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Nigeria and Cameroon in joint tourism deal

Posted MOHAMMED MOMOH in Abuja

on  Wednesday, May 24   2017 at  11:49

Nigeria and Cameroon have entered into a partnership to establish three Trans-boundary Protected Areas to serve as tourism centres.

The centres are to be located at the Cross River-Korub and Takamanda; the Gashaka – Gumti-Faro and Tchabal Mbabo; and the Chad Basin- Waze trans-boundary parks.

The parks are expected to contribute significantly to reducing threats to key wildlife populations and biodiversity values through tourism revenue,

Nigeria’s Environment minister Ibrahim Jibril said in Abuja that the country was committed to the achieving the Bonn Challenge, the New York Declaration and other global initiatives for forest and landscape restoration.

Degraded ecosystems

“To this end, the Federal Government will continue to address the degraded ecosystems nationwide in the 2017 to 2018 development years through the ministry’s collaborative initiative with the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC).

“This will not only restore our degraded ecosystems but also enhance our tourism and cultural values as well as build ecosystem resilience against the impact of climate change,” he said.

The world on Monday commemorated the International Day for Biodiversity (IDB).

Human existence

IDB is proclaimed to increase the awareness of the importance of biodiversity to human existence and the need to conserve it.

This year’s commemoration coincided with the 2017 International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.

Mr Jibril said Nigeria was committed to implementing the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP).

The threats

The plan, he explained, has been reviewed in line with the Global Strategy for Biodiversity Conservation 2011 to 2020 and the Aichi Biodiversity Target.

“Our NBSAP is an embodiment of how synergy within the environment sector and linkages with other economic sectors can be profitable in addressing the threats to our biodiversity and halting its loss.

He recalled that in December 2016, President Muhammadu Buhari assented to the Endangered Species (Control of International Trade and Traffic) Amendment Act, 2016.

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India calls for cooperation with Africa

Posted ANDUALEM SISAY in Ahmedabad, India

on  Tuesday, May 23   2017 at  14:54

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called on African states to cooperate with his country in their development programmes to improve the lives of their people.

“Many of the challenges we face are the same: Uplifting our farmers and the poor, empowering women and ensuring our rural communities have access to finance and building infrastructure.

"India will stand with you shoulder to shoulder for a better future for all of us,” said Mr Modi.

He made the remarks Tuesday during the opening of the 52nd African Development Bank (AfDB) annual meetings in Ahmedabad.

The Premier further noted that India’s partnership with Africa was based on cooperation which was responsive to the needs of the African countries.

Economic policy

“Africa-India trade multiplied in last 15 years. It doubled in the last 5 years to reach nearly $72 billion in 2014-15.

"After assuming office in 2014, I have made Africa a top priority for India’s foreign and economic policy. I am proud to say that there is no country in Africa that has not been visited by an Indian minister in the last three years,” the Premier said.

AfDB President Akinwumi Adesina, who has previous work experience in India, said he admired the Asian state’s political will and achievement in improving the lives of the people.

Dr Adesina called on India to continue investing in Africa, which he said benefits the whole world.

Future market

In Dr Adesina's opinion, partnering for Africa’s development means building the future market with its consumer spending estimated to reach $1.4trillion in the coming three years.

AfDB, he noted, was set to launch African investment forum soon to attract pension and hedge funds and insurances, among others.

He also noted that AfDB would also continue aggressively investing in Africa, including $12 billion in agriculture improvement in the coming five years.

Global value chain

In addition to agriculture, the bank has selected four major priority investment areas that speed Africa’s development, including regional integration, industrialisation and power supply.

“African farmers sweat while others eat sweets. We must end Africa being at the bottom of the global value chain. Africa is approaching an exciting time. India and Africa should navigate this opportunity and build a common future,” Dr Adesina said.

The 52nd AfDB annual meetings are also being attended by presidents Macky Sall of Senegal and Patrice Talon Benin.

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AfDB to make Africa’s food imports history

Posted ANDUALEM SISAY in Ahmedabad, India

on  Monday, May 22   2017 at  15:02

The African Development Bank (AfDB) has pledged to make the continent self-sufficient in food production within a decade.

AfDB President Akinwumi Adesina made the pledge at a press conference in Ahmedabad, India Monday morning, a day ahead of the official opening of its 52nd annual meetings.

Dr Adesina noted that Africa was currently spending $36 billion every year on food imports.

"If things don’t change, Africa’s annual spending on food import would reach $110 billion by 2025."

Several years

“Last year, we invested a total of $800 million in agriculture in eight African countries, which is the biggest in our bank’s history,” he said.

AfDB has been supporting the improvement of agribusiness in Africa for several years.

Feeding Africa remains one of AfDB’s five priority areas, according Dr Adesina, who stated his bank’s commitment to help in the transformation of African agriculture.

Transforming Africa’s agriculture within a decade and ending food import requires a total investment of $30 billion to $40 billion per year.

Expected to double

Dr Adesina believes that there were sufficient resources within the continent and potential partners to generate the funding to transform Africa’s agriculture.

Africa's total population of 1.2 billion was expected to double by 2050.

Even though African countries have vowed to allocate at least 10 per cent of their GDP to agricultural sector improvement, most failed to keep their promise.

Report shows that in 2014, a total of $12 billion was invested in agriculture by all African countries.

AfDB chose India for its 52nd annual meetings that focus on agriculture to learn from the Asian giant, which managed to make food import history in only three years, according to Dr Adesina.

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Regional bloc strikes common accord on EPA


on  Sunday, May 21   2017 at  19:09

East African heads of state have jointly agreed that the EAC members that have not signed the European Union -EAC economic partnership agreement (EPA) will not do so pending clarification of outstanding issues.

In a joint communiques of the EAC Heads of Summit concluded in Dar es Salaam on Sunday, the presidents agreed that Kenya should not be disadvantaged since it had already signed the agreement.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, the new EAC chairman, has been mandated within one month to reach out to EU to communicate the former's circumstances. In the event that an acceptable way forward is not reached within the next six months, the chairman is expected to explore the use of variable geometry in implementation of the EPA, working with the council of ministers

“I have been officially mandated to harmonise the vision about this issue of EPA within the EAC Country States,” said President Museveni.

Move forward

President Museveni said any agreement would only be reached with all members of EAC, and not a few countries. He explained there was no way EAC could move forward until the issue of sanctions on Burundi, among others, were resolved.

Only Kenya and Rwanda have signed the EPA agreement. Tanzania, Burundi and Uganda were yet to sign.

The summit also agreed that the EU sanctions on Burundi should be discussed alongside the EPA discussions.

“Burundi is member of the EAC. How can they sign EPA with EU when they are still under sanctions?” asked President Museveni, adding that EU should negotiate the trade deal with EAC and not a single member state.

Academic certificates

The heads of state also declared the EAC as a common higher education area in order to harmonise and enhance the quality of education in the region. They directed the council to operationalise the transformation.

The move will enable partner states to recognise academic certificates from universities and higher learning institutions in the region, and students will be able to transfer credits across universities.

The heads of state noted with concern the declining intra-EAC trade and directed the council to resolve the outstanding non-tariff barriers and report to the 19th summit.

The presidents considered a report on the accelerated integration of South Sudan into EAC, and received another on the verification for the admission of Somalia and directed the council to follow-up and report to the 19th summit.

Political situation

On the Burundi crisis, the EAC presidents received a progress report from former Tanzania President Benjamin Mkapa, the facilitator of the inter-Burundi dialogue, which they endorsed and adopted. They also received an update and clarifications from the First Vice-President of Burundi on the political situation in the country.

The EAC heads of state also received the progress reports on the institutional review, the modalities for promotion of motor vehicle assembly in the region and the review of the textile and leather sector.

They directed the council to finalise the matters and report to the 19th summit.

The presidents then assented to the EAC customs management (amendment) Bill 2016, the EAC supplementary Appropriation Bill 2016, and the EAC Appropriation Bill 2016.

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New West African airline unveiled

Posted KEMO CHAM in Freetown

on  Thursday, May 18   2017 at  19:43

A new airline has been unveiled in West Africa.

The Gambian-owned Fly Mid Africa is seeking to fill a gap in the aviation sector in West Africa.

It made its maiden flight to Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown on Monday, ending a three-year break in direct link between the two countries.

The management of the airline says it will initially serve six West African destinations, namely Banjul, Freetown, Dakar in Senegal, Accra in Ghana, Lagos in Nigeria, and Monrovia in Liberia. However, the flights to Monrovia would be delayed until August, pending the on-going works at the Robertsfield International Airport.

Fly Mid Africa’s maiden flight was a Boeing 737.

The venture

Both governments and the owners of the new airline hope the venture will drastically bring airfares down and, in the words of its Managing Director, Mr Bakary Nyassi, provide an affordable alternative for business and leisure travellers.

Mr Nyassi was quoted in a statement saying that Fly Mid Africa was committed to providing safe, reliable and efficient air transport to spur economic development and foster regional integration.

He said in Freetown that the focus of Fly Mid Africa was to alleviate the challenges Africans face in finding flight connections across key cities on the continent, especially West and Central Africa.

Fly Mid Africa is Gambia’s latest attempt at flight operation, after several past failures, including the Gambian Bird, which ceased operation in 2014, less than three years after inauguration.

Established in 2014, Fly Mid Africa, which uses the Banjul International Airport as its hub, is owned by Mid Africa Aviation Limited, which also offers asset management services.

Should fly

The airline boasts a diversity of workforce from Gambia, Guinea Conakry, Ghana, Nigeria, Cape Verde, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Sudan.

Fly Mid Africa says it will use two Boeing 737-Classic aircraft in the West African venture: B737-300 comprising eight Business Class and 124 Economy Class seats, and B737-400, with 16 Business Class and
116 Economy Class seats.

“Flight connections within Africa should not be a nightmare. Business and leisure passengers should fly within the continent in style,” said Mr Nyassi, a former head of the beleaguered Gambia International Airlines.

Mr Nyassi said plans were also at an advanced stage to connect Francophone West African destinations.

Tedious journey

Fly Mid Africa comes as a major relief, particularly for Sierra Leoneans.

Gambia and Sierra Leone hold substantial numbers of each others’ citizens. The last direct flight between Banjul and Freetown was on August 15, 2014 at the height of the Ebola epidemic.

Since then, many Sierra Leoneans have had to opt for the even longer and tedious journey by land.

Transport and Aviation minister Leonard Balogun Koroma, described Monday’s development as “historic'.

He said at the Lungi International Airport that the “long awaited” direct connection would facilitate trade and tourism among the countries covered by the airline.

It was the third inauguration of new flights to Freetown under Mr Koroma in five months. The minister attributed this to confidence bestowed on the Sierra Leone government by business people.

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Rwanda slaps $8.5m fine on MTN

Posted EDMUND KAGIRE in Kigali

on  Wednesday, May 17   2017 at  18:15

Rwanda’s leading telecommunications firm MTN has been hit with an $8.5 million (Rwf7.03 billion) fine by the regulator.

The Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (Rura) said Wednesday that MTN failed to comply with licence obligations.

“MTN Rwanda Ltd provided services in contravention of Enforcement Notice and Directives issued by the regulator against hosting its IT services outside the country,” Anthony Kulamba, Rura’s spokesperson said in a statement Wednesday.

“On 4th May 2017, the Regulatory Board of Rura conducted a hearing session in which MTN Rwanda Ltd was informed on the breach of its licence obligations and given the opportunity to be heard, whereby MTN Rwanda Ltd admitted the above mentioned breach.

The regulator

“In accordance with the applicable laws, the Regulatory Board of Rura decided to impose on MTN Rwanda Ltd administrative fine of Rwf7.03 billion.”

The South African telecom operator, confirming that it is facing the fine imposed by Rura, said it had been engaging with the regulator on the matter over the past four months.

“The fine relates to non-compliance with the directives issued by the regulator prohibiting the inclusion of MTN Rwanda in the MTN South and East Africa (SEA) IT hub based in Uganda,” the Johannesburg-based MTN Group said in a statement.

MTN, which also operates in 22 countries, has the largest market share in Rwanda with more than four million subscribers. Other operators include Tigo and Airtel.

Five million

According to Rura, there are about nine million mobile phone subscribers in Rwanda.

Last year, MTN agreed to pay a $1.7 billion fine to the Nigerian government for failing to deactivate more than five million unregistered SIM cards.

The fine, a third of the original penalty, was settled on length negotiations with the Nigerian government.

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Senate declines Nigeria’s $5.8b loan request

Posted MOHAMMED MOMOH in Abuja

on  Wednesday, May 17   2017 at  12:07

Nigerian Senate has given the government fresh conditions for the approval of $5.8 billion loan request.

The federal government is seeking approval to obtain the loan from the China Exim Bank.

The money is for the construction of Standard Gauge Rail lines from Lagos-Kano, Kano-Kaduna, Lagos-Ibadan, and Lagos Calabar.

Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, (PDP Abia South) sponsored a motion which was unanimously adopted on Tuesday that the loan would not be considered unless all regions were included in the utilisation of the money.

A resolution

The Senate upheld Mr Abaribe's argument that there was no reason for his region to be excluded from the rail project for which the loan was sought.

However, Senate President Bukola Saraki said that the National Assembly had already identified the flaw and taken it up with the executive.

Mr Saraki said that the executive had agreed on a resolution with the Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debt on the matter.

The motion

Meanwhile, the Senate passed the motion to invite Transport minister Rotimi Amaechi to explain why the Eastern line was excluded from the plan.

The minister was expected to appear before the Committee on Local and Foreign Debts to explain the exclusion.

Mr Abaribe had queried why the government wanted to take such a huge loan that would benefit all other regions apart from the South East.

He said the loan would be paid back by all sections of the country and should thus benefit all.

National grid

The government was also seeking another $5.2 billion external loan to boost electricity generation.

Besides the persistent collapse of the national grid, power generation has dropped to below 3,000 megawatts from almost 5,000 in 2015.

Reports say that the World Bank, the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) have met to brainstorm on the Nigeria’s loan request.

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Strike grounds Air Algerie

Posted AFP

on  Tuesday, May 16   2017 at  12:01

Air Algerie on Tuesday suspended all flights in and from the North African country due to an indefinite strike action over salaries.

The strike covers all domestic and out-bound international services but not Air Algerie flights from abroad.

The strike was called "mainly over salary demands", Ms Mounia Bertouche, an Air Algerie spokeswoman, told AFP.

Head for airports

"Negotiations are underway to end the crisis quickly."

The airline called on passengers not to head for airports before an announcement that the strike had ended.

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Kenya prepares to export oii

Posted KENNEDY SENELWA in Nairobi

on  Monday, May 15   2017 at  19:12

Tanktainers with a heating mechanism to keep the waxy crude viscous until it reaches refineries and trucks to transport the oil from the fields in Turkana, northern Kenya, are already on standby as the country prepares to send its first consignment to the export market this month.

The EastAfrican has learnt that UK explorer Tullow Oil signed contracts on May 5 with Oilfield Movers and Multiple Hauliers EA to carry the crude from Lokichar to the Mombasa port.

Tullow also signed a contract with Primefuels Kenya for providing tanktainers with heating facilities that help keep the waxy crude viscous until it reaches refineries. The three companies were tasked with delivering the first consignment to Mombasa before the end of this month.

“Multiple and Oilfield will each supply 25 trucks. Primefuels has been selected to supply tanktainers. These companies submitted bids that scored the highest on technical and commercial compliance,” said Tullow Kenya country manager Martin Mbogo.

The three firms were picked from a list of 45 local companies that expressed interest in moving the crude under the Early Oil Production Scheme (EOPS) when the tender was floated in October last year.

Industry sources said Oilfield and Multiple would start mobilising trucks to South Lokichar this week while Primefuels already boasts 30 tanktainers, 10 of which are being customised.

Each tanktainer will carry 130 barrels of crude oil and has to be secured on a flat-bed truck. About 60,000 barrels are said to be already stocked in Lokichar for transportation to the Kenya Petroleum Refineries at Changamwe in Mombasa, from where they will be exported through the Kipevu Oil Terminal jetty.

The first cargo

“Preparations for trucks to deliver the first cargo of crude oil to Mombasa are in high gear. The first fleet will depart from Lokichar before end of May but the actual date remains a guarded secret of the Ministry of Energy,” industry sources said.

The export scheme seeks to test the demand for Kenyan oil in the global market, pending full field development that includes the building of a pipeline connecting the Turkana oilfields to Lamu port.

“Evacuation of crude oil from storage tanks in Lokichar will allow Tullow to continue with well tests and set up production facilities. Results from EOPS will inform planning for future progress of oil and gas operations,” he said.

Simmons & Simmons, an international law firm based in London, is advising Kenya on aspects of commercialisation of the crude oil.

In February, the government said that samples of the oil delivered to Asian and European refiners had excited the market due to its low sulphur content, which made it easier to refine.

Kenya’s Petroleum Principal Secretary Andrew Kamau said refiners in Asia and Europe had acknowledged the good quality of the fossil fuel after receiving samples of crude oil from Turkana County.

“European and Asian refineries are receptive to our crude oil, which is low on sulphur content, making it easier to refine. It is not appropriate to disclose the identity of the refiners because of ongoing discussions,” he said.

Kenya’s oil is almost in the same category as Bonny light crude from Nigeria, which fetches a premium price in the global market. Bonny light from Bonny Island fetched $52.20 per barrel in March unlike the Dar blend from South Sudan, which is discounted at about $10 to Brent crude the global price setter.

Tullow Oil Plc, African Oil Corporation and Maersk Oil have jointly discovered 750 million barrels of commercial crude in block 10BB and 13T since March 2012 when oil was discovered.

Well testing

Phase one of EOPS involves moving 60,000 barrels of crude stored at Lokichar to KPRL. The crude was produced in 2015 during extended well testing. It will take a week for a truck to travel from Lokichar to Mombasa and back.

“The emptying of our storage tanks in northern Kenya will take around 60 days, using convoys of up to seven trucks daily to transport a total of 1,000 barrels of oil,” said Mr Mbogo.

He said phase two, which is from July to the fourth quarter of 2017, involves installing and commissioning of an Early Production Facility (EPF) by Al Mansoori Petroleum Services LLC. EPF will process about 2,000 barrels of oil per day.

Phase three, which will be from the fourth quarter of 2017 until the fourth quarter of 2019, will see the EPF produce 2,000 barrels of oil per day, that will be transported to the Port of Mombasa for a period of about two years.

The 30 per cent local content requirement for crude transporters to buy goods and service from residents of Turkana County is expected to be progressively realised over the contract period starting November 2017.

The companies will sub-lease trucks from the local community to provide them with economic opportunities and build their capacity to meet the Energy Regulatory Commission rules for petroleum transportation.

The EOPS will be undertaken as Kenya progresses in building a $2.1 billion pipeline of about 855 kilometres from South Lokichar basin to Lamu port for crude oil exports.

In October 2016, Tullow floated a tender for trucks with a minimum capacity of 25,000 litres to transport crude oil over a distance of 1,089 kilometres. One barrel of oil is equivalent to 159 litres.

Tullow has made it mandatory that the trucks be less than five years old and licensed to transport crude by the Energy Regulatory Commission.

The transport companies will set up spill response equipment at strategic locations along the transport route from South Lokichar to Mombasa.

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Vodafone cedes 35pc Safaricom shares to Vodacom

Posted VICTOR KIPROP in Nairobi

on  Monday, May 15   2017 at  15:50

UK-based Vodafone Plc has agreed to transfer a 35 per cent stake in Kenyan telco Safaricom to its majority-owned South African subsidiary Vodacom Group Plc.

The transfer –announced on Monday– will see Vodafone, through its fully owned subsidiary Vodafone International Holdings, give up 35 per cent of its total 40 per cent stake in Safaricom in return for new ordinary shares in Vodacom. Vodafone Plc currently controls a 65 per cent stake in Vodacom—South Africa’s largest mobile operator.

Put roots down

Safaricom Chief executive officer Bob Collymore believes the new deal will help the firm in expanding its mobile money services M-Pesa, which has already put roots down in 10 countries.

“The agreement will ensure Safaricom continues to have strong Kenyan representation at Board and management levels, and promotes the continued successful expansion of the company as well as the opportunity to drive M-Pesa to other markets in the continent," he said.

Last week, Safaricom announced a 27.1 per cent growth in net profit for the full year ended March 31, 2017 to Sh 48.1 billion ($481 million), boosted by a strong growth earnings from its Mobile money service.

Revenues from M-Pesa registered a 32.7 per cent jump per cent to Sh55.1 billion ($551 million)

Second quarter

The transfer does not affect Safaricom’s shareholding structure. Vodafone remains the Kenyan telco’s largest shareholder controlling 40 per cent, the Kenyan government controls 35 per cent while the rest is held through free float.

The agreement gives the UK based telecommunications multinational control over two of Africa’s largest mobile operators, Safaricom and Vodacom.

Safaricom’s market share in the Kenyan market rose to 71.2 per cent, according to 2016 second quarter statistics report by the Communication Authority of Kenya (CAK).

Safaricom has been under pressure from lawmakers and regulators motivated by sustained calls from competitors to have it declared a dominant player.