Obulutsa and Andrew Bolton (Reuters)

Kenya’s energy minister ordered the energy regulatory commission to review electricity tariffs after consumer complaints that monthly bills from Kenya Power had jumped in the second half of last year.

Kenya Power is state-controlled and it is the sole electricity distributor and the bulk of its power comes from Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen). The commission, which is the independent regulator for the sector, sets tariffs for Kenya Power.

Energy Minister Charles Keter, whose ministry is represented on the board of Kenya Power, told a news conference that the company was ready to be audited. “We are open for any scrutiny from any quarter.”

A group of Kenyan electricity consumers filed a class action lawsuit against Kenya Power in January, saying that their monthly bills jumped, some tripling, in the second half of last year. A court hearing is set for May.

Reporting by Duncan Miriri; Writing by Maggie Fick; Editing by Alison Williams (Reuters)

Global audit firm KPMG has urged Ivory Coast to introduce a spot sales system for local cocoa exporters who were responsible for defaults on 148,000 tonnes of contracts in the last growing season.

The world’s top producer sells forward the bulk of its anticipated harvest to be able to set a minimum price for farmers at the start of its October-September growing season.

But world market prices fell 40 percent over the course of the 2016/17 season and exporters were unable to honour their commitments to suppliers, forcing Ivory Coast’s cocoa marketing board (CCC) to resell their contracts at a loss.

In a report submitted to the government in March and seen by Reuters on Friday, KPMG said the PMEX/COOPEX exporter group, which includes more than a dozen local export companies, was responsible for two-thirds of the 222,000 tonnes of contracts in default during the 2016/17 season.

The total value of the contract defaults was 399 billion CFA francs ($719.3 million) and the Ivorian government lost 199 billion CFA francs reselling them, the report said.

The defaults came about when PMEX/COOPEX members tried to compete with larger multinational firms and boost revenues by speculating that global cocoa prices would rise rather than locking in contracts, it said.

“Their difficulty getting export permits leads them to take risks,” the report said, adding that PMEX/COOPEX members went from buying 11 percent of forward sold contracts in 2014 to 23 percent in 2017.
It recommended that Ivory Coast no longer sell forward cocoa contracts to small exporters and instead limit them to buying on spot markets, where speculation is limited, sales or in partnership with multinational companies in which they export the beans but the partner buys the contract.

The exporters would earn smaller margins on these kinds of sales, requiring action by the government to boost their access to international contracts, the report said.

CCC officials declined to comment on the report. PMEX/COOPEX members declined to speak on the record but some said on condition of anonymity that they welcomed the report’s recommendations.

“We are in favour of that. We are at 200,000 tonnes currently (of international contracts) but if the government can raise this to 400,000 tonnes, it will allow us to boost local players,” the director of one company said.

“Certain (small exporters) do excellent work ... and show that small local operators can be reliable if they have the chance,” the manager of another company said.

Ivory Coast, which accounts for about 40 percent of global cocoa supply, expects total production for the 2017/18 season of around 2 million tonnes, similar to last season’s record output.

($1 = 554.6900 CFA francs)

Editing by Aaron Ross; Editing by Dale Hudson (Reuters) 

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