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Sunday, 22 December 2019

West Africa’s monetary union has agreed with France to rename its CFA franc the Eco and cut some of the financial links with Paris that have underpinned the region’s common currency since its creation soon World War Two.

Under the deal, the Eco will remain pegged to the euro but the African countries in the bloc won’t have to keep 50% of their reserves in the French Treasury and there will no longer be a French representative on the currency union’s board.

Critics of the CFA have long seen it as a relic from colonial times while proponents of the currency say it has provided financial stability in a sometimes turbulent region.

“This is a historic day for West Africa,” Ivory Coast’s President Alassane Ouattara said during a news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron in the country’s main city Abidjan.

In 2017, Macron highlighted the stabilizing benefits of the CFA but said it was up to African governments to determine the future of the currency.

“Yes, it’s the end of certain relics of the past. Yes it’s progress ... I do not want influence through guardianship, I do not want influence through intrusion. That’s not the century that’s being built today,” said Macron.

The CFA is used in 14 African countries with a combined population of about 150 million and $235 billion of gross domestic product.

However, the changes will only affect the West African form of the currency used by Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo - all former French colonies except Guinea Bissau.

The six countries using the Central African CFA are Cameroon, Chad, Central African Republic, Congo Republic, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, - all former French colonies with the exception of Equatorial Guinea.

The CFA’s value relative to the French franc remained unchanged from 1948 through to 1994 when it was devalued by 50% to boost exports from the region.

After the devaluation, 1 French franc was worth 100 CFA and when the French currency joined the euro zone, the fixed rate became 1 euro to 656 CFA francs.

The agreement follows talks in Nigeria’s capital Abuja on Saturday between West African leaders. Countries in the CFA bloc and other West African nations such as Nigeria and Ghana have for decades debated creating their own currency to promote regional trade and investment.

The CFA franc was born in 1945 and at the time stood for “Colonies Francaises d’Afrique” (French Colonies in Africa).

It now stands for “Communaute Financiere Africaine” (African Financial Community) in West Africa and in Central Africa it means “Cooperation Financiere en Afrique Centrale” (Financial Cooperation in Central Africa).



Published in Bank & Finance

Cameroon’s parliament granted special status on Friday to two English-speaking regions to try to calm a separatist insurgency that has killed 2,000 people, but the separatists said only independence would satisfy them.

The law, passed in a special session of parliament, says the Anglophone Northwest and Southwest regions “benefit from a special status founded on their linguistic particularity and historic heritage”.

It mentioned schools and the judiciary system as part of the special status — a delayed response to protests in 2016 by teachers and lawyers.

Conflict between Cameroon’s army and English-speaking militias seeking to form a breakaway state called Ambazonia began after the government cracked down violently on peaceful protesters complaining of being marginalised by the French-speaking majority.

The insurgency has forced half a million people to flee and presented President Paul Biya with his biggest threat in nearly 40 years of rule.

“This is a law unique in the world,” said senator Samuel Obam Assam, from the ruling Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement, the majority group in the Senate. “It is an answer to our fellow countrymen’s concerns.”

But Jean-Michel Nintcheu, a congressman from the main opposition party, said he did not believe the law would solve the crisis.

“The Anglophones, even the moderate ones, want a federal state. This law is not the result of a dialogue.. we were against it,” he said.

The reforms were recommended at the end of national talks organised by Biya in October to chart a way out of the conflict.

But separatists boycotted that dialogue, saying they would negotiate only if the government released all political prisoners and withdrew the military from the Northwest and Southwest.

“We want independence and nothing else,” said Ivo Tapang, a spokesman for 13 armed groups called the Contender Forces of Ambazonia.

He said the special status made no difference as no law passed in the Cameroonian parliament should be imposed in Ambazonia.

The roots of Cameroonian English speakers’ grievances go back a century to the League of Nations’ decision to split the former German colony of Kamerun between the allied French and British victors at the end of World War One.


Credit: Reuters

Published in Economy

Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris will miss its first Christmas mass since 1803, French officials confirmed on Saturday, as workers continue to repair and rebuild the landmark eight months after a devastating fire.

The cathedral’s press office said midnight mass would still be celebrated on Christmas Eve by rector Patrick Chauvet but it would be held at the nearby church of Saint-Germain l’Auxerrois.

Notre-Dame, part of a UNESCO world heritage site on the banks of the River Seine, was ravaged by the April 15 blaze — losing its gothic spire, roof and many precious artefacts.

Notre Dame Rector Patrick Chauvet will hold alternative mass in a nearby church

The building had remained open for Christmas through two centuries of often tumultuous history — including the Nazi occupation in World War II — being forced to close only during the anti-Catholic revolutionary period in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

President Emmanuel Macron has set a timetable of five years to completely repair the eight-centuries-old structure, which remains shrouded in scaffolding with a vast crane looming over it.

Paris prosecutors suspect criminal negligence and opened an investigation in June, suggesting a stray cigarette butt or an electrical fault could be the culprit.

The culture ministry said in October that nearly one billion euros ($1.1 billion) had been pledged or raised for the reconstruction.

Published in World
Sunday, 22 December 2019 10:33

Lagos: Apapa Customs hits N414bn revenue

The Nigerian Customs Service, Apapa Area Command has generated over N414 billion into the coffer of the Federal Government purse this year.

The revenue is far above its target for the year. This was made known by the controller in charge of the command, Mohammed Abba-Kura.

The controller said that the command’s success story was as a result of the its unusual approach to the process of ease of doing business directive by the Federal government .

Abba-Kura said the ongoing partial closure of borders in some parts of the country contributed to the command’s success in revenue collection.

According to him, import and export activities had increased in Apapa as more shippers now use the port in bringing in and taking out of cargoes.

He disclosed that the command generated N414 billion from January to December 18th 2019 as against N404 billion generated between January to December 2018, which translates into about 111 per cent of the 2019 annual revenue target.

However, he said the command had the highest revenue figure of N42, 726 billion in the month of October, which is the peak of the border closure.

This precedent, according to him, gives credence to positive impacts of the policy, which has reduced incidences of smuggling through the land border and increased legitimate imports through the seaports tremendously.

On anti-smuggling, he said within the period under review, the Command seized a total of 112 containers of various items that flouted import procedures.

He added that most notable among these items are pharmaceutical products, which include tramadol that were imported without necessary approval from regulatory agencies like National Agency for Food Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC).

“Other items include Tomato paste, vegetable oil, ladies and girls fashion wears, expired rice, armored glasses without End User Certificate (EUC) and drilling pipes labelled in foreign language etc. It is pertinent to emphasised here that virtually all these seized items are in gross violation of our extant laws and import guidelines. The Duty Paid Value (DPV) for these seizures stood at N12.8 billion,” Abba-Kura said.

In the area of export, he said the Command recorded high level of compliance on export declaration.

Within the period under review, Uba said the Command also recorded a total of volume 262, 095.09 metric tons of exported goods with Free on Board (FOB) value of $132.760 million.

Published in Business

According to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the total exposure of Deposit Money Banks to the Nigerian economy climbed up to N22.61 trillion in October.

Going by the economic report released by the CBN on Friday, the N22.61 trillion suggests an increase over the September 2019 figure by 0.6%.

Nevertheless, banks’ Loan to Deposit Ratio (LDR), which measures the size of loan/credit facilities granted by banks compared to the customers’ deposit they hold, shrank by 0.3% to 61.9% in the period under review.

On 3rd July 2019, the apex bank had issued a directive, compelling banks to maintain a minimum LDR of 60% by 30th September 2019. The LDR stood at 58.5% at the end of May 2019 and had been increased to 65% for Q4 2019.

The CBN claimed the introduction of the minimum LDR had facilitated the inflow of credit into the economy while hinting that it might be further augmented to 70% in 2020.

The report states: “Commercial banks’ credit to the domestic economy rose by 0.6 per cent to N22.26tn at end-October 2019, compared with the level at the end of the preceding month. The development was attributed to the rise in its claims on the private sector.

“The loan-to-deposit ratio, at 61.9 per cent, was 0.3 percentage point below the level at the end of the preceding month and was lower than the maximum ratio of 80 per cent by 18.10 percentage points.”

The report further indicates that the total liquid assets of banks as of 31st October 2019 was N14.27 trillion, making up 59.3% of their total current liabilities. It states that the liquidity ratio was 0.9 percentage point, lower than that of the month before.

“Total assets and liabilities of commercial banks amounted to N41.42tn at end-October 2019, showing 4.6 per cent increase, compared with the level at the end of the preceding month.

“Funds were sourced, mainly, from increase in unclassified liabilities, and the mobilisation of time, savings and foreign currency deposits,” the CBN said.

It affirmed the funds were used in procuring foreign assets and unclassified assets as well as to boost reserves.

Godwin Emefiele, the apex bank’s chief, observed that the nation’s banking system had improved, claiming that this development resulted from the CBN’s new policy measures especially its reforms on banks’ LDR. He claimed this had raised gross credit by N1.1 trillion between May and October 2019.

Published in Bank & Finance

One of Malawi’s first solar projects has reached financial close after attracting investment volume totaling $67 million USD. Initial site works have begun in Nkhotakota, and construction of the first phase is targeted for completion by March 2020. Once complete, the project will add 46 MW of clean energy to the local power supply.

Developed by UAE-based Phanes Group in collaboration with responsAbility Renewable Energy Holding and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the project was the result of the first Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) signed with Malawi’s national utility (ESCOM) in February 2019. This was Malawi’s first competitive tender in the power sector, and the PPA is projected to last 20 years.

Phanes Group and its partners were awarded the project in May 2017 following an international tendering process which attracted bids from 21 companies globally. Phanes Group will work closely with its partners throughout development of the project: responsAbility is supporting with the provision of equity financing, while also taking on the role of co-developer. OPIC is contributing debt financing, and Natsons is the local development partner.

“This project will empower underserved communities in some of Africa’s poorest regions through access to affordable, reliable, and diversified energy,” commented Tracey Webb, OPIC Vice President for Structured Finance and Insurance. “OPIC is proud to play a role in the growth of Malawi’s budding solar industry, which will advance our efforts to foster prosperity and stability in Sub-Saharan Africa.”

The Nkhotakota project is part of a push by the Malawian government to use solar power to strengthen the country’s electricity infrastructure. Currently only 15% of the population has access to power, and the national capacity is estimated at 362 MW. The new capacity added will make a significant contribution to the government’s target of increasing power access to 30% of the population by 2030.

The project will also move Malawi away from its traditional reliance on hydropower, which currently comprises over 95% of the country’s energy mix. This has left the country vulnerable to droughts, particularly considering a recent drop in the water level of Lake Malawi which has threatened the region’s supply of power. The new plant will address this challenge and play a critical role in securing Malawi’s daytime electricity supply.

Joseph Nganga, Managing Director at responsAbility Renewable Energy Holding remarked: “Access to reliable and affordable electricity is a key prerequisite for economic development - when power is out, organizations either shoulder high opportunity costs from lost output, or resort to much costlier backup power, usually from diesel. Our aim in supporting this project is to simultaneously contribute to climate change mitigation and accelerate the development of Malawi.”

“Lack of power has been a real obstacle to Malawi’s social and economic development,” added Phanes Group’s CEO, Martin Haupts. “This project demonstrates that solar energy offers a viable path to bringing power to those communities which need it most. We are thankful to our partners responsAbility and OPIC, who have been instrumental in realizing our aim to electrify new markets in Africa. We hope the Nkhotakota project will serve as a model for future private investment into the local solar sector.”

Published in Engineering

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison apologised on Sunday for his decision to take an unannounced family holiday to Hawaii in the midst of a bushfire emergency and record-breaking heat.

Morrison came back on Saturday night, having decided to cut his trip short after widespread public criticism and the deaths of two firefighters who were killed battling a “horrendous” blaze south-west of Sydney.

“I have returned from leave and I know that (my holiday) has caused some great anxiety in Australia,” Morrison said at a news conference on Sunday morning, adding that with “the benefit of hindsight” he would have acted differently.

The prime minister’s office was also heavily criticized for declining to confirm Morrison’s whereabouts during the bushfire crisis, which triggered a second state of emergency in New South Wales on Thursday.

The hashtags #WheresScotty and #Morrisonfires trended on Twitter in Australia this week, and a student protest was staged at Morrison’s Sydney residence.

Thank you for doing nothing in Australia and holidaying in Hawaii,” one of the young protesters said in Facebook Live video posted by rally organizers Schools Strike 4 Climate.

Upon his return, Morrison said that he can “accept the criticism.”

“For those Australians I caused upset to, I apologize for that,” he said.

This week, Australia experienced its hottest days on record with the Bureau of Meteorology recording a national average temperature of 41.9 degrees Celsius on Wednesday and 41.0 degrees on Thursday.

Several thousand firefighters continue to battle dozens of out-of-control bushfires in four of Australia’s states.

Published in Travel & Tourism
Sunday, 22 December 2019 06:39

Tanzania: $3m Invested in Tourism Venture

The fifth Phase Government's efforts to open up remote areas of tourism attractions in terms of investment is now being augmented heavily by the private sector, with transformed investment of 3m US dollars.

In a move that would tangibly contribute to the growth of Tanzania's economy by initial support to local people and the 'Friedkin Conservation Fund', Mwiba Holdings have invested over that amount in Tanzania by building three new camps to operate in the north and west of the Serengeti National Park as well as Maswa Game Reserve.

That will see a new age of sustainable development in remote regions of northern Tanzania with investment from Legendary Expeditions, with Mila Camp opening its doors today, followed by two new mobile camps that will be moving with the footsteps of The Great Migration.

The Managing Director of Mwiba Group and Friedkin Group, Mr Jean Claude, reveled on Friday that the substantial investment has been focused within Tanzania, employing over 120 local craftsmen to create new fabrics, tents, furniture, décor and structures to allow the camps to welcome international guests and boost tourism in the remote areas.

Mwiba Holdings is a conservation company driving sustainable tourism in important ecological areas within northern Tanzania.

The camps will add more than 50 beds to the Tanzanian tourism industry and through conservation and community fees give much needed support to the region as well as utilize the vast wilderness areas that are protected through the Friedkin Conservation Fund.

"Building new camps such as Mila while expanding our experiences that now include various helicopter charters and tours in northern Tanzania, shows our continued commitment to Tanzania as well as its people," said Mr Claude.

He noted that Mwiba Holdings is a proud partner of Tanzania; would continue drive awareness on a global stage for tourism and bring renewed growth to the regions in which it operates.

He said the company has a responsibility to the people of Tanzania as well as the wildlife and land to make the tourism venture viable, hence maintain integrity and transparency.


Credit: Daily News 

Published in Travel & Tourism
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