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Joy greets sacking of Africa's richest woman from Angola state firm

Posted ARNALDO VIEIRA in Luanda

on  Thursday, November 16   2017 at  13:10

Civil society groups and individuals in Angola have welcomed the sacking of Ms Isabel dos Santos as head of state-owned oil firm Sonangol.

The eldest daughter of former President José Eduardo dos Santos was Wednesday replaced as the Sonangol board chair.

A decree by President José Eduardo named Mr Carlos Saturnino the new chairman of the state corporation.

“President João Lourenço has restored constitutional legality against an act of nepotism made by José Eduardo dos Santos,” political analyst Fernando Macedo told VOA Radio.

Sovereign fund

"The sacking means the restoration of ethics in governance," said Mr Elias Isaac of the Open Society Organisation in Angola.

Mr Isaac said the dos Santos family had inordinately dominated the Angolan society.

President dos Santos in 2013 also appointed his eldest son, Mr José Filomeno dos Santos, to head the strategic $5 billion Angolan investment sovereign fund, created in October 2012.

Former Prime Minister Marcolino Moco said President Lourenço was cracking down against the scandalous appointments by his predecessor.

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Ms Isabel dos Santos was appointed by her father to chair the Sonangol board of directors in June 2016.

Twelve lawyers challenged the appointment and petitioned the Attorney-General Office to annul it for going against the public probity laws.

“The law says a public agent must not nominate or allow nominations of his wife or his first degree relatives,” the lawyers argued.

Last year, a court summoned President dos Santos and Isabel over the latter's appointment to the public oil company.

Ms Isabel dos Santos's assets in Angola include a 25 per cent stake in Unitel, one of the country’s two mobile phone networks and another 25 per cent stake in Banco Internacional de Credito (BIC).

Foreign currency

Angola is the second-largest producer of crude in Africa and was regularly cited as one of the continent’s fastest growing economies.

However, since the beginning of 2015, the southern African country has faced a serious economic crisis, occasioned by the oil price depression on the international market.

Angola relies on crude exports for two-thirds of tax revenue, and 95 per cent of its foreign currency receipts.

Critics say the billions of oil dollars flowing in had not benefited the ordinary people, and had only succeeded in creating an elite few.

According to the United Nations, the oil sector represents 97 per cent of Angola’s exports and 80 per cent of public revenues and employs one per cent of the population who with less than $2 per day.

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Buhari appeals for dialogue as he presents Nigeria's $28.3b budget

on  Tuesday, November 7   2017 at  19:41

President Muhammadu Buhari has appealed to the militants in Nigeria's oil-rich Niger Delta to embrace dialogue to ensure peace and development.

"We must come together to address our grievances. Threat and violence is not the way out,’’ he said Tuesday.

The Nigerian leader expressed the sentiments when he presented $28.3 billion 2018 fiscal year, recording a 16 per cent increase over that of 2017.

He presented the budget before the joint session of the Senate and the National Assembly, which tasked him to make the budget a job oriented one.

The 2018 budget is predicated on oil benchmark of $45 per barrel, with estimated daily production of 2.3 million barrels, N305 per dollar exchange rate, and 2.3 million barrel per day crude oil production.

Its recurrent expenditure is $7.8 billion and capital $11.4 billion, with the remaining $10 billion to service internal and foreign debts and sundry.

The budget of "consolidation’’, he explained, would focus on economic recovery and growth and hold a future for the country.

The president said the size of the 2018 budget was a reflection of his administration’s determination to consolidate and sustain the nation’s economic growth.

President Buhari said the nation’s external reserve stood at $34 billion, as of September 2017.

He disclosed that a committee headed by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo had been inaugurated to check smuggling of food items across the country’s borders.

The Chairman of the National Assembly, Sen Bukola Saraki, said it was commendable that the present administration was making efforts at tackling unemployment.

“Looking around today, we see that many of our undergraduates are apprehensive about their graduation day.

“Our National Youth Corps members are not looking forward to the end of the service year, for fear of being tagged ‘unemployed'," he said.

Sen Saraki said infrastructural development should be seen to be well distributed to create growth pools away from the major cities and drive the regeneration of the rural areas.

“The current rate of rural-to-urban migration is alarming and unsustainable. Congesting the cities and stretching resources to breaking point, while undermining the economic viability of some states.

“People must be able to see a future for themselves in every corner of this country, not just in the big cities," said Sen Saraki .

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Kenya's Safaricom boss takes sick leave


on  Monday, October 30   2017 at  19:57

The chief executive of Kenya's telkom giant Bob Collymore has taken medical leave, company chairman Nicholas Ng’ang’a announced Monday.

Mr Ng’ang’a said in the statement that Mr Collymore would receive specialised treatment for a “number of months”.

He did not disclose the nature of Mr Collymore’s sickness.

“On behalf of the board, management and the entire Safaricom community, I wish Bob quick recovery and look forward to him resuming his duties as soon as doctors allow him to do so,” said Mr Ng’ang’a.

Current director

In his absence, current chief financial officer Sateesh Kamath will take a “primary role,” said the company chairman.

“He will be supported by Joseph Ogutu who is the current director – strategy and innovation, Safaricom,” Mr Ng’ang’a said.

Mr Ogutu will be responsible for Safaricom’s day-to-day operations until Mr Collymore’s return from medical leave, Mr Ng’ang’a added

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Nigeria 'not ready' for Ecowas single currency

Posted MOHAMMED MOMOH in Abuja

on  Wednesday, October 25   2017 at  17:11

President Muhammadu Buhari has said Nigeria was not ready to join 14 other countries for the implementation of the single currency, Eko.

He said the conditions that pushed Nigeria into withdrawing from the process in the past had not changed.

The Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, said in Abuja on Wednesday that President Buhari had identified the hiccups against single currency.

They include the ''diverse and uncertain macro-economic fundamentals, unrealistic inflation targeting and inconsistency with the African monetary cooperation programme,’’ he said.

The stand of Nigeria is contained in a message to the fourth meeting of the presidential taskforce on the Ecowas currency programme in Niamey, Niger Republic.

President Buhari also said that the economic fundamentals in the countries continued to differ over the years.

After two botched target dates, the Economic Community of West Africa States (Ecowas) set 2020 for the introduction of Eko.

The policy is similar to the single currency, CFA, in French speaking countries of the bloc.

But President Buhari told the countries to tread with caution in their push for the implementation of a single currency in the sub-region.

The stand of Nigeria is contained in a message to the fourth meeting of the presidential task force on the Ecowas currency programme in Niamey, Niger Republic.

The president also identified domestic issues in member-countries relating to their constitutions and dependence on aid as another impediment.

"The West African Economic and Monetary Union countries should make a presentation on a clear roadmap towards delinking from the French treasury, and also examine the African Union’s position on the same issue,’’ he said.

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US enterprise bridging the digital divide in Africa

Posted FRED OLUOCH in Nairobi

on  Tuesday, October 24   2017 at  18:33

Cloud computing, data mining, digitising and cybercrime are the emerging skills and challenges on the global Information and Communications Technology (ICT) market. ICT experts say Kenya can only compete globally if it has the ability to keep up with new ICT trends. Digital Divide Data (DDD), a US non-profit social enterprise has been working with the disadvantaged youth in Kenya to bridge the digital gap for the last six years. FRED OLUOCHinterviewed DDD Vice-President-KenyaPATRICK MUNENE. Excerpts:

DDD describes itself as a pioneer in Social Impact Sourcing, what do you mean?

It means we have a strong social mission as a company which gives back to society by providing hope to young people. We want to create an impact in society by engaging somebody who might have given up hope in life after high school. This trickles down and changes the family by uplifting their living standards and society in general. We also sponsor their college education so that they can work and study at the same time. Given that these are people from very poor background, they are now being put on a path towards a career. We now have 300 employees.

How much have you contributed to the growth of ICT skills in Kenya?

Our core business is providing training in digital skills and employment for the youth, driven by our social mission to create sustainable digital jobs among the disadvantaged communities. We employ young talents from disadvantaged families, train and provide them with the latest digital skills such as data management and analysis, and deploy these skills to provide services to our clients. We partner with over 20 leading universities to provide social research, content enrichment, data mining and content production services. We invest in training programmes and give scholarships to smart young people.

What type of skills are we talking about here?

Data mining and cloud computing are the new skills on the market and everybody wants them. The advantage we have is that these are new technologies and everybody is starting from the same level. So when it comes to learning, it doesn’t matter whether you are in Africa, the US or in China. The question is that at what price can we acquire them locally?

What is the level of digital skills that leads to qualitative employment in Kenya for the youth?

Skills in ICT are always changing and people must continuously update themselves to survive on the market. In Kenya, we have ICT skills that can only perform up to a certain level. At this point, it is a bit difficult to find sufficient skills in cloud computing on the market and most companies are relying on experts from other countries like India, Philippines and China, which makes us less competitive. It involves bridging the digital divide by providing the latest data services.

Cybercrime, especially hacking, isa major concern. How does DDD ensure the safety of their clients' data?

The issue of data security was a major challenge when we started six years ago. Most clients, especially publishers, did not understand what digitisation meant and whether their data would be secure. But we have deployed the Digital Rights management (DRM) which guarantees security for data storage and setup. We are working with the most secure cloud provider—Amazon Web Services (AWS), the biggest cloud provider globally. Our servers are using cloud technology, we can guarantee our clients, data security and integrity. Initially, clients like government departments were concerned about transparency and confidentiality when their documents are digitised, but now they feel comfortable after we did also work with the Communications Authority of Kenya and digitised institutions such as the Judiciary and the Kenyatta National Hospital.

How then has DDD contributed in bridging the digital gap?

We have provided employment and direct educational opportunities to more than 1,000 young people in Kenya, which has enabled them to work with us or elsewhere. At DDD, we call it train the trainer—and the chain continues. We get a group of about 30 students who we train and certify. We expect to be training 1,000 people at ago in the next 18 months. In the last four years, we have been offering digital research and management, data analysis, data visualisation and cloud computing for entry level jobs.

Who are your main clients in Kenya?

We are working with both the public and the private sector, multilateral organisations such as the World Bank and the UN. At the University of Nairobi, we have digitised over 2 million pages theses, which made the institution to shoot up in ranking based on the available research output. Publishers are also becoming major clients because of converting books into e-book format for access online.

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Ethiopia devalues currency by 15 per cent

Posted ANDUALEM SISAY in Addis Ababa

on  Wednesday, October 11   2017 at  13:39

The Ethiopian government has devalued the national currency by 15 per cent

The National Bank of Ethiopia (NBE) said the devaluation of the Birr would take effect on Wednesday.

Accordingly, the Birr will now exchange at 26.91 to the dollar, up from the previous 23.40.

The devaluation is the first since the 2010’s 20 per cent cut.

Export earnings

The NBE directive was announced by its vice governor and chief economist, Mr Yohannes Ayalew, at a press conference in Addis Ababa.

Mr Yohannes said the measure was to control the inflationary pressure and to boost export earnings which had hitherto stagnated.

“Since investment return is high in Ethiopia, the devaluation won’t cause an inflationary pressure and adversely affect import,” Mr Yohannes was quoted saying.

The devaluation is seen by economic players as helping to boost the Ethiopian export sector, which has experienced a sluggish outlook. It is also expected to reduce forex shortages and to ease the debt burden.

Ethiopia’s economic successes have been hailed by international finance outfits like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Inflationary pressure

The World Bank a year ago tasked Addis Ababa to devalue the Birr in one of its economic updates.

Ethiopia has operated a managed floating exchange rate regime since 1992. The Horn of Africa country is the continent’s biggest coffee exporter but its total export revenue has been falling short of targets for the last few years, owing to weaker commodity prices.

Ethiopia earned $2.9 billion in the 2017-2018 fiscal year, versus a target of $4 billion. The central bank said the it raised the main interest rate to 7 per cent from 5 per cent to stimulate savings as well as to counter inflation.

“The rate was pushed to mitigate the inflationary pressure that could arise from the devaluation,” according to Mr Yohannes.

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Ecowas to abolish mobile phone roaming fees in 2018

Posted KEMO CHAM in Freetown

on  Monday, October 9   2017 at  16:07

Members of the Economic Community of West African States bloc have resolved to abolish mobile phone roaming fees from the beginning of 2018.

The decision was reached at a meeting of Ministers in charge of ICT from the regional bloc in the Cape Verdean capital, Praia at the weekend.

The 15th meeting of the Ecowas ministers approved the revised draft supplementary act on Universal Access and Services, along with several other documents designed to foster the development of ICT and regional integration.

Ecowas comprises 15 member countries with the aim of economic integration.

Purchasing power

The region has one of the highest mobile phone roaming fees in the world. For instance, a Nigerian on roaming in Europe pays five times more than they would while on roaming within the Ecowas region.

Officials said the Praia resolution was part of the bloc’s efforts to establish a single digital market.

The Ecowas Commissioner for Telecommunications and Information Technologies, Mr Isaias Barreto, said in a statement that the move would occasion “tremendous contributions” to the regional integration process.

Mr Barreto was quoted earlier saying the telecommunications costs in the sub-region were too high compared to the purchasing power of the populations.

Ecowas was founded by Benin, Côte d'Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania (left 2002), Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo and Burkina Faso (which joined as Upper Volta).

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Outrage greets first Zimbabwe donkey abattoir


on  Thursday, October 5   2017 at  15:37

Animal rights groups in Zimbabwe are resisting the opening of the country’s first ever donkey abattoir, saying such a venture will wipe out the animals and impoverish communities.

The Zimbabwe National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Veterians for Animal Welfare Zimbabwe, Spana and Lupane Developments Trust, said the abattoir set to open in the second city of Bulawayo, would be a disaster.

“Zimbabwe has an estimated population of 150,000 donkeys, spread over the communal areas where they are an integral part of community life,” the organisations said in a joint statement.

“The proposed abattoir in Matabeleland can process 70 animals per day.

“If supply met demand, using 300 working days per year, the population of donkeys could be decreased by 21,000 donkeys per year,” the statement added.

Gestation periods

“Donkeys are not suited as intensive production animals, since they have long gestation periods, high foal mortality, and slow foal development rates.

“Housed in unhabituated groups, donkeys suffer from a stress-induced condition called hyper-lipemia which can kill them.

“There currently is no ethically acceptable method of intensively farming donkeys, and the demand for the skin trade far exceeds the rate at which they can be produced.”

The organisations said although some local farmers may benefit from the short-term sale of their donkeys, they were unlikely to be aware of the long-term consequences.

They said a number of African countries that had licensed donkey abattoirs had to reverse their policies after realising that the animal population was being decimated.

Future consequences

According to the organisations, the main driver in the donkey parts trade was the demand for their skins, which are processed into a luxury tonic ejiao, which is used in traditional Chinese medicine for almost everything, from insomnia to impotence.

The organisations said they also feared that Zimbabwe would not be able to regulate ethical trade in donkeys.

“In numerous other countries in the world currently tackling the skin trade, none has managed to regulate a humane, environmentally sound trade in a way that benefits donkey-owning communities, and all have seen a significant and devastating illegal, underground trade,” the statement said.

“We would therefore ask that Zimbabwean authorities consider these facts before legitimising a practice that belongs to another country’s culture.”

They proposed a number of reforms before trade in donkeys could be allowed including informing farmers of the possible negative future consequences of the development.

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UN agency calls for more inclusive and caring economies

Posted ANDUALEM SISAY in Addis Ababa

on  Thursday, September 14   2017 at  19:29

The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Thursday launched a new report calling for more inclusive, sustainable and caring economies.

The Global New Deal, launched in Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, said the Recovery with Regulatory reforms and Redistribution policies (3Rs) were as relevant today as they were at the launch of the the New Deal in the 1930s.

According to the report, good lessons can be obtained from the previous successful global deals that followed the World War II, such as, the Marshal Plan and the establishment of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.

"We received your message on global new agenda for the 21st Century global economic recovery, reform and redistribution,” said Mr Albert M. Muchanga, the Commissioner for Trade and Development at the African Union.


“We are not too hopeful here. This is because the key players in the global economy are either not sending out clear messages on the future direction of the global economy or promising us isolationism,” he said.

The new report states that wrong footed macroeconomic policy and corporate rent-seeking behaviour, among others signalled for the need for a Global New Deal.

“For us in Africa, we welcome initiatives to create a fairer and inclusive world order. But we are in the meantime, going ahead in creating our own future. We are inter-alia, harnessing our demography as a source of competitiveness by investing in our youth since Africa has the youngest population in the world,” Mr Muchanga said.

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Ethiopian Airlines confirms bid for Nigeria’s Arik Air

Posted ANDUALEM SISAY in Addis Ababa

on  Wednesday, August 30   2017 at  18:19

Ethiopian Airlines is negotiating with the Nigerian government to take over the bankrupt Arik Air, a senior official confirmed in Addis Ababa.

The Director of International Service at the Ethiopian Airlines Group, Mr Esayas Weldemariam, Wednesday said they were expanding their presence in western Africa.

“Following the bid opened by the Nigerian government, we are negotiating to secure management contract of Arik Air,” Mr Esayas said, responding to the rumours about the impending deal.

The negotiations

“Based on the terms and conditions set by the Government of Nigeria, Ethiopian Airlines has submitted its offer to take over the management of Arik Air… We are bidding with other airlines, if we agree on the negotiations, we are ready to go and take over the management,” he said.

Arik Air, which is one of the largest private airlines in Nigeria, has been serving as the de-facto national carrier for the most populous state in Africa.

Following the failure to service its debts and pay employees’ salaries, Arik Air was last February taken over by the government.

Ethiopian Airlines also manages Asky Airlines in Lome, in a joint ownership with the Togo government, and the Malawian Airlines, also jointly with the government.

Business wings

The airline, which began operations in April 1946, was in 2014 ranked the largest in Africa in revenue by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Ethiopian Airlines Group, which has several related business wings, envisages becoming a $10 billion revenue generating company by 2030, with a total of 140 aircraft, according to Mr Esayas.

It currently has a fleet of 92 aircraft, flying to 104 international 19 local destinations.