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Feb 02, 2015

African companies and government officials transfer at least $50 billion out of Africa illegally each year, the Tax Justice Network Africa has revealed citing a joint United Nations and African Union panel report. The group promotes "socially just, democratic, accountable and progressive taxation systems in Africa," according to its Facebook page.

"This is an extraordinarily important report which could shift the global debate on tax, financial transparency and corruption," Joseph Stead, Senior Economic Justice Adviser at Christian Aid, a London-based charity organization, said Sunday as quoted by the Tax Justice Network Africa.

The 10-member High-Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa, led by former South African President Thabo Mbeki, said in its Sunday report that African countries need to take specific measures in order to stop the outflow of money, which comes from many areas, including the oil sector.

According to the report, Africa is losing the money through crimes such as tax dodging and corruption and the amount of illicit financial flows is expected to go up unless preventive measures are adopted.

"The Mbeki report removes any excuse for not taking immediate and effective action against the multinationals draining billions from developing countries, the shell companies holding looted money and the financial secrecy which protects everyone with dirty money to hide," Stead said.

According to the justice adviser, Christian Aid is certain that solutions to the problem of illegal money outflow from Africa "lie in reforms including public country-by-country reporting for multinationals, public registers of the real owners of companies and a new system of automatic sharing of financial information between governments".

Africa lost in excess of $50 billion annually between 2000 and 2008, according to the UN Economic Commission for Africa. The level of illicit financial outflows from Africa exceeds the official development assistance to the continent, which, according to the commission, stood at $46.1 billion in 2012.



Source: Sputnik News

Feb 01, 2015

There's a new Barbie in town. She's a queen, she's black, she wears traditional African costumes — and she's not actually a Barbie.

Created by a Nigerian man, Taofick Okoya, seven years ago after he couldn't find a black doll for his niece, the Queens of Africa have since beaten Barbie to become one of the best-selling toys in Africa's most populous country.

The 43-year-old Okoya sells between 6,000 and 9,000 'Queens of Africa' and 'Naijia Princesses' a month in Nigeria, and claims to have up to 15 per cent of the country's toy market.

The dolls, which sell for equivalent to £4.50, resemble Barbie dolls insomuch as they are thin - earlier big bodied editions weren't as popular - but their African outfits and darker skin stands them apart.

Nigerian children see themselves in these increasingly popular dolls, with one customer - five-year-old Ifunanya Odiah - proudly proclaiming at a Lagos shopping mall: "I like it. It's black, like me."

Earlier this month, Okoya told ELLE: "I spent about two years campaigning on the importance and benefits of dolls in the African likeness."During that process, I realized greater social issues such as low self esteem, which led to the passion to make a change in the coming generation. It's been a tough journey but one I have enjoyed."

American manufacturer Mattel, which does sell black Barbies, is not a large presence in the region and told Reuters it has no any plans for expansion.

Mattel yesterday announced global Barbie sales fell by 12 per cent last quarter.

The success of the Queens of Africa is another example of the emergence of a middle class in Nigeria, which along with Mexico, Indonesia and Turkey is thought to be one of the world's awakening economic giants.

Toy sales in emerging markets such as Nigeria are growing at a rate of 13 per cent, as opposed to just 1 per cent in the developed world, suggesting that Okoya's Queens, Princesses and their to-be successors may have a successful stint on the shelf.


Source: The Independent UK

Feb 01, 2015

Deloitte has released its Technology, Media and Telecommunications predictions report for 2015, detailing what is foresees taking place in the media industry in the year to come.

According to the TMT report, print is not dead, and Deloitte predicts that print books will continue to dominate the publishing industry. “Print books will… account for 80 percent of all book sales by dollars and units. Millennial readers prefer print to digital, helping 2015 sales to be five times higher than ebook,” the report stated.

Deloitte said UK research showed that 62% of 16 to 24-year-olds preferred buying print books over ebooks because they liked to collect, “liked the smell”, and “wanted full bookshelves”. The annual Deloitte Global TMT predictions report provides a 12-18 month outlook on key trends in the technology, media and telecommunications industry worldwide.

The highlights of the media section of Deloitte’s TMT report are detailed below.

Print is not dead, at least for print books – sales from print books will be five times the sales of eBooks. eBooks have not substituted print books in the same way that sales of CDs, print newspapers and magazines have declined.

Young people (age 18-34) are as attached to print books as their elders and read at about the same rate than older demographics, and they are willing to pay for them.

Short form video: a future, but not the future, of television – the total time spent watching online short-form video clips and other programming of less than 20 minutes in length will represent less than 3 percent of all video seen in the year globally.

Deloitte Global does not expect short-form online content to usurp long-form traditional television. It is a future, but not the future, of screen-based entertainment; and Deloitte Global predicts it is unlikely ever to be the predominant video format, as measured by hours watched or revenues.

The ‘generation that won’t spend’ is spending on TMT – North American Millennials will lead the way in 2015 and spend an average of $750 per person for content, both traditional and digital.

What are Millennials spending on? Pay TV, music, computer games, books, live sports, streaming video, and even print newspapers.


Source: MyBroadband Online

Feb 01, 2015

President Jacob Zuma says African institutions need independent funding by Africans to avoid being dictated to by foreign donors. He was speaking to the SABC at the end of the 24th session of the African Union (AU) Summit in Ethiopia last night.

Zuma lauded the AU Assembly for setting up the AU foundation to raise money for the continental body. He says they don't want funding that has conditions.

The foundation will focus on Skills and Human Resource development, Women's empowerment and gender equality, Regional integration, Youth development and Advocacy and Support for the AU among others. Leaders say domestic and alternative sources of funding are the key element of the continent's commitments to Pan African values of self-determination and self-reliance.

President Zuma says this will make the AU independent of foreign influences. On security concerns on the continent, the President says there was a general commitment amongst his peers to see a stable and prosperous continent at peace with itself and the world.

He welcomes the newly established multi-national force to combat Boko Haram. But, the President says his Nigerian counterpart Goodluck Jonathan has not approached him for help in the fight against Boko Haram. The two were expected to meet on the side-lines of the AU Summit, but Jonathan did not attend due to problems back home.

He was represented by his Foreign Affairs Minister Aminu Wali. So far Nigeria has sought help from the international community and the neighbouring countries in the Ecowas region. Zuma says for now there is no request for help from Nigeria.

From Ethiopia, President Zuma made a stop-over in Khartoum last night for consultation with his Sudanese counterpart Omar al-Bashir later this morning. Sudan is expected to hold presidential and legislative elections in April.

Some opposition parties have previously demanded that the elections be postponed and a transitional government be formed to resolve what they say is a crisis in the country. Pretoria's policy towards Sudan is guided by the desire to see peace, security and stability prevailing in that country.


Source: SABC

Feb 01, 2015

BlackBerry, once the must-have device for the sweaty palms of executives and wannabe executives everywhere, has seen its global share of the smartphone market fall to below 1%. So would you still buy this unpopular phone?

If you live in parts of Africa, India or Indonesia, the answer is “hell, yes”.

The Canadian company behind the BlackBerry, Research in Motion (RIM), came to the mobile market in 1999 with the BlackBerry 850 – perhaps more of a high-end pager than a smartphone. In 2002 it launched the 5810, its first device marketed as a phone with email capability.

From that point on, the firm rapidly established itself as a market leader with handsets that provided easy access to email through their trademark compact physical QWERTY keypad, becoming essential business tools.

The term “crackberry” gained currency to described its users’ urge to check their devices, while Barack Obama famously refused to surrender his BlackBerry on becoming president in 2009.

However, like once equally mighty phone manufacturers Motorola and Nokia, RIM struggled to respond to Apple’s game-changing iPhone in 2007, which redefined the smartphone as a handset dominated by a large touch screen, extended by downloadable apps, and most importantly as a device for everybody, not just business users.

The appeal of the BlackBerry – and the company’s large installed base – allowed RIM to boast that in 2010 there were more smartphone subscribers in the US using BlackBerry than using iPhones or Android devices. But BlackBerry’s share of the global smartphone market has tumbled from a high of 20% in 2009 when it was second only to Nokia’s Symbian-based phones, to 14% in 2010, 8% in 2011 and 3% in 2012.


Further afield and the picture is rosy

While this may seem a gloomy outlook for the BlackBerry, outside Europe and the US the true picture is a little more complicated.

The most popular smartphone in South Africa, for the last four years, is the BlackBerry Curve 8520. Indeed, BlackBerry phones (8520, 9320, 9300) dominate the top rankings in a recent survey carried out by Vodacom in South Africa, with 23% of the smartphone market.

The same applies to Nigeria, where BlackBerry boasts 40% of the market, and the drama BlackBerry Babes gives some indication of the status the phones command.

What is the BlackBerry’s appeal to the developing world? The answer is threefold. First, a BlackBerry is seen as a status symbol, a strong brand that people aspire to own. Second, low-cost mobile data bundles and the fact that BlackBerry users can exchange messages for free using the Blackberry Messenger (BBM) service makes them affordable and well-suited to less capable mobile networks.

Finally, phones are upgraded less frequently in developing countries – South Africa’s most recent chart-topping BlackBerry is three years old.

The situation in India and Indonesia is slightly different: here the BlackBerry Z3 – a new, low-cost touch screen model released specifically for the Asian market – is doing very well, despite market share in Indonesia falling from 43% to 3% in three years. In India the BlackBerry outsells the iPhone by appealing both to the young and trendy and to business workers looking for that white-collar professional look.


Right phone, right price – for now

So BlackBerry’s success for the moment appears to be reliant on its strong brand and affordable products. The fact that its critically important BlackBerry Messenger service has been ported to run on Android is also significant as it maintains the customer base without a reliance on handset ownership.

However, BlackBerry will face a longer term challenge from an influx of cheaper and more capable smart phones arriving from China and the Far East, at which point the question will be whether its brand will be strong enough to ensure survival.

Recent speculation that Samsung might consider buying BlackBerry has renewed interest in the company’s fortunes. But such a takeover may well be motivated more by the value of the firm’s intellectual property portfolio: its proprietary operating system, the BBM instant messaging platform, and the real-time QNX operating system which the firm acquired in 2010.

Designed specifically for embedded devices, QNX could be seen as a key property as the “internet of things” develops – much more so, in fact, than a portfolio of smart phones popular in only a few countries.


Source:  Nigel Linge; Professor, Computer Networking and Telecommunications at University of Salford

This article was originally published on The Conversation.

Jan 30, 2015

RwandAir’s CEO, Mr. John Mirenge, yesterday, on the occasion of launching the airline’s fifth freedom right flight from Entebbe to Nairobi, confirmed that there is keen interest to seek similar arrangements with Zimbabwe, in line with the upcoming flights to Lusaka.

Zambia’s capital city, notably also home to COMESA of which Rwanda is a member country, will see an initial three flights per week, every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday come March 27, the service then continuing to Johannesburg with full fifth freedom rights on the route. Harare could be linked in a similar fashion, and it is understood that trilateral negotiations are ongoing to secure landing and route rights.

At the same time, Mr. Mirenge then affirmed that flights to Abidjan were still on track to be launched later this year and that RwandAir was also eyeing Cotonou, with no launch date given as yet, serving notice of intent to connect key cities in West Africa with East Africa and beyond.

While speaking to the media at the Karibuni Lounge in Entebbe prior the inaugural flight to Nairobi, Mr. Mirenge then also gave the clearest indication yet that the airline’s fleet development may be accelerated. Already operating one of Africa’s youngest fleets, a second Bombardier Q400 joined in a few months’ time and a third Boeing B737-800NG is also on order for delivery, going by the comments made, as early as Q4 this year. The surprise, however, was that RwandAir appears to be in talks with manufacturers about a bridging solution, to have wide-bodied aircraft available ahead of the planned delivery of two Boeing B787 Dreamliners, which are expected to be around 2017.

Should in fact such a stop gap solution be found, RwandAir could launch their long-haul flights, often talked about in the past by the airline’s management. Flights to China and India and also Europe would then make RwandAir a true hub airline, connecting Western, Eastern and Southern Africa to the Gulf and Asia.

Kigali International Airport’s accelerated expansion, ahead of the start of construction of an entirely new airport in Bugesera, can now easily facilitate added passenger numbers after adding four more departure gates, tripling from the previous two and where check-in counter space also more than doubled during the modernization of the main terminal building.

Besides transit traffic through Kigali, the airline, however, also keenly eyed destination traffic into Rwanda. Added visitor numbers will be a shot in the arm for the country’s already fast-growing tourism industry. When the new national convention center and the adjoining hotel, both to be managed by Rezidor’s Radisson Blu, get completed these added facilities will bring more of the coveted MICE business into the Land of a Thousand Hills. The hospitality sector, presently led by Serena and followed by Kempinski which in July last year took on the management of the Des Mille Collines, will soon be joined by Marriott proper, while one of the brands Marriott acquired last year, Protea, is already expanding their footprint in the three/four-star bracket.

It is clear for regular observers of the Rwandan hospitality, tourism, and aviation scene that key pieces of a well-designed master plan are beginning to fall into place. This will help the country, which rose like a Phoenix from the ashes of 1994, to solidify economic gains and create real prosperity for her people, unlike many other countries where this remains a mere fiction. Already a shining example on the continent of Africa for good leadership and governance, discipline, accountability, and a zero tolerance for corruption, Rwanda is today seen as a role model around the world of how to transform a previously, by and large anyway, agriculture-based economy into a mixed economy with strong emphasis on the service industry and ICT.


Source: ETN Africa

Jan 30, 2015

President of the Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote yesterday said Nigeria will be the largest exporter of urea in Africa by 2017.

Dangote stated this at an interactive session between members of the organised private sector and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele on recent developments in the global oil prices and its effect on Nigeria’s foreign exchange market.

The top 10 Urea exporting countries account for 70 per cent of global trade with China as the largest supplier. Urea, a white crystalline solid containing 46 per cent nitrogen, is widely used in the agricultural industry as an animal feed additive and fertilizer. “Nigeria will be the biggest exporter of urea in Africa by 2017. Most of these plans are in the pipeline,” Dangote said.

He urged members of the private sector to support government’s efforts in diversifying the economy, saying: “Please, we should support the system.” According to the richest man in Africa, the development in the global oil market creates an opportunity to refocus the Nigerian economy.

“It is just an opportunity for us to sit down and talk to ourselves about how to diversify the economy and encourage more exports, because that is the way we should be going instead of going to the Central Bank of Nigeria everyday to buy forex. By 2020, the population of this country is going to be 210 million and are we going to continue to be importing then? Can we afford to be importing then for such a huge population?

“A lot of people want to wake up and see the external reserves would just be increasing, but is not going to be easy because revenue has gone down by 55 per cent,” he said.

While responding to an earlier statement by the CBN governor that sugar is one of the items importers always seek forex to import, Dangote said: “I can assure you that in the next four years, you will not allocate forex for sugar importation.”

He added: “We should support the economy by improving its productive capacity. Based on our plans, we would be the highest seller of foreign exchange by the first 2018. Our plan now is to start exporting most of our other products.”




Source: ThisDay Nigeria

Jan 30, 2015

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe believes the African Union is kowtowing to the West and if he takes over leadership of the organisation, he wants to make it a leader on the global stage, his spokesman said on Thursday.

Mugabe, who turns 91 next month, is widely expected to be appointed to chair the 54-member union when it begins a two-day summit on Friday. “The president has for a very long time been complaining about the trajectory of the AU,” Mugabe's spokesman George Charamba told the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation's main television news bulletin.

“He thinks we've been trying to, as it were, bend our policies so as to win the goodwill of the West. “What the president visualises is a leadership that recognises the strategic advantage of Africa and then translates that advantage into a leadership... on the global stage.

“That's the change that you're likely to see when the president takes over, or if the president takes over, which we hope he will,” Charamba added. The ageing Mugabe, who is dogged by allegations of rights abuses at home, is a controversial choice for chairman of the AU.

Even though the position is largely ceremonial, critics say Mugabe's elevation will do Africa no favours. “How will he superintend free and fair elections in other African nations when he has failed in that regard himself?” the private NewsDay paper asked in its editorial comment on Thursday.


Source: Sapa

Jan 30, 2015

New-truck sales in South Africa ticked up 2.04% in 2014, compared with the previous year, to 31 554 units. The local truck market delivered yet another “dynamic performance”, says UD Trucks Southern Africa (UDTSA) MD Rory Schulz.

“The truck market has managed to weather the storms we have seen over the last couple of years.” In terms of the various segments in the South African truck market, sales of medium commercial vehicles (MCVs) declined by 4.86% in 2014 to reach 11 021 units.

Sales of heavy commercial vehicles (HCVs) increased 0.04% to 5 476 units. The extra-heavy commercial vehicle (XHCV) market saw sales jump by 7.68% to 13 804 units. “A recovery in the platinum mining sector and increased activities in heavy construction and long haulage were the main drivers of demand for extra-heavy trucks,” notes Schulz.

The star performer of 2014 was the bus market, jumping 19.79%, compared with 2013, to 1 253 units. “The phasing-in of bus rapid transit systems in metros such as Tshwane and Cape Town contributed significantly to the increase in new bus sales,” says Schulz.

Mercedes-Benz remained the top selling commercial vehicle brand in South Africa, with a 16.35% share of the market (2013:17.21%), followed by Isuzu with 12.84% (2013:13%) and Hino with 12.77% (2013:12.77%). UDTSA, in fourth position, increased its market share from 9.96% in 2013 to 10.66% in 2014.

The local arm of the Japanese truck maker also increased sales by 9.29% to 3 365 units, with the brand again the top performer in the HCV segment. Gazing into the crystal ball, Schulz expects more of the same in 2015, with the domestic new-truck market expected to expand by 2.05% to 32 201 units.

However, this forecast does not include any shock event in its modelling, such as prolonged strikes or energy blackouts, he adds. Several factors will impact on the local truck market, says Schulz.

Economic growth in South Africa is expected to increase slightly, to 2.5%, while some credit rating downgrades remain a concern. The country’s Gross Fixed Capital Formation index is also set to decrease marginally, as investment in construction and nonresidential buildings declines – always a good indicator that there will be demand for construction-related truck applications, notes Schulz.

Inflation is expected to ease owing to lower crude oil prices, while no interest rate hikes are expected until the third quarter of the year. “Exchange rates remain a problem for the industry, with the effects of the rand weakness in 2013 and 2014 to be felt through higher-than-inflation product price increases in 2015 by all truck manufacturers,” says Schulz.

“We are also hoping that labour relations will be better after the prolonged industrial action in various segments throughout 2014,” he adds. Schulz also notes that bulk goods are still transported by road in South Africa, and not by rail, creating demand for new trucks.

Transport operators are also operating younger fleets, with more responsible replacement policies in place, compared with the expensive habit to sweat assets, as seen during the economic downturn in 2009. UDTSA expects the MCV segment to contract by 1% in 2015, with 1% growth in HCV sales, 4% growth in XHCV sales and a 12% expansion in the bus market.

UDTSA will work to “maintain and hold” its position in 2015, with the company expected to lose some market share this year as product gaps in the MCV segment impact on sales. However, new products due for release in 2015 may boost sales, although the positive impact of these new releases will not be immediately felt, probably spilling over into 2016, says Schulz.

UDTSA, part of the Volvo Group South Africa, is set to launch its new Quester XHCV range in March. The Quester range will not replace the company’s current Quon range, but rather enhance UDTSA’s current product offering. “The Quester is expected to be UD’s most cost-efficient truck ever,” says Schulz. “The new range will cut fuel costs and maximise uptime, giving fleet owners quick, dependable payback that will help them succeed in their business.”


Source: Engineering News South Africa

Jan 29, 2015

InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), one of the world’s leading hotel companies, has signed a franchise agreement with Choice Decisions 65 (Pty) Ltd for the 151-room Holiday Inn Johannesburg Airport. Expected to open in the first quarter of this year, the new Holiday Inn will be a conversion of the current Airport Grand Hotel & Conference Centre near O.R Tambo Airport, Johannesburg, South Africa.

Featuring a selection of meeting rooms and function space, the hotel is well equipped for hosting events or private business meetings. Guests can enjoy food and beverage in the hotel's restaurant and two bars. Located close to the Airport, guests staying on business are also guaranteed convenient access to Sandton Convention Centre as well as the major city centres of Pretoria and Johannesburg.

Holiday Inn Johannesburg Airport will be the second IHG hotel in Africa with the operators who also manage Crowne Plaza Nairobi. This will be IHG's third Holiday Inn hotel in South Africa. As with all Holiday Inn hotels, guests can expect the ideal mix of business and leisure in an inviting and comfortable environment.

Pascal Gauvin, Chief Operating Officer, India, Middle East and Africa, IHG, said: “Holiday Inn has enjoyed a long and successful history in South Africa since we launched our first hotel in Johannesburg in 1971. Today South Africa ranks amongst the top business events and leisure travel destinations in Africa and we are confident in the market’s long-term growth potential."
"Choice Decisions 65 (Pty) Ltd is a reputable hotel developer with a strong track record as a hotel developer and we are delighted to be working with them again. We are confident Holiday Inn Johannesburg Airport will be the hotel of choice for travellers looking for a comfortable and reliable stay in South Africa," he added.
Nazir Akbarali, Chief Executive Officer, Choice Decisions 65 (Pty) Ltd, said: “We have been working with IHG for many years – on earlier Holiday Inn properties we developed with them in Canada and the current Crowne Plaza Nairobi. Our partnership with them has been very successful and we are pleased to be managing our second hotel with them in Africa. We look forward to welcoming guests when the doors to the new Holiday Inn Johannesburg Airport open early this year."
IHG currently has 29 hotels open on the continent of Africa across five brands: InterContinental,Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express and Staybridge Suites, and a further six hotels in the pipeline. Across the Asia, Middle East and Africa region there are 84 Holiday Inn hotels totalling more than 19,400 rooms, with an additional 48 hotels due to open in the next three to five years.
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