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Feb 10, 2015

The rout in commodity prices to the lowest in 12 years will spur deeper spending cuts by the world’s biggest mining companies in Africa, hurting a region more reliant on mineral exports than any other on the planet.

Miners will scale back spending by $20 billion this year, according to Macquarie Group Ltd., as they cut growth plans amid waning demand for raw materials. With projects planned during the decade-long commodities boom now being shelved, Africa is likely to bear the brunt of the cuts, investors say.

“People are cutting back on Africa more than say Australia because Africa tends to be high on the cost curve,” said Andrew Lapping, who helps manage $39 billion at Allan Gray Ltd. in Cape Town. “Suddenly they’re having to cut capital and decide which are their best projects. There are less of those in Africa than in other regions.”

Unrest in the Democratic Republic of Congo as well as uncertainty over mining taxes in Zambia — the two largest copper producers on the continent — has added to investor unease in recent weeks. The pullback presents a challenge to nations such as Botswana and Guinea which, according to the International Council of Mining & Metals, derive more than 60 percent of their exports from minerals.

Prices of minerals and metals dropped to the lowest since August 2002 on Jan. 29, according to the Bloomberg Commodity Index. Companies are contending with the slump in the wake of an era of debt-fueled expansion that’s left some balance sheets stretched. Macquarie estimates total spending this year of $79 billion is 39 percent down on the industry’s peak outlay of $130 billion in 2012, it said in January.

 

Resource Frontier

As a result, the world’s biggest mining companies are moving away from the continent that hedge fund Harbinger Capital Partners LLC called “the last untapped resource frontier left on earth” in 2010, before the prices of iron ore and gold peaked a year later.

BHP Billiton Ltd., the world’s biggest mining company, is moving to spin off its Africa-focused assets into a new company called South32, while Rio Tinto Group, the second-largest, exited its Mozambican coal business last year after writing it down by $3 billion.

Glencore Plc’s South African coal unit will cut annual output by half amid a “continued deterioration in the export coal price,” it said last month. Anglo American Plc is looking to sell platinum mines in South Africa and its iron-ore unit is planning to reduce capital expenditure 20 percent.

 

Projects Hit

“Traditional mining areas, even places like Australia and Canada, will all be hit but particularly in Africa where you’ve got big projects being built,” said Clive Burstow, who helps manage $44 billion at Baring Asset Management in London. “Companies have become very Darwinian in how they look at capex. Projects have to make a return.”

West Africa-based producers of iron ore, which has declined 54 percent to $61.64 a metric ton since the beginning of 2014, have been particularly hard hit.

London Mining Plc was planning a $400 million expansion of its Marampa operation in Sierra Leone in July but by October it had called in administrators. African Minerals Ltd., which also produces the steelmaking ingredient in the country, shut its mine in December.

In Zambia, First Quantum Minerals Ltd. and Glencore are among companies that have suspended projects valued at more than $1.5 billion in Zambia because of a tax dispute, while Barrick Gold Corp., the biggest producer of the metal, has started the process to put its Lumwana mine under care and maintenance.

 

Zambia Tax

Vedanta Resources Plc, founded by Indian billionaire Anil Agarwal, is reviewing its Zambian copper unit amid a 23 percent slump in the price of the metal to $5,663 a ton since the start of 2013 and higher taxes introduced last month.

“We are facing a very, very difficult situation,” Chief Executive Officer Tom Albanese in a panel discussion in Cape Town Monday. “We will have to make some very difficult decisions even with the support of the government.” A situation where the government is chasing capital and chasing investment away it makes our job even harder,’’ he said.

Minerals from Zambia, Africa’s largest copper producer after Congo, comprised 69 percent of the country’s total exports in 2012, according to ICMM.

“At a time when commodity prices are falling, Zambia goes and tries to increase its tax take,” said John Moorhead, a London-based fund manager at Pictet & Cie., which has $472 billion of assets. “Companies need property rights and a clear and fixed tax regime to make long-life investments.”

 

Resource Reliance

While the 19 percent decline in 2014 in capital spending in Africa was in line with the rest of the world, the cuts will have more impact in the continent due to its reliance on resources, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP.

Of the 20 countries most reliant on mineral exports, 10 are in Africa, the ICMM said.

The Nedbank Africa Mining Index, which consists of 20 companies including Johannesburg-based Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd. and AngloGold Ashanti Ltd., touched a six-year low in December, indicating investors’ negative outlook for the continent’s prospects.

“Africa has such potential and resources to be developed,” Pictet’s Moorhead said. “But to realize that, you need to spend a lot of cash and that’s a story, in general, investors don’t want to hear right now.”

 

Source: Bloomberg News

Feb 10, 2015

The bunches of bananas that Teo Kataratambi and her husband, Silver, grow on their land fetch the equivalent of only £1.40 each. The larger bunches that they used to grow sold for double that amount.

A few years ago, though, the Kataratambis noticed a drop in the size and quality of the fruit they produce on their small third-generation farm in Nyamiyada village, south-west Uganda.

“In the first years, the soil was good but then it changed,” says Silver. Teo adds: “We don’t make much money. We can’t break even.”

The change was caused by years of farming without using sufficient fertilisers to replenish the soil’s nutrients. The result, as the Kataratambis now see, is poor crop yields. In contrast with their counterparts in the global north and Asia, many farmers in sub-Saharan Africa rely on manure rather than chemical fertilisers. But the organic alternative cannot meet the demand.

                                                          Fallen leaves help fertilise the soil on a banana plantation in south-west Uganda

 

In Europe, organic farming makes up only 5.4% of all agricultural land, according to Eurostat. Food and Agriculture Organisation data shows that, globally, less than 1% of agricultural land is farmed using organic methods.

Organic fertiliser can help freshen up Africa’s ailing, rusty-red soils, but there is not enough land available to produce manure in sufficient quantities, says Professor Ken Giller, a soil scientist at Wageningen University in the Netherlands. One cow can produce about 15kg of nitrogen in manure annually. But a healthy maize crop needs up to 100kg of nitrogen a hectare, Giller says. 

Manure doesn’t contain all the nutrients that plants need to grow, adds Giller, leader of the N2Africa programme, which encourages African farmers to grow legumes to help fertilise their soil. Harvests have stagnated on the continent since the 1960s, according to data from the World Bank. On average, farmers in Africa harvest about one ton of maize (corn) a hectare, whereas their American counterparts reap up to 12 tons.

“Sub-Saharan Africa has by far the lowest rate of improved seed and fertiliser use of any region … [leading to] increased hunger and food insecurity,” says Sarwat Hussain, a World Bank spokesperson. Ugandan farmers are among those that use fertiliser the least.

The changing climate and booming populations will add further demands on Africa’s overworked soils. At the UN climate change conference in Lima, Peru, in December, politicians and scientists will discuss the impact on agriculture and the role of fertiliser.

African farmers are sometimes put off chemical fertiliser because of cost. The Kataratambis say they can’t afford to buy chemical fertilisers – consistently.

                                                          Simon Weteka is a fertiliser dealer in Kapchorwa, east Uganda.

 

A bag of fertiliser could cost Ugandan farmers the equivalent of £40 – double the sum paid by their American or European counterparts. Much of the extra expense comes from import and transport fees, since chemical fertiliser is often manufactured abroad. Some economists claim international fertiliser companies are manipulating the market by charging certain African nations more than richer countries.

 

Martin Byamukama, sales manager of a fertiliser dealership, sits in a quiet alcove off the main drag of Kampala’s bustling Container Village – the country’s main trading area for agricultural products. Byamukama and his colleagues travel by road to Kenya to buy fertiliser (Uganda is land-locked). This travel ramps up the cost. Byamukama calculates that it costs him about £4.60 in fuel, import and loading fees to transport a 50kg bag of phosphate fertiliser from Mombassa in Kenya back to Kampala. Byamukama’s customers – farmers and smaller fertiliser dealers, many of whom work in villages around 200km away – can add another £14 to the bill.

About 1,800 meters up Mount Elgon in eastern Uganda, Betty Liaibich’s one acre plot of rocky land feeds her 10 children and pays for their school fees. Her success is down to her tenacity and the chemical fertiliser she uses each season on her maize, beans and cabbages.

Roughly 20 years ago, Uganda’s publicly funded National Agricultural Research Organisation showed Liaibich and her neigbours how fertiliser works. They have been using it ever since.

“Once you have introduced fertiliser, you won’t go back,” says Liaibich. 

Fertiliser is slightly cheaper here. The area is close to Kenya, and local dealers cross the border to Kitale to import the fertiliser themselves, rather than buying from Ugandan middle men. But still, Liaibich and her neighbours cannot afford to buy the recommended amounts to get the best out of their crops. 

Subsidising the cost of fertiliser could encourage farmers to use more. National subsidy schemes in Malawi and Rwanda are showing some success. But they are controversial; the World Bank warns that subsidies often benefit the wealthiest farmers rather the poorest, and that they can stifle the private sector and economic development.

Organisations such as the FAO are pushing for greener solutions, including encouraging farmers to grow trees and legumes to fertilise the soil. But most experts agree Africa’s green revolution can’t blossom (pdf) without chemical fertiliser.

“Using legumes is a great way to help fertilise the soil, but we recognise that, on its own, it is not enough,” says Giller. “The bottom line is there is not enough in the system to keep it going organically.” The process of revitalising African farming must be based on both conventional and alternative approaches, agrees Dr Bashir Jama, who runs a programme on soil health for the Alliance for the Green Revolution in Africa (Agra), an NGO working to improve food security.

There is more to improving soil health than chemical fertilisers, says Jama, but they are essential to increasing production and meeting the goal to end hunger in Africa by 2025, which was agreed by African leaders in June. 

Without fertilisers, Jama warns, farmers will increasingly struggle to feed their families as the drain of nutrients from African soils becomes a major threat to food security on the continent over the next 20 years.

“It is a misconception to say Africa can grow crops using just organics. The rest of the world is fed using fertiliser,” says Jama. Chemical fertiliser can help kickstart Africa’s farms and, as crop yields rise over time, farmers can use the extra crop residues as organic manure, and so reduce their dependence on chemical fertiliser, suggests Jama.

Organic approaches are more sustainable in the long run, he says, but chemical fertiliser use is unlikely to grow in Africa to the levels seen in the West and Asia that cause environmental problems, he says. Without fertilisers, Jama warns, some vulnerable countries, including Niger, will struggle to feed their growing populations in as little as three years.

 

The reporting trip to Uganda was facilitated by an innovation in development reporting grant from the European Journalism Centre

Source: The Guadian UK

Feb 10, 2015

Africa is losing more than $50bn (£33bn) every year in illicit financial outflows as governments and multinational companies engage in fraudulent schemes aimed at avoiding tax payments to some of the world’s poorest countries, impeding development projects and denying poor people access to crucial services.

Illegal transfers from African countries have tripled since 2001, when $20bn was siphoned off, according to a report released by the African Union’s (AU) high-level panel on illicit financial flows and the UN economic commission for Africa (Uneca).

The report was praised by civil society groups as the first African initiative to address illicit outflows from the continent.

In total, the continent lost about $850bn between 1970 and 2008, the report said. An estimated $217.7bn was illegally transferred out of Nigeria over that period, while Egypt lost $105.2bn and South Africa more than $81.8bn.

Trade mispricing, payments between parent companies and their subsidiaries, and profit-shifting mechanisms designed to hide revenues are all common practices by companies hoping to maximise profits, the study said.

Nigeria’s crude oil exports, mineral production in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Africa, and timber sales from Liberia and Mozambique are all sectors where trade mispricing occurs.

Former South African president Thabo Mbeki, who chairs the panel, said: “The information available to us has convinced our panel that large commercial corporations are by far the biggest culprits of illicit outflows, followed by organised crime. We are also convinced that corrupt practices in Africa are facilitating these outflows, apart from and in addition to the related problem of weak governance capacity.”

Criminal networks engaged in drugs and human trafficking, animal poaching, and theft of oil and minerals also contributed to money leaving the continent.

Reducing these losses requires urgent and coordinated action, the report said, calling for renewed political interest in fighting corruption, increased transparency in extractive sector transactions and a crackdown on banks that aid fraudulent transfers.

African and non-African governments and the private sector – including oil, mining, banking, legal and accountancy firms – were all involved in schemes designed to launder money and avoid paying corporate tax, according to the study. More than $1tn was siphoned off globally through illegal schemes between 2007 and 2009, the report said, noting that lost African revenues comprised 6% of that total. But the authors cautioned that poor data and complicated laundering networks could make the amount much higher.

“Illicit financial flows from Africa range from at least $30bn to $60bn a year,” the report said. “These lower-end figures indicated to us that in reality Africa is a net creditor to the world rather than a net debtor, as is often assumed.”

But efforts to stop funds reaching terrorist groups, such as Nigeria’s Boko Haram and Somalia’s al-Shabaab, have led to improved anti-money laundering institutions in many African countries, the report said. This includes passing legislation designed to stop illicit flows, creating financial intelligence units and monitoring banking activities.

The report called for the UN to crack down on European and US firms that engage in tax avoidance and money laundering. Joseph Stead, senior economic justice adviser at Christian Aid, said: “This is the first time that African countries have spoken out so strongly and in unison about how these financial crimes are hurting their people. That is a big deal.

“From now on, it will be much harder for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and other rich country groupings to argue that tax dodging, corruption, money laundering and so on are not a top priority for African governments.”

Governments that “turn a blind eye” to illicit outflows are forcing their poorest citizens to forgo hospitals, schools and environmental protection, said Sipho Mthathi, Oxfam’s executive director for South Africa. “Oxfam estimates that Africa alone is losing almost half of the global $100bn of annual illicit financial flows,” she said.

The bulk of Africa’s illicit transfers originated from west Africa, where 38% of all funds leaving the continent were generated. Profit-making activities in north Africa accounted for 28% of the flows, while southern Africa, central Africa and eastern Africa each made up about 10%, the report showed.

Global Financial Integrity president Raymond Baker said the report represented a historic moment in the effort to fight Africa’s “most pernicious economic problem”. “This is a turning point in the movement to curtail illicit financial flows and promote financial transparency, both within Africa and globally,” he said.

The high level panel was founded by the AU and Uneca in 2012.

 

Source: The Guardian UK

Feb 09, 2015

India, with approval from the International Seabed Authority (ISA), will launch exploration of mineral deposits such as polymetallic sulphides off the coast of Mauritius.

The explorations were likely to be launched within a year after the government of India signed a 15-year contract with the ISA, said the Director of the National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research S. Rajan here on Sunday. He was addressing a session of the World Ocean Science Congress 2015, said a press release from the organisers of the Ocean Science Congress.

The Ocean Science Congress, jointly organised by Swadeshi Science Movement and the Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies (Kufos), ended here on Sunday. Exploration for seabed minerals would be launched in the 10,000-sq.km. mid-ocean ridge off Mauritius, said Mr. Rajan.

The press release said that India, through the Ministry of Earth Sciences, had submitted an application for Deep Sea Mining Licence with the International Seabed Authority in April 2013. Approval for the plan of work came through in July 2014. The project would be implemented in three phases from the date of agreement, the press release added.

It said the proposed exploration was expected to lead to “vast deposits of lead, zinc and copper ranging from several thousands to about 100 million tonnes”. 

Mr. Rajan also told the session in Kochi on Sunday that India had made a submission before the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf with a view to extending India’s Continental Shelf Limit to 350 nautical miles from the 200 nautical miles now. “This will allow the country to widen its area of exploration of large scale mineral deposits”.

The press release also cited the Director of National Institute of Ocean Technology M.A. Atmanand as saying that the Institute had taken up several projects such as beach restoration, weather forecast and tsunami warning.

 

Source: The Hindu

Feb 09, 2015

The management of Dangote Group has said that its focus is now to develop its multi-billion dollars new businesses to appreciable level this year to meet its completion timelines.

The group is putting in place infrastructures for business projects such as Refinery, gas, fertilizer and rice production. 

Speaking at the weekend on the International Business Cable Television Channel, CNBC in Lagos, the Group’s Executive Director for Strategy, Potfolio Development and Special Project, Mr. Devakumar Edwin, said the Company was launching all out to ensure the businesses come on stream as planned.

He explained that though a few of the new businesses has been redesigned for increased capacity, the management, all things being equal, expects all to come on stream as earlier planned, inflation, exchange rate and increased bank interest rate notwithstanding.

Edwin said the Dangote Group business models were developed to be one of the biggest, if not the biggest in the world, and that new technologies employed by the company gives it advantage over others. He cited the Obajana cement plant as the single largest cement plant in the world, adding that, also, our Sugar refinery plant is the single second largest in the world.

“We are building 650,000 barrels per day oil refinery which will be the largest in the world, and our planned rice production would also be the largest in the world. We do all these because we believe in Nigeria, we believe in her potential and we believe in her economy. We draw our business model with exportation in mind. We believe Nigeria can be self sufficient and even produce for foreign market”, he added.

Edwin stated that the company was focusing on its refinery timely delivery, fertilizer plant equipment already on ground and the gas production is key to the management.

According to him “Nigeria has a large population, so do many other African countries, and that is why we build all our business model with exportation in mind. We had to review the capacity of our planned refinery and increase it. We have never hesitated to have big plants and that is why we deploy latest technologies in their set up”.

It would be recalled that Dangote Industries Limited (DIL) had signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) to invest $1 Billion (N165 billion) for the establishment of fully integrated rice production and processing operations across Nigeria.

The signing of the MOU which was presided over by President Goodluck Jonathan and the planned investment were meant to be a response to the on-going reforms of the President’s Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA) launched in 2011. Following the launch, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has worked with various stakeholders to catalyse increased investments for agriculture with a particular emphasis on private sector investments.

Dangote has acquired farmland in Edo, Jigawa, Kebbi, Kwara, and Niger states totalling 150,000 hectares to be used for the commercial production of rice paddy.

As part of the project, Dangote will also establish two state-of-the-art large-scale rice mills each with a capacity to mill 120,000 Metric Tons of rice paddy, bringing total capacity to 240,000 Metric Tons, with plans to double capacity within two years. With this installed capacity, the Project will become the largest single investment ever made in rice production in Africa. The rice plant is estimated to produce 960,000 metric tons of mill rice, representing 46 percent of rice imported into Nigeria.

The President Jonathan had commended Aliko Dangote for building a strong industrial base in Nigeria. “It takes a lot of hardwork, commitment and discipline to achieve the feat, accomplished by Aliko Dangote. Today is a great day for Nigeria and this investment is worth the risk. The country is capable of producing rice that can feed the whole of West African sub-region”.

Concerning our porous borders, the President vowed to put an end to the high spate of smuggling in the next 12 months. He cautioned that the days of smugglers were numbered and that the Government was determined to install electronic surveillance equipment that will depend less on human manipulations and interventions.

He assured Dangote that his investment will be protected.

 

Source: Daily Post Nigeria

 

Feb 09, 2015

Chip technology is the next generation of credit and debit card security and it's now the standard in Europe and other places around the world. This traveler just returned from a recent London adventure and found that while most merchants and many ATMs will accept regular American debit / credit cards, most automated systems will not. Automated systems are things like ticketing machines in train stations, public rental bikes and other places where travelers could be inconvenienced without a chip card.

What is a chip card?

Chip technology takes the standard credit (or debit) card and adds a small SIMM chip on the face. The chip has data which is accessed during the transaction process and the whole procedure is more secure. The cards (and embedded chips) are also much harder to counterfeit than existing cards. The chip card process also incorporates a second layer of security sometimes requiring the entry of the PIN code.

 

What if I don't have a chip card?

Most merchants can still swipe a credit card or can enter the numbers manually. Travelers will experience problems at some ATM machines and any automated systems such as those found at train stations. In peak summer travel season, this can mean a long wait in the long line to buy a ticket from a human being.

 

How do I get a chip card?

Most banks and credit card companies will begin to issue all customers chip cards over the next year or two. Currently, travelers should ask their card provider to send them a chip card. Wells Fargo is being proactive about the situation and sent this traveler an ATM chip card after noticing frequent international travel. The card was easily activated and works like a standard ATM card in the US and offers this traveler the features, security and convenience of a chip card while exploring the world.

 

Source: Travel Examiner

Feb 09, 2015

Trade between Zimbabwe and China grew marginally to $1,16 billion last year, up from $1,1 billion recorded in 2013 as economic ties between the two countries grew on the back of mega deals running into billions of dollars.

Speaking at the launch of the $5,4 million Zimbabwe Centre for High Performance Computing (Zim-CHPC) at the University of Zimbabwe yesterday, Chinese Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Lin Lin said China is now one of the most important trading partner for Zimbabwe.

"In the first 11 months of 2014, our bilateral trade rose to $1,16 billion, which has exceeded that of the whole year of 2013," he said. "The successes in our economic co-operation derive from our close political ties. In recent years, China and Zimbabwe have enjoyed frequent high level political exchanges.

"The most important one is the State visit to China by President Mugabe in August last year." Ambassador Lin Lin said tobacco, tobacco products and cotton accounted for about 80 percent of Zimbabwe's exports to China. The exports, he said, had contributed immensely in the revival of the country's agriculture sector. Trade volumes have also been driven by China's growing appetite for raw materials and precious minerals from Zimbabwe.

Bilateral trade between the two countries topped $1,1 billion in 2013, almost doubling the 2010 figures. At the time, bilateral trade was in Zimbabwe's favour as the country's exports were $688 million while imports stood at $414 million. Trade traffic between the two countries ballooned from a mere $310 million in 2003 to $1,1 billion in 2013.

China has emerged as Zimbabwe's closest international ally after Western countries imposed sanctions on President Mugabe, a decade ago after the veteran leader spearheaded the fast-track land reform which saw land being redistributed to thousands of landless blacks.

The HPC centre is one of many projects which had been implemented following the signing of nine major bilateral deals by President Mugabe and his Chinese counterpart last year.

The Asian giant offered Zimbabwe US$5,4 million for the HPC centre project. China is supporting Zimbabwe in the expansion of the Kariba South Hydro power station which will add another 300 megawatts on the country's grid, the expansion of the Victoria Falls Airport, the construction of the Agricultural Technology Demonstration Centre including a string of other development projects.

In the past three years, China has extended grants and interest-free loans worth more than $100 million. The China Exim Bank has provided over $1 billion worth of concessionary and commercial loans to Zimbabwe in recent years.

"We have been respecting and supporting each other on our core interests," Ambassador Lin Lin said. 

"China is sincerely grateful for the constant and strong support by Zimbabwe on China's core interests such as China's sovereignty and territorial integrity in Taiwan, Tibet, Xinjiang and the South China Sea issue. "China has given its strong support to Zimbabwe in related matters. For example, China has been constantly calling for the removal of the illegal sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by Western countries."

China is now Africa's largest trading partner and the Asian giant has built up infrastructure and industry on the continent while also pouring humanitarian aid to needy countries in Africa. 

China's footprint on the African continent is increasingly becoming big and bold and in 2013 China-Africa trade reached $210 billion with more than 2 500 Chinese companies operating on the continent, according to Xinhua reports.

Economic analysts said by the end of 2012, China had signed bilateral investment treaties with 32 out of the 54 African countries and established joint economic commission mechanisms with 45 African countries. The China-Africa Development Fund, established as one of the eight pledges China made at the Forum on China-Africa Co-operation (FOCAC) Beijing Summit, had by the end of 2012, agreed to invest US$2,385 billion in 61 projects in 30 African countries.

At least $1,806 billion has already been invested in 53 projects.

 

Source: The Herald Zimbabwe

Feb 09, 2015

All eyes were firmly on Africa at the France-Africa forum, which ended on Friday. Business leaders and heads of state gathered in Paris to thrash out new ways of sharing the continent's staggering growth - this time without the shady connections that have long shaped bilateral relations in the past, they said.

"Africa is our future," a jetlagged French President belted out at the close of the first round of discussions at the France-Africa forum. "It's our future because it is the continent with the fastest economic growth in recent years."

The IMF expects the sub-Saharan region's economy to grow by 4.9 per cent in 2015, above the global projected growth of 3.5 per cent. And last year, its growth went up by 5.8 per cent. It was thus no surprise that Hollande made a pitstop to the event between flights from Kiev to Moscow. "I've proved by being here, that Paris is the capital of the world," Hollande quipped.

By inviting African leaders from Senegal, Gabon, Côte d'Ivoire and Nigeria to the French finance ministry, Hollande proved France wants Africa to be the centre of its world. The continent's rapid growth is largely linked to a fast-growing population, with 70 per cent of Africans now under the age of 35. But many are unskilled and youth unemployment continues to be a scourge on an otherwise impressive record.

"If you don't give young people something to do, they will find something else to occupy themselves with and it won't necessarily be pleasant," said Chris Kirubi, director of Kenyan-based Centum Investment Group. During one of several round table discussions, Kirubi flagged up the rise of armed groups such as Boko Haram and the growing number of boat-people fleeing Africa for Europe as signs that Africa's youth needs to be harnessed.

Participants at the forum thus welcomed the announcement of a new Africa-France foundation, geared towards providing skilled training for young African adults. Spearheaded by Franco-Beninese economist Lionel Zinsou, with the support of the French government, the foundation will have a sister organisation in every country across the continent to offer Africa's youth better business opportunities and the necessary funding.

The foundation itself has a bankroll of three million euros from the French government but will rely on contributions from other governments and businesses thereafter. "We are a professional network, we aim to put young people in touch with French businesses so they can work together," Lionel Zinsou told RFI.

Asked whether France was truly engaging in a win-win partnership with its former colonies, Zinsou replied: "Africa needs forces from everybody... . France, China, Latin America, everyone that can bring experience and knowledge."

Africa's growth he says is not enough on its own, he argues.

"Growth at five per cent only provides jobs for 10 million, so you have a gap of 10 million to fill. If we don't go from five to seven per cent we will not put our youth in the proper jobs, that's what Africa has to gain."

And the past? Is the past, Zinsou insists. For French companies, Africa is no longer an inferior but a partner.

 

Source: Radio France International

Feb 09, 2015

As President Uhuru Kenyatta was making a passionate plea for an African Court at the AU Summit, Cameroonian soldiers were shelling Boko Haram hideouts; and while AU was electing a 91-year-old as it’s face of the future, Ghanaian universities were partnering with General Electric on oil and gas.

In Mozambique, there was an outbreak of cholera. At the same time, the aftermath of Ebola continues to ravage parts of West Africa as millions of East and Central Africans faced starvation.

That is the diversity that characterises Africa.

Mr Kenyatta has cut a niche for himself as one of the most eloquent and articulate African presidents. Whereas he and Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe might share a “disdain” for the West, the two are as different as day and night.

Mr Kenyatta is as Western as they come. You can confuse his speeches as those of an American with a Kenyan accent. His campaign style and public relations is a look in the mirror of the Obama mantra.

On the other hand, Mugabe represents everything past, including Pan Africanism, brotherhood and African pride.

In 2013-2014, Kenyatta succeeded where his father Jomo, Kwame Nkrumah, Patrice Lumumba and Julius Nyerere had failed. He got African countries to speak in one voice against the ICC. His legal defence team played their game so masterfully, even big boys on the world scene took note.

 

AFRICAN ICC

But in sharp contrast to AU’s unanimous push to end the Kenyan cases, this year’s AU summit ended with only Benin and Guinea Bissau joining Kenya in ratifying the Malabo protocol that would establish the African ICC. Kenya lobbied hard on the sidelines of the summit. But did it consider the timing, with so many elections on the continent? Did it consult widely before making the pitch?

It is against a backdrop of competing interests that Kenya sought to lobby its peers. Inadvertently, the push is confirmation that crimes against humanity are prevalent on the continent.

The proponents of the court argue that it would approach African cases before it from an African perspective. But why an African perspective in the application of international laws that apply to all humans? Crimes against humanity do not know colour or geography.

The fact that Luis Moreno Ocampo and Fatou Bensouda both did a shoddy job does not mean ICC should not handle African cases. Perhaps African member states should push for changes within The Hague court; establish clear rules of jurisdiction, accountability on the part of the prosecutor and demand that the court sits in neighbouring countries whenever a head of state is indicted.

Developing a country’s foreign policy is a challenging balancing act. Developing one for a region is even more tasking. To draft such a policy in a competitive, globalised world is a tall order. Kenya, for instance may want to sever ties with the West but that does not mean Tanzania or Ghana will follow suit.

AFRICA SUBGROUPS

 

Africa has four subgroups with different socialisation. Francophone Africa which comprises mainly small war torn West African countries. Anglophone countries, including Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya and Ghana that are viewed as more pragmatic and somehow still joined at the hip with Western nations.

There is also the issue of North African Muslim countries, which identify more with the Middle East.

Lusophone Africa is a small group of Portuguese speaking countries often detached from the rest of Africa on many fronts. Merging the interests of these groups is, therefore, a Herculean task.

Countries and regions earn their place at the table; they do not get on rooftops and make demands. They must have something to offer in return. Fortunately, Africa has a lot to offer.

To influence world politics, African countries must first earn the confidence of their citizens by creating conditions for good governance and stability. Leaders must conduct mature politics, fight corruption and impunity on their own volition and build democratic institutions.

The US and China are able to shape world policies because of their economic muscle. Their foreign policies are written for posterity.

 

Source: Daily Nation Kenya

Mr Kaberia is the assistant director of international programmes at the University of the District of Columbia, Washington DC

Feb 09, 2015

Africa’s long standing label as the “dark continent” extends beyond the color of the skin of citizens; it typifies the overall backwardness that has crushed the tiniest emergence of a potential socio-economic development. The continent, holding over a billion plus people, boasts one of the largest clusters of poverty stricken settlements, a growing inequality gap, and, despite isolated encouraging signs, is still in its formative stages of a concrete democratic environment.

Among the continent’s long list of socio-economic challenges lies one of its most critical; the energy challenge. Along with oil and poverty, power has been the most discussed on a global scale, largely because of its impact on the growth of African economies. The continent remains till date the single region unable to provide adequate access to sustainable energy for a significant portion of its population.

Its largest economy, Nigeria, still battles to sustain a peak production of 4,000MW for a population surging beyond 170 million people. Data from the World Bank revealed that 60 percent of Africans and over 40 percent of Nigerians lack access to decent energy supply; a vivid reality of the challenge Africa faces.

However in this trial lies the continent’s potential cashcow, one that could upsurge the oil boom experienced in several African nations, most notably Nigeria. It could provide a healthier return than what agriculture’s promising potentials offer. Electricity could be the next big thing for investors looking towards the emerging continent for sustainable business. The continent’s power epidemic is already attracting the most significant sector-focused investment worldwide. Last year, on President Obama’s tour of Africa, a $7 billion Power Africa Initiative was launched by the United States (US). It was the first time the US was committing such funds towards the continent’s development and made it the largest single investment committed to a power project globally.

General Electric (GE), a US-based energy and infrastructure conglomerate, has strategically set up camp on the emerging continent, seeking to exploit this untapped gold mine. Nigeria has benefited immensely from this foray, playing host to over $1 billion invested towards developing human capital and infrastructure across the country’s power value chain. GE further confirmed a growing interest in this sector by announcing a further $2 billion plan at the US-Africa Summit held in Washington DC earlier this month. Among its key activities include the development of $1 billion electricity infrastructure plant in Calabar, Cross River state, Southern Nigeria. It is also the technical partner in Transcorp’s Ughelli Power Plant – a facility that has the potential to generate in excess of 1000MW, a quarter of the country’s current peak output.

From the Americas, through Europe and down to Asia, investors have raced down to Africa in search of deals associated to the continent’s power sector. Geothermal and solar plants are currently being developed in East Africa. North Africa is pushing the boundaries in Dam construction, and West Africa is seeing an exploration of alternative sources of energy like coal.

With the love affair seemingly poised to grow deeper in coming years, it is hard to envision just how much more investments will flow into a sector that has plagued the continent and impeded sustainable development across the it’s economies. The huge inflow of funds therefore makes this sector Nigeria’s, and Africa’s, next cashow.

 

Source: Ventures Africa

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