Kingsley Ibokette

Kingsley Ibokette

Kingsley Ibokette BT

The United Kingdom (UK) has slapped targeted sanctions on four top allies to President Emmerson Mnangagwa, among them security chiefs, accusing them of having a hand in the killing of Zimbabwean protesters.

According to a statement Monday by British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, those targeted are state security minister Owen Ncube and intelligence director Isaac Moyo.

Also targeted was Police Commissioner General Godwin Matanga and former leader the Zimbabwe National Army Presidential Guard Anselem Sanyatwe (now Zimbabwe ambassador to Tanzania).

"These sanctions send a clear message that we will hold to account those responsible for the most egregious human rights violations, including the deaths of innocent Zimbabweans.

"We will continue to press for the necessary political and economic reforms that will benefit all Zimbabweans," reads the statement by Raab.

The UK government believes the four were responsible for quashing demonstrations and killing innocent citizens since Mnangagwa's takeover in November 2017.

Six Zimbabweans were gunned down August 1, 2018 after the State deployed soldiers to quell post-election violence sparked by claims of rigging by the Mnangagwa led administration.

Some 17 more locals also died January 2019 when nationwide anti-poverty protests elicited a brutal reaction from the state leading to the deaths.

Several more were maimed during the violence episodes.

The sanctions on the Zimbabwean officials comes as a blow to Mnangagwa's efforts to re-engage the West after years of international isolation.

Ncube and Sanyatwe were already targeted for US sanctions in March last year.

 

Source: New Zimbabwe

South Sudan will switch to a new official time zone in February, the government has announced.

The country has been using Universal Coordinated Time (UTC) +3 and will switch to UTC +2 which is in her real location, according to the Cabinet.

"This means that the current time will be set back by one hour, the current 1:00am will be set to 00:00am, effective 1st February 2021," said Mary Hillary Wani Pitia, the Undersecretary of the country's Ministry of Labour.

In the statement on Friday, Ms Pitia said the usual working hours in a day will not be affected by the change.

Two weeks ago, South Sudan's Cabinet approved the switch to a new time zone, a decision drew criticism on social media.

But the government couldn't comment on it though it raised questions on why the country was focusing on petty things as opposed to majors.

Once the change becomes effective, South Sudan will no longer use East African Time, but will be in the same time zone as Egypt, Chad and Sudan.

Michael Makuei Lueth, the government spokesperson, told The EastAfrican on Friday that the country has not been using her real time according to Greenwich Meridian Time.

"The current time zone is not our actual time zone. We are in the 30th longitude and as such we are supposed to be two hours ahead of Greenwich Time zone. So, it was clear that the far East is 2.4 hours and the far west is 1.6 hours," he said.

Liberia's economy is stagnating under the impact of Covid-19. A contraction in growth and a banknote shortage have combined to undermine President George Weah's "pro-poor" agenda as he marks his third year in office.

"The government is frustrating us day-by-day," says Victoria Kamara, a customer of SIB Liberia bank on Broad Street in Monrovia, waiting for a fifth day in a row to try to withdraw money from her account. "We're tired in Liberia, people are tired, maybe they want us to go and steal," she adds.

Queues outside banks in the capital are commonplace as a banknote shortage forces commercial banks to restrict cash withdrawals.

Kamara, waiting patiently under an awning in a line snaking towards the bank's locked doors, describes how tellers refuse the withdrawal requested, suggesting a lower amount.

"We've come to get our salary," says Ambroise Jahwley, another customer. "Each time we come they say no US [dollars], no LD [Liberian dollars]. Sometimes they give you half of your money, sometimes 50 dollars, sometimes 40 dollars.

"I'm very disappointed in the government and the bank because we're not getting what we're supposed to."

Severe shortages

Weah presides over a country of 4.8 million people with a predominantly cash-based economy. Banknote shortages hit consumers' pockets.

Banks in Liberia commonly manage the supplies of cash in their vaults, especially ahead of heightened demand from customers at holiday periods.

Most banks will start to taper withdrawals and hold more deposits during summer to meet those demands, an executive from a pan-African bank told RFI in a briefing, without wanting to be named.

But this year is more severe and shortages of cash have continued. The banks are reliant on their supply from the central bank. For cash held in their vaults, they must slow loan-making activity to maintain some withdrawals for customers.

"Two seasons of the year - our independence (26 July) and Christmas - cause a big rush on banks," says Dixon Seboe, a representative for Weah's ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) party.

"But this situation shows that it has become more profound," says Seboe, who chairs the house committee on banking and currency. "It did not just happen at Christmas, it started about three or four months ago."

The US embassy in Monrovia put out an alert in December, warning travellers not to rely on getting cash from banks in Liberia, but to bring sufficient money when coming to the country.

Impacting economy

Traders at Monrovia's markets report lower sales and customers with no cash to spend, affecting demand for their products.

Isaac Doe, a clothes seller, does not directly blame Weah's administration. "We are experiencing challenges in business, but I don't want to say it could have some political or socio-economic motives," the 28-year-old says.

Few customers mingle amongst the aisles of mannequins displaying outfits at the China market building where Doe works.

Vendors sell dresses and skirts in stalls, and seamstresses sit at sewing machines whirring away on the ground floor, altering clothes.

"We have mutilated money cycling in the entire economy right now," says Doe, describing damaged and dirty banknotes, and problems trying to give customers change. "When you get to the bank, the bank is telling you, 'We don't have money.'"

Cynthia Lloyd, a trader in provisions, complains that part of the problem is that foreign aid organisations left the country, reducing overall demand.

Are the banknotes really missing?

The banknote shortage traces its roots back to the apparent scandal emerging after Weah took office, with about $100m of new Liberian banknotes allegedly going missing.

Banknotes were printed by a Swedish company with the approval of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's administration. After Weah assumed office, reports emerged claiming large amounts of banknotes had gone missing after being shipped to Monrovia.

The government ordered an investigation by US consultancy firm Kroll Associates who carried out a forensic audit, concluding no banknotes were missing, but highlighting a series of inadequate controls at the central bank.

President Weah set up a special taskforce to handle the matter and the Liberian prosecutor charged Charles Sirleaf, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's son, a former central bank official, as well as four others, with money laundering.

Sirleaf was freed, but former Central Bank Governor Milton Weeks was found guilty of being unauthorised to print the banknotes. The questions centred around whether authorisation for printing money had been granted by the legislature.

Angola is looking for ways to fight a surge in piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, the Great Lakes region and other areas along its coast.

Secretary of State for the External Relations Esmeralda Mendonca said the growing maritime crime problem is endangering the region from a national, international and regional point of view.

Mendonca wants more government funding to fight piracy and terrorism and stressed that if the member states of the region have concerted actions to tackle maritime piracy, they will contribute to the security and development of the region.

“It is in this perspective that Angola, as the headquarters of the Gulf of Guinea in Luanda, attaches great importance to this organization, as the maritime spaces have to be controlled.”

Any effort to reduce piracy in the region will certainly be appreciated by the world’s major shipping companies, who collectively, urge West African nations to do more to secure the waters.

More than 20,000 vessels use the Gulf of Guinea every year. Fringed by an almost 4,000-mile-long shoreline that stretches from Senegal to Angola, it serves as the main thoroughfare for crude oil exports and imports of refined fuel and other goods. Its size and the high number of ships in the area present a challenge for under-resourced governments that have to police the area.

The International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Centre says attacks on vessels globally jumped 20% last year to 195, with 135 crew kidnapped. The Gulf of Guinea accounted for 95% of hostages taken in 22 separate instances, and all three of the hijackings that occurred, the agency said.

The attacks have pushed up insurance and other costs for shippers operating off West Africa, with some resorting to hiring escort vessels manned by armed navy personnel. A.P. Moller-Maersk A/S, which transports about 15% of the globe’s seaborne freight, said decisive action needs to be taken.

“It is unacceptable in this day and age that seafarers cannot perform their jobs of ensuring a vital supply chain for this region without having to worry about the risk of piracy,” said Aslak Ross, head of marine standards at Copenhagen-based Maersk. “The risk has reached a level where effective military capacity needs to be deployed.”

Many shipowners favor a more muscular international effort modeled on the military response to hijackings offshore Somalia, which was the global epicenter of piracy from about 2001 to 2012. Armed guards and warships dispatched by the European Union, NATO and a U.S.-led task force to protect vessels traveling through the Suez Canal, one of the world’s busiest trade routes linking Europe to Asia, helped bring the problem under control.

The number of violent attacks in the Gulf of Guinea has remained fairly consistent over the past decade, but abductions of more than 10 people have become increasingly commonplace, said Dirk Siebels, senior analyst at Denmark-based Risk Intelligence.

The pirates are increasingly operating deeper out to sea, with kidnappings on average taking place 60 nautical miles offshore in 2020, according to the IMB. The furthest out took place in mid-July, when eight machine-gun wielding pirates boarded a chemical tanker off Nigeria’s coast and seized 13 crew members before fleeing. Only unqualified seamen remained on the Curacao Trader, which was left adrift 195 nautical miles from the coast. The crew were freed the following month.

“The perpetrators of such incidents are perfectly aware there is almost no risk of being caught,” said Munro Anderson, a partner at London-based maritime security firm Dryad Global. “That is precisely the kind of incident an international naval coalition could mitigate.”

 

Credit: Bloomberg / Xinhua / CGTN Africa

Finder’s repo rate panel expects the South Africa Reserve Bank (SARB) to hold the repo rate this week but over a third (36%) think the Bank should cut the rate.

BER chief economist, Hugo Pienaar, is the only panellist out of 15 forecasting a rate cut. He thinks the Bank will decrease the rate by 25bps, but is in favour of a deeper 50bps cut.

  • 93% of economists say the SARB will hold the repo rate but over a third (36%) think the Bank should cut the rate
  • Nearly three quarters (73%) don’t think the rate will increase in 2021
  • 50% think the SARB will be forced to buy more bonds 

“With a benign inflation outlook, monetary policy has space to provide some moderate further stimulus to the economy at a time when fiscal policy is heavily constrained to do so,” he said. 

Independent economist, Elize Kruger, is one economist who expects the Bank to hold, but is in favour of a 25bps rate cut.

“The SA economy is still bleeding amid the economic impact of the Covid-19 crisis, while consumer inflation remains well under control in the medium term forecast, thus a small window of opportunity has opened for further stimulation,” she said.

STANLIB economist, Ndivhuho Netshitenzhe, also called for a 25bps decrease, noting inflation remains under-control.

That, along with the weak domestic economic environment that is expected to continue at least into early 2021 (as a result of increased lockdown measures), gives the SARB some room to be more expansionary in its monetary policy. 

“Despite this, however, the SARB is aware that although SA consumer inflation is still expected to remain comfortably below the midpoint of the inflation target over the next 6 months, base effects could push SA inflation somewhat higher in 2021, especially during the middle of 2021”.

However the majority of the panel (64%), including Economist at RMB, Mpho Molopyane, think the Bank should and will hold the rate.

“The growth and inflation outlook has not significantly changed since the November 2019 meeting to warrant a change [to] interest rates. GDP is going to take a while to return to pre-covid levels, with inflationary pressures relatively contained. This will enable the SARB to keep monetary policy accommodative and the repo rate unchanged in contrast to the tightening bias projected by the QPM at the November 2019 MPC meeting,” she said.

Nearly three quarters (73%) of the panel don’t think the rate will increase this year. 47% say a hike will occur in the first half of 2022, 20% are forecasting an increase in the second half of 2022 and 7% in 2023.

IQbusiness chief economist, Sifiso Skenjana, is one panellist who thinks the rate will increase in the first half of next year due to inflation.

“We are seeing early signs of tapering off on monetary easing / accommodative policy in some of the developed economies which may suggest that we may see higher levels of inflation in those economies by year end 2021.” 

Do you think the SARB will be forced to buy more bonds?

The panel is equally divided on whether the SARB will be forced to buy more bonds (50%-50%). 

SARBs

BNP Paribas chief economist, Jeff Schultz, thinks the Bank will be forced to buy more bonds in the short term, commenting it is only likely to do so in response to further deterioration in economic conditions or market dislocations.

The SARB is likely to keep as much powder dry as possible and assess the outlook for the economy and bond market first before making any preemptive purchases. Right now the bond market continues to function well, having recovered from the massive sell off seen in March/April last year. This should limit the SARB’s willingness to aggressively re-enter its SAGB buying right now,” he said.

22% of the panel think the Bank will be forced to buy more bonds in the short term, 14% in the medium term, 7% long term and 7% permanently.

Alexander Forbes chief economist, Isaah Mhlanga, thinks the Bank will need to buy bonds over the long term, noting that bond buying programs will become mainstream in emerging markets.

“Bond buying programs were unconventional monetary policy tools in the advanced world a decade ago and they are now mainstream tools and no longer unconventional. Bond buying programs are still unconventional in emerging markets like South Africa, however, over time, they will likely be mainstream tools along the path followed by advanced economies.”

Uganda's long-time President Yoweri Museveni has been re-elected, electoral officials say, amid accusations of vote fraud by his main rival Bobi Wine.

Mr Museveni won almost 59% of the vote, with Bobi Wine trailing with about 35%, the Electoral Commission said.

Thursday's poll may turn out to be the "most cheating-free" in the history of the African nation, the president said.

Bobi Wine, a former pop star, vowed to provide evidence of vote-rigging when internet connections were restored.

The government shut down the internet ahead of voting day, a move condemned by election monitors.

They said confidence in the count had been damaged by the days-long cut. A government minister told the BBC on Saturday evening that the internet service would be restored "very soon".

In a phone interview with the BBC World Service, Bobi Wine said he and his wife were not being allowed to leave their home by soldiers.

"Nobody is allowed to leave or come into our house. Also, all journalists - local and international - have been blocked from accessing me here at home," he said.

Dozens of people were killed during violence in the run-up to the election. Opposition politicians have also accused the government of harassment.

The result gives President Museveni a sixth term in office. The 76-year-old, in power since 1986, says he represents stability in the country.

Meanwhile, Bobi Wine - the stage name for 38-year-old Robert Kyagulanyi - says he has the backing of the youth in one of the world's youngest nations, where the median age is 16.

The result gives President Museveni a sixth term in office. The 76-year-old, in power since 1986, says he represents stability in the country.

Meanwhile, Bobi Wine - the stage name for 38-year-old Robert Kyagulanyi - says he has the backing of the youth in one of the world's youngest nations, where the median age is 16.

The opposition candidate earlier said: "I will be happy to share the videos of all the fraud and irregularities as soon as the internet is restored."

But speaking after being declared the winner, Mr Museveni said: "Voting by machines made sure there is no cheating.

"But we are going to audit and see how many people voted by fingerprints and how many of those voted by just using the register."

Mr Museveni also warned that "foreign meddling will not be tolerated".

The EU, United Nations and several rights groups have raised concerns. Aside from an African Union mission, no major international group monitored the vote.

Earlier this week the US - a major aid donor to Uganda - cancelled its diplomatic observer mission to the country, saying that the majority of its staff had been denied permission to monitor polling sites.

Senegal is the hotspot for energy investment in West Africa right now, owing to a string of huge offshore hydrocarbons discoveries since 2014 (as well as its compelling renewables potential).

The emergence of Senegal as a regional energy power is an exciting story. But for almost two decades, in fact, the country has been producing its own natural gas onshore, an hour’s drive from Dakar. Further investment could unlock Senegal’s onshore potential.

Introducing Onshore Senegal

Fortesa International, led by CEO Rogers Beall, started exploring in Senegal in 1997 and from the start, Beall aimed to create a business that was fully Senegalese. Today, the company has a staff of 125, with two expatriate mentors and some African expatriate staff, but the vast majority (around 98 percent) is Senegalese nationals. Beall has continually advocated for Senegal with U.S. companies and now serves on the U.S.- Africa Committee for the African Energy Chamber.

As AOP drove out to the Fortesa production site this week, Beall pointed to a plateau in the far distance, while we passed through a shallow valley. That, he said, is the edge of the 120-square-kilometer Thiombane Dome geological formation. It sits on the eastern side of the carbonate shelf edge that runs north to south along the coast of West Africa.

The emergence of Senegal as a regional energy power is an exciting story

Volcanic eruptions in the sea 175 million years ago, joined up by sand blown in from the Sahara, created the Dakar peninsula. That same feature on the carbonate shelf edge extends deep into the Atlantic Ocean, and this is the basis for the massive offshore oil and gas fields generating so much excitement globally. This is where North America used to connect to Africa, and where we are driving now used to be the state of Georgia before it was the deep ocean bed. The African plate itself never moved.

“The single place between Morocco and Guinea where that shelf comes onshore is east of Dakar,” says Beall. Here, on land and a short drive from the capital, Fortesa is operating seven wells (one out of service temporarily due to an accident – the company’s first serious one – on December 20, 2020) tied back to a gas processing plant. The manifolds and tanks were built in Senegal, the whole facility was assembled by a local team, and on our visit, we met with dozens of Senegalese workers who had trained with Fortesa and were operating the facilities.

The Gadiaga field usually produces 3 million cubic feet (mcf) per day and could produce 7 mcf per day. This small field has produced just over $95 million of natural gas. But, as Beall says, “This is small potatoes compared to what Senegal needs.” The geology says that Gadiaga may sit next to a much larger gas field situated on the edge of the shelf in the Thiombane Dome. This strong potential is what Fortesa wishes to explore and develop, with fellow investors.

Natural Gas Could Do More

Fortesa’s operation may look familiar in the Niger Delta, where local companies have been producing onshore from marginal fields since 2002. But in this region, Fortesa’s gas production business is unique, and like the most effective Niger Delta marginal field companies, it enjoys the support of the local community to staff and safeguard the well sites, pipe yard and processing plant.

Energy independence is the key to Senegal’s success, says Beall. Energy poverty is a trap that ties people down to subsistence living from Senegal to Somalia. Natural gas, available in abundance onshore as well as far out to sea, can be a fuel to remove those limits.

“Right now, this country is paying $14 per mcf by using heavy fuel oil. [In doing this] they are making six times the pollution, six times the negative effect on the planet, and nearly double the cost,” says Beall. “We are able to make the investment and take the risk of drilling onshore, and [in this region] only Fortesa is doing this.”

Natural gas is cleaner and cheaper than the alternatives. It provides direct and indirect jobs for hundreds at Gadiaga, and more of it is available onshore. The company is keen to expand within its acreage to find and develop the onshore elephant that the geology points to, as well as optimizing current production. But with European and other Western financing institutions now shutting down funding for hydrocarbons, few options are available to fund expansion.

The Foundation Is Already There

Fortesa built a foundation for Senegal’s emergence as an energy player. Beall believed in the potential of Senegal before many in Europe and North America had thought to examine the country’s subsurface. His company worked with or trained many of the people now going on to run the sector or work at the national oil company Petrosen and others.

Onshore gas growth is possible and would lead to direct job creation and sustainable energy provision to households and businesses – and save on costly and high-polluting fuel oil imports.

“This is one of the most cost-effective operations in Africa. Fortesa has essentially unlocked the value of Senegal’s energy resources. The projects run by Rogers and his team are sound and are an example of projects that can generate cash and deliver the return on capital that investors are looking for,” said NJ Ayuk, Executive Chairman of the African Energy Chamber, to AOP. “I see a team that is focused on improving asset-level economics, reducing capital outlay, and stretching their dollars to do more with less.”

AOP’s mission is to bring investment to African energy of all kinds, with a view to making life better for people and businesses. Issues of climate change and sustainability must be addressed urgently. But comparatively clean natural gas and the people that produce it (and industries that can use it) should not pay the price for Western institutions’ opposition to funding hydrocarbons. “We need to give a chance to people to advance,” Beall told us. “Let’s do things that work.”

Bobi Wine, the main challenger of incumbent Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in the election, said early on Friday that Thursday’s vote had seen “widespread fraud and violence” but the opposition leader remained positive as ballots are being counted under an internet blackout.

Uganda Elections 2021 Results: Bobi Wine vs Yoweri Museveni - Electoral Commission results show Museveni in early lead

“Despite the widespread fraud and violence experienced across the country earlier today, the picture still looks good. Thank you Uganda for turning up and voting in record numbers,” Wine tweeted shortly after midnight (21:00 GMT), managing to bypass the blockage.

The 38-year-old former pop star-turned-legislator did not give details about his accusations, which contradicted the government’s account that Thursday’s vote had been peaceful with no extensive cases of violence reported.

The Electoral Commission is expected to release the results within 48 hours.

The internet remained down for a third day as vote counting continued in the country. Results are expected by Saturday afternoon.

President Museveni is seeking a sixth term in office and Wine has been arrested multiple times during the campaigning, is his main competitor among 11 opposition candidates.

The election took place after one of the most violent campaigns in years, with harassment and arrests of the opposition leaders, attacks on the media and dozens of deaths.

The run-up to polling day was marred by a sustained crackdown on Museveni’s rivals and government critics and unprecedented attacks on the nation’s media and human rights defenders.

In November, at least 54 people were shot dead by security forces loyal to Museveni during protests against one of Wine’s numerous arrests.

The US, EU, UN and global rights and democracy groups have raised concerns about the integrity and transparency of the election.

Meanwhile, the African Union (AU), has sent monitors, along with an AU women’s group.

On Wednesday, the United States, a key aid donor to Uganda, announced it was cancelling a diplomatic observer mission after several of its staff were denied permission to monitor the election.

On Tuesday, Museveni announced the suspension of social media networks and messaging services like Instagram, Twitter and WhatsApp in response to Facebook closing accounts linked to government officials that the technology giant said were spreading misinformation.

 

Source : AL Jazeera

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