Sunday, 13 September 2015

East Africa emerges as a trade hub Africa is emerging as a trade hub to rival sub-Saharan Africa’s two heavyweight states of South Africa and Nigeria, according to analysis by Barclays published on Thursday. However the UK bank identifies five “sleeping giants” that present significant new for foreign companies; Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique, Tanzania and Ghana.

This quintet which are “playing catch-up after significant political and economic upheaval . . . are increasingly attractive to foreign firms and international investors with an eye on long-term returns from fast-growing markets,” Barclays said in its inaugural Africa Trade Index.

Matt Tuck, head of global corporate banking at Barclays, said the five were open to international trade and had rapidly growing populations that are likely to reach 325m in total by 2020, comparable to that of the US. Moreover, any repeat of the 7.3 per cent compound annual economic growth they have experienced over the past five years would lead to a significant rise in household spending. Most are relatively unreliant on commodity exports by African standards, shielding them from some of the storms currently battering emerging markets.

“The core underlying fundamentals are getting better and with more stable government it does represent an opportunity for growth,” said Mr Tuck. “It’s a much more encouraging outlook than in the past.” Overall, Barclays found South Africa and Nigeria offered the best opportunities for foreign companies, in terms of unmet demand, the absence of major barriers to cross-border trade and their connectivity with other African countries.

While South Africa is the “standout performer”, Barclays said Nigeria arguably represented the “most exciting” long-term opportunity. However it added that the country suffered from “logistical difficulties posed by inadequate infrastructure,” which meant many companies had to provide their own power and water supplies.

The bank, which has operated in Africa for more than 150 years and has 1,500 branches across the continent, said Nigeria needed to reduce non-tariff barriers to trade, as well as invest heavily in transport networks and power provision. Barclays said that east Africa was emerging as a trade hub, with improved border administration helping create a fast-growing regional market.

The east African Community introduced a single customs territory last year, earning praise from Erich Kieck, director for capacity building at the World Customs Organisation, for “remarkable work simplifying the control of goods moving across the customs union”.

Kenya is ranked third in Barclays’ index, with Tanzania and Ethiopia also in the top six. Mr Tuck said Kenya had taken on the role of “regional leader”, pushing for regional policy in terms of infrastructure and administration and developing strong regional and global air connectivity.

“Many countries, particularly in east Africa, have invested in major developments in both infrastructure and ‘soft’ infrastructure such as tariffs and border policies,” said Mr Tuck. He welcomed the development of “one-stop” border posts, where a single customs check is run jointly by neighbouring countries, rather than each country operating their own station.

East Africa is leading the way in this regard, with seven OSBPs operational or in development in Tanzania and six in Uganda and Kenya, although they are spreading further afield with even Zimbabwe implementing such a system at its Chirundi border post with Zambia.

Developments such as these have helped the dollar value of intra-regional exports expand at a compound annual growth rate of 16 per cent between 2004 and 2013, Barclays said, double the 7.6 per cent CAGR for sub-Saharan exports in total, which hit $460bn in 2014.

Mr Tuck said intra-regional trade still only represented 17 per cent of total trade flows in sub-Saharan Africa, below the levels in regions such as Latin America (20 per cent), North America (32 per cent), Asia (48 per cent) and Europe (66 per cent).

Having said that, bodies such as the African Development Bank have estimated that the true figure is nearer to 40 per cent when informal and unofficial cross-border trade is taken into account.

The report, which was compiled as an aid for UK exporters but has wider ramifications, also pointed to the degree to which Europe has been usurped by the rise of Asia, which accounted for 19 per cent of sub-Saharan Africa’s goods imports in 2004 but 32 per cent by 2013.

Barclays saw some of the best opportunities in the retail sector, with the development of more formal shops, malls and supermarkets allowing customers to “trade up”, and expanding mobile and internet services creating new avenues for online retailers. Opportunities abound elsewhere though, with Diageo, the UK drinks group, currently generating 13 per cent of its sales in sub-Saharan Africa, a figure it hopes to raise to 20 per cent.

South Africa crash, Ghana win, Nigeria draw shocked South Africa 3-1, Ghana edged Rwanda 1-0 and Nigeria were held 0-0 by Tanzania Saturday in Africa Cup of Nations matchday 2 qualifiers. A blunder by goalkeeper and captain Itumeleng Khune after five minutes cost South Africa a goal in Nouakchott and set the home team on the road to their greatest Cup of Nations triumph.

Khune allowed a long-range Ali Abeid free-kick to slip from his grasp into the net and Bafana Bafana (The Boys) had debutant Siyabonga Zulu red-carded after half-time for a last-defender foul. South Africa equalised midway through the second half when Thamsanqa Gabuza soared above goalkeeper Mohamed Salahdine to nod in a cross.

But a Mauritanian team ranked 42 places below their opponents in the world finished strongly and superb individual goals by Boubacar Beyguili and Ahmed Khalil sealed victory. Success lifted Mauritania from the bottom to the top of Group M on goals scored although Cameroon will regain first place if they do not lose in Gambia Sunday.

Four-time African champions Ghana left it late to succeed in Kigali with Russia-based Mubarak Wakaso the 87th-minute match-winner. The Black Stars were awarded a free-kick just outside the box on a poor pitch and Wakaso curled the ball past the wall and wide of goalkeeper Olivier Kwizeri into the corner.

It was a cruel blow for the Wasps, who fought gallantly before a near-capacity crowd and did not deserve to lose. The last time Ghana visited Kigali for a Cup of Nations qualifier they suffered a stunning 1-0 loss 12 years ago. Ghana, runners-up to Ivory Coast in the 2015 Cup of Nations, lead Group H with six points, three more than Rwanda, while Mauritius and Mozambique are pointless ahead of their Sunday clash.

There was no dream debut for new Nigeria coach and former midfield star Sunday Oliseh as the three-time Cup of Nations title-holders found Tanzania a revitalised side. - Ikeme impresses - Super Eagles goalkeeper Carl Ikeme from English second-tier club Wolves made several excellent saves in Dar es Salaam on his debut at 29.

Ikeme started after first choice shot-stopper and captain Vincent Enyeama pulled out in midweek following the death of his mother. The result was another feather in the cap for caretaker coach Charles Boniface Mkwasa, who ended a string of Taifa Stars losses with an African Nations Championship draw in Uganda.

A point took Nigeria to the top of Group G, but record seven-time African champions Egypt will overtake them if they dodge defeat in Chad Sunday. English Premier League pair, Cheikhou Kouyate of West Ham and Sadio Mane of Southampton, netted as Senegal triumphed 2-0 in Namibia Kouyate struck in the first half and Mane in the second in Windhoek as the Teranga Lions maintained a perfect Group K start with a second win.

Burundi are second, three points adrift, after a 2-0 victory over Niger in Bujumbura thanks to goals from South Africa-based duo Fiston Abdul Razak and Papy Faty. Uganda President Yoweri Museveni funded the $210,000 (190,000 euros) travel costs of the Cranes to the Comoros islands off the south-east coast. The cash-strapped national team triumphed 1-0 in Group D courtesy of a goal midway through the first half from recalled Iceland-based Tonny Mawejje.

Friday, 11 September 2015

WHO-raised team develops guidelines for ‘IVF’ in Africa

A team of experts raised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) has developed Fertility Guidelines especially on the practice of In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF)/Assiated Reproductive Technologies (ARTs) in Africa.

President African Fertility Society (AFS), Prof Oladapo Ashiru, in a press release, yesterday, the WHO experts hadon September 4, 2015, in Geneva, Switzerland, completed a week long meeting, making evidence-based recommendations on fertility care and research.

Ashiru, who is also the joint pioneer of IVF technique/test tube baby in Nigeria, said the recommendations made will inform and support the development of WHO Fertility Guidelines.

He said the WHO guideline will close the gap in the standard of fertility care and assisted reproductive technology regulation missing in Nigeria and most of Africa. “Areas covered by the world experts during the working consultations at the WHO Department of Reproduction and Research include glossaries of terminologies, acceptable standards of practices and research questions,” he said.

Dr. Sherly van Poel of the Reproductive Health and Research said: “The meeting is a milestone development in closing the gap in the explosive new knowledge necessary to promote access to quality, safe and responsible fertility care worldwide.”

The Africa region was representedat the ground-breaking meeting by Ashiru and Dr. James Olobo-Lalobo of the African Fertility Society.

Ashiru, who chaired one of the sessions said: “The long awaited change in fertility mind set of the African will now begin to change for ever. The withering childless African woman blamed, for far too long, for the infertility of any cause should at last begin to expect an improved quality of life as the bravado men climb down and calm down in the face of evidence-based fertility recommendations made.”

Dr. James Olobo-Lalobo of Uganda remarked: “Right now, Uganda is geared to the implementation phase of the WHO Fertility Guideline through multi-stakeholder involvement, creating fertility awareness, embedding patient-friendly regulation and promoting related research. …Tomorrow must be better than today….this is the definition of hope for every childless couple should expect.”

At the end of the meeting Professor Ashiru thanked WHO for the initiative and commended participants for working long hours throughout the whole week to generate a document that will invaluable in reproductive health services.

He seized the opportunity to invite the WHO Human Reproduction Group to the conference of the Association of Fertility and Reproductive Health of Nigeria, and the mini-symposium of African Fertility Society in Lagos from September 24th to 26th 2015 at the Oriental Hotel, Victoria Island.

Veteran City investor hopes to power up Africa

Veteran investor Jerome Booth, who has long extolled the virtues of emerging markets, is to launch a new investment fund that will focus on renewable and conventional energy projects in Africa.

New Sparta Asset Management plans to invest in at least three power stations, each of which will need at least £50m of equity. The group, which has a number of economists on its board, including Sunday Telegraph columnist Liam Halligan, is about to launch a fundraising round for investors.

"There is a huge amount of untapped opportunity in emerging markets, particularly with companies in the private, pre-IPO stage,” said Dr Booth. “Our strategy is not only to bring the funds, but also find areas where we can add value by using our expertise to help companies, and nations, grow rapidly but sustainably.”

Only a small percentage of sub-Saharan Africa has access to energy, while South Africa, one of the major economies in Africa, regularly suffers from electricity blackouts. Many foreign investors have recently taken an interest in the continent, following years of underinvestment into Africa’s power infrastructure. Last month, Dubai-based investment firm Abraaj Group raised $375m for a fund focusing on North Africa.

Monday, 7 September 2015

Egypt announces parliamentary election will start in October will hold a long-awaited parliamentary election in two phases starting on 18-19 October, the election commission has said.

The first phase of voting had been due to begin in March but the election was delayed after a court ruled part of an election law was unconstitutional. The second phase will take place on 22-23 November, the election commission told a news conference.

Egypt has been without a parliament since June 2012 when a court dissolved the democratically elected main chamber, reversing a major accomplishment of the 2011 uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the military chief who became president, toppled Egypt’s first freely elected president, Islamist Mohamed Morsi, in 2013 after mass protests against his rule.

The army then announced a roadmap to democracy in Egypt, the most populous Arab state and a close ally of western powers. That announcement was followed by the toughest crackdown on Islamists in Egypt’s history. Security forces killed hundreds at street protests and thousands were arrested.

Fly Africa to open new routes in East and West Africa

Southern Africa-focused low-cost airline Fly Africa will expand to fly new routes to destinations in East and West Africa, Gabon's president said on Saturday.

"One of the biggest contributions that we as Africans can make to Africa's development is to open the skies for direct affordable travel between African states," said Ali Bongo at the New York Forum in Gabon's capital Libreville.

A statement from Fly Africa said that the expansion was possible because of a "strategic partnership between the Government of Gabon and African industrialist, venture capitalist and philanthropist Ivor Ichikowitz".

Fly Africa, majority-owned by the family of its CEO Chaka Karase, was launched last year in southern Africa and has cut prices by 50-70 percent on routes between Johannesburg and Harare.

The airline said it would shortly launch new routes to Namibia, Gabon, Benin and Zambia followed by destinations in east Africa.

Many routes within Africa are expensive and circuitous, and it is often cheaper to travel between African capitals via Paris. The International Air Transport Association expects passenger growth in Africa to be the highest in the world over the next 20 years as population booms.

Fly Africa will compete with national carriers like Kenya Airways and Air Cote d'Ivoire as well as West and Central African regional airline ASKY.

South Africa's Bidvest Group profit rises on food business African conglomerate Bidvest Group reported an 8.6 percent rise in annual profit on Monday, buoyed by its food service business.

Bidvest, whose business spans auto showrooms, shipping and catering, said diluted headline earnings per share totalled 1,882 cents in year to end-June, slightly better than the mean estimate of 11 analysts in a Reuter’s poll.

Headline EPS is the most widely watched profit measure in South Africa and strips out certain one-off items.

Bidvest is largely insulated from tough economic conditions at home thanks to its large food business in Asia and Europe, where it makes about half of its sales.

Sales rose 11.6 percent to 204.9 billion rand ($15.41 billion).

Africa: Uhuru Kenyatta to Revive Ailing African Peer Review Mechanism

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta is leading efforts to give a fresh impetus to the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), which was initiated 12 years ago to institutionalise good governance and democratic leadership on the continent.

The Kenyan leader, who was elected APRM forum chairperson in June, will convene a summit of heads of state on September 11 to resolve the problems that have frustrated the initiative, including failure by states to fund activities and reluctance by some countries to be peer-reviewed.

The APRM was the brainchild of former South African president Thabo Mbeki, who led other African heads of state in signing onto a programme that would see countries agreeing to be assessed by fellow African countries and encouraged to improve their governance.

It was seen as a major step towards ensuring Africans were finding solutions to African problems, and taking charge of the continent's destiny. With the APRM defining "good governance" and "democracy" in the African context, it was envisaged to enable African countries to conduct their own appraisals, have constructive dialogue with each other and share best practices among themselves.

In APRM, the region's leaders not only saw an African-owned and African-driven system that would help Africa improve its governance; but they also saw a political tool that could help them keep the West from poking its nose in its affairs.

It helped many countries to open up the political space and its reports have been used by donors, foreign investors and nations such as Ghana to build their international reputation as reformers and well-governed countries.

However, the APRM has faded fast from the collective memories of most Africans because a number of the 35 countries that have signed up -don't pay their minimum $100,000 annual contribution.

Last year, Djibouti requested to be reviewed, but APRM said it was too broke to travel to the country to conduct the review - which costs anything between $1 million to $3 million. Another problem facing APRM is that very few countries that have signed up are not willing to be reviewed. To date, only 17 out of 35 member countries have been reviewed. In 2006, Ghana completed its first review, followed by Rwanda and Kenya in 2007.

Algeria and South Africa did their review in 2008 while Benin, Uganda, Nigeria and Burkina Faso in 2009. Mali, Mozambique and Lesotho followed in 2010, Mauritius in 2011, Ethiopia; in 2012 and the last countries to be reviewed were Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Zambia in 2013.

And those that have been reviewed more often than not refuse to implement the recommendations and reforms proposed by the review team.

Whale watching in South Africa is an experience you will never forget aren’t many places on Earth where you can perch on a massive white sand dune – or sit outside a bar, cold beer in hand – and watch whales frolic in the surf.But that’s what hordes of people flock to do along South Africa’s south coast. Around this time of year, southern right whales start making their way from the Antarctic to calve and mate.

They come in to the protected shores around the southern tip of Africa to have their babies in August and September and the males arrive for mating in a few weeks.

A fantastically remote place to take in this spectacle is from the top of a sand dune at the magnificent De Hoop Nature Reserve – just three hours from Cape Town.

In addition to whale watching in this World Heritage Site, you can enjoy guided marine walks and hiking trails through 36,000 hectares of rare fynbos vegetation or hop on a bicycle or quad bike and get up close to antelope like bontebok and eland, as well as zebra, baboons and ostriches.

The beaches are spectacular and the rock pools perfect for exploring. Hardy types can do the five-day Whale Trail walk. There is a great range of accommodation spread out along a bird-rich estuary and the Fig Tree restaurant serves delicious local dishes. Get them to pack you a picnic and head for those dunes with your binoculars.

If you’d prefer to combine wildlife with nightlife, there’s no better place than Hermanus, a lively town just over an hour’s drive from Cape Town, which holds a whale festival every year (October 2-4 this year).

The famous Whale Crier will alert you to any sightings in Walker Bay – all you have to do is sit outside one of the bars or restaurants along the cliffs of the New Harbour and the whales basically come to you! There are various lookout points along the cliffs.

And if you fancy getting near enough to hear their tummies rumble – or even get wet when they spout water – you can clamber onto the rocks on the seafront. The sea shelf falls away dramatically here, so the whales come in really close to show off their calves.

If you’re lucky they’ll even put on a show – breaching (backflips clear out of the water), spy-hopping (popping up nose first) and lobtailing (for that great shot of its fluke as it dives under water). September and October is usually peak season, but I have sat outside a pub with a cold glass of sauvignon blanc and watched 20 whales belly-flop and back-flip their way around Walker Bay well into November.

At other times of the year you’ll find schools of hundreds of dolphins feeding on sardines – you can watch from the shore, or take a boat trip around the bay. Thrill seekers can go cage-diving at nearby Gansbaai for close encounters with great white sharks – while gentler types can head 40 minutes in the opposite direction to Betty’s Bay to see penguins waddling about on the beach.

These are a few of the best places to enjoy the abundant marine life – but you sometimes don’t even have to leave Cape Town. Whales are spotted all along the coast at this time of year and around Seal Island – just off the shores of False Bay – is the only place in the world where you can see great whites leap out of the water to attack seals from below. All this just an overnight flight away – with no jetlag. You could even make a long weekend of it…

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Le Clos, Van der Burgh, Coventry Highlight All Africa Games’ Athletes

Le closThe 11th edition of the All Africa Games is coming full circle, as the host of the original Games back is 1965, Brazzaville, Congo, is set to host the continental competition again for the 2015 version. The 2015 All African Games, which encompasses a total of 34 sporting disciplines, is set to kick-off on Wednesday, September 2nd, with swimming events slated to take place September 6th-11th.

2015 All Africa Games Official Site
The multi-national meet, which takes place every four years, has seen some big stars take the swimming stage in the past. Cameron Van der Burgh (RSA), Chad Le Clos (RSA), Kirsty Coventry (ZMB) and Farida Osman (EGY) all hold records from previous Games, as well as Darian Townsend from when the now-American citizen still competed for South Africa.

This year’s competition will carry over most of those African swimming powerhouses, most likely with the Olympic hopefuls taking advantage of the big stage as additional preparation for Rio. South Africa’s Games roster includes such primetime athletes as Myles Brown, Calvyn Justus, Karin Prinsloo, as well as the aforementioned Van der Burgh and Le Clos.

Kirsty Coventry has also confirmed her participation at the meet, representing her home country of Zimbabwe. This will be Coventry’s third All Africa Games appearance, having already competed at the 2007 and 2011 editions. She holds an impressive five meet records across the 50m/100m/200m backstroke and the 200m IM and 400m IM events. Coventry recently qualified for her fifth Olympic Games, securing her spot in Rio with her 100m backstroke time of 1:00.09 at the World Championships in Kazan.

FINA visited the country of Congo in December 2014 in an effort to elevate the level of officiating skills among the local resources in preparation for these Games. At that time, Congo currently had no technical officials or judges who could officiate major events, but, after having been awarded the Games, the country prioritized training. The country collaborated with FINA in the hopes of not having to invest in the costly procurement of outside officials for the meet.

India, South Africa to play Gandhi-Mandela series future bilateral series between India and South Africa, including South Africa's forthcoming tour of India, will be called the Mahatma Gandhi-Nelson Mandela series, the two boards have announced. The Test series, the BCCI and Cricket South Africa said, will be played for the Freedom Trophy.

"BCCI, on behalf of every citizen of our country, is able to pay tribute to these great leaders by naming the series after them, and appeals to each and every citizen of our country to imbibe their ideals and follow the path advised by them," BCCI secretary Anurag Thakur said in a statement.

CSA chief executive, Haroon Lorgat, said that naming the series after Gandhi and Mandela was "eternal news for our people and cricketers". "For the people of both our countries there is no greater duty than to uphold the ideals of both Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela," he said. "As cricket-loving people we must fight hard to win on the field of play but never forget to do battle in the spirit of these two great men."

Gandhi was the leader of India's non-violent freedom struggle, and had a South African connection as well, having practised law in the country. Mandela spearheaded the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, and was the country's president from 1994 to 1999. The announcement is significant in the context of ICC chief executive David Richardson's recent concerns over the relevance of bilateral series that don't have an "iconic, traditional status". India will host South Africa for three T20Is, five ODIs and four Test matches between October and December this year.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

South Sudan president signs peace deal despite concerns!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_620_330/image.jpgSouth Sudan's president signed a peace deal on Wednesday to end a 20-month conflict with rebels, but he told regional African leaders at the ceremony that he still had "serious reservations". President Salva Kiir, who has led South Sudan since it seceded from Sudan in 2011, last week asked for more time for consultations, drawing threats of U.N. sanctions if he failed to ink it within a two-week deadline.

"With all those reservations that we have, we will sign this document," he told African leaders gathered in Juba for the ceremony, speaking shortly before he signed. Rebel leader Riek Machar, Kiir's long-time rival who is expected to become the country's First Vice President under the deal, signed the document last week in the Ethiopian capital.

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon welcomed the signing of the peace deal, but his spokesman noted in a statement that it must be implemented. "Now is the time to ensure that this agreement translates into an end to the violence, hardship and horrific human rights violations witnessed throughout this conflict," the statement said.

Thousands of people have been killed since the conflict erupted in December 2013 after a power struggle between Machar, an ethnic Nuer, and Kiir, from the dominant Dinka group. The fighting has increasingly followed ethnic lines, unsettling an already volatile region.

Many of the 11 million population have been driven to the brink of starvation and 2 million people have fled their homes, often to neighboring states. The deal follows months of on-off negotiations, hosted by Ethiopia, and several broken ceasefire agreements. The rebels on Wednesday said that there had been other bout of fighting with government forces and they captured a town south of Juba after their troops were attacked.

But Kiir told the ceremony that the rebels had launched a raid in the north of the country earlier in the day. "Now you can see who is for peace and who is for continued war," he said. Kiir also gave a document to regional leaders listing his concerns. Mediators have said Kiir had voiced concerns about a demand that Juba become a demilitarized zone and conditions that he consult the first vice president on policy.

Machar, who was Kiir's deputy until he was sacked in 2013, has also conveyed doubts about aspects of power-sharing. Under the deal, he is expected to become Kiir's top deputy again. Susan Rice, President Barack Obama's national security adviser, said the United States welcomed the deal as a "first step" toward ending the conflict, but that it would take "hard work" to implement the agreement.

"However, we do not recognize any reservations or addendums to that agreement", Rice said in a statement. "We will work with our international partners to sideline those who stand in the way of peace, drawing upon the full range of our multilateral and bilateral tools," Rice said.

U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby went a step further, saying that if Kiir acted on his reservations and reneged on the deal the United States would support further U.N. sanctions, though he did not give specifics. The United States had proposed a United Nations arms embargo and more sanctions from Sept. 6 unless the pact was signed by the 15-day deadline given to Kiir last week.

At the ceremony, Kiir said he had faced intimidation during the peace process and added negotiations were handled "carelessly" by regional and world leaders, saying a poor agreement could backfire on the region. In comments echoed by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said it was a "happy day for us in the region" that the deal had been signed, and that South Sudan's leaders now need to focus on the future.

Ethiopia’s Space Programme Ready For launch above the crowded streets of Addis Ababa, among fields where farmers lead oxen dragging wooden ploughs, sits Ethiopia’s space programme.Operational for only a few months, the specialized equipment — the first in eastern Africa — has propelled Ethiopia into an elite club of African countries to have embarked on a space programme.

For Ethiopia, Africa’s second most populous nation, the programme is aimed to give it a technological boost to aid the country’s already rapid development. Perched on the top of the 3,200-metre (10,500-foot) high Mount Entoto, two metal domes house telescopes, each a metre in diameter.

“Science is part of any development cycle — without science and technology nothing can be achieved,” said Abinet Ezra, communications director for the Ethiopian Space Science Society (ESSS). “Our main priority is to inspire the young generation to be involved in science and technology.” ESSS, funded by Ethiopian-Saudi business tycoon Mohammed Alamoudi, was set up in 2004 to promote astronomy.

– ‘People said we were crazy’ –
It has a bold mission: “To build a society with a highly developed scientific culture that enables Ethiopia to reap the benefits accruing from space science and technology.” But its supporters have had a tough ride to set it up. For the past decade, a handful of enthusiasts — including Solomon Belay, director of the observatory and a professor of astrophysics — battled with the authorities to convince them that in a country that is still one of the poorest in the world, where malnutrition is still a threat, the exploration of space is not a luxury.

Ethiopia strongman Meles Zenawi, who died in 2012, considered them to be dreamers. “People said we were crazy,” said Belay. “The attention of the government was to secure food security, not to start a space and technology programme. Our idea was contrary to that.” A chalkboard with mathematic equations as well as writing in Amharic, the Ethiopian national languag … The space observatory is, above all, a symbol.

The $3 million (2.7 million euro) centre houses computer-controlled telescopes and a spectrograph, to measure wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation. It allows the handful of astronomy and astrophysics students at the University of Addis Ababa to train on site, rather than taking expensive trips abroad. “Being poor is not a boundary to start this programme,” Solomon said, adding that by boosting support for science, it would help develop the country. “Engineering and sciences are important to transform our (traditional) agriculture into industry.”
– Rocket launch –
The site here at Entoto, often hidden by clouds during the rainy season and close to the lights of Addis Ababa, struggles to compete with the world’s major observatories, including the far larger Southern African Large Telescope in South Africa. But Ethiopia has plans, including to build a far more powerful observatory in the northern mountains around Lalibela, far from city lights.

With the authorities now won over that Ethiopia should invest in space science, the government hopes to launch a national space agency — and to put an Ethiopian satellite in orbit within five years, for the monitoring of farmland and to boost communications.

“We are using space applications in every day activities, for mobile phones, weather — space applications are fundamental,” said Kelali Adhana, the International Astronomical Union chief for East Africa, based in Ethiopia. “We cannot postpone it, otherwise we allow ourselves to live in poverty.” At Ethiopia’s Institute of Technology in the northern town of Mekelle, scientists plan to test the first Ethiopian rocket to go more than 30 kilometres into sky, although that it still far from the 100 kilometre frontier, beyond which the Earth’s atmosphere gives way to space proper.

Ethiopian astronauts however, remain far off — even if in a country that lays claim to be the birthplace of humankind, with the remains of the ancient hominid Lucy in Addis Ababa, the prospect of conquering space is an attractive one. “We are in no hurry to go to deep space,” said Belay

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Harper’s Government Helping Canadian Mining Companies Plunder Africa’s Resources policy in Africa can be summed up in nine words: Do what is good for Canadian-owned mining companies. Despite rhetoric about aid to the poorest people in the world, the Harper Conservatives have worked assiduously to ensure that Canadian corporations profit from Africa’s vast mineral resources.

Even widespread criticism of their operations has failed to dampen the Conservatives’ support for Canada’s many mining interests in Africa. Canadian mining companies have been accused of bribing officials, evading taxes, dispossessing farmers, displacing communities, employing forced labour, devastating eco-systems and spurring human rights violations.

But, more important than the specific instances of abuse, which I detail in my forthcoming Canada in Africa — 300 years of Aid and Exploitation, the mining industry contributes little to sustainable economic development. Instead it is a prime part of a vast vacuuming up of resources to benefit wealthy people, only a very few of whom live in Africa.

Indifferent to the deleterious impacts of the sector, International Trade Minister Ed Fast has included numerous mining executives in his delegations to the continent while former foreign minister John Baird visited African countries partly based on where Canadian resource companies sought business. For his part, International Development Minister Christian Paradis praised the sector’s development benefits in a bid to (misleadingly) convince African officials that “Canada owes much of its economic growth to extractive industries.”

Stephen Harper personally promoted Canadian mining companies. When leaders from Tanzania, South Africa and Benin visited Ottawa in 2013 he used the opportunity to promote mining interests. During a trip to Senegal in 2012 the PM met with representatives from five resource firms or trade associations and publicly lauded the sector. On a visit to Tanzania in 2007 Harper gave audience to more than 10 Canadian resource firms, describing the meeting as an opportunity to discuss “the general business climate [and] what the government of Canada can do to assist in building our investments here.” In the months after Harper’s visit, reported This Day, the Canadian High Commission launched an “intense” lobbying effort to convince Tanzania’s Parliament to reject the country’s Mineral Sector Review Committee’s recommendation that a larger proportion of profits from higher mineral prices be retained by the government.

Since 2012 Ottawa has pumped tens of millions of dollars into mining initiatives in Africa. The public money helped establish branch offices of a professional society, the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum, in Senegal and Burkina Faso and a Senegalese school for geomatics (combining geography and information technology to map natural resources). Last year, Canada gave $18.5 million of tax money for an extractives skills training centre in Mozambique and earlier this year Ottawa announced a $12.5 million grant for the Project Strengthening Education for Mining in Ethiopia “to develop more industry driven geology and mining engineering undergraduate programs.” In 2014 the Conservatives budgeted up to $25 million per year for the Extractives Cooperation for Enhanced Economic Development (EXCEED) initiative, which it described as “a new funding mechanism to expand Canada’s involvement in areas of high development impact in the extractive sector in Africa.”

In addition to promoting the sector in general, the Conservatives’ ploughed millions of dollars into specific companies’ corporate social responsibility projects. One example of this “aid” was a $4.5-million grant to Lundin for Africa, the philanthropic arm of mining giant Lundin Group of Companies, for its operations in Ghana, Mali and Senegal. Ottawa also put up $5.6 million for a project between NGO Plan Canada and IAMGOLD near the company’s mine in Burkina Faso.

As they pumped tens of millions of “aid” dollars into initiatives supporting the controversial sector, the Conservatives blocked efforts to regulate an industry notorious for abuses in jurisdictions with weak legal structures. The Conservatives blocked legislation – bill C-300 – to withhold diplomatic and financial support from companies found responsible for significant abuses abroad. They also opposed legislation, modeled on the U.S. Alien Torts Claims Act, to allow lawsuits against Canadian companies responsible for major human rights violations or ecological destruction abroad.

In maybe their most significant support to Canadian mining corporations in Africa, the Conservatives negotiated Foreign Investment Protection Agreements (FIPAs) with more than 10 African countries. FIPAs give corporations the right to sue governments — in private, investor-friendly tribunals — for pursuing policies that interfere with profits. In essence, the aim of a FIPA is to counter “resource nationalism”.

Having benefited from two decades of privatizations and loosened restrictions on foreign investment, mining companies operating on the continent fear a reversal of these policies. These concerns can be somewhat alleviated by gaining rights to sue a government if it expropriates a concession, changes investment rules or requires value added production take place in the country. Academic Paula Butler notes: “Canada appears keen to negotiate FIPAs with some of the most economically and politically vulnerable but resource rich African countries before they develop a taste for resource sovereignty.”

Canadian policy in Africa has become largely synonymous with the interests of Canadian mining companies. The Harper Conservatives have sought to ensure that the continent’s mining policy serves the interests of foreign corporations, the majority of Africans be damned.

Unlocking Africa’s Trade Potential’s rise challenges the imagination. During the last decade, Sub-Saharan Africa was home to six of the world’s ten fastest-growing economies. During the next five years, the region’s GDP is expected to grow 30% faster than that of the rest of the world. And, during the next 35 years, the continent will account for more than half of the world’s population growth, according to the United Nations.

These trends will give African countries a more prominent role on the world stage, and provide new opportunities for people to better their lives. As African countries assume their new role, they want meaningful economic partnerships that deliver the sustainable, inclusive growth they seek. As US President Barack Obama said during his visit to Ethiopia last month, “Real economic partnerships have to be a good deal for Africa. They have to create jobs and capacity for Africans.”

By those criteria, the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) has been tremendously effective since its enactment in 2000. By removing tariffs on exports to the United States from 39 Sub-Saharan countries, it has stimulated growth, encouraged economic integration, and created opportunity where it otherwise might not have existed. Earlier this summer, the US Congress, recognizing these gains and underscoring the strength of America’s commitment to Africa, overwhelmingly approved legislation to reauthorize AGOA for another ten years.

To make the most of this extension – the longest in the program’s history – the US and its African partners need to start working toward a more comprehensive partnership. That journey begins by acknowledging that tariffs are no longer the biggest constraint on trade in Africa. Today, the chief impediments are supply-side constraints, which require well-designed strategies and capacity-building efforts so that AGOA’s members can take full advantage of the program’s benefits.

Making the most of AGOA will also require improvement in the infrastructure – physical and institutional – necessary for promoting investment and facilitating trade. The issues that need to be addressed include the lack of reliable, affordable electricity, high transportation costs, and weak and inefficient trade-related facilities.

Consider the challenges faced by Brazzaville, in Congo, and Kinshasa, in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo. These two cities, separated by the Congo River, are expected to grow to a combined total of nearly 20 million residents by 2025. But, because of poor infrastructure and inefficient customs procedures, only 1.1% of Congo’s imports come from its neighbor.

According to the World Bank, getting a container across the Congo River costs almost $4,500, and the total can top $10,000 once the cost of inland transportation is added. By contrast, moving an identical container with the same cargo from Malaysia to Singapore costs less than $1,000.

Africa needs to build its capacity to trade competitively in today’s global economy. That is why the Office of the US Trade Representative, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), USAID, and other US government agencies are advancing programs like Trade Africa, Power Africa, and Feed the Future to help the continent develop sustainable infrastructure and increase regional integration.

Consider MCC’s work in Benin. As one of the US agencies leading efforts to build trade capacity in Africa, MCC committed more than $180 million to upgrade the Port of Cotonou, which serves as a gateway for trade not only to Benin, but also to the landlocked countries of Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger. MCC’s investment, which leveraged public and private funds, aimed to alleviate chronic freight bottlenecks in the port by doubling its capacity to import and export cargo.

During President Obama’s visit to Africa, MCC made a further commitment of $52 million to support a series of similar public-private partnerships that are expected to generate $750 million in investments in Africa. MCC could do even more to increase trade capacity and cross-border engagement if it had the authority to pursue regional investments. By investing in cross-border roads or power transmission, for example, MCC could help increase economic activity and promote regional integration.

Such efforts would help African and American exporters alike, including the 120,000 Americans whose jobs are supported by US exports to sub-Saharan Africa. That is why leaders in Congress from both parties are working to give MCC this much-needed authority.

Even as we consider how to make the most of AGOA’s historic renewal, we need to look beyond 2025 and imagine what a deeper, more mature economic partnership might entail. Of course, we will need to account for emerging economic realities both within and outside of Africa. Already, many African countries are forging more permanent, reciprocal relationships with other developed-country trading partners.

At the same time, the US is moving forward with next-generation trade agreements – the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – that will raise standards across both the Asia-Pacific region and the Atlantic and will have positive spillover effects in Africa. For example, the TPP will help combat illegal wildlife trafficking, including illegal trade in ivory from Africa. In other areas, including labor rights, these agreements could help make higher standards the global norm.

As President Obama made clear at the US-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, DC, a year ago, the US is not new to Africa. We have been engaged in Africa for decades, not as a colonial power, but as a partner. And that partnership is based not on extracting resources from the region, but on unlocking growth for all. As representatives from across Africa gather in Libreville, Gabon, this week for this year’s AGOA Forum, we have an opportunity and an obligation to take that partnership to the next level.

Monday, 31 August 2015

S.Africa to impose 10 pct steel import tariff - industry group Africa's government will impose a 10 percent import tariff on steel imports to protect the struggling industry, with the possibility of hiking them further, an industry body said on Monday. Cheap imports from China are hurting steel makers in South Africa, which currently does not have import duties on steel. As many as 200,000 jobs are at risk due to a global supply glut of the commodity, ArcelorMittal South Africa has warned.

"The first application for tariffs at 10 percent of the WTO bound rate will be signed off next week with conditions which are not yet finalised," Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (SEIFSA) said in a statement, without giving a firm date for a tariff hike.

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) allows countries to raise tariffs by up to 10 percent to protect local industries.
The government declined to comment, but said in a statement it was considering "various tariff applications". Chief executives in the steel industry and labour unions also said the government in a meeting on Friday had committed to introducing a 10 percent tariff on imported steel to protect the industry.

One of the conditions for the tariff hike was that the steel industry could not raise the price of steel to "unaffordable levels", SEIFSA said in the statement, without giving details. ArcelorMittal South Africa has warned it could close a plant that employs 1,200 people while smaller rival Evraz Highveld Steel and Vanadium has been placed in the hands of administrators.

"It is a crisis that I have never seen, it's unprecedented in my history in the steel industry," SEIFSA President Ufukile Khumalo told reporters. ArcelorMittal Chief Executive Paul O'Flaherty told Reuters last week the firm was willing to cap its profit margin if the government imposed import duties on imported steel.

Jobs are a sensitive issue in South Africa, where unemployment is around 25 percent, and the government has urged the industry not to shed jobs. In a statement, the trade and industry and the economic development departments urged steel companies to submit anti-dumping applications to South Africa's International Trade Administration Commission, which has the power to raise tariffs.

The government will have a follow-up meeting in about four weeks when companies have submitted their anti-dumping applications.